Introduction: Book of Sirach (Bible Marathon Day 358)

Introduction: Book of Sirach (Bible Marathon Day 358)

The Book of Sirach, also known as Ecclesiasticus, is part of the Wisdom Literature of the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate Bible. While originally written in Hebrew, the Book was read only through its Greek translation, known as S????. The Book was not included in the Hebrew Masoretic Text as part of the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament. However, most of the Hebrew text of Sirach has been uncovered in the Cairo Geniza, at Masada, and in three Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. 2QSir designates Sirach from Cave 2 at Qumran, 11QPsª designates a scroll from Cave 11, which contained the canticle from Sirach Chapter 51:13-30, but which was found in the Psalms scroll! As with all ancient texts discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew Scripture was in consonantal text only. A manuscript with six chapters of Sirach was found at Masada. Survivors following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD fled to Masada, a fortress on a mountain plateau built by Herod near the Dead Sea. (source:
The Author

At the present day, the authorship of the book is universally and rightly assigned to a certain “Jesus”, concerning whose person and character a great deal has indeed been surmised but very little is actually known. In the Greek prologue to the work, the author’s proper name is given as Iesous, and this information is corroborated by the subscriptions found in the original Hebrew: 1, 27 (Vulgate, 1, 29); li, 30. His familiar surname was Ben Sira, as the Hebrew text and the ancient versions agree to attest. He is described in the Greek and Latin versions as “a man of Jerusalem” (1, 29), and internal evidence (cf. xxiv, 13 sqq.; 1) tends to confirm the statement, although it is not found in the Hebrew.

Ben Sira, the author, was a devout man of wisdom who lived in Jerusalem about 200 BC. The first 43 chapters of the Book provide moral instruction and common sense gained from experience, fitting of Wisdom literature.
The Date

Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, is believed to have written this book between 200–175 BC.

The Book

As with the Book of Job, the author notes the “beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” Chapter One on Wisdom, Chapter Six on Friendship and Discipline, Chapters 25-26 on Wives and Women, and Chapter 42 on a Father’s Care for his Daughter are representative of the first section. Chapters 44-50 present a refreshing history of the ancestors, patriarchs, and leaders of Israel. A Fifty-First Chapter concludes the Book with a prayer.

In light of recent discoveries, while the Book had traditionally been known as Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, the text is now called Ben Sira in view of its Hebrew origin.


Wisdom Chapter 19 (Bible Marathon Day 358)

Wisdom 19New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 19

But merciless wrath assailed the wicked until the end,
    for God knew beforehand what they were yet to do:
That though they themselves had agreed to the departure
    and had anxiously sent them on their way,
    they would regret it and pursue them.
For while they were still engaged in funeral rites
    and mourning at the burials of the dead,
They adopted another senseless plan:
    those whom they had driven out with entreaties
    they now pursued as fugitives.
For a compulsion appropriate to this ending drew them on,
    and made them forget what had befallen them,
That they might complete the torments of their punishment,
    and your people might experience a glorious[a] journey
    while those others met an extraordinary death.

[b]For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew,
    serving your commands, that your children might be preserved unharmed.
The cloud overshadowed their camp;
    and out of what had been water, dry land was seen emerging:
Out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road,
    and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood.
Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand,
    and they beheld stupendous wonders.
For they ranged about like horses,
    and leapt like lambs,
    praising you, Lord, their deliverer.
10 For they were still mindful of what had happened in their sojourn:
    how instead of the young of animals the land brought forth gnats,
    and instead of fishes the river swarmed with countless frogs.
11 And later they saw also a new kind of bird
    when, prompted by desire, they asked for pleasant foods;
12 For to appease them quail came to them from the sea.
13 And the punishments came upon the sinners
    not without forewarnings from the violence of the thunderbolts.

For they justly suffered for their own misdeeds,
    since they treated their guests with the more grievous[c] hatred.
14 For those others[d] did not receive unfamiliar visitors,
    but these were enslaving beneficent guests.
15 And not that only; but what punishment was to be theirs[e]
    since they received strangers unwillingly!
16 Yet these,[f] after welcoming them with festivities,
    oppressed with awful toils
    those who had shared with them the same rights.
17 And they were struck with blindness,[g]
    as those others had been at the doors of the righteous man—
When, surrounded by yawning darkness,
    each sought the entrance of his own door.

