THE SENTENCES OF THE SYRIAC MENANDER The Epitome of the Sentences of the Syriac ‘Menander

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The Epitome of the Sentences of the Syriac ‘Menander’

(I) Menander, the Sage,

2 Before everything, fear God,

3 and honor the one that  is older than you,

4 for thus you shall be honored by God.


5 Flee from everything that is hateful.


6 There is no one who follows his stomach or his lust,

7 who immediately shall not be dishonored and despised.


8 Blessed is the man who has mastered his stomach and his lust.


9 The main source of all good things is the fear of God:

10 it delivers us from all evil things,

11 and in your distresses you will call upon him,

12 and he will listen to your voice.


13 The affairs of men, however, will not last,

14 since their life is until the house of death.


15 Comely is youth,

16 but it is with men only for a short time,

17 and (then) old age makes it fade away.


18 Pleasant are life, goods, and children,

19 but more pleasant than them is a good name.


20 Excellent is joy

21 when quarrel and violence are far from it.


22 Good is friendship

23  which continues to the house of death.


24 Lovely is wisdom

25  when it is not puffed up.


26 Excellent is faithfulness

27 when it is coupled with sound judgment.


28 Insipidity leads the mind astray.


29 Agitation makes (one) lose (his) senses.


30 An evil heart causes griefs and sighing.


31 Jealousy is the cause of evil and strife.


32 The belly (can be) disgraceful.

33 The tongue brings (one) to misery.


34 I have watched,

35 but the dwelling place of men is Sheol,

36 and this is the place of rest,

37 which God determines for men,

38 that they may rest there from the evil things

39 which they saw in their life.


The Sentences of the Syriac Menander

1 Menander the Sage said:

2 Prior to the words of man are all his activities:

3 water and seed, plants and children.

4 It is good to plant plants

5 and it is comely to beget children,

6 praiseworthy and good is the seed,

7 but he through whom it comes to pass,

8 he is to be praised before everything.

9 Fear God,

10 And honor (your) father and mother.

11 Do not laugh at old age,

12 for that is where you shall arrive and remain.

13 Honor him who is older than you,

14 (and) God will raise you to honor and dignity.

15 You shall do no murder,

16 and your hands shall not do what is hateful,

17 for the sword lies in the midst:

18 there is no one who cruelly kills

19 (who) will not himself be killed immediately.

20 Listen every day to the words of your father and mother,

21 and seek not to offend and dishonor them:

22 for the son who dishonors and offends his father and mother,

23 God ponders his death and his misfortune.

24 Honor your father in the proper way,

25 do not despise your friends,

26 and do not dishonor those who honor you.

27 If your son grows out of his boyhood

28 (as one who is) humble and wise

29 teach him the “book of wisdom,”

30 for the book is good to learn (wisdom) from.

31 (Wisdom) is bright eyes an excellent tongue.

32 eyes that are bright will not be blinded,

33 and a tongue that speaks wisely will not begin to stammer.

34 And if your son grows out of his boyhood

35 (as one who is) brutish, crude, and insolent,

36 (one who is) thievish, deceitful, and provocative,

37 teach him the profession of gladiator,

38 and put into his hand a sword and a dagger,

39 and pray for him,

40 that he shall die, shall be killed, immediately,

41 lest-by his living on-

42 you should grow old through his frauds and expenses,

43 while he does not produce anything good for you.

44 Every bad son should die and not live on.

45 And as for an adulterous woman, her feet are not firm,

46 for she deceives her good husband.

47 And a man who does  not correctly deal with his wife,

48 even God hates him.

49 Keep your son from fornication,

50 and your servant from the cabaret,

51 since these make (one) acquainted with the habit of stealing.

52 Drink wine moderately

53 and do not boast of it;

54 for wine is, indeed, mild and sweet,

55 but every man that quarrels and boasts of it

56 will immediately be dishonored and despised.

57 But when your thirst is quenched, depart,

58 but not what is left (is) what dogs eat, the vomit of the stomach.

59 There are two hateful things,

60 and in both of them the stomach is involved:

61 starvation, (the stomach) is swollen,

62 satiety, (the stomach) is at the bursting point.

63 And there is no one who follows his lust and his stomach

64 who will not immediately be dishonored and despised.

