By Burton Wright; Center of Military History
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Additional resources for Eastern Mandates
It would be difficult to exaggerate the significance for our subject of ben Sira’s writing. Three particular reasons permit such a statement; and the first of these concerns the date at which ben Sira composed his work. It is almost universally agreed that ben Sira wrote his Wisdom book in the first quarter of the second century BC, before 175 BC. 196 BC; the author probably wrote his book, therefore, sometime between 190 and 175 BC. 1 Given this date, we may be confident that ben Sira represents Jewish society as it was before the Hellenistic crisis, which erupted in the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC).
Naturally, we cannot be certain that ben Sira presents us with an appraisal of the Zadokites and the Temple Service which coincides with the priests’ own understanding of these things; but he is more than favourably disposed towards them, and is unlikely to have presented them in a light which the Zadokites would have found unflattering. 2 Indeed, without ben Sira’s book, we should be almost completely in the dark about these things. The second reason for ben Sira’s importance consists in the respect in which his work was held.
Philo’s exegeses of the various sacrifices, as a glance at the commentary will show, take for granted the belief that they call forth God’s mercy for His people, and, given Philo’s universal understanding of the Service, for the whole human race. The notion of God’s mercy in all likelihood underlies what Josephus says (Cont. Ap. II. 197), that the sacrificial Service is intended to ensure that we may receive, accept, and keep the good things which God has granted. The discerning reader may also perceive in the attitude of Jubilees a sense of God’s mercy called forth in the service of the sanctuary.
Eastern Mandates by Burton Wright; Center of Military History