The test of human speech (Sir 27:4-27:7)

“When a sieve is shaken,

The refuse remains.

Thus a person’s faults appear

When he speaks.

The kiln tests

The potter’s vessels.

Thus the test of a person

Is in his conversation.

The fruit discloses

The cultivation of a tree.

Thus a person’s speech

Discloses the cultivation of his mind.

Do not praise anyone

Before he speaks.

This is the way people are tested.”

When cooking, people often use a sieve to only let the good grains go through. So when a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains. In the same way, when a person speaks, their faults appear. Just as a potter’s work is finished or tested in the furnace kiln, so too human conversation is a test. Just as the fruit of a tree reveals how well the tree was cultivated, so too a person’s speech reveals how his or her mind has been cultivated. Thus you should not praise anyone until they have spoken. Human conversation is how we test each other.

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The ill-mannered fool (Sir 21:22-21:24)

“The foot of a fool

Rushes into a house.

But an experienced person

Waits respectfully outside.

A boor peers into the house

From the door.

But a cultivated person

Remains outside.

It is ill-mannered

For a person to listen at a door.

The discreet person

Would be grieved by this disgrace.”

Sirach explains the actions of an ill-mannered fool. This fool rudely rushes into a house, while a more experienced wise person would wait respectfully outside the house at the door. A boorish fool would peer in through the windows, but the cultivated wise man would remain outside. This ill-mannered fool would listen at the door, but the discreet wise person would be ashamed and disgraced by this kind of behavior.

Oppression (Eccl 5:8-5:9)

“If you see in a province

The oppression of the poor

If you see

The violation of justice,

The violation of rights,

Do not be amazed at the matter.

The high official

Is watched by a higher.

There are yet higher ones

Over them.

But all things considered,

There is an advantage

To a land

To have a king

For a plowed field.”

In a strange sort of remark, Qoheleth says to watch out for oppression. However, he does not seem to ask for any kind of action. If someone is oppressed and there is injustice, just don’t be amazed. Someone is in charge. They have to report to someone else even higher up. It is good to have a bureaucracy. They will take care of things like that. After all, there is an advantage in having a king to rule over cultivated or plowed fields. You can avoid the minor skirmishes that take place.