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Chapter 8

Prudence in Dealing with Others[a]

Do not contend with the mighty,
    lest you fall into their power.
Do 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)

Do not quarrel with loud-mouths,
    or heap wood upon their fire.[b](B)
Do not associate with the senseless,
    lest your ancestors be insulted.

Do not reproach one who turns away from sin;(C)
    remember, we all are guilty.[c]
Do not insult one who is old,
    for some of us will also grow old.
Do not rejoice when someone dies;
    remember, we are all to be gathered in.

Do 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.
Do 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.

10 Do not kindle the coals of sinners,
    lest you be burned in their flaming fire.
11 Do not give ground before scoundrels;
    it will set them in ambush against you.[d]
12 Do not lend to one more powerful than yourself;
    or if you lend, count it as lost.(E)
13 Do not give collateral beyond your means;
    consider any collateral a debt you must pay.

14 Do not go to court against a judge,
    for the case will be settled in his favor.
15 Do 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.
16 Do 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.

17 Do not take counsel with simpletons,
    for they cannot keep a confidence.
18 Before a stranger do nothing that should be kept secret,
    for you do not know what it will produce later on.[e](F)
19 Open your heart to no one,
    do not banish your happiness.


  1. 8:1–19 The prudent will be circumspect, avoiding conflict with the powerful, the rich and insolent, the impious, the irascible, and judges (vv. 1–3, 10–12, 14, 16). They will not associate with the undisciplined (v. 4) or the ruthless (v. 15), with fools or strangers (vv. 17–19), but with the wise and the elders of the people (vv. 8–9). Caution is a recurring theme in Ben Sira.
  2. 8:3 One should avoid increasing the ire of those who are hotheaded; cf. vv. 10, 16.
  3. 8:5 We all are guilty: cf. 1 Kgs 8:46; 2 Chr 6:36; Jb 25:4; Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:9–10; 5:12; 1 Jn 1:8.
  4. 8:11 Giving in to the wicked only encourages them to take advantage.
  5. 8:18 To keep a secret, or a confidence, is a major concern of Ben Sira; cf. 1:30; 22:22; 27:16–21; 37:10; 42:1.