The Divine Power and Mercy*
1He who lives forever created the whole universe;
2the LORD alone is just.†
4To whom has he given power to describe his works,
and who can search out his mighty deeds?
5Who can measure his majestic power,
or fully recount his mercies?
6No one can lessen, increase,
or fathom the wonders of the Lord.
7When mortals finish, they are only beginning,
and when they stop they are still bewildered.
8What are mortals? What are they worth?
What is good in them, and what is evil?
9The number of their days seems great
if it reaches a hundred years.a
10Like a drop of water from the sea and a grain of sand,
so are these few years among the days of eternity.
11That is why the Lord is patient with them
and pours out his mercy on them.
12He sees and understands that their death is wretched,
and so he forgives them all the more.
13Their compassion is for their neighbor,
but the Lord’s compassion reaches all flesh,
Reproving, admonishing, teaching,
and turning them back, as a shepherd his flock.b
14He has compassion on those who accept his discipline,
who are eager for his precepts.
The Need for Prudence
15My child, add no reproach to your charity,*
or spoil any gift by harsh words.
16Does not the dew give relief from the scorching heat?
So a word can be better than a gift.
17Indeed does not a word count more than a good gift?
But both are offered by a kind person.
18The fool is ungracious and abusive,
and a grudging gift makes the eyes smart.c
19Before you speak, learn;
before you get sick, prepare the cure.
20Before you are judged, examine yourself,
and at the time of scrutiny you will have forgiveness.
21Before you fall ill, humble yourself;
and when you have sinned, show repentance.*
Do not delay forsaking your sins;
do not neglect to do so until you are in distress.
22Let nothing prevent the prompt payment of your vows;
do not wait until death to fulfill them.d
23Before making a vow prepare yourself;
do not be like one who puts the Lord to the test.
24Think of wrath on the day of death,
the time of vengeance when he will hide his face.e
25Think of the time of hunger in the time of plenty,
poverty and need in the day of wealth.f
26Between morning and evening there is a change of time;
before the Lord all things are fleeting.
27The wise are discreet in all things;
where sin is rife they keep themselves from wrongdoing.
28Every wise person teaches wisdom,*
and those who know her declare her praise;
29Those skilled in words become wise themselves,
and pour forth apt proverbs.
30Do not let your passions be your guide,g
but keep your desires in check.
31If you allow yourself to satisfy your passions,
they will make you the laughingstock of your enemies.
32Take no pleasure in too much luxury
which brings on poverty redoubled.
33Do not become a glutton and a drunkard
with nothing in your purse.
* [18:1–14] Not only are God’s justice and power beyond human understanding (vv. 1–7), his mercy also is boundless and surpasses all human compassion (vv. 8–14); he pities human frailty and mortality.
† [18:2] Other ancient texts read as v. 3:
He controls the world within the span of his hand,
and everything obeys his will;
For he in his might is the King of all,
separating what is holy among them from what is profane.
* [18:15–27] The practice of charity, especially almsgiving, is an art which avoids every offense to another (vv. 15–18). Prudence directs the changing circumstances of daily life in view of the time of scrutiny (i.e., the day of reckoning, or death, v. 24).