Wisdom of Ben Sira 8

Circumspection and Reflection: Various Cases

Chapter 8

Prudence in Dealing with Others

1 [a]Do not oppose one who is powerful,
lest you fall into his hands.
2 Do not quarrel with a rich man,
for he may use his resources to prevail over you.
For gold has been the cause of the downfall of many
and has perverted the hearts of kings.
3 [b]Do not engage in a dispute with an argumentative man
and thereby heap wood upon his fire.
4 Do not ridicule one who is ill-bred,
lest he proceed to insult your ancestors.
5 [c]Avoid reproaching a repentant sinner;
remember that we are all guilty.
6 Do not despise an elderly man,
for some of us will also become aged.
7 Do not rejoice over anyone’s death;
remember that we all must die.
8 Ignore not the discourse of the wise,
but familiarize yourself with their maxims,
since from these you will gain instruction
and learn the art of serving the great.
9 Do not reject the opinions of the aged,
for they themselves were taught by their parents.
From them you will learn how to reason
and how to reply when the need arises.
10 [d]Do not kindle the coals of a sinner,
lest you be burned in his flaming fire.
11 Refuse to be provoked by an insolent man,
for he may seek to trap you in your own words.
12 Do not lend to someone who is more powerful than you are;
but if you do lend anything, write it off as a loss.
13 Do not stand surety beyond your resources,
but should you do so, be prepared to pay.
14 Do not oppose a judge in a lawsuit,
for he will win the judgment because of his rank.
15 Do not set out on a journey with one who is reckless,
lest he become a burden to you.
For he will do whatever he pleases,
and his folly will result also in your ruin.
16 Do not provoke an argument with one who is quick-tempered,
or journey with him through sparsely inhabited regions.
For bloodshed is an inconsequential matter to him,
and where no help is at hand, he will strike you down.
17 Never discuss your plans with a fool,
since he is unable to keep a confidence.
18 In the presence of a stranger do nothing that should be kept secret,
for you cannot be certain what use he will make of it.[e]
19 Do not reveal your thoughts to anyone,
or he may take away your happiness.


  1. Wisdom of Ben Sira 8:1 The author advises his readers not to go up against the rich or powerful either physically (Deut 33:7), or verbally by quarreling (Gen 26:20), or juridically, i.e., by a lawsuit (Isa 3:13; 57:16)—for they have no chance of winning. In the second verse, there is a hint of offering a bribe to a judge in order to influence his verdict, something that was condemned (Sir 20:29; Ex 23:8; Deut 16:19).
  2. Wisdom of Ben Sira 8:3 The author urges the wise to avoid disputes with those who are loudmouths or senseless, for such persons will become even more boisterous when someone responds to them.
  3. Wisdom of Ben Sira 8:5 The author counsels not to reproach a repentant sinner, for we are all guilty (see 1 Ki 8:46; 2 Chr 6:36; Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:9-10; 1 Jn 1:8). He urges respect for the elderly for some of us will also become aged. Lastly, we should not rejoice over anyone’s death, for we all must die.
  4. Wisdom of Ben Sira 8:10 The author intermingles a little mistrust into his counsel as well as much experience, alas, concerning passion, injustice, and the fickleness of human beings.
  5. Wisdom of Ben Sira 8:18 What use he will make of it: or “what it will engender.”

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