65 Blessed is the man who mastered his stomach and his lust,

66 he is one on whom one can rely at all times.

67 Hateful is the custom of lying down at an improper time:

68 sleep carries (us) into Sheol,

69 dreams unite (us) with the dead.

70 Hateful is laziness;

71 (it is) hungry and thirsty, naked and lamenting.

72 How comely and praiseworthy is industry;

73 at all times (it is) a filled stomach and a bright face.

74 Even if one does not have success,

75 he will not be blamed.

76 Do not be quarrelsome;

77 do not stretch out your hand against one older than you.

78 For the companions of Homer asked him,

79 “Whosoever will smite an old man,

80 what will happen to him?”

81 He said to him, “His eyes will be blinded.”

82 “And whosoever will beat his mother,

83 what will happen to him?”

84 He said to them, “The earth shall not receive him,

85 for she is the mother of all men.”

86 And again they asked him,

87 “And whosoever will smite his father,

88 what will happen to him?”

89 Homer said to his companions,

90 “This has not happened,

91 and so it cannot be taken into account;

92 for a son who beats his father does not exist,

93 unless his mother bore him after committing adultery with a foreigner.”

94 More than everything love your father,

95 you shall fear him and honor him.

96 And do not despise, do not dishonor your mother,

97 for ten months long she bore you in her womb,

98 and when she gave birth to you she was at the point of death.

99 Do not laugh at the words of the aged,

100 do not curl your lips (in scorn) at the aged;

101 and do not despise the poor.

102 For old age has its infirmities,

103 and man (has to) accept them,

104 but when he descends into the grave, he will find rest.

105 For there was a man who fell very badly,

106 and no one believed with respect to him

107 that he would stand on his feet (again);

108 but at some moment God took him by the hand and raised him,

109 and brought him (back) to great honor.

110 For neither riches are everlasting,

111 nor at all times is there poverty,

112 for subject to change are all things.

113 For I have seen

114 Someone who stood up to kill, and he was killed;

115 And someone they seized that he should die, and he found life.

116 For as for God, He who was cast down by him will not be so forever.

117 Nor will he who was humiliated by him be so at all times.

118 An if you want to take a wife,

119 Make first inquiries about her tongue,

120 And take her (only) then.

121 For a talkative woman is a hell;

122 And… a bad man is a deadly plague.

123 You shall fear God at all times,

124 So that you may call upon him in your distress,

125 And he will listen to your voice.

126 Do not rejoice over a dead man, over one who dies,

127 Because all men will go to the eternal house, they are mortal.

128 If you have an enemy,

129 Do not pray with respect to  him that he may die

130 -for when he is dead he is delivered from his misfortunes-

131 but pray with respect to him that he may become poor,

132 (then) he will live on and (perhaps may) cease from his evil  practices.

133 Do not intervene between brothers,

134 And do not seek to pronounce a judgement between them,

135 If brothers fight (with each other),

136 What business is it of yours?

137 For they are brothers, and they will be reconciled;

138 But as for you, they despise you in their minds.

139 Do not pass through a market street in which there is a quarrel,

140 lest, if you pass through, you badly suffer,

141 and, if you part them, you be wounded and your garments be rent,

142 and if you stand there and watch, you be summoned to court to give evidence.

143 Hate being wounded;

144 Refuse to bring out false witness.

145 Be fond of possessions, but hate stealing:

146 For possessions are “life,”

147 But stealing is at all times “death.”

148 (If you meet) a bad man in the market street,

149 do not sit down immediately,

150 lest, if you give ear to that bad man,

151 everyone who sees you will call you the companion of the bad man;

152 and lest, if you do not heed him or adhere to his opinion,

153 he reviles you and molests you in his wickedness.

154 Do not dine with a bad servant,

155 lest  his masters(s) accuse(s) you

156 of teaching his (their)servant to steal.

157 Hate a bad servant,

158 And beware of a free man who steals;

159 for just as you have not the competence to kill a servant,

160 neither have you (the capacity) to restrain a free man.

161 God hates the bad servant

162 who hates and dishonors his master(s).

163 If you see a bad servant in deplorable misfortune,

164 do not feel sorry for him,

165 but say “Alas for his master(s), what a (piece of ) property.”

166 Love the industrious servant

167 who is active and works with zeal in the house of his master(s).

