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THE WISDOM OF BEN SIRA

(ECCLESIASTICUS)

The Wisdom of Ben Sira derives its title from the author, “Yeshua [Jesus], son of Eleazar, son of Sira” (50:27). This seems to be the earliest title of the book. The designation “Liber Ecclesiasticus,” meaning “Church Book,” appended to some Greek and Latin manuscripts, is perhaps due to the extensive use the church made of this book in presenting moral teaching to catechumens and to the faithful. The title “Sirach” comes from the Greek form of the author’s name.

The author, a sage who lived in Jerusalem, was thoroughly imbued with love for the wisdom tradition, and also for the law, priesthood, Temple, and divine worship. As a wise and experienced observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries with the motive of helping them to maintain religious faith and integrity through study of the books sacred to the Jewish tradition.

The book contains numerous well-crafted maxims, grouped by affinity, and dealing with a variety of subjects such as the individual, the family, and the community in their relations with one another and with God. It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, laws, religious worship, and many other matters that reflect the religious and social customs of the time.

Written in Hebrew in the early years of the second century B.C., the book was finished by ca. 175. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson after 117 B.C. He also wrote a foreword which contains valuable information about the book, its author, and himself as translator. Until the close of the nineteenth century the Wisdom of Ben Sira was known to Christians in translations, of which the Greek rendering was the most important. From it the Latin version was made. Between 1896 and 1900, again in 1931, and several times since 1956, incomplete manuscripts were discovered, so that more than two thirds of the book in Hebrew is available; these Hebrew texts agree substantially with the Greek. One such text, from Masada, is pre-Christian in date. The New American Bible provides a critical translation based on the evidence of all the ancient texts.

Though not included in the Jewish Bible after the first century A.D., nor, therefore, accepted by Protestants, the Wisdom of Ben Sira has been recognized by the Catholic Church as inspired and canonical. The Foreword, though not properly part of the book, is always included with it because of its antiquity and importance.

The contents of the Wisdom of Ben Sira are of a discursive nature, not easily divided into separate parts. Chapters 143 deal largely with moral instruction; 44:150:24 contain a eulogy of the heroes of Israel. There are two appendixes in which the author expresses his gratitude to God (51:112), and invites the unschooled to acquire true wisdom (51:1330).

FOREWORD

Inasmuch as many and great truths have been given to us through the Law, the prophets, and the authors who followed them,* for which the instruction and wisdom of Israel merit praise, it is the duty of those who read the scriptures not only to become knowledgeable themselves but also to use their love of learning in speech and in writing to help others less familiar. So my grandfather Jesus, who had long devoted himself to the study of the law, the prophets, and the rest of the books of our ancestors, and had acquired great familiarity with them, was moved to write something himself regarding instruction and wisdom. He did this so that those who love learning might, by accepting what he had written, make even greater progress in living according to the Law.

You are invited therefore to read it with good will and attention, with indulgence for any failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages. For words spoken originally in Hebrew do not have the same effect when they are translated into another language. That is true not only of this book but of the Law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books, which differ no little when they are read in the original.

I arrived in Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of King Euergetes, and while there, I had access to no little learning. I therefore considered it my duty to devote some diligence and industry to the translation of this book. During this time I applied my skill for many sleepless hours to complete the book and publish it for those living abroad who wish to acquire learning and are disposed to live their lives according to the Law.

* [Foreword] The Law, the prophets, and the authors who followed them: an indication of the eventual tripartite division of the Hebrew Scriptures: Law (torah), Prophets (nebi’im), and Writings (ketubim), shortened in the acronym Tanak. Thirty-eighth…Euergetes: 132 B.C. The reference is to Ptolemy VII, Physkon Euergetes II (170–163; 145–117 B.C.).

THE WISDOM OF BEN SIRA

CHAPTER 1

God’s Gift of Wisdom*

1All wisdom* is from the Lord

and remains with him forever.a

2The sands of the sea, the drops of rain,

the days of eternity—who can count them?

3Heaven’s height, earth’s extent,

the abyss and wisdom—who can explore them?

4Before all other things wisdom was created;

and prudent understanding, from eternity.

6The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?

Her subtleties—who knows them? b

8* There is but one, wise and truly awesome,

seated upon his throne—the Lord.

9It is he who created her,

saw her and measured her,c

Poured her forth upon all his works,

10upon every living thing according to his bounty,

lavished her upon those who love him.

Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom*

11The fear of the Lord* is glory and exultation,

gladness and a festive crown.

12The fear of the Lord rejoices the heart,

giving gladness, joy, and long life.

13Those who fear the Lord will be happy at the end,

even on the day of death they will be blessed.

14The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord;

she is created with the faithful in the womb.d

15With the godly she was created from of old,

and with their descendants she will keep faith.

16The fullness of wisdom is to fear the Lord;

she inebriates them with her fruits.e

17Their entire house she fills with choice foods,

their granaries with her produce.

18The crown of wisdom is the fear of the Lord,

flowering with peace and perfect health.

19Knowledge and full understanding she rains down;

she heightens the glory of those who possess her.

20The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord;

her branches are long life.

21The fear of the Lord drives away sins;

where it abides it turns back all anger.

22Unjust anger can never be justified;

anger pulls a person to utter ruin.

23* Until the right time, the patient remain calm,

then cheerfulness comes back to them.

24Until the right time they hold back their words;

then the lips of many will tell of their good sense.

25Among wisdom’s treasures is the model for knowledge;

but godliness is an abomination to the sinner.

26If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments,

and the Lord will bestow her upon you;

27For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and discipline;

faithfulness and humility are his delight.

28Do not disobey the fear of the Lord,*

do not approach it with duplicity of heart.f

29Do not be a hypocrite before others;

over your lips keep watch.

30Do not exalt yourself lest you fall

and bring dishonor upon yourself;

For then the Lord will reveal your secrets

and cast you down in the midst of the assembly.

Because you did not approach the fear of the Lord,

and your heart was full of deceit.

* [1:110] This brief poem serves as an introduction to the book. The Lord is the source and preserver of all wisdom, which he pours out upon all. See Jb 28:2028; Prv 2:6; 8:2231; Wis 7:2527.

* [1:1] Wisdom: throughout the book Ben Sira describes in great detail just what wisdom is: sometimes divine (1:6, 8), sometimes a synonym for God’s law (24:2223). Ben Sira makes clear that all wisdom comes from God.

† [1:4] Other ancient texts read as v. 5:

The wellspring of wisdom is the word of God in the heights,

and its runlets are the ageless commandments.

† [1:6] Other ancient texts read as v. 7:

An understanding of wisdom—to whom has this been disclosed;

her resourcefulness, who has known?

* [1:810] In contrast to Jb 28, wisdom is not only with God, but given to all, especially Israel; see Bar 3:9; 4:4.

* [1:1130] This is one of several poems of 22 bicola, or poetic lines, corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Ben Sira uses the expression “fear of the Lord” twelve times and the noun “wisdom” seven times to emphasize the connection between the two ideas. He describes the blessings that come to those who fear the Lord, i.e., those who practice true religion by loving and serving God and keeping the Law (2:710, 1517; 4:1116; see Dt 6:15, 24). Such blessings recur throughout the book.

* [1:11] Fear of the Lord: Ben Sira identifies wisdom with the fear of the Lord (vv. 2627).

† [1:12] Other ancient texts read as v. 12cd:

Fear of the Lord is the Lord’s gift;

also for love he makes firm paths.

† [1:18] Other ancient texts read as v. 18cd:

Both are gifts of God toward peace;

splendor opens out for those who love him.

* [1:2324] Ben Sira pays close attention to kaīros, the right time, occurring some sixty times in his book.

* [1:2830] Attempting to serve the Lord with duplicity of heart is hypocrisy and self-exaltation, deserving of public disgrace.

a. [1:1] 1 Kgs 3:9.

b. [1:6] Bar 3:15; Jb 28:10, 20.

c. [1:9] Jb 28:27.

d. [1:14] Jb 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10.

e. [1:16] Eccl 12:13.

f. [1:28] Jas 1:8; 2:8.

CHAPTER 2

Trust in God

1My child, when you come to serve the Lord,*

prepare yourself for trials.a

2Be sincere of heart and steadfast,

and do not be impetuous in time of adversity.

3Cling to him, do not leave him,

that you may prosper in your last days.

4Accept whatever happens to you;

in periods of humiliation be patient.

5For in fire gold is tested,

and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation.b

6Trust in God, and he will help you;

make your ways straight and hope in him.

7You that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy,

do not stray lest you fall.

8You that fear the Lord, trust in him,

and your reward will not be lost.

9You that fear the LORD, hope for good things,

for lasting joy and mercy.

10Consider the generations long past and see:

has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?

Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken?

has anyone called upon him and been ignored?c

11For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;

forgives sins and saves in time of trouble.

12Woe to timid hearts and drooping hands,*

to the sinner who walks a double path!

13Woe to the faint of heart! For they do not trust,

and therefore have no shelter!

14Woe to you that have lost hope!

what will you do at the Lord’s visitation?

15Those who fear the Lord do not disobey his words;

those who love him keep his ways.d

16Those who fear the Lord seek to please him;

those who love him are filled with his law.

17Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts

and humble themselves before him.

18Let us fall into the hands of the Lord

and not into the hands of mortals,

For equal to his majesty is his mercy;

and equal to his name are his works.e

* [2:111] Serving the Lord is not without its trials (v. 1); but no matter what happens, the genuine believer will remain sincere, steadfast, and faithful (vv. 23). Misfortune and humiliation are means of purification to prove one’s worth (vv. 45). Ben Sira believed that patience and unwavering trust in God are ultimately rewarded with the benefits of God’s mercy and of lasting joy (vv. 611).

* [2:1218] A stern warning to those who compromise their faith in time of affliction; they fail in courage and trust and therefore have no security (vv. 1214). But those who fear the Lord through obedience, reverence, love, and humility find his “mercy equal to his majesty” (vv. 1518).

a. [2:1] 2 Tm 3:1012.

b. [2:5] Prv 17:3; Wis 3:6; Is 48:10; 1 Pt 1:7.

c. [2:10] Ps 31:2; 145:1820.

d. [2:15] Jn 14:23.

e. [2:18] Sir 17:29.

CHAPTER 3

Responsibilities to Parents*

1Children, listen to me, your father;

act accordingly, that you may be safe.

2For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children

and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.

3Those who honor their father atone for sins;

4they store up riches who respect their mother.

5Those who honor their father will have joy in their own children,

and when they pray they are heard.

6Those who respect their father will live a long life;

those who obey the Lord honor their mother.

7Those who fear the Lord honor their father,

and serve their parents as masters.

8In word and deed honor your father,

that all blessings may come to you.a

9A father’s blessing gives a person firm roots,

but a mother’s curse uproots the growing plant.b

10Do not glory in your father’s disgrace,

for that is no glory to you!

11A father’s glory is glory also for oneself;

they multiply sin who demean their mother.c

12My son, be steadfast in honoring your father;

do not grieve him as long as he lives.d

13Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him;

do not revile him because you are in your prime.

14Kindness to a father will not be forgotten;

it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root.

15In time of trouble it will be recalled to your advantage,

like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sins.

16Those who neglect their father are like blasphemers;

those who provoke their mother are accursed by their Creator.e

Humility*

17My son, conduct your affairs with humility,

and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts.

18Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,

and you will find mercy in the sight of God. f

20For great is the power of the Lord;

by the humble he is glorified.

21What is too sublime for you, do not seek;

do not reach into things that are hidden from you.g

22What is committed to you, pay heed to;

what is hidden is not your concern.

23In matters that are beyond you do not meddle,

when you have been shown more than you can understand.

24Indeed, many are the conceits of human beings;

evil imaginations lead them astray.

Docility*

25Without the pupil of the eye, light is missing;

without knowledge, wisdom is missing.

26A stubborn heart will fare badly in the end;

those who love danger will perish in it.

27A stubborn heart will have many a hurt;

adding sin to sin is madness.

28When the proud are afflicted, there is no cure;

for they are offshoots of an evil plant.h

29The mind of the wise appreciates proverbs,

and the ear that listens to wisdom rejoices.

Alms for the Poor

30As water quenches a flaming fire,

so almsgiving atones for sins.i

31The kindness people have done crosses their paths later on;

should they stumble, they will find support.

* [3:116] Besides the virtues that must characterize our conduct toward God, special duties are enjoined, such as honor and respect toward parents, with corresponding blessings (vv. 19). By showing such respect especially to old and infirm parents (vv. 1013), the sins of children are pardoned (vv. 1415). Failure to honor father and mother is blasphemy and merits a curse from God (v. 16). Cf. Ex 20:12; Eph 6:23.

* [3:1724] Humility gives you a true estimate of yourself (vv. 1720; cf. 10:28), so that you will do what should be done, and avoid what is beyond your understanding and strength (vv. 2123). Intellectual pride, however, leads you astray (v. 24). Ben Sira is perhaps warning his students against the perils of Greek philosophy.

† [3:18] Other ancient texts read as v. 19:

Many are lofty and famous,

but to the humble he reveals his plan.

* [3:2529] The antidote for stubbornness is to be found in the search for knowledge and wisdom.

a. [3:8] Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16; Mt 15:4; 19:19; Mk 7:10; 10:19; Lk 18:20; Eph 6:23.

b. [3:9] Gn 27:2729; 49:227.

c. [3:11] Prv 17:6.

d. [3:12] Prv 23:22.

e. [3:16] Prv 19:26; 30:11, 14, 17.

f. [3:18] Mt 23:12; Lk 1:52; 14:11; 18:14.

g. [3:21] Ps 131:1.

h. [3:28] Dt 32:32; Wis 12:10.

i. [3:30] Sir 7:3236; 29:813; Dt 15:711; Tb 12:9; Dn 4:24.

CHAPTER 4

1My child, do not mock the life of the poor;

do not keep needy eyes* waiting.a

2Do not grieve the hungry,

nor anger the needy.

3Do not aggravate a heart already angry,

nor delay giving to the needy.

4A beggar’s request do not reject;

do not turn your face away from the poor.

5From the needy do not turn your eyes;

do not give them reason to curse you.

6If in their pain they cry out bitterly,

their Rock will hear the sound of their cry.

Social Conduct

7Endear yourself to the assembly;

before the city’s ruler bow your head.

8Give a hearing to the poor,

and return their greeting with deference;

9Deliver the oppressed from their oppressors;b

right judgment should not be repugnant to you.

10Be like a father to orphans,

and take the place of a husband to widows.

Then God will call you his child,

and he will be merciful to you and deliver you from the pit.

The Rewards of Wisdom*

11Wisdom teaches her children

and admonishes all who can understand her.

12Those who love her love life;

those who seek her out win the LORD’s favor.

13Those who hold her fast will attain glory,

and they shall abide in the blessing of the LORD.

14Those who serve her serve the Holy One;

those who love her the Lord loves.c

15“Whoever obeys me will judge nations;

whoever listens to me will dwell in my inmost chambers.

16If they remain faithful, they will possess me;

their descendants too will inherit me.

17“I will walk with them in disguise,

and at first I will test them with trials.

Fear and dread I will bring upon them

and I will discipline them with my constraints.

When their hearts are fully with me,

18then I will set them again on the straight path

and reveal my secrets to them.

19But if they turn away from me, I will abandon them

and deliver them over to robbers.”

Sincerity and Justice*

20My son, watch for the right time; fear what is evil;

do not bring shame upon yourself.

21There is a shame heavy with guilt,

and a shame that brings glory and respect.

22Show no favoritism to your own discredit;

let no one intimidate you to your own downfall.

23Do not refrain from speaking at the proper time,

and do not hide your wisdom;

24For wisdom becomes known through speech,

and knowledge through the tongue’s response.

25Never speak against the truth,

but of your own ignorance be ashamed.

26Do not be ashamed to acknowledge your sins,

and do not struggle against a rushing stream.

27Do not abase yourself before a fool;

do not refuse to do so before rulers.

28Even to the death, fight for what is right,

and the LORD will do battle for you.

29Do not be haughty in your speech,

or lazy and slack in your deeds.

30Do not be like a lion at home,

or sly and suspicious with your servants.

31Do not let your hand be open to receive,

but clenched when it is time to give.

* [4:1] Needy eyes: when the poor look for help; cf. 18:18.

* [4:1119] The Hebrew text in vv. 1519 presents wisdom speaking in the first person, as in chap. 24. The precious fruits of wisdom—life, favor, glory, blessings, God’s love—arouse desire for her (vv. 1114). Her disciples are like ministers (v. 14) and judges (v. 15), whose descendants have her for their heritage (v. 16). They enjoy happiness and learn her secrets after surviving her tests (vv. 1718). Those who fail her are abandoned to destruction (v. 19).

* [4:2031] The student of wisdom is warned about interior trials of discipline and external dangers to sincerity and justice, namely evil, human respect (vv. 2022), compromise of liberty in speech and action (vv. 2325), false shame (v. 26). The student must fight for the truth (vv. 25, 28), avoiding cynicism and laziness (v. 29), and inconsistency (v. 30).

a. [4:1] Tb 4:711.

b. [4:9] Jb 29:12, 17.

c. [4:14] Wis 7:28.

CHAPTER 5

Against Presumption*

1Do not rely on your wealth,

or say, “I have the power.”a

2Do not rely on your strength

in following the desires of your heart.

3Do not say, “Who can prevail against me?”

for the LORD will exact punishment.

4Do not say, “I have sinned, yet what has happened to me?”

for the LORD is slow to anger!

5Do not be so confident of forgiveness

that you add sin upon sin.

6Do not say, “His mercy is great;

my many sins he will forgive.”

For mercy and anger alike are with him;

his wrath comes to rest on the wicked.

7Do not delay turning back to the LORD,

do not put it off day after day.

For suddenly his wrath will come forth;

at the time of vengeance, you will perish.

8Do not rely on deceitful wealth,

for it will be no help on the day of wrath.b

Use and Abuse of the Tongue*

9Do not winnow in every wind,

nor walk in every path.*

10Be steadfast regarding your knowledge,

and let your speech be consistent.

11Be swift to hear,

but slow to answer.c

12If you can, answer your neighbor;

if not, place your hand over your mouth!

13Honor and dishonor through speaking!

The tongue can be your downfall.

14Do not be called double-tongued;

and with your tongue do not slander a neighbor.

For shame has been created for the thief,

and sore disgrace for the double-tongued.

15In little or in much, do not act corruptly;

* [5:18] The vices of the rich are pride and independence (vv. 12), presumption (v. 3), false security (vv. 46), and impenitence (v. 7), which cannot escape the divine wrath (vv. 78). Cf. Prv 18:23; 19:1; 28:6.

* [5:96:1] Proper use of the tongue requires constancy in speech (v. 10), prudence (vv. 1112), good judgment (v. 13), charity (5:15; 6:1); detraction, calumny (v. 14), and double-talk bring shame and disgrace (5:14; 6:1).

* [5:9] The metaphors indicate careless behavior.

a. [5:1] Sir 11:24; Prv 27:1; Lk 12:19; 1 Tm 6:17.

b. [5:8] Prv 10:2; 11:4, 28; Ps 52:9.

c. [5:11] Prv 29:20; Eccl 5:1; Jas 1:19.

CHAPTER 6

1Do not be a foe instead of a friend.

A bad name, disgrace, and dishonor you will inherit.

Thus the wicked, the double-tongued!*

Unruly Passions

2Do not fall into the grip of your passion,a

lest like fire it consume your strength.

3It will eat your leaves and destroy your fruits,

and you will be left like a dry tree.

4For fierce passion destroys its owner

and makes him the sport of his enemies.

True Friendship*

5Pleasant speech multiplies friends,

and gracious lips, friendly greetings.

6Let those who are friendly to you be many,

but one in a thousand your confidant.

7When you gain friends, gain them through testing,b

and do not be quick to trust them.

8For there are friends when it suits them,

but they will not be around in time of trouble.

9Another is a friend who turns into an enemy,

and tells of the quarrel to your disgrace.

10Others are friends, table companions,

but they cannot be found in time of affliction.

11When things go well, they are your other self,

and lord it over your servants.

12If disaster comes upon you, they turn against you

and hide themselves.

13Stay away from your enemies,

and be on guard with your friends.

14Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;

whoever finds one finds a treasure.

15Faithful friends are beyond price,

no amount can balance their worth.

16Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;

those who fear God will find them.

17Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship,

for as they are, so will their neighbors be.

Blessings of Wisdom*

18My child, from your youth choose discipline;

and when you have gray hair you will find wisdom.

19As though plowing and sowing, draw close to her;

then wait for her bountiful crops.

For in cultivating her you will work but little,

and soon you will eat her fruit.

20She is rough ground to the fool!

The stupid cannot abide her.

21She will be like a burdensome stone to them,

and they will not delay in casting her aside.

22For discipline* is like her name,

she is not accessible to many.

23Listen, my child, and take my advice;

do not refuse my counsel.

24Put your feet into her fetters,

and your neck under her yoke.

25Bend your shoulders and carry her

and do not be irked at her bonds.

26With all your soul draw close to her;

and with all your strength keep her ways.

27Inquire and search, seek and find;

when you get hold of her, do not let her go.

28Thus at last you will find rest in her,

and she will become your joy.

29Her fetters will be a place of strength;

her snare, a robe of spun gold.

30Her yoke will be a gold ornament;c

her bonds, a purple cord.

31You will wear her as a robe of glory,

and bear her as a splendid crown.

32If you wish, my son, you can be wise;

if you apply yourself, you can be shrewd.

33If you are willing to listen, you can learn;

if you pay attention, you can be instructed.

34Stand in the company of the elders;

stay close to whoever is wise.

35Be eager to hear every discourse;

let no insightful saying escape you.d

36If you see the intelligent, seek them out;

let your feet wear away their doorsteps!

37Reflect on the law of the Most High,

and let his commandments be your constant study.

Then he will enlighten your mind,

and make you wise as you desire.e

* [6:1] Thus…double-tongued!: people will say this against those disgraced by lying and double-talk.

* [6:517] One of several poems Ben Sira wrote on friendship; see also 9:1016; 12:818; 13:123; 19:1317; 22:1926; 27:1621. True friends are discerned not by prosperity (v. 11), but through the trials of adversity: distress, quarrels (v. 9), sorrow (v. 10) and misfortune (v. 12). Such friends are rare, a gift from God (vv. 1417).

* [6:1837] The various figures in each of the eight stanzas urge the search for wisdom through patience (vv. 1819), persistence (vv. 2022), docility and perseverance (vv. 2328). Wisdom bestows rich rewards (vv. 2931) on those who apply themselves and learn from the wise (vv. 3236). Although one must strive for wisdom, it is God who grants it (v. 37). Cf. 4:1119.

* [6:22] Discipline: musar (in the sense of wisdom) is a perfect homonym for musar, “removed, withdrawn”; thus the path of discipline is not accessible to many.

a. [6:23] Sir 9:8; 23:16; 25:21; 41:20, 22; Jb 31:12.

b. [6:79] Sir 12:89; 37:15; Prv 19:4.

c. [6:30] Is 62:3.

d. [6:35] Sir 8:89.

e. [6:37] Ps 1:2.

