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Sirach 1-8Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Prologue

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[a] 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.[b] 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

All wisdom comes from the Lord
    and is with him for ever.
The sand of the sea, the drops of rain,
    and the days of eternity—who can count them?
The height of heaven, the breadth of the earth,
    the abyss, and wisdom—who can search them out?
Wisdom was created before all things,
    and prudent understanding from eternity.[c]
The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?
    Her clever devices—who knows them?[d]
There is One who is wise, greatly to be feared,
    sitting upon his throne.
The Lord himself created wisdom;[e]
    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[f] 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[g] 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.[h]

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,[i]
    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

My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord,
    prepare yourself for temptation.[j]
Set your heart right and be steadfast,
    and do not be hasty in time of calamity.
Cleave to him and do not depart,
    that you may be honored at the end of your life.
Accept whatever is brought upon you,
    and in changes that humble you be patient.
For gold is tested in the fire,
    and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
Trust in him, and he will help you;
    make your ways straight, and hope in him.

You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
    and turn not aside, lest you fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust in him,
    and your reward will not fail;
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[k] 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[l] 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

Listen to me your father, O children;
    and act accordingly, that you may be kept in safety.
For the Lord honored the father above the children,
    and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
    and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure.
Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children,
    and when he prays he will be heard.
Whoever glorifies his father will have long life,
    and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother;
    he will serve his parents as his masters.[m]
Honor your father by word and deed,
    that a blessing from him may come upon you.
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.

Humility

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.[n]
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.[o]

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

My son, deprive not the poor of his living,
    and do not keep needy eyes waiting.
Do not grieve the one who is hungry,
    nor anger a man in want.
Do not add to the troubles of an angry mind,
    nor delay your gift to a beggar.
Do not reject an afflicted suppliant,
    nor turn your face away from the poor.
Do not avert your eye from the needy,
    nor give a man occasion to curse you;
for if in bitterness of soul he calls down a curse upon you,
    his Creator will hear his prayer.

Make yourself beloved in the congregation;
    bow your head low to a great man.
Incline your ear to the poor,
    and answer him peaceably and gently.
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[p] enters.
14 Those who serve her will minister to the Holy One;[q]
    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;[r]
    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,[s]
    and do not hide your wisdom.[t]
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

Do not set your heart on your wealth,
    nor say, “I have enough.”
Do not follow your inclination and strength,
    walking according to the desires of your heart.
Do not say, “Who will have power over me?”
    for the Lord will surely punish you.

Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?”
    for the Lord is slow to anger.
Do not be so confident of atonement
    that you add sin to sin.
Do not say, “His mercy is great,
    he will forgive[u] the multitude of my sins,”
for both mercy and wrath are with him,
    and his anger rests on sinners.
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.

Do not depend on dishonest wealth,
    for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity.
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,
and do not become an enemy instead of a friend;
for a bad name incurs shame and reproach:
    so fares the double-tongued sinner.

Do not exalt yourself through your soul’s counsel,
    lest your soul be torn in pieces like a bull.[v]
You will devour your leaves and destroy your fruit,
    and will be left like a withered tree.
An evil soul will destroy him who has it,
    and make him the laughingstock of his enemies.

Friendship, False and True

A pleasant voice multiplies friends,
    and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
Let those that are at peace with you be many,
    but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
When you gain a friend, gain him through testing,
    and do not trust him hastily.
For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience,
    but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
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[w] 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[x] 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[y] your mind,
    and your desire for wisdom will be granted.

Miscellaneous Advice

Do no evil, and evil will never befall you.
    Stay away from wrong, and it will turn away from you.
My son, do not sow the furrows of injustice,
    and you will not reap a sevenfold crop.

Do not seek from the Lord the highest office,
    nor the seat of honor from the king.
Do not assert your righteousness before the Lord,
    nor display your wisdom before the king.
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.
Do not offend against the public,
    and do not disgrace yourself among the people.

Do not commit a sin twice;
    even for one you will not go unpunished.
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[z] 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.[aa]

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[ab] 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[ac] from their youth.
24 Do you have daughters? Be concerned for their chastity,[ad]
    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,[ae] 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[af] 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

Do not contend with a powerful man,
    lest you fall into his hands.
Do not quarrel with a rich man,
    lest his resources outweigh yours;
for gold has ruined many,
    and has perverted the minds of kings.
Do not argue with a chatterer,
    nor heap wood on his fire.

