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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Sira (Ben-), Alphabet of.

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Sira (Ben-), Alphabet Of.

Under the title of "Alphabet of Ben-Sira" (אלפאביתא דבןסירא )? there exists a collection of proverbs in Hebrew and Chaldee, which is of a later date than those commonly ascribed to Joshua ben-Sirach. In the preface ben-Sira is called the son of Jeremiah. Among these sayings there are some genuine fragments, with much that is worthless. As they offer parallels to the book known under the name of "Ecclesiasticus" (q.v.), we will give them here:


1. Give care no place in thy heart, for many has care slain (comp. Sirach 30:23).

2. Let a son who does not conduct himself as a son swim away on the water (i.e. leave him to himself).

3. Pick the bone which has fallen to thy share, whether it be good or bad (i.e. be content with what thou hast).

4. Gold requires to be beaten, and a boy requires chastisement.

5. Be good, and withdraw not thine hand from him who is good.

6. Woe to the wicked, and woe to his companions.

7. Cast thy bread on the waters or cast it on the dry land; at last thou wilt find it again (comp. Sirach 11:1).

8. Hast thou seen a black donkey? Neither a black nor a white one (i.e. do not be inveigled in matters of which you are ignorant).

9. Do not good to the evil (person), and evil will not be done thee.

10. The bride enters her chamber, and knows not what may happen to her.

11. To a wise man a nod, to a fool a kick.

12. He who honors a person that despises him is like an ass.

13. One burning light sets fire to many fields of corn.

14. You must run a hundred times to a good and one hundred thousand times to a bad cautioner.

15. Separate your table, and quarrels will cease.

16. May good sons fall to thy lot, if thou art obliged to carry on business.

17. If your goods are at hand, you may eat of them; if they are at a distance, they will eat you.

18. Deny not an old friend (comp. Sirach 9:14).

19. You may have sixty counsellors, but do not give up your own countasel.

20. Always appear to be full, and not to have been hungry and afterwards to have become full.


1. Woe to him who follows his eyes, although he knows that they are the children of seduction, and that he will gain nothing by them.

2. Every person likes male children, but alas for the parent of daughters!

3. Keep at a distance from a bad woman, who by her tongue rules over thee, for a bad woman is like to rabid dogs. Her gates are closed even when she talks mildly.

4. Withdraw thy countenance from evil companions; walk not in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path, lest thou be caught in their snare.

5. My son, conceal thy money during thy life; keep it secret, and give it not to thine heirs till the day of thy death (comp. Sirach 33:20; Sirach 33:24).

6. Procure property, a good wife who fears the Lord, and increase thy children even though they were a hundred.

7. Withdraw from bad neighbors and be not reckoned one of their company, for their feet run to evil and make haste to shed blood. But still have pity on thy companions, even if they are wicked, and give them part of thy food, for they will bear witness for thee when thou standest in the judgment.

8. Gain gold and goods, but tell not thy wife where they are, even although she be a good wife (comp. Sirach 33:20). (We have omitted three proverbs belonging to the second alphabet as being more or less unfit for translation.) The alphabet was first published at Constantinople, s.a.; then at Venice (1544, and often). In Hebrew and Latin they are given in Bartolocci Bibl. Rabbinica, 1, 684, and were also edited in Hebrew and Latin with annotations by Fagius (Isny, 1542); in Latin they are given in Von Stein, Comment. ad Ecclesiast. p. 29; in Judaeo-German they were published by Salomo ben-Jacob (Amst. 1660). They are also given by Duke, Rabbinische Blumenlese (Leips. 1844), p. 31 sq. See also Zunz, Gottesdienstliche Vortrage, p. 105. (B.P.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sira (Ben-), Alphabet of.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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