Wisdom of Ben Sira 27

Chapter 27

1 Many have sinned for the sake of monetary gain;
he who seeks riches must turn a blind eye.
2 As a peg is driven firmly into the joint between stones,
so the sin of dishonesty will wedge itself in between selling and buying.
3 Unless a man holds firmly to the fear of the Lord,
his house will be quickly overthrown.

The Test of a Man Is in His Conversation[a]

4 When a sieve is shaken, the rubbish appears;
so too do the defects of a man after he speaks.
5 As the work of a potter is tested in a furnace,
so the test of a man is in his conversation.
6 The fruit of a tree reveals the care with which it was cultivated;
in the same way, a man’s speech reveals his mindset.
7 Do not praise anyone who has not yet spoken,
since this is the way men are tested.

The Righteous Are Known by Their Deeds[b]

8 If you pursue righteousness, you will attain it
and put it on like a festal robe.
9 Birds associate with their own kind,
and honesty comes home to those who practice it.
10 As a lion lies in wait for its prey,
so does sin for those who do evil deeds.
11 The conversation of the devout is always wise,[c]
but the fool is as changeable as the moon.
12 Limit the time when you are in the presence of fools,
but linger as much as possible among those who are thoughtful.
13 The conversation of fools is offensive,
and their raucous laughter centers around their wanton sinfulness.
14 Their oath-filled chatter can make your hair stand on end,
and their quarrels cause others to shut their ears.
15 The arguments among the arrogant lead to bloodshed;
their abuse is painful to listen to.

Indiscretion Destroys Friendship[d]

16 Anyone who betrays secrets forfeits any right to trust,
and he will never find a close friend.
17 Love your friend and keep faith with him,
but if you betray his secrets, do not attempt to remain by his side.
18 For as one destroys an enemy,
so you will have destroyed your neighbor’s friendship.
19 Like a bird that you have let escape from your hand,
so have you let your neighbor go with no chance of being caught again.
20 Do not pursue him, for he will be far away,
having escaped like a gazelle from a trap.
21 A wound can be bandaged, and an insult forgiven,
but the betrayer of secrets has lost all hope.

Whoever Digs a Pit Will Fall into It[e]

22 Anyone who winks slyly is plotting mischief,
and no one can dissuade him from it.
23 He speaks sweetly while in your presence,
and admires your every word,
but later he will change his tune,
and with your own words he will trip you up.
24 I have found many things to hate, but nothing so much as this man,
and the Lord despises him too.
25 Whoever throws a stone straight up into the air will see it descend on his own head,
and a treacherous blow will cut both ways.
26 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
and whoever sets a snare will be caught in it.
27 Whoever does evil deeds will have that evil recoil upon him
without having the slightest idea where it came from.
28 Mockery and abuse issue from an arrogant man,
but vengeance lies in wait for him like a lion.
29 Those who rejoice at the downfall of the godly will be ensnared,
and they will be consumed with pain before their death.[f]

Forgive, and You Will Be Forgiven[g]

30 Wrath and anger are also habits to abhor,
yet sinners will have both of them.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:4 The reflection on people’s speech holds a large place in this Book, as it does in every reflection of the sages of antiquity.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:8 The righteous become such by practicing justice and honesty and refraining from evil deeds. The foolish, i.e., those who do not master their thoughts and their lives, speak and act irrelevantly.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:11 The conversation . . . always wise: the Vulgate reads: “The holy man remains fixed in wisdom like the sun.”
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:16 More than once the author stresses the sacred value of a secret entrusted to someone.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:22 If popular sentiment has ever wished anyone to fall into a pit, it is the hypocrite who combines, in an odious way, looseness and wickedness.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:29 The author follows the traditional Old Testament teaching that divine retribution would take place in time (see Job 21:20-21).
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 27:30 Forgive, and You Will Be Forgiven: Jesus makes the same recommendation to his disciples when he teaches them the Our Father (Mt 6:12, 14f).

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