Sirach is essentially a book of Jewish wisdom in Greek demotic, showcasing post-exilic, pre-Maccabean Jewish life. In this section, we find Sirach‘s warning against all manner of women. It is misogynistic. Clearly, women here are seen in a negative light, where even an association is deemed corrupting to the man.
|King James Version||New American Bible||New Jerusalem Bible||New Revised Standard|
|Be not jealous over the wife of thy bosom, and teach her not an evil lesson against thyself.||Be not jealous of the wife of your bosom, lest you teach her to do evil against you.||Do not be jealous of the wife you love, do not teach her lessons in how to harm you.||Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom, or you will teach her an evil lesson to your own hurt.|
|2 Give not thy soul unto a woman to set her foot upon thy substance.||2 Give no woman power over you to trample upon your dignity.||2 Do not put yourself in a woman’s hands or she may come to dominate you completely.||2 Do not give yourself to a woman and let her trample down your strength.|
|3 Meet not with an harlot, lest thou fall into her snares.||3 Be not intimate with a strange woman, lest you fall into her snares.||3 Do not keep company with a prostitute, in case you get entangled in her snares.||3 Do not go near a loose woman, or you will fall into her snares.|
|4 Use not much the company of a woman that is a singer, lest thou be taken with her attempts.||4 With a singing girl be not familiar, lest you be caught in her wiles.||4 Do not dally with a singing girl, in case you get caught by her wiles.||4 Do not dally with a singing girl, or you will be caught by her tricks.|
|5 Gaze not on a maid, that thou fall not by those things that are precious in her.||5 Entertain no thoughts against a virgin, lest you be enmeshed in damages for her.||5 Do not stare at a pretty girl, in case you and she incur the same punishment.||5 Do not look intently at a virgin, or you may stumble and incur penalties for her.|
|6 Give not thy soul unto harlots, that thou lose not thine inheritance.||6 Give not yourself to harlots, lest you surrender your inheritance.||6 Do not give your heart to whores, or you will ruin your inheritance.||6 Do not give yourself to prostitutes, or you may lose your inheritance.|
|7 Look not round about thee in the streets of the city, neither wander thou in the solitary place thereof.||7 Gaze not about the lanes of the city and wander not through its squares;||7 Keep your eyes to yourself in the streets of a town, do not prowl about its unfrequented quarters.||7 Do not look around in the streets of a city, or wander about in its deserted sections.|
|8 Turn away thine eye from a beautiful woman, and look not upon another’s beauty; for many have been deceived by the beauty of a woman; for herewith love is kindled as a fire.||8 Avert your eyes from a comely woman; gaze not upon the beauty of another’s wife– Through woman’s beauty many perish, for lust for it burns like fire.||8 Turn your eyes away from a handsome woman, do not stare at a beauty belonging to someone else. Because of a woman’s beauty, many have been undone; this makes passion flare up like a fire.||8 Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman, and do not gaze at beauty belonging to another; many have been seduced by a woman’s beauty, and by it passion is kindled like a fire.|
|9 Sit not at all with another man’s wife, nor sit down with her in thine arms, and spend not thy money with her at the wine; lest thine heart incline unto her, and so through thy desire thou fall into destruction.||9 With a married woman dine not, recline not at table to drink by her side, Lest your heart be drawn to her and you go down in blood to the grave.||9 Never sit down with a married woman, or sit at table with her drinking wine, in case you let your heart succumb to her and you l||9 Never dine with another man’s wife, or revel with her at wine; or your heart may turn aside to her, and in blood you may be plunged into destruction.|
Sirach has a deeply startling view of women, all women, when compared to the ‘post modern’ concept of equality. Drawing heavily from Proverbs, and unlike Paul, Sirach recommends marriage (7.19), but for him, a good wife is a good possession (Sirach 36.29 NRSV). While he clearly treats Sophia with a high regard, it is difficult to seem him treat a woman in the same way. He allows that women and wine are bad for men (19.2) and further, as we have seen above, classifies women according to their sins against men. Even in adultery, men are given a reprieve of one sin whereas women have three sins (23.18-23).
Is it a stand against women, or is it an argument for self-control? Ben Sira could very well be arguing that a man must remain in control of him in order to avoid any pitfalls. Consider what Paul said,
So I say to those who aren’t married and to widows– it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust. (1Co 7:8-9 NLT)
Was Paul echoing Ben Sira, in that control of the person (we could list specific examples from Paul here) is important to the walk of the faithful?