Do not jest with an ill-bred person,
    lest your ancestors be disgraced.
Do not reproach a man who is turning away from sin;
    remember that we all deserve punishment.
Do not disdain a man when he is old,
    for some of us are growing old.
Do not rejoice over any one’s death;
    remember that we all must die.

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.
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.[ag]
19 Do not reveal your thoughts to every one,
    lest you drive away your good luck.[ah]

Footnotes:

  1. Sirach 1:1 Or Please read therefore with good will and attention, and be indulgent
  2. Sirach 1:1 Other authorities read a copy affording no little instruction
  3. Sirach 1:4 Other authorities add as verse 5, The source of wisdom is God’s word in the highest heaven, and her ways are the eternal commandments.
  4. Sirach 1:6 Other authorities add as verse 7, The knowledge of wisdom—to whom was it manifested? And her abundant experience—who has understood it?
  5. Sirach 1:9 Gk her
  6. Sirach 1:15 Gk made as nest
  7. Sirach 1:16 Gk intoxicates
  8. Sirach 1:20 Other authorities add as verse 21, The fear of the Lord drives away sins; and where it abides, it will turn away all anger.
  9. Sirach 1:29 Syr: Gk in the mouths of men
  10. Sirach 2:1 Or trials
  11. Sirach 2:10 Gk of him
  12. Sirach 2:18 Gk We shall fall
  13. Sirach 3:7 In other authorities this line is preceded by Whoever fears the Lord will honor his father,
  14. Sirach 3:18 Other authorities add as verse 19, Many are lofty and renowned, but to the meek he reveals his secrets.
  15. Sirach 3:24 Other authorities add as verse 25, If you have no eyes you will be without light; if you lack knowledge do not profess to have it.
  16. Sirach 4:13 Or he
  17. Sirach 4:14 Or at the holy place
  18. Sirach 4:20 Or an evil man
  19. Sirach 4:23 Cn: Gk at a time of salvation
  20. Sirach 4:23 So some Gk Mss and Heb Syr Vg: other Gk Mss omit and do not hide your wisdom
  21. Sirach 5:6 Heb: Gk he (or it) will atone for
  22. Sirach 6:2 The meaning of the Greek of this verse is obscure
  23. Sirach 6:30 Heb: Gk Upon her
  24. Sirach 6:35 Heb: Gk adds divine
  25. Sirach 6:37 Heb: Gk will confirm
  26. Sirach 7:12 Heb: Gk plow
  27. Sirach 7:17 The Hebrew text reads for the expectation of man is worms
  28. Sirach 7:21 The Hebrew text reads Love like yourself
  29. Sirach 7:23 Gk bend their necks
  30. Sirach 7:24 Gk body
  31. Sirach 7:26 Heb Syr omit who pleases you
  32. Sirach 7:28 Gk them
  33. Sirach 8:18 Or it will bring forth
  34. Sirach 8:19 Heb: Gk let him not return a favor to you
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.

Sirach 12-18Revised Standard Version (RSV)

12 If you do a kindness, know to whom you do it,
    and you will be thanked for your good deeds.
Do good to a godly man, and you will be repaid—
    if not by him, certainly by the Most High.
No good will come to the man who persists in evil
    or to him who does not give alms.
Give to the godly man, but do not help the sinner.
    Do good to the humble, but do not give to the ungodly;
hold back his bread, and do not give it to him,
    lest by means of it he subdue you;
for you will receive twice as much evil
    for all the good which you do to him.
For the Most High also hates sinners
    and will inflict punishment on the ungodly.[a]
Give to the good man, but do not help the sinner.

A friend will not be known[b] in prosperity,
    nor will an enemy be hidden in adversity.
A man’s enemies are grieved when he prospers,
    and in his adversity even his friend will separate from him.
10 Never trust your enemy,
    for like the rusting of copper, so is his wickedness.
11 Even if he humbles himself and goes about cringing,
    watch yourself, and be on your guard against him;
and you will be to him like one who has polished a mirror,
    and you will know that it was not hopelessly tarnished.
12 Do not put him next to you,
    lest he overthrow you and take your place;
do not have him sit at your right,
    lest he try to take your seat of honor,
and at last you will realize the truth of my words,
    and be stung by what I have said.

13 Who will pity a snake charmer bitten by a serpent,
    or any who go near wild beasts?
14 So no one will pity a man who associates with a sinner
    and becomes involved in his sins.
15 He will stay with you for a time,
    but if you falter, he will not stand by you.

