Sirach 1-8Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Whereas many great teachings have been given to us through the law and the prophets and the others that followed them, on account of which we should praise Israel for instruction and wisdom; and since it is necessary not only that the readers themselves should acquire understanding but also that those who love learning should be able to help the outsiders by both speaking and writing, my grandfather Jesus, after devoting himself especially to the reading of the law and the prophets and the other books of our fathers, and after acquiring considerable proficiency in them, was himself also led to write something pertaining to instruction and wisdom, in order that, by becoming conversant with this also, those who love learning should make even greater progress in living according to the law.
You are urged therefore to read with good will and attention, and to be indulgent in cases where, despite out diligent labor in translating, we may seem to have rendered some phrases imperfectly. For what was originally expressed in Hebrew does not have exactly the same sense when translated into another language. Not only this work, but even the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books differ not a little as originally expressed.
When I came to Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Eu-er′getes and stayed for some time, I found opportunity for no little instruction. It seemed highly necessary that I should myself devote some pains and labor to the translation of the following book, using in that period of time great watchfulness and skill in order to complete and publish the book for those living abroad who wished to gain learning, being prepared in character to live according to the law.
In Praise of Wisdom
1 All wisdom comes from the Lord
and is with him for ever.
2 The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
and the days of eternity—who can count them?
3 The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?
4 Wisdom was created before all things,
and prudent understanding from eternity.
6 The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
Her clever devices—who knows them?
8 There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared,
sitting upon his throne.
9 The Lord himself created wisdom;
he saw her and apportioned her,
he poured her out upon all his works.
10 She dwells with all flesh according to his gift,
and he supplied her to those who love him.
Fear of the Lord Is True Wisdom
11 The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation,
and gladness and a crown of rejoicing.
12 The fear of the Lord delights the heart,
and gives gladness and joy and long life.
13 With him who fears the Lord it will go well at the end;
on the day of his death he will be blessed.
14 To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
she is created with the faithful in the womb.
15 She made among men an eternal foundation,
and among their descendants she will be trusted.
16 To fear the Lord is wisdom’s full measure;
she satisfies men with her fruits;
17 she fills their whole house with desirable goods,
and their storehouses with her produce.
18 The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom,
making peace and perfect health to flourish.
19 He saw her and apportioned her;
he rained down knowledge and discerning comprehension,
and he exalted the glory of those who held her fast.
20 To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom,
and her branches are long life.
22 Unrighteous anger cannot be justified,
for a man’s anger tips the scale to his ruin.
23 A patient man will endure until the right moment,
and then joy will burst forth for him.
24 He will hide his words until the right moment,
and the lips of many will tell of his good sense.
25 In the treasuries of wisdom are wise sayings,
but godliness is an abomination to a sinner.
26 If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments,
and the Lord will supply it for you.
27 For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and instruction,
and he delights in fidelity and meekness.
28 Do not disobey the fear of the Lord;
do not approach him with a divided mind.
29 Be not a hypocrite in men’s sight,
and keep watch over your lips.
30 Do not exalt yourself lest you fall,
and thus bring dishonor upon yourself.
The Lord will reveal your secrets
and cast you down in the midst of the congregation,
because you did not come in the fear of the Lord,
and your heart was full of deceit.
Duties toward God
2 My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for temptation.
2 Set your heart right and be steadfast,
and do not be hasty in time of calamity.
3 Cleave to him and do not depart,
that you may be honored at the end of your life.
4 Accept whatever is brought upon you,
and in changes that humble you be patient.
5 For gold is tested in the fire,
and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
6 Trust in him, and he will help you;
make your ways straight, and hope in him.
7 You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
and turn not aside, lest you fall.
8 You who fear the Lord, trust in him,
and your reward will not fail;
9 you who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
for everlasting joy and mercy.
10 Consider the ancient generations and see:
who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?
Or who ever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken?
Or who ever called upon him and was overlooked?
11 For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;
he forgives sins and saves in time of affliction.
12 Woe to timid hearts and to slack hands,
and to the sinner who walks along two ways!
13 Woe to the faint heart, for it has no trust!
Therefore it will not be sheltered.
14 Woe to you who have lost your endurance!
What will you do when the Lord punishes you?
15 Those who fear the Lord will not disobey his words,
and those who love him will keep his ways.
16 Those who fear the Lord will seek his approval,
and those who love him will be filled with the law.
17 Those who fear the Lord will prepare their hearts,
and will humble themselves before him.
