Wisdom of Ben Sira 6

Chapter 6

1 For a bad name will result in shame and reproach,
as is the case of the double-tongued sinner.
2 Do not fall into the grip of passions,
for these can tear you apart as if by a bull.[a]
3 They will devour your foliage and destroy your fruit,
and you will be left standing like a withered tree.
4 For evil passions destroy the one who harbors them
and make him the laughingstock of his enemies.

A Faithful Friend Is beyond Price[b]

5 Kindness in speech multiplies friends,
and a gracious tongue leads to friendly responses.
6 Be at peace with many people,
but allow only one in a thousand to be your adviser.
7 When you wish to acquire a new friend, first test him,
and do not be too hasty to trust him.
8 One type of person is only a friend when it suits him,
but at the first sign of trouble he will desert you.
9 Another type of friend will eventually become your enemy
and shame you by making public your quarrel.
10 And still another will be your guest at table
but will not stand by you in time of trouble.
11 When you are prospering, he is your second self
and lords it over your servants;
12 however, if you are brought low, he will turn against you
and avoid any contact with you.
13 Keep clear of your enemies
and be wary of your friends.
14 A faithful friend is a sure shelter;
anyone who finds one possesses a treasure.
15 A faithful friend is beyond price;
there is no possible way to measure his worth.
16 A faithful friend is the elixir of life,
and he who fears the Lord will find him.
17 He who fears the Lord directs his friendship aright,
for as he is, so also will his neighbor be.

The Apprenticeship of Wisdom

With All Your Soul Approach Her[c]

18 My child, choose instruction from your youth,
and you will still possess wisdom when your hair turns to gray.
19 Approach her like one who plows and sows,
and wait for her bountiful fruit.
For in cultivating her you will labor but little,
and very soon you will enjoy her harvest.
20 How harsh she seems to the undisciplined;
the fool cannot abide her.
21 She will serve as a heavy stone to test him,
and he will lose no time in casting her aside.
22 For wisdom[d] is true to her name;
she is not accessible to many.
23 Listen, my child, and take my advice;
do not reject my counsel.
24 Put your feet into wisdom’s fetters
and your neck into her collar.
25 Stoop to carry her on your shoulders,
and do not complain about her bonds.
26 With all your soul approach her,
and keep her ways with all your might.
27 If you search her out and follow her trail, she will make herself known,
and once you have found her, do not let her go.
28 For in the end you will find your rest in her,
and she will be turned into your joy.
29 Her fetters will serve as a strong defense for you
and her collar as a magnificent robe.
30 Her yoke[e] is a golden ornament,
and her bonds a purple cord.
31 You will wear her like a robe of glory
and bear her as your splendid crown.[f]
32 [g]If it is your wish, my child, you can be taught;
if you apply yourself, you will become clever.
33 If you are willing to listen, you will learn,
and if you pay attention, you will become wise.
34 When you frequent the company of the elders,
if there is anyone who is wise, attach yourself to him.
35 Listen eagerly to every godly conversation;
allow no expression of wisdom to escape you.
36 If you see a man of understanding, rise early to visit him;
let your feet wear out his doorstep.
37 Reflect on the decrees of the Lord
and constantly meditate on his commandments.
He will enlighten[h] your mind,
and the wisdom you desire will be granted to you.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:2 Bull: some translate as “fire.”
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:5 One’s true friends are known only on the day of distress. People usually get the friends they deserve. According to the author’s view, true friendship establishes a profound and almost religious bond between beings.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:18 For the ancients, wisdom is tradition, transmission of a conception and practice of life (see Prov 4); she is acquired at the cost of harsh discipline. She is, therefore, learned at the school of the ancients and by meditating on the word of God. But she is not content to repeat principles and customs; she wishes to come to life again in the persevering experience of whoever seeks to acquire her.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:22 Wisdom: the Greek word for “discipline,” in the sense of wisdom, is musar, which is a homonym for, musar, meaning “removed” or “withdrawn.” Hence, wisdom is not accessible to many.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:30 Her yoke: Hebrew; Greek reads: “upon her.”
  6. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:31 Splendid crown: Greek reads: “crown of gladness.”
  7. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:32 These last three stanzas have as their theme to seek wisdom in the following ways: (1) by desire and a willingness to listen (vv. 32-33), (2) by associating with those who are wise (vv. 34-36), and (3) by reflecting on the Lord’s decrees and commandments, i.e., keeping the law (v. 37).
  8. Wisdom of Ben Sira 6:37 Enlighten: Greek reads: “confirm.”

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