16 An enemy will speak sweetly with his lips,
    but in his mind he will plan to throw you into a pit;
an enemy will weep with his eyes,
    but if he finds an opportunity his thirst for blood will be insatiable.
17 If calamity befalls you, you will find him there ahead of you;
    and while pretending to help you, he will trip you by the heel;
18 he will shake his head, and clap his hands,
    and whisper much, and change his expression.

Caution Regarding Associates

13 Whoever touches pitch will be defiled,
    and whoever associates with a proud man will become like him.
Do not lift a weight beyond your strength,
    nor associate with a man mightier and richer than you.
How can the clay pot associate with the iron kettle?
    The pot will strike against it, and will itself be broken.
A rich man does wrong, and he even adds reproaches;
    a poor man suffers wrong, and he must add apologies.
A rich man[c] will exploit you if you can be of use to him,
    but if you are in need he will forsake you.
If you own something, he will live with you;
    he will drain your resources and he will not care.
When he needs you he will deceive you,
    he will smile at you and give you hope.
He will speak to you kindly and say, “What do you need?”
He will shame you with his foods,
    until he has drained you two or three times;
    and finally he will deride you.
Should he see you afterwards, he will forsake you,
    and shake his head at you.

Take care not to be led astray,
    and not to be humiliated in your feasting.[d]
When a powerful man invites you, be reserved;
    and he will invite you the more often.
10 Do not push forward, lest you be repulsed;
    and do not remain at a distance, lest you be forgotten.
11 Do not try to treat him as an equal,
    nor trust his abundance of words;
for he will test you through much talk,
    and while he smiles he will be examining you.
12 Cruel is he who does not keep words to himself;
    he will not hesitate to injure or to imprison.
13 Keep words to yourself and be very watchful,
    for you are walking about with your own downfall.[e]

15 Every creature loves its like,
    and every person his neighbor;
16 all living beings associate by species,
    and a man clings to one like himself.
17 What fellowship has a wolf with a lamb?
    No more has a sinner with a godly man.
18 What peace is there between a hyena and a dog?
    And what peace between a rich man and a poor man?
19 Wild asses in the wilderness are the prey of lions;
    likewise the poor are pastures for the rich.
20 Humility is an abomination to a proud man;
    likewise a poor man is an abomination to a rich one.

21 When a rich man totters, he is steadied by friends,
    but when a humble man falls, he is even pushed away by friends.
22 If a rich man slips, his helpers are many;
    he speaks unseemly words, and they justify him.
If a humble man slips, they even reproach him;
    he speaks sensibly, and receives no attention.
23 When the rich man speaks all are silent,
    and they extol to the clouds what he says.
When the poor man speaks they say, “Who is this fellow?”
    And should he stumble, they even push him down.

24 Riches are good if they are free from sin,
    and poverty is evil in the opinion of the ungodly.
25 A man’s heart changes his countenance,
    either for good or for evil.[f]
26 The mark of a happy heart is a cheerful face,
    but to devise proverbs requires painful thinking.
14 Blessed is the man who does not blunder with his lips
    and need not suffer grief for sin.
Blessed is he whose heart does not condemn him,
    and who has not given up his hope.

Responsible Use of Wealth

Riches are not seemly for a stingy man;
    and of what use is property to an envious man?
Whoever accumulates by depriving himself, accumulates for others;
    and others will live in luxury on his goods.
If a man is mean to himself, to whom will he be generous?
    He will not enjoy his own riches.
No one is meaner than the man who is grudging to himself,
    and this is the retribution for his baseness;
even if he does good, he does it unintentionally,
    and betrays his baseness in the end.
Evil is the man with a grudging eye;
    he averts his face and disregards people.
A greedy man’s eye is not satisfied with a portion,
    and mean injustice withers the soul.
10 A stingy man’s eye begrudges bread,
    and it is lacking at his table.

11 My son, treat yourself well, according to your means,
    and present worthy offerings to the Lord.
12 Remember that death will not delay,
    and the decree[g] of Hades has not been shown to you.
13 Do good to a friend before you die,
    and reach out and give to him as much as you can.
14 Do not deprive yourself of a happy day;
    let not your share of desired good pass by you.
15 Will you not leave the fruit of your labors to another,
    and what you acquired by toil to be divided by lot?
16 Give, and take, and beguile yourself,
    because in Hades one cannot look for luxury.
17 All living beings become old like a garment,
    for the decree[h] from of old is, “You must surely die!”
18 Like flourishing leaves on a spreading tree
    which sheds some and puts forth others,
so are the generations of flesh and blood:
    one dies and another is born.
19 Every product decays and ceases to exist,
    and the man who made it will pass away with it.

