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Sirach 20Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Silence and Speech

20 There is a reproof which is not timely;
    and there is a man who keeps silent but is wise.
How much better it is to reprove than to stay angry!
    And the one who confesses his fault will be kept from loss.[a]
Like a eunuch’s desire to violate a maiden
    is a man who executes judgments by violence.
There is one who by keeping silent is found wise,
    while another is detested for being too talkative.
There is one who keeps silent because he has no answer,
    while another keeps silent because he knows when to speak.
A wise man will be silent until the right moment,
    but a braggart and fool goes beyond the right moment.
Whoever uses too many words will be loathed,
    and whoever usurps the right to speak will be hated.


There may be good fortune for a man in adversity,
    and a windfall may result in a loss.
10 There is a gift that profits you nothing,
    and there is a gift that brings a double return.
11 There are losses because of glory,
    and there are men who have raised their heads from humble circumstances.
12 There is a man who buys much for a little,
    but pays for it seven times over.
13 The wise man makes himself beloved through his words,
    but the courtesies of fools are wasted.
14 A fool’s gift will profit you nothing,
    for he has many eyes instead of one.
15 He gives little and upbraids much,
    he opens his mouth like a herald;
today he lends and tomorrow he asks it back;
    such a one is a hateful man.
16 A fool will say, “I have no friend,
    and there is no gratitude for my good deeds;
    those who eat my bread speak unkindly.”
17 How many will ridicule him, and how often!

Inappropriate Speech

18 A slip on the pavement is better than a slip of the tongue;
    so the downfall of the wicked will occur speedily.
19 An ungracious man is like a story told at the wrong time,
    which is continually on the lips of the ignorant.
20 A proverb from a fool’s lips will be rejected,
    for he does not tell it at its proper time.

21 A man may be prevented from sinning by his poverty,
    so when he rests he feels no remorse.
22 A man may lose his life through shame,
    or lose it because of his foolish look.
23 A man may for shame make promises to a friend,
    and needlessly make him an enemy.


24 A lie is an ugly blot on a man;
    it is continually on the lips of the ignorant.
25 A thief is preferable to a habitual liar,
    but the lot of both is ruin.
26 The disposition of a liar brings disgrace,
    and his shame is ever with him.

Proverbial Sayings

27 He who speaks wisely will advance himself,
    and a sensible man will please great men.
28 Whoever cultivates the soil will heap up his harvest,
    and whoever pleases great men will atone for injustice.
29 Presents and gifts blind the eyes of the wise;
    like a muzzle on the mouth they avert reproofs.
30 Hidden wisdom and unseen treasure,
    what advantage is there in either of them?
31 Better is the man who hides his folly
    than the man who hides his wisdom.[b]


  1. Sirach 20:2 Other authorities add How good it is to show repentance when you are reproved, for so you will escape deliberate sin!
  2. Sirach 20:31 Other authorities add 32 Unwearied patience in seeking the Lord is better than a masterless charioteer of one’s own life.
Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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