18 Let us fall into the hands of the Lord,
but not into the hands of men;
for as his majesty is,
so also is his mercy.
Duties toward Parents
3 Listen to me your father, O children;
and act accordingly, that you may be kept in safety.
2 For the Lord honored the father above the children,
and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons.
3 Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
4 and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure.
5 Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children,
and when he prays he will be heard.
6 Whoever glorifies his father will have long life,
and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother;
7 he will serve his parents as his masters.
8 Honor your father by word and deed,
that a blessing from him may come upon you.
9 For a father’s blessing strengthens the houses of the children,
but a mother’s curse uproots their foundations.
10 Do not glorify yourself by dishonoring your father,
for your father’s dishonor is no glory to you.
11 For a man’s glory comes from honoring his father,
and it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother.
12 O son, help your father in his old age,
and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
13 even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance;
in all your strength do not despise him.
14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
and against your sins it will be credited to you;
15 in the day of your affliction it will be remembered in your favor;
as frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away.
16 Whoever forsakes his father is like a blasphemer,
and whoever angers his mother is cursed by the Lord.
17 My son, perform your tasks in meekness;
then you will be loved by those whom God accepts.
18 The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself;
so you will find favor in the sight of the Lord.
20 For great is the might of the Lord;
he is glorified by the humble.
21 Seek not what is too difficult for you,
nor investigate what is beyond your power.
22 Reflect upon what has been assigned to you,
for you do not need what is hidden.
23 Do not meddle in what is beyond your tasks,
for matters too great for human understanding have been shown you.
24 For their hasty judgment has led many astray,
and wrong opinion has caused their thoughts to slip.
26 A stubborn mind will be afflicted at the end,
and whoever loves danger will perish by it.
27 A stubborn mind will be burdened by troubles,
and the sinner will heap sin upon sin.
28 The affliction of the proud has no healing,
for a plant of wickedness has taken root in him.
29 The mind of the intelligent man will ponder a parable,
and an attentive ear is the wise man’s desire.
Alms for the Poor
30 Water extinguishes a blazing fire:
so almsgiving atones for sin.
31 Whoever requites favors gives thought to the future;
at the moment of his falling he will find support.
Duties toward the Poor and the Oppressed
4 My son, deprive not the poor of his living,
and do not keep needy eyes waiting.
2 Do not grieve the one who is hungry,
nor anger a man in want.
3 Do not add to the troubles of an angry mind,
nor delay your gift to a beggar.
4 Do not reject an afflicted suppliant,
nor turn your face away from the poor.
5 Do not avert your eye from the needy,
nor give a man occasion to curse you;
6 for if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you,
his Creator will hear his prayer.
7 Make yourself beloved in the congregation;
bow your head low to a great man.
8 Incline your ear to the poor,
and answer him peaceably and gently.
9 Deliver him who is wronged from the hand of the wrongdoer;
and do not be fainthearted in judging a case.
10 Be like a father to orphans,
and instead of a husband to their mother;
you will then be like a son of the Most High,
and he will love you more than does your mother.
The Rewards of Wisdom
11 Wisdom exalts her sons
and gives help to those who seek her.
12 Whoever loves her loves life,
and those who seek her early will be filled with joy.
13 Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory,
and the Lord will bless the place she enters.
14 Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One;
the Lord loves those who love her.
15 He who obeys her will judge the nations,
and whoever gives heed to her will dwell secure.
16 If he has faith in her he will obtain her;
and his descendants will remain in possession of her.
17 For at first she will walk with him on tortuous paths,
she will bring fear and cowardice upon him,
and will torment him by her discipline
until she trusts him,
and she will test him with her ordinances.
18 Then she will come straight back to him and gladden him,
and will reveal her secrets to him.
19 If he goes astray she will forsake him,
and hand him over to his ruin.
20 Observe the right time, and beware of evil;
and do not bring shame on yourself.
21 For there is a shame which brings sin,
and there is a shame which is glory and favor.
22 Do not show partiality, to your own harm,
or deference, to your downfall.
23 Do not refrain from speaking at the crucial time,
and do not hide your wisdom.
24 For wisdom is known through speech,
and education through the words of the tongue.
25 Never speak against the truth,
but be mindful of your ignorance.
26 Do not be ashamed to confess your sins,
and do not try to stop the current of a river.
27 Do not subject yourself to a foolish fellow,
nor show partiality to a ruler.
28 Strive even to death for the truth
and the Lord God will fight for you.