CHAPTER 7

Conduct Toward God and Neighbor*

1Do no evil, and evil will not overtake you;*

2avoid wickedness, and it will turn away from you.

3Do not sow in the furrows of injustice,

lest you harvest it sevenfold.a

4Do not seek from God authority

or from the king a place of honor.

5Do not parade your righteousness before the LORD,

and before the king do not flaunt your wisdom.b

6Do not seek to become a judge

if you do not have the strength to root out crime,

Lest you show fear in the presence of the prominent

and mar your integrity.

7Do not be guilty of any evil before the city court

or disgrace yourself before the assembly.

8Do not plot to repeat a sin;

even for one, you will not go unpunished.

9Do not say, “He will appreciate my many gifts;

the Most High God will accept my offerings.”c

10Do not be impatient in prayer

or neglect almsgiving.

11Do not ridicule the embittered;

Remember: there is One who exalts and humbles.*

12Do not plot mischief against your relative

or against your friend and companion.

13Refuse to tell lie after lie,

for it never results in good.

14Do not babble in the assembly of the elders

or repeat the words of your prayer.* d

15Do not hate hard work;

work was assigned by God.e

16Do not esteem yourself more than your compatriots;

remember, his wrath will not delay.

17More and more, humble your pride;

what awaits mortals is worms.* f

Duties of Family Life, Religion and Charity*

18Do not barter a friend for money,

or a true brother for the gold of Ophir.*

19Do not reject a sensible wife;

a gracious wife is more precious than pearls.

20Do not mistreat a servant who works faithfully,

or laborers who devote themselves to their task.g

21Love wise servants as yourself;

do not refuse them freedom.*

22Do you have livestock? Look after them;

if they are dependable, keep them.

23Do you have sons? Correct them

and cure their stubbornness* in their early youth.h

24Do you have daughters? Keep them chaste,

and do not be indulgent to them.i

25Give your daughter in marriage, and a worry comes to an end;

but give her to a sensible man.

26Do you have a wife? Do not mistreat her,

but do not trust the wife you hate.

27With your whole heart honor your father;

your mother’s birth pangs do not forget.j

28Remember, of these parents you were born;

what can you give them for all they gave you?

29With all your soul fear God

and revere his priests.

30With all your strength love your Maker

and do not neglect his ministers.

31Honor God and respect the priest;

give him his portion as you have been commanded:k

First fruits and contributions,

his portion of victims and holy offerings.*

32To the poor also extend your hand,

that your blessing may be complete.

33Give your gift to all the living,

and do not withhold your kindness from the dead.*

34Do not avoid those who weep,

but mourn with those who mourn.l

35Do not hesitate to visit the sick,

because for such things you will be loved.m

36In whatever you do, remember your last days,

and you will never sin.*

* [7:117] In the conduct of social relations wisdom forbids evil and injustice (vv. 13), pride (vv. 5, 1517), ambition and partiality (vv. 4, 6), public disorder (v. 7), presumption and impatience toward God (vv. 910), ridicule (v. 11), mischief and deceit toward one’s neighbor (vv. 8, 1213). See the several wisdom poems in Prv 19.

* [7:1] There is a play on “evil” which means both moral wrong and material calamity.

* [7:11] One who exalts and humbles: God; cf. 1 Sm 2:7; Ps 75:8; Lk 1:52.

* [7:14] Repeat…prayer: brevity of speech is a wisdom ideal; toward superiors and God it is a sign of respect; cf. Eccl 5:1; Mt 6:7.

* [7:17] Worms: i.e., corruption; the Septuagint adds “fire.”

* [7:1836] Respect and appreciation, justice and kindness should characterize relations toward members of the household (vv. 1828), God and the priests (vv. 2931), the poor and afflicted, the living and the dead (vv. 3235).

* [7:18] Ophir: the port, at present unidentified, to which the ships of Solomon sailed and from which they brought back gold and silver; cf. note on Ps 45:10.

* [7:21] After six years of service a Hebrew slave was entitled to freedom; cf. Ex 21:2; Dt 15:1215.

* [7:23] Cure their stubbornness: keep them from rebellious pride; so with the Greek. Cf. 30:113. The Hebrew text, probably not original here, reads: “Choose wives for them while they are young.”

* [7:31] First fruits…holy offerings: cf. Ex 29:27; Lv 7:3134; Nm 18:820; Dt 18:15.

* [7:33] This seems to refer to the observances ordained toward the dead, that is, proper mourning and burial. Cf. 2 Sm 21:1214; Tb 1:1718; 12:12.

* [7:36] Never sin: because the last days of the sinner, it was presumed, would be troubled.

a. [7:3] Jb 4:8; Prv 22:8; Hos 8:7.

b. [7:5] Jb 9:2; Ps 143:2; Prv 25:6; 1 Cor 4:4.

c. [7:9] Sir 34:2124; 35:1415.

d. [7:14] Sir 32:710; Mt 6:7.

e. [7:15] Gn 2:15; 3:17.

f. [7:17] Sir 10:11; Jb 17:14; Is 66:24.

g. [7:20] Lv 19:13; Dt 24:1415; Jas 5:4.

h. [7:23] Sir 30:113; Prv 13:24; 19:18; 23:1314; 29:15, 17.

i. [7:24] Sir 42:912.

j. [7:27] Sir 3:116; Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16; Tb 4:34; Prv 23:22.

k. [7:31] Lv 7:31; Nm 18:18.

l. [7:34] Rom 12:15.

m. [7:35] Mt 25:36.

CHAPTER 8

Prudence in Dealing with Others*

1Do not contend with the mighty,

lest you fall into their power.

2Do not quarrel with the rich,

lest they pay out the price of your downfall.

For gold has unsettled many,

and wealth perverts the character of princes.a

3Do not quarrel with loud-mouths,

or heap wood upon their fire.* b

4Do not associate with the senseless,

lest your ancestors be insulted.

5Do not reproach one who turns away from sin;c

remember, we all are guilty.*

6Do not insult one who is old,

for some of us will also grow old.

7Do not rejoice when someone dies;

remember, we are all to be gathered in.

8Do not neglect the discourse of the wise,d

but busy yourself with their proverbs;

For in this way you will acquire the training

to stand in the presence of princes.

9Do not reject the tradition of the elders

which they have heard from their ancestors;

For from it you will learn

how to answer when the need arises.

10Do not kindle the coals of sinners,

lest you be burned in their flaming fire.

11Do not give ground before scoundrels;

it will set them in ambush against you.*

12Do not lend to one more powerful than yourself;

or if you lend, count it as lost.e

13Do not give collateral beyond your means;

consider any collateral a debt you must pay.

14Do not go to court against a judge,

for the case will be settled in his favor.

15Do not travel with the ruthless

lest they weigh you down with calamity;

For they will only go their own way,

and through their folly you will also perish.

16Do not defy the quick-tempered,

or ride with them through the desert.

For bloodshed is nothing to them;

when there is no one to help, they will destroy you.

17Do not take counsel with simpletons,

for they cannot keep a confidence.

18Before a stranger do nothing that should be kept secret,

for you do not know what it will produce later on.* f

19Open your heart to no one,

do not banish your happiness.

* [8:119] The prudent will be circumspect, avoiding conflict with the powerful, the rich and insolent, the impious, the irascible, and judges (vv. 13, 1012, 14, 16). They will not associate with the undisciplined (v. 4) or the ruthless (v. 15), with fools or strangers (vv. 1719), but with the wise and the elders of the people (vv. 89). Caution is a recurring theme in Ben Sira.

* [8:3] One should avoid increasing the ire of those who are hotheaded; cf. vv. 10, 16.

* [8:5] We all are guilty: cf. 1 Kgs 8:46; 2 Chr 6:36; Jb 25:4; Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:910; 5:12; 1 Jn 1:8.

* [8:11] Giving in to the wicked only encourages them to take advantage.

* [8:18] To keep a secret, or a confidence, is a major concern of Ben Sira; cf. 1:30; 22:22; 27:1621; 37:10; 42:1.

a. [8:2] Sir 31:56; Dt 16:19.

b. [8:3] Prv 26:2021.

c. [8:5] 1 Kgs 8:46; 1 Jn 1:8.

d. [8:89] Sir 6:3436.

e. [8:12] Sir 29:47; Prv 17:18.

f. [8:18] Prv 25:910.

CHAPTER 9

Advice Concerning Women*

1Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom,

lest you teach her to do evil against you.*

2Do not give a woman power over you

to trample on your dignity.a

3Do not go near a strange woman,

lest you fall into her snares.

4Do not dally with a singer,

lest you be captivated by her charms.

5Do not entertain any thoughts about a virgin,

lest you be enmeshed in damages for her.*

6Do not give yourself to a prostitute

lest you lose your inheritance.b

7Do not look around the streets of the city

or wander through its squares.

8Avert your eyes from a shapely woman;

do not gaze upon beauty that is not yours;

Through woman’s beauty many have been ruined,

for love of it burns like fire.c

9Never recline at table with a married woman,

or drink intoxicants with her,

Lest your heart be drawn to her

and you go down in blood* to the grave.

Choice of Friends*

10Do not abandon old friends;

new ones cannot equal them.

A new friend is like new wine—

when it has aged, you drink it with pleasure.

11Do not envy the wicked

for you do not know when their day will come.

12Do not delight in the pleasures of the ungodly;

remember, they will not die unpunished.

13Keep away from those who have power to kill,

and you will not be filled with the dread of death.

But if you come near them, do not offend them,

lest they take away your life.

Know that you are stepping among snares

and walking over a net.

14As best you can, answer your neighbor,

and associate with the wise.

15With the learned exchange ideas;

and let all your conversation be about the law of the Most High.

16Take the righteous for your table companions;

and let your glory be in the fear of God.

Concerning Rulers*

17Work by skilled hands will earn praise;

but the people’s leader is proved wise by his words.

18Loud mouths are feared in their city,

and whoever is reckless in speech is hated.

* [9:19] Ben Sira writes about women only from the androcentric viewpoint of his culture. Cf. 25:1326:27.

* [9:1] Jealousy may lead to suspicion and may prompt a wife to those actions her husband fears.

* [9:5] Cf. Ex 22:1516; Dt 22:2829; Jb 31:1. Cf. note on Ex 22:16.

* [9:9] In blood: perhaps refers to blood revenge; cf. Lv 20:10.

* [9:1016] The second of Ben Sira’s poems on friendship; cf. note on 6:517. In choosing friends, adherence to the law of the Lord should serve as a guide (v. 15). Associate with true friends (v. 10), with the righteous and the learned (vv. 1416); avoid the company of the mighty and of sinners (vv. 1113). Cf. 8:119.

* [9:1710:5] Public office as conducted justly or unjustly benefits or destroys the people, according to the axiom, “as the prince, so the people.” God, however, has sovereignty over both.

a. [9:2] Sir 25:21.

b. [9:6] Prv 5:114; 6:24; 29:3.

c. [9:8] Sir 25:20; 41:21; Prv 6:2529.

CHAPTER 10

1A wise magistrate gives stability to his people,

and government by the intelligent is well ordered.a

2As the people’s judge, so the officials;b

as the head of a city, so the inhabitants.

3A reckless king destroys his people,

but a city grows through the intelligence of its princes.c

4Sovereignty over the earth is in the hand of God,

who appoints the right person for the right time.

5Sovereignty over everyone is in the hand of God,

who imparts his majesty to the ruler.

The Sin of Pride

6No matter what the wrong, never harm your neighbor

or go the way of arrogance.d

7Odious to the Lord and to mortals is pride,

and for both oppression is a crime.

8Sovereignty is transferred from one people to another

because of the lawlessness of the proud.

9Why are dust and ashes proud?*

Even during life the body decays.

10A slight illness—the doctor jests;

a king today—tomorrow he is dead.

11When a people die,

they inherit corruption and worms, gnats and maggots.e

12The beginning of pride is stubbornness

in withdrawing the heart from one’s Maker.

13For sin is a reservoir of insolence,

a source which runs over with vice;

Because of it God sends unheard-of afflictions

and strikes people with utter ruin.f

14God overturns the thrones of the proud

and enthrones the lowly in their place.

15God plucks up the roots of the proud,

and plants the lowly in their place.

16The Lord lays waste the lands of the nations,

and destroys them to the very foundations of the earth.

17He removes them from the earth, destroying them,

erasing their memory from the world.

18Insolence does not befit mortals,

nor impudent anger those born of women.

True Glory*

19Whose offspring can be honorable? Human offspring.

Those who fear the LORD are honorable offspring.

Whose offspring can be disgraceful? Human offspring.

Those who transgress the commandment are disgraceful offspring.

20Among relatives their leader is honored;

but whoever fears God is honored among God’s people.

22Resident alien, stranger, foreigner, pauper—

their glory is the fear of the LORD.

23It is not right to despise anyone wise but poor,

nor proper to honor the lawless.g

24The prince, the ruler, the judge are in honor;

but none is greater than the one who fears God.

25When the free serve a wise slave,

the wise will not complain.h

26Do not flaunt your wisdom in managing your affairs,

or boast in your time of need.

27Better the worker who has goods in plenty

than the boaster who has no food.i

28My son, with humility have self-esteem;

and give yourself the esteem you deserve.

29Who will acquit those who condemn themselves?

Who will honor those who disgrace themselves?

30The poor are honored for their wisdom;

the rich are honored for their wealth.

31Honored in poverty, how much more so in wealth!

Disgraced in wealth, in poverty how much the more!

* [10:910] The general implication is that a slight illness today may be followed by death tomorrow. The uncertainty of life leaves no room for pride.

* [10:1911:6] Genuine honor comes not from one’s place in society but from fear of the Lord and a true estimate of oneself. The Lord exalts the lowly and oppressed; transgressors of the commandment merit dishonor and disgrace.

† [10:20] Other ancient texts read as v. 21:

The beginning of acceptance is the fear of the Lord;

the beginning of rejection, effrontery and pride.

a. [10:1] Prv 29:4; Wis 6:24.

b. [10:23] Ez 16:44; Prv 29:12.

c. [10:3] Prv 29:48.

d. [10:6] Lv 19:18.

e. [10:11] Sir 7:17; Jb 17:14; Is 66:24.

f. [10:13] Prv 11:2; 16:18; 18:12.

g. [10:23] Jas 2:14.

h. [10:25] Prv 17:2.

i. [10:27] Prv 12:9.

CHAPTER 11

1The wisdom of the poor lifts their head high

and sets them among princes.

2Do not praise anyone for good looks;

or despise anyone because of appearance.

3The bee is least among winged creatures,

but it reaps the choicest of harvests.

4Do not mock the one who wears only a loin-cloth,

or scoff at a person’s bitter day.

For strange are the deeds of the LORD,

hidden from mortals his work.*

5Many are the oppressed who rise to the throne;

some that none would consider wear a crown.*

6Many are the exalted who fall into utter disgrace,

many the honored who are given into the power of the few.

Moderation and Patience*

7Before investigating, do not find fault;

examine first, then criticize.

8Before listening, do not say a word,

interrupt no one in the midst of speaking.a

9Do not dispute about what is not your concern;

in the quarrels of the arrogant do not take part.

10My son, why increase your anxiety,

since whoever is greedy for wealth will not be blameless?

Even if you chase after it, you will never overtake it;

and by fleeing you will not escape.

11One may work and struggle and drive,

and fall short all the same.b

12Others go their way broken-down drifters,

with little strength and great misery—

Yet the eye of the LORD looks favorably upon them,

shaking them free of the stinking mire.

13He lifts up their heads and exalts them

to the amazement of the many.

14* Good and evil, life and death,c

poverty and riches—all are from the LORD.

17The Lord’s gift remains with the devout;

his favor brings lasting success.

18Some become rich through a miser’s life,

and this is their allotted reward:

19When they say: “I have found rest,d

now I will feast on my goods,”

They do not know how long it will be

till they die and leave them to others.*

20My child, stand by your agreement and attend to it,

grow old while doing your work.

21Do not marvel at the works of a sinner,

but trust in the LORD and wait for his light;

For it is easy in the eyes of the LORD

suddenly, in an instant, to make the poor rich.

22God’s blessing is the lot of the righteous,

and in due time their hope bears fruit.

23Do not say: “What do I need?

What further benefits can be mine?”

24Do not say: “I am self-sufficient.

What harm can come to me now?”

25The day of prosperity makes one forget adversity;

the day of adversity makes one forget prosperity.e

26For it is easy for the Lord on the day of death*

to repay mortals according to their conduct.

27A time of affliction brings forgetfulness of past delights;

at the end of life one’s deeds are revealed.

28Call none happy before death,

for how they end, they are known.

Care in Choosing Friends

29Not everyone should be brought into your house,

for many are the snares of the crafty.

30Like a decoy partridge in a cage, so is the heart of the proud,

and like a spy they will pick out the weak spots.

31For they lie in wait to turn good into evil,

and to praiseworthy deeds they attach blame.

32One spark kindles many coals;

a sinner lies in wait for blood.

33Beware of scoundrels, for they breed only evil,

and they may give you a lasting stain.

34Admit strangers into your home, and they will stir up trouble

and make you a stranger to your own family.

* [11:4] The implication is similar to Eccl 7:13; 8:17: the mysterious work of God.

* [11:5] Cf. 1 Sm 2:8; Ps 75:8; 105:1722; Lk 1:52.

* [11:728] Discretion should regulate conduct toward others (vv. 79); as regards personal interests, one should avoid solicitude for the passing external benefits of life and property (vv. 1014, 1819, 21, 2325) and cultivate the lasting inward gifts of wisdom, virtue (vv. 20, 22), and patience (vv. 2528).

* [11:14] In mysterious ways God ultimately governs the lives of men and women.

† [11:14] Other ancient texts read as vv. 15–16:

15 Wisdom and understanding and knowledge of the Law,

love and virtuous paths, are from the Lord.

16 Error and darkness were formed with sinners from their birth,

and evil grows old with those who exult in evil.

* [11:19] Cf. the parable of the rich man, Lk 12:1621.

* [11:2628] Ben Sira thought that divine retribution took place only in the present life, and even at the end of life; cf. 9:12; 14:1617.

a. [11:8] Prv 18:13.

b. [11:11] Ps 127:2; Eccl 4:8.

c. [11:14] Jb 1:21; 2:10.

d. [11:19] Eccl 4:8; 6:2; Lk 12:19.

e. [11:25] Sir 18:2425.

CHAPTER 12

1If you do good, know for whom you are doing it,*

and your kindness will have its effect.

2Do good to the righteous and reward will be yours,

if not from them, from the LORD.a

3No good comes to those who give comfort to the wicked,

nor is it an act of mercy that they do.

4Give to the good but refuse the sinner;

5refresh the downtrodden but give nothing to the proud.

No arms for combat should you give them,

lest they use these against you;

Twofold evil you will obtain for every good deed you do for them.

6For God also hates sinners,

and takes vengeance on evildoers.*

8In prosperity we cannot know our friends;*

in adversity an enemy will not remain concealed.b

9When one is successful even an enemy is friendly;

but in adversity even a friend disappears.c

10Never trust your enemies,

for their wickedness is like corrosion in bronze.

11Even though they act deferentially and peaceably toward you,

take care to be on your guard against them.d

Treat them as those who reveal secrets,*

and be certain that in the end there will still be envy.

12Do not let them stand near you,

lest they push you aside and take your place.

Do not let them sit at your right hand,

or they will demand your seat,

And in the end you will appreciate my advice,

when you groan with regret, as I warned.

13Who pities a snake charmer when he is bitten,*

or anyone who goes near a wild beast?

14So it is with the companion of the proud,

who is involved in their sins:

15While you stand firm, they make no move;

but if you slip, they cannot hold back.

16With their lips enemies speak sweetly,

but in their heart they scheme to plunge you into the abyss.

Though enemies have tears in their eyes,

given the chance, they will never have enough of your blood.e

17If evil comes upon you, you will find them at hand;

pretending to help, they will trip you up,

18Then they will shake their heads and clap their hands

and hiss repeatedly, and show their true faces.

* [12:1] The import of this verse is brought out in vv. 45.

* [12:6] Verse 7 is a variant of verse 4 and is omitted.

* [12:818] Adversity distinguishes friends from enemies; to trust the latter or permit them intimacy is to invite disaster. Cf. note on 6:517.

* [12:11] Ben Sira has harsh words for those who reveal secrets; see also 8:18; 27:1621; 42:1; Prv 11:13; 20:19.

* [12:13] For v. 13a, see especially Eccl 10:11.

a. [12:2] Dt 14:29.

b. [12:8] Prv 17:17.

c. [12:9] Prv 19:47.

d. [12:11] Prv 26:2426.

e. [12:16] Jer 9:7.

CHAPTER 13

Caution Regarding Associates*

1Touch pitch and you blacken your hand;

associate with scoundrels and you learn their ways.

2Do not lift a weight too heavy for you,

or associate with anyone wealthier than you.

How can the clay pot go with the metal cauldron?

When they knock together, the pot will be smashed:

3The rich do wrong and boast of it,

while the poor are wronged and beg forgiveness.

4As long as the rich can use you they will enslave you,

but when you are down and out they will abandon you.

5As long as you have anything they will live with you,

but they will drain you dry without remorse.

6When they need you they will deceive you

and smile at you and raise your hopes;

they will speak kindly to you and say, “What do you need?”

7They will embarrass you at their dinner parties,

and finally laugh at you.

Afterwards, when they see you, they will pass you by,

and shake their heads at you.

8Be on guard: do not act too boldly;

do not be like those who lack sense.

9When the influential draw near, keep your distance;

then they will urge you all the more.

10Do not draw too close, lest you be rebuffed,

but do not keep too far away lest you be regarded as an enemy.

11Do not venture to be free with them,

do not trust their many words;

For by prolonged talk they will test you,

and though smiling they will probe you.

12Mercilessly they will make you a laughingstock,

and will not refrain from injury or chains.

13Be on your guard and take care

never to accompany lawless people.

15Every living thing loves its own kind,

and we all love someone like ourselves.

16Every living being keeps close to its own kind;

and people associate with their own kind.

17Is a wolf ever allied with a lamb?

So the sinner with the righteous.a

18Can there be peace between the hyena and the dog?

Or peace between the rich and the poor?*

19Wild donkeys of the desert are lion’s prey;

likewise the poor are feeding grounds for the rich.

20Humility is an abomination to the proud;

and the poor are an abomination to the rich.

21When the rich stumble they are supported by friends;

when the poor trip they are pushed down by friends.

22When the rich speak they have many supporters;

though what they say is repugnant, it wins approval.

When the poor speak people say, “Come, come, speak up!”

though they are talking sense, they get no hearing.

23When the rich speak all are silent,

their wisdom people extol to the clouds.

When the poor speak people say: “Who is that?”

If they stumble, people knock them down.b

24Wealth is good where there is no sin;*

but poverty is evil by the standards of the proud.

25The heart changes one’s face,

either for good or for evil.c

26The sign of a good heart is a radiant face;

withdrawn and perplexed is the toiling schemer.

* [13:114:2] By means of various images, most of them unfavorable to the rich, Ben Sira indicates the practical impossibility of genuine and sincere companionship between the poor and the rich. He lays down a principle of associating with equals (13:619).

† [13:13] Other ancient texts read as v. 14:

If you hear these things in your sleep, wake up!