18 For the elements, in ever-changing harmony,
    like strings of the harp, produce new melody,
    while the flow of music steadily persists.
And this can be perceived exactly from a review of what took place.
19 For land creatures were changed into water creatures,
    and those that swam went over on land.
20 Fire in water maintained its own strength,
    and water forgot its quenching nature;
21 Flames, by contrast, neither consumed the flesh
    of the perishable animals that went about in them,
    nor melted the icelike, quick-melting kind of ambrosial food.
22 For every way, Lord! you magnified and glorified your people;
    unfailing, you stood by them in every time and circumstance.


  1. 19:5 Glorious: more precisely, “wondrous,” but the word reflects “glorified” in 18:8 and 19:22.
  2. 19:6 The cooperation of creation in Israel’s deliverance (vv. 7–12) under the direction of the Lord is a favorite theme; cf. 16:24–25.
  3. 19:13 More grievous: than that of the people of Sodom (Gn 19) with whom the Egyptians are compared.
  4. 19:14 Others: the people of Sodom refused to receive strangers. Beneficent: because of the services rendered by Joseph.
  5. 19:15 Theirs: the people of Sodom.
  6. 19:16 These: the Egyptians.
  7. 19:17 Blindness: the plague of darkness. Righteous man: Lot (Gn 19:11).


Wisdom Chapter 18 (Bible Marathon Day 357)

Wisdom 18New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 18

But your holy ones had very great light;
And those others, who heard their voices but did not see their forms,
    counted them blest for not having suffered;
And because they who formerly had been wronged did not harm them, they thanked them,
    and because of the difference between them,[a] pleaded with them.
Instead of this, you furnished the flaming pillar,
    a guide on the unknown way,
    and the mild sun for an honorable migration.
[b]For they deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned by darkness,
    they had kept your children confined,
    through whom the imperishable light of the law was to be given to the world.

Fifth Example: Death of the Egyptian Firstborn; the Israelites Are Spared

When they determined to put to death the infants of the holy ones,
    and when a single boy[c] had been cast forth and then saved,
As a reproof you carried off a multitude of their children
    and made them perish all at once in the mighty water.
That night was known beforehand to our ancestors,
    so that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage.
The expectation of your people
    was the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of their foes.
For by the same means with which you punished our adversaries,
    you glorified us whom you had summoned.
For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice
    and carried out with one mind the divine institution,[d]
So that your holy ones should share alike the same blessings and dangers,
    once they had sung the ancestral hymns of praise.
10 But the discordant cry of their enemies echoed back,
    and the piteous wail of mourning for children was borne to them.
11 And the slave was smitten with the same retribution as the master;
    even the commoner suffered the same as the king.
12 And all alike by one common form of death
    had countless dead;
For the living were not even sufficient for the burial,
    since at a single instant their most valued offspring had been destroyed.
13 For though they disbelieved at every turn on account of sorceries,
    at the destruction of the firstborn they acknowledged that this people[e]was God’s son.
14 [f]For when peaceful stillness encompassed everything
    and the night in its swift course was half spent,
15 Your all-powerful word from heaven’s royal throne
    leapt into the doomed land,
16     a fierce warrior bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree,
And alighted, and filled every place with death,
    and touched heaven, while standing upon the earth.
17 Then, at once, visions in horrible dreams perturbed them
    and unexpected fears assailed them;
18 And cast half-dead, one here, another there,
    they revealed why they were dying.
19 For the dreams that disturbed them had proclaimed this beforehand,
    lest they perish unaware of why they endured such evil.

20 The trial of death touched even the righteous,
    and in the desert a plague struck the multitude;
Yet not for long did the anger last.
21 For the blameless man[g] hastened to be their champion,
    bearing the weapon of his special office,
    prayer and the propitiation of incense;
He withstood the wrath and put a stop to the calamity,
    showing that he was your servant.
22 He overcame the bitterness
    not by bodily strength, not by force of arms;
But by word he overcame the smiter,[h]
    recalling the sworn covenants with their ancestors.
23 For when corpses had already fallen one on another in heaps,
    he stood in the midst and checked the anger,
    and cut off its way to the living.
24 For on his full-length robe was the whole world,
    and ancestral glories were carved on the four rows of stones,
    and your grandeur[i] was on the crown upon his head.
25 To these the destroyer yielded, these he feared;
    for this sole trial of anger sufficed.


