Question about Sirach. Men and Women

Hi guys. Can someone please explain further to me this passage in Sirach.

It is Sirach 42 - 14

Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good;
it is a woman who brings shame and disgrace.

Thanks for your help!

There are a number of verses in Sirach which make the point that both men and women can be wicked, but that wicked women were far worse.

Over a dissolute daughter keep sure watch: lest at any time she make thee come into reproach with thine enemies, because of detraction in the city, and the objection of the people, and she confound thee in the multitude of the people.
Look not on every body for beauty sake: & among women tarry not.
For out of garments cometh forth the moth, and from a woman the iniquity of a man.
For better is the iniquity of a man, then a woman doing a good turn, and a woman shaming unto reproach.

The commentary on the verses from the original Douai:

There is less danger in conversing familiarly with a wicked man, then with a friendly woman. In which conversation, much prudence is required, as is before admonished. Chapter 9.

*12] Do not look upon any one for beauty,
and do not sit in the midst of women;
[13] for from garments comes the moth,
and from a woman comes woman’s wickedness.
[14] Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good;
and it is a woman who brings shame and disgrace.*Part of me thinks that the issue is more a statement about men and their weakness. Look how the context begins by warning against a sinful gaze and warns against going in the “midst” of women. Then it transitions into the comparison that the moth comes from the garment - i.e. the lustful gaze comes from cavorting around women who would induce such a gaze. Then it goes into the whole wicked man vs. good woman. It seems, in context, we may be understanding here that hanging around a wicked man might make a man less prone to sin than being around a good woