Ben Sira

Chapter 44

Praise of Israel’s Great Ancestors

1 I will now praise the godly,
    our ancestors, in their own time,
2 The abounding glory of the Most High’s portion,
    his own part, since the days of old.
3 Subduers of the land in kingly fashion,
    renowned for their might,
Counselors in their prudence,
    seers of all things in prophecy,
4 Resolute princes of the flock,
    lawgivers and their rules,
Sages skilled in composition,
    authors of sharp proverbs,
5 Composers of melodious psalms,
    writers of lyric poems;
6 Stalwart, solidly established,
    at peace in their own estates—
7 All these were glorious in their time,
    illustrious in their day.
8 Some of them left behind a name
    so that people recount their praises.
9 Of others no memory remains,
    for when they perished, they perished,
As if they had never lived,
    they and their children after them.
10 Yet these also were godly;
    their virtues have not been forgotten.
11 Their wealth remains in their families,
    their heritage with their descendants.
12 Through God’s covenant their family endures,
    and their offspring for their sake.
13 And for all time their progeny will endure,
    their glory will never be blotted out;
14 Their bodies are buried in peace,
    but their name lives on and on.
15 At gatherings their wisdom is retold,
    and the assembly proclaims their praises.

The Early Ancestors

16 [Enoch walked with the Lord and was taken,
    that succeeding generations might learn by his example.]
17 Noah, found just and perfect,
    renewed the race in the time of devastation.
Because of his worth there were survivors,
    and with a sign to him the deluge ended.
18 A lasting covenant was made with him,
    that never again would all flesh be destroyed.
19 Abraham, father of many peoples,
    kept his glory without stain:
20 He 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.
21 For 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.

22 For Isaac, too, he renewed the same promise
    because of Abraham, his father.
The covenant with all his forebears was confirmed,
23     and the blessing rested upon the head of Israel.
God acknowledged him as the firstborn,
    and gave him his inheritance.
He fixed the boundaries for his tribes
    and their division into twelve.

Chapter 45

Praise of Moses, Aaron, and Phinehas

1 From him came the man
    who would win the favor of all the living:
Dear to God and human beings,
    Moses, whose memory is a blessing.
2 God made him like the angels in honor,
    and strengthened him with fearful powers.
3 At his words God performed signs
    and sustained him in the king’s presence.
He gave him the commandments for his people,
    and revealed to him his glory.
4 Because of his trustworthiness and meekness
    God selected him from all flesh;
5 He let him hear his voice,
    and led him into the cloud,
Where he handed over the commandments,
    the law of life and understanding,
That he might teach his precepts to Jacob,
    his judgments and decrees to Israel.

6 He also raised up, like Moses in holiness,
    his brother Aaron, of the tribe of Levi.
7 He made his office perpetual
    and bestowed on him priesthood for his people;
He established him in honor
    and crowned him with lofty majesty.
8 He clothed him in splendid garments,
    and adorned him with glorious vestments:
Breeches, tunic, and robe
9     with pomegranates at the hem
And a rustle of bells round about,
    whose pleasing sound at each step
Would make him heard within the sanctuary,
    a reminder for the people;
10 The sacred vestments of gold, violet,
    and crimson, worked with embroidery;
The breastpiece for decision, the ephod and cincture
11     with scarlet yarn, the work of the weaver;
Precious stones with seal engravings
    in golden settings, the work of the jeweler,
To commemorate in incised letters
    each of the tribes of Israel;
12 On his turban a diadem of gold,
    its plate engraved with the sacred inscription—
Majestic, glorious, renowned for splendor,
    a delight to the eyes, supremely beautiful.
13 Before him, no one had been adorned with these,
    nor may they ever be worn by any other
Except his sons and them alone,
    generation after generation, for all time.
14 His grain offering is wholly burnt
    as an established offering twice each day;
15 For Moses ordained him
    and anointed him with the holy oil,
In a lasting covenant with him and his family,
    as permanent as the heavens,
That he should serve God in the priesthood
    and bless the people in his name.
16 He chose him from all the living
    to sacrifice burnt offerings and choice portions,
To burn incense, sweet odor as a memorial,
    and to atone for the people of Israel.
17 He gave to him the laws,
    and authority to prescribe and to judge:
To teach precepts to the people,
    and judgments to the Israelites.
18 Strangers rose in anger against him,
    grew jealous of him in the desert—
The followers of Dathan and Abiram,
    and the band of Korah in their defiance.
19 When the Lord saw this he became angry,
    and destroyed them in his burning wrath.
He brought against them a marvel,
    and consumed them in flaming fire.
20 Then he increased the glory of Aaron
    and bestowed upon him his inheritance:
The sacred offerings he allotted to him,
    with the showbread as his portion;
21 The oblations of the Lord are his food,
    a gift to him and his descendants.
22 But he holds no land among the people
    nor shares with them their heritage;
For the Lord himself is his portion and inheritance
    among the Israelites.

