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Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach: Chapter 23

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1

O Lord, Father and Master of my life, do not abandon me to their designs, and do not let me fall because of them! 2 Who will set whips over my thoughts, and the discipline of wisdom over my mind, so as not to spare me in my errors, and not overlook my b Other ancient authorities add for he will lead you out of darkness to the light of health. sins? 3 Otherwise my mistakes may be multiplied, and my sins may abound, and I may fall before my adversaries, and my enemy may rejoice over me. c Other ancient authorities add and there is no other beside him; 3he steers the world with the span of his hand, and all things obey his will; for he is king of all things by his power, separating among them the holy things from the profane. 4 O Lord, Father and God of my life, do not give me haughty eyes, 5 and remove evil desire from me. 6 Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not give me over to shameless passion.

Notes:

j Other ancient authorities add for he will lead you out of darkness to the light of health.

a Other ancient authorities add and there is no other beside him; 3he steers the world with the span of his hand, and all things obey his will; for he is king of all things by his power, separating among them the holy things from the profane.

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

22.27–23.6 : A prayer for self‐control,

stressing the dual concerns of sins of the tongue ( 22.27–23.1, treated further in 23.7–15 ) and sins of passion, especially sexual offenses ( 23.2–6, discussed also in 23.16–26 ).

27 :

Guard over my mouth, cf. Ps 141.3; Prov 21.23 .

23.1,4 :

Father, cf. 51.10 .

23.7–15 : Sinful speech.

Warnings against the casual use of oaths (vv. 9–11; Ex 20.7; Lev 5.4; 19.12; Deut 5.11 ), against blasphemy (v. 12; cf. Lev 24.11–16 ), and against coarse and abusive language (vv.13–15 ).

14 :

Curse … birth, see Job 3.3–10; Jer 20.14–18 .

23.16–27 : Sexual misconduct.

16–17 :

This numerical saying (a frequently used literary device, especially in wisdom literature; see Job 5.19; Prov 30.15–19,21–29 ) singles out three kinds of offenders: the licentious, the incestuous, and the adulterous.

17 :

All bread is sweet, a reference to the deceptive pleasure of adulterous relations (cf. Prov 9.17 ).

18–21 :

The adulterer's self‐delusion.

20 :

God knows the people's misdeeds even before creation.

21 :

According to Lev 20.10 and Deut 22.22–27 , the punishment was death; here it is not specified.

22–26 :

The fate of a woman guilty of adultery.

23 :

Disobeyed the law, see Ex 20.14 , which, however, is explicitly addressed to a male.

24 :

To her children, cf. Wis 3.16–19; 4.3–6 .

25 :

Cf. Hos 9.16 .

27 :

A conclusion reprising Ben Sira's emphasis on fear of the Lord (see Prov 1.7 ) and the commandments.

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