I’ve been asked about the first reading at Prince Phillip’s funeral. No, it was not Ecclesiastes, it was the apocryphal book known as Ecclesiasticus, or The Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach, or simply or Sirach. It is Jewish wisdom literature, similar to Proverbs, dating to 200 BC. Lutherans and Anglicans do not consider it part of the canon, but worthy counsel and devotional writing.

Apocryphal books were not part of the Hebrew Bible, but were included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Sirach/Ecclesiasticus (so named because it was often read in church during antiquity) was one of eight books Luther listed in the apocrypha. Today we count 16. Luther didn’t hold them on the same level as Scripture, but considered them “useful and good to read.” (Matthias Henze and Rodney Alan Werline. 2020. Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters. Atlanta, Ga: Sbl Press, 258.)

‌The passage was 43:11-26.

11 Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it;
it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness.
12 It encircles the sky with its glorious arc;
the hands of the Most High have stretched it out.

13 By his command he sends the driving snow
and speeds the lightnings of his judgment.
14 Therefore the storehouses are opened,
and the clouds fly out like birds.
15 In his majesty he gives the clouds their strength,
and the hailstones are broken in pieces.
17a The voice of his thunder rebukes the earth;
16 when he appears, the mountains shake.
At his will the south wind blows;
17b so do the storm from the north and the whirlwind.
He scatters the snow like birds flying down,
and its descent is like locusts alighting.
18 The eye is dazzled by the beauty of its whiteness,
and the mind is amazed as it falls.
19 He pours frost over the earth like salt,
and icicles form like pointed thorns.
20 The cold north wind blows,
and ice freezes on the water;
it settles on every pool of water,
and the water puts it on like a breastplate.
21 He consumes the mountains and burns up the wilderness,
and withers the tender grass like fire.
22 A mist quickly heals all things;

the falling dew gives refreshment from the heat.

23 By his plan he stilled the deep
and planted islands in it.
24 Those who sail the sea tell of its dangers,
and we marvel at what we hear.
25 In it are strange and marvelous creatures,
all kinds of living things, and huge sea-monsters.
26 Because of him each of his messengers succeeds,
and by his word all things hold together.