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Chapter 44

Praise of Israel’s Great Ancestors[a]

I will now praise the godly,
    our ancestors, in their own time,[b]
The abounding glory of the Most High’s portion,
    his own part, since the days of old.(A)
Subduers of the land in kingly fashion,
    renowned for their might,
Counselors in their prudence,
    seers of all things in prophecy,(B)
Resolute princes of the flock,
    lawgivers and their rules,
Sages skilled in composition,
    authors of sharp proverbs,
Composers of melodious psalms,
    writers of lyric poems;
Stalwart, solidly established,
    at peace in their own estates—
All these were glorious in their time,
    illustrious in their day.
Some of them left behind a name
    so that people recount their praises.
Of others no memory remains,
    for when they perished, they perished,
As if they had never lived,
    they and their children after them.
10 Yet these also were godly;
    their virtues have not been forgotten.
11 Their wealth remains in their families,
    their heritage with their descendants.
12 Through God’s covenant their family endures,
    and their offspring for their sake.
13 And for all time their progeny will endure,
    their glory will never be blotted out;
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
    but their name lives on and on.(C)
15 At gatherings their wisdom is retold,
    and the assembly proclaims their praises.

The Early Ancestors

16 [Enoch[c] walked with the Lord and was taken,(D)
    that succeeding generations might learn by his example.]
17 Noah, 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.
18 A lasting covenant was made with him,
    that never again would all flesh be destroyed.
19 Abraham, father of many peoples,
    kept his glory without stain:(F)
20 He observed the Most High’s command,
    and entered into a covenant with him;
In his own flesh he incised the ordinance,[d]
    and when tested was found loyal.(G)
21 For 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[e] to the ends of the earth.

22 For Isaac, too, he renewed the same promise
    because of Abraham, his father.
The covenant with all his forebears was confirmed,
23     and 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.


  1. 44:1–50:24 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.
  2. 44:1–15 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. 1–8, 14–15); 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. 9–15).
  3. 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 5:21–24; Hb 11:5. The present verse is an expansion of the original text; cf. 49:14.
  4. 44:20 In his own flesh…ordinance: the covenant of circumcision; cf. Gn 17:10–14. And when tested…loyal: Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at the Lord’s command; cf. Gn 22:1–12.
  5. 44:21 The River: the Euphrates; cf. Gn 2:14.