Praise of Israel’s Great Ancestors*
1I will now praise the godly,
our ancestors, in their own time,*
2The abounding glory of the Most High’s portion,
his own part, since the days of old.a
3Subduers of the land in kingly fashion,
renowned for their might,
Counselors in their prudence,
seers of all things in prophecy,b
4Resolute princes of the flock,
lawgivers and their rules,
Sages skilled in composition,
authors of sharp proverbs,
5Composers of melodious psalms,
writers of lyric poems;
6Stalwart, solidly established,
at peace in their own estates—
7All these were glorious in their time,
illustrious in their day.
8Some of them left behind a name
so that people recount their praises.
9Of others no memory remains,
for when they perished, they perished,
As if they had never lived,
they and their children after them.
10Yet these also were godly;
their virtues have not been forgotten.
11Their wealth remains in their families,
their heritage with their descendants.
12Through God’s covenant their family endures,
and their offspring for their sake.
13And for all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out;
14Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on and on.c
15At gatherings their wisdom is retold,
and the assembly proclaims their praises.
The Early Ancestors
16[ENOCH* walked with the LORD and was taken,d
that succeeding generations might learn by his example.]
17NOAH, found just and perfect,
renewed the race in the time of devastation.e
Because of his worth there were survivors,
and with a sign to him the deluge ended.
18A lasting covenant was made with him,
that never again would all flesh be destroyed.
19ABRAHAM, father of many peoples,
kept his glory without stain:f
20He observed the Most High’s command,
and entered into a covenant with him;
In his own flesh he incised the ordinance,*
and when tested was found loyal.g
21For this reason, God promised him with an oath
to bless the nations through his descendants,
To make him numerous as grains of dust,
and to exalt his posterity like the stars,
Giving them an inheritance from sea to sea,
and from the River* to the ends of the earth.
22For ISAAC, too, he renewed the same promise
because of Abraham, his father.
The covenant with all his forebears was confirmed,
23and the blessing rested upon the head of ISRAEL.h
God acknowledged him as the firstborn,
and gave him his inheritance.
He fixed the boundaries for his tribes
and their division into twelve.
* [44:1–50:24] As in the previous section God’s glory shone forth in the works of nature, so in these chapters it is revealed through the history of God’s people as seen in the lives of their ancestors, prophets, priests, and rulers. The example of these great people, whose virtues are recalled here, constitutes a high point of Ben Sira’s teaching.
* [44:1–15] The reader is here introduced to those people of Israel, later mentioned by name, who through various achievements and beneficial social activities have acquired great renown (vv. 1–8, 14–15); and also to those who, though forgotten, endure through the fruit of their virtues and through their families because of God’s covenant with them (vv. 9–15).
* [44:16] Enoch: because of his friendship with God and his unusual disappearance from the earth, this prophet’s renown was great among the chosen people, particularly in the two centuries just before the coming of Christ; cf. Gn 5:21–24; Heb 11:5. The present verse is an expansion of the original text; cf. 49:14.
* [44:20] In his own flesh…ordinance: the covenant of circumcision; cf. Gn 17:10–14. And when tested…loyal: Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at the Lord’s command; cf. Gn 22:1–12.
* [44:21] The River: the Euphrates; cf. Gn 2:14.
d. [44:16] Sir 49:14; Gn 5:18–24; Heb 11:5.
e. [44:17] Gn 6:8–9:29; Heb 11:7.
f. [44:19] Gn 12:1–25:10; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; Heb 11:8–19; Jas 2:23.
g. [44:20] Gn 17:10–14; 22:1–12.