  1. 18:2 The difference between them: God’s distinctive manner of treating the Israelites and the Egyptians according to their respective deeds. Pleaded: perhaps, for their departure.
  2. 18:4 The discussion of physical light climaxes with a reference to the “imperishable light” of the torah.
  3. 18:5 Single boy: Moses.
  4. 18:9 Divine institution: the Passover. Ancestral hymns of praise: possibly the Hallel psalms, the psalms sung at the end of the Passover meal; cf. Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26.
  5. 18:13 People: the Israelites (cf. Ex 4:22).
  6. 18:14–16 These verses attribute to the personified “word” the actions of the Lord mentioned in Ex 12:13–17 (note the role of the “destroyer” in Ex 12:23 and compare Wis 18:22, 25).
  7. 18:21 Blameless man: Aaron, acting according to his office of high priest and intercessor (cf. Nm 17:9–15; Ex 28:15–21, 31–38).
  8. 18:22 Smiter: the destroying angel; cf. v. 25.
  9. 18:24 Glories…grandeur: the name of God and the names of the tribes were inscribed on the high priest’s apparel.

Wisdom Chapter 17 (Bible Marathon Day 357)

Wisdom 17New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 17

Fourth Example: Darkness Afflicts the Egyptians, While the Israelites Have Light[a]

For great are your judgments, and hard to describe;
    therefore the unruly souls went astray.
For when the lawless thought to enslave the holy nation,
    they themselves lay shackled with darkness, fettered by the long night,
    confined beneath their own roofs as exiles from the eternal providence.
For they, who supposed their secret sins were hid
    under the dark veil of oblivion,
Were scattered in fearful trembling,
    terrified by apparitions.
For not even their inner chambers kept them unafraid,
    for crashing sounds on all sides terrified them,
    and mute phantoms with somber looks appeared.
No fire had force enough to give light,
    nor did the flaming brilliance of the stars
    succeed in lighting up that gloomy night.
But only intermittent, fearful fires
    flashed through upon them;
And in their terror they thought beholding these was worse
    than the times when that sight was no longer to be seen.
And mockeries of their magic art[b] failed,
    and there was a humiliating refutation of their vaunted shrewdness.
For they who undertook to banish fears and terrors from the sick soul
    themselves sickened with ridiculous fear.
For even though no monstrous thing frightened them,
    they shook at the passing of insects and the hissing of reptiles,
10 And perished trembling,
    reluctant to face even the air that they could nowhere escape.
11 For wickedness, of its nature cowardly, testifies in its own condemnation,
    and because of a distressed conscience, always magnifies misfortunes.
12 For fear is nought but the surrender of the helps that come from reason;
13     and the more one’s expectation is of itself uncertain,
    the more one makes of not knowing the cause that brings on torment.
14 So they, during that night, powerless though it was,
    since it had come upon them from the recesses of a powerless[c] Hades,
    while all sleeping the same sleep,
15 Were partly smitten by fearsome apparitions
    and partly stricken by their souls’ surrender;
    for fear overwhelmed them, sudden and unexpected.
16 Thus, then, whoever was there fell
    into that prison without bars and was kept confined.
17 For whether one was a farmer, or a shepherd,
    or a worker at tasks in the wasteland,
Taken unawares, each served out the inescapable sentence;
18     for all were bound by the one bond of darkness.
And were it only the whistling wind,
    or the melodious song of birds in the spreading branches,
Or the steady sound of rushing water,
19     or the rude crash of overthrown rocks,
Or the unseen gallop of bounding animals,
    or the roaring cry of the fiercest beasts,
Or an echo resounding from the hollow of the hills—
    these sounds, inspiring terror, paralyzed them.
20 For the whole world shone with brilliant light
    and continued its works without interruption;
21 But over them alone was spread oppressive night,
    an image of the darkness[d] that was about to come upon them.
    Yet they were more a burden to themselves than was the darkness.


  1. 17:1–18:4 The description of the darkness of the ninth plague is a very creative development of Ex 10:21–29. It betrays a wide knowledge of contemporary thought. For the first and only time in the Septuagint the Greek word for “conscience” occurs, in 17:11. There is no Hebrew word that is equivalent; the idea is expressed indirectly. The horrendous darkness is illumined by “fires” (v. 6), i.e., lightnings that only contributed to the terror.
  2. 17:7 Magic art: the Egyptian magicians who were successful at first (Ex 7:11, 22) and then failed (Ex 8:14; 9:11) are now powerless against the darkness and the phantoms and are totally discredited.
  3. 17:14 Powerless: Hades (or Sheol), i.e., the nether world, is often portrayed in the Old Testament as a hostile power, since all must die (Ps 49:8–13), but it has no power against God.
  4. 17:21 Darkness: of Hades or Sheol; see note on 16:13–14.

