Idlers Are Despised
1 [a]An idler is like a filthy stone;
everyone hisses at his disgrace.
2 An idler is like a lump of dung;
anyone who picks it up will shake it off his hand.
Parents and Children
3 It is a disgrace to be the father of an unruly son,
but the birth of a daughter is a loss.
4 A sensible daughter will find a husband,
but one who acts shamefully is the source of grief to her father.
5 A brazen daughter brings shame upon her father and her husband
and is despised by both.
6 Inopportune conversation is like music in a time of mourning,
but thrashings and correction are wisdom at all times.
[7 [b]Children whose upbringing leads to a good life
make one forget the humble origin of their parents.
8 Children who are puffed up with disdain and haughtiness
blemish the nobility of their family.]
Working with Fools Is a Lost Cause[c]
9 Teaching a fool is like gluing together pieces of pottery,
or like rousing a sleeper from deep slumber.
10 You might as well talk to someone who is sound asleep as to a fool,
for when you have finished, the fool will say, “What was that?”
11 Weep for the dead man, for he has taken leave of the light;
weep for the fool, for he has taken leave of his wits.
Weep fewer tears for the dead man, for he is at rest,
but the life of a fool is sadder than death.
12 Mourning for the dead lasts seven days,
but for the foolish and the ungodly it lasts all the days of their life.
13 Do not speak often with a fool,
or visit a stupid person.
[For since he is without sense,
he will despise everything about you.][d]
Beware of him or you may find yourself in trouble
and be splattered by contact with him.
Avoid him and you will have peace of mind
and not be exasperated by his lack of sense.
14 What is heavier than lead,
and what is its name but “Fool”?
15 Sand, salt, and a lump of iron
are easier to bear than a stupid man.
16 A wooden beam firmly bonded into a building
is not dislodged by an earthquake.
So, too, a mind firmly resolved after due reflection
will not be shaken in a moment of crisis.
17 A mind based on intelligent reflection
is like fine decoration on a smooth wall.
18 Fences[e] lying on a high place
will not stand firm against the wind.
Neither can a mind made timid by foolish plans
withstand any kind of fear.
Friendship Does Not Dispense with Tact[f]
19 Jab an eye and you will bring tears;
jab a heart and you will lay bare its feelings.
20 If you throw a stone at birds, you frighten them away;
if you revile a friend, you destroy a friendship.
21 If you draw a sword against a friend,
do not despair, for it can still be undone.
22 If you have quarreled with a friend,
do not fear, for you can still be reconciled.
But as for taunts, arrogance, betrayal of secrets, and stabs in the back—
these will drive away any friend.
23 Be faithful to your neighbor while he is poor
so that you may later rejoice with him in his good fortune.
Stand by him in times of distress
so that you may share with him in his inheritance.
[For no one should ever despise someone’s appearance
or marvel at a stupid man who is rich.][g]
24 Just as the fumes and smoke of a furnace precede the flames,
so do insults precede bloodshed.
25 I will not be ashamed to shelter a friend,
nor will I hide myself from him.
26 But if harm should come to me because of him,
everyone who hears about it will beware of him.
Prayer for a Good Life[h]
27 Who will set a guard over my mouth,
and a seal of prudence on my lips,
to prevent them from becoming my downfall
and to keep my tongue from causing my ruin?
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:1 For the author, idlers, as well as unruly children, are a disgrace. The sages of all antiquity believed that in education it was better to be severe toward the guilty than to condone. To encourage the parents, the author stresses that their reputation is at stake.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:7 Added by some early MSS.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:9 Once more, the author paints one of his lively portraits of the foolish. Is it just, as he says, to discourage any commerce with them, or rather to inspire someone to make the effort necessary, so that one will not be counted among those culpable for the degeneration of heart and spirit? For it is about this foolishness that the Bible speaks.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:13 Added by some early MSS.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:18 Fences: some early MSS read: “Pebbles.”
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:19 Friendship does not dispense from tact. True, it may surmount misunderstandings and obstacles, but behaviors can kill it. Verses 23-24 deal with a more general manner of relations in society.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:23 Added by some early MSS.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 22:27 The wise know their weakness, the power of passions, and the difficulties that must daily be confronted. Thus, they implore God’s help so that truth and purity may be fixed more and more firmly in their hearts. The author inserts here a beautiful prayer witnessing to the fact that true education—of the heart—is a grace of God.