The Heroes of Sacred History[a]
Let Us Praise Illustrious Men[b]
1 Let us now praise illustrious men,
our ancestors in their successive generations.
2 The Most High apportioned to them an abundance of glory
and displayed his greatness from of old.
3 Some ruled over kingdoms
and were renowned for their valor.
Others were prudent counselors
and spoke with prophetic power.
4 Some guided the people by their counsel,
by their knowledge of the popular mind,
and by the wise words of their instruction.
5 Some were composers of music
or authors of poetry.
6 Others were rich and powerful,
living peacefully in their homes.
7 All these were honored in their own generation
and were illustrious in their day.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
so that their praiseworthy deeds are recounted.
9 But of others no memory remains;
they have perished as though they had never existed.
They have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
10 Yet these also were godly men
whose virtuous deeds have not been forgotten.
11 Their wealth has been handed on to their descendants,
and their inheritance to future generations.
12 Their descendants have remained faithful to the covenants,
and, so have their children for their sake.
13 Their offspring will endure for all time,
and their glory will never fade.
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on for all generations.
15 The peoples proclaim their wisdom,
and the assembly sings their praise.
Enoch, the Privileged One[c]
16 Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up
as an example of repentance for future generations.
Noah the Just, Second Father of Humankind
17 Noah was found to be perfect and righteous,
and in the time of God’s wrath he kept the race alive.
Because of him a remnant survived on the earth,
and with a pledge to him the flood came to an end.
18 Everlasting covenants were established with him,
that never again would all life be blotted out by a flood.
Abraham, Father of the People of God
19 Abraham was the great father of a multitude of nations;
no one has been found to be his equal in glory.
20 He observed the law of the Most High
and entered into a covenant with him.
He confirmed the covenant in his flesh,[d]
and when he was tested he proved faithful.
21 Therefore, God assured him with an oath
that the nations would be blessed through his descendants,
that he would make his offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth,
and that they would be exalted like the stars,
and that he would give them an inheritance extending from sea to sea,
and from the river to the ends of the earth.[e]
Isaac and Jacob or the Birth of the Twelve Tribes[f]
22 To Isaac also, God gave the same assurance
for the sake of Abraham his father.
23 He caused the blessing of all people and the covenant
to rest on the head of Jacob.
He acknowledged him with his blessings
and gave him the land as his inheritance.
He divided the land into portions
and distributed them to the twelve tribes.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 44:1 The work of divine wisdom in the universe is admirable, and even more so is God’s initiative in the history of human beings, of the sublime figures chosen to lead the destiny of the holy people. An unconditional admirer of the cult where God is present, he is especially interested in priests and devotes himself to evoking the different covenants concluded between God and his people in the course of history; by contrast, he judges with severity the faults of kings. If he celebrates the glories of the past, it is first of all to condemn the laxity of his contemporaries and to inspire fidelity.
For similar historical surveys, see Neh 9:6-37; Jud 5:5-21; 1 Mac 2:51-64; Pss 78; 105; 135; 136; Wis 10:1—12:27; Ezek 20:4-44; Acts 7:2-53; Heb 11:2-39; Jas 5:10-11.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 44:1 Kings, sages, prophets, and chanters—whether celebrated or ignored, men of God abound in Israel. They are too numerous for one to evoke the remembrance of every one. Some of them found a family among the people, and their remembrance remains alive and exciting.
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 44:16 The patriarch Enoch, made popular by ancient traditions, ended his life in a mysterious manner (Gen 5:24; see Heb 11:5; Jude 14-15).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 44:20 In his flesh: allusion to circumcision (see Gen 17:10, 23). And . . . faithful: allusion to the sacrifice of Isaac, rewarded by the promise of numerous progeny (see Gen 22:16-18).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 44:21 From the river to the ends of the earth: i.e., from the Euphrates to the southern end of Palestine, marked by the Nile of Egypt (see Gen 15:18).
- Wisdom of Ben Sira 44:22 It is the remembrance of Isaac and Jacob that will be evoked to explain the ideal structure of the people of Israel.