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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 40


1 2 A great anxiety has God allotted, and a heavy yoke, to the sons of men; From the day one leaves his mother's womb to the day he returns to the mother of all the living,


His thoughts, the fear in his heart, and his troubled forebodings till the day he dies - 


Whether he sits on a lofty throne or grovels in dust and ashes,


Whether he bears a splendid crown or is wrapped in the coarsest of cloaks - 


Are of wrath and envy, trouble and dread, terror of death, fury and strife. Even when he lies on his bed to rest, his cares at night disturb his sleep.


So short is his rest it seems like none, till in his dreams he struggles as he did by day, Terrified by what his mind's eye sees, like a fugitive being pursued;


As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.


So it is with all flesh, with man and with beast, but for sinners seven times more.


Plague and bloodshed, wrath and the sword, plunder and ruin, famine and death:


For the wicked, these were created evil, and it is they who bring on destruction.


3 All that is of earth returns to earth, and what is from above returns above.


All that comes from bribes or injustice will be wiped out, but loyalty remains for ages.


Wealth out of wickedness is like a wadi in spate: like a mighty stream with lightning and thunder,


Which, in its rising, rolls along the stones, but suddenly, once and for all, comes to an end.


The offshoot of violence will not flourish, for the root of the godless is on sheer rock;


Or they are like reeds on the riverbank, withered before all other plants;


4 But goodness will never be cut off, and justice endures forever. Wealth or wages can make life sweet, but better than either is finding a treasure.


A child or a city will preserve one's name, but better than either, attaining wisdom.


Sheepfolds and orchards bring flourishing health; but better than either, a devoted wife;


Wine and music delight the soul, but better than either, conjugal love.


The flute and the harp offer sweet melody, but better than either, a voice that is true.


Charm and beauty delight the eye, but better than either, the flowers of the field.


A friend, a neighbor, are timely guides, but better than either, a prudent wife.


A brother, a helper, for times of stress; but better than either, charity that rescues.


Gold and silver make one's way secure, but better than either, sound judgment.


Wealth and vigor build up confidence, but better than either, fear of God. Fear of the LORD leaves nothing wanting; he who has it need seek no other support:


The fear of God is a paradise of blessings; its canopy, all that is glorious.


5 My son, live not the life of a beggar, better to die than to beg;


When one has to look to another's table, his life is not really a life. His neighbor's delicacies bring revulsion of spirit to one who understands inward feelings:


In the mouth of the shameless man begging is sweet, but within him it burns like fire.



1 [1-16] The former idyllic description of the universe is contrasted with the picture of the evils afflicting humanity. Every man, high or low, is burdened from birth to death with fears, anxieties and troubles, by day and often by night, the time appointed for rest ( Sirach 40:1-7). For sinners, the suffering is much greater ( Sirach 40:8-10). What they gained by violence and injustice is quickly destroyed; but justice endures forever ( Sirach 40:14-16).

2 [1] Mother of all the living: the earth from which man was taken. Cf Genesis 2:7; 3:19-20; Job 1:21; Psalm 139:15.

3 [11] All that is of earth . . . returns above: a reference to bodily mortality and to the divine origin of life from the Spirit of God. Cf Sirach 41:10; Genesis 2:7; 3:19; Job 34:14-15; Psalm 104:29-30; 146:4; Eccl 12:7. The Greek and the Latin render the second half of the verse: "all waters shall return to the sea."

4 [17-27] Of the many treasures making life sweet, such as health, children, friends, music, vigor, the best are called true conjugal love, wisdom, and above all, fear of God; cf Sirach 25:6-11.

5 [28-30] Among the Jews, beggary was considered degrading to human dignity; it was agreeable only to the shameless, who had lost their sense of honor. Cf Sirach 29:22-23.

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