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.
of items in the specific context of these ideas. This, in turn, bolsters the proposal that the min depends in each case on the respective verb.
In addition to asserting the supremacy of the tertiary element over the preceding items in the context of a single verbal idea, each comparison also carries an implicit moral evaluation; each final element is morally superior to the preceding elements. While it is true, as Bryce has observed, that all the items in this Sirach poem are of some worth, the items at the head of each comparison are of an ambiguous worth, that is, they can be positive or negative, depending on how they are manifested39. In contrast, the tertiary elements can only have a positive manifestation.
The worth of the terms can be deduced from other passages in Ben Sira. For instance, the value of wealth depends on how it is acquired.
Nw( Ny) M) r#w(h bw
Wealth is good if it is without guilt (13,24)40.
hg#y wb ryxm bhw)w hqny )l Cwrx Pdwr
The one pursuing gold will not be innocent;
and the one loving a reward will be led astray by it (31,5)41.
Similarly, the value of children depends on how they turn out:
krei/sswn gar... a)poqanei=n a!teknon h! e!xein te/kna a)sebh=.
For, (it is) better ... to die childless than to have godless children (16,3d)42;
'Enne/a u(ponoh/mata e)maka/risa e)n kardia|
kai_ to_ de/katon e)rw= e)pi_ glw/sshj
a!nqrwpoj e)ufraino/menoj e)pi_ te/knoij
Nine things I pronounce blessed in (my) heart,
and a tenth I will speak with (my) tongue:
a man who finds enjoyment with (his) children (25,7).
In 31,22-31, Ben Sira recognizes wine as ‘life to humans’ and at the same time warns against its dangers: ‘Wine is a snare for a fool’. Similarly, friends, associates and helpers can serve a positive role or a negative one, depending on their behavior43.
The intrinsic worth of the tertiary elements is clearest when they are or include a term like ‘wisdom’, ‘righteousness’ or ‘fear of the Lord’. In other instances the implicit virtue of these elements is indicated through complements like ‘pure’, ‘good’ and ‘prudent’. The moral worth of these tertiary items is intrinsic to these complements; by describing a ‘wife’ as ‘prudent’ Ben Sira is