23 Phinehas too, the son of Eleazar,
    was the courageous third of his line
When, zealous for the God of all,
    he met the crisis of his people
And, at the prompting of his noble heart,
    atoned for the children of Israel.
24 Therefore, on him also God conferred the right,
    in a covenant of friendship, to provide for the sanctuary,
So that he and his descendants
    should possess the high priesthood forever.
25 For even his covenant with David,
    the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah,
Was an individual heritage through one son alone;
    but the heritage of Aaron is for all his descendants.

So now bless the Lord
    who has crowned you with glory!
26 May he grant you wisdom of heart
    to govern his people in justice,
Lest the benefits you confer should be forgotten,
    or your authority, throughout all time.

Chapter 46

Joshua, Caleb, the Judges, and Samuel

1 Valiant warrior was Joshua, son of Nun,
    aide to Moses in the prophetic office,
Formed to be, as his name implies,
    the great savior of God’s chosen ones,
To punish the enemy
    and to give to Israel their heritage.
2 What glory was his when he raised his hand,
    to brandish his sword against the city!
3 Who could withstand him
    when he fought the battles of the Lord?
4 Was it not by that same hand the sun stopped,
    so that one day became two?
5 He called upon the Most High God
    when his enemies beset him on all sides,
And God Most High answered him
    with hailstones of tremendous power,
6 That rained down upon the hostile army
    till on the slope he destroyed the foe;
That all the doomed nations might know
    the Lord was watching over his people’s battles.
He was indeed a devoted follower of God
7     and showed himself loyal in Moses’ lifetime.
He and Caleb, son of Jephunneh,
    when they opposed the rebel assembly,
Averted God’s anger from the people
    and suppressed the wicked complaint.
8 Because of this, these two alone were spared
    from the six hundred thousand infantry,
To lead the people into their heritage,
    the land flowing with milk and honey.
9 The strength God gave to Caleb
    remained with him even in old age
Till he won his way onto the summits of the land;
    his family too received a heritage,
10 That all the offspring of Jacob might know
    how good it is to be a devoted follower of the Lord.

11 The Judges, each one of them,
    whose hearts were not deceived,
Who did not abandon God—
    may their memory be ever blessed!
12 May their bones flourish with new life where they lie,
    and their names receive fresh luster in their children!
13 Beloved of his people, dear to his Maker,
    pledged in a vow from his mother’s womb,
As one consecrated to the Lord in the prophetic office,
    was Samuel, the judge who offered sacrifice.
At God’s word he established the kingdom
    and anointed princes to rule the people.
14 By the law of the Lord he judged the congregation,
    and visited the encampments of Jacob.
15 As a trustworthy prophet he was sought out
    and his words proved him to be a true seer.
16 He, too, called upon the mighty Lord
    when his enemies pressed him on every side,
    and offered up a suckling lamb.
17 Then the Lord thundered from heaven,
    and the tremendous roar of his voice was heard.
18 He brought low the rulers of the enemy
    and destroyed all the lords of the Philistines.
19 When Samuel neared the end of life,
    he testified before the Lord and his anointed prince,
“No bribe or secret gift have I taken from anyone!”
    and no one could accuse him.
20 Even after death his guidance was sought;
    he made known to the king his fate.
From the grave he spoke in prophecy
    to put an end to wickedness.

Chapter 47

Nathan, David, and Solomon

1 After him came Nathan
    who served in David’s presence.
2 Like the choice fat of sacred offerings,
    so was David in Israel.
3 He played with lions as though they were young goats,
    and with bears, like lambs of the flock.
4 As a youth he struck down the giant
    and wiped out the people’s disgrace;
His hand let fly the slingstone
    that shattered the pride of Goliath.
5 For he had called upon the Most High God,
    who gave strength to his right arm
To defeat the skilled warrior
    and establish the might of his people.
6 Therefore the women sang his praises
    and honored him for “the tens of thousands.”
When he received the royal crown, he battled
7     and subdued the enemy on every side.
He campaigned against the hostile Philistines
    and shattered their power till our own day.
8 With his every deed he offered thanks
    to God Most High, in words of praise.
With his whole heart he loved his Maker
9     and daily had his praises sung;
10 He added beauty to the feasts
    and solemnized the seasons of each year
09 With string music before the altar,
    providing sweet melody for the psalms
10 So that when the Holy Name was praised,
    before daybreak the sanctuary would resound.
11 The Lord forgave him his sins
    and exalted his strength forever;
He conferred on him the rights of royalty
    and established his throne in Israel.

