Ben Sira's translator (his grandson) explains his reasons for rendering the original Hebrew work into Greek. This prologue
contains the earliest reference to a three‐fold division of the Hebrew Bible: the Law and the Prophets and the other books (cf. Luke 24.44
). Jesus is the Greek form of the author's Hebrew name, probably“Yeshua” (
). Arriving in Egypt in the thirty‐eighth year of Ptolemy VII Physkon Euergetes II (132 BCE), the translator found a ready audience for his grandfather's teaching in the well‐established Jewish community there and
completed his translation probably sometime after Euergetes's death in 117 BCE.
(cf. 1.1–20; 4.11–19; 6.18–37; 14.20–15.10; Job 28; Prov 8.22–31; Wis 7–10; Bar 3.9–4.4
). Vividly personified as a female figure with divine attributes, Wisdom recounts her divine origin (vv. 1–7
), her relationship with Israel (vv. 8–12
), and her beauty and desirability (vv. 13–17
). Following an invitation to her listeners (vv. 19–22
), she is closely identified with the Torah (vv. 23–29
). A first‐person reflection by Ben Sira on the transforming power of wisdom instruction concludes the chapter (vv. 30–34
Introduction of Wisdom, speaking to her people (Israel, cf. 1.10n.
) and to the assembly of the Most High (the heavenly council, cf. Ps 82.1,6–7
) concerning her glory. Such speeches, recounting the speaker's virtues, are characteristic of the Egyptian goddess Isis.
From the mouth of the Most High, cf. Gen 1.1–3; Ps 33.6; Prov 2.6; Wis 9.1–2
Pillar of cloud, cf. Ex 13.21–22; 33.9–10
The theme of wisdom's abode or resting place is taken up also in Job 28; Bar 3.14–37
; 1 Enoch 42. For the cosmic reach of wisdom, see Prov 8.27–29; Job 38.16; Wis 8.1
Obeying the divine command to make her dwelling in Jacob (cf. Deut 12.5; Bar 3.36
), eternal Wisdom (v. 9; cf. Prov 8.22–23
) ministers to the Lord in the holy tent (the tabernacle, Ex 25.8–9
) and is established in the Temple in Jerusalem (Zion) (vv. 10–12
Her splendor is lavishly compared to trees, plants, and exotic aromatics.
Hermon, the highest mountain in the Levant, located northeast of Israel.
En‐gedi, an oasis on the west shore of the Dead Sea, 48 km (30 mi) south of Jericho. Both towns had luxuriant vegetation.
The choice substances are used in the perfume and incense of Jerusalem Temple worship (see Ex 30.23–38
Wisdom concludes her speech with an invitation to her unusual meal, which offers unending delight and keeps from sin.
Come to me, cf. 51.23–30; Prov 9.5
; in Christian literature a similar saying is attributed to Jesus (Mt 11.28–30
In Christian scriptures cf. Jn 6.35
Sirach identifies Wisdom with the Torah (
1.26; 6.32–37; 15.1; 19.20; 23.27
Book of the covenant, cf. Ex 24.7; law that Moses commanded us, cf. Deut 4.5–8; 33.4; Bar 4.1
The inexhaustible bounty of Wisdom and the Mosaic Torah is like that of the four rivers of Eden (Pishon, Tigris, Euphrates, Gihon, Gen 2.10–14
) plus the Jordan and the Nile.
Just as the first man (Adam) did not know her (since the Torah was given first to Moses), so the last one will never exhaust such profound wisdom.
Ben Sira describes how in channeling this wisdom in his book, he has become indeed a river, a veritable sea whose instruction (comparable to prophecy) reaches all future generations.
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