The Happiness of Seeking Wisdom

20 Blessed is the man who meditates on[i] wisdom
    and who reasons intelligently.
21 He who reflects in his mind on her ways
    will also ponder her secrets.
22 Pursue wisdom[j] like a hunter,
    and lie in wait on her paths.
23 He who peers through her windows
    will also listen at her doors;
24 he who encamps near her house
    will also fasten his tent peg to her walls;
25 he will pitch his tent near her,
    and will lodge in an excellent lodging place;
26 he will place his children under her shelter,
    and will camp under her boughs;
27 he will be sheltered by her from the heat,
    and will dwell in the midst of her glory.

15 The man who fears the Lord will do this,
    and he who holds to the law will obtain wisdom.[k]
She will come to meet him like a mother,
    and like the wife of his youth she will welcome him.
She will feed him with the bread of understanding,
    and give him the water of wisdom to drink.
He will lean on her and will not fall,
    and he will rely on her and will not be put to shame.
She will exalt him above his neighbors,
    and will open his mouth in the midst of the assembly.
He will find gladness and a crown of rejoicing,
    and will acquire an everlasting name.
Foolish men will not obtain her,
    and sinful men will not see her.
She is far from men of pride,
    and liars will never think of her.

A hymn of praise is not fitting on the lips of a sinner,
    for it has not been sent from the Lord.
10 For a hymn of praise should be uttered in wisdom,
    and the Lord will prosper it.

Freedom of Choice

11 Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”;
    for he[l] will not do what he hates.
12 Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”;
    for he had no need of a sinful man.
13 The Lord hates all abominations,
    and they are not loved by those who fear him.
14 It was he who created man in the beginning,
    and he left him in the power of his own inclination.
15 If you will, you can keep the commandments,
    and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
16 He has placed before you fire and water:
    stretch out your hand for whichever you wish.
17 Before a man[m] are life and death,
    and whichever he chooses will be given to him.
18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
    he is mighty in power and sees everything;
19 his eyes are on those who fear him,
    and he knows every deed of man.
20 He has not commanded any one to be ungodly,
    and he has not given any one permission to sin.

God’s Punishment of Sinners

16 Do not desire a multitude of useless children,
    nor rejoice in ungodly sons.
If they multiply, do not rejoice in them,
    unless the fear of the Lord is in them.
Do not trust in their survival,
    and do not rely on their multitude;
for one is better than a thousand,[n]
    and to die childless is better than to have ungodly children.
For through one man of understanding a city will be filled with people,
    but through a tribe of lawless men it will be made desolate.
Many such things my eye has seen,
    and my ear has heard things more striking than these.

In an assembly of sinners a fire will be kindled,
    and in a disobedient nation wrath was kindled.
He was not propitiated for the ancient giants
    who revolted in their might.
He did not spare the neighbors of Lot,
    whom he loathed on account of their insolence.
He showed no pity for a nation devoted to destruction,
    for those destroyed in their sins;
10 nor for the six hundred thousand men on foot,
    who rebelliously assembled in their stubbornness.
11 Even if there is only one stiff-necked person,
    it will be a wonder if he remains unpunished.
For mercy and wrath are with the Lord;[o]
    he is mighty to forgive, and he pours out wrath.
12 As great as his mercy, so great is also his reproof;
    he judges a man according to his deeds.
13 The sinner will not escape with his plunder,
    and the patience of the godly will not be frustrated.
14 He will make room for every act of mercy;
    every one will receive in accordance with his deeds.[p]

17 Do not say, “I shall be hidden from the Lord,
    and who from on high will remember me?
Among so many people I shall not be known,
    for what is my soul in the boundless creation?
18 Behold, heaven and the highest heaven,
    the abyss and the earth, will tremble at his visitation.
19 The mountains also and the foundations of the earth
    shake with trembling when he looks upon them.
20 And no mind will reflect on this.
    Who will ponder his ways?
21 Like a tempest which no man can see,
    so most of his works are concealed.
22 Who will announce his acts of justice?
    Or who will await them? For the covenant is far off.”
23 This is what one devoid of understanding thinks;
    a senseless and misguided man thinks foolishly.

