Wisdom of Ben Sira 34

Chapter 34

How To Judge Dreams[a]

1 Vain and false are the hopes of the senseless,
and dreams offer wings to a fool.
2 Like one who clutches at shadows or chases the wind
is someone who pays heed to dreams.
3 What you see in dreams is simply an image,
the reflection of a face in a mirror.
4 From something unclean what can be clean?
From something false what can be true?
5 Divinations, omens, and dreams are all unreal;
the mind portrays what you already expect.
6 Unless they are sent through the intervention of the Most High,
pay no attention to them.
7 For dreams have led many astray,
and those who have placed their hopes in them have been greatly disappointed.
8 Without such deceptions the law is fulfilled,
and wisdom is perfected in the mouth of the faithful.[b]

Travel Is Instructive

9 Someone who is well traveled[c] knows many things,
and someone who is experienced understands what he is talking about.
10 Someone who is inexperienced knows few things,
11 whereas one who has traveled extensively acquires cleverness.
12 I have seen many things during my travels
and have come to understand more than I can put into words.
13 I have often been in danger of death,
but I have been saved because of these things.

Blessed Is the Soul That Fears the Lord[d]

14 The spirit of those who fear the Lord will live,
15 for their hope is in him who is their Savior.
16 The man who fears the Lord is never fearful of anything else,
never cowardly, for he is his hope.
17 Blessed is the soul that fears the Lord.
18 To whom does he look? Who is his support?
19 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who love him;
he is their powerful shield and firm support,
a shelter from the scorching wind and a shade from the noonday sun,
a guard against stumbling and a help against falling.
20 He revives the soul and brightens the eyes;
he gives health, life, and blessing.

True Worship[e]

21 A sacrifice of ill-gotten goods is tainted;
22 the gifts of the wicked are not acceptable.
23 The Most High takes no pleasure in the offerings of the godless,
nor do their many sacrifices gain his pardon for their sins.
24 Like the man who slays a son in his father’s presence
is the one who offers a sacrifice taken from the possessions of the poor.
25 The bread of charity is life itself to the poor;
whoever deprives them of it is a murderer.
26 To take away a neighbor’s livelihood is to commit murder;
27 to deny a laborer his wages is to shed blood.
28 When one builds up and another tears down,
what have they gotten out of it but hard work?
29 When one prays and another curses,
to whose voice will the Lord listen?
30 If someone bathes after touching a corpse and then touches it again,
what has been gained by washing?
31 So it is with the one who fasts for his sins
and then goes out and commits them again.
Who will listen to his prayer?
And what has he gained by his penance?


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 34:1 The ancients regarded dreams as a means by which God could communicate with human beings. The author does not exclude this possibility of which the Bible gives many examples (Gen 28:10-17; 35:5-11; 2 Ki 3:4-14; Mt 1:20f). But he maintains a healthy mistrust, for one cannot, in practice, verify the origin of dreams.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 34:8 The author stresses that dreams are deceptive but the law and wisdom are ever true.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 34:9 Someone who is well traveled: some early MSS read: “Someone who is educated.”
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 34:14 This passage praises the virtues and blessings of the wise, those who fear the Lord, of which the author is himself an excellent example. With the Lord at their side they can courageously face all of life’s dangers and difficulties. The last word in the passage (blessing) synthesizes all the material and spiritual gifts the Lord has allotted to his people.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 34:21 The author loves the liturgy, but he holds that the cult and law, religion and morality, always go together. Above all, worship must be true and not a rite of falsehood and injustice—the Prophets said it much more vehemently (Isa 1:11; Jer 7:21-23; Am 5:22-25; Hos 8:13). Love, justice, and fidelity are part of the true sacrifice imposed by the law (Lev 2; 3; 7:11; 16).

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