The Holy See
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New American Bible

2002 11 11
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Chapter 38


1 Hold the physician in honor, for he is essential to you, and God it was who established his profession.


From God the doctor has his wisdom, and the king provides for his sustenance.


His knowledge makes the doctor distinguished, and gives him access to those in authority.


God makes the earth yield healing herbs which the prudent man should not neglect;


Was not the water sweetened by a twig that men might learn his power?


He endows men with the knowledge to glory in his mighty works,


Through which the doctor eases pain and the druggist prepares his medicines;


Thus God's creative work continues without cease in its efficacy on the surface of the earth.


My son, when you are ill, delay not, but pray to God, who will heal you:


Flee wickedness; let your hands be just, cleanse your heart of every sin;


Offer your sweet-smelling oblation and petition, a rich offering according to your means.


Then give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too.


There are times that give him an advantage,


and he too beseeches God That his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure.


He who is a sinner toward his Maker will be defiant toward the doctor.


2 My son, shed tears for one who is dead with wailing and bitter lament; As is only proper, prepare the body, absent not yourself from his burial:


Weeping bitterly, mourning fully, pay your tribute of sorrow, as he deserves,


One or two days, to prevent gossip; then compose yourself after your grief,


For grief can bring on an extremity and heartache destroy one's health.


Turn not your thoughts to him again; cease to recall him; think rather of the end.


Recall him not, for there is no hope of his return; it will not help him, but will do you harm.


Remember that his fate will also be yours; for him it was yesterday, for you today.


With the departed dead, let memory fade; rally your courage, once the soul has left.


3 The scribe's profession increases his wisdom; whoever is free from toil can become a wise man.


How can he become learned who guides the plow, who thrills in wielding the goad like a lance, Who guides the ox and urges on the bullock, and whose every concern is for cattle?


His care is for plowing furrows, and he keeps a watch on the beasts in the stalls.


So with every engraver and designer who, laboring night and day, Fashions carved seals, and whose concern is to vary the pattern. His care is to produce a vivid impression, and he keeps watch till he finishes his design.


So with the smith standing near his anvil, forging crude iron. The heat from the fire sears his flesh, yet he toils away in the furnace heat. The clang of the hammer deafens his ears, His eyes are fixed on the tool he is shaping. His care is to finish his work, and he keeps watch till he perfects it in detail.


So with the potter sitting at his labor, revolving the wheel with his feet. He is always concerned for his products, and turns them out in quantity.


With his hands he molds the clay, and with his feet softens it. His care is for proper coloring, and he keeps watch on the fire of his kiln.


All these men are skilled with their hands, each one an expert at his own task;


Without them no city could be lived in, and wherever they stay, they need not hunger.


They do not occupy the judge's bench, nor are they prominent in the assembly; They set forth no decisions or judgments, nor are they found among the rulers;


Yet they maintain God's ancient handiwork, and their concern is for exercise of their skill.



1 [1-15] The profession of medicine comes from God, who makes the earth yield healing herbs and gives the physician knowledge of their virtue ( Sirach 38:1-8). In illness the sick man should cleanse his soul from sin and petition God for help through an offering of sacrifice; the physician, too, does well to invoke God that he may understand the illness and apply the proper remedy ( Sirach 38:9-14). The sinner, in contrast, defies both his Maker and the doctor ( Sirach 38:15).

2 [16-23] A period of mourning for the deceased and care for their burial is becoming ( Sirach 38:16-18). But grief should not be excessive, for it neither helps the dead, who cannot return, nor fails to harm the living. The mourner's own end will quickly follow, and the time to prepare for it is now ( Sirach 38:19-23).

3 [ 38:24- 39:11] More excellent than the useful service of craftsmen-farmer, engraver, smith, potter ( Sirach 38:25-34)-is the profession of the scribe ( Sirach 39:24), who studies and meditates on the law of the Most High, seeks him in prayer of thanksgiving, petition and repentance for sin ( Sirach 39:1, 6, 7), explores the wisdom of the past and present, travels abroad to observe the conduct of many peoples, and attends rulers and great men. Through the spirit of understanding granted by God, he will show forth his wisdom to the glory of God's law, gaining renown for generations to come ( Sirach 39:2-5, 8-11).

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