E.D. Reymond, «Sirach 40,18-27 as ‘T@o=b-Spruch’», Vol. 82 (2001) 84-92
Although the series of comparisons that make up Sirach 40,18-27 are often characterized as ‘better-than’ proverbs or t@o=b-Sprüche, they do not convey a generic idea of degree, but rather express the superiority of items in the specific context of verbs’ semantic fields. This construction emphasizes the tangible benefit of the ‘superior’ elements, a nuance that the more typical t@o=b-Sprüche would not express. In addition, Ben Sira describes each superior item as unambiguously virtuous, implying a connection between righteous behavior and a joyous, satisfying and successful life.
Description of this poem’s comparative expressions in the secondary literature is rather scarce. W. Baumgartner was the first to recognize the t@o=b-Spruch as a specific sub-genre of the proverb, though he did not use this term27. Significantly, in his taxonomical appraisal of the different Sirach literary genres, he isolated 40,18-27 from the other examples of comparative expressions that employ t@o=b28.
Glendon E. Bryce was the first to pay particular attention to the expressions in Sirach 40,18-27 in the context of the t@o=b-Spruch genre29. He described the relation of the compared items as analogous to that in more typical t@o=b-Sprüche. He has been followed by John G. Snaith, Graham S. Ogden, Patrick W. Skehan and Alexander A. Di Lella, among others, all of whom describe the phrases here as ‘better-than’ proverbs30. Most recently, Roland E. Murphy has made a study of Sirach’s t@o=b-Sprüche. He also interprets the phrases of 40,18-26 as equivalent to similar expressions where the t@o=b-is present; he translates Mhyn#m ‘(better) than both’31. In addition, almost all English translations of this poem render the comparative expression ‘better than ...’. What this implies is that Ben Sira is simply comparing two sets of items on the single plane of ‘goodness’. In large part, commentators have adopted this view based on the preponderance of the more typical t@o=b-Sprüche. Observe, for instance, the following three examples:
My)g-t) ll# qlxm
Myyn(-t) xwr-lp# bw+