With your whole life, love the Lord

and call on him for your salvation.

* [13:18] The hostility between the dogs which guard the flocks (Jb 30:1) and the rapacious hyenas (Jer 12:9) is proverbial in Palestine.

* [13:24] Ben Sira allows that the rich can be virtuous—but with difficulty; cf. 31:111.

a. [13:17] 2 Cor 6:1417.

b. [13:2123] Prv 14:20; 19:4, 7.

c. [13:25] Prv 15:13.

CHAPTER 14

1* Happy those whose mouth causes them no grief,

those who are not stung by remorse for sin.a

2Happy are those whose conscience does not reproach them,

those who have not lost hope.

The Use of Wealth

3Wealth is not appropriate for the mean-spirited;*

to misers, what use is gold?

4What they deny themselves they collect for someone else,

and strangers will live sumptuously on their possessions.b

5To whom will they be generous that are stingy with themselves

and do not enjoy what is their own?

6None are worse than those who are stingy with themselves;

they punish their own avarice.

7If ever they do good, it is by mistake;

in the end they reveal their meanness.

8Misers are evil people,

they turn away and disregard others.

9The greedy see their share as not enough;

greedy injustice dries up the soul.

10The eye of the miserly is rapacious for food,

but there is none of it on their own table.

11* My son, if you have the means, treat yourself well,

and enjoy life as best you can.c

12Remember that death does not delay,

and you have not been told the grave’s appointed time.

13Before you die, be good to your friends;

give them a share in what you possess.d

14Do not deprive yourself of good things now

or let a choice portion escape you.

15Will you not leave your riches to others,

and your earnings to be divided by lot?

16Give and take, treat yourself well,

for in Sheol there are no joys to seek.

17All flesh grows old like a garment;

the age-old law is: everyone must die.e

18As with the leaves growing on a luxuriant tree—

one falls off and another sprouts—

So with the generations of flesh and blood:

one dies and another flourishes.f

19All human deeds surely perish;

the works they do follow after them.

The Search for Wisdom and Her Blessings*

20Happy those who meditate on Wisdom,

and fix their gaze on knowledge;g

21Who ponder her ways in their heart,

and understand her paths;

22Who pursue her like a scout,

and watch at her entry way;

23Who peep through her windows,

and listen at her doors;

24Who encamp near her house

and fasten their tent pegs next to her walls;

25Who pitch their tent beside her,

and dwell in a good place;*

26* Who build their nest in her leaves,

and lodge in her branches;

27Who take refuge from the heat in her shade

and dwell in her home.

* [14:12] A clear conscience, the result of honoring personal commitments and responsibilities, brings contentment and peace.

* [14:310] Ben Sira offers a case study about the miserable life of the “small-hearted” (Heb. leb qaṭan) to verify vv. 12. They are evil because they do not use their wealth properly to benefit themselves or others. While they are never satisfied that they have enough, they ignore their own needs and hospitality itself, feeding on the generosity of others, in order to protect their own resources. Ironically, after their death, strangers, with no obligation to keep their memory alive, enjoy their wealth.

* [14:1119] Three realities govern Ben Sira’s attitude toward a proper use of wealth: the inevitability and uncertainty of death, the ephemeral nature of human accomplishments, the lack of reward or punishment after death. He advises generous enjoyment of God’s gift of wealth before death.

* [14:2015:10] This poem charts the growing intimacy between those seeking Wisdom and Wisdom herself. They move from static reflection to playful pursuit, from camping outside the walls of her house to nesting inside her leafy shade. Ben Sira portrays Wisdom as both mother and bride, a feminine figure who is the fullness of womanhood according to his androcentric society.

* [14:25] In a good place: i.e., where Wisdom dwells.

* [14:2627] The shift in imagery creates a more intimate relationship. Those seeking Wisdom dwell within her as a bird nests within a leafy tree.

a. [14:1] Sir 5:1314; 19:16; 25:8; Jas 1:26; 3:2.

b. [14:4] Eccl 2:1819; 6:2.

c. [14:1112] Eccl 5:1719.

d. [14:13] Prv 3:2728; Tb 4:7.

e. [14:17] Ps 103:1416; Jb 14:12; Is 40:6; Jas 1:10; 1 Pt 1:24.

f. [14:18] Eccl 1:4.

g. [14:20] Ps 1:2.

CHAPTER 15

1Whoever fears the LORD will do this;

whoever is practiced in the Law will come to Wisdom.

2She will meet him like a mother;

like a young bride she will receive him,

3* She will feed him with the bread of learning,

and give him the water of understanding to drink.a

4He will lean upon her and not fall;

he will trust in her and not be put to shame.

5She will exalt him above his neighbors,

and in the assembly she will make him eloquent.

6Joy and gladness he will find,

and an everlasting name he will inherit.b

7The worthless will not attain her,

and the haughty will not behold her.

8She is far from the impious;

liars never think of her.

9* Praise is unseemly on the lips of sinners,

for it has not been allotted to them by God.

10But praise is uttered by the mouth of the wise,

and its rightful owner teaches it.

Free Will*

11Do not say: “It was God’s doing that I fell away,”

for what he hates he does not do.

12Do not say: “He himself has led me astray,”

for he has no need of the wicked.c

13Abominable wickedness the LORD hates

and he does not let it happen to those who fear him.

14God in the beginning created human beings

and made them subject to their own free choice.d

15If you choose, you can keep the commandments;

loyalty is doing the will of God.

16Set before you are fire and water;

to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand.

17Before everyone are life and death,

whichever they choose will be given them.e

18Immense is the wisdom of the LORD;

mighty in power, he sees all things.

19The eyes of God behold his works,

and he understands every human deed.f

20He never commands anyone to sin,

nor shows leniency toward deceivers.*

* [15:36] In this role reversal Woman Wisdom teaches, nourishes, supports, and protects the vulnerable man. For similar imagery cf. Prv 8:421, 3435; 9:15; 31:1031.

* [15:910] There is an intimate association between wisdom and praise of the Lord.

* [15:1120] Here Ben Sira links freedom of the will with human responsibility. God, who sees everything, is neither the cause nor the occasion of sin. We have the power to choose our behavior and we are responsible for both the good and the evil we do (vv. 1517).

* [15:20] Deceivers: those who hold the Lord responsible for their sins.

a. [15:3] Jn 4:10; 6:3133.

b. [15:6] Sir 6:2833.

c. [15:12] Jas 1:13.

d. [15:14] Gn 1:27.

e. [15:17] Dt 30:1520.

f. [15:19] Ps 33:18; 34:16; Heb 4:13.

CHAPTER 16

God’s Punishment of Sinners*

1Do not yearn for worthless children,

or rejoice in wicked offspring.

2Even if they be many, do not rejoice in them

if they do not have fear of the LORD.

3Do not count on long life for them,a

or have any hope for their future.

For one can be better than a thousand;

rather die childless than have impious children!

4Through one wise person a city can be peopled;

but through a clan of rebels it becomes desolate.

5Many such things my eye has seen,

and even more than these my ear has heard.

6Against a sinful band fire is kindled,b

upon a godless people wrath blazes.*

7He did not forgive the princes of old*

who rebelled long ago in their might.c

8He did not spare the neighbors of Lot,* d

abominable in their pride.

9He did not spare the doomed people,*

dispossessed because of their sin;

10Nor the six hundred thousand foot soldiers,* e

sent to their graves for the arrogance of their hearts.

11Had there been but one stiff-necked* person,

it would be a wonder had he gone unpunished.

For mercy and anger alike are with him;

he remits and forgives, but also pours out wrath.

12Great as his mercy is his punishment;

he judges people, each according to their deeds.

13Criminals do not escape with their plunder;

the hope of the righteous, God never leaves unfulfilled.

14Whoever does good has a reward;

each receives according to their deeds.

17Do not say: “I am hidden from God;

and on high who remembers me?

Among so many people I am unknown;

what am I in the world of spirits?

18Look, the heavens and the highest heavens,

the abyss and the earth tremble at his visitation.

19The roots of the mountains and the earth’s foundations—

at his mere glance they quiver and quake.

20Of me, therefore, he will take no notice;

with my ways who will be concerned?

21If I sin, no eye will see me;

if all in secret I act deceitfully, who is to know?f

22Who tells him about just deeds?

What can I expect for doing my duty?”

23Such the thoughts of the senseless;

only the foolish entertain them.

Divine Wisdom Seen in Creation*

24Listen to me, my son, and take my advice,

and apply your mind to my words,

25While I pour out my spirit by measure

and impart knowledge with care.

26When at the first God created his works

and, as he made them, assigned their tasks,g

27He arranged for all time what they were to do,

their domains from generation to generation.

They were not to go hungry or grow weary,

or ever cease from their tasks.

28Never does a single one crowd its neighbor,

or do any ever disobey his word.

29Then the Lord looked upon the earth,

and filled it with his blessings.h

30Its surface he covered with every kind of living creature

which must return into it again.

* [16:123] One child who does God’s will is a greater blessing than many sinful offspring (vv. 14), for history and experience show that God punishes sin (vv. 510). God judges everyone according to their deeds (vv. 1114); no one can hide from God or escape retribution at his hand (vv. 1723).

* [16:6] For Korah and his band (v. 6a), see 45:1819; Nm 16:135; Ps 106:18; for the disgruntled Israelites (v. 6b), Ps 78:2122.

* [16:7] The princes of old: e.g., the mighty destroyed in the flood (Gn 6:14; Wis 14:6; Bar 3:2628), as well as the king of Babylon (Is 14:421) and Nebuchadnezzar (Dn 4:730).

* [16:8] Neighbors of Lot: the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, condemned elsewhere for their sexual violence (Gn 19:2425) and failure at hospitality (Ez 16:4950).

* [16:9] Doomed people: the Canaanite tribes whose aberrant religious practices, at least in Israelite opinion, caused their downfall: Ex 23:2324, 2733; 33:2; 34:1116; Dt 7:12; Wis 12:37.

* [16:10] Six hundred thousand foot soldiers: the number given for those rescued by Moses, who murmured against the Lord in the wilderness and died there: 46:1, 78; Nm 11:20; 14:112, 2224, 29, 3638; 26:65; Dt 1:3538.

* [16:11] Stiff-necked: sinful Israelites; cf. Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5. Not even one Israelite would have gone unpunished for insolence or pride.

† [16:14] Other ancient texts read as vv. 15–16:

15 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he did not recognize him

whose acts were manifest under the heavens;

16 His mercy was seen by all his creatures,

and his light and his darkness he apportioned to humankind.

* [16:2417:23] In harmony with Gn 12, the author describes God’s wisdom in creating the universe and everything in it (vv. 2430), endowing human beings with a moral nature, with wisdom, knowledge, and freedom of will (cf. 15:14) according to his own image (17:13, 7). Now they can govern the earth (vv. 34), praise God’s name (vv. 910), obey his law (vv. 1114), and render to him an account of their deeds (v. 23). Cf. Ps 19; 104.

a. [16:34] Wis 4:12.

b. [16:6] Sir 21:9.

c. [16:7] Gn 6:4; Wis 14:6; Bar 3:2628.

d. [16:8] Gn 19:2425.

e. [16:10] Nm 14:29.

f. [16:21] Sir 23:1820.

g. [16:26] Gn 1:330.

h. [16:29] Gn 1:1131.

CHAPTER 17

Creation of Human Beings

1The Lord created human beings from the earth,

and makes them return to earth again.a

2A limited number of days he gave them,b

but granted them authority over everything on earth.

3He endowed them with strength like his own,

and made them in his image.

4He put fear of them in all flesh,

and gave them dominion over beasts and birds.

6Discernment, tongues, and eyes,

ears, and a mind for thinking he gave them.

7With knowledge and understanding he filled them;

good and evil he showed them.

8He put fear of him into their hearts

to show them the grandeur of his works,

9That they might describe the wonders of his deeds

10and praise his holy name.

11He set before them knowledge,

and allotted to them the law of life.

12An everlasting covenant he made with them,

and his commandments* he revealed to them.

13His majestic glory their eyes beheld,

his glorious voice their ears heard.

14He said to them, “Avoid all evil”;

to each of them he gave precepts about their neighbor.

15Their ways are ever known to him,

they cannot be hidden from his eyes.

17Over every nation he appointed a ruler,*

but Israel is the Lord’s own portion. c

19All their works are clear as the sun to him,

and his eyes are ever upon their ways.

20Their iniquities cannot be hidden from him;

all their sins are before the Lord.

22Human goodness is like a signet ring with God,

and virtue he keeps like the apple of his eye.

23Later he will rise up and repay them,

requiting each one as they deserve.d

Appeal for a Return to God*

24But to the penitent he provides a way back

and encourages those who are losing hope!

25Turn back to the Lord and give up your sins,

pray before him and make your offenses few.

26Turn again to the Most High and away from iniquity,

and hate intensely what he loathes.

27* Who in Sheol can glorify the Most Highe

in place of the living who offer their praise?

28The dead can no more give praise than those who have never lived;

they who are alive and well glorify the Lord.

29How great is the mercy of the Lord,

and his forgiveness for those who return to him!

30For not everything is within human reach,

since human beings are not immortal.

31Is anything brighter than the sun? Yet it can be eclipsed.

How worthless* then the thoughts of flesh and blood!

32God holds accountable the hosts of highest heaven,

while all mortals are dust and ashes.

† [17:4] Other ancient texts read as v. 5:

They received the use of the Lord’s five faculties;

of mind, the sixth, he granted them a share,

as also of speech, the seventh, the interpreter of his actions.

* [17:12] An everlasting covenant…his commandments: God made several covenants, e.g., Gn 9:817; 15:1721; 17:122, entered into with humankind, especially on Mount Sinai, where the people saw God’s glory and heard his voice (v. 13; cf. Ex 19:1624:18).

† [17:15] Other ancient texts read as v. 16:

Their ways are directed toward evils from their youth,

and they are unable to make their hearts flesh rather than stone.

* [17:17] Ruler: this may refer to civil officials or to heavenly beings placed over nations as guardians; see note on Dt 32:8, and the cross-references.

† [17:17] Other ancient texts read as v. 18:

Israel, as his firstborn, he cares for with chastisement;

the light of his love he shares with him without neglect.

† [17:20] Other ancient texts read as v. 21:

But the Lord, being good and knowing how they are formed,

neither neglected them nor ceased to spare them.

* [17:2432] Ben Sira opens this poem with a prophetic summons to repent, urging sinners to give up their sins and to pray for forgiveness (vv. 2426, 29). Ben Sira reflects the belief of his day that there was no life after death (vv. 2728, 30; see note on 11:2628). Cf. Ez 18:23, 3032; 33:1116. See note on Ps 6:6.

* [17:2728] True life consists in praise of God; this is not possible in Sheol.

* [17:31] Worthless: cf. Gn 6:5. Though moral fault is not excluded, the thought here is the inability to understand the designs of God. Cf. Wis 9:1418.

a. [17:1] Gn 2:7; 3:19.

b. [17:24] Gn 1:2628; Ps 8:49.

c. [17:17] Ex 19:5; Dt 4:1920; 32:89; Dn 10:1321; 12:1.

d. [17:23] Ps 7:17; Jl 4:4, 7; Jer 23:19; Ez 22:31.

e. [17:2728] Ps 6:6; 88:47; 115:17; Is 38:18.

CHAPTER 18

The Divine Power and Mercy*

1He who lives forever created the whole universe;

2the LORD alone is just.

4To whom has he given power to describe his works,

and who can search out his mighty deeds?

5Who can measure his majestic power,

or fully recount his mercies?

6No one can lessen, increase,

or fathom the wonders of the Lord.

7When mortals finish, they are only beginning,

and when they stop they are still bewildered.

8What are mortals? What are they worth?

What is good in them, and what is evil?

9The number of their days seems great

if it reaches a hundred years.a

10Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand,

so are these few years among the days of eternity.

11That is why the Lord is patient with them

and pours out his mercy on them.

12He sees and understands that their death is wretched,

and so he forgives them all the more.

13Their compassion is for their neighbor,

but the Lord’s compassion reaches all flesh,

Reproving, admonishing, teaching,

and turning them back, as a shepherd his flock.b

14He has compassion on those who accept his discipline,

who are eager for his precepts.

The Need for Prudence

15My child, add no reproach to your charity,*

or spoil any gift by harsh words.

16Does not the dew give relief from the scorching heat?

So a word can be better than a gift.

17Indeed does not a word count more than a good gift?

But both are offered by a kind person.

18The fool is ungracious and abusive,

and a grudging gift makes the eyes smart.c

19Before you speak, learn;

before you get sick, prepare the cure.

20Before you are judged, examine yourself,

and at the time of scrutiny you will have forgiveness.

21Before you fall ill, humble yourself;

and when you have sinned, show repentance.*

Do not delay forsaking your sins;

do not neglect to do so until you are in distress.

22Let nothing prevent the prompt payment of your vows;

do not wait until death to fulfill them.d

23Before making a vow prepare yourself;

do not be like one who puts the Lord to the test.

24Think of wrath on the day of death,

the time of vengeance when he will hide his face.e

25Think of the time of hunger in the time of plenty,

poverty and need in the day of wealth.f

26Between morning and evening there is a change of time;

before the Lord all things are fleeting.

27The wise are discreet in all things;

where sin is rife they keep themselves from wrongdoing.

28Every wise person teaches wisdom,*

and those who know her declare her praise;

29Those skilled in words become wise themselves,

and pour forth apt proverbs.

Self-Control*

30Do not let your passions be your guide,g

but keep your desires in check.

31If you allow yourself to satisfy your passions,

they will make you the laughingstock of your enemies.

32Take no pleasure in too much luxury

which brings on poverty redoubled.

33Do not become a glutton and a drunkard

with nothing in your purse.

* [18:114] Not only are God’s justice and power beyond human understanding (vv. 17), his mercy also is boundless and surpasses all human compassion (vv. 814); he pities human frailty and mortality.

† [18:2] Other ancient texts read as v. 3:

He controls the world within the span of his hand,

and everything obeys his will;

For he in his might is the King of all,

separating what is holy among them from what is profane.

* [18:1527] The practice of charity, especially almsgiving, is an art which avoids every offense to another (vv. 1518). Prudence directs the changing circumstances of daily life in view of the time of scrutiny (i.e., the day of reckoning, or death, v. 24).

* [18:21] Sickness was often viewed as a punishment for sin; hence, the need for repentance. Cf. 38:910; Jb 15:2024.

* [18:2829] A general statement on the teaching of wisdom, serving either as a conclusion to the preceding section or as an introduction to the following one.

* [18:3019:4] Inordinate gratification of the senses makes people unreasonable, slaves of passion, the laughingstock of their enemies, and it leads to an untimely death.

a. [18:9] Ps 90:10.

b. [18:13] Ps 23:14; Is 40:11; 49:910; Jn 10:1116; Heb 13:2021; Rev 7:17.

c. [18:18] Sir 20:1415.

d. [18:22] Nm 30:3; Dt 23:22; Ps 50:14; Prv 20:25; Eccl 5:4.

e. [18:24] Sir 7:16.

f. [18:25] Sir 11:2527.

g. [18:30] Rom 6:12; 13:14; 2 Tm 2:22; Jas 1:1415.

CHAPTER 19

1Whoever does this grows no richer;

those who waste the little they have will be stripped bare.

2Wine and women make the heart lustful,

and the companion of prostitutes becomes reckless.a

3Rottenness and worms will possess him,

and the reckless will be snatched away.b

4Whoever trusts others too quickly has a shallow mind,

and those who sin wrong themselves.

The Proper Use of Speech*

5Whoever gloats over evil will be destroyed,

6and whoever repeats gossip has no sense.

7Never repeat gossip,

and no one will reproach you.c

8Tell nothing to friend or foe;

and unless it be a sin for you, do not reveal a thing.d

9For someone may have heard you and watched you,

and in time come to hate you.

10Let anything you hear die with you;

never fear, it will not make you burst!

11Having heard something, the fool goes into labor,

like a woman giving birth to a child.

12Like an arrow stuck in a fool’s thigh,

so is gossip in the belly of a fool.

13Admonish your friend—he may not have done it;

and if he did, that he may not do it again.e

14Admonish your neighbor—he may not have said it;

and if he did, that he may not say it again.

15Admonish your friend—often it may be slander;

do not believe every story.

16Then, too, a person can slip and not mean it;

who has not sinned with his tongue?f

17Admonish your neighbor before you break with him;

and give due place to the Law of the Most High. g

How to Recognize True Wisdom*

20All wisdom is fear of the LORD;

and in all wisdom, the observance of the Law. h

22The knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom,

nor is there prudence in the counsel of sinners.

23There is a shrewdness that is detestable,

while the fool may be free from sin.

24Better are the God-fearing who have little understanding

than those of great intelligence who violate the Law.

25There is a shrewdness keen but dishonest,

and there are those who are duplicitous to win a judgment.

26There is the villain bowed in grief,

but full of deceit within.

27He hides his face and pretends not to hear,

but when not observed, he will take advantage of you:

28Even if his lack of strength keeps him from sinning,

when he finds the right time he will do harm.

29People are known by their appearance;

the sensible are recognized as such when first met.

30One’s attire, hearty laughter, and gait

proclaim him for what he is.

* [19:517] An excellent commentary on bearing false witness (Ex 20:16; Dt 5:20). Ben Sira speaks harshly about calumny, rash judgment, and detraction (vv. 57), and urges discreet silence (vv. 812). Justice requires that an accused neighbor be given a hearing, and charity urges fraternal correction; both together fulfill the law of the Most High (vv. 1317); cf. Mt 7:12; 18:1516.

† [19:17] Other ancient texts read as vv. 18–19:

18 Fear of the Lord is the beginning of acceptance;

and wisdom from him obtains love.

19 Knowledge of the Lord’s commandments is life-giving instruction;

those who do what pleases him will harvest the fruit of the tree of immortality.

* [19:2030] True wisdom is contrasted with a dishonest shrewdness.

† [19:20] Other ancient texts read as v. 21:

The slave who says to his master, “What pleases you I will not do”—

even if he does it later, provokes the one who feeds him.

a. [19:2] Prv 20:1; 23:2028.

b. [19:3] Gal 6:8.

c. [19:7] Prv 25:10.

d. [19:8] Sir 8:1819.

e. [19:13] Lv 19:17; Mt 18:15; Lk 17:3.

f. [19:16] Sir 14:1; Jas 3:2.

g. [19:17] Lv 19:17.

h. [19:20] Sir 1:1, 12, 14; Jb 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10.

CHAPTER 20

Conduct of the Wise and the Foolish

1There is an admonition that is untimely,*

but the silent person is the wise one.

2It is much better to admonish than to lose one’s temper;

3one who admits a fault will be kept from disgrace.

4Like a eunuch lusting to violate a young woman

is the one who does right under compulsion.*

5One is silent and is thought wise;

another, for being talkative, is disliked.

6One is silent, having nothing to say;

another is silent, biding his time.a

7The wise remain silent till the right time comes,

but a boasting fool misses the proper time.

8Whoever talks too much is detested;

whoever pretends to authority is hated.

9There is the misfortune that brings success;*

and there is the gain that turns into loss.

10There is the gift that profits you nothing,

and there is the gift that must be paid back double.

