Praise of Wisdom
1Wisdom sings her own praises,*
among her own people she proclaims her glory.
2In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
in the presence of his host she tells of her glory:
3“From the mouth of the Most High I came forth,a
and covered the earth like a mist.
4In the heights of heaven I dwelt,
and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
5The vault of heaven I compassed alone,
and walked through the deep abyss.
6Over waves of the sea, over all the land,
over every people and nation I held sway.
7Among all these I sought a resting place.
In whose inheritance should I abide?
8“Then the Creator of all gave me his command,
and my Creator chose the spot for my tent.
He said, ‘In Jacob make your dwelling,
in Israel your inheritance.’
9Before all ages, from the beginning, he created me,
and through all ages I shall not cease to be.
10In the holy tent I ministered before him,
and so I was established in Zion.
11In the city he loves as he loves me, he gave me rest;
in Jerusalem, my domain.
12I struck root among the glorious people,
in the portion of the Lord, his heritage.
13“Like a cedar in Lebanon I grew tall,
like a cypress on Mount Hermon;
14I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi,
like rosebushes in Jericho;
Like a fair olive tree in the field,
like a plane tree beside water I grew tall.
15Like cinnamon and fragrant cane,
like precious myrrh I gave forth perfume;
Like galbanum and onycha and mastic,b
like the odor of incense in the holy tent.*
16“I spread out my branches like a terebinth,
my branches so glorious and so graceful.
17I bud forth delights like a vine;
my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit.†
19Come to me, all who desire me,
and be filled with my fruits.*
20You will remember me as sweeter than honey,
better to have than the honeycomb.
21Those who eat of me will hunger still,*
those who drink of me will thirst for more.c
22Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame,
and those who serve me will never go astray.”
23All this is the book of the covenant of the Most High God,d
the Law which Moses commanded us*
as a heritage for the community of Jacob.†
25It overflows, like the Pishon, with wisdom,e
and like the Tigris at the time of first fruits.
26It runs over, like the Euphrates, with understanding,
and like the Jordan at harvest time.
27It floods like the Nile with instruction,
like the Gihon* at vintage time.
28The first human being never finished comprehending wisdom,
nor will the last succeed in fathoming her.
29For deeper than the sea are her thoughts,
and her counsels, than the great abyss.
30Now I, like a stream from a river,*
and like water channeling into a garden—
31I said, “I will water my plants,
I will drench my flower beds.”
Then suddenly this stream of mine became a river,
and this river of mine became a sea.
32Again I will make my teachings shine forth like the dawn;
I will spread their brightness afar off.
33Again I will pour out instruction like prophecy
and bestow it on generations yet to come.
* [24:1–29] Wisdom speaks in the first person, describing her origin, her dwelling place in Israel, and the reward she gives her followers. As in Proverbs 8, Wisdom is personified as coming from God, yet distinct from him. This description is reflected in the Johannine logos, or Word (Jn 1:1–14). It is used extensively in the Roman liturgy.
* [24:15] These substances, associated with worship, are mentioned in Ex 30:23–28, 34–35 as the ingredients of the anointing oil and the sacred incense. Israel was a priestly nation (Ex 19:6; Is 61:6).
† [24:17] Other ancient texts read as v. 18:
I am the mother of fair love, of reverence,
of knowledge, and of holy hope;
To all my children I give
to be everlasting: to those named by Him.
* [24:21] The paradox of wisdom is that, far from being satiated, those who partake of her will always desire more.
† [24:23] Other ancient texts read as v. 24:
Do not grow weary of striving with the Lord’s help,
but cling to him that he may reinforce you.
The Lord Almighty alone is God,
and apart from him there is no savior.
* [24:30–33] Ben Sira again speaks about himself. He had at first drawn a small portion of the water of wisdom for his own private benefit, but finding it so useful, he soon began to let others share in this boon by teaching them the lessons of wisdom. Like the words of the prophets, Ben Sira’s instruction is valuable for all generations (v. 33). The comparison to prophecy is bold and unique.