God’s Wisdom Seen in Creation

24 Listen to me, my son, and acquire knowledge,
    and pay close attention to my words.
25 I will impart instruction by weight,
    and declare knowledge accurately.

26 The works of the Lord have existed from the beginning by his creation,[q]
    and when he made them, he determined their divisions.
27 He arranged his works in an eternal order,
    and their dominion[r] for all[s] generations;
they neither hunger nor grow weary,
    and they do not cease from their labors.
28 They do not crowd one another aside,
    and they will never disobey his word.
29 After this the Lord looked upon the earth,
    and filled it with his good things;
30 with all kinds of living beings he covered its surface,
    and to it they return.

17 The Lord created man out of earth,
    and turned him back to it again.
He gave to men[t] few days, a limited time,
    but granted them authority over the things upon the earth.[u]
He endowed them with strength like his own,[v]
    and made them in his own image.
He placed the fear of them[w] in all living beings,
    and granted them dominion over beasts and birds.[x]
He made for them[y] tongue and eyes;
    he gave them ears and a mind for thinking.
He filled them with knowledge and understanding,
    and showed them good and evil.
He set his eye upon their hearts
    to show them the majesty of his works.[z]
10 And they will praise his holy name,
    to proclaim the grandeur of his works.
11 He bestowed knowledge upon them,
    and allotted to them the law of life.
12 He established with them an eternal covenant,
    and showed them his judgments.
13 Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,
    and their ears heard the glory of his voice.
14 And he said to them, “Beware of all unrighteousness.”[aa]
    And he gave commandment to each of them concerning his neighbor.

15 Their ways are always before him,
    they will not be hid from his eyes.[ab]
17 He appointed a ruler for every nation,
    but Israel is the Lord’s own portion.[ac]
19 All their works are as the sun before him,
    and his eyes are continually upon their ways.
20 Their iniquities are not hidden from him,
    and all their sins are before the Lord.[ad]
22 A man’s almsgiving is like a signet with the Lord,[ae]
    and he will keep a person’s kindness like the apple of his eye.
23 Afterward he will arise and requite them,
    and he will bring their recompense on their heads.
24 Yet to those who repent he grants a return,
    and he encourages those whose endurance is failing.

A Call to Repentance

25 Turn to the Lord and forsake your sins;
    pray in his presence and lessen your offenses.
26 Return to the Most High and turn away from iniquity,[af]
    and hate abominations intensely.
27 Who will sing praises to the Most High in Hades,
    as do those who are alive and give thanks?
28 From the dead, as from one who does not exist, thanksgiving has ceased;
    he who is alive and well sings the Lord’s praises.
29 How great is the mercy of the Lord,
    and his forgiveness for those who turn to him!
30 For all things cannot be in men,[ag]
    since a son of man is not immortal.
31 What is brighter than the sun? Yet its light fails.[ah]
    So flesh and blood devise evil.
32 He marshals the host of the height of heaven;
    but all men are dust and ashes.

The Majesty of God

18 He who lives for ever created the whole universe;
    the Lord alone will be declared righteous.[ai]
To none has he given power to proclaim his works;
    and who can search out his mighty deeds?
Who can measure his majestic power?
    And who can fully recount his mercies?
It is not possible to diminish or increase them,
    nor is it possible to trace the wonders of the Lord.
When a man has finished, he is just beginning,
    and when he stops, he will be at a loss.
What is man, and of what use is he?
    What is his good and what is his evil?
The number of a man’s days is great if he reaches a hundred years.
10 Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain[aj] of sand
    so are a few years in the day of eternity.
11 Therefore the Lord is patient with them
    and pours out his mercy upon them.
12 He sees and recognizes that their end will be evil;
    therefore he grants them forgiveness in abundance.
13 The compassion of man is for his neighbor,
    but the compassion of the Lord is for all living beings.
He rebukes and trains and teaches them,
    and turns them back, as a shepherd his flock.
14 He has compassion on those who accept his discipline
    and who are eager for his judgments.

The Right Spirit in Giving Alms

15 My son, do not mix reproach with your good deeds,
    nor cause grief by your words when you present a gift.
16 Does not the dew assuage the scorching heat?
    So a word is better than a gift.
17 Indeed, does not a word surpass a good gift?
    Both are to be found in a gracious man.
18 A fool is ungracious and abusive,
    and the gift of a grudging man makes the eyes dim.

