This is an excerpt from the Book of Sirach (The Wisdom of Yeshua ben Eliazar ben Sira) also called Ecclesiasticus in Latin. It is an impressive collection of proverbial ethical teachings assembled by a Jewish scribe sometime during the 2nd century BCE. The book is an excellent example of Jewish ethics and wisdom from the Second Temple period. It sounds a lot like Proverbs of Solomon (20-25) and many early Christ-followers found it inspirational. Even the Talmud cites its wisdom.

At two things my heart is grieved, and because of a third anger comes over me:
a warrior in want through poverty, intelligent men who are treated contemptuously, and a man who turns back from righteousness to sin— the Lord will prepare him for the sword! A merchant can hardly keep from wrongdoing, nor is a tradesman innocent of sin. Many have committed sin for gain, and those who seek to get rich will avert their eyes. As a stake is driven firmly into a fissure between stones, so sin is wedged in between selling and buying. If a person is not steadfast in the fear of the Lord, his house will be quickly overthrown.

When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears; so do a person’s faults when he speaks. The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a person is in his conversation. Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind. Do not praise anyone before he speaks, for this is the way people are tested.

If you pursue justice, you will attain it and wear it like a glorious robe.
Birds roost with their own kind, so honesty comes home to those who practice it.
A lion lies in wait for prey; so does sin for evildoers.

Whoever winks the eye plots mischief, and those who know him will keep their distance.
In your presence, his mouth is all sweetness, and he admires your words;
but later he will twist his speech and with your own words he will trip you up.
I have hated many things, but him above all; even the Lord hates him.

Whoever throws a stone straight up throws it on his own head, and a treacherous blow opens up many wounds. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and whoever sets a snare will be caught in it. If a person does evil, it will roll back upon him, and he will not know where it came from. Mockery and abuse issue from the proud, but vengeance lies in wait for them like a lion. Those who rejoice in the fall of the godly will be caught in a snare,
and pain will consume them before their death. (Sirach 26:28–27:10, 22-29 NRSV)

9 COMMENTS

  1. I know for many centuries the Hebrew originals of Ben Sira were lost and several of the Dead Sea Scrolls contained portions of the Hebrew original. Do we have a complete copy of the Hebrew original now?

  2. Me gustaría estudiar la Biblia en hebreo y el hebreo en su totalidad pero no tengo el dinero suficiente en este momento para realizar ese estudio Muchas gracias

  3. Thank you for the emails with scripture. I need this every day. I am Catholic so reading scripture is very important to me. God bless.

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