11There is the loss for the sake of glory,

and there is the one who rises above humble circumstances.

12There is one who buys much for little,

but pays for it seven times over.

13The wise make themselves beloved by a few words,

but the courtesies of fools are wasted.

14A gift from a fool will do you no good,

for in his eyes this one gift is equal to many.

15He gives little, criticizes often,

and opens his mouth like a town crier.

He lends today and asks for it tomorrow;

such a person is hateful.

16A fool says, “I have no friends

nor thanks for my generosity.”

Those who eat his bread have a mocking tongue.

17How many will ridicule him, and how often!

18A slip on the floor is better than a slip of the tongue;*

in like manner the downfall of the wicked comes quickly.

19A coarse person, an untimely story;

the ignorant are always ready to offer it.

20A proverb spoken by a fool is unwelcome,

for he does not tell it at the proper time.

21There is a person whose poverty prevents him from sinning,

but when he takes his rest he has no regrets.

22There is a person who is destroyed through shame,

and ruined by foolish posturing.

23There is one who promises a friend out of shame,

and so makes an enemy needlessly.

24A lie is a foul blot in a person,

yet it is always on the lips of the ignorant.

25A thief is better than an inveterate liar,

yet both will suffer ruin.

26A liar’s way leads to dishonor,

and his shame remains ever with him.

27The wise gain promotion with few words,*

the prudent please the great.

28Those who work the land have abundant crops,

and those who please the great are pardoned their faults.

29Favors and gifts blind the eyes;

like a muzzle over the mouth they silence reproofs.b

30Hidden wisdom and unseen treasure—

what value has either?

31Better are those who hide their folly

than those who hide their wisdom.

* [20:18] The wise know the proper times for speech and silence, that is, the occasions when the most benefit can be gained from them. On the ambiguity of silences, see Prv 17:2728.

* [20:4] Force can prevent an external act of sin or compel a good deed, but it does not eliminate the internal sin or desire of wrongdoing.

* [20:917] In a series of paradoxes the author indicates how much true and lasting values differ from apparent ones.

* [20:1826] The ill-timed speech brings disaster (vv. 1820); human respect may lead to rash promises and enmity (vv. 2223); lies bring dishonor and lasting disgrace (vv. 2426).

* [20:2731] Through prudent speech the wise gain honor and esteem among the great (vv. 2728). They must beware, however, of accepting bribes, lest they share in evil through silence when they should reprove (vv. 2931).

† [20:31] Other ancient texts read as v. 32:

It is better to await the inevitable while serving the Lord

than to be the ungoverned helmsman for the careening of one’s life.

a. [20:56] Prv 17:2728.

b. [20:29] Ex 23:8; Dt 16:19.

CHAPTER 21

Dangers from Sin*

1My child, if you have sinned, do so no more,

and for your past sins pray to be forgiven.

2Flee from sin as from a serpent

that will bite you if you go near it;

Its teeth, lion’s teeth,

destroying human lives.

3All lawlessness is like a two-edged sword;

when it cuts, there is no healing.a

4Panic and pride wipe out wealth;

so too the house of the proud is uprooted.

5Prayer from the lips of the poor is heard at once,

and justice is quickly granted them.

6Whoever hates correction walks the sinner’s path,b

but whoever fears the Lord repents in his heart.

7Glib speakers are widely known,

but when they slip the sensible perceive it.

8Those who build their houses with someone else’s money

are like those who collect stones for their funeral mounds.

9A band of criminals is like a bundle of tow;

they will end in a flaming fire.c

10The path of sinners is smooth stones,

but its end is the pit of Sheol.*

The Wise and Foolish: A Contrast*

11Those who keep the Law control their thoughts;

perfect fear of the Lord is wisdom.

12One who is not clever can never be taught,

but there is a cleverness filled with bitterness.

13The knowledge of the wise wells up like a flood,

and their counsel like a living spring.d

14A fool’s mind is like a broken jar:

it cannot hold any knowledge at all.

15When the intelligent hear a wise saying,

they praise it and add to it.

The wanton hear it with distaste

and cast it behind their back.

16A fool’s chatter is like a load on a journey,

but delight is to be found on the lips of the intelligent.

17The views of the prudent are sought in an assembly,

and their words are taken to heart.

18Like a house in ruins is wisdom to a fool;

to the stupid, knowledge is incomprehensible chatter.

19To the senseless, education is fetters on the feet,

like manacles on the right hand.

20Fools raise their voice in laughter,

but the prudent at most smile quietly.e

21Like a gold ornament is education to the wise,

like a bracelet on the right arm.

22A fool steps boldly into a house,

while the well-bred are slow to make an entrance.f

23A boor peeps through the doorway of a house,

but the educated stay outside.

24It is rude for one to listen at a door;

the discreet person would be overwhelmed by the disgrace.

25The lips of the arrogant talk of what is not their concern,

but the discreet carefully weigh their words.

26The mind of fools is in their mouths,

but the mouth of the wise is in their mind.*

27When the godless curse their adversary,*

they really curse themselves.

28Slanderers sully themselves,

and are hated by their neighbors.

* [21:110] Under various figures, the consequences of sin are described as destructive of wealth, and even of life, deserving of death (vv. 24, 6a, 810). Fear of the Lord motivates repentance (vv. 5, 6b).

* [21:10] The path of sinners…Sheol: Ben Sira refers to the death that awaits unrepentant sinners; see notes on 11:2628; 17:2432.

* [21:1128] The mind of the wise is a fountain of knowledge (vv. 13, 15); their will is trained to keep the Law (v. 11); their words are gracious, valued, carefully weighed, sincere (vv. 1617, 2526); their conduct is respectful, cultured and restrained (vv. 20, 2224). The mind of the foolish is devoid of knowledge and impenetrable to it (vv. 12, 14, 1819); their will rejects it (v. 15); their talk is burdensome (v. 16), their laughter unrestrained (v. 20), their conversation shallow and meddlesome (vv. 2526); their conduct is bold and rude (vv. 2224); their abuse of others redounds on themselves (vv. 2728).

* [21:26] A clever play on words.

* [21:27] Curse their adversary: the curse of the godless often recoils on their own head; cf. Gn 27:29; Nm 24:9.

a. [21:3] Prv 5:4.

b. [21:6] Prv 12:1.

c. [21:9] Sir 16:6; Ps 21:10.

d. [21:13] Prv 13:14; 16:22; 18:4.

e. [21:20] Eccl 7:6.

f. [21:22] Prv 25:17.

CHAPTER 22

On Laziness and Foolishness

1* The sluggard is like a filthy stone;*

everyone hisses at his disgrace.

2The sluggard is like a lump of dung;

whoever touches it shakes it off the hands.

3An undisciplined child is a disgrace to its father;

if it be a daughter, she brings him to poverty.a

4A thoughtful daughter obtains a husband of her own;

a shameless one is her father’s grief.

5A hussy shames her father and her husband;

she is despised by both.

6Like music at the time of mourning is ill-timed talk,*

but lashes and discipline are at all times wisdom.

9Teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot,b

or rousing another from deep sleep.

10Whoever talks with a fool talks to someone asleep;

when it is over, he says, “What was that?”

11Weep over the dead, for their light has gone out;

weep over the fool, for sense has left him.

Weep but less bitterly over the dead, for they are at rest;

worse than death is the life of a fool.

12Mourning for the dead, seven days—c

but for the wicked fool, a whole lifetime.

13Do not talk much with the stupid,

or visit the unintelligent.

Beware of them lest you have trouble

and be spattered when they shake themselves off.

Avoid them and you will find rest

and not be wearied by their lack of sense.

14What is heavier than lead?

What is its name but “Fool”?

15Sand, salt, and an iron weight

are easier to bear than the stupid person.d

16A wooden beam firmly bonded into a building*

is not loosened by an earthquake;

So the mind firmly resolved after careful deliberation

will not be afraid at any time.

17The mind solidly backed by intelligent thought

is like a stucco decoration on a smooth wall.

18Small stones lying on an open height

will not remain when the wind blows;

So a timid mind based on foolish plans

cannot stand up to fear of any kind.

The Preservation of Friendship*

19Whoever jabs the eye brings tears;

whoever pierces the heart bares its feelings.

20Whoever throws a stone at birds drives them away;

whoever insults a friend breaks up the friendship.

21Should you draw a sword against a friend,

do not despair, for it can be undone.

22Should you open your mouth against a friend,

do not worry, for you can be reconciled.

But a contemptuous insult, a confidence broken,

or a treacherous attack will drive any friend away.

23Win your neighbor’s trust while he is poor,

so that you may rejoice with him in his prosperity.

In time of trouble remain true to him,

so that you may share in his inheritance when it comes.

24The billowing smoke of a furnace precedes the fire,

so insults precede bloodshed.

25I am not ashamed to shelter a friend,

and I will not hide from him.

26But if harm should come to me because of him,

all who hear of it will beware of him.

Prayer*

27Who will set a guard over my mouth,

an effective seal on my lips,

That I may not fail through them,

and my tongue may not destroy me?e

* [22:115] To Ben Sira, a lazy person and an unruly child are a cause of shame and disgrace; everyone wishes to be rid of them (vv. 15). Speaking with a wicked fool is as senseless as talking with someone who is asleep or dead (v. 10). The fool is an intolerable burden that merits a lifetime of mourning (v. 12). Seven days was the usual mourning period. Cf. Gn 50:10; Jdt 16:24.

* [22:1] Stone: used then and even today for wiping oneself after a bowel movement.

* [22:6] As a joyful song is out of place among mourners so a rebuke may be insufficient when corporal punishment is called for.

† [22:6] Other ancient texts read as vv. 7–8:

7 Children whose upbringing leads to a wholesome life

veil over the lowly origins of their parents.

8 Children whose pride is in scornful misconduct

besmirch the nobility of their own family.

* [22:1618] A prudent mind firmly resolved is undisturbed by violent and conflicting thoughts, whereas a foolish person is tossed about by the winds of fear, like small stones whipped about by high winds.

* [22:1926] Disputes and violence weaken friendship, and disloyalty and abuse of confidence destroy it utterly (vv. 1922, 24, 26); but kindness to a poor person in time of poverty and adversity builds up friendship and merits a share in his prosperity and inheritance (vv. 23, 25).

* [22:2723:6] Ben Sira implores the divine assistance to preserve him through stern discipline from sins of the tongue (22:27; 23:1), from ignorance of mind and weakness of will (vv. 23), and from inclinations of the senses and the flesh, lest he fall into the hands of his enemies or become a prey of shameful desires (vv. 46).

a. [22:3] Prv 10:1; 17:21, 25; 19:13.

b. [22:912] Prv 23:9.

c. [22:12] Gn 50:10; Jdt 16:24.

d. [22:15] Prv 27:3.

e. [22:27] Ps 141:3.

CHAPTER 23

1Lord, Father and Master of my life,*

do not abandon me to their designs,

do not let me fall because of them!

2Who will apply the lash to my thoughts,

and to my mind the rod of discipline,

That my failings may not be spared

or the sins of my heart overlooked?

3Otherwise my failings may increase,

and my sins be multiplied;

And I fall before my adversaries,

and my enemy rejoice over me?

4Lord, Father and God of my life,

do not give me haughty eyes;

5remove evil desire from my heart.

6Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me;

do not give me up to shameless desires.a

Proper Use of the Tongue*

7Listen, my children, to instruction concerning the mouth,

for whoever keeps it will not be ensnared.

8Through the lips the sinner is caught;

by them the reviler and the arrogant are tripped up.

9Do not accustom your mouth to oaths,

or habitually utter the Holy Name.b

10Just as a servant constantly under scrutiny

will not be without bruises,

So one who swears continually by the Holy Name

will never remain free from sin.

11Those who swear many oaths heap up offenses;

and the scourge will never be far from their houses.

If they swear in error, guilt is incurred;

if they neglect their obligation, the sin is doubly great.c

If they swear without reason they cannot be declared innocent,

for their households will be filled with calamities.

12There are words comparable to death;

may they never be heard in the inheritance of Jacob.

To the devout all such words are foreign;

they do not wallow in sin.

13Do not accustom your mouth to coarse talk,

for it involves sinful speech.

14Keep your father and mother in mind

when you sit among the mighty,d

Lest you forget yourself in their presence

and disgrace your upbringing.

Then you will wish you had never been born

and will curse the day of your birth.

15Those accustomed to using abusive language

will never acquire discipline as long as they live.

Sins of the Flesh*

16Two types of people multiply sins,

and a third* draws down wrath:

Burning passion is like a blazing fire,

not to be quenched till it burns itself out;

One unchaste with his kindred

never stops until fire breaks forth.

17To the unchaste all bread is sweet;

he is never through till he dies.e

18The man who dishonors his marriage bed

says to himself, “Who can see me?

Darkness surrounds me, walls hide me,

no one sees me. Who can stop me from sinning?”f

He is not mindful of the Most High,

19fearing only human eyes.

He does not realize that the eyes of the Lord,

ten thousand times brighter than the sun,

Observe every step taken

and peer into hidden corners.

20The one who knows all things before they exist

still knows them all after they are made.

21Such a man will be denounced in the streets of the city;g

and where he least suspects it, he will be apprehended.

22So it is with the woman unfaithful to her husband,

who offers him an heir by another man.

23First of all, she has disobeyed the law of the Most High;

second, she has wronged her husband;

Third, through her wanton adultery

she has brought forth children by another man.

24Such a woman will be dragged before the assembly,*

and her punishment will extend to her children.

25Her children will not take root;

her branches will not bring forth fruit.

26She will leave behind an accursed memory;

her disgrace will never be blotted out.

27Thus all who dwell on the earth shall know,

all who remain in the world shall understand,

That nothing is better than the fear of the Lord,

nothing sweeter than obeying the commandments of the Lord.h

* [23:16] Lord, Father and Master of my life: these words express the tender personal relationship Ben Sira experiences with God, and introduce his prayer for divine assistance and providence in avoiding sins of pride and lust.

* [23:715] A warning against sins of the tongue through misuse of the sacred Name, against thoughtless swearing (vv. 711), blasphemy (v. 12), coarse talk (vv. 1314), and abusive language (v. 15).

* [23:1627] Ben Sira treats sexual sins and their consequences. Lust destroys its victims (vv. 1617, 2226). A false sense of security aggravates the adulterer’s inevitable fate (vv. 1821).

* [23:16] Two types…a third: a numerical proverb, as in 25:12, 711; 26:56, 28; 50:2526; Prv 6:1619; 30:15b16, 1819, 2123, 2931. Ben Sira condemns three kinds of sexual sin: incest (v. 16), fornication (v. 17), and adultery (vv. 1826).

* [23:2425] The judgment of the assembly determined the illegitimacy of children born of adultery or incest and excluded them from the “community of the Lord” (Dt 23:3). Cf. Wis 3:1619; 4:36.

† [23:27] Other ancient texts read as v. 28:

It is a great glory to follow after God,

and for you to be received by him is length of days.

a. [23:6] Rom 13:13.

b. [23:9] Ex 20:7; Lv 19:12; 24:16; Dt 5:11; Mt 5:3337; Jas 5:12.

c. [23:11] Lv 5:410.

d. [23:14] Sir 7:27; Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16.

e. [23:17] Prv 9:17.

f. [23:1819] Jb 24:15; Prv 15:3, 11; 17:3; 24:12; Is 29:15; Ez 8:12.

g. [23:2122] Lv 18:20; 20:10; Dt 22:2122.

h. [23:27] Sir 1:1130; Prv 3:12.

CHAPTER 24

Praise of Wisdom

1Wisdom sings her own praises,*

among her own people she proclaims her glory.

2In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,

in the presence of his host she tells of her glory:

3“From the mouth of the Most High I came forth,a

and covered the earth like a mist.

4In the heights of heaven I dwelt,

and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.

5The vault of heaven I compassed alone,

and walked through the deep abyss.

6Over waves of the sea, over all the land,

over every people and nation I held sway.

7Among all these I sought a resting place.

In whose inheritance should I abide?

8“Then the Creator of all gave me his command,

and my Creator chose the spot for my tent.

He said, ‘In Jacob make your dwelling,

in Israel your inheritance.’

9Before all ages, from the beginning, he created me,

and through all ages I shall not cease to be.

10In the holy tent I ministered before him,

and so I was established in Zion.

11In the city he loves as he loves me, he gave me rest;

in Jerusalem, my domain.

12I struck root among the glorious people,

in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.

13“Like a cedar in Lebanon I grew tall,

like a cypress on Mount Hermon;

14I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi,

like rosebushes in Jericho;

Like a fair olive tree in the field,

like a plane tree beside water I grew tall.

15Like cinnamon and fragrant cane,

like precious myrrh I gave forth perfume;

Like galbanum and onycha and mastic,b

like the odor of incense in the holy tent.*

16“I spread out my branches like a terebinth,

my branches so glorious and so graceful.

17I bud forth delights like a vine;

my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit.

19Come to me, all who desire me,

and be filled with my fruits.*

20You will remember me as sweeter than honey,

better to have than the honeycomb.

21Those who eat of me will hunger still,*

those who drink of me will thirst for more.c

22Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame,

and those who serve me will never go astray.”

23All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God,d

the Law which Moses commanded us*

as a heritage for the community of Jacob.

25It overflows, like the Pishon, with wisdom,e

and like the Tigris at the time of first fruits.

26It runs over, like the Euphrates, with understanding,

and like the Jordan at harvest time.

27It floods like the Nile with instruction,

like the Gihon* at vintage time.

28The first human being never finished comprehending wisdom,

nor will the last succeed in fathoming her.

29For deeper than the sea are her thoughts,

and her counsels, than the great abyss.

30Now I, like a stream from a river,*

and like water channeling into a garden—

31I said, “I will water my plants,

I will drench my flower beds.”

Then suddenly this stream of mine became a river,

and this river of mine became a sea.

32Again I will make my teachings shine forth like the dawn;

I will spread their brightness afar off.

33Again I will pour out instruction like prophecy

and bestow it on generations yet to come.

* [24:129] Wisdom speaks in the first person, describing her origin, her dwelling place in Israel, and the reward she gives her followers. As in Proverbs 8, Wisdom is personified as coming from God, yet distinct from him. This description is reflected in the Johannine logos, or Word (Jn 1:114). It is used extensively in the Roman liturgy.

* [24:15] These substances, associated with worship, are mentioned in Ex 30:2328, 3435 as the ingredients of the anointing oil and the sacred incense. Israel was a priestly nation (Ex 19:6; Is 61:6).

† [24:17] Other ancient texts read as v. 18:

I am the mother of fair love, of reverence,

of knowledge, and of holy hope;

To all my children I give

to be everlasting: to those named by Him.

* [24:19] Mt 11:2830 contains a similar invitation.

* [24:21] The paradox of wisdom is that, far from being satiated, those who partake of her will always desire more.

* [24:23] Ben Sira now identifies Wisdom and the law of Moses; see also Bar 4:1.

† [24:23] Other ancient texts read as v. 24:

Do not grow weary of striving with the Lord’s help,

but cling to him that he may reinforce you.

The Lord Almighty alone is God,

and apart from him there is no savior.

* [24:27] Gihon: understood by some to have been a name for the Nile; cf. Gn 2:13.

* [24:3033] Ben Sira again speaks about himself. He had at first drawn a small portion of the water of wisdom for his own private benefit, but finding it so useful, he soon began to let others share in this boon by teaching them the lessons of wisdom. Like the words of the prophets, Ben Sira’s instruction is valuable for all generations (v. 33). The comparison to prophecy is bold and unique.

a. [24:36] Sir 1:14; Prv 2:6; 8:2236; Wis 7:2425.

b. [24:15] Ex 30:2328, 3435.

c. [24:21] Is 55:1; Jn 4:1014; 6:35.

d. [24:23] Ex 24:7.

e. [24:2327] Gn 2:1114.

CHAPTER 25

Those Who Are Worthy of Praise

1* With three things I am delighted,

for they are pleasing to the Lord and to human beings:

Harmony among relatives, friendship among neighbors,

and a wife and a husband living happily together.

2Three kinds of people I hate,

and I loathe their manner of life:

A proud pauper, a rich liar,

and a lecherous old fool.

3In your youth you did not gather.

How will you find anything in your old age?

4How appropriate is sound judgment in the gray-haired,

and good counsel in the elderly!

5How appropriate is wisdom in the aged,

understanding and counsel in the venerable!

6The crown of the elderly, wide experience;

their glory, the fear of the Lord.

7There are nine who come to mind as blessed,

a tenth whom my tongue proclaims:*

The man who finds joy in his children,

and the one who lives to see the downfall of his enemies.

8Happy the man who lives with a sensible woman,

and the one who does not plow with an ox and a donkey combined.*

Happy the one who does not sin with the tongue,

who does not serve an inferior.

9Happy the one who finds a friend,

who speaks to attentive ears.

10How great is the one who finds wisdom,

but none is greater than the one who fears the Lord.

11Fear of the Lord surpasses all else.

To whom can we compare the one who has it?

Wicked and Virtuous Women*

13Any wound, but not a wound of the heart!

Any wickedness, but not the wickedness of a woman!

14Any suffering, but not suffering from one’s foes!

Any vengeance, but not the vengeance of one’s enemies!

15There is no poison worse than that of a serpent,

no venom greater than that of a woman.

16I would rather live with a dragon or a lion

than live with a wicked woman.a

17A woman’s wicked disposition changes her appearance,

and makes her face as dark as a bear.

18When her husband sits among his neighbors,

a bitter sigh escapes him unawares.

19There is hardly an evil like that in a woman;

may she fall to the lot of the sinner!

20Like a sandy hill to aged feet

is a garrulous wife to a quiet husband.

21Do not be enticed by a woman’s beauty,

or be greedy for her wealth.

22Harsh is the slavery and great the shame

when a wife supports her husband.

23Depressed mind, gloomy face,

and a wounded heart—a wicked woman.

Drooping hands and quaking knees,

any wife who does not make her husband happy.

24With a woman sin had a beginning,

and because of her we all die.*

25Allow water no outlet,

and no boldness of speech to a wicked woman.

26If she does not go along as you direct,

cut her away from you.

* [25:12] A numerical saying in threes.

* [25:711] A numerical proverb (9 + 1), in which the tenth element, “the one who fears the Lord,” is the most important.

* [25:8] An ox and a donkey combined: the reference is to a man married to two incompatible women (cf. 37:11a); the imagery derives from Dt 22:10.

† [25:11] Other ancient texts read as v. 12:

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of loving him,

and fidelity is the beginning of clinging to him.

* [25:1326] The harsh statements Ben Sira makes about women reflect the kind of instruction young Jewish males were exposed to in the early second century B.C. His patriarchal perspective is as unfair as it is one-sided.

* [25:24] Ben Sira refers to the story of the first sin in Gn 3:16. Cf. 2 Cor 11:3 and 1 Tm 2:14. St. Paul, however, singles out Adam; cf. Rom 5:1219; 1 Cor 15:22.

a. [25:16] Prv 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15.

CHAPTER 26

1Happy the husband of a good wife;*

the number of his days will be doubled.a

2A loyal wife brings joy to her husband,

and he will finish his years in peace.

