God’s Gift of Wisdom*

1All wisdom* is from the Lord

and remains with him forever.a

2The sands of the sea, the drops of rain,

the days of eternity—who can count them?

3Heaven’s height, earth’s extent,

the abyss and wisdom—who can explore them?

4Before all other things wisdom was created;

and prudent understanding, from eternity.

6The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed?

Her subtleties—who knows them? b

8* There is but one, wise and truly awesome,

seated upon his throne—the Lord.

9It is he who created her,

saw her and measured her,c

Poured her forth upon all his works,

10upon every living thing according to his bounty,

lavished her upon those who love him.

Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom*

11The fear of the Lord* is glory and exultation,

gladness and a festive crown.

12The fear of the Lord rejoices the heart,

giving gladness, joy, and long life.

13Those who fear the Lord will be happy at the end,

even on the day of death they will be blessed.

14The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord;

she is created with the faithful in the womb.d

15With the godly she was created from of old,

and with their descendants she will keep faith.

16The fullness of wisdom is to fear the Lord;

she inebriates them with her fruits.e

17Their entire house she fills with choice foods,

their granaries with her produce.

18The crown of wisdom is the fear of the Lord,

flowering with peace and perfect health.

19Knowledge and full understanding she rains down;

she heightens the glory of those who possess her.

20The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord;

her branches are long life.

21The fear of the Lord drives away sins;

where it abides it turns back all anger.

22Unjust anger can never be justified;

anger pulls a person to utter ruin.

23* Until the right time, the patient remain calm,

then cheerfulness comes back to them.

24Until the right time they hold back their words;

then the lips of many will tell of their good sense.

25Among wisdom’s treasures is the model for knowledge;

but godliness is an abomination to the sinner.

26If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments,

and the Lord will bestow her upon you;

27For the fear of the Lord is wisdom and discipline;

faithfulness and humility are his delight.

28Do not disobey the fear of the Lord,*

do not approach it with duplicity of heart.f

29Do not be a hypocrite before others;

over your lips keep watch.

30Do not exalt yourself lest you fall

and bring dishonor upon yourself;

For then the Lord will reveal your secrets

and cast you down in the midst of the assembly.

Because you did not approach the fear of the Lord,

and your heart was full of deceit.

* [1:110] This brief poem serves as an introduction to the book. The Lord is the source and preserver of all wisdom, which he pours out upon all. See Jb 28:2028; Prv 2:6; 8:2231; Wis 7:2527.

* [1:1] Wisdom: throughout the book Ben Sira describes in great detail just what wisdom is: sometimes divine (1:6, 8), sometimes a synonym for God’s law (24:2223). Ben Sira makes clear that all wisdom comes from God.

† [1:4] Other ancient texts read as v. 5:

The wellspring of wisdom is the word of God in the heights,

and its runlets are the ageless commandments.

† [1:6] Other ancient texts read as v. 7:

An understanding of wisdom—to whom has this been disclosed;

her resourcefulness, who has known?

* [1:810] In contrast to Jb 28, wisdom is not only with God, but given to all, especially Israel; see Bar 3:9; 4:4.

* [1:1130] This is one of several poems of 22 bicola, or poetic lines, corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Ben Sira uses the expression “fear of the Lord” twelve times and the noun “wisdom” seven times to emphasize the connection between the two ideas. He describes the blessings that come to those who fear the Lord, i.e., those who practice true religion by loving and serving God and keeping the Law (2:710, 1517; 4:1116; see Dt 6:15, 24). Such blessings recur throughout the book.

* [1:11] Fear of the Lord: Ben Sira identifies wisdom with the fear of the Lord (vv. 2627).

† [1:12] Other ancient texts read as v. 12cd:

Fear of the Lord is the Lord’s gift;

also for love he makes firm paths.

† [1:18] Other ancient texts read as v. 18cd:

Both are gifts of God toward peace;

splendor opens out for those who love him.

* [1:2324] Ben Sira pays close attention to kaīros, the right time, occurring some sixty times in his book.

* [1:2830] Attempting to serve the Lord with duplicity of heart is hypocrisy and self-exaltation, deserving of public disgrace.

a. [1:1] 1 Kgs 3:9.

b. [1:6] Bar 3:15; Jb 28:10, 20.

c. [1:9] Jb 28:27.

d. [1:14] Jb 28:28; Ps 111:10; Prv 1:7; 9:10.

e. [1:16] Eccl 12:13.

f. [1:28] Jas 1:8; 2:8.

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