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The Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus): Chapter 12

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1If you do good, know for whom you are doing it,* and your kindness will have its effect. 2Do good to the just man and reward will be yours, if not from him, from the LORD. 3No good comes to him who gives comfort to the wicked,* nor is it an act of mercy that he does. 4Give to the good man, refuse the sinner; o 4f: Gal 6, 10 . refresh the downtrodden, give nothing to the proud man. 5No arms for combat should you give him, lest he use them against yourself; 6With twofold evil you will meet for every good deed you do for him. 7The Most High himself hates sinners, and upon the wicked he takes vengeance.

8In our prosperity we cannot know our friends;* in adversity an enemy will not remain concealed. p Prv 17, 17 . 9When a man is successful even his enemy is friendly; in adversity even his friend disappears. q Prv 19, 4–7 . 10Never trust your enemy, for his wickedness is like corrosion in bronze. 11Even though he acts humbly and peaceably toward you, take care to be on your guard against him. Rub him as one polishes a brazen mirror,* and you will find that there is still corrosion. 12Let him not stand near you, lest he oust you and take your place. Let him not sit at your right hand, lest he then demand your seat, And in the end you appreciate my advice, when you groan with regret, as I warned you. 13Who pities a snake charmer when he is bitten, or anyone who goes near a wild beast? 14So is it with the companion of the proud man, who is involved in his sins: 15While you stand firm, he makes no bold move; but if you slip, he cannot hold back. 16With his lips an enemy speaks sweetly, but in his heart he schemes to plunge you into the abyss. Though your enemy has tears in his eyes, if given the chance, he will never have enough of your blood. 17If evil comes upon you, you will find him at hand; feigning to help, he will trip you up, 18Then he will nod his head and clap his hands and hiss repeatedly, and show his true face.

Notes:

o: 4f: Gal 6, 10 .

p: Prv 17, 17 .

q: Prv 19, 4–7 .

Text Commentary view alone

12, 1–7 :

The limitations to the practice of charity here reflected were removed by Christ, who requires that good be done even to enemies and to those who hate, persecute and calumniate us (Mt 5, 43–48 ).

12, 3ff :

The author advises against generosity to those who would abuse it.

12, 8–18 :

Through adversity friends are distinguished from enemies; to trust the latter or permit them intimacy is to invite disaster. Cf note on Sir 6, 5–17 .

12, 11 :

Brazen mirror: see note on Ex 38, 8 .

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