The First Reading is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. After 70 years of exile, some of the Israelite captives begin to grow accustomed to the Babylonian way of life. Some captives spent their money for “what is not bread,” and wages for “what fails to satisfy.” Some are seeking life from sources other than the one God. Such searching will end in emptiness and futility.
The first reading is from the first Book of kings. Salomon, who recently ascended the throne of David, describes himself as a “mere youth.” The Hebrew word of youth or child, na’ar, denotes in this context a young adult who lacks experience in a job. Solomon is new to leadership. God asks Solomon what gift he desires most of all? He answers: “Wisdom and understanding heart.” In Israelite tradition, wisdom has to do with having the ability to attain success in any field of endeavor. Solomon illustrates this very well as he flourishes in governance, in construction, in foreign trade and diplomacy, and in writing proverbs. God gives Solomon wisdom and a discerning heart.
Today’s first reading is from the Book of Wisdom which was probably written between 30 BC and AD 14, making it the latest work in the Old Testament. The goal of the author, a Greek-speaking Jew, is to defend Judaism against the pervasive influence of Hellenism (Greek pagan philosophies). This reading therefore affirms Israel’s hard-learned belief that their God is the almighty and only God. Though God is all-powerful, he uses his power to show mercy and clemency. God who is just and righteous is able to offer leniency toward all people. The people of Israel discover this from the way God treats them. That God is merciful, gracious, and slow to anger” becomes part of its creed.