1No evil can harm the one who fears the LORD;
through trials, again and again he is rescued.a
2Whoever hates the law is without wisdom,
and is tossed about like a boat in a storm.
3The prudent trust in the word of the LORD,
and the law is dependable for them as a divine oracle.*
4Prepare your words and then you will be listened to;
draw upon your training, and give your answer.
5Like the wheel of a cart is the mind of a fool,
and his thoughts like a turning axle.
6A mocking friend is like a stallion
that neighs, no matter who the rider may be.
7* Why is one day more important than another,
when the same sun lights up every day of the year?
8By the LORD’s knowledge they are kept distinct;
and he designates the seasons and feasts.b
9Some he exalts and sanctifies,
and others he lists as ordinary days.c
10Likewise, all people are of clay,
and from earth humankind was formed;d
11In the fullness of his knowledge the Lord distinguished them,
and he designated their different ways.
12Some he blessed and exalted,
and some he sanctified and drew to himself.
Others he cursed and brought low,
and expelled them from their place.
13Like clay in the hands of a potter,
to be molded according to his pleasure,
So are people in the hands of their Maker,
to be dealt with as he decides.e
14As evil contrasts with good, and death with life,
so are sinners in contrast with the godly.f
15See now all the works of the Most High:
they come in pairs, one the opposite of the other.
16Now I am the last to keep vigil,*
like a gleaner following the grape-pickers;
17Since by the Lord’s blessing I have made progress
till like a grape-picker I have filled my wine press,
18Consider that not for myself only have I labored,
but for all who seek instruction.
Property and Servants*
19Listen to me, leaders of the people;
rulers of the congregation, pay heed!g
20aLet neither son nor wife, neither brother nor friend,
have power over you as long as you live.
21While breath of life is still in you,
let no one take your place.
20bDo not give your wealth to another,
lest you must plead for support yourself.
22Far better that your children plead with you
than that you should look for a handout from them.
23Keep control over all your affairs;
bring no stain on your honor.
24When your few days reach their limit,
at the time of death distribute your inheritance.
25Fodder and whip and loads for a donkey;
food, correction and work for a slave.
26Make a slave work, and he will look for rest;
let his hands be idle and he will seek to be free.h
27The yoke and harness will bow the neck;
and for a wicked slave, punishment in the stocks.
28Force him to work that he be not idle,
29for idleness teaches much mischief.
30Put him to work, as is fitting for him;
and if he does not obey, load him with chains.
But never lord it over any human being,
and do nothing unjust.
31If you have but one slave, treat him like yourself,
for you have acquired him with your life’s blood;
If you have but one slave, deal with him as a brother,
for you need him as you need your life.i
32If you mistreat him and he runs away,
33in what direction will you look for him?
* [33:3] Oracle: as the answer given through the Urim and Thummim to the high priest is true, so the law proves itself true to those who obey it. Cf. Ex 28:30; Nm 27:21.
* [33:7–15] An important doctrine of Ben Sira is his view of the polarities in creation and history; cf. v. 15; 42:24. Contrasts observable in the physical universe as well as in the moral order serve the purposes of divine wisdom (vv. 5–9). All creatures are like clay in the hands of their Maker—the fool and the wise, the sinner and the just (vv. 10–15). This does not imply that some are created to be sinners: God is not the author of wickedness. Divine determinism and human freedom are a mysterious mix.
* [33:16–18] Ben Sira refers to himself as the most recent of the biblical writers who have endeavored to present true wisdom to their readers.
* [33:19–33] Public officials should reject every influence that would restrict their freedom in the management of their affairs. They must make their own household subservient to them rather than be subservient to it (vv. 19–24). Slaves are to be given food and work and correction but never to be treated unjustly (vv. 25–30). Great care should be taken of good slaves (vv. 31–33).
a. [33:1] Ps 91:10–13; Mt 4:6; Lk 4:10–11.
c. [33:9] Ex 20:11; Dt 5:13–14.
e. [33:13] Wis 15:7; Jer 18:1–6; Rom 9:20–21.