12 Because of his merits he had as successor
    a wise son, who lived in security:
13 Solomon reigned during an era of peace,
    for God brought rest to all his borders.
He built a house to the name of God,
    and established a lasting sanctuary.
14 How wise you were when you were young,
    overflowing with instruction, like the Nile in flood!
15 Your understanding covered the whole earth,
    and, like a sea, filled it with knowledge.
16 Your fame reached distant coasts,
    and you were beloved for your peaceful reign.
17 With song and proverb and riddle,
    and with your answers, you astounded the nations.
18 You were called by that glorious name
    which was conferred upon Israel.
Gold you gathered like so much iron;
    you heaped up silver as though it were lead.
19 But you abandoned yourself to women
    and gave them dominion over your body.
20 You brought a stain upon your glory,
    shame upon your marriage bed,
Wrath upon your descendants,
    and groaning upon your deathbed.
21 Thus two governments came into being,
    when in Ephraim kingship was usurped.
22 But God does not withdraw his mercy,
    nor permit even one of his promises to fail.
He does not uproot the posterity of the chosen,
    nor destroy the offspring of his friends.
So he gave to Jacob a remnant,
    to David a root from his own family.

Rehoboam and Jeroboam

23 Solomon finally slept with his ancestors,
    and left behind him one of his sons,
Broad in folly, narrow in sense,
    whose policy made the people rebel.
Then arose the one who should not be remembered,
    the sinner who led Israel into sin,
Who brought ruin to Ephraim
24     and caused them to be exiled from their land.

Elijah and Elisha

25 Their sinfulness grew more and more,
    and they gave themselves to every evil

Chapter 48

1 Until like fire a prophet appeared,
    his words a flaming furnace.
2 The staff of life, their bread, he shattered,
    and in his zeal he made them few in number.
3 By God’s word he shut up the heavens
    and three times brought down fire.
4 How awesome are you, Elijah!
    Whose glory is equal to yours?
5 You brought a dead body back to life
    from Sheol, by the will of the Lord.
6 You sent kings down to destruction,
    and nobles, from their beds of sickness.
7 You heard threats at Sinai,
    at Horeb avenging judgments.
8 You anointed the agent of these punishments,
    the prophet to succeed in your place.
9 You were taken aloft in a whirlwind,
    in a chariot with fiery horses.
10 You are destined, it is written, in time to come
    to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord,
To turn back the hearts of parents toward their children,
    and to re-establish the tribes of Israel.
11 Blessed is the one who shall have seen you before he dies!

12     When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind,
Elisha was filled with his spirit;
He worked twice as many marvels,
    and every utterance of his mouth was wonderful.
During his lifetime he feared no one,
    nor was anyone able to intimidate his will.
13 Nothing was beyond his power;
    and from where he lay buried, his body prophesied.
14 In life he performed wonders,
    and after death, marvelous deeds.
15 Despite all this the people did not repent,
    nor did they give up their sins,
Until they were uprooted from their land
    and scattered all over the earth.


But Judah remained, a tiny people,
    with its ruler from the house of David.
16 Some of them did what was right,
    but others were extremely sinful.

Hezekiah and Isaiah

17 Hezekiah fortified his city
    and had water brought into it;
With bronze tools he cut through the rocks
    and dammed up a mountain site for water.
18 During his reign Sennacherib led an invasion
    and sent his adjutant;
He shook his fist at Zion
    and blasphemed God in his pride.
19 The people’s hearts melted within them,
    and they were in anguish like that of childbirth.
20 But they called upon the Most High God
    and lifted up their hands to him;
He heard the prayer they uttered,
    and saved them through Isaiah.
21 God struck the camp of the Assyrians
    and routed them with a plague.
22 For Hezekiah did what was right
    and held fast to the paths of David,
As ordered by the illustrious prophet
    Isaiah, who saw truth in visions.
23 In his lifetime he turned back the sun
    and prolonged the life of the king.
24 By his powerful spirit he looked into the future
    and consoled the mourners of Zion;
25 He foretold what would happen till the end of time,
    hidden things yet to be fulfilled.

