Wisdom of Ben Sira 10

Chapter 10

An Able Leader Is a Gift of Providence[a]

1 A wise magistrate educates his people,
and the government of a prudent man is well regulated.
2 As is the people’s magistrate, so are his officials;
as is the ruler of a city, so are its inhabitants.
3 An undisciplined king causes the ruin of his people,
whereas a city will prosper through the prudence of its rulers.
4 The governance of the earth is in the hand of God;
he will raise up the right leader over it at the proper time.
5 All human success is also in the hand of God;
it is he who confers honor upon the lawgiver.[b]

The Sin of Pride[c]

6 Do not become angry at every offense committed by your neighbor,
and do not resort to acts of violence.
7 Arrogance is hateful in the sight of both the Lord and man,
and injustice is abhorrent to both.
8 Sovereignty passes from nation to nation
as the result of injustice, arrogance, and wealth.
[Nothing is more evil than one who loves money,
for such a person places his soul on sale.]
9 [d]For what reason are dust and ashes proud?
Even in life the body is subject to decay.
10 A lengthy illness baffles the doctor;
the king of today will be a corpse tomorrow.
11 One who dies receives only an inheritance
of maggots and wild animals[e] and worms.
12 The beginning of human pride is the forsaking of the Lord,
the withdrawal of one’s heart from its Maker.
13 For pride is the beginning of sin,
and those who cling to it pour forth filth.
For this reason God afflicts them with unheard-of calamities
and destroys them completely.
14 The Lord overthrows the throne of rulers
and seats the humble in their place.
15 The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations[f]
and plants the lowly in their place.
16 The Lord lays waste the territory of the nations
and destroys them to the very foundations of the earth.
17 He sweeps away every trace of some of the nations
and blots out the memory of them from the earth.
18 Pride was not created for men,
nor violent anger for one born of woman.

True Glory Is To Fear God[g]

19 Whose offspring are worthy of honor? Human offspring.
Whose offspring are worthy of honor? Those who fear the Lord.
Whose offspring deserve contempt? Human offspring.
Whose offspring deserve contempt? Those who break the commandments.
20 The members of a family hold their leader in honor,
but he who fears the Lord is worthy of honor in his eyes.
[21 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of acceptance,
while stubbornness and pride are the beginning of rejection.][h]
22 The wealthy, the noble, and the poor
achieve their glory in the fear of the Lord.
23 It is not right to despise someone who is intelligent but poor,
nor is it proper to honor anyone who is sinful.
24 The prince, the judge, and the ruler are held in honor,
but none is as great as the one who fears the Lord.
25 When those who are free serve a wise servant,
an intelligent man will not complain.

Value Yourself at Your True Worth[i]

26 Do not flaunt your wisdom in doing your work,
and do not put on airs when you are in need.
27 Better the diligent worker who has plenty of everything
than one who boasts on an empty stomach.
28 My child, in the practice of humility do not neglect your self-respect;
value yourself at your true worth.
29 Who will acquit one who condemns himself?
Who will honor one who holds himself in low esteem?
30 The poor man is honored for his skill,[j]
the rich man for his wealth.
31 One who is honored in poverty, how much more so in wealth!
And one who is dishonored in wealth, how much more so in poverty!


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:1 It is not enough for a ruler to receive or to acquire power. He must know how to wield authority with knowledge and integrity.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:5 Lawgiver: Hebrew; Greek reads: “scribe.”
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:6 The author repeats this time after time: the supreme sin is to want to put oneself above the Creator and to despise human solidarity. Nothing is more intolerable, and it is to reestablish the order of things that God punishes the proud. The sage is evidently thinking of the examples from the political life of his day, which was filled with the succession of rival dynasties (v. 8) and the collapse of more than one pretentious regime (vv. 16-20). This passage reminds us of the canticle of Hannah (1 Sam 2:4-8), which inspired the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-52).
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:9 Life is so uncertain that no one has reason to be proud. One may be a king today but gone tomorrow!
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:11 Wild animals: Hebrew reads: “vermin.”
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:15 Nations: some early MSS read: “proud nations.”
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:19 The teaching of the sage agrees with the teaching of the Prophets (Jer 9:22f): human beings are honorable not by the dignity of their function nor by their social rank but by the authenticity of their religious life.
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:21 Added by some early MSS.
  9. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:26 To be true and humble does not consist in cultivating sentiments of inferiority but in accepting what one really is.
  10. Wisdom of Ben Sira 10:30 Skill: some early MSS read: “wisdom.”

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