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CHAPTER 51

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

1I give you thanks, LORD and King,*

I praise you, God my savior!

I declare your name, refuge of my life,a

2because you have ransomed my life from death;

You held back my body from the pit,

and delivered my foot from the power of Sheol.b

You have preserved me from the scourge of the slanderous tongue,

and from the lips of those who went over to falsehood.

You were with me against those who rise up against me;

3You have rescued me according to your abundant mercyc

From the snare of those who look for my downfall,

and from the power of those who seek my life.

From many dangers you have saved me,

4from flames that beset me on every side,d

From the midst of fire till there was not a whiff of it,*

5from the deep belly of Sheol,

From deceiving lips and painters of lies,

6from the arrows of a treacherous tongue.

I was at the point of death,

my life was nearing the depths of Sheol;e

7I turned every way, but there was no one to help;

I looked for support but there was none.f

8Then I remembered the mercies of the LORD,

his acts of kindness through ages past;

For he saves those who take refuge in him,

and rescues them from every evil.

9So I raised my voice from the grave;

from the gates of Sheol I cried for help.

10I called out: LORD, you are my Father,

my champion, my savior!

Do not abandon me in time of trouble,

in the midst of storms and dangers.g

11I will always praise your name

and remember you in prayer!

Then the LORD heard my voice,

and listened to my appeal.

12He saved me from every evil

and preserved me in time of trouble.

For this reason I thank and praise him;

I bless the name of the LORD.*

Ben Sira’s Pursuit of Wisdom

13* When I was young and innocent,

I sought wisdom.h

14She came to me in her beauty,

and until the end I will cultivate her.

15As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes,

the heart’s joy,

My feet kept to the level path

because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.

16In the short time I paid heed,

I met with great instruction.

17Since in this way I have profited,

I will give my Teacher grateful praise.

18I resolved to tread her paths;

I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back.

19I burned with desire for her,

never relenting.

I became preoccupied with her,

never weary of extolling her.

I spread out my hands to the heavens

and I came to know her secrets.

20For her I purified my hands;

in cleanness I attained to her.

At first acquaintance with her, I gained understanding

such that I will never forsake her.i

21My whole being was stirred to seek her;

therefore I have made her my prize possession.

22The LORD has rewarded me with lips,

with a tongue for praising him.

23Come aside to me, you untutored,

and take up lodging in the house of instruction;* j

24How long will you deprive yourself of wisdom’s food,

how long endure such bitter thirst?

25I open my mouth and speak of her:

gain wisdom for yourselves at no cost.k

26Take her yoke upon your neck;

that your mind may receive her teaching.

For she is close to those who seek her,

and the one who is in earnest finds her.l

27See for yourselves! I have labored only a little,

but have found much.

28Acquire but a little instruction,

and you will win silver and gold through her.

29May your soul rejoice in God’s mercy;

do not be ashamed to give him praise.

30Work at your tasks in due season,

and in his own time God will give you your reward.m

* [51:130] This chapter contains two appendixes: a prayer (vv. 112) and an autobiographical poem praising wisdom (vv. 1330).

* [51:4] So complete is the deliverance from fire that even the smell of smoke cannot be detected. Cf. Dn 3:27.

* [51:12] After this verse the Hebrew text gives the litany of praise contained below. It is similar to Ps 136. Though not found in any versions, and therefore of doubtful authenticity, the litany seems from internal evidence to go back to the time of Ben Sira.

Give praise to the LORD, for he is good, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the God of glory, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the Guardian of Israel, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the creator of all things, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the redeemer of Israel, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to God who gathers the dispersed of Israel, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to God who builds the city and sanctuary, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to God who makes a horn sprout forth for the house of David, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to God who has chosen the sons of Zadok as priests, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the Shield of Abraham, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the Rock of Isaac, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the Mighty One of Jacob, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to God who has chosen Zion, for God’s love endures forever;

Give praise to the King, the king of kings, for God’s love endures forever.

He has lifted up the horn of his people! Let this be his praise from all the faithful,

From Israel, the people near to him. Hallelujah! (Cf. Ps 148:14.)

* [51:1330] A Hebrew manuscript from Qumran demonstrates the acrostic style of vv. 1320. This is an elegant twenty-three-line alphabetic acrostic hymn that describes Ben Sira’s relationship to wisdom: (a) his approach to wisdom through prayer, persistent study, and instruction (vv. 1317); (b) his purification from sin, his enlightenment, and ardent desire to possess wisdom (vv. 1822). Ben Sira concludes with an urgent invitation to his students to receive instruction in wisdom from him, and to live by it, because wisdom gives herself to those who seek her (vv. 2326); and for their labor, God will reward them in his own time (vv. 2730). Cf. Mt 11:28; Eccl 12:14.

* [51:23] House of instruction: this may be a metaphor for Ben Sira’s teaching.

a. [51:1] Ps 138:1.

b. [51:2] Ps 91:3.

c. [51:3] Ps 56:1012; 124:2.

d. [51:4] Ps 66:12.

e. [51:6] Ps 88:4; 94:17.

f. [51:7] Ps 22:12; 142:5.

g. [51:10] Ps 89:27; 95:1.

h. [51:13] Sir 34:913; Prv 8:17.

i. [51:20] Prv 4:6.

j. [51:23] Prv 8:5.

k. [51:25] Sir 6:19; Is 55:13.

l. [51:26] Sir 6:2628.

m. [51:30] Sir 2:8; Jb 34:11; Jn 9:4.




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