- The LORD from the earth created man, and in his own image he made him.
- Limited days of life he gives him and makes him return to earth again.
- He endows man with a strength of his own, and with power over all things else on earth.
- He puts the fear of him in all flesh, and gives him rule over beasts and birds.
- He forms men's tongues and eyes and ears, and imparts to them an understanding heart.
- With wisdom and knowledge he fills them; good and evil he shows them.
- He looks with favor upon their hearts, and shows them his glorious works,
- That they may describe the wonders of his deeds and praise his holy name.
- He has set before them knowledge, a law of life as their inheritance;
- 1An everlasting covenant he has made with them, his commandments he has revealed to them.
- His majestic glory their eyes beheld, his glorious voice their ears heard.
- He says to them, "Avoid all evil"; each of them he gives precepts about his fellow men.
- Their ways are ever known to him, they cannot be hidden from his eyes.
- 2 Over every nation he places a ruler, but the LORD'S own portion is Israel.
- All their actions are clear as the sun to him, his eyes are ever upon their ways.
- Their wickedness cannot be hidden from him; all of their sins are before the LORD.
- A man's goodness God cherishes like a signet ring, a man's virtue, like the apple of his eye.
- Later he will rise up and repay them, and requite each one of them as they deserve.
- 3 But to the penitent he provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope!
- Return to the LORD and give up sin, pray to him and make your offenses few.
- Turn again to the Most High and away from sin, hate intensely what he loathes;
- Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise?
- No more can the dead give praise than those who have never lived; they glorify the LORD who are alive and well.
- How great the mercy of the LORD, his forgiveness of those who return to him!
- The like cannot be found in men, for not immortal is any son of man.
- 4 Is anything brighter than the sun? Yet it can be eclipsed. How obscure then the thoughts of flesh and blood!
- God watches over the hosts of highest heaven, while all men are dust and ashes.
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Footnotes1 An everlasting covenant . . . his commandments: the various covenants which God entered into with mankind, e.g., Genesis 2:15-17; 17:1-22 especially on Mount Sinai where the people saw God's glory and heard his voice (Exodus 19:16-24:18).
2 Ruler: this may refer to civil authority or to angels placed over nations as guardians; see note on Deut 32:8 and the cross references above.
3 [19-27] Exhorting the sinner to return to God (Sirach 17:19-21, 24-26) the author implies that the Lord will postpone death for a repentant sinner so that he may fulfill his destiny of praising God on earth (Sirach 17:22-23). In the light of Christian teaching, the gift of final penitence extends this divine purpose into life everlasting. See note on Psalm 6:6; cf also Ezekial 18:23; 33:11-16.
4 Obscure: literally, evil; compare Genesis 6:5. Though moral fault is not excluded, the thought here is the inability to understand the merciful designs of God. Cf Wisdom 9:14-18.
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