The creation of Wisdom. As in Prov 1–9 and Job 28
, Wisdom is personified as a divine woman. She is here described as having been created by God like other parts of creation.
The description is not meant to be taken literally, since wisdom is an eternal attribute of God (v. 1
). As in these verses, wisdom literature
often reflects a tension between God's unknowable wisdom and, at the same time, its revelation to humans by God.
The fear of the Lord. This section constitutes a twenty-two-line poem, a form appearing periodically in Sirach. (Twenty-two is the number of letters
in the Hebrew alphabet.
) Taking his cue from Ps 111.10
, To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which is quoted in v. 14
, Ben Sira equates the possession of wisdom with the fear of the Lord. Since the pursuit of wisdom is a common goal found across cultures, the fear of the Lord may be a way of specifying what counts as Jewish wisdom.
Since Ben Sira does not entertain the possibility of an afterlife, the rewards and blessings of wisdom are manifest in one's
earthly life; they include happiness, long life, and lack of want. Such a perspective is comparable to that of Deut 6
The teachings of Ben Sira deal mostly with practical wisdom that could just as easily apply to gentile
as well as Jewish men. The reference to the commandments, which fills out meaning of the fear of the Lord, helps maintain a connection between Ben Sira's general instructions for living and the explicitly Jewish teachings of the
(see also 2.16; 38.34b–39.1
One who lacks wisdom inevitably disobeys God, which results in dishonor. Ben Sira's ethical teachings are predicated upon a system of honor and shame (dishonor). Dishonor is not an internal feeling
of guilt but rather a diminishment of one's esteem in the eyes of others. God's way of punishing anyone guilty of secret transgressions
is to expose and thereby shame the culprit before the whole congregation.
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