“The child grew.
He became strong
In the wilderness
Until the day
He appeared openly
Τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο πνεύματι, καὶ ἦν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις ἕως ἡμέρας ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸν Ἰσραήλ.
Luke concluded his remarks about John by saying that this child, John, continued to grow (Τὸ δὲ παιδίον ηὔξανεν), just like every other child. This concept of the growing child will also be present with Jesus in the next chapter. John became strong in spirit (καὶ ἐκραταιοῦτο πνεύματι) as he grew stronger spiritually. He was in the wilderness or desert (καὶ ἦν ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις), just like the Israelites during the Exodus, until the day he appeared openly to Israel (ἕως ἡμέρας ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸν Ἰσραήλ). It is hard to figure out what an open or public appearance was, since there would be no big announcement or advertisement like today.
Is at the beginning of every work.
Counsel precedes every undertaking.
Is the root of all conduct.
It sprouts four branches,
Good and evil,
Life and death.
The tongue continually rules them.
Some people may be
Clever enough to teach many.
Yet they may be
Useless to themselves.
A skilful speaker may be hated.
He will be destitute of all food.
The Lord has withheld
The gift of charm.
He is lacking in all wisdom.”
Sirach points out that some discussion precedes all actions. Thus counsel and advice precede any undertaking. The mind is the source of all conduct. There are 4 branches to the mind, good, evil, life, and death. This is hard to figure out. I am not sure how the mind controls life and death, except spiritually. Good and evil are easy to see. The tongue rules over all 4 branches. Once again, it is hard to see how the tongue controls life and death other than in a spiritual way. Some people are clever enough to teach others, but not worth much to themselves. You can be a skilled but hated speaker, so that you might end up with not much food. The Lord may have withheld charm from this speaker, since he is lacking in wisdom.