Those Who Are Worthy of Praise
1* With three things I am delighted,
for they are pleasing to the Lord and to human beings:
Harmony among relatives, friendship among neighbors,
and a wife and a husband living happily together.
2Three kinds of people I hate,
and I loathe their manner of life:
A proud pauper, a rich liar,
and a lecherous old fool.
3In your youth you did not gather.
How will you find anything in your old age?
4How appropriate is sound judgment in the gray-haired,
and good counsel in the elderly!
5How appropriate is wisdom in the aged,
understanding and counsel in the venerable!
6The crown of the elderly, wide experience;
their glory, the fear of the Lord.
7There are nine who come to mind as blessed,
a tenth whom my tongue proclaims:*
The man who finds joy in his children,
and the one who lives to see the downfall of his enemies.
8Happy the man who lives with a sensible woman,
and the one who does not plow with an ox and a donkey combined.*
Happy the one who does not sin with the tongue,
who does not serve an inferior.
9Happy the one who finds a friend,
who speaks to attentive ears.
10How great is the one who finds wisdom,
but none is greater than the one who fears the Lord.
11Fear of the Lord surpasses all else.
To whom can we compare the one who has it?†
Wicked and Virtuous Women*
13Any wound, but not a wound of the heart!
Any wickedness, but not the wickedness of a woman!
14Any suffering, but not suffering from one’s foes!
Any vengeance, but not the vengeance of one’s enemies!
15There is no poison worse than that of a serpent,
no venom greater than that of a woman.
16I would rather live with a dragon or a lion
than live with a wicked woman.a
17A woman’s wicked disposition changes her appearance,
and makes her face as dark as a bear.
18When her husband sits among his neighbors,
a bitter sigh escapes him unawares.
19There is hardly an evil like that in a woman;
may she fall to the lot of the sinner!
20Like a sandy hill to aged feet
is a garrulous wife to a quiet husband.
21Do not be enticed by a woman’s beauty,
or be greedy for her wealth.
22Harsh is the slavery and great the shame
when a wife supports her husband.
23Depressed mind, gloomy face,
and a wounded heart—a wicked woman.
Drooping hands and quaking knees,
any wife who does not make her husband happy.
24With a woman sin had a beginning,
and because of her we all die.*
25Allow water no outlet,
and no boldness of speech to a wicked woman.
26If she does not go along as you direct,
cut her away from you.
* [25:1–2] A numerical saying in threes.
* [25:7–11] A numerical proverb (9 + 1), in which the tenth element, “the one who fears the Lord,” is the most important.
* [25:8] An ox and a donkey combined: the reference is to a man married to two incompatible women (cf. 37:11a); the imagery derives from Dt 22:10.
† [25:11] Other ancient texts read as v. 12:
Fear of the Lord is the beginning of loving him,
and fidelity is the beginning of clinging to him.
* [25:13–26] The harsh statements Ben Sira makes about women reflect the kind of instruction young Jewish males were exposed to in the early second century B.C. His patriarchal perspective is as unfair as it is one-sided.
* [25:24] Ben Sira refers to the story of the first sin in Gn 3:1–6. Cf. 2 Cor 11:3 and 1 Tm 2:14. St. Paul, however, singles out Adam; cf. Rom 5:12–19; 1 Cor 15:22.