3A good wife is a generous gift

bestowed upon him who fears the Lord.b

4Whether rich or poor, his heart is content,

a smile ever on his face.

5There are three things I dread,

and a fourth which terrifies me:

Public slander, the gathering of a mob,

and false accusation—all harder to bear than death.

6A wife jealous of another wife is heartache and mourning;*

everyone feels the lash of her tongue.

7A wicked wife is a chafing yoke;

taking hold of her is like grasping a scorpion.

8A drunken wife arouses great anger,

for she does not hide her shame.

9By her haughty stare and her eyelids

an unchaste wife can be recognized.

10Keep a strict watch over an unruly wife,

lest, finding an opportunity, she use it;c

11Watch out for her impudent eye,

and do not be surprised if she betrays you:

12As a thirsty traveler opens his mouth

and drinks from any water nearby,

So she sits down before every tent peg

and opens her quiver for every arrow.

13A gracious wife delights her husband;

her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones.

14A silent wife is a gift from the Lord;

nothing is worth more than her self-discipline.

15A modest wife is a supreme blessing;

no scales can weigh the worth of her chastity.

16The sun rising in the Lord’s heavens—

the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.

17The light which shines above the holy lampstand—*

a beautiful face on a stately figure.

18Golden columns on silver bases—

so her shapely legs and steady feet.

Dangers to Integrity and Friendship

28* Two things bring grief to my heart,

and a third arouses my anger:

The wealthy reduced to want,

the intelligent held in contempt,

And those who pass from righteousness to sin—

the Lord prepares them for the sword.d

29A merchant can hardly keep from wrongdoing,

nor can a shopkeeper stay free from sin;

* [26:14, 1318] A good wife is as a gift from God, bringing joy and peace, happiness and contentment to her husband (vv. 14) through her thoughtfulness, reserve, modesty and chastity, beauty, grace, and virtue (vv. 1318).

* [26:612] A repetition of the thought expressed in 25:1326.

* [26:1718] The lampstand and the columns were located in the holy place of the ancient tabernacle (Ex 25:3140; 26:32).

† [26:18] Other ancient texts read as vv. 19–27:

19 My child, keep intact the bloom of your youth,

and do not give your strength to strangers.

20 Seek out a fertile field from all the land,

and sow it with your own seed, confident in your fine stock.

21 So shall your offspring prosper,

and grow great, confident in their good descent.

22 A woman for hire is regarded as spittle,

but a married woman is a deadly snare for her lovers.

23 A godless wife will be given to the lawless man as his portion,

but a godly wife will be given to the man who fears the Lord.

24 A shameless woman wears out reproach,

but a virtuous daughter will be modest even before her husband.

25 A headstrong wife is regarded as a bitch,

but the one with a sense of shame fears the Lord.

26 The wife who honors her husband will seem wise to everyone,

but if she dishonors him in her pride, she will be known to everyone as ungodly.

Happy is the husband of a good wife,

for the number of his years will be doubled.

27 A loud-mouthed and garrulous wife will be regarded

as a trumpet sounding the charge,

And every person who lives like this

will spend his life in the anarchy of war.

* [26:2827:15] From proper conduct in family life, Ben Sira proceeds to social morality, warning especially against injustice in business (26:2927:3), and perversity of speech in daily life (27:47). The pursuit of justice in these matters is all the more meritorious as it is difficult (27:810). The discourses of the godly are marked with wisdom, but the conversations of the wicked with offense, swearing, cursing, quarrels, and even bloodshed (27:1115).

a. [26:1] Sir 25:8; Prv 18:22.

b. [26:3] Sir 36:2729.

c. [26:10] Sir 42:11.

d. [26:28] Ez 18:2429.

CHAPTER 27

1For the sake of profit many sin,

and the struggle for wealth blinds the eyes.a

2A stake will be driven between fitted stones—

sin will be wedged in between buying and selling.

3Unless one holds fast to the fear of the Lord,

with sudden swiftness will one’s house be thrown down.

4When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;

so do people’s faults when they speak.*

5The furnace tests the potter’s vessels;

the test of a person is in conversation.b

6The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;

so speech discloses the bent of a person’s heart.c

7Praise no one before he speaks,

for it is then that people are tested.

8If you strive after justice, you will attain it,

and wear it like a splendid robe.

9Birds nest with their own kind,

and honesty comes to those who work at it.

10A lion lies in wait for prey,

so does sin for evildoers.

11The conversation of the godly is always wisdom,

but the fool changes like the moon.

12Limit the time you spend among the stupid,

but frequent the company of the thoughtful.

13The conversation of fools is offensive,

and their laughter is wanton sin.

14Their oath-filled talk makes the hair stand on end,

and their brawls make one stop the ears.

15The wrangling of the proud ends in bloodshed,

and their cursing is painful to hear.d

16Whoever betrays a secret destroys confidence,*

and will never find a congenial friend.e

17Cherish your friend, keep faith with him;

but if you betray his secrets, do not go after him;

18For as one might kill another,

you have killed your neighbor’s friendship.

19Like a bird released from your hand,

you have let your friend go and cannot recapture him.

20Do not go after him, for he is far away,

and has escaped like a gazelle from a snare.

21For a wound can be bandaged, and an insult forgiven,

but whoever betrays secrets does hopeless damage.f

Malice, Anger and Vengeance

22Whoever has shifty eyes plots mischief

and those who know him will keep their distance;

23In your presence he uses honeyed talk,

and admires your words,

But later he changes his tone

and twists the words to your ruin.g

24I have hated many things but not as much as him,

and the Lord hates him as well.h

25A stone falls back on the head of the one who throws it high,i

and a treacherous blow causes many wounds.

26Whoever digs a pit falls into it,

and whoever lays a snare is caught in it.*

27The evil anyone does will recoil on him

without knowing how it came upon him.

28Mockery and abuse will befall the arrogant,

and vengeance lies in wait for them like a lion.

29Those who rejoice in the downfall of the godly will be caught in a snare,

and pain will consume them before they die.

30Wrath and anger, these also are abominations,

yet a sinner holds on to them.

* [27:47, 1115] The importance of effective speech is a favorite wisdom topic; e.g., cf. 20:18, 1820; 22:2723:15.

* [27:1628:11] Betrayal of confidence through indiscretion destroys friendship and does irreparable harm (27:1621); cf. 22:22. False friendship based on hypocrisy and deceit is hateful to Ben Sira and, he adds, to God as well (27:2224); it soon becomes a victim of its own treachery (27:2527). The same fate awaits the malicious and vengeful (27:2828:1). They can obtain mercy and forgiveness only by first forgiving their neighbor, being mindful of death and of the commandments of the Most High (28:27). And they must avoid quarrels and strife (28:811).

* [27:26] This expresses a popular idea of act and consequence; an evil (or good) deed is repaid by an evil (or good) result. The frequent metaphor is the digging of a hole for another to fall into; cf. Prv 26:27; Ps 7:14; 9:16; Eccl 10:8.

a. [27:1] Sir 7:18; 31:56; Prv 30:79.

b. [27:5] 1 Pt 1:7.

c. [27:6] Mt 7:20.

d. [27:15] Sir 23:815.

e. [27:16] Prv 11:13; 20:19.

f. [27:21] Sir 22:20.

g. [27:23] Prv 26:2428.

h. [27:24] Prv 6:1619.

i. [27:2527] Ps 7:1617; Prv 26:27; Eccl 10:8.

CHAPTER 28

1The vengeful will face the Lord’s vengeance;

indeed he remembers their sins in detail.a

2Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;

then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.b

3Does anyone nourish anger against another

and expect healing from the LORD?c

4Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself,

yet seek pardon for one’s own sins?

5If a mere mortal cherishes wrath,

who will forgive his sins?

6Remember your last days and set enmity aside;

remember death and decay, and cease from sin!d

7Remember the commandments and do not be angry with your neighbor;

remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook faults.

8Avoid strife and your sins will be fewer,

for the hot-tempered kindle strife;

9The sinner disrupts friendships

and sows discord among those who are at peace.e

10The more the wood, the greater the fire,f

the more the cruelty, the fiercer the strife;

The greater the strength, the sterner the anger,

the greater the wealth, the greater the wrath.

11Pitch and resin make fire flare up,

and a hasty quarrel provokes bloodshed.

The Evil Tongue*

12If you blow on a spark, it turns into flame,

if you spit on it, it dies out;

yet both you do with your mouth!

13Cursed be gossips and the double-tongued,

for they destroy the peace of many.g

14A meddlesome tongue subverts many,

and makes them refugees among peoples.

It destroys strong cities,

and overthrows the houses of the great.

15A meddlesome tongue drives virtuous women from their homes,

and robs them of the fruit of their toil.

16Whoever heed it will find no rest,

nor will they dwell in peace.

17A blow from a whip raises a welt,

but a blow from the tongue will break bones.

18Many have fallen by the edge of the sword,

but not as many as by the tongue.h

19Happy the one who is sheltered from it,

and has not endured its wrath;

Who has not borne its yoke

nor been bound with its chains.

20For its yoke is a yoke of iron,

and its chains are chains of bronze;

21The death it inflicts is an evil death,

even Sheol is preferable to it.

22It will have no power over the godly,

nor will they be burned in its flame.

23But those who forsake the Lord will fall victim to it,

as it burns among them unquenchably;

It will hurl itself against them like a lion,

and like a leopard, it will tear them to pieces.

24As you fence in your property with thorns,

so make a door and a bolt for your mouth.i

25As you lock up your silver and gold,

so make balances and scales for your words.

26Take care not to slip by your tongue

and fall victim to one lying in ambush.

* [28:1226] Further treatment of sins of the tongue and the havoc that results; cf. 5:96:1; 19:517; 20:1826; 23:715. Gossips and the double-tongued destroy domestic peace (vv. 1216). The whip, the sword, chains, even Sheol, are not so cruel as the suffering inflicted by an evil tongue (vv. 1721). Not the godly but those who forsake the Lord are victims of their evil tongues (vv. 2223). Therefore, guard your mouth and tongue as you would guard treasure against an enemy (vv. 2426).

a. [28:1] Dt 32:35; Rom 12:19.

b. [28:2] Mt 6:14.

c. [28:3] Mt 18:2335.

d. [28:6] Sir 7:36; 38:20.

e. [28:9] Prv 15:18.

f. [28:1011] Prv 26:2021.

g. [28:13] Sir 5:136:1.

h. [28:18] Jas 3:512.

i. [28:24] Sir 22:27; Ps 141:3.

CHAPTER 29

Loans, Alms and Surety*

1The merciful lend to their neighbor,

by holding out a helping hand, they keep the commandments.a

2Lend to your neighbor in his time of need,

and pay back your neighbor in time.b

3Keep your promise and be honest with him,

and at all times you will find what you need.

4Many borrowers ask for a loan

and cause trouble for those who help them.

5Till he gets a loan, he kisses the lender’s hand

and speaks softly of his creditor’s money,

But at time of payment, delays,

makes excuses, and finds fault with the timing.

6If he can pay, the lender will recover barely half,

and will consider that a windfall.

If he cannot pay, the lender is cheated of his money

and acquires an enemy at no extra charge;

With curses and insults the borrower will repay,

and instead of honor will repay with abuse.

7Many refuse to lend, not out of meanness,

but from fear of being cheated needlessly.

8But with those in humble circumstances be patient;

do not keep them waiting for your alms.

9Because of the commandment, help the poor,

and in their need, do not send them away empty-handed.c

10Lose your money for relative or friend;

do not hide it under a stone to rot.

11Dispose of your treasure according to the commandments of the Most High,

and that will profit you more than the gold.d

12* Store up almsgiving in your treasury,

and it will save you from every evil.

13Better than a mighty shield and a sturdy spear

it will fight for you against the enemy.

14* A good person will be surety for a neighbor,

but whoever has lost a sense of shame will fail him.e

15Do not forget the kindness of your backer,

for he has given his very life for you.

16A sinner will turn the favor of a pledge into misfortune,

17and the ungrateful will abandon his rescuer.

18Going surety has ruined many who were prosperous

and tossed them about like waves of the sea;f

It has exiled the prominent

and sent them wandering through foreign lands.

19The sinner will come to grief through surety,

and whoever undertakes too much will fall into lawsuits.

20Help your neighbor according to your means,

but take care lest you fall yourself.

Frugality and Its Rewards*

21Life’s prime needs are water, bread, and clothing,

and also a house for decent privacy.g

22Better is the life of the poor under the shadow of their own roof

than sumptuous banquets among strangers.h

23Whether little or much, be content with what you have:

then you will hear no reproach as a parasite.

24It is a miserable life to go from house to house,

for where you are a guest you dare not open your mouth.

25You will entertain and provide drink without being thanked;

besides, you will hear these bitter words:

26“Come here, you parasite, set the table,

let me eat the food you have there!

27Go away, you parasite, for one more worthy;

for my relative’s visit I need the room!”

28Painful things to a sensitive person

are rebuke as a parasite and insults from creditors.

* [29:120] Some practical maxims concerning the use of wealth. Give to the poor (vv. 89), lend to a needy neighbor, but repay when a loan falls due lest the lender’s burden be increased (vv. 15) and his kindness abused (vv. 67); through charity build up defense against evil (vv. 1013). Help your neighbor according to your means, but take care not to fall (v. 20), for the shameless play false and bring their protectors and themselves to misfortune and ruin (vv. 1419).

* [29:1213] In Ben Sira’s day, almsgiving and righteousness were practically identified.

* [29:1417] Ben Sira is more lenient on going surety than earlier sages; cf. Prv 6:15.

* [29:2128] Those who provide their own basic needs of food, clothing and dwelling, and are content with what they have, preserve their freedom and self-respect (vv. 2123). But if they live as guests, even among the rich, they expose themselves to insult and rebuke (vv. 2428).

a. [29:1] Dt 15:8; Ps 112:5; Prv 19:17.

b. [29:2] Ex 22:2426; Lv 25:36; Mt 5:42.

c. [29:9] Sir 4:16; Lv 19:910; 23:22.

d. [29:11] Sir 17:2223; Tb 4:711.

e. [29:14] Sir 8:13.

f. [29:18] Prv 6:12; 11:15.

g. [29:21] Sir 39:26.

h. [29:22] Sir 40:29.

CHAPTER 30

The Training of Children*

1Whoever loves a son will chastise him often,

that he may be his joy when he grows up.a

2Whoever disciplines a son will benefit from him,

and boast of him among acquaintances.

3Whoever educates a son will make his enemy jealous,

and rejoice in him among his friends.

4At the father’s death, he will seem not dead,

for he leaves after him one like himself,

5Whom he looked upon through life with joy,

and in death, without regret.

6Against his enemies he has left an avenger,

and one to repay his friends with kindness.

7Whoever spoils a son will have wounds to bandage,

and will suffer heartache at every cry.

8An untamed horse turns out stubborn;

and a son left to himself grows up unruly.

9Pamper a child and he will be a terror for you,

indulge him, and he will bring you grief.

10Do not laugh with him lest you share sorrow with him,

and in the end you will gnash your teeth.

11Do not give him his own way in his youth,

and do not ignore his follies.

12Bow down his head in his youth,

beat his sides while he is still young,

Lest he become stubborn and disobey you,

and leave you disconsolate.b

13Discipline your son and make heavy his yoke,

lest you be offended by his shamelessness.

Health and Cheerfulness*

14Better the poor in vigorous health

than the rich with bodily ills.

15I would rather have bodily health than any gold,

and contentment of spirit than pearls.

16No riches are greater than a healthy body;

and no happiness than a joyful heart.

17Better is death than a wretched life,c

everlasting sleep than constant illness.

18Good things set before one who cannot eat

are like food offerings placed before a tomb.* d

19What good is an offering to an idol

that can neither eat nor smell?

So it is with the one being punished by the Lord,

20who groans at what his eyes behold.

21Do not give in to sadness,

or torment yourself deliberately.e

22Gladness of heart is the very life of a person,

and cheerfulness prolongs his days.

23Distract yourself and renew your courage,

drive resentment far away from you;

For grief has killed many,f

and nothing is to be gained from resentment.

24Envy and anger shorten one’s days,

and anxiety brings on premature old age.

25Those who are cheerful and merry at table

benefit from their food.* g

* [30:113] Sound discipline (which would include physical beating) and careful education of children correct self-indulgence and stubbornness, prevent remorse and humiliation, and bring to parents lasting joy and delight, prestige among friends, jealousy of enemies, perpetuation and vindication of themselves through their offspring (vv. 16). Lack of discipline and overindulgence of children bring sorrow and disappointment, terror and grief (vv. 713).

* [30:1425] Health of mind and body and joy of heart Ben Sira judges to be more precious than wealth (vv. 1416), whereas bitterness, constant illness, and affliction are more difficult to bear than death (vv. 1720). Sadness, resentment, anxiety, envy, and anger shorten days; they should be dispelled by cheerfulness and gladness of heart, which help to prolong one’s days (vv. 2125).

* [30:18] The saying ridicules the practice of putting food and drink on the tombs of the dead.

* [30:25(27)] Because of the dislocation of the Greek text, the numbering of this verse follows Ziegler’s edition. There are no verses 25–26.

a. [30:1] Prv 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13; 29:15; Heb 12:7.

b. [30:12] Sir 7:23; Prv 23:14.

c. [30:17] Sir 41:2.

d. [30:18] Tb 4:17.

e. [30:21] Prv 12:25; 15:13; 17:22.

f. [30:23] Sir 38:1819.

g. [30:25] Prv 15:15.

CHAPTER 31

The Proper Attitude Toward Riches*

1Wakefulness over wealth wastes away the flesh,

and anxiety over it drives away sleep.

2Wakeful anxiety banishes slumber;

more than a serious illness it disturbs repose.

3The rich labor to pile up wealth,

and if they rest, it is to enjoy pleasure;

4The poor labor for a meager living,

and if they ever rest, they become needy.

5The lover of gold will not be free from sin;

whoever pursues money will be led astray by it.

6Many have come to ruin for the sake of gold,

yet destruction lay before their very eyes;a

7It is a stumbling block for fools;

any simpleton will be ensnared by it.

8Happy the rich person found without fault,

who does not turn aside after wealth.b

9Who is he, that we may praise him?

For he has done wonders among his people.

10Who has been tested by gold and been found perfect?

Let it be for him his glory;

Who could have sinned but did not,

and could have done evil but did not?

11So his good fortune is secure,

and the assembly will recount his praises.c

Table Etiquette*

12Are you seated at the table of the great?

Bring to it no greedy gullet,

Nor say, “How much food there is here!”

13Remember that the greedy eye is evil.

What has been created more greedy than the eye?

Therefore, it weeps for any cause.d

15Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do,

and keep in mind everything you dislike.

14Toward what he looks at, do not put out a hand;

nor reach for the same dish when he does.

16Eat, like anyone else, what is set before you,

but do not eat greedily, lest you be despised.

17Be the first to stop, as befits good manners;

and do not gorge yourself, lest you give offense.e

18If there are many with you at table,

do not be the first to stretch out your hand.

19Does not a little suffice for a well-bred person?

When he lies down, he does not wheeze.f

20Moderate eating ensures sound slumber

and a clear mind on rising the next day.

The distress of sleeplessness and of nausea

and colic are with the glutton!

21Should you have eaten too much,

get up to vomit* and you will have relief.

22Listen to me, my child, and do not scorn me;

later you will find my advice good.

In whatever you do, be moderate,

and no sickness will befall you.

23People bless one who is generous with food,

and this testimony to his goodness is lasting.g

24The city complains about one who is stingy with food,

and this testimony to his stinginess is lasting.

25Let not wine be the proof of your strength,

for wine has been the ruin of many.

26As the furnace tests the work of the smith,

so does wine the hearts of the insolent.

27Wine is very life to anyone,

if taken in moderation.

Does anyone really live who lacks the wine

which from the beginning was created for joy?h

28Joy of heart, good cheer, and delight

is wine enough, drunk at the proper time.

29Headache, bitterness, and disgrace

is wine drunk amid anger and strife.

30Wine in excess is a snare for the fool;

it lessens strength and multiplies wounds.

31Do not wrangle with your neighbor when wine is served,

nor despise him while he is having a good time;

Say no harsh words to him

nor distress him by making demands.

* [31:111] Solicitude for acquiring wealth and anxiety over preserving it disturb repose and easily lead to sin and ruin (vv. 17). Cf. Mt 6:2534. The rich who have not sinned or been seduced by wealth are worthy of highest praise (vv. 811).

* [31:1232:13] Whoever observes etiquette at table avoids greed and selfishness (31:1213), is considerate of a neighbor’s likes and dislikes and is generous toward him (31:15, 14, 23, 24), observes proper manners (31:1618), is moderate in eating and drinking (31:1920, 2530). A good host is solicitous for the guests (32:12), provides conversation and diversion (32:36), is modest in speech (32:7, 8, 10), is respectful of elders (32:9), polite in comportment and grateful to God for his favors (32:1113).

* [31:21] Get up to vomit: the practice of induced vomiting, well-known among Romans, and less well-known among the Jews, seems to be referred to here.

a. [31:6] Sir 8:2.

b. [31:8] Sir 5:1, 8.

c. [31:11] Prv 29:14.

d. [31:13] Prv 23:12.

e. [31:17] Sir 37:2731.

f. [31:19] Eccl 5:11.

g. [31:23] Prv 22:9.

h. [31:27] Ps 104:15; 1 Tm 5:23.

CHAPTER 32

1If you are chosen to preside at a dinner, do not be puffed up,

but with the guests be as one of them;

Take care of them first and then sit down;

2see to their needs, and then take your place,

To share in their joy

and receive a wreath for a job well done.

3You who are older, it is your right to speak,

but temper your knowledge and do not interrupt the singing.

4Where there is entertainment, do not pour out discourse,

and do not display your wisdom at the wrong time.

5Like a seal of carnelian in a setting of gold:

a concert of music at a banquet of wine.

6A seal of emerald in a work of gold:

the melody of music with delicious wine.

7Speak, young man, only when necessary,a

when they have asked you more than once.

8Be brief, say much in few words;

be knowledgeable and yet quiet.

9When among elders do not be forward,

and with officials do not be too insistent.

10The lightning that flashes before a hailstorm:

the esteem that shines on modesty.

11Leave in good time and do not be the last;

go home quickly without delay.

12There enjoy doing as you wish,

but do not sin through words of pride.

13Above all, bless your Maker,

who showers his favors upon you.

The Providence of God

14Whoever seeks God must accept discipline;*

and whoever resorts to him obtains an answer.b

15Whoever seeks the law will master it,

but the hypocrite will be ensnared by it.c

16Whoever fears the LORD will understand what is right,

and out of obscurity he will draw forth a course of action.d

17The lawless turn aside warnings

and distort the law to suit their purpose.e

18The sensible will not neglect direction;

the proud and insolent are deterred by no fear.

19Do nothing without deliberation;

then once you have acted, have no regrets.f

20Do not go on a way set with snares,

and do not stumble on the same thing twice.

21Do not trust the road, because of bandits;

22be careful on your paths.

23Whatever you do, be on your guard,

for whoever does so keeps the commandments.

24Whoever keeps the law preserves himself;

and whoever trusts in the LORD shall not be put to shame.

