The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Ecclesiasticus
PREFACE: 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.
All wisdom has one source; it dwelt with the Lord God before ever time began.
Sand thou mayst count, or the rain-drops, or the days of the world’s abiding; heaven-height thou mayst measure, or the wide earth, or the depth of the world beneath,
ere God’s wisdom thou canst trace to her origin, that was before all.
First she is of all created things; time never was when the riddle of thought went unread.
(What is wisdom’s fount? God’s word above. What is her course? His eternal commandments.✻ )
Buried her roots beyond all search, wise her counsels beyond all knowing;
too high her teaching to be plainly revealed, too manifold her movements to be understood.
There is but one God, high creator of all things; sitting on his throne to govern us, a great king, worthy of all dread;
he it was that created her, through his holy Spirit. His eye took in the whole range of her being;
and he has poured her out upon all his creation, upon all living things, upon all the souls that love him, in the measure of his gift to each.
To fear the Lord is man’s pride and boast, is joy, is a prize proudly worn;
comfort it brings to the heart, happiness and content and a long life bestows;
well it is, at his last hour, for the man who fears the Lord; his day of death shall be a day of blessing.
Love of God is wisdom worth the having;
welcome the sight when it shews itself, when it gives proof of its wondrous power.
Wouldst thou be wise, the first step is fear of the Lord; to his chosen servants, a gift connatural from the womb; it goes with holy motherhood, and where his true worshippers are, shews manifest.
The fear of the Lord lends wisdom that piety which is hers;
such piety as shall keep the heart safe and make it acceptable, bring it joy and content.
Well it shall be indeed for the man who fears the Lord; at his last end he shall win blessing.
The fear of the Lord is wisdom’s fulfilment, yields the deep draught that satisfies;
never a nook or cranny in thy house but shall be filled with the store of its harvesting.
The fear of the Lord is wisdom’s crown; with this, peace and health are thine to enjoy;
this fear itself is God’s gift, no less than the wisdom which is counted out under his eye.
Wisdom it is that imparts to us all our knowledge, all our powers of discernment; hold her fast, and she will set thee on a pinnacle of renown;
root of her is fear of the Lord, and long life the fruit of her.
True insight wisdom has in her treasure-house, and the piety that comes of knowledge; no wonder if sinners hate the name of her.
The fear of the Lord drives out sin;
soul that feels no fear shall find no pardon, its own wild mood overbalances it.
Patience bides her time, and with time, content comes back to her;
praise shall be upon every lip for the wise thought that checked, for a while, her utterance.
Hidden in wisdom’s treasure-house is the secret of all discernment;
and still sinners hate the name of piety.
My son, if on wisdom thy heart is set, keep the commandments, and God will grant thy wish;
fear of the Lord is true wisdom, true learning, and his will
is to see thee loyal and patient; thou shalt have no empty coffers then.
Let not thy fear of the Lord be overcast with doubt; never come to him with a heart that hesitates.
Do not play false in thy dealings with men, nor suffer thy own words to ensnare thee.
Watch those words well, or they may trip thee up; thou wilt have compassed thy own disgrace,
if God should reveal thy secret thoughts at last; wouldst thou be thrown down, in full sight of all thy neighbours assembled,
a heart that came to meet the Lord grudgingly, full all the while of treachery and deceit?
The Holy Bible