The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Ecclesiasticus
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Chapter 19
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1
Let him toil as he will, the sot’s purse is empty; little things despise, and little by little thou shalt come to ruin.
2
Wine and women, what a trap for the loyalty of the wise, how hard a test of good sense!
3
He will go from bad to worse, that clings to a harlot’s love; waste and worm shall have him for their prize; one gibbet the more, one living soul the less.

4
Rash heart that lightly trusts shall lose all; forfeit thy own right to live, and none will pity thee.
5
A foul blot it is, to take pride in wrong-doing; a courting of death, to despise reproof; a riddance of much mischief, to forswear chattering.
6
Who forfeits his own right to live, will live to rue it; who loves cruelty, blots his own name.

7
Malicious word if thou hear, or harsh, do not repeat it; never wilt thou be the loser.
8
Speak not out thy own thought for friend and foe to hear alike, nor ever, if thou hast done wrong, discover the secret.
9
He that hears it will be on his guard, and eye thee askance, as if to avert fresh fault of thine; such will be all his demeanour to thee thenceforward.
10
Hast thou heard a tale to thy neighbour’s disadvantage? Take it to the grave with thee. Courage, man! it will not burst thee.
11
A fool with a secret labours as with child, and groans till he is delivered of it;
12
out it must come, like an arrow stuck in a man’s thigh, from that reckless heart.

13
Confront thy friend with his fault; it may be he knows nothing of the matter, and can clear himself; if not, there is hope he will amend.
14
Confront him with the word spoken amiss; it may be, he never said it, or if say it he did, never again will he repeat it.
15
Be open with thy friend; tongues will still be clattering,
16
and thou dost well to believe less than is told thee. Slips there are of the tongue when mind is innocent;
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what tongue was ever perfectly guarded? Confront thy neighbour with his fault ere thou quarrellest with him,
18
and let the fear of the most High God do its work.

What is true wisdom? Nothing but the fear of God. And since the fear of God is contained in all true wisdom, it must be directed by his law;
19
wisdom is none in following the maxims of impiety, prudence is none in scheming as the wicked scheme.
20
Many are the important truths conveyed to us by the law, by the prophets and by those other writers who have followed them. Israel must be given credit for its own philosophical tradition, suited not only to instruct those who talk its language, but to reach, in spoken or written form, the outside world too, and bring it great enlightenment. No wonder if my own grandfather, Jesus, who had devoted himself to the careful study of the law, the prophets, and our other ancestral records, had a mind to put something in writing himself that should bear on this philosophical tradition, to claim the attention of eager students who had already mastered it, and to encourage their observance of the law.

I must beg its readers to come well-disposed to their task, and to follow me closely, making allowances for me wherever I seem to have failed in the right marshalling of words, as I pass on wisdom at second hand. Hebrew words lose their force when they are translated into another language; moreover, when the Hebrews read out the law, the prophets, and the other books among themselves, they read them out in a greatly different form.

It was in my thirty-eighth year, in the reign of Euergetes, that I went to Egypt and spent some time there. When I found writings preserved there which were of high doctrinal value, it seemed to me right and fitting that I, too, should be at some pains; I would set about translating this book. Learning I gave to the task and long labour, and so brought it to an end; and so I offer the book to all who are ready to apply their minds to it, and learn how a man must frame his conduct if he would live by the divine law.

20
Cunning rogues they may be, yet altogether abominable; a fool he must ever be called, that lacks the true wisdom.
21
Better a simpleton that wit has none, yet knows fear, than a man of great address, that breaks the law of the most High.
22
Exact and adroit even a rogue may be;
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it is another thing to utter the plain word that tells the whole truth. Here is one that wears the garb of penance for wicked ends, his heart full of guile;
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here is one that bows and scrapes, and walks with bent head, feigning not to see what is best left unnoticed,
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and all because he is powerless to do thee a harm; if the chance of villainy comes, he will take it.
26
Yet a man’s looks betray him; a man of good sense will make himself known to thee at first meeting;
27
the clothes he wears, the smile on his lips, his gait, will all make thee acquainted with a man’s character.

28
Reproof there is that no good brings, as the event shews; the mistaken reproof that anger prompts in a quarrel. And a man may shew prudence by holding his tongue.