* [32:1433:4] God is shown to reveal himself through the discipline of his law, a clear and safe plan of life for the pious. Direction and deliberation are aids in following it (32:1416, 1824; 33:1, 34). Sinners and hypocrites, hating the law or distorting it, fail in wisdom and are devoid of security (32:15b, 17, 18b; 33:2).

a. [32:710] Sir 7:14.

b. [32:14] Sir 4:13.

c. [32:15] Sir 2:16.

d. [32:16] Ps 37:6.

e. [32:17] Sir 21:6; Prv 12:1.

f. [32:19] Sir 37:16; Tb 4:18.

CHAPTER 33

1No evil can harm the one who fears the LORD;

through trials, again and again he is rescued.a

2Whoever hates the law is without wisdom,

and is tossed about like a boat in a storm.

3The prudent trust in the word of the LORD,

and the law is dependable for them as a divine oracle.*

4Prepare your words and then you will be listened to;

draw upon your training, and give your answer.

5Like the wheel of a cart is the mind of a fool,

and his thoughts like a turning axle.

6A mocking friend is like a stallion

that neighs, no matter who the rider may be.

7* Why is one day more important than another,

when the same sun lights up every day of the year?

8By the LORD’s knowledge they are kept distinct;

and he designates the seasons and feasts.b

9Some he exalts and sanctifies,

and others he lists as ordinary days.c

10Likewise, all people are of clay,

and from earth humankind was formed;d

11In the fullness of his knowledge the Lord distinguished them,

and he designated their different ways.

12Some he blessed and exalted,

and some he sanctified and drew to himself.

Others he cursed and brought low,

and expelled them from their place.

13Like clay in the hands of a potter,

to be molded according to his pleasure,

So are people in the hands of their Maker,

to be dealt with as he decides.e

14As evil contrasts with good, and death with life,

so are sinners in contrast with the godly.f

15See now all the works of the Most High:

they come in pairs, one the opposite of the other.

16Now I am the last to keep vigil,*

like a gleaner following the grape-pickers;

17Since by the Lord’s blessing I have made progress

till like a grape-picker I have filled my wine press,

18Consider that not for myself only have I labored,

but for all who seek instruction.

Property and Servants*

19Listen to me, leaders of the people;

rulers of the congregation, pay heed!g

20aLet neither son nor wife, neither brother nor friend,

have power over you as long as you live.

21While breath of life is still in you,

let no one take your place.

20bDo not give your wealth to another,

lest you must plead for support yourself.

22Far better that your children plead with you

than that you should look for a handout from them.

23Keep control over all your affairs;

bring no stain on your honor.

24When your few days reach their limit,

at the time of death distribute your inheritance.

25Fodder and whip and loads for a donkey;

food, correction and work for a slave.

26Make a slave work, and he will look for rest;

let his hands be idle and he will seek to be free.h

27The yoke and harness will bow the neck;

and for a wicked slave, punishment in the stocks.

28Force him to work that he be not idle,

29for idleness teaches much mischief.

30Put him to work, as is fitting for him;

and if he does not obey, load him with chains.

But never lord it over any human being,

and do nothing unjust.

31If you have but one slave, treat him like yourself,

for you have acquired him with your life’s blood;

If you have but one slave, deal with him as a brother,

for you need him as you need your life.i

32If you mistreat him and he runs away,

33in what direction will you look for him?

* [33:3] Oracle: as the answer given through the Urim and Thummim to the high priest is true, so the law proves itself true to those who obey it. Cf. Ex 28:30; Nm 27:21.

* [33:715] An important doctrine of Ben Sira is his view of the polarities in creation and history; cf. v. 15; 42:24. Contrasts observable in the physical universe as well as in the moral order serve the purposes of divine wisdom (vv. 59). All creatures are like clay in the hands of their Maker—the fool and the wise, the sinner and the just (vv. 1015). This does not imply that some are created to be sinners: God is not the author of wickedness. Divine determinism and human freedom are a mysterious mix.

* [33:1618] Ben Sira refers to himself as the most recent of the biblical writers who have endeavored to present true wisdom to their readers.

* [33:1933] Public officials should reject every influence that would restrict their freedom in the management of their affairs. They must make their own household subservient to them rather than be subservient to it (vv. 1924). Slaves are to be given food and work and correction but never to be treated unjustly (vv. 2530). Great care should be taken of good slaves (vv. 3133).

a. [33:1] Ps 91:1013; Mt 4:6; Lk 4:1011.

b. [33:8] Gn 1:14.

c. [33:9] Ex 20:11; Dt 5:1314.

d. [33:10] Gn 2:7.

e. [33:13] Wis 15:7; Jer 18:16; Rom 9:2021.

f. [33:14] Sir 42:25.

g. [33:19] Wis 6:12.

h. [33:26] Prv 29:19.

i. [33:31] Sir 7:2021.

CHAPTER 34

Trust in the Lord and Not in Dreams*

1Empty and false are the hopes of the senseless,

and dreams give wings to fools.

2Like one grasping at shadows or chasing the wind,

so anyone who believes in dreams.

3What is seen in dreams is a reflection,

the likeness of a face looking at itself.

4How can the unclean produce what is clean?

How can the false produce what is true?a

5Divination, omens, and dreams are unreal;

what you already expect, the mind fantasizes.

6Unless they are specially sent by the Most High,

do not fix your heart on them.

7For dreams have led many astray,

and those who put their hope in them have perished.

8Without such deceptions the Law will be fulfilled,

and in the mouth of the faithful is complete wisdom.

9A much-traveled person knows many things;

and one with much experience speaks sense.

10An inexperienced person knows little,

11whereas with travel one adds to resourcefulness.

12I have seen much in my travels,

and learned more than I could ever say.

13Often I was in danger of death,

but by these experiences I was saved.

14Living is the spirit of those who fear the Lord,

15for their hope is in their savior.

16Whoever fear the Lord are afraid of nothing

and are never discouraged, for he is their hope.b

17Happy the soul that fears the Lord!

18In whom does he trust, and who is his support?

19The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him;

he is their mighty shield and strong support,

A shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun,

a guard against stumbling, a help against falling.c

20He lifts up spirits, brings a sparkle to the eyes,

gives health and life and blessing.

True Worship of God*

21Ill-gotten goods offered in sacrifice are tainted.

22Presents from the lawless do not win God’s favor.d

23The Most High is not pleased with the gifts of the godless,

nor for their many sacrifices does he forgive their sins.

24One who slays a son in his father’s presence—

whoever offers sacrifice from the holdings of the poor.

25The bread of charity is life itself for the needy;e

whoever withholds it is a murderer.

26To take away a neighbor’s living is to commit murder;

27to deny a laborer wages is to shed blood.

28If one builds up and another tears down,

what do they gain but trouble?

29If one prays and another curses,

whose voice will God hear?

30If one again touches a corpse after bathing,

what does he gain by the purification?f

31So one who fasts for sins,

but goes and commits them again:

Who will hear his prayer,

what is gained by mortification?

* [34:120] Confidence placed in dreams, divinations, and omens is false because these are devoid of reality (vv. 18). True confidence is founded on knowledge and experience (vv. 913), and above all on the fear of the Lord, with its accompanying blessings of divine assistance and protection (vv. 1420).

* [34:2131] To be acts of true religion, sacrifice and penance must be accompanied by the proper moral dispositions. To offer to God goods taken from the poor (vv. 2127), or to practice penance without interior reform, is a mockery, worthless in the sight of God (vv. 2831). Cf. Mt 15:47; Mk 7:913.

a. [34:4] Jb 14:4.

b. [34:16] Ps 23:4; 112:78; Prv 3:2324; 28:1.

c. [34:19] Ps 33:1819; 34:16.

d. [34:22] Sir 35:1415; Prv 21:27.

e. [34:2527] Lv 19:13; Dt 24:1415; Tb 4:14.

f. [34:30] Nm 19:1112; Prv 26:11; 2 Pt 2:22.

CHAPTER 35*

1To keep the law is to make many offerings;a

2whoever observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering.

3By works of charity one offers fine flour,*

4and one who gives alms presents a sacrifice of praise.

5To refrain from evil pleases the Lord,

and to avoid injustice is atonement.

6Do not appear before the Lord empty-handed,

7for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.b

8The offering of the just enriches the altar:

a sweet odor before the Most High.

9The sacrifice of the just is accepted,

never to be forgotten.

10With a generous spirit pay homage to the Lord,

and do not spare your freewill gifts.c

11With each contribution show a cheerful countenance,

and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy.d

12Give to the Most High as he has given to you,

generously, according to your means.

13For he is a God who always repays

and will give back to you sevenfold.e

14But offer no bribes; these he does not accept!

15Do not trust in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion,f

For he is a God of justice,

who shows no partiality.g

16He shows no partiality to the weak

but hears the grievance of the oppressed.*

17He does not forsake the cry of the orphan,h

nor the widow when she pours out her complaint.

18Do not the tears that stream down her cheek

19cry out against the one that causes them to fall?

20Those who serve God to please him are accepted;

their petition reaches the clouds.

21The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;

it does not rest till it reaches its goal;

Nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,

22judges justly and affirms the right.i

God indeed will not delay,

and like a warrior, will not be stillj

Till he breaks the backs of the merciless

23and wreaks vengeance upon the nations;

Till he destroys the scepter of the proud,

and cuts off the staff of the wicked;

24Till he requites everyone according to their deeds,

and repays them according to their thoughts;

25Till he defends the cause of his people,

and makes them glad by his salvation.

26Welcome is his mercy in time of distress

as rain clouds in time of drought.

* [35:126] Keeping the commandments of the law and avoiding injustice constitute sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God (vv. 15). Offerings also should be made to him, cheerfully and generously; these he repays sevenfold (vv. 613). Extortion from widows and orphans is injustice, and God will hear their cries (vv. 1422a). Punishing the proud and the merciless and coming to the aid of the distressed, he requites everyone according to their deeds (vv. 22b26).

* [35:3] Fine flour, together with oil and frankincense, was a prescribed offering to God; cf. Lv 2:13.

* [35:16] Cf. Lv 19:15; Dt 1:17. The divine impartiality is paradoxical, for it is tilted toward the poor.

a. [35:15] 1 Sm 15:22; Ps 51:1819; Is 1:1118; Hos 6:6; Am 5:2124.

b. [35:7] Ex 23:15; 34:20; Dt 16:16.

c. [35:10] Sir 7:31.

d. [35:11] Dt 14:22; 2 Cor 9:7.

e. [35:13] Prv 19:17; Mt 25:3440.

f. [35:15] Sir 34:2123; Prv 15:8; 21:27.

g. [35:15] Dt 10:17; 2 Chr 19:7; Jb 34:19; Wis 6:7; Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; 1 Pt 1:17.

h. [35:1719] Ex 22:22.

i. [35:22] Lk 18:7.

j. [35:22] Is 42:1316; 2 Pt 3:9.

CHAPTER 36

A Prayer for God’s People*

1Come to our aid, O God of the universe,

2and put all the nations in dread of you!

3Raise your hand against the foreign people,

that they may see your mighty deeds.

4As you have used us to show them your holiness,*

so now use them to show us your glory.

5Thus they will know, as we know,

that there is no God but you.

6Give new signs and work new wonders;

7show forth the splendor of your right hand and arm.

8Rouse your anger, pour out wrath;

9humble the enemy, scatter the foe.a

10Hasten the ending, appoint the time,

and let people proclaim your mighty deeds.

11Let raging fire consume the fugitive,

and your people’s oppressors meet destruction.

12Crush the heads of the hostile rulers

who say, “There is no one besides me.”

13Gather all the tribes of Jacob,*

16that they may inherit the land as in days of old.

17Show mercy to the people called by your name:

Israel, whom you named your firstborn.b

18Take pity on your holy city:

Jerusalem, your dwelling place.c

19Fill Zion with your majesty,

your temple with your glory.

20Give evidence of your deeds of old;

fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name.

21Reward those who have hoped in you,

and let your prophets be proved true.

22Hear the prayer of your servants,

according to your good will toward your people.

Thus all the ends of the earth will know

that you are the eternal God.

Choice of Associates*

23The throat can swallow any food,

yet some foods are more agreeable than others.

24The palate tests delicacies put forward as gifts,

so does a keen mind test deceitful tidbits.

25One with a tortuous heart brings about grief,

but an experienced person can turn the tables on him.

26A woman will accept any man as husband,

but one woman will be preferable to another.

27A woman’s beauty makes her husband’s face light up,

for it surpasses all else that delights the eye.d

28And if, besides, her speech is soothing,

her husband’s lot is beyond that of mortal men.

29A wife is her husband’s richest treasure,

a help like himself and a staunch support.e

30A vineyard with no hedge will be overrun;

and a man with no wife becomes a homeless wanderer.

31Who will trust an armed band

that shifts from city to city?

Or a man who has no nest,

who lodges wherever night overtakes him?f

* [36:122] A prayer that God hasten the day for the gathering of the tribes of Israel, and Zion once more be filled with the divine glory. All the earth will then know that the Lord is the eternal God.

* [36:4] Show…holiness: this cultic language is used to indicate God’s liberation of his people; cf. Ez 20:41; 28:25.

* [36:13] This verse marks the end of a major dislocation in the Greek text of Sirach (which is followed here) at the head of chap. 33. The verse numbers 113 come from the placement of these verses in Greek. Verse 13 here is the first half of a bicolon, the matching half of which is numbered in the Greek 36:16b. Thus although the numbering for vv. 1415 is not used, none of the text is missing.

* [36:2337:15] In the choice of wife, friend, or associate, experience is a discerner of character (36:2326). Beauty and soothing speech make a woman desirable as wife (36:2728). The good wife becomes her husband’s richest treasure, his help in establishing his household (36:2931). Good friends fight for comrades and share the spoils with them (37:56); false friends deceive and abandon in time of need (37:14). A true counselor and associate should be sought among those who keep the commandments, not among those who break them and seek their own advantage (37:712). In all things one should pray to God for light and follow conscience (37:1315).

a. [36:9] Ps 79:6; Jer 10:25.

b. [36:17] Ex 4:22.

c. [36:18] 2 Chr 6:41; Ps 132:8, 14; Is 2:13; Mi 4:13.

d. [36:2628] Sir 26:1318; Prv 12:4; 18:22; 19:14.

e. [36:29] Gn 2:18.

f. [36:31] Prv 27:8.

CHAPTER 37

1Every friend declares friendship,

but there are friends who are friends in name only.a

2Is it not a sorrow unto death

when your other self becomes your enemy?

3“Alas, my companion! Why were you created

to fill the earth with deceit?”

4A harmful friend will look to your table,

but in time of trouble he stands aloof.

5A good friend will fight with you against the foe,

and against your enemies he will hold up your shield.

6Do not forget your comrade during the battle,

and do not neglect him when you distribute your spoils.

7Every counselor points out a way,

but some counsel ways of their own.

8Watch out when one offers advice;

find out first of all what he wants.

For he also may be thinking of himself—

Why should the opportunity fall to him?

9He may tell you how good your way will be,

and then stand by to see you impoverished.

10Seek no advice from your father-in-law,

and from one who is envious of you, keep your intentions hidden.

11Seek no advice from a woman about her rival,

from a coward about war,

from a merchant about business,

from a buyer about value,

from a miser about generosity,

from a cruel person about well-being,

from a worthless worker about his work,

from a seasonal laborer about the harvest,

from an idle slave about a great task—

pay no attention to any advice they give.

12Instead, associate with a religious person,

who you know keeps the commandments;

Who is like-minded with yourself

and will grieve for you if you fall.

13Then, too, heed your own heart’s counsel;

for there is nothing you can depend on more.

14The heart can reveal your situation

better than seven sentinels on a tower.

15Then with all this, pray to God

to make your steps firm in the true path.

Wisdom and Temperance

16A word is the source of every deed;*

a thought, of every act.b

17The root of all conduct is the heart;

18four branches it shoots forth:

Good and evil, death and life,

and their absolute mistress is the tongue.c

19One may be wise and benefit many,

yet appear foolish to himself.

20One may be wise, but if his words are rejected,

he will be deprived of all enjoyment.*

22When one is wise to his own advantage,

the fruits of knowledge are seen in his own person.

23When one is wise to the advantage of people,

the fruits of knowledge are lasting.d

24One wise for himself has full enjoyment,

and all who see him praise him.

25The days of one’s life are numbered,

but the life of Israel, days without number.

26One wise among the people wins a heritage of glory,

and his name lives on and on.e

27My son, while you are well, govern your appetite,*

and see that you do not allow it what is bad for you.

28For not everything is good for everyone,

nor is everything suited to every taste.f

29Do not go to excess with any enjoyment,g

neither become a glutton for choice foods;

30For sickness comes with overeating,

and gluttony brings on nausea.

31Through lack of self-control many have died,

but the abstemious one prolongs life.

* [37:1626] Thoughts determine action. Wisdom is the source of good and life; folly, of evil and death (vv. 1618). If the fruits of a person’s wisdom benefit himself, he may be praised in his own lifetime; if they benefit others, the praise endures after him, in their lives (vv. 1926).

* [37:20] Verse 21 appears only in Greek, but not in the Hebrew, which is the basis for the translation here.

* [37:2731] Temperance and self-control should govern appetite for food, which is intended not to destroy but to preserve life.

a. [37:1] Sir 6:717.

b. [37:16] Sir 32:19.

c. [37:18] Prv 18:21.

d. [37:23] Sir 39:1011.

e. [37:26] Sir 39:9; 44:1316.

f. [37:28] 1 Cor 6:12; 10:23.

g. [37:2931] Sir 31:13, 1621.

CHAPTER 38

Sickness and Death

1Make friends with the doctor, for he is essential to you;*

God has also established him in his profession.

2From God the doctor has wisdom,

and from the king he receives sustenance.

3Knowledge makes the doctor distinguished,

and gives access to those in authority.

4God makes the earth yield healing herbs

which the prudent should not neglect;

5Was not the water sweetened by a twig,

so that all might learn his power?a

6He endows people with knowledge,

to glory in his mighty works,

7Through which the doctor eases pain,

8and the druggist prepares his medicines.

Thus God’s work continues without cease

in its efficacy on the surface of the earth.

9My son, when you are ill, do not delay,

but pray to God, for it is he who heals.b

10Flee wickedness and purify your hands;

cleanse your heart of every sin.

11Offer your sweet-smelling oblation and memorial,

a generous offering according to your means.c

12Then give the doctor his place

lest he leave; you need him too,

13For there are times when recovery is in his hands.

14He too prays to God

That his diagnosis may be correct

and his treatment bring about a cure.

15Whoever is a sinner before his Maker

will be defiant toward the doctor.

16My son, shed tears for one who is dead*

with wailing and bitter lament;

As is only proper, prepare the body,

and do not absent yourself from the burial.

17Weeping bitterly, mourning fully,

pay your tribute of sorrow, as deserved:

A day or two, to prevent gossip;

then compose yourself after your grief.

18For grief can bring on death,

and heartache can sap one’s strength.d

19When a person is carried away, sorrow is over;

and the life of the poor one is grievous to the heart.

20Do not turn your thoughts to him again;

cease to recall him; think rather of the end.e

21Do not recall him, for there is no hope of his return;

you do him no good, and you harm yourself.f

22Remember that his fate will also be yours;

for him it was yesterday, for you today.g

23With the dead at rest, let memory cease;

be consoled, once the spirit has gone.

Vocations of the Skilled Worker and the Scribe*

24The scribe’s wisdom increases wisdom;

whoever is free from toil can become wise.

25How can one become learned who guides the plow,

and thrills in wielding the goad like a lance,

Who guides the ox and urges on the bullock,

and whose every concern is for cattle?

26His concern is to plow furrows,

and he is careful to fatten the livestock.

27So with every engraver and designer

who, laboring night and day,

Fashions carved seals,

and whose concern is to vary the pattern.

His determination is to produce a lifelike impression,

and he is careful to finish the work.

28So too the smith sitting by the anvil,

intent on the iron he forges.

The flame from the fire sears his flesh,

yet he toils away in the furnace heat.

The clang of the hammer deafens his ears;

his eyes are on the object he is shaping.

His determination is to finish the work,

and he is careful to perfect it in detail.

29So also the potter sitting at his labor,

revolving the wheel with his feet.

He is always concerned for his products,

and turns them out in quantity.

30With his hands he molds the clay,

and with his feet softens it.

His determination is to complete the glazing,

and he is careful to fire the kiln.

31All these are skilled with their hands,

each one an expert at his own work;

32Without them no city could be lived in,

and wherever they stay, they do not go hungry.

But they are not sought out for the council of the people,

33nor are they prominent in the assembly.

They do not sit on the judge’s bench,

nor can they understand law and justice.

They cannot expound discipline or judgment,

nor are they found among the rulers.

34Yet they maintain the fabric of the world,

and their concern is for exercise of their skill.

* [38:115] The profession of medicine comes from God, who makes the earth yield healing herbs and gives the physician knowledge of their power (vv. 18). In illness the sick should cleanse their soul from sin and petition God for help through an offering of sacrifice; the physician, too, does well to invoke God that he may understand the illness and apply the proper remedy (vv. 914). The sinner, in contrast, defies both his Maker and the doctor (v. 15).

* [38:1623] A period of mourning for the deceased and care for their burial are proper (vv. 1617). But grief should not be excessive, for it cannot help the dead, who will not return, and may do harm to the living. The mourner should be realistic (vv. 1823).

* [38:2439:11] Ben Sira has a balanced view of the various vocations of skilled laborers—the farmer, engraver, smith and potter—but the profession of scribe is more excellent (38:2434). He studies and meditates on the law of the Most High, seeks him in prayer of thanksgiving, petition and repentance for sin (39:1, 5, 7), explores the wisdom of the past and present, travels abroad to observe the conduct of many peoples, and attends rulers and great men. Through the spirit of understanding granted by God, he will show forth his wisdom to the glory of God’s law, gaining renown for generations to come (39:24, 611).

a. [38:5] Ex 15:25.

b. [38:9] Is 38:13.

c. [38:11] Lv 2:13.

d. [38:18] Prv 12:25; 15:13; 17:22.

e. [38:20] Sir 7:36; 18:24; 30:21.

f. [38:21] 2 Sm 12:23; Wis 2:1.

g. [38:22] Jas 4:1315.

CHAPTER 39

How different the person who devotes himself

to the study of the law of the Most High!

1He explores the wisdom of all the ancients

and is occupied with the prophecies;

2He preserves the discourses of the famous,

and goes to the heart of involved sayings;

3He seeks out the hidden meaning of proverbs,

and is busied with the enigmas found in parables.

4He is in attendance on the great,

and appears before rulers.

He travels among the peoples of foreign lands

to test what is good and evil among people.

5His care is to rise early

to seek the Lord his Maker,

to petition the Most High,

To open his mouth in prayer,

to ask pardon for his sins.

6If it pleases the Lord Almighty,

he will be filled with the spirit of understanding;

He will pour forth his words of wisdom

and in prayer give praise to the Lord.

7He will direct his knowledge and his counsel,

as he meditates upon God’s mysteries.

8He will show the wisdom of what he has learned

and glory in the Law of the Lord’s covenant.

9Many will praise his understanding;

his name can never be blotted out;

Unfading will be his memory,

through all generations his name will live;a

10Peoples will speak of his wisdom,

and the assembly will declare his praise.