The Need of Reflection and Self-control

19 Before you speak, learn,
    and before you fall ill, take care of your health.
20 Before judgment, examine yourself,
    and in the hour of visitation you will find forgiveness.
21 Before falling ill, humble yourself,
    and when you are on the point of sinning, turn back.
22 Let nothing hinder you from paying a vow promptly,
    and do not wait until death to be released from it.
23 Before making a vow,[ak] prepare yourself;
    and do not be like a man who tempts the Lord.
24 Think of his wrath on the day of death,
    and of the moment of vengeance when he turns away his face.
25 In the time of plenty think of the time of hunger;
    in the days of wealth think of poverty and need.
26 From morning to evening conditions change,
    and all things move swiftly before the Lord.

27 A wise man is cautious in everything,
    and in days of sin he guards against wrongdoing.
28 Every intelligent man knows wisdom,
    and he praises the one who finds her.
29 Those who understand sayings become skilled themselves,
    and pour forth apt proverbs.

Self-Control

30 Do not follow your base desires,
    but restrain your appetites.
31 If you allow your soul to take pleasure in base desire,
    it will make you the laughingstock of your enemies.
32 Do not revel in great luxury,
    lest you become impoverished by its expense.
33 Do not become a beggar by feasting with borrowed money,
    when you have nothing in your purse.

Footnotes:

  1. Sirach 12:6 Other authorities add and he is keeping them for the mighty day of their punishment
  2. Sirach 12:8 Other authorities read punished
  3. Sirach 13:4 Gk He
  4. Sirach 13:8 Other authorities read folly
  5. Sirach 13:13 Other authorities add When you hear these things in your sleep, wake up! 14 During all your life love the Lord, and call on him for your salvation.
  6. Sirach 13:25 Other authorities add and a glad heart makes a cheerful countenance
  7. Sirach 14:12 Gk covenant
  8. Sirach 14:17 Gk covenant
  9. Sirach 14:20 Other authorities read dies in
  10. Sirach 14:22 Gk her
  11. Sirach 15:1 Gk her
  12. Sirach 15:11 Heb: Gk you
  13. Sirach 15:17 Gk men
  14. Sirach 16:3 The text of this line is uncertain
  15. Sirach 16:11 Gk him
  16. Sirach 16:14 Other authorities add 15 The Lord hardened Pharaoh so that he did not know him; in order that his works might be known under heaven. 16 His mercy is manifest to the whole of creation, and he divided his light and darkness with a plumb line.
  17. Sirach 16:26 Heb: Gk judgment
  18. Sirach 16:27 Or elements
  19. Sirach 16:27 Gk their
  20. Sirach 17:2 Gk them
  21. Sirach 17:2 Gk it
  22. Sirach 17:3 Cn: Gk proper to them
  23. Sirach 17:4 Syr: Gk him
  24. Sirach 17:4 Other authorities add They obtained the use of the five operations of the Lord; as sixth he distributed to them the gift of mind, and as seventh reason, the interpreter of his operations.
  25. Sirach 17:6 Syr: Gk Inclination and
  26. Sirach 17:8 Other authorities add and he gave them to boast of his marvels for ever
  27. Sirach 17:14 Or every unrighteous man
  28. Sirach 17:15 Other authorities add 16 Their ways from youth tend toward evil, and they are unable to make for themselves hearts of flesh in place of their stony hearts. 17 For in the division of the nations of the whole earth
  29. Sirach 17:17 Other authorities add 18 whom, being his first-born, he brings up with discipline, and allotting to him the light of his love, he does not neglect him.
  30. Sirach 17:20 Other authorities add 21 But the Lord, who is gracious and knows his creatures, has neither left nor abandoned them, but spared them.
  31. Sirach 17:22 Gk him
  32. Sirach 17:26 Other authorities add for he will lead you out of darkness to the light of health
  33. Sirach 17:30 The Greek text of this line is uncertain
  34. Sirach 17:31 Or suffers eclipse
  35. Sirach 18:2 Other authorities add and there is no other beside him; he steers the world with the span of his hand, and all things obey his will; for he is king of all things, by his power separating among them the holy things from the profane.
  36. Sirach 18:10 Gk pebble
  37. Sirach 18:23 Or offering a prayer
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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