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Chapter 27

For the sake of profit many sin,
    and the struggle for wealth blinds the eyes.(A)
A stake will be driven between fitted stones—
    sin will be wedged in between buying and selling.
Unless one holds fast to the fear of the Lord,
    with sudden swiftness will one’s house be thrown down.

When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;
    so do people’s faults when they speak.[a]
The furnace tests the potter’s vessels;
    the test of a person is in conversation.(B)
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;
    so speech discloses the bent of a person’s heart.(C)
Praise no one before he speaks,
    for it is then that people are tested.

If you strive after justice, you will attain it,
    and wear it like a splendid robe.
Birds nest with their own kind,
    and honesty comes to those who work at it.
10 A lion lies in wait for prey,
    so does sin for evildoers.

11 The conversation of the godly is always wisdom,
    but the fool changes like the moon.
12 Limit the time you spend among the stupid,
    but frequent the company of the thoughtful.
13 The conversation of fools is offensive,
    and their laughter is wanton sin.
14 Their oath-filled talk makes the hair stand on end,
    and their brawls make one stop the ears.
15 The wrangling of the proud ends in bloodshed,
    and their cursing is painful to hear.(D)

16 Whoever betrays a secret destroys confidence,[b]
    and will never find a congenial friend.(E)
17 Cherish your friend, keep faith with him;
    but if you betray his secrets, do not go after him;
18 For as one might kill another,
    you have killed your neighbor’s friendship.
19 Like a bird released from your hand,
    you have let your friend go and cannot recapture him.
20 Do not go after him, for he is far away,
    and has escaped like a gazelle from a snare.
21 For a wound can be bandaged, and an insult forgiven,
    but whoever betrays secrets does hopeless damage.(F)

Malice, Anger and Vengeance

22 Whoever has shifty eyes plots mischief
    and those who know him will keep their distance;
23 In your presence he uses honeyed talk,
    and admires your words,
But later he changes his tone
    and twists the words to your ruin.(G)
24 I have hated many things but not as much as him,
    and the Lord hates him as well.(H)
25 A stone falls back on the head of the one who throws it high,(I)
    and a treacherous blow causes many wounds.
26 Whoever digs a pit falls into it,
    and whoever lays a snare is caught in it.[c]
27 The evil anyone does will recoil on him
    without knowing how it came upon him.

28 Mockery and abuse will befall the arrogant,
    and vengeance lies in wait for them like a lion.
29 Those who rejoice in the downfall of the godly will be caught in a snare,
    and pain will consume them before they die.
30 Wrath and anger, these also are abominations,
    yet a sinner holds on to them.


  1. 27:4–7, 11–15 The importance of effective speech is a favorite wisdom topic; e.g., cf. 20:1–8, 18–20; 22:27–23:15.
  2. 27:16–28:11 Betrayal of confidence through indiscretion destroys friendship and does irreparable harm (27:16–21); cf. 22:22. False friendship based on hypocrisy and deceit is hateful to Ben Sira and, he adds, to God as well (27:22–24); it soon becomes a victim of its own treachery (27:25–27). The same fate awaits the malicious and vengeful (27:28–28:1). They can obtain mercy and forgiveness only by first forgiving their neighbor, being mindful of death and of the commandments of the Most High (28:2–7). And they must avoid quarrels and strife (28:8–11).
  3. 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.