11While he lives he is one out of a thousand,

and when he dies he leaves a good name.

Praise of God the Creator*

12Once more I will set forth my theme

to shine like the moon in its fullness!

13Listen to me, my faithful children: open up your petals,

like roses planted near running waters;

14Send up the sweet odor of incense,

break forth in blossoms like the lily.

Raise your voices in a chorus of praise;

bless the Lord for all his works!

15Proclaim the greatness of his name,

loudly sing his praises,

With music on the harp and all stringed instruments;

sing out with joy as you proclaim:

16The works of God are all of them good;

he supplies for every need in its own time.b

17At his word the waters become still as in a flask;

he had but to speak and the reservoirs were made.c

18He has but to command and his will is done;

nothing can limit his saving action.

19The works of all humankind are present to him;

nothing is hidden from his eyes.d

20His gaze spans all the ages:

is there any limit to his saving action?

To him, nothing is small or insignificant,

and nothing too wonderful or hard for him.

21No cause then to say: “What is the purpose of this?”

Everything is chosen to satisfy a need.

22His blessing overflows like the Nile;

like the Euphrates it enriches the surface of the earth.

23Even so, his wrath dispossesses the nations

and turns fertile land into a salt marsh.e

24For the virtuous his paths are level,

to the haughty they are clogged with stones.

25Good things for the good he provided from the beginning,

but for the wicked good things and bad.

26Chief of all needs for human life

are water and fire, iron and salt,

The heart of the wheat, milk and honey,

the blood of the grape, and oil, and clothing.f

27For the good all these are good,

but for the wicked they turn out evil.

28There are stormwinds created to punish;

in their fury they can dislodge mountains.

In a time of destruction they hurl their force

and calm the anger of their Maker.

29Fire and hail, famine and disease:

these too were created for punishment.

30Ravenous beasts, scorpions, vipers,

and the avenging sword to exterminate the wicked:

All these were created to meet a need,

and are kept in his storehouse for the proper time.

31When he commands them, they rejoice,

in their assigned tasks they do not disobey his command.

32That is why from the first I took my stand,

and wrote down as my theme:

33The works of God are all of them good;

he supplies for every need in its own time.g

34There is no cause then to say: “This is not as good as that”;

for each shows its worth at the proper time.

35So now with full heart and voice proclaim

and bless his name!

* [39:1235] Ben Sira invites his disciples to join him in joyfully proclaiming his favorite theme: The works of God are all good; God supplies for every need in its own time (vv. 1216, 3235). The sage describes God’s omniscience, supreme power and wisdom, whereby all created things, good in themselves, are ever present to him, obey him, and fulfill their intended purpose (vv. 1721), bringing blessing to the virtuous, but evil and punishment to the wicked who misuse them (vv. 2231). Cf. similar hymns of praise, 36:122; 42:1543:33.

a. [39:9] Sir 37:26; 44:14.

b. [39:16] Sir 39:33; Gn 1:2931; Eccl 3:11.

c. [39:17] Gn 1:610; Ex 14:2122; Jos 3:1516.

d. [39:19] Sir 15:1819; 42:1820.

e. [39:23] Gn 13:10; 19:2428; Dt 29:22; Jos 1:26; Ps 107:34; Wis 10:7.

f. [39:26] Sir 29:21.

g. [39:33] Sir 39:16; Gn 1:2931; Eccl 3:11.

CHAPTER 40

Joys and Miseries of Life

1A great anxiety has God allotted,*

and a heavy yoke, to the children of Adam,a

From the day they leave their mother’s womb

until the day they return to the mother of all the living.*

2Troubled thoughts and fear of heart are theirs

and anxious foreboding until death.

3Whether one sits on a lofty throne

or grovels in dust and ashes,

4Whether one wears a splendid crown

or is clothed in the coarsest of garments—

5There is wrath and envy, trouble and dread,

terror of death, fury and strife.

Even when one lies on his bed to rest,

his cares disturb his sleep at night.

6So short is his rest it seems like none,

till in his dreams he struggles as he did by day,

Troubled by the visions of his mind,

like a fugitive fleeing from the pursuer.

7As he reaches safety, he wakes up,

astonished that there was nothing to fear.

8To all flesh, human being and beast,

but for sinners seven times more,

9Come plague and bloodshed, fiery heat and drought,

plunder and ruin, famine and death.b

10For the wicked evil was created,

and because of them destruction hastens.

11All that is of earth returns to earth,

and what is from above returns above.*

12All that comes from bribes or injustice will be wiped out,

but loyalty remains forever.

13Wealth from injustice is like a flooding wadi,

like a mighty stream with lightning and thunder,

14Which, in its rising, rolls along the stones,

but suddenly, once and for all, comes to an end.c

15The offshoot of violence will not flourish,

for the root of the godless is on sheer rock.

16They are like reeds on riverbanks,

withered before all other plants;

17But goodness, like eternity, will never be cut off,

and righteousness endures forever.

18Wealth or wages can make life sweet,*

but better than either, finding a treasure.

19A child or a city will preserve one’s name,

but better than either, finding wisdom.

Cattle and orchards make a person flourish;

but better than either, a devoted wife.d

20Wine and strong drink delight the soul,

but better than either, love of friends.e

21Flute and harp offer sweet melody,

but better than either, a pure tongue.

22Grace and beauty delight the eye,

but better than either, the produce of the field.

23A friend and a neighbor are timely guides,

but better than either, a sensible wife.

24Relatives and helpers for times of stress;

but better than either, charity that rescues.

25Gold and silver make one’s way secure,

but better than either, sound judgment.

26Wealth and vigor make the heart exult,

but better than either, fear of God.

In the fear of the Lord there is no want;

whoever has it need seek no other support.

27The fear of God is a paradise of blessings;

its canopy is over all that is glorious.f

28My son, do not live the life of a beggar;*

better to die than to beg.

29When one has to look to a stranger’s table,

life is not worth living.

The delicacies offered bring revulsion of spirit,

and to the intelligent, inward torture.g

30In the mouth of the shameless begging is sweet,

but within him it burns like fire.

* [40:117] The former idyllic description of the universe is contrasted with the picture of the evils afflicting humanity. Every person, high or low, is burdened from birth to death with fears, anxieties, and troubles, by day and often by night, the time appointed for rest (vv. 17). For sinners, the suffering is much greater (vv. 810). What they gained by violence and injustice is quickly destroyed; but righteousness will prevail (vv. 1417).

* [40:1] Mother of all the living: the earth from which human beings were taken. Cf. Gn 2:7; 3:1920; Jb 1:21; Ps 139:15.

* [40:11] All that is of earth…returns above: a reference to bodily mortality and to the divine origin of life. Cf. 41:10; Gn 2:7; 3:19; Jb 34:1415; Ps 104:2930; 146:4; Eccl 12:7. The Greek and the Latin render the second half of the verse: “all waters shall return to the sea.”

* [40:1827] Of the many treasures making life sweet, such as children, friends, music, vigor, the best are called true married love, wisdom, and above all, fear of God; cf. 25:611.

* [40:2830] Among the Jews, begging was considered degrading to human dignity; it was agreeable only to the shameless, who had lost their sense of honor. Cf. 29:2223.

a. [40:1] Gn 3:1719; Jb 7:1; 14:12; Eccl 2:23.

b. [40:9] Sir 39:2831.

c. [40:14] Sir 23:2526; Wis 4:36.

d. [40:19] Prv 18:22; 19:14.

e. [40:20] Ps 104:15.

f. [40:27] Is 4:56.

g. [40:29] Sir 29:24.

CHAPTER 41

1O death! How bitter is the thought of you*

for the one at peace in his home,

For the one who is serene and always successful,

who can still enjoy life’s pleasures.

2O death! How welcome is your sentence

to the weak, failing in strength,

Stumbling and tripping on everything,

with sight gone and hope lost.a

3Do not fear death’s decree for you;

remember, it embraces those before you and those to come.b

4This decree for all flesh is from God;

why then should you reject a law of the Most High?

Whether one has lived a thousand years, a hundred, or ten,

in Sheol there are no arguments about life.

5The children of sinners are a reprobate line,c

and witless offspring are in the homes of the wicked.

6The inheritance of children of sinners will perish,

and on their offspring will be perpetual disgrace.

7Children curse their wicked father,

for they suffer disgrace because of him.

8Woe to you, O wicked people,

who forsake the Law of the Most High.

9If you have children, calamity will be theirs;

and if you beget them, it will be only for groaning.

When you stumble, there is lasting joy;

and when you die, you become a curse.

10All that is nought returns to nought,

so too the godless—from void to void.d

11The human body is a fleeting thing,

but a virtuous name will never be annihilated.e

12Have respect for your name, for it will stand by you

more than thousands of precious treasures.f

13The good things of life last a number of days,

but a good name, for days without number.

True and False Shame*

14bHidden wisdom and concealed treasure,

of what value is either?

15Better is the person who hides his folly

than the one who hides his wisdom.

14aMy children, listen to instruction about shame;

16ajudge of disgrace according to my rules,

16bNot every kind of shame is shameful,

nor is every kind of disgrace to be recognized.

17Before father and mother be ashamed of immorality,

before prince and ruler, of falsehood;

18Before master and mistress, of deceit;

before the public assembly, of crime;

Before associate and friend, of disloyalty,

19and in the place where you settle, of theft.

Be ashamed of breaking an oath or a covenant,

and of stretching your elbow at dinner;

Of refusing to give when asked,

21of rebuffing your own relatives;

Of defrauding another of his appointed share,

20aof failing to return a greeting;

21cOf gazing at a man’s wife,

20bof entertaining thoughts about another woman;g

22Of trifling with a servant girl you have,

of violating her bed;

Of using harsh words with friends,

of following up your gifts with insults;h

* [41:113] Whether death seems bitter to one who enjoys peace, success, and pleasure, or welcome to one who is weak and in despair, it comes to all and must be accepted as the will of God (vv. 14). The human body passes away (v. 11). Sinners as well as their offspring pass away as if they had never been (vv. 510). Only the good name of the virtuous endures (vv. 1113).

* [41:1442:8] Ben Sira illustrates the subject of true and false shame with numerous and detailed examples of wrongdoing (41:1422) and virtue (42:18), following the norm of the commandments.

a. [41:2] Sir 30:17.

b. [41:3] Sir 38:2022.

c. [41:510] Sir 3:911; Wis 3:1619.

d. [41:10] Sir 40:11; Wis 4:19.

e. [41:11] Prv 10:7.

f. [41:12] Prv 22:1; Eccl 7:1.

g. [41:20] Sir 9:8; Mt 5:28.

h. [41:22] Sir 18:15; 20:14.

CHAPTER 42

1Of repeating what you hear,

of betraying any secret.a

Be ashamed of the right things,

and you will find favor in the sight of all.

But of these things do not be ashamed,

lest you sin to save face:b

2Of the Law of the Most High and his precepts,

or of justice that acquits the ungodly;

3Of sharing the expenses of a business or a journey,

of dividing an inheritance or property;

4Of accuracy of scales and balances,

of tested measures and weights;c

Of acquiring much or little,

5of bargaining in dealing with a merchant;

Of constant training of children,

of beating the sides of a wicked servant;d

6Of a seal to keep a foolish wife at home,

of a key where there are many hands;

7Of numbering every deposit,

of recording all that is taken in and given out;

8Of chastisement for the silly and the foolish,

for the aged and infirm answering for wanton conduct.

Thus you will be truly refined

and recognized by all as discreet.

A Father’s Care for His Daughter*

9A daughter is a treasure that keeps her father wakeful,

and worry over her drives away sleep:e

Lest in her youth she remain unmarried,

or when she is married, lest she be childless;

10While unmarried, lest she be defiled,

or in her husband’s house, lest she prove unfaithful;

Lest she become pregnant in her father’s house,

or be sterile in that of her husband.

11My son, keep a close watch on your daughter,

lest she make you a laughingstock for your enemies,

A byword in the city and the assembly of the people,

an object of derision in public gatherings.f

See that there is no lattice in her room,

or spot that overlooks the approaches to the house.

12Do not let her reveal her beauty to any male,g

or spend her time with married women;

13For just as moths come from garments,

so a woman’s wickedness comes from a woman.

14Better a man’s harshness than a woman’s indulgence,

a frightened daughter than any disgrace.

The Works of God in Nature*

15Now will I recall God’s works;

what I have seen, I will describe.

By the LORD’s word his works were brought into being;

he accepts the one who does his will.h

16As the shining sun is clear to all,

so the glory of the LORD fills all his works;

17Yet even God’s holy ones must fail

in recounting the wonders of the LORD,

Though God has given his hosts the strength

to stand firm before his glory.

18He searches out the abyss and penetrates the heart;

their secrets he understands.

For the Most High possesses all knowledge,

and sees from of old the things that are to come.

19He makes known the past and the future,

and reveals the deepest secrets.

20He lacks no understanding;

no single thing escapes him.i

21He regulates the mighty deeds of his wisdom;

he is from all eternity one and the same,

With nothing added, nothing taken away;

no need of a counselor for him!j

22How beautiful are all his works,

delightful to gaze upon and a joy to behold!

23Everything lives and abides forever;

and to meet each need all things are preserved.

24All of them differ, one from another,

yet none of them has he made in vain;

25For each in turn, as it comes, is good;

can one ever see enough of their splendor?k

* [42:914] Ben Sira considers a daughter to be a source of anxiety to her father, lest she fail to marry, or be defiled, or lest, marrying, she be childless, prove unfaithful, or find herself sterile (vv. 910). He is advised to keep a close watch on her and on her companions, lest he suffer on her account among the people (vv. 1112). The exhortations, which take into account only a father’s concern, are quite unflattering to young women. The concluding statements (vv. 1314) show the limitations of Ben Sira’s perspective in the male-oriented society of his day.

* [42:1543:33] These verses comprise another hymn; cf. 16:2418:14. In them Ben Sira contemplates God’s power, beauty, and goodness as manifested in the mighty work of creating and preserving the universe (42:1517, 2225; 43:126), his omniscience (42:1820), perfect wisdom and eternity (42:21). The conclusion is a fervent hymn of praise (43:2731).

a. [42:1] Sir 27:16.

b. [42:1] Prv 24:23; Jas 2:1.

c. [42:4] Lv 19:35; Prv 11:1; 16:11; 20:10.

d. [42:5] Sir 30:113; 33:2533.

e. [42:9] Sir 7:2425.

f. [42:11] Dt 22:2021.

g. [42:1213] Sir 9:19.

h. [42:15] Ps 77:1213.

i. [42:20] Sir 39:19; Wis 1:69.

j. [42:21] Wis 9:13; Is 40:13; Rom 11:34; 1 Cor 2:11.

k. [42:25] Sir 33:15.

CHAPTER 43

1The beauty of the celestial height and the pure firmament,a

heaven itself manifests its glory.

2The sun at its rising shines at its fullest,

a wonderful instrument, the work of the Most High!

3At noon it scorches the earth,

and who can bear its fiery heat?

4Like a blazing furnace of solid metal,

the sun’s rays set the mountains aflame;

Its fiery tongue consumes the world;

the eyes are burned by its fire.

5Great indeed is the LORD who made it,

at whose orders it urges on its steeds.

6It is the moon that marks the changing seasons,

governing the times, their lasting sign.b

7By it we know the sacred seasons and pilgrimage feasts,

a light which wanes in its course:

8The new moon like its name* renews itself;

how wondrous it is when it changes:

A military signal for the waterskins on high,

it paves the firmament with its brilliance,

9The beauty of the heavens and the glory of the stars,

a shining ornament in the heights of God.c

10By the LORD’s command the moon keeps its appointed place,

and does not fade as the stars keep watch.

11Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker,

for majestic indeed is its splendor;d

12It spans the heavens with its glory,

the hand of God has stretched it out in power.

13His rebuke marks out the path for the hail,

and makes the flashes of his judgment shine forth.

14For his own purposes he opens the storehouse

and makes the rain clouds fly like vultures.

15His might gives the clouds their strength,

and breaks off the hailstones.

16The thunder of his voice makes the earth writhe;

by his power he shakes the mountains.

17A word from him drives on the south wind,

whirlwind, hurricane, and stormwind.

He makes the snow fly like birds;

it settles down like swarms of locusts.

18Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes,

the mind marvels at its steady fall.

19He scatters frost like salt;

it shines like blossoms on the thornbush.

20He sends cold northern blasts

that harden the ponds like solid ground,

Spreads a crust over every body of water,

and clothes each pool with a coat of armor.

21When mountain growth is scorched by heat,

and flowering plains as by fire,

22The dripping clouds restore them all,

and the scattered dew enriches the parched land.

23His is the plan that calms the deep,

and plants the islands in the sea.

24Those who go down to the sea recount its extent,

and when we hear them we are thunderstruck;e

25In it are his creatures, stupendous, amazing,

all kinds of life, and the monsters of the deep.

26For him each messenger succeeds,

and at his bidding accomplishes his will.f

27More than this we need not add;

let the last word be, he is the all!*

28Let us praise him the more, since we cannot fathom him,

for greater is he than all his works;

29Awesome indeed is the LORD,

and wonderful his power.

30Lift up your voices to glorify the LORD

as much as you can, for there is still more.

Extol him with renewed strength,

do not grow weary, for you cannot fathom him.

31For who has seen him and can describe him?

Who can praise him as he is?g

32Beyond these, many things lie hidden;

only a few of his works have I seen.

33It is the LORD who has made all things;

to those who fear him he gives wisdom.h

* [43:8] Like its name: there is a play in the Hebrew text on the words for moon and renewal. Waterskins: clouds as source of rain.

* [43:27] The all: the perfections reflected in creation are found in a transcendent way in God, who alone is their source.

a. [43:112] Ps 19:25.

b. [43:6] Lv 23:5; Nm 28:1114; Ps 81:46.

c. [43:9] Ps 8:4.

d. [43:11] Gn 9:13.

e. [43:2425] Ps 104:2526.

f. [43:26] Ps 33:6.

g. [43:31] Ps 106:2.

h. [43:33] Sir 1:10.

CHAPTER 44

Praise of Israel’s Great Ancestors*

1I will now praise the godly,

our ancestors, in their own time,*

2The abounding glory of the Most High’s portion,

his own part, since the days of old.a

3Subduers of the land in kingly fashion,

renowned for their might,

Counselors in their prudence,

seers of all things in prophecy,b

4Resolute princes of the flock,

lawgivers and their rules,

Sages skilled in composition,

authors of sharp proverbs,

5Composers of melodious psalms,

writers of lyric poems;

6Stalwart, solidly established,

at peace in their own estates—

7All these were glorious in their time,

illustrious in their day.

8Some of them left behind a name

so that people recount their praises.

9Of others no memory remains,

for when they perished, they perished,

As if they had never lived,

they and their children after them.

10Yet these also were godly;

their virtues have not been forgotten.

11Their wealth remains in their families,

their heritage with their descendants.

12Through God’s covenant their family endures,

and their offspring for their sake.

13And for all time their progeny will endure,

their glory will never be blotted out;

14Their bodies are buried in peace,

but their name lives on and on.c

15At gatherings their wisdom is retold,

and the assembly proclaims their praises.

The Early Ancestors

16[ENOCH* walked with the LORD and was taken,d

that succeeding generations might learn by his example.]

17NOAH, found just and perfect,

renewed the race in the time of devastation.e

Because of his worth there were survivors,

and with a sign to him the deluge ended.

18A lasting covenant was made with him,

that never again would all flesh be destroyed.

19ABRAHAM, father of many peoples,

kept his glory without stain:f

20He observed the Most High’s command,

and entered into a covenant with him;

In his own flesh he incised the ordinance,*

and when tested was found loyal.g

21For this reason, God promised him with an oath

to bless the nations through his descendants,

To make him numerous as grains of dust,

and to exalt his posterity like the stars,

Giving them an inheritance from sea to sea,

and from the River* to the ends of the earth.

22For ISAAC, too, he renewed the same promise

because of Abraham, his father.

The covenant with all his forebears was confirmed,

23and the blessing rested upon the head of ISRAEL.h

God acknowledged him as the firstborn,

and gave him his inheritance.

He fixed the boundaries for his tribes

and their division into twelve.

* [44:150:24] As in the previous section God’s glory shone forth in the works of nature, so in these chapters it is revealed through the history of God’s people as seen in the lives of their ancestors, prophets, priests, and rulers. The example of these great people, whose virtues are recalled here, constitutes a high point of Ben Sira’s teaching.

* [44:115] The reader is here introduced to those people of Israel, later mentioned by name, who through various achievements and beneficial social activities have acquired great renown (vv. 18, 1415); and also to those who, though forgotten, endure through the fruit of their virtues and through their families because of God’s covenant with them (vv. 915).

* [44:16] Enoch: because of his friendship with God and his unusual disappearance from the earth, this prophet’s renown was great among the chosen people, particularly in the two centuries just before the coming of Christ; cf. Gn 5:2124; Heb 11:5. The present verse is an expansion of the original text; cf. 49:14.

* [44:20] In his own flesh…ordinance: the covenant of circumcision; cf. Gn 17:1014. And when tested…loyal: Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at the Lord’s command; cf. Gn 22:112.

* [44:21] The River: the Euphrates; cf. Gn 2:14.

a. [44:2] Dt 32:89.

b. [44:3] Sir 39:1.

c. [44:14] Wis 3:23.

d. [44:16] Sir 49:14; Gn 5:1824; Heb 11:5.

e. [44:17] Gn 6:89:29; Heb 11:7.

f. [44:19] Gn 12:125:10; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; Heb 11:819; Jas 2:23.

g. [44:20] Gn 17:1014; 22:112.

h. [44:2223] Gn 26:35, 24; 27:2829; 28:1315.

CHAPTER 45

Praise of Moses, Aaron, and Phinehas

1From him came the man*

who would win the favor of all the living:a

Dear to God and human beings,

MOSES, whose memory is a blessing.

2God made him like the angels in honor,

and strengthened him with fearful powers.b

3At his words God performed signs

and sustained him in the king’s presence.

He gave him the commandments for his people,

and revealed to him his glory.c

4Because of his trustworthiness and meekness

God selected him from all flesh;d

5He let him hear his voice,

and led him into the cloud,

Where he handed over the commandments,

the law of life and understanding,*

That he might teach his precepts to Jacob,

his judgments and decrees to Israel.

6He also raised up, like Moses in holiness,*

his brother AARON, of the tribe of Levi.e

7He made his office perpetual

and bestowed on him priesthood for his people;

He established him in honor

and crowned him with lofty majesty.

8He clothed him in splendid garments,

and adorned him with glorious vestments:

Breeches, tunic, and robe

9with pomegranates at the hem

And a rustle of bells round about,

whose pleasing sound at each step

Would make him heard within the sanctuary,

a reminder for the people;

10The sacred vestments of gold, violet,

and crimson, worked with embroidery;

The breastpiece for decision, the ephod and cincture

11with scarlet yarn, the work of the weaver;

Precious stones with seal engravings

in golden settings, the work of the jeweler,

To commemorate in incised letters

each of the tribes of Israel;

12On his turban a diadem of gold,

its plate engraved with the sacred inscription—

Majestic, glorious, renowned for splendor,

a delight to the eyes, supremely beautiful.