Chapter 49

Josiah and the Prophets

1 The name Josiah is like blended incense,
    made lasting by a skilled perfumer.
Precious is his memory, like honey to the taste,
    like music at a banquet.
2 For he grieved over our betrayals,
    and destroyed the abominable idols.
3 He kept his heart fixed on God,
    and in times of lawlessness practiced virtue.
4 Except for David, Hezekiah, and Josiah,
    they all were wicked;
They abandoned the Law of the Most High,
    these kings of Judah, right to the very end.
5 So he gave over their power to others,
    their glory to a foreign nation
6 Who burned the holy city
    and left its streets desolate,
7 As foretold by Jeremiah. They mistreated him
    who even in the womb had been made a prophet,
To root out, pull down, and destroy,
    and then to build and to plant.
8 Ezekiel beheld a vision
    and described the different creatures of the chariot;
9 He also referred to Job,
    who always persevered in the right path.
10 Then, too, the Twelve Prophets
    may their bones flourish with new life where they lie!—
They gave new strength to Jacob
    and saved him with steadfast hope.

The Heroes After the Exile

11 How to extol Zerubbabel?
    He was like a signet ring on the right hand,
12 And Jeshua, Jozadak’s son?
    In their time they rebuilt the altar
And erected the holy temple,
    destined for everlasting glory.
13 Exalted be the memory of Nehemiah!
    He rebuilt our ruined walls,
Restored our shattered defenses,
    and set up gates and bars.

The Earliest Patriarchs

14 Few on earth have been created like Enoch;
    he also was taken up bodily.
15 Was ever a man born like Joseph?
    Even his dead body was provided for.
16 Glorious, too, were Shem and Seth and Enosh;
    but beyond that of any living being was the splendor of Adam.

Chapter 50

Simeon, Son of Jochanan

1 Greatest of his family, the glory of his people,
    was Simeon the priest, son of Jochanan,
In whose time the house of God was renovated,
    in whose days the temple was reinforced.
2 In his time also the retaining wall was built
    with powerful turrets for the temple precincts.
3 In his time the reservoir was dug,
    a pool as vast as the sea.
4 He protected the people against brigands
    and strengthened the city against the enemy.
5 How splendid he was as he looked out from the tent,
    as he came from behind the veil!
6 Like a star shining among the clouds,
    like the full moon at the festal season;
7 Like sun shining upon the temple of the King,
    like a rainbow appearing in the cloudy sky;
8 Like blossoms on the branches in springtime,
    like a lily by running waters;
Like a green shoot on Lebanon in summer,
9     like the fire of incense at sacrifice;
Like a vessel of hammered gold,
    studded with all kinds of precious stones;
10 Like a luxuriant olive tree heavy with fruit,
    a plant with branches abounding in oil;
11 Wearing his glorious robes,
    and vested in sublime magnificence,
As he ascended the glorious altar
    and lent majesty to the court of the sanctuary.
12 When he received the portions from the priests
    while he stood before the sacrificial wood,
His sons stood round him like a garland,
    like young cedars on Lebanon;
And like poplars by the brook they surrounded him,
13     all the sons of Aaron in their glory,
With the offerings to the Lord in their hands,
    in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel.
14 Once he had completed the service at the altar
    and arranged the sacrificial hearth for the Most High,
15 And had stretched forth his hand for the cup,
    to offer blood of the grape,
And poured it out at the foot of the altar,
    a sweet-smelling odor to God the Most High,
16 Then the sons of Aaron would sound a blast,
    the priests, on their trumpets of beaten metal;
A blast to resound mightily
    as a reminder before the Most High.
17 All the people with one accord
    would fall with face to the ground
In adoration before the Most High,
    before the Holy One of Israel.

18 Then hymns would re-echo,
    and over the throng sweet strains of praise resound.
19 All the people of the land would shout for joy,
    praying to the Merciful One,
As the high priest completed the service at the altar
    by presenting to God the fitting sacrifice.
20 Then coming down he would raise his hands
    over all the congregation of Israel;
The blessing of the Lord would be upon his lips,
    the name of the Lord would be his glory.
21 The people would again fall down
    to receive the blessing of the Most High.

22 And now, bless the God of all,
    who has done wonders on earth;
Who fosters growth from the womb,
    fashioning it according to his will!
23 May he grant you a wise heart
    and abide with you in peace;
24 May his goodness toward Simeon last forever;
    may he fulfill for him the covenant with Phinehas
So that it may not be abrogated for him
    or his descendants while the heavens last.


25 My whole being loathes two nations,
    the third is not even a people:
26 The inhabitants of Seir and Philistia,
    and the foolish people who dwell in Shechem.

27 Wise instruction, appropriate proverbs,
    I have written in this book—
I, Yeshua Ben Eleazar Ben Sira—
    as they poured forth from my heart’s understanding.
28 Happy those who meditate upon these things;
    wise those who take them to heart!
29 If they put them into practice, they can cope with anything,
    for the fear of the Lord is their lamp.