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Here are four alternate translations for Sirach (Ecclesiasticus / Wisdom of Joshua Ben Sira) 3:17 --

My son, perform your tasks in meekness; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts (RSVCE).

My child, perform your tasks with humility; then you will be loved by those whom God accepts (NRSVCE).

My child, be humble in everything you do, and people will appreciate it more than gifts (GNT).

Child, in gentleness conduct your affairs, and you will be loved more than a person who gives (NETS).

Notice the departure from the RSV tradition by the GNT and NETS in the last clause. The latter follow Ziegler's 1965 Septuagint critical text (often referred to as the Göttingen edition), which departs from the majority Greek traditional text in this verse.

The majority Greek text (generally) reads:

τέκνον ἐν πραΰτητι τὰ ἔργα σου διέξαγε καὶ ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπου δεκτοῦ ἀγαπηθήσῃ

But Ziegler's text has ὑπὸ άνθρωπον δοτήν rather than ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπου δεκτοῦ - this is the main difference.

However, Sirach was originally written in Hebrew. What do the earliest known Hebrew manuscripts for Sirach 3:17 say (I believe Sirach was included in the Dead Sea Scrolls)? Also, what early citations exist of this verse that might shed light on what early manuscripts contained (citations of Sirach 3:17 in the Talmud and other works of rabbinic literature would be helpful). Also, citations of early Greek manuscripts are also in order that may shed light on any discrepancies in the Hebrew manuscript tradition (if any exist).

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I found no references to this verse in talmud or the "* Rabbah" midrashim, though other passages from Ben Sira are quoted so the source is used. –  Gone Quiet Jan 17 '13 at 1:39
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@MonicaCellio thanks for checking! –  maj nem ɪz dæn Jan 17 '13 at 16:20

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I accessed "The Wisdom of Ben Sira: portions of the Book Ecclesiasticus from Hebrew manuscripts in the Cairo Genizah collection," edited by S. Schechter and C. Taylor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1899. It is accessible here.

Fortunately, this book did have verse 3:17 in it, which follows:

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.בני בעשרך התהלך בענוה ותאהב מנותן מתנות

בני (bni) is simply "my son."

התהלך (hithallekh) is a verb conjugated in binyan Hitpa'el, imperative mood, 2nd person, singular number, masculine gender. It is translated as "Walk!"

בענוה is the word עֲנָוָה (anava), meaning "humility" (cp. Pro. 22:4), prefixed with the preposition ב, meaning "with humility," which can also be translated as the adverb "humbly." "With humility" is also an adverbial clause, but it is more polished and common to say "humbly" rather than "with humility."

ותאהב is the conjunction ו ("and") prefixed (as it must always be to a word) to the verb תאהב — (te'ahev), which is conjugated in binyan Nif'al, 2nd person, singular number, masculine gender. Together, it is translated as, "and you shall be loved."

מנותן is the preposition מ ("from") prefixed to the participle נותן (noten), a conjugation of the verb נָתַן (natan), meaning "give." Altogether, it is translated as "from giving."

מתנות (mattanot) is the plural inflection of the root noun מַתָּנָה, meaning "gift" (cp. Num. 18:6). Thus, it is translated as "gifts."

Altogether, the verse is translated as,

"My son, walk humbly in your wealth, and you shall be loved from giving gifts."

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Thanks! Excellent answer! –  maj nem ɪz dæn Jan 17 '13 at 16:31
    
comment by anonymous user: "I want to add that the Cairo Genizah collection was demonstrated to be very reliable for Sirach by the Dead Sea Scrolls" –  Jack Douglas Jan 18 '13 at 5:43

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