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Chapter 23

Lord, Father and Master of my life,[a]
    do not abandon me to their designs,
    do not let me fall because of them!

Who 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?
Otherwise my failings may increase,
    and my sins be multiplied;
And I fall before my adversaries,
    and my enemy rejoice over me?
Lord, Father and God of my life,
    do not give me haughty eyes;
    remove evil desire from my heart.
Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me;
    do not give me up to shameless desires.(A)

Proper Use of the Tongue[b]

Listen, my children, to instruction concerning the mouth,
    for whoever keeps it will not be ensnared.
Through the lips the sinner is caught;
    by them the reviler and the arrogant are tripped up.
Do not accustom your mouth to oaths,
    or habitually utter the Holy Name.(B)
10 Just 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.
11 Those 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.

12 There 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.
13 Do not accustom your mouth to coarse talk,
    for it involves sinful speech.
14 Keep 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.
15 Those accustomed to using abusive language
    will never acquire discipline as long as they live.

Sins of the Flesh[c]

16 Two types of people multiply sins,
    and a third[d] 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.
17 To the unchaste all bread is sweet;
    he is never through till he dies.(E)

18 The 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,
19     fearing 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.
20 The one who knows all things before they exist
    still knows them all after they are made.
21 Such a man will be denounced in the streets of the city;(G)
    and where he least suspects it, he will be apprehended.

22 So it is with the woman unfaithful to her husband,
    who offers him an heir by another man.
23 First 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.
24 Such a woman will be dragged before the assembly,[e]
    and her punishment will extend to her children.
25 Her children will not take root;
    her branches will not bring forth fruit.
26 She will leave behind an accursed memory;
    her disgrace will never be blotted out.

27 Thus 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)[f]


  1. 23:1–6 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.
  2. 23:7–15 A warning against sins of the tongue through misuse of the sacred Name, against thoughtless swearing (vv. 7–11), blasphemy (v. 12), coarse talk (vv. 13–14), and abusive language (v. 15).
  3. 23:16–27 Ben Sira treats sexual sins and their consequences. Lust destroys its victims (vv. 16–17, 22–26). A false sense of security aggravates the adulterer’s inevitable fate (vv. 18–21).
  4. 23:16 Two types…a third: a numerical proverb, as in 25:1–2, 7–11; 26:5–6, 28; 50:25–26; Prv 6:16–19; 30:15b–16, 18–19, 21–23, 29–31. Ben Sira condemns three kinds of sexual sin: incest (v. 16), fornication (v. 17), and adultery (vv. 18–26).
  5. 23:24–25 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 3:16–19; 4:3–6.
  6. 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.