29 Do not be reckless in your speech,
or sluggish and remiss in your deeds.
30 Do not be like a lion in your home,
nor be a faultfinder with your servants.
31 Let not your hand be extended to receive,
but withdrawn when it is time to repay.
Precepts for Everyday Living
5 Do not set your heart on your wealth,
nor say, “I have enough.”
2 Do not follow your inclination and strength,
walking according to the desires of your heart.
3 Do not say, “Who will have power over me?”
for the Lord will surely punish you.
4 Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?”
for the Lord is slow to anger.
5 Do not be so confident of atonement
that you add sin to sin.
6 Do not say, “His mercy is great,
he will forgive the multitude of my sins,”
for both mercy and wrath are with him,
and his anger rests on sinners.
7 Do not delay to turn to the Lord,
nor postpone it from day to day;
for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth,
and at the time of punishment you will perish.
8 Do not depend on dishonest wealth,
for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity.
9 Do not winnow with every wind,
nor follow every path:
the double-tongued sinner does that.
10 Be steadfast in your understanding,
and let your speech be consistent.
11 Be quick to hear,
and be deliberate in answering.
12 If you have understanding, answer your neighbor;
but if not, put your hand on your mouth.
13 Glory and dishonor come from speaking,
and a man’s tongue is his downfall.
14 Do not be called a slanderer,
and do not lie in ambush with your tongue;
for shame comes to the thief,
and severe condemnation to the double-tongued.
15 In great and small matters do not act amiss,
6 and do not become an enemy instead of a friend;
for a bad name incurs shame and reproach:
so fares the double-tongued sinner.
2 Do not exalt yourself through your soul’s counsel,
lest your soul be torn in pieces like a bull.
3 You will devour your leaves and destroy your fruit,
and will be left like a withered tree.
4 An evil soul will destroy him who has it,
and make him the laughingstock of his enemies.
Friendship, False and True
5 A pleasant voice multiplies friends,
and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
6 Let those that are at peace with you be many,
but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
7 When you gain a friend, gain him through testing,
and do not trust him hastily.
8 For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience,
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
9 And there is a friend who changes into an enemy,
and will disclose a quarrel to your disgrace.
10 And there is a friend who is a table companion,
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
11 In your prosperity he will make himself your equal,
and be bold with your servants;
12 but if you are brought low he will turn against you,
and will hide himself from your presence.
13 Keep yourself far from your enemies,
and be on guard toward your friends.
14 A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
he that has found one has found a treasure.
15 There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure his excellence.
16 A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find him.
17 Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright,
for as he is, so is his neighbor also.
Blessings of Wisdom
18 My son, from your youth up choose instruction,
and until you are old you will keep finding wisdom.
19 Come to her like one who plows and sows,
and wait for her good harvest.
For in her service you will toil a little while,
and soon you will eat of her produce.
20 She seems very harsh to the uninstructed;
a weakling will not remain with her.
21 She will weigh him down like a heavy testing stone,
and he will not be slow to cast her off.
22 For wisdom is like her name,
and is not manifest to many.
23 Listen, my son, and accept my judgment;
do not reject my counsel.
24 Put your feet into her fetters,
and your neck into her collar.
25 Put your shoulder under her and carry her,
and do not fret under her bonds.
26 Come to her with all your soul,
and keep her ways with all your might.
27 Search out and seek, and she will become known to you;
and when you get hold of her, do not let her go.
28 For at last you will find the rest she gives,
and she will be changed into joy for you.
29 Then her fetters will become for you a strong protection,
and her collar a glorious robe.
30 Her yoke is a golden ornament,
and her bonds are a cord of blue.
31 You will wear her like a glorious robe,
and put her on like a crown of gladness.
32 If you are willing, my son, you will be taught,
and if you apply yourself you will become clever.
33 If you love to listen you will gain knowledge,
and if you incline your ear you will become wise.
34 Stand in the assembly of the elders.
Who is wise? Cleave to him.
35 Be ready to listen to every narrative,
and do not let wise proverbs escape you.
36 If you see an intelligent man, visit him early;
let your foot wear out his doorstep.
37 Reflect on the statutes of the Lord,
and meditate at all times on his commandments.
It is he who will give insight to your mind,
and your desire for wisdom will be granted.
7 Do no evil, and evil will never befall you.
2 Stay away from wrong, and it will turn away from you.
3 My son, do not sow the furrows of injustice,
and you will not reap a sevenfold crop.
4 Do not seek from the Lord the highest office,
nor the seat of honor from the king.
