1Do not be a foe instead of a friend.
A bad name, disgrace, and dishonor you will inherit.
Thus the wicked, the double-tongued!*
2Do not fall into the grip of your passion,a
lest like fire it consume your strength.
3It will eat your leaves and destroy your fruits,
and you will be left like a dry tree.
4For fierce passion destroys its owner
and makes him the sport of his enemies.
5Pleasant speech multiplies friends,
and gracious lips, friendly greetings.
6Let those who are friendly to you be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
7When you gain friends, gain them through testing,b
and do not be quick to trust them.
8For there are friends when it suits them,
but they will not be around in time of trouble.
9Another is a friend who turns into an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your disgrace.
10Others are friends, table companions,
but they cannot be found in time of affliction.
11When things go well, they are your other self,
and lord it over your servants.
12If disaster comes upon you, they turn against you
and hide themselves.
13Stay away from your enemies,
and be on guard with your friends.
14Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter;
whoever finds one finds a treasure.
15Faithful friends are beyond price,
no amount can balance their worth.
16Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
those who fear God will find them.
17Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship,
for as they are, so will their neighbors be.
Blessings of Wisdom*
18My child, from your youth choose discipline;
and when you have gray hair you will find wisdom.
19As though plowing and sowing, draw close to her;
then wait for her bountiful crops.
For in cultivating her you will work but little,
and soon you will eat her fruit.
20She is rough ground to the fool!
The stupid cannot abide her.
21She will be like a burdensome stone to them,
and they will not delay in casting her aside.
22For discipline* is like her name,
she is not accessible to many.
23Listen, my child, and take my advice;
do not refuse my counsel.
24Put your feet into her fetters,
and your neck under her yoke.
25Bend your shoulders and carry her
and do not be irked at her bonds.
26With all your soul draw close to her;
and with all your strength keep her ways.
27Inquire and search, seek and find;
when you get hold of her, do not let her go.
28Thus at last you will find rest in her,
and she will become your joy.
29Her fetters will be a place of strength;
her snare, a robe of spun gold.
30Her yoke will be a gold ornament;c
her bonds, a purple cord.
31You will wear her as a robe of glory,
and bear her as a splendid crown.
32If you wish, my son, you can be wise;
if you apply yourself, you can be shrewd.
33If you are willing to listen, you can learn;
if you pay attention, you can be instructed.
34Stand in the company of the elders;
stay close to whoever is wise.
35Be eager to hear every discourse;
let no insightful saying escape you.d
36If you see the intelligent, seek them out;
let your feet wear away their doorsteps!
37Reflect on the law of the Most High,
and let his commandments be your constant study.
Then he will enlighten your mind,
and make you wise as you desire.e
* [6:1] Thus…double-tongued!: people will say this against those disgraced by lying and double-talk.
* [6:5–17] One of several poems Ben Sira wrote on friendship; see also 9:10–16; 12:8–18; 13:1–23; 19:13–17; 22:19–26; 27:16–21. True friends are discerned not by prosperity (v. 11), but through the trials of adversity: distress, quarrels (v. 9), sorrow (v. 10) and misfortune (v. 12). Such friends are rare, a gift from God (vv. 14–17).
* [6:18–37] The various figures in each of the eight stanzas urge the search for wisdom through patience (vv. 18–19), persistence (vv. 20–22), docility and perseverance (vv. 23–28). Wisdom bestows rich rewards (vv. 29–31) on those who apply themselves and learn from the wise (vv. 32–36). Although one must strive for wisdom, it is God who grants it (v. 37). Cf. 4:11–19.
* [6:22] Discipline: musar (in the sense of wisdom) is a perfect homonym for musar, “removed, withdrawn”; thus the path of discipline is not accessible to many.
a. [6:2–3] Sir 9:8; 23:16; 25:21; 41:20, 22; Jb 31:12.
b. [6:7–9] Sir 12:8–9; 37:1–5; Prv 19:4.