168 As for every bad man, God gives him over into slavery,

169 but every industrious man is worthy to rise in honor and greatness.

170 Reject and hate a lascivious old man,

171 for as you are not able to restrain the wind

172 so you cannot restrain or educate (such) and old man.

173 Do not leave the way,

174 and do not go astray,

175 and do not walk wickedly.

176 Do not be quarrelsome,

177 lest a quarrel arise which reduces (you) to poverty.

178 And if you lie, immediately you shall be despised.

179 And if you speak wickedly, you face shall grow pale.

180 If you are boastful, you shall prove harmful to yourself.

181 If you recline at table among many (others),

182 do not open your purse in their presence;

183 and do not show what you have with you,

184 lest they borrow from you but do not pay you back.

185 And when you ask them (about it), they will strive with you

186 and call you a sour man.

187 (In short) you will lose what was yours,

188 and, moreover, you will become (their) enemy.

189 Love your brothers,

190 and make your words pleasing to your friends.

191 For I went about and sought

192 sometimes that can be likened to good friends,

193 but I did not find (it).

194 Rejoice at your sons, father,

195 For they are a (real) joy.

196 However, the position of brothers,

197 The sons do not take for me; see my sons (and) brothers.

198 For your son prays for your death,

199 Since through your death he will receive honor.

200 and will occupy your position,

201 and will live on your goods at will.

202 But your brothers pray to God for your life,

203 because as long as you live they are splendid,

204 but through your death they are handicapped;

205 your sons will call them, your brothers, worthless fellows.

206 But it is a bad and foolish son who thinks of these things;

207 a bad thought in his heart, (focused) on his father’s death.

208 The bad sin does not understand

209 that if his father dies, it is not good for the sons:

210 the head (of the family) no longer lives for them.

211 Love and honor your father,

212 because he gave himself to you.

213 Do not despise your friends,

214 and do not dishonor those who honor you.

215 And he with whom you had a meal,

216 do not walk with him in a treacherous way.

217 And when you are going to your friends,

218 If your friend (really) loves you

219 and (if) you are (really) dear to him,

220 his children will show you that outwardly.

221 If they eagerly watch for your presence,

222 be convinced that your friend loves you,

223 and that you are dear to him.

224 But if his children do not eagerly watch for your coming,

225 Even he, your friend, is unwilling to see you…

226 Leave, go home!

227 Tardily does the freeborn appreciate his home,

228 And the maidservant the house of her waster(s).

229 If you see a noble man who loses his rank of honor,

230 Do not seek to dishonor him (further).

231 On the contrary, honor him in a correct way,

232 And give to him that which you can;

233 For great is the charity which you practice

234 when you give to a man who lost his possessions and rank of honor.

235 If you have, give to him,

236 And if you have not and (can)not give to him,

237 Then visit him with good and gentle words,

238 And say to him, “Do not be afraid”

239 And “May God purpose something good for you!”

240 Keep your self away from adultery.

241 Why should you want to buy polluted and putrid water,

242 Whose beginning is dwindling, whose end is light and loose?

243 And walk in a straight line with the head raised,

244 And be chaste in your thoughts.

245 Remember and see:

246 Just as you do not wish your wife to commit adultery with another,

247 Likewise also do not wish to commit adultery with your neighbor’s wife.

248 And if you are very keen on not losing anything,

249 You should (also) not be keen on stealing.

250 Everything that is hateful to you,

251 you should not wish to do that to your neighbor.

252 Let not your way of life be arrogant,

253 lest it be harmful to you.

254 And if you are impudent,

255 this will not be pleasant for you.

256 You shall not learn hunting,

257 if the weariness of life is not to fall upon you.

258 If you should (wish) to learn it,

259 you would be searching for something that you have not lost,

260 and you would not find something that is beautiful,

261 because it is contemptible.

262 As for the king, he is honored by his princes,

263 but the gods are despised by their priests.

264 (Do not invite) a priest who despises his gods.

265 If you invite a wicked priest to your house,

266 he gives you a blessing each time that he enters,

267 but makes complaints each time that he departs.

268 and if you place food before him,

269 his one hand, indeed, goes to his mouth;

270 but the other takes the food away

271 and puts it into his bag to take it along with him for his children.

