Translation commentary on Sirach 50:26

Those who live on Mount Seir, and the Philistines: Mount Seir is in ancient Edom. The reference is to the Edomites, and Good News Translation so translates. A footnote is necessary here, however. Where the Hebrew has “Seir” and Latin has “Mount Seir,” the Greek has “the mountain of Samaria.” If you translate “Edomites” as in Good News Translation, Good News Translation‘s footnote will serve as an adequate model. For the Philistines, Good News Translation has “the inhabitants of the Philistine cities” since they lived in five cities on the lower part of the coastal plain of Palestine (see the comments on 46.18). However, there seems to be no good reason for Good News Translation to mention the cities here.

And the foolish people that dwell in Shechem: These are the Samaritans; their temple, still standing in ben Sira’s lifetime, was on Mount Gerizim, near the city of Shechem. This line is well translated in Good News Translation. (The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs is a Jewish writing from about the same time as ben Sira. At one point [Levi 7.2] it says, “For from this day forward, Shechem shall be called ‘City of the Senseless.’ ”)

It is possible to combine verses 25-26 as follows:

• Two nations I hate are the Edomites and the Philistines. I also hate the stupid Samaritans, who do not even deserve to be called a nation.

Quoted with permission from Bullard, Roger A. and Hatton, Howard A. A Handbook on Sirach. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2008. For this and other handbooks for translators see here.

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