Wisdom of Ben Sira 18

Chapter 18

The Wonders of the Lord Are Unfathomable[a]

1 He who lives forever is the Creator of the entire universe;
2 the Lord alone is righteous.
[2b [b]And there are no others beside him.
3 He guides the world with a turn of his hand,
and all things obey his will;
for he is king of all things by his power,
separating the holy things among them from the profane.]
4 To no one has he given the power to adequately proclaim his works,
and who can fathom his mighty deeds?
5 Who can assess his majestic power
or fully recount all of his mercies?
6 The wonders of the Lord can be neither diminished nor increased,
nor are they possible to fathom.
7 When a man finishes, he is still only beginning,
and when he stops, he is still confused.

What Is a Man?[c]

8 What is a man? What purpose does he serve?
What about him is good, and what is evil?
9 The span of his life is great
if he attains one hundred years.
[But the death of each one is beyond the calculation of all.][d]
10 Like a drop of water from the sea or a grain of sand,
such are these few years compared with eternity.
11 That is why the Lord is patient with men
and pours out his mercy on them.
12 He sees and recognizes how wretched their end will be,
and thus he is even more lavish with his compassion.
13 Man’s compassion is for his neighbor,
but the compassion of the Lord extends to everyone.
He rebukes, trains, and teaches them,
and he brings them back into the fold as a shepherd does his flock.
14 He has compassion on those who accept his teaching
and are diligent in obeying his precepts.

Excesses of the Tongue and Greed Are the Enemies of Wisdom[e]

The Manner of Giving Is Worth More than the Gift[f]

15 My child, do not temper your good deeds with reproach,
or spoil your gifts with harsh words.
16 Does not dew give relief from the heat?
In the same way, a word can do more than a gift.
17 Sometimes a word is better than an expensive gift;
both are the hallmark of a gracious person.
18 A fool offers nothing but insult,
and a gift given begrudgingly dims the expectant eyes.

Know How To Reflect and Foresee[g]

19 Be fully informed before you speak;
before you fall sick, take care of your health.
20 Before judgment comes, examine yourself,
and at your hour of scrutiny you will find forgiveness.[h]
21 Before you fall ill, humble yourself,
and repent as soon as you have sinned.
[Do not delay in giving up sinning,
or neglect to do so until you are in distress.
Do not set a time for giving up sinning;
be mindful that death will not delay its coming.][i]
22 Let nothing hinder you from promptly discharging your vows;
do not wait until the moment of death to fulfill them.
23 Before making a vow, give it careful consideration,
do not imitate one who puts the Lord to the test.
24 Think of his wrath on the day of death,
and of the moment of vengeance when he turns away his face.
25 Remember the time of famine in the time of plenty;
think of poverty and need in the days of wealth.
26 Between morning and evening changes occur;
all things are fleeting in the sight of the Lord.
27 The wise man is cautious in every respect;
during sinful times he is on his guard against wrongdoing.
28 Every person of intelligence recognizes wisdom
and praises anyone who finds her.
29 Those who are trained in her words must proclaim her wisdom
and pour forth sound proverbs.
[It is better to trust in the one Lord
than to cling with a deadened heart to dead idols.][j]

Do Not Be Governed by Your Passions[k]

30 Do not be governed by your passions,
but keep your desires in check.
31 If you succumb to the enticements of base desires,
you will become the laughingstock of your enemies.
32 Do not revel in luxurious living,
or the expense involved may cause your impoverishment.
33 Do not become a beggar by feasting on credit
when you have nothing in your money bag.
[For you will be plotting against your own life.][l]


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:1 Even though their dignity is great, human beings remain weak and doomed to death in contrast to the Sovereign Master of the world, the Almighty One who knows no end and whom they can never understand (vv. 5-6).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:2 Added by some early MSS.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:8 Believers share the questions of all human beings. God’s universal mercy and its pedagogical character constitute a new aspect of the Old Testament.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:9 Added by some early MSS.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:15 After a lengthy debate about the human condition entrusted to God’s mercy, the author sets forth anew a succession of practical counsels whose main themes we highlight.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:15 The author stresses that in doing a charitable act the giver must be careful not to humiliate the receiver (v. 16).
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:19 The ancients regarded sickness as a punishment for sin. Living a good life gave some assurance of escaping sickness and of avoiding the threat of a premature death. In this and in other things, the sage is concerned with a prudent way of acting.
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:20 One way of obtaining forgiveness mentioned often in Scripture is by giving alms (see Sir 3:30-31; 29:1; Tob 12:12-13; Dan 4:24; Lk 16:9; Acts 10:31).
  9. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:21 Added in some early MSS.
  10. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:29 Added in some early MSS.
  11. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:30 Wine, women, excess, and passion pervert sensible people. Wisdom is to maintain control over one’s passions.
  12. Wisdom of Ben Sira 18:33 Added in some early MSS.

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