5 Do not assert your righteousness before the Lord,
nor display your wisdom before the king.
6 Do not seek to become a judge,
lest you be unable to remove iniquity,
lest you be partial to a powerful man,
and thus put a blot on your integrity.
7 Do not offend against the public,
and do not disgrace yourself among the people.
8 Do not commit a sin twice;
even for one you will not go unpunished.
9 Do not say, “He will consider the multitude of my gifts,
and when I make an offering to the Most High God he will accept it.”
10 Do not be fainthearted in your prayer,
nor neglect to give alms.
11 Do not ridicule a man who is bitter in soul,
for there is One who abases and exalts.
12 Do not devise a lie against your brother,
nor do the like to a friend.
13 Refuse to utter any lie,
for the habit of lying serves no good.
14 Do not prattle in the assembly of the elders,
nor repeat yourself in your prayer.
15 Do not hate toilsome labor,
or farm work, which were created by the Most High.
16 Do not count yourself among the crowd of sinners;
remember that wrath does not delay.
17 Humble yourself greatly,
for the punishment of the ungodly is fire and worms.
Relations with Others
18 Do not exchange a friend for money,
or a real brother for the gold of Ophir.
19 Do not deprive yourself of a wise and good wife,
for her charm is worth more than gold.
20 Do not abuse a servant who performs his work faithfully,
or a hired laborer who devotes himself to you.
21 Let your soul love an intelligent servant;
do not withhold from him his freedom.
22 Do you have cattle? Look after them;
if they are profitable to you, keep them.
23 Do you have children? Discipline them,
and make them obedient from their youth.
24 Do you have daughters? Be concerned for their chastity,
and do not show yourself too indulgent with them.
25 Give a daughter in marriage; you will have finished a great task.
But give her to a man of understanding.
26 If you have a wife who pleases you, do not cast her out;
but do not trust yourself to one whom you detest.
27 With all your heart honor your father,
and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother.
28 Remember that through your parents you were born;
and what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?
29 With all your soul fear the Lord,
and honor his priests.
30 With all your might love your Maker,
and do not forsake his ministers.
31 Fear the Lord and honor the priest,
and give him his portion, as is commanded you:
the first fruits, the guilt offering, the gift of the shoulders,
the sacrifice of sanctification, and the first fruits of the holy things.
32 Stretch forth your hand to the poor,
so that your blessing may be complete.
33 Give graciously to all the living,
and withhold not kindness from the dead.
34 Do not fail those who weep,
but mourn with those who mourn.
35 Do not shrink from visiting a sick man,
because for such deeds you will be loved.
36 In all you do, remember the end of your life,
and then you will never sin.
Prudence and Common Sense
8 Do not contend with a powerful man,
lest you fall into his hands.
2 Do not quarrel with a rich man,
lest his resources outweigh yours;
for gold has ruined many,
and has perverted the minds of kings.
3 Do not argue with a chatterer,
nor heap wood on his fire.
4 Do not jest with an ill-bred person,
lest your ancestors be disgraced.
5 Do not reproach a man who is turning away from sin;
remember that we all deserve punishment.
6 Do not disdain a man when he is old,
for some of us are growing old.
7 Do not rejoice over any one’s death;
remember that we all must die.
8 Do not slight the discourse of the sages,
but busy yourself with their maxims;
because from them you will gain instruction
and learn how to serve great men.
9 Do not disregard the discourse of the aged,
for they themselves learned from their fathers;
because from them you will gain understanding
and learn how to give an answer in time of need.
10 Do not kindle the coals of a sinner,
lest you be burned in his flaming fire.
11 Do not get up and leave an insolent fellow,
lest he lie in ambush against your words.
12 Do not lend to a man who is stronger than you;
but if you do lend anything, be as one who has lost it.
13 Do not give surety beyond your means,
but if you give surety, be concerned as one who must pay.
14 Do not go to law against a judge,
for the decision will favor him because of his standing.
15 Do not travel on the road with a foolhardy fellow,
lest he be burdensome to you;
for he will act as he pleases,
and through his folly you will perish with him.
16 Do not fight with a wrathful man,
and do not cross the wilderness with him;
because blood is as nothing in his sight,
and where no help is at hand, he will strike you down.
17 Do not consult with a fool,
for he will not be able to keep a secret.
18 In the presence of a stranger do nothing that is to be kept secret,
for you do not know what he will divulge.
19 Do not reveal your thoughts to every one,
lest you drive away your good luck.