Wisdom of Ben Sira 24

The Praise of Wisdom[a]

Chapter 24

Wisdom Sings Her Own Praises[b]

1 Wisdom sings her own praises
and proclaims her glory in the midst of her people.
2 In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
and in the presence of the heavenly host she declares her glory:
3 “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High
and covered the earth like a mist.[c]
4 I dwelt in the highest heavens,
and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
5 Alone I encircled the vault of heaven
and traversed the depths of the abyss.
6 Over the waves of the sea, over the whole earth,
and over every people and nation I have held sway.
7 Among all these I sought a place of rest;
in whose territory should I abide?
8 “Then the Creator of all things gave me his command;
he who created me decreed where I should dwell,
saying, ‘Make your dwelling in Jacob,
and in Israel receive your inheritance.’
9 Before all ages, in the beginning, he created me,
and I shall not cease to be for all eternity.
10 In the holy tent I ministered before him,
and then I became established in Zion.
11 Thus, in the beloved city he gave me a resting place,
in Jerusalem I wield my power.
12 I have taken root in an honored people,
in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.
13 “There I grew tall like a cedar on Lebanon,
like a cypress on Mount Hermon.
14 I grew tall like a palm tree in En-gedi,
like a rosebush in Jericho,
like a fair olive tree in the field,
or like a plane tree beside the water.
15 Like cinnamon or camel-thorn I gave forth perfume,
and like choice myrrh I spread my fragrance,
like galbanum, onycha, and spices
and like the odor of incense in the tent.
16 I spread out my branches like a terebinth,[d]
and my branches are glorious and graceful.
17 Like the vine I bud forth delights,
and my blossoms become fruit fair and abundant.
[18 I am the mother of fair love,
of fear, of knowledge, and of holy hope;
being eternal, I am given to all my children,
to those who are appointed by him.][e]
19 “Come to me, all of you who desire me,
and eat your fill of my fruits.
20 For the memory of me is sweeter than honey;
to possess me is sweeter than the honeycomb.
21 Whoever feeds on me will hunger for more;
whoever drinks of me will thirst for more.
22 Whoever obeys me will never be put to shame;
whoever follows my instructions will never sin.”

The Law, Source of Wisdom[f]

23 All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God,
the law that Moses enjoined on us
as an inheritance for the assemblies of Jacob.
[24 Do not cease to be strong in the Lord,
and cling to him that he may strengthen you.
The Lord Almighty alone is God,
and there is no savior apart from him.][g]
25 [h]It overflows, like the Pishon, with wisdom,
like the Tigris at the time of the firstfruits.
26 It runs over, like the Euphrates, with understanding,
like the Jordan at the time of the harvest.
27 It pours forth instruction like the Nile,[i]
like the Gihon at the time of vintage.
28 The first man never fully comprehended wisdom,
nor will the last succeed in understanding her.
29 For her thoughts are more vast than the sea
and her counsel more profound than the great abyss.
30 As for me, I was like a conduit from a river,
like a stream into a garden.
31 I said to myself, “I will water my garden
and drench its flower beds.”
And suddenly my conduit became a river,
and my river expanded into a sea.
32 I will again make learning shine forth like the dawn,
so that its light may be seen far and wide.
33 I will again pour out my teaching like prophecy
and leave it as a legacy to future generations.
34 And understand that I have not labored for myself alone
but for all who seek wisdom.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:1 In imitation of the sages who preceded him (Job 8; Prov 1:20-33; see also Bar 3:9—4:4), while deepening their thought, the author sings the praises of wisdom and introduces us truly into the heart of his work.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:1 In a lyrical mode, Wisdom, presented once again as a person, recounts her origin and history. She comes from God, of whom she is the word and Spirit (v. 3). She collaborates in creation; then leaving heaven, she has traversed the earth to live with human beings. She has finally established herself in the midst of the chosen people; in the temple of Jerusalem. She invites all to the infinite quest for the true life. We immediately think of Christ, whom John will present to us as the way, the truth, and the life, as the bread of heaven and the living water.
    Such a discovery of Wisdom, revelation of God to human beings and divine inspiration of their conduct, already prefigures the Word (the Speech and Revelation of God) and the Holy Spirit. Christians are fond of reading in this beautiful text a sketch of their thought concerning the mystery of the Divine Persons (Jn 1:1-18; Acts 2:1-4).
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:3 Allusion to the “Spirit of God hover[ing] over the waters” (Gen 1:2).
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:16 Terebinth: a type of oak.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:18 Added by some early MSS. In place of verse 18c-d the Vulgate reads (as vv. 24-25): “In me is all grace of the way and of the truth; / in me is all hope of life and strength.” These words clearly manifest themselves as a Christian gloss (with allusion to Jn 14:6 where Wisdom is identified with Christ). The Liturgy has taken delight in applying these words to the Blessed Mother.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:23 For the Israelites, the law is a summary of faith, history, and tradition. It resembles the current of living water that irrigated the earthly paradise (Gen 2:11-13) like the rivers that fertilize the East. An inexhaustible source, it irrigates abundantly the heart of human beings. As for the wise, they become prophets and canals through whom the waves of wisdom overflow on all coming generations.
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:24 Added by some early MSS.
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:25 The Tigris and the Gihon were rivers of the earthly paradise (see Gen 2:11-13).
  9. Wisdom of Ben Sira 24:27 It pours forth instruction like the Nile: Greek reads: “It causes instruction to radiate like the light.”

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