Wisdom Chapter 16 (Bible Marathon Day 356)

Wisdom 16New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 16

Therefore they[a] were fittingly punished by similar creatures,
    and were tormented by a swarm of insects.
Instead of this punishment, you benefited your people
    with a novel dish, the delight they craved,
    by providing quail for their food,
So that those others, when they desired food,
    should lose their appetite even for necessities,
    since the creatures sent to plague them were so loathsome,
While these, after a brief period of privation,
    partook of a novel dish.
For inexorable want had to come upon those oppressors;
    but these needed only to be shown how their enemies were being tormented.

For when the dire venom of beasts came upon them
    and they were dying from the bite of crooked serpents,
    your anger endured not to the end.
But as a warning, for a short time they were terrorized,
    though they had a sign[b] of salvation, to remind them of the precept of your law.
For the one who turned toward it was saved,
    not by what was seen,
    but by you, the savior of all.
By this also you convinced our foes
    that you are the one who delivers from all evil.
For the bites of locusts and of flies slew them,
    and no remedy was found to save their lives
    because they deserved to be punished by such means;
10 But not even the fangs of poisonous reptiles overcame your children,
    for your mercy came forth and healed them.
11 For as a reminder of your injunctions, they were stung,
    and swiftly they were saved,
Lest they should fall into deep forgetfulness
    and become unresponsive to your beneficence.
12 For indeed, neither herb nor application cured them,
    but your all-healing word, O Lord!
13 [c]For you have dominion over life and death;
    you lead down to the gates of Hades and lead back.
14 Human beings, however, may kill another with malice,
    but they cannot bring back the departed spirit,
    or release the soul that death has confined.
15 Your hand no one can escape.

Third Example: A Rain of Manna for Israel Instead of the Plague of Storms

16 For the wicked who refused to know you
    were punished by the might of your arm,
Were pursued by unusual rains and hailstorms and unremitting downpours,
    and were consumed by fire.
17 For against all expectation, in water which quenches everything,
    the fire grew more active;
For the universe fights on behalf of the righteous.
18 Then the flame was tempered
    so that the beasts that were sent upon the wicked might not be burnt up,
    but that these might see and know that they were struck by the judgment of God;
19 And again, even in the water, fire blazed beyond its strength
    so as to consume the produce of the wicked land.
20 Instead of this, you nourished your people with food of angels[d]
    and furnished them bread from heaven, ready to hand, untoiled-for,
    endowed with all delights and conforming to every taste.
21 For this substance of yours revealed your sweetness toward your children,
    and serving the desire of the one who received it,
    was changed to whatever flavor each one wished.
22 Yet snow and ice[e] withstood fire and were not melted,
    so that they might know that their enemies’ fruits
Were consumed by a fire that blazed in the hail
    and flashed lightning in the rain.

23 But this fire, again, in order that the righteous might be nourished,
    forgot even its proper strength;
24 For your creation, serving you, its maker,
    grows tense for punishment against the wicked,
    but is relaxed in benefit for those who trust in you.
25 Therefore at that very time, transformed in all sorts of ways,
    it was serving your all-nourishing bounty
    according to what they needed and desired;
26 That your children whom you loved might learn, O Lord,
    that it is not the various kinds of fruits that nourish,
    but your word that preserves those who believe you!
27 For what was not destroyed by fire,
    melted when merely warmed by a momentary sunbeam;
28 To make known that one must give you thanks before sunrise,
    and turn to you at daybreak.
29 For the hope of the ungrateful melts like a wintry frost
    and runs off like useless water.


  1. 16:1 They: the Egyptian idolaters, who are punished according to the principle laid down in 11:5,15–16.
  2. 16:6 Sign: the brazen serpent, as related in Numbers 21, but the author deliberately avoids any misunderstanding by addressing the Lord as responsible for the healing, since he is “the savior of all” (v. 7; see also vv. 12 and 26 for the role of the “word” of God).
  3. 16:13–14 The author recognizes the power of the Lord over life and death, as expressed in 1 Sm 2:6; Tb 13:2. The traditional imagery of Sheol (gates and confinement) colors the passage.
  4. 16:20 Food of angels: the famous phrase (cf. the hymn “Panis Angelicus”) is taken from Ps 78:24as rendered by the Septuagint. The “bread from heaven” (cf. Ex 16:4; Ps 105:40) with its marvelous “sweetness” becomes a type of the “bread come down from heaven” in Jn 6:32–51, and plays a large role in later Christian devotion.
  5. 16:22 Snow and ice: the manna; cf. v. 27; 19:21.

