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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 23


1 LORD, Father and Master of my life, permit me not to fall by them!


Who will apply the lash to my thoughts, to my mind the rod of discipline, That my failings may not be spared, nor the sins of my heart overlooked;


Lest my failings increase, and my sins be multiplied; Lest I succumb to my foes, and my enemy rejoice over me?


LORD, Father and God of my life, abandon me not into their control!


A brazen look allow me not; ward off passion from my heart,


Let not the lustful cravings of the flesh master me, surrender me not to shameless desires.


2 Give heed, my children, to the instruction that I pronounce, for he who keeps it will not be enslaved.


Through his lips is the sinner ensnared; the railer and the arrogant man fall thereby.


Let not your mouth form the habit of swearing, or becoming too familiar with the Holy Name.


3 Just as a slave that is constantly under scrutiny will not be without welts, So one who swears continually by the Holy Name will not remain free from sin.


A man who often swears heaps up obligations; the scourge will never be far from his house. If he swears in error, he incurs guilt; if he neglects his obligation, his sin is doubly great. If he swears without reason he cannot be found just, and all his house will suffer affliction.


There are words which merit death; may they never be heard among Jacob's heirs. For all such words are foreign to the devout, who do not wallow in sin.


Let not your mouth become used to coarse talk, for in it lies sinful matter.


Keep your father and mother in mind when you sit among the mighty, Lest in their presence you commit a blunder and disgrace your upbringing, By wishing you had never been born or cursing the day of your birth.


A man who has the habit of abusive language will never mature in character as long as he lives.


4 5 Two types of men multiply sins, a third draws down wrath; For burning passion is a blazing fire, not to be quenched till it burns itself out: A man given to sins of the flesh, who never stops until the fire breaks forth;


The rake to whom all bread is sweet and who is never through till he dies;


And the man who dishonors his marriage bed and says to himself "Who can see me? Darkness surrounds me, walls hide me; no one sees me; why should I fear to sin?" Of the Most High he is not mindful,


fearing only the eyes of men; He does not understand that the eyes of the LORD, ten thousand times brighter than the sun, Observe every step a man takes and peer into hidden corners.


He who knows all things before they exist still knows them all after they are made.


6 Such a man will be punished in the streets of the city; when he least expects it, he will be apprehended.


So also with the woman who is unfaithful to her husband and offers as heir her son by a stranger.


7 First, she has disobeyed the law of the Most High; secondly, she has wronged her husband; Thirdly, in her wanton adultery she has borne children by another man.


8 Such a woman will be dragged before the assembly, and her punishment will extend to her children;


Her children will not take root; her branches will not bring forth fruit.


She will leave an accursed memory; her disgrace will never be blotted out.


Thus all who dwell on the earth shall know, and all who inhabit the world shall understand, That nothing is better than the fear of the LORD, nothing more salutary than to obey his commandments.



1 [1] LORD, Father and Master of my life: these words express the tender personal relationship between the author's soul and God, the need of his assistance, and the truth of his providence.

2 [7-15] A warning against sins of the tongue through misuse of the Holy Name, thoughtless swearing which involves obligation and incurs guilt ( Sirach 23:7-11), blasphemy ( Sirach 23:12), talk that is coarse and blundersome ( Sirach 23:13, 14), and the incorrigible habit of abusive language ( Sirach 23:15).

3 [10] As a slave . . . under scrutiny, so is he who calls on God to witness the truth of what he says.

4 [16-27] From sins of the tongue the author proceeds to treat of sins of the flesh and their dire consequences. The passion of lust tyrannizes over its victims and, like fire, consumes and utterly destroys them ( Sirach 23:16, 17, 22-26). The false security of the adulterer serves but to aggravate his inevitable fate ( Sirach 23:18-21). Only the fear of the Lord and observance of his commandments can assure moral safety ( Sirach 23:27).

5 [16] Two types . . . a third: three kinds of sins of impurity, with increasing degrees of gravity: solitary sins ( Sirach 23:16) fornication ( Sirach 23:17) and adultery ( Sirach 23:18-21).

6 [21] Cf Lev 20:19; Deut 22:22.

7 [23] The detailed evil of adultery includes disobedience to God's law ( Exodus 20:14), injustice to a partner in marriage, and disgraceful offspring.

8 [24-25] The judgment of the assembly determined the illegitimacy of children born of adultery or incest and excluded them from the "community of the LORD" ( Deut 23:3). Cf Wisdom 3:16-19; 4:3-6.

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