1For the sake of profit many sin,
and the struggle for wealth blinds the eyes.a
2A stake will be driven between fitted stones—
sin will be wedged in between buying and selling.
3Unless one holds fast to the fear of the Lord,
with sudden swiftness will one’s house be thrown down.
4When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear;
so do people’s faults when they speak.*
5The furnace tests the potter’s vessels;
the test of a person is in conversation.b
6The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;
so speech discloses the bent of a person’s heart.c
7Praise no one before he speaks,
for it is then that people are tested.
8If you strive after justice, you will attain it,
and wear it like a splendid robe.
9Birds nest with their own kind,
and honesty comes to those who work at it.
10A lion lies in wait for prey,
so does sin for evildoers.
11The conversation of the godly is always wisdom,
but the fool changes like the moon.
12Limit the time you spend among the stupid,
but frequent the company of the thoughtful.
13The conversation of fools is offensive,
and their laughter is wanton sin.
14Their oath-filled talk makes the hair stand on end,
and their brawls make one stop the ears.
15The wrangling of the proud ends in bloodshed,
and their cursing is painful to hear.d
16Whoever betrays a secret destroys confidence,*
and will never find a congenial friend.e
17Cherish your friend, keep faith with him;
but if you betray his secrets, do not go after him;
18For as one might kill another,
you have killed your neighbor’s friendship.
19Like a bird released from your hand,
you have let your friend go and cannot recapture him.
20Do not go after him, for he is far away,
and has escaped like a gazelle from a snare.
21For a wound can be bandaged, and an insult forgiven,
but whoever betrays secrets does hopeless damage.f
Malice, Anger and Vengeance
22Whoever has shifty eyes plots mischief
and those who know him will keep their distance;
23In your presence he uses honeyed talk,
and admires your words,
But later he changes his tone
and twists the words to your ruin.g
24I have hated many things but not as much as him,
and the Lord hates him as well.h
25A stone falls back on the head of the one who throws it high,i
and a treacherous blow causes many wounds.
26Whoever digs a pit falls into it,
and whoever lays a snare is caught in it.*
27The evil anyone does will recoil on him
without knowing how it came upon him.
28Mockery and abuse will befall the arrogant,
and vengeance lies in wait for them like a lion.
29Those who rejoice in the downfall of the godly will be caught in a snare,
and pain will consume them before they die.
30Wrath and anger, these also are abominations,
yet a sinner holds on to them.
* [27:16–28:11] Betrayal of confidence through indiscretion destroys friendship and does irreparable harm (27:16–21); cf. 22:22. False friendship based on hypocrisy and deceit is hateful to Ben Sira and, he adds, to God as well (27:22–24); it soon becomes a victim of its own treachery (27:25–27). The same fate awaits the malicious and vengeful (27:28–28:1). They can obtain mercy and forgiveness only by first forgiving their neighbor, being mindful of death and of the commandments of the Most High (28:2–7). And they must avoid quarrels and strife (28:8–11).
* [27:26] This expresses a popular idea of act and consequence; an evil (or good) deed is repaid by an evil (or good) result. The frequent metaphor is the digging of a hole for another to fall into; cf. Prv 26:27; Ps 7:14; 9:16; Eccl 10:8.