Ben Sira 39
New American Bible (Revised Edition)
How different the person who devotes himself
to the study of the law of the Most High!
1 He explores the wisdom of all the ancients
and is occupied with the prophecies;
2 He preserves the discourses of the famous,
and goes to the heart of involved sayings;
3 He seeks out the hidden meaning of proverbs,
and is busied with the enigmas found in parables.
4 He 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.
5 His 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.
6 If 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.
7 He will direct his knowledge and his counsel,
as he meditates upon God’s mysteries.
8 He will show the wisdom of what he has learned
and glory in the Law of the Lord’s covenant.
9 Many will praise his understanding;
his name can never be blotted out;
Unfading will be his memory,
through all generations his name will live;(A)
10 Peoples will speak of his wisdom,
and the assembly will declare his praise.
11 While he lives he is one out of a thousand,
and when he dies he leaves a good name.
Praise of God the Creator[a]
12 Once more I will set forth my theme
to shine like the moon in its fullness!
13 Listen to me, my faithful children: open up your petals,
like roses planted near running waters;
14 Send 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!
15 Proclaim 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:
16 The works of God are all of them good;
he supplies for every need in its own time.(B)
17 At his word the waters become still as in a flask;
he had but to speak and the reservoirs were made.(C)
18 He has but to command and his will is done;
nothing can limit his saving action.
19 The works of all humankind are present to him;
nothing is hidden from his eyes.(D)
20 His 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.
21 No cause then to say: “What is the purpose of this?”
Everything is chosen to satisfy a need.
22 His blessing overflows like the Nile;
like the Euphrates it enriches the surface of the earth.
23 Even so, his wrath dispossesses the nations
and turns fertile land into a salt marsh.(E)
24 For the virtuous his paths are level,
to the haughty they are clogged with stones.
25 Good things for the good he provided from the beginning,
but for the wicked good things and bad.
26 Chief 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)
27 For the good all these are good,
but for the wicked they turn out evil.
28 There 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.
29 Fire and hail, famine and disease:
these too were created for punishment.
30 Ravenous 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.
31 When he commands them, they rejoice,
in their assigned tasks they do not disobey his command.
32 That is why from the first I took my stand,
and wrote down as my theme:
33 The works of God are all of them good;
he supplies for every need in its own time.(G)
34 There is no cause then to say: “This is not as good as that”;
for each shows its worth at the proper time.
35 So now with full heart and voice proclaim
and bless his name!
- 39:12–35 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. 12–16, 32–35). 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. 17–21), bringing blessing to the virtuous, but evil and punishment to the wicked who misuse them (vv. 22–31). Cf. similar hymns of praise, 36:1–22; 42:15–43:33.