272 Have more love for a dog than you have for (such) a priest;

273 if the dog has enough food,

274 he leaves the (the remains) behind in your house,

275 but if the priest has enough food,

276 he takes (the remains) along with him for his children,

277 and makes complains in addition.

278 Be welcome,

279 if (at least) (your) garments are fair,

280 and if (your) purse is filled.

281 A meal makes company pleasant.

282 Riches multiply friends.

283 But if a man’s foot falters,

284 all his friends are gone.

285 A gift makes words pleasant.

286 With someone who is richer than you, do not dine every day,

287 for if you happen to visit him,

288 he would receive you with (in the bounds of) his daily expenditures;

289 but if he happens to visit you,

290 you would spend because of him what you have collected in thirty days,

291 and thereby ruin yourself.

292 Divination gladdens the heart of fools,

293 astrology infatuates the mind of the stupid.

294 One who remains in the market street is an idler.

295 Stealing is the constructor of a cross.

296 Bad amusement is the teacher of falsehood and theft.

297 Keep a boy away from evil things;

298 The school keeps (one) far from death;

299 Handicraft delivers (one) from misfortune.

300 The law is a divine appeal.

301 Hateful is loquacity;

302 and excessive laughter is a (true) disgrace.

303 Disorderly conduct, despise it at all times.

304 Reject, hate the talkative person

305 who interrupts (others) but (himself) speaks the mores.

306 Though he had (even) ten thousand enemies,

307 they would not hurt him like his own tongue;

308 every day he is involved in a deadly fight,

309 he has not a bright face,

310 due to the words for which he is censured.

311 There exists nothing better than silence.

312 Being silent is at all times a virtue.

313 Even if a fool is silent, he is counted wise.

314 Never lose heart.

315 Do not fall back in battle;

316 for whoever does not fall back in battle

317 and gives himself unto death,

318 shall immediately find life and a good name

319 and he shall be praised.

320 He who speaks boldly in court

321 shall be declared innocent.

322 Riches without fuss are a (true) power;

323 but not everyone knows how to administer them.

324 For if someone has inflated his stomach he will die;

325 And if he does not remember the end, he will perish.

326 If, on the other hand, you calm down your stomach, you will grow rich;

327 and if you will remember the end, it will be well with you.

328 (To act as) a judge is fine;

329 Take care that you do not pronounce judgement over a foolish man,

330 because (even) if you should try to assist the fool in his case,

331 he will still revile you and he will say to many (others),

332 “He has condemned me.”

333 Do not dine with a wicked man;

334 for even what is your own he will consume,

335 and in his wickedness he will say about you evil and hateful things.

336 Do not listen to a talkative and verbose woman;

337 do not believe her, if she complains to you of her husband;

338 for he did not sin against her,

339 but she did irritate him every day with her wicked tongue.

340 Do not measure your strength with one who is stronger than you,

341 or one who forces you to strive with him;

342 do not say to yourself, “Maybe I will cast him down,”

343 lest he cast you down;

344 then you will be ashamed in the presence of many bystanders.

345 Be bold against one who contends you;

346 and do not forgive him the revilements against your father.

347 Do not cast a glance at your maidservant in your house,

348 and do not be fond of impurity and prodigality;

349 do never besmirch your honor.

350 For if you raise your eye in your house, you will become very sad,

351 but if you chaste, you shall be happy and fortunate,

352 because God hates impurity and prodigality,

353 even for men these are a disgrace.

354 If you have goods, if you have possessions,

355 be humble and kind, and give; do not flaunt.

356 And if you have no possessions, if you are poor,

357 bow yourself down and be gentle; be not stubborn.

358 Flaunting and stubbornness are hateful to men.

359 Do not turn away your eyes from your father and mother,

360 and do not curl up your lips (in scorn) at “testicles” and “breasts,”

361 and do not dishonor the God who made you.

362 However, remember and see:

363 if your eyes become great, they (still can) not surpass our eyebrows.

364 For if you have surpassed your father and mother,

365 and if-as it is now your time and your fate-

366 you are to be called “Master” and “Lord,”

367 it is due to the name of your father and mother that all people call you so.

368 If you have goods, if you have possessions,

369 live on your possessions as long as you are alive

370 and your eye (can) see and your foot (can) walk.

