Wisdom of Ben Sira 41

Chapter 41

Do Not Fear Death’s Sentence[a]

1 O death, how bitter is the thought of you
to someone who lives at ease among his possessions,
who is free from worries and prosperous in all things
and still healthy enough to enjoy food.
2 O death, how welcome is your sentence
to someone in want whose strength is failing,
worn out with age and burdened by endless anxiety,
resentful and no longer blessed with patience.
3 Do not fear death’s sentence;
remember it embraces those who preceded you and those who will come after.
4 This is God’s sentence on all flesh,
so why do you reject the pleasure of the Most High?
Whether one’s life lasts ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand,
no questions will be asked about it in the netherworld.

Malediction Follows the Wicked[b]

5 The children of sinners are a loathsome lot,
and they frequent the homes of the ungodly.
6 The inheritance of the children of sinners is doomed to perish,
and their descendants will live in perpetual disgrace.
7 Children will blame a godless father
for the reproach they endure because of him.
8 Woe to you who are godless,
who have forsaken the law of God Most High.
9 If you have children, they will endure calamity;
you will beget them solely for groaning.
When you stumble, lasting joy prevails;
and when you die, a curse is your lot.
10 All that comes from the earth returns to the earth;
so too the wicked go from malediction to destruction.
11 Men grieve over their bodies,
but the bad name of sinners will be blotted out.[c]

A Good Name Lasts Forever[d]

12 Have regard for your name, for it will outlive you
far longer than a thousand hoards of gold.
13 The days of a good life are numbered,
but a good name lasts forever.

Final Instructions[e]

14 My children, keep my instructions,
and live in peace.
Concealed wisdom and buried treasure—
of what value is either?
15 Better is one who hides his folly
than one who hides his wisdom.

Things That Require a Sense of Shame[f]

16 Therefore, provide a sense of shame in the following matters,
for shame is not always appropriate in every instance,
nor is it to be approved in every situation.
17 Be ashamed to be caught by your father or mother in an act of sexual immorality,
or by a ruler or a prince in lies,
18 or before a judge or a magistrate in a crime,
or by the assembly of the people in a violation of the law,
or by a friend or a partner in dishonesty,
19 or by an act of thievery in the place where you live.
Be ashamed of violating the truth of God and his covenant
and of putting your elbows on the table,
of being ungracious when giving or receiving
20 and of ignoring those who greet you,
of gazing at a prostitute
21 and of rejecting an appeal for help from a relative,
of misappropriating someone’s rightful share
and of eyeing another man’s wife,
22 of making advances toward his servant girl,
or of approaching her bed,
of using abusive words to friends,
or of giving an insulting lecture after an act of charity.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 41:1 Willingly or unwillingly, sooner or later, everybody is subject to the law of death. The author, who does not yet have any clear experience of eternal life, humbly accepts this reality of the human condition.
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 41:5 In order to frighten those who turn away from God and his law, the author reiterates old conceptions: dishonor is transmitted from one generation to another as an ineradicable evil.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 41:11 Men grieve . . . blotted out: Hebrew reads: “The human body is a fleeting thing, / but a virtuous man will never be annihilated.”
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 41:12 For the author who has many questions about reputation and honor, the survival of a name is not something indifferent.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 41:14 The idea that one has of shame or the concerns of human beings still reveals—as in the maxims that follow—a certain conception of life.
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 41:16 What is it that you find dishonest or inconvenient in your opinion? Your response contains your philosophy of life. In this passage we will discover—as in a negative resume—the essence of the author’s practical teaching.

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