1Lord, Father and Master of my life,*
do not abandon me to their designs,
do not let me fall because of them!
2Who will apply the lash to my thoughts,
and to my mind the rod of discipline,
That my failings may not be spared
or the sins of my heart overlooked?
3Otherwise my failings may increase,
and my sins be multiplied;
And I fall before my adversaries,
and my enemy rejoice over me?
4Lord, Father and God of my life,
do not give me haughty eyes;
5remove evil desire from my heart.
6Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me;
do not give me up to shameless desires.a
Proper Use of the Tongue*
7Listen, my children, to instruction concerning the mouth,
for whoever keeps it will not be ensnared.
8Through the lips the sinner is caught;
by them the reviler and the arrogant are tripped up.
9Do not accustom your mouth to oaths,
or habitually utter the Holy Name.b
10Just as a servant constantly under scrutiny
will not be without bruises,
So one who swears continually by the Holy Name
will never remain free from sin.
11Those who swear many oaths heap up offenses;
and the scourge will never be far from their houses.
If they swear in error, guilt is incurred;
if they neglect their obligation, the sin is doubly great.c
If they swear without reason they cannot be declared innocent,
for their households will be filled with calamities.
12There are words comparable to death;
may they never be heard in the inheritance of Jacob.
To the devout all such words are foreign;
they do not wallow in sin.
13Do not accustom your mouth to coarse talk,
for it involves sinful speech.
14Keep your father and mother in mind
when you sit among the mighty,d
Lest you forget yourself in their presence
and disgrace your upbringing.
Then you will wish you had never been born
and will curse the day of your birth.
15Those accustomed to using abusive language
will never acquire discipline as long as they live.
Sins of the Flesh*
16Two types of people multiply sins,
and a third* draws down wrath:
Burning passion is like a blazing fire,
not to be quenched till it burns itself out;
One unchaste with his kindred
never stops until fire breaks forth.
17To the unchaste all bread is sweet;
he is never through till he dies.e
18The man who dishonors his marriage bed
says to himself, “Who can see me?
Darkness surrounds me, walls hide me,
no one sees me. Who can stop me from sinning?”f
He is not mindful of the Most High,
19fearing only human eyes.
He does not realize that the eyes of the Lord,
ten thousand times brighter than the sun,
Observe every step taken
and peer into hidden corners.
20The one who knows all things before they exist
still knows them all after they are made.
21Such a man will be denounced in the streets of the city;g
and where he least suspects it, he will be apprehended.
22So it is with the woman unfaithful to her husband,
who offers him an heir by another man.
23First of all, she has disobeyed the law of the Most High;
second, she has wronged her husband;
Third, through her wanton adultery
she has brought forth children by another man.
24Such a woman will be dragged before the assembly,*
and her punishment will extend to her children.
25Her children will not take root;
her branches will not bring forth fruit.
26She will leave behind an accursed memory;
her disgrace will never be blotted out.
27Thus all who dwell on the earth shall know,
all who remain in the world shall understand,
That nothing is better than the fear of the Lord,
nothing sweeter than obeying the commandments of the Lord.h †
* [23:1–6] Lord, Father and Master of my life: these words express the tender personal relationship Ben Sira experiences with God, and introduce his prayer for divine assistance and providence in avoiding sins of pride and lust.
* [23:7–15] A warning against sins of the tongue through misuse of the sacred Name, against thoughtless swearing (vv. 7–11), blasphemy (v. 12), coarse talk (vv. 13–14), and abusive language (v. 15).
* [23:16–27] Ben Sira treats sexual sins and their consequences. Lust destroys its victims (vv. 16–17, 22–26). A false sense of security aggravates the adulterer’s inevitable fate (vv. 18–21).
* [23:16] Two types…a third: a numerical proverb, as in 25:1–2, 7–11; 26:5–6, 28; 50:25–26; Prv 6:16–19; 30:15b–16, 18–19, 21–23, 29–31. Ben Sira condemns three kinds of sexual sin: incest (v. 16), fornication (v. 17), and adultery (vv. 18–26).
* [23:24–25] The judgment of the assembly determined the illegitimacy of children born of adultery or incest and excluded them from the “community of the Lord” (Dt 23:3). Cf. Wis 3:16–19; 4:3–6.
† [23:27] Other ancient texts read as v. 28:
It is a great glory to follow after God,
and for you to be received by him is length of days.
b. [23:9] Ex 20:7; Lv 19:12; 24:16; Dt 5:11; Mt 5:33–37; Jas 5:12.
d. [23:14] Sir 7:27; Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16.
f. [23:18–19] Jb 24:15; Prv 15:3, 11; 17:3; 24:12; Is 29:15; Ez 8:12.
g. [23:21–22] Lv 18:20; 20:10; Dt 22:21–22.