13Before him, no one had been adorned with these,

nor may they ever be worn by any other

Except his sons and them alone,

generation after generation, for all time.

14His grain offering is wholly burnt

as an established offering twice each day;

15For Moses ordained him

and anointed him with the holy oil,

In a lasting covenant with him and his family,

as permanent as the heavens,

That he should serve God in the priesthood

and bless the people in his name.

16He chose him from all the living

to sacrifice burnt offerings and choice portions,

To burn incense, sweet odor as a memorial,

and to atone for the people of Israel.

17He gave to him the laws,

and authority to prescribe and to judge:

To teach precepts to the people,

and judgments to the Israelites.

18Strangers rose in anger against him,

grew jealous of him in the desert—

The followers of Dathan and Abiram,

and the band of Korah in their defiance.f

19When the LORD saw this he became angry,

and destroyed them in his burning wrath.

He brought against them a marvel,

and consumed them in flaming fire.

20Then he increased the glory of Aarong

and bestowed upon him his inheritance:

The sacred offerings he allotted to him,

with the showbread* as his portion;

21The oblations of the LORD are his food,

a gift to him and his descendants.

22But he holds no land among the people

nor shares with them their heritage;

For the LORD himself is his portion and inheritance

among the Israelites.

23PHINEHAS too, the son of Eleazar,

was the courageous third of his line

When, zealous for the God of all,

he met the crisis of his peopleh

And, at the prompting of his noble heart,

atoned for the children of Israel.

24Therefore, on him also God conferred the right,

in a covenant of friendship, to provide for the sanctuary,

So that he and his descendants

should possess the high priesthood forever.

25For even his covenant with David,

the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah,

Was an individual heritage through one son alone;i

but the heritage of Aaron is for all his descendants.

So now bless* the LORD

who has crowned you with glory!

26May he grant you wisdom of heart

to govern his people in justice,

Lest the benefits you confer should be forgotten,

or your authority, throughout all time.

* [44:23(end)–45:5] Moses manifested God’s power through marvels (vv. 13), God’s authority through the commandments and the Law (v. 5), and God’s mercy through the intimacy granted him by the Lord for his own faithfulness and meekness (v. 4).

* [45:5] On God’s intimacy with Moses, see Ex 33:11; Nm 12:8; Dt 34:10.

* [45:625] Ben Sira here expresses his reverence and esteem for the priesthood of the old covenant. He recalls God’s choice of Aaron and his sons for this sublime office (vv. 67), and describes in detail the beauty of the high priest’s vestments (vv. 813). He relates the ordination of Aaron at the hands of Moses (v. 15), and describes the priestly functions, namely, offering sacrifice to God (v. 16), and blessing (v. 15), teaching, governing, and judging the people (v. 17); the inheritance of the high priest (vv. 2022); the punishment of those who were jealous of Aaron (vv. 1819); and the confirmation of the covenant of the priesthood with Aaron’s descendants through Phinehas (vv. 2325).

* [45:20] Showbread: cf. note on Ex 25:2930.

* [45:2526] So now bless: Ben Sira addresses the whole line of high priests, especially Simon II; cf. 50:1.

a. [45:1] Ex 2:2; 11:3; 33:11; Nm 12:7.

b. [45:25] Ex 7Dt 34.

c. [45:3] Ex 7:17; 20:217; Dt 5:621.

d. [45:4] Nm 12:3, 7.

e. [45:622] Ex 2829; Wis 18:24.

f. [45:18] Nm 16:135.

g. [45:2021] Nm 18:1124; Dt 10:9.

h. [45:23] Nm 25:713; 1 Mc 2:26, 54; Ps 106:3031.

i. [45:25] 2 Sm 7:1216.

CHAPTER 46

Joshua, Caleb, the Judges, and Samuel

1Valiant warrior was JOSHUA,* son of Nun,

aide to Moses in the prophetic office,

Formed to be, as his name implies,

the great savior of God’s chosen ones,

To punish the enemy

and to give to Israel their heritage.a

2What glory was his when he raised his hand,

to brandish his sword against the city!b

3Who could withstand him

when he fought the battles of the LORD?*

4Was it not by that same hand the sun stopped,

so that one day became two?c

5He called upon the Most High God

when his enemies beset him on all sides,

And God Most High answered him

with hailstones of tremendous power,

6That rained down upon the hostile army

till on the slope he destroyed the foe;

That all the doomed nations might know

the LORD was watching over his people’s battles.

He was indeed a devoted follower of God

7and showed himself loyal in Moses’ lifetime.

He and CALEB,* son of Jephunneh,

when they opposed the rebel assembly,

Averted God’s anger from the people

and suppressed the wicked complaint.d

8Because of this, these two alone were spared

from the six hundred thousand infantry,

To lead the people into their heritage,

the land flowing with milk and honey.e

9The strength God gave to Caleb

remained with him even in old age

Till he won his way onto the summits of the land;

his family too received a heritage,f

10That all the offspring of Jacob might know

how good it is to be a devoted follower of the LORD.

11The JUDGES,* each one of them,

whose hearts were not deceived,

Who did not abandon God—

may their memory be ever blessed!g

12May their bones flourish with new life where they lie,

and their names receive fresh luster in their children!

13Beloved of his people, dear to his Maker,

pledged in a vow from his mother’s womb,

As one consecrated to the LORD in the prophetic office,

was SAMUEL, the judge who offered sacrifice.

At God’s word he established the kingdom

and anointed princes to rule the people.h

14By the law of the LORD he judged the congregation,

and visited the encampments of Jacob.

15As a trustworthy prophet he was sought out

and his words proved him to be a true seer.

16He, too, called upon the mighty Lord

when his enemies pressed him on every side,

and offered up a suckling lamb.i

17Then the LORD thundered from heaven,

and the tremendous roar of his voice was heard.j

18He brought low the rulers of the enemy

and destroyed all the lords of the Philistines.

19When Samuel neared the end of life,

he testified before the LORD and his anointed prince,

“No bribe or secret gift have I taken from anyone!”

and no one could accuse him.k

20Even after death his guidance was sought;

he made known to the king his fate.

From the grave he spoke in prophecy

to put an end to wickedness.l

* [46:16] Joshua: whose name means “the Lord is savior” (v. 1), was the instrument through which God delivered his people in marvelous ways (vv. 26) by destroying their enemies, whose land he gave to the Israelites as a heritage (v. 1).

* [46:3] The battles of the Lord: cf. Jos 611.

* [46:710] Caleb: with Joshua he advised Moses to enter Canaan, despite the counsel of their companion scouts and the rebellion of the people. He led the next generation of Israelites into the promised land. He received a portion of land which he himself had conquered; cf. Jos 15:1314.

* [46:1120] Of the judges praised and blessed for their fidelity to God in opposing idolatry, Samuel was the greatest (vv. 1113, 19). He was judge, prophet, and priest. Through his sacrificial offering he obtained victory over the Philistines. He established the kingdom, anointed kings (vv. 1318), and even after his death foretold the king’s fate (v. 20).

a. [46:1] Ex 17:9; Nm 27:1823; Dt 34:9; Jos 1:19.

b. [46:2] Jos 8:1819.

c. [46:4] Jos 10:1213.

d. [46:7] Nm 13:30; 14:13.

e. [46:8] Nm 14:2238.

f. [46:9] Jos 14:613; 15:13.

g. [46:11] Jgs 1:116:31.

h. [46:13] 1 Sm 1:1020; 8:410:1; 16:1213.

i. [46:16] 1 Sm 7:9.

j. [46:17] 1 Sm 7:1013.

k. [46:19] 1 Sm 12:3.

l. [46:20] 1 Sm 28:1419.

CHAPTER 47

Nathan, David, and Solomon

1After him came NATHAN*

who served in David’s presence.a

2Like the choice fat of sacred offerings,

so was DAVID in Israel.b

3He played with lions as though they were young goats,

and with bears, like lambs of the flock.c

4As a youth he struck down the giant

and wiped out the people’s disgrace;

His hand let fly the slingstone

that shattered the pride of Goliath.d

5For he had called upon the Most High God,

who gave strength to his right arm

To defeat the skilled warrior

and establish the might of his people.

6Therefore the women sang his praises

and honored him for “the tens of thousands.”

When he received the royal crown, he battlede

7and subdued the enemy on every side.

He campaigned against the hostile Philistines

and shattered their power till our own day.f

8With his every deed he offered thanks

to God Most High, in words of praise.

With his whole heart he loved his Maker

9and daily had his praises sung;

10He added beauty to the feasts

and solemnized the seasons of each year

9bWith string music before the altar,

providing sweet melody for the psalmsg

10bSo that when the Holy Name was praised,

before daybreak the sanctuary would resound.

11The LORD forgave him his sins

and exalted his strength forever;

He conferred on him the rights of royalty

and established his throne in Israel.h

12Because of his merits he had as successor*

a wise son, who lived in security:i

13SOLOMON reigned during an era of peace,

for God brought rest to all his borders.

He built a house to the name of God,

and established a lasting sanctuary.j

14How wise you were when you were young,

overflowing with instruction, like the Nile in flood!k

15Your understanding covered the whole earth,

and, like a sea, filled it with knowledge.

16Your fame reached distant coasts,

and you were beloved for your peaceful reign.

17With song and proverb and riddle,

and with your answers, you astounded the nations.

18You were called by that glorious name

which was conferred upon Israel.*

Gold you gathered like so much iron;

you heaped up silver as though it were lead.

19But you abandoned yourself to women

and gave them dominion over your body.l

20You brought a stain upon your glory,

shame upon your marriage bed,

Wrath upon your descendants,

and groaning upon your deathbed.

21Thus two governments came into being,

when in Ephraim kingship was usurped.m

22But God does not withdraw his mercy,

nor permit even one of his promises to fail.

He does not uproot the posterity of the chosen,

nor destroy the offspring of his friends.

So he gave to Jacob a remnant,

to David a root from his own family.n

Rehoboam and Jeroboam

23Solomon finally slept with his ancestors,

and left behind him one of his sons,

Broad* in folly, narrow in sense,

whose policy made the people rebel.

Then arose the one who should not be remembered,

the sinner who led Israel into sin,o

Who brought ruin to Ephraim

24and caused them to be exiled from their land.

Elijah and Elisha

25Their sinfulness grew more and more,

and they gave themselves to every evil*

* [47:111] An idealized portrait of David; cf. 1 Chronicles.

* [47:1224] The standard view of Solomon is echoed by Ben Sira, but he affirms the divine promise (v. 22) to David’s line.

* [47:18] Cf. 2 Sm 12:25, where Solomon is called Jedidiah, “beloved of the Lord.” A similar term is used of Israel in Jer 11:15.

* [47:23] Broad: the name Rehoboam means “the people is broad, or expansive,” that is, widespread. The sinner: Jeroboam; cf. 1 Kgs 12:1, 20, 2632.

* [47:2548:11] The prophetic ministry of Elijah amid widespread idolatry is here described as a judgment by fire (48:1). Through his preaching, marvels, and acts of vengeance against God’s enemies, he succeeded for a time in restoring faith in and worship of the Lord (vv. 28). His mysterious departure from this life gave rise to the belief that he did not die but would return before the day of the Lord. Cf. Mal 3:2324; Mt 17:913.

a. [47:1] 2 Sm 7:217.

b. [47:2] 1 Sm 16:1113.

c. [47:3] 1 Sm 17:3436.

d. [47:4] 1 Sm 17:49.

e. [47:6] 1 Sm 18:7.

f. [47:7] 2 Sm 5:625.

g. [47:9] 1 Chr 16:437; 23:5; 25:17.

h. [47:11] 2 Sm 12:13; 7:1216.

i. [47:12] 1 Kgs 2:12.

j. [47:13] 1 Kgs 5:1, 5; 6:238.

k. [47:1418] 1 Kgs 5:914; 10:1429.

l. [47:19] 1 Kgs 11:110.

m. [47:21] 1 Kgs 12:125.

n. [47:22] 2 Sm 7:15; Ps 89:3438.

o. [47:23] 1 Kgs 11:43; 12:13, 21; 13:34; 2 Kgs 17:622.

CHAPTER 48

1Until like fire a prophet appeared,

his words a flaming furnace.a

2The staff of life, their bread, he shattered,

and in his zeal he made them few in number.

3By God’s word he shut up the heavens

and three times brought down fire.b

4How awesome are you, ELIJAH!

Whose glory is equal to yours?

5You brought a dead body back to life

from Sheol, by the will of the LORD.c

6You sent kings down to destruction,

and nobles, from their beds of sickness.d

7You heard threats at Sinai,

at Horeb avenging judgments.e

8You anointed the agent of these punishments,

the prophet to succeed in your place.f

9You were taken aloft in a whirlwind,

in a chariot with fiery horses.g

10You are destined, it is written, in time to come

to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,

To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children,

and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.h

11Blessed is the one who shall have seen you before he dies!*

12When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind,

ELISHA was filled with his spirit;*

He worked twice as many marvels,i

and every utterance of his mouth was wonderful.

During his lifetime he feared no one,

nor was anyone able to intimidate his will.

13Nothing was beyond his power;j

and from where he lay buried, his body prophesied.*

14In life he performed wonders,

and after death, marvelous deeds.

15Despite all this the people did not repent,

nor did they give up their sins,

Until they were uprooted from their land

and scattered all over the earth.

Judah

But Judah remained, a tiny people,

with its ruler from the house of David.k

16Some of them did what was right,

but others were extremely sinful.

Hezekiah and Isaiah*

17HEZEKIAH fortified his city

and had water brought into it;l

With bronze tools he cut through the rocks

and dammed up a mountain site for water.*

18During his reign Sennacherib led an invasion

and sent his adjutant;

He shook his fist at Zion

and blasphemed God in his pride.m

19The people’s hearts melted within them,

and they were in anguish like that of childbirth.

20But they called upon the Most High God

and lifted up their hands to him;

He heard the prayer they uttered,

and saved them through ISAIAH.n

21God struck the camp of the Assyrians

and routed them with a plague.o

22For Hezekiah did what was right

and held fast to the paths of David,

As ordered by the illustrious prophet

Isaiah, who saw truth in visions.

23In his lifetime he turned back the sun

and prolonged the life of the king.p

24By his powerful spirit he looked into the futureq

and consoled the mourners of Zion;

25He foretold what would happen till the end of time,

hidden things yet to be fulfilled.

* [48:11] Verse 11b is not extant in the Hebrew; it is represented in the Greek tradition by “for we too shall certainly live.” But this can hardly be the original reading.

* [48:1216] Elisha continued Elijah’s work (vv. 1214), but the obstinacy of the people eventually brought on the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and the dispersion of its subjects. Judah, however, survived under the rule of Davidic kings, both good and bad (vv. 1516).

* [48:13] The reference in v. 13b seems to be to 2 Kgs 13:21 where it is related that a dead man, thrown into Elisha’s grave, came back to life.

* [48:1725] The fidelity of King Hezekiah (vv. 17, 22), the zeal of the prophet Isaiah, and the prayer of the people (v. 20) were effective. The Assyrian oppressors under Sennacherib withdrew (vv. 1819, 21). The king’s life was prolonged. The people were consoled by Isaiah’s words about the future (vv. 2325); the “consolations” refer to Is 4066.

* [48:17] The reference is to the famous Siloam tunnel in present-day Jerusalem.

a. [48:1] 1 Kgs 17:1.

b. [48:3] 2 Kgs 1:914.

c. [48:5] 1 Kgs 17:1723.

d. [48:6] 1 Kgs 21:19; 2 Kgs 1:17.

e. [48:7] 1 Kgs 19:815.

f. [48:8] 1 Kgs 19:1617.

g. [48:9] 2 Kgs 2:11.

h. [48:10] Mal 3:2324; Mt 17:10.

i. [48:12] 2 Kgs 2:912.

j. [48:1314] 2 Kgs 13:21.

k. [48:15] 2 Kgs 15:29; 18:1112.

l. [48:17] 2 Kgs 20:20; 2 Chr 32:30.

m. [48:18] 2 Kgs 18:1337; Is 36:122.

n. [48:20] 2 Kgs 19:20.

o. [48:21] 2 Kgs 19:35; Is 37:36.

p. [48:23] 2 Kgs 20:11; Is 38:8.

q. [48:2425] 2 Kgs 20:17; Is 40:111; 42:9; 46:10; 48:6; 61:23.

CHAPTER 49

Josiah and the Prophets*

1The name JOSIAH is like blended incense,

made lasting by a skilled perfumer.a

Precious is his memory, like honey to the taste,

like music at a banquet.

2For he grieved over our betrayals,

and destroyed the abominable idols.

3He kept his heart fixed on God,

and in times of lawlessness practiced virtue.

4Except for David, Hezekiah, and Josiah,

they all were wicked;

They abandoned the Law of the Most High,

these kings of Judah, right to the very end.

5So he gave over their power to others,

their glory to a foreign nation

6Who burned the holy city

and left its streets desolate,

7As foretold by JEREMIAH.b They mistreated him

who even in the womb had been made a prophet,

To root out, pull down, and destroy,

and then to build and to plant.c

8EZEKIEL beheld a vision

and described the different creatures of the chariot;d

9He also referred to JOB,

who always persevered in the right path.e

10Then, too, the TWELVE PROPHETS

may their bones flourish with new life where they lie!—

They gave new strength to Jacob

and saved him with steadfast hope.

The Heroes After the Exile

11How to extol ZERUBBABEL?*

He was like a signet ring on the right hand,f

12And JESHUA, Jozadak’s son?

In their time they rebuilt the altar

And erected the holy temple,

destined for everlasting glory.

13Exalted be the memory of NEHEMIAH!

He rebuilt our ruined walls,

Restored our shattered defenses,

and set up gates and bars.g

The Earliest Patriarchs

14Few on earth have been created like ENOCH;*

he also was taken up bodily.h

15Was ever a man born like JOSEPH?

Even his dead body was provided for.i

16Glorious, too, were SHEM and SETH and ENOSH;

but beyond that of any living being was the splendor of ADAM.j

* [49:110] Ben Sira’s praise of King Josiah (vv. 13) and of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel and the minor prophets (vv. 710) derives from their spirit of fidelity to the Lord and his Law (vv. 46, 10).

* [49:1113] The rebuilding of the Temple and the repair of the walls of the Holy City led to a restoration of religious worship and civil authority.

* [49:1416] The patriarchs here mentioned were glorious because of their spirit of religion, i.e., their profound reverence for God and obedience to him. The splendor of Adam: suggests his direct origin from God (Gn 1:2627; 2:7).

a. [49:12] 2 Kgs 22:12, 1013, 19; 23:415, 1920, 24; 2 Chr 34:17.

b. [49:7] 2 Kgs 25:9; 2 Chr 36:19.

c. [49:7] Jer 1:5, 10.

d. [49:8] Ez 1:421.

e. [49:9] Ez 14:14, 20.

f. [49:1112] Ezr 3:2; Hg 1:12; Zec 3:1.

g. [49:13] Neh 1:13:32.

h. [49:14] Sir 44:16; Gn 5:1824.

i. [49:15] Gn 37; 3950; Ex 13:19; Jos 24:32.

j. [49:16] Gn 1:2630; 2:7; 4:2526.

CHAPTER 50

Simeon, Son of Jochanan

1Greatest of his family, the glory of his people,

was SIMEON the priest, son of Jochanan,*

In whose time the house of God was renovated,

in whose days the temple was reinforced.

2In his time also the retaining wall was built

with powerful turrets for the temple precincts.

3In his time the reservoir was dug,

a pool as vast as the sea.

4He protected the people against brigands

and strengthened the city against the enemy.

5How splendid he was as he looked out from the tent,

as he came from behind the veil!

6Like a star shining among the clouds,

like the full moon at the festal season;

7Like sun shining upon the temple of the King,

like a rainbow appearing in the cloudy sky;

8Like blossoms on the branches in springtime,

like a lily by running waters;

Like a green shoot on Lebanon in summer,

9like the fire of incense at sacrifice;

Like a vessel of hammered gold,

studded with all kinds of precious stones;

10Like a luxuriant olive tree heavy with fruit,

a plant with branches abounding in oil;

11Wearing his glorious robes,

and vested in sublime magnificence,a

As he ascended the glorious altar

and lent majesty to the court of the sanctuary.

12When he received the portions from the priests

while he stood before the sacrificial wood,

His sons stood round him like a garland,

like young cedars on Lebanon;

And like poplars by the brook they surrounded him,

13all the sons of Aaron in their glory,

With the offerings to the LORD in their hands,

in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel.

14Once he had completed the service at the altar

and arranged the sacrificial hearth for the Most High,

15And had stretched forth his hand for the cup,

to offer blood of the grape,

And poured it out at the foot of the altar,

a sweet-smelling odor to God the Most High,b

16Then the sons of Aaron would sound a blast,

the priests, on their trumpets of beaten metal;

A blast to resound mightily

as a reminder before the Most High.c

17All the people with one accord

would fall with face to the ground

In adoration before the Most High,

before the Holy One of Israel.

18Then hymns would re-echo,

and over the throng sweet strains of praise resound.

19All the people of the land would shout for joy,

praying to the Merciful One,

As the high priest completed the service at the altar

by presenting to God the fitting sacrifice.

20Then coming down he would raise his hands

over all the congregation of Israel;

The blessing of the LORD would be upon his lips,

the name of the LORD would be his glory.d

21The people would again fall down

to receive the blessing of the Most High.

22And now, bless the God of all,*

who has done wonders on earth;

Who fosters growth from the womb,

fashioning it according to his will!

23May he grant you a wise heart

and abide with you in peace;

24May his goodness toward Simeon last forever;

may he fulfill for him the covenant with Phinehas

So that it may not be abrogated for him

or his descendants while the heavens last.

Epilogue

25My whole being loathes two nations,

the third is not even a people:*

26The inhabitants of Seir* and Philistia,

and the foolish people who dwell in Shechem.e

27Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs,*

I have written in this book—

I, Yeshua Ben Eleazar Ben Sira—

as they poured forth from my heart’s understanding.

28Happy those who meditate upon these things;

wise those who take them to heart!

29If they put them into practice, they can cope with anything,

for the fear of the LORD is their lamp.

* [50:121] Son of Jochanan: Simeon II, in whose time as high priest (219–196 B.C.) great works were accomplished for the benefit of public worship and welfare (vv. 14). Ben Sira, a contemporary, describes detailed liturgical action, perhaps pertaining to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, cf. Lv 16).

* [50:2224] Ben Sira urges the reader to praise and bless God for his wondrous works and then invokes a blessing on all that they may enjoy peace and gladness of heart and the abiding goodness of the Most High.

* [50:25] Not even a people: the Samaritans.

* [50:26] Seir: Mount Seir in the territory of the Edomites. Shechem: a city in Samaria.

* [50:27] This colophon may have been the original ending of the book. It is unusual for a biblical writer to append his name.

a. [50:11] Sir 45:813; Ex 28:243; 39:131.

b. [50:15] Nm 15:5; 28:7.

c. [50:16] Nm 10:10.

d. [50:20] Nm 6:2327.

e. [50:26] 2 Kgs 17:24; Jn 4:9.

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.