Wisdom Chapter 15 (Bible Marathon Day 356)

Wisdom 15New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 15

[a]But you, our God, are good and true,
    slow to anger, and governing all with mercy.
For even if we sin, we are yours, and know your might;
    but we will not sin, knowing that we belong to you.
For to know you well is complete righteousness,
    and to know your might is the root of immortality.
For the evil creation of human fancy did not deceive us,
    nor the fruitless labor of painters,
A form smeared with varied colors,
    the sight of which arouses yearning in a fool,
    till he longs for the inanimate form of a dead image.
Lovers of evil things, and worthy of such hopes
    are they who make them and long for them and worship them.

The Potter’s Clay Idols

For the potter, laboriously working the soft earth,
    molds for our service each single article:
He fashions out of the same clay
    both the vessels that serve for clean purposes
    and their opposites, all alike;
As to what shall be the use of each vessel of either class
    the worker in clay is the judge.
[b]With misspent toil he molds a meaningless god from the selfsame clay,
    though he himself shortly before was made from the earth,
And is soon to go whence he was taken,
    when the life that was lent him is demanded back.
But his concern is not that he is to die
    nor that his span of life is brief;
Rather, he vies with goldsmiths and silversmiths
    and emulates molders of bronze,
    and takes pride in fashioning counterfeits.
10 Ashes his heart is![c] more worthless than earth is his hope,
    more ignoble than clay his life;
11 Because he knew not the one who fashioned him,
    and breathed into him a quickening soul,
    and infused a vital spirit.
12 Instead, he esteemed our life a mere game,
    and our span of life a holiday for gain;
“For one must,” says he, “make a profit in every way, be it even from evil.”
13 For more than anyone else he knows that he is sinning,
    when out of earthen stuff he creates fragile vessels and idols alike.

14 But most stupid of all and worse than senseless in mind,
    are the enemies of your people who enslaved them.
15 For they esteemed all the idols of the nations as gods,
    which cannot use their eyes to see,
    nor nostrils to breathe the air,
Nor ears to hear,
    nor fingers on their hands for feeling;
    even their feet are useless to walk with.
16 For it was a mere human being who made them;
    one living on borrowed breath who fashioned them.
For no one is able to fashion a god like himself;
17     he is mortal, and what he makes with lawless hands is dead.
For he is better than the things he worships;
    he at least lives, but never his idols.

Second Example Resumed

18 [d]Besides, they worship the most loathsome beasts—
    as regards stupidity, these are worse than the rest,[e]
19 For beasts are neither good-looking nor desirable;
    they have escaped both the approval of God and his blessing.


  1. 15:1–3 As often before (11:26; 12:2; 14:3–6), the author addresses God directly, so that chaps. 11–19 can be conceived as a more or less continuous prayer (cf. 11:7 and 19:22). This is the living God who is in stark contrast to the deadness of the idols that have been discussed. The merciful God (cf. Ex 34:6) is the source of immortality (1:15) for the community.
  2. 15:8–9 The author matches the irony of his words about the carpenter in 13:15–19 with this description of the potter’s vain work.
  3. 15:10 Ashes his heart is!: the words of this cry are taken from Is 44:20 (the Septuagint).
  4. 15:18–19 The author here returns (11:15; 12:23–27) to the main theme of chaps. 11–19, which was interrupted by the digression of 13:1–15:17.
  5. 15:18 Worse than the rest: this may mean that the creatures worshiped by the Egyptians (e.g., crocodiles, serpents, scarabs, etc.) were less intelligent than the general run of beasts.

Wisdom Chapter 14 (Bible Marathon Day 355)

Wisdom 14New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 14

Again, one preparing for a voyage and about to traverse the wild waves
    cries out to wood more unsound than the boat that bears him.
For the urge for profits devised this latter,
    and Wisdom the artisan produced it.

[a]But your providence, O Father! guides it,
    for you have furnished even in the sea a road,
    and through the waves a steady path,
Showing that you can save from any danger,
    so that even one without skill may embark.
But you will that the products of your Wisdom be not idle;
    therefore people trust their lives even to most frail wood,
    and were safe crossing the waves on a raft.
For of old, when the proud giants were being destroyed,
    the hope of the universe, who took refuge on a raft,[b]
    left to the world a future for the human family, under the guidance of your hand.

