Reflections for Daily Life
Desirable Things and Undesirable Things
1 There are three things in which I delight,
and they are beautiful in the sight of the Lord and of men:[a]
concord among brethren, friendship among neighbors,
and a husband and wife who live in perfect harmony.
2 There are three kinds of men I hate,
for their manner of life I consider loathsome:
a pride-filled poor man, a lying rich man,
and a lecherous old fool.
The Glory of the Aged[b]
3 If you have gathered nothing in your youth,
how can you discover anything in your old age?
4 What a pleasure is sound judgment in those with gray hair,
and wise counsel with those advanced in years.
5 How admirable is wisdom in the aged,
and understanding and counsel in the venerable.
6 The crown of the aged is their wealth of experience,
and their glory is the fear of the Lord.
7 I can think of nine whom I would call blessed,
and a tenth whom my tongue proclaims:
blessed is the man who delights in his children,
and the one who lives to see the downfall of his enemies;
8 blessed is the one who lives with a sensible wife
and the one who does not plow with ox and ass together;[d]
blessed is the one who does not sin with the tongue
and the one who does not serve an inferior;
9 blessed is the one who finds a friend
and the one who speaks to an attentive audience.
10 How great is the one who finds wisdom,
but without equal is the one who fears the Lord.
11 The fear of the Lord surpasses everything;
to whom can we compare the one who possesses it?
[12 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of loving him,
and faith is the beginning of clinging to him.][e]
Wicked and Virtuous Women[f]
13 Any wound is preferable to a wound of the heart;
any wickedness is better than the wickedness of a woman.
14 Any suffering is preferable to that inflicted by those who hate;
any vengeance is better than that devised by a foe.
15 No poison is worse than that of a snake;
no fury is worse than that of an enemy.
16 I would rather dwell with a lion or a dragon
than live with an evil woman.
17 Wickedness changes a woman’s appearance
and makes her visage as surly as that of a bear.
18 When her husband sits with his neighbors,
he cannot refrain from sighing bitterly.
19 Any iniquity fades in comparison with that of a woman;
may the fate of the sinner befall her.
20 Like a sandy ascent for aged feet
is a garrulous wife to a quiet husband.
21 Do not be tempted by a woman’s beauty,
nor desire her for her possessions.
22 Wrath, insolence, and disgrace hold sway
when a wife supports the husband.
23 Dejected spirits, downcast face, and a broken heart:
these are the results brought on by an evil wife.
24 Feeble hands and weak knees afflict the husband
whose wife does not bring him happiness.
25 Sin began with a woman,
and because of her we must all die.
26 Allow water no outlet,
nor a wife free reign to speak.
27 If she does not do as you direct,
put her away from you.[g]
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:1 I delight . . . and of men: Greek reads: “I was beautified in three things and I stood in beauty before both the Lord and men.”
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:3 The author holds up as a model the aged who have acquired wisdom: their glory is the fear of the Lord.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:7 Under the agreeable form of a numerical proverb, the author enumerates some aspects of happiness; the list of these human successes gives value to the true happiness that is wisdom, the fear of God. Pleasure at the fall of an enemy (v. 7) is indeed human; we are not yet at the level of the Sermon on the Mount where we will find the Beatitudes of Christ (Mt 5:12).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:8 And ass together: lacking in Greek. The tongue: some early MSS read: “a friend.”
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:12 Added by some early MSS.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:13 The author seems to be partial and pessimistic in his diatribe against wicked women. Nonetheless, twice in the present text the trial of the wicked woman is followed by the praise of the wife endowed with charm and virtue. The image of the detestable woman is probably painted in more somber colors to make us better appreciate how great a treasure is the gracious and sensible wife.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 25:27 Put her away from you: literally, “separate her from your flesh.” The Mosaic Law allowed divorce (see Deut 24:1-4).