Translation commentary on Sirach 51:4

From choking fire on every side and from the midst of fire which I did not kindle: These two lines paint the same picture: the writer is surrounded by fire and gasping for air. No “oppressive smoke” (Good News Translation) is expressly mentioned here. Good News Translation is probably thinking that a person chokes on smoke, not flames, but if he were surrounded by flames, he could smother from a lack of oxygen rather than choke on smoke. Even though Good News Translation shifts the focus, it is not a bad translation. However, other possible models for this verse are:
• from suffocating [to death] when surrounded by fire
that I did not set [or, light/kindle].
• from fires that my enemies set
which made me unable to breathe [or, suffocated me].

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.