In “sapiential” or “wisdom literature” using metaphors is common. In the Book of Sirach, the author is imagining God as a king and ruler who is sitting on his heavenly throne directing providence through the divine word. This image of God prepares the way for the mystery of the Holy Trinity. From this image we are led to imagine a sovereign God the Father who is sending His Son, the Word, into the world. However, in the context of Sirach, this God predestines some humans to be righteous and others evil. As time passes, we learn that this theology is not true. By the time the New Testament is written, we learn that God intends for all people to accept the gift of eternal life, not just the Israelites.
In the Old Testament, the Israelite people are God’s chosen people who are given the gift of wisdom. Because of this wisdom, they are deemed to be righteous. This sapiential vision of the Israelite people as God’s chosen people is a significant aspect of the book of Sirach which honors the Jewish tradition. This metaphor of God as ruler also paves the way for salvation history. Sirach is the first wisdom book to embrace the traditional theological themes of salvation history (exodus, wilderness wandering, entrance into the land) and covenant and relate them to sapiential theology of creation.
A second metaphor presented in Sirach is that of the fertility goddess called Woman Wisdom who offers her blessing to those who love her. This metaphor also paves the way for the Holy Trinity by imagining the person of the Holy Spirit who impregnates humankind with the gift of divine life. The physical world in the eyes of Ben Sira, the author of Sirach, is that of a garden made fertile and alive by the presence of Wisdom who is a tree of life and an aqueduct of waters. “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist” (Sirach 24:3).
The sapiential vision of Ben Sira sees wisdom as being sent from the Most High just like the Holy Spirit is sent from God the Father and God the Son. The two most significant metaphors in the book of Sirach consist of God as the sovereign “ruler and king” who is sending the “goddess of wisdom” as the bearer of divine life. This gift of wisdom is falling like a misty rain upon all the earth. These metaphors are essential because they will eventually evolve into the mystery of the Holy Trinity.