1O death! How bitter is the thought of you*
for the one at peace in his home,
For the one who is serene and always successful,
who can still enjoy life’s pleasures.
2O death! How welcome is your sentence
to the weak, failing in strength,
Stumbling and tripping on everything,
with sight gone and hope lost.a
3Do not fear death’s decree for you;
remember, it embraces those before you and those to come.b
4This decree for all flesh is from God;
why then should you reject a law of the Most High?
Whether one has lived a thousand years, a hundred, or ten,
in Sheol there are no arguments about life.
5The children of sinners are a reprobate line,c
and witless offspring are in the homes of the wicked.
6The inheritance of children of sinners will perish,
and on their offspring will be perpetual disgrace.
7Children curse their wicked father,
for they suffer disgrace because of him.
8Woe to you, O wicked people,
who forsake the Law of the Most High.
9If you have children, calamity will be theirs;
and if you beget them, it will be only for groaning.
When you stumble, there is lasting joy;
and when you die, you become a curse.
10All that is nought returns to nought,
so too the godless—from void to void.d
11The human body is a fleeting thing,
but a virtuous name will never be annihilated.e
12Have respect for your name, for it will stand by you
more than thousands of precious treasures.f
13The good things of life last a number of days,
but a good name, for days without number.
True and False Shame*
14bHidden wisdom and concealed treasure,
of what value is either?
15Better is the person who hides his folly
than the one who hides his wisdom.
14aMy children, listen to instruction about shame;
16ajudge of disgrace according to my rules,
16bNot every kind of shame is shameful,
nor is every kind of disgrace to be recognized.
17Before father and mother be ashamed of immorality,
before prince and ruler, of falsehood;
18Before master and mistress, of deceit;
before the public assembly, of crime;
Before associate and friend, of disloyalty,
19and in the place where you settle, of theft.
Be ashamed of breaking an oath or a covenant,
and of stretching your elbow at dinner;
Of refusing to give when asked,
21of rebuffing your own relatives;
Of defrauding another of his appointed share,
20aof failing to return a greeting;
21cOf gazing at a man’s wife,
20bof entertaining thoughts about another woman;g
22Of trifling with a servant girl you have,
of violating her bed;
Of using harsh words with friends,
of following up your gifts with insults;h
* [41:1–13] Whether death seems bitter to one who enjoys peace, success, and pleasure, or welcome to one who is weak and in despair, it comes to all and must be accepted as the will of God (vv. 1–4). The human body passes away (v. 11). Sinners as well as their offspring pass away as if they had never been (vv. 5–10). Only the good name of the virtuous endures (vv. 11–13).
* [41:14–42:8] Ben Sira illustrates the subject of true and false shame with numerous and detailed examples of wrongdoing (41:14–22) and virtue (42:1–8), following the norm of the commandments.
c. [41:5–10] Sir 3:9–11; Wis 3:16–19.
d. [41:10] Sir 40:11; Wis 4:19.
f. [41:12] Prv 22:1; Eccl 7:1.