For blest is the wood through which righteousness comes about;
    but the handmade idol is accursed, and its maker as well:
    he for having produced it, and the corruptible thing, because it was termed a god.
Equally odious to God are the evildoer and the evil deed;
10     and the thing made will be punished with its maker.
11 Therefore upon even the idols of the nations shall a judgment come,
    since they became abominable among God’s works,
Snares for human souls
    and a trap for the feet of the senseless.

The Origin and Evils of Idolatry

12 For the source of wantonness is the devising of idols;
    and their invention, a corruption of life.
13 For in the beginning they were not,
    nor can they ever continue;
14     for from human emptiness they came into the world,
    and therefore a sudden end is devised for them.

15 [c]For a father, afflicted with untimely mourning,
    made an image of the child so quickly taken from him,
And now honored as a god what once was dead
    and handed down to his household mysteries and sacrifices.
16 Then, in the course of time, the impious practice gained strength and was observed as law,
    and graven things were worshiped by royal decrees.
17 People who lived so far away that they could not honor him in his presence
    copied the appearance of the distant king
And made a public image of him they wished to honor,
    out of zeal to flatter the absent one as though present.
18 And to promote this observance among those to whom it was strange,
    the artisan’s ambition provided a stimulus.
19 For he, perhaps in his determination to please the ruler,
    labored over the likeness[d] to the best of his skill;
20 And the masses, drawn by the charm of the workmanship,
    soon took as an object of worship the one who shortly before was honored as a human being.
21 And this became a snare for the world,
    that people enslaved to either grief or tyranny
    conferred the incommunicable Name on stones and wood.

22 Then it was not enough for them to err in their knowledge of God;
    but even though they live in a great war resulting from ignorance,
    they call such evils peace.
23 For while they practice either child sacrifices or occult mysteries,
    or frenzied carousing in exotic rites,
24 They no longer respect either lives or purity of marriage;
    but they either waylay and kill each other, or aggrieve each other by adultery.
25 And all is confusion—blood and murder, theft and guile,
    corruption, faithlessness, turmoil, perjury,
26 Disturbance of good people, neglect of gratitude,
    besmirching of souls, unnatural lust,
    disorder in marriage, adultery and shamelessness.
27 For the worship of infamous idols
    is the reason and source and extreme of all evil.

28 For they either go mad with enjoyment, or prophesy lies,
    or live lawlessly or lightly perjure themselves.
29 For as their trust is in lifeless idols,
    they expect no harm when they have sworn falsely.
30 But on both counts justice shall overtake them:
    because they thought perversely of God by devoting themselves to idols,
    and because they deliberately swore false oaths, despising piety.[e]
31 For it is not the might of those by whom they swear,
    but the just retribution of sinners,
    that ever follows upon the transgression of the wicked.[f]


  1. 14:3–6 The wooden ship mentioned in vv. 1–2 prompts a short meditation on the providence of God, who in fact has watched over boats in their dangerous courses. The wood as described in v. 7 became a favorite patristic type for the wood of the cross.
  2. 14:6 Noah.
  3. 14:15–21 The author develops two examples of idolatry: cult of the dead, and cult of the king.
  4. 14:19 Likeness: he made this more flattering than the reality.
  5. 14:30 Piety: the sanctity of oaths.
  6. 14:31 Perjury is a form of deceit which calls for punishment even though it be practiced in the name of a lifeless idol.

Wisdom Chapter 13 (Bible Marathon Day 355)

Chapter 13

Digression on False Worship

A. Nature Worship[a]

Foolish by nature were all who were in ignorance of God,
    and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing the one who is,[b]
    and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
Instead either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
    or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
    or the luminaries of heaven, the governors[c] of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
    let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
    for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
    let them realize from these things how much more powerful is the one who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
    their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;[d]
For they have gone astray perhaps,
    though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
    but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
    that they could speculate about the world,
    how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

B. Idolatry[e]

10 But wretched are they, and in dead things are their hopes,
    who termed gods things made by human hands:
Gold and silver, the product of art, and images of beasts,
    or useless stone, the work of an ancient hand.