371 For remember and see:

372 one (can) not use (his) goods in Sheol,

373 and riches do not accompany one into the grave.

374 Therefore, you shall not deny yourself the good things,

375 for better is one day under the sun

376 than a hundred years in Sheol.

377 Be energetic in your youth,

378 as long as your eye (can) see and your foot (can) walk,

379 (as long as) your strength is great.

380 But when you have become aged and wary,

381 sit down and live on your possessions.

382 And comely is youth,

383 when the young man is energetic,

384 and (when) he is successful through his strength.

385 Let anxieties never dominate your heart,

386 because it is a bad thing to nurse anxiety.

387 For many are the years which a man does not (really) live;

388 Their anxieties (slowly) kill him.

389 If you are anxious, you shall die;

390 and if you are sad, you shall never (really) live.

391 For  short and limited is the space of life

392 which God determines for men;

393 and he mingled them many bad things with a few good things.

394 The main source of all good things is the fear of God,

395 it delivers (one) from all evil things;

396 a treasure it is.

397 Not always, however, will last the affairs of men,

398 since their life is until the house of death.

399 Comely and praiseworthy is youth,

400 but it is with men only for a short time,

401 and (then) old age makes it fade away.

402 Pleasant are life, goods, and buildings,

403 but more pleasant than these is a good name.

404 Praiseworthy and radiant is joy

405 When quarrel and violence are far from it.

406 Good and excellent is friendship

407 which continues to the house of death.

408 Unpretentious is wisdom

409 when it is not puffed up.

410 Good is faithfulness

411 when it is coupled with sound judgment.

412 Praiseworthy is industry

413 when someone is energetic and successful.

414 Laziness is a bad thing

415 when a person’s body should be vigorous.

416 Intemperance provokes conflict.

417 Wisdom keeps one back from wickedness.

418 Hope comforts the heart.

419 Insipidity leads the mind astray.

420 Agitation makes (one) lose (his) senses.

421 An evil heart causes grief and sighing.

422 Jealousy is the cause of evil and strife.

423 The belly (can be) a disgraceful thing.

424 The tongue brings to misery.

425 Radiant and comely are riches,

426 but the good man hardly acquires them.

427 Hateful and dark is poverty

428 when accompanied by disease and loss.

429 Riches are (merely?) a step to honor.

430 Rest is a great blessing.

431 Riches that will not reduce to poverty are a strong power.

432 Wretched poverty means illness and disease.

433 Health means joy and rejoicing.

434 Old age is the frontier of death.

435 Poverty is the dregs of all evil

436 when it takes up its abode in old age.

437 And the last part of life is death;

438 the grave hides the dust.

439 Fever corrupts charming people;

440 health and good cheer make one’s appearance charming.

441 death corrupts (even) the firm (body);

442 but dissolution forms (first) ten parts,

443 and then (death) corrupts the one (part) that was well prepared.

444 These bad and good things are mingled in the life of men,

445 not to mention fever, tremors, diseases, and (other) great calamities

446 which are called “the angels of death.”

447 And no one can choose and take for himself what is good

448 and avoid what is bad;

449 but men go their way according to what God measures out for them,

450 as long as he allows them to live.

451 Neither should men despair,

452 because they cannot live longer than is determined for them;

453 nor should we angrily complain against God.

454 because of the misfortunes that befall us.

455 For how often (it happens that)

456 someone, even when he suffers misfortunes,

457 rises (again) to honor and dignity.

458 One should, however, in the sorrow that befalls him,

459 not be excessively sad,

460 and through his groaning badly vex himself,

461 because he will not be of any help to a deceased

562 even if he falls down and greatly suffers after his (death).

463 But he who is wise

464 –even when the deceased is very dear to him-

465 shall accompany him with tears to the tomb;

466 but when the deceased has been buried,

467 let him, even him, overcome his groaning;

468 and let him remember and consider in his mind

469 that he himself shall also die.

470 And this (Sheol) is the place of rest

471 which God determines for men,

472 that they may rest there from the evil things

473 which they saw in their life.

474 Menander has come to an end.

* “The Sentences of the Syriac Menander” by T. BAARDA.  From The Old Testament Pseudepigraph, ed. James   Charlesworth (New York: Doubleday, 1985). Copyright by Doubleday.  Reprinted by Permission of Doubleday.