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Book of Ben Sira 1-24: The Wisdom of a Sage

Greco-Roman Period
Lawrence H. Schiffman, Texts and Traditions, Ktav, Hoboken 1998, p.330-333 and Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Apocrypha, copyright 1957 by 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.

Ben Sira, composed by a wisdom sage who led a school for young men in Jerusalem in about 180 B.C.E., survives in Hebrew manuscripts found at Qumran, Masada, and the medieval Cairo genizah—and in Greek as well. Like the biblical Proverbs, much of the material is couched as a father’s ethical advice to his son. God created Wisdom, personified as a woman, as a gift to man just as He created Eve as a gift to Adam.

1- 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….

22 Unrighteous anger cannot be justified,

for a man’s anger tips the scaleto 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….

2- 1 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.

S 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….

3-10 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 ofthe Lord- he is glorified by the humble….

4-1 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….

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….

9-1 Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom,

and do not teach her an evil lesson to your own hurt.

2 Do not give yourself to a woman so that she gains mastery over your strength.

3 Do not go to meet a loose woman,

lest you fall into her snares….

8 Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman,

and do not look intently at beauty belonging to another;

many have been misled by a woman’s beauty,

and by it passion is kindled like a fire.

24-1 Wisdom will praise herself, and will glory in the midst of her people.

2 In the assembly of the Most High she will open her mouth,

and in the presence of his host she will glory-

3 “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,

and covered the earth like a mist.

4 I dwelt in high places,

and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.

5 Alone I have made the circuit of the vault of heaven

and have walked in the depths of the abyss.

6 In the waves of the sea, in the whole earth,

and in every people and nation I have gotten a possession.

7 Among all these I sought a restingplace;

I sought in whose territory I might lodge.

8 Then the Creator of all things gave me a commandment

and the one who created me assigned a place for my tent.

And he said, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob,

and in Israel receive your inheritance.’

9 From eternity, in the beginning, he created me,

and for eternity I shall not cease to exist.

10 In the holy tabernacle I ministered before him,

and so I Was established in Zion.

11 In the beloved city likewise he gave me a resting place,

and in Jerusalem was my dominion.

12 So I took root in an honored people,

in the portion of the Lord, who is their inheritance….”

Posted in: Literary Prophecy

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