The Carpenter and Wooden Idols

11 A carpenter may cut down a suitable tree
    and skillfully scrape off all its bark,
And deftly plying his art
    produce something fit for daily use,
12 And use the scraps from his handiwork
    in preparing his food, and have his fill;
13 Then the good-for-nothing refuse from these remnants,
    crooked wood grown full of knots,
    he takes and carves to occupy his spare time.
This wood he models with mindless skill,
    and patterns it on the image of a human being
14     or makes it resemble some worthless beast.
When he has daubed it with red and crimsoned its surface with red stain,
    and daubed over every blemish in it,
15 He makes a fitting shrine for it
    and puts it on the wall, fastening it with a nail.
16 Thus he provides for it lest it fall down,
    knowing that it cannot help itself;
    for, truly, it is an image and needs help.
17 But when he prays about his goods or marriage or children,
    he is not ashamed to address the thing without a soul.
For vigor he invokes the powerless;
18     for life he entreats the dead;
For aid he beseeches the wholly incompetent;
    for travel, something that cannot even walk;
19 For profit in business and success with his hands
    he asks power of a thing with hands utterly powerless.


  1. 13:1–9 The author holds a relatively benign view of the efforts of the philosophers to come to know God from various natural phenomena. This is not a question of proving the existence of God in scholastic style. The author thinks that the beauty and might of the world should have pointed by analogy (v. 5) to the Maker. Instead, those “in ignorance of God” remained fixed on the elements (v. 2, three named, along with the stars). His Greek counterparts are not totally blameless; they should have gone further and acknowledged the creator of nature’s wonders (vv. 4–5). Cf. Rom 1:18–23; Acts 17:27–28.
  2. 13:1 One who is: this follows the Greek translation of the sacred name for God in Hebrew; cf. Ex 3:14.
  3. 13:2 Governors: the sun and moon (cf. Gn 1:16).
  4. 13:6 The blame is less: the greater blame is incurred by those mentioned in v. 10; 15:14–16.
  5. 13:10–19 The second digression is an example of the polemic against idolatry (cf. Is 44:9–20; Jer 10:3–9; Ps 135:15–18). Whether the idols be of wood or clay, they were made by human beings and have become the source of evil.

Wisdom Chapter 12 (Bible Marathon Day 354)

Wisdom 12New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 12

Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
    warn them, and remind them of the sins they are committing,
    that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, Lord!

For truly, the ancient inhabitants of your holy land,
    whom you hated for deeds most odious—
    works of sorcery and impious sacrifices;
These merciless murderers of children,
    devourers of human flesh,[a]
    and initiates engaged in a blood ritual,
    and parents who took with their own hands defenseless lives,
You willed to destroy by the hands of our ancestors,
    that the land that is dearest of all to you
    might receive a worthy colony of God’s servants.
But even these you spared, since they were but mortals
    and sent wasps as forerunners of your army
    that they might exterminate them by degrees.

Not that you were without power to have the wicked vanquished in battle by the righteous,
    or wiped out at once by terrible beasts or by one decisive word;
10 But condemning them by degrees, you gave them space for repentance.
You were not unaware that their origins were wicked
    and their malice ingrained,
And that their dispositions would never change;
11     for they were a people accursed from the beginning.
Neither out of fear for anyone
    did you grant release from their sins.
12 For who can say to you, “What have you done?”
    or who can oppose your decree?
Or when peoples perish, who can challenge you, their maker;
    or who can come into your presence to vindicate the unrighteous?
13 For neither is there any god besides you who have the care of all,
    that you need show you have not unjustly condemned;
14 Nor can any king or prince confront you on behalf of those you have punished.

15 But as you are righteous, you govern all things righteously;
    you regard it as unworthy of your power
    to punish one who has incurred no blame.
16 For your might is the source of righteousness;
    your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
17 For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
    and in those who know you, you rebuke insolence.[b]
18 But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
    and with much lenience you govern us;
    for power, whenever you will, attends you.

19 You taught your people, by these deeds,
    that those who are righteous must be kind;
And you gave your children reason to hope
    that you would allow them to repent for their sins.
20 For these were enemies of your servants, doomed to death;
    yet, while you punished them with such solicitude and indulgence,
    granting time and opportunity to abandon wickedness,
21 With what exactitude you judged your children,
    to whose ancestors you gave the sworn covenants of goodly promises!
22 Therefore to give us a lesson you punish our enemies with measured deliberation
    so that we may think earnestly of your goodness when we judge,
    and, when being judged, we may look for mercy.

Second Example Resumed

23 Hence those unrighteous who lived a life of folly,
    you tormented through their own abominations.
24 For they went far astray in the paths of error,
    taking for gods the worthless and disgusting among beasts,
    being deceived like senseless infants.
25 Therefore as though upon unreasoning children,
    you sent your judgment on them as a mockery;
26 But they who took no heed of a punishment which was but child’s play
    were to experience a condemnation worthy of God.
27 For by the things through which they suffered distress,
    being tortured by the very things they deemed gods,
They saw and recognized the true God whom formerly they had refused to know;
    with this, their final condemnation[c] came upon them.


  1. 12:5 The horrible crimes here attributed to the Canaanites (cf. also 14:23) were not unheard of in the ancient world.
  2. 12:17 The brunt of divine anger and justice is borne by those who know God but defy divine authority and might. Cf. 1:2; 15:2, but also 12:27; 18:13.
  3. 12:27 Condemnation: the death of Egyptian firstborn and the destruction of their army in the sea.

Wisdom Chapter 11 (Bible Marathon Day 354)

Wisdom 11New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 11

She prospered their affairs through the holy prophet.

III. Special Providence of God During the Exodus[a]


They journeyed through the uninhabited desert,
    and in lonely places they pitched their tents;
    they withstood enemies and warded off their foes.
When they thirsted, they called upon you,
    and water was given them from the sheer rock,
    a quenching of their thirst from the hard stone.
For by the things through which their foes were punished
    they in their need were benefited.

First Example: Water Punishes the Egyptians and Benefits the Israelites

Instead of a river’s[b] perennial source,
    troubled with impure blood
    as a rebuke to the decree for the slaying of infants,
You gave them abundant water beyond their hope,
    after you had shown by the thirst they experienced
    how you punished their adversaries.
For when they had been tried, though only mildly chastised,
    they recognized how the wicked, condemned in anger, were being tormented.
10 You tested your own people, admonishing them as a father;
    but as a stern king you probed and condemned the wicked.
11 Those near and far were equally afflicted:
12     for a twofold grief[c] took hold of them
    and a groaning at the remembrance of the ones who had departed.
13 For when they heard that the cause of their own torments
    was a benefit to these others, they recognized the Lord.
14 For though they had mocked and rejected him who had been cast out and abandoned long ago,
    in the final outcome, they marveled at him,
    since their thirst proved unlike that of the righteous.

Second Example: Animals Punish the Egyptians and Benefit the Israelites

15 In return for their senseless, wicked thoughts,
    which misled them into worshiping dumb[d] serpents and worthless insects,
You sent upon them swarms of dumb creatures for vengeance;
16     that they might recognize that one is punished by the very things through which one sins.

Digression on God’s Mercy

17 For not without means was your almighty hand,
    that had fashioned the universe from formless matter,[e]
    to send upon them many bears or fierce lions,
18 Or newly created, wrathful, unknown beasts
    breathing forth fiery breath,
Or pouring out roaring smoke,
    or flashing terrible sparks from their eyes.
19 Not only could these attack and completely destroy them;
    even their frightful appearance itself could slay.
20 Even without these, they could have been killed at a single blast,
    pursued by justice
    and winnowed by your mighty spirit.
But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.
21 For great strength is always present with you;
    who can resist the might of your arm?
22 Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance,[f]
    or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.

23 [g]But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
    and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.
24 For you love all things that are
    and loathe nothing that you have made;
    for you would not fashion what you hate.
25 How could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
    or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
26 But you spare all things, because they are yours,
    O Ruler and Lover of souls,
    for your imperishable spirit is in all things!


  1. 11:2–19:22 Few verses in chaps. 11–19 can be fully understood without consulting the passages in the Pentateuch which are indicated in the cross-references. The theme of this part of the book is expressed in v. 5 and is illustrated in the following chapters by five examples drawn from Exodus events.
  2. 11:6–8 River: the Nile; the contrast is between the first plague of Egypt (Ex 7:17–24) and the water drawn from the rock in Horeb (Ex 17:5–7; Nm 20:8–11).
  3. 11:12 Twofold grief: the double distress described in vv. 13–14.
  4. 11:15 Dumb: that is, irrational.
  5. 11:17 Formless matter: a Greek philosophical concept is used to interpret the chaos of Gn 1:2.
  6. 11:22 Grain from a balance: a tiny particle used for weighing on sensitive scales.
  7. 11:23 The combination of divine mercy and power is an unusual paradox, but cf. 12:15–18; Ps 62:12–13; Sir 2:18. The main emphasis is on a creating that is motivated by love; the divine “imperishable spirit” (either Wisdom as in 1:4, 7, or perhaps the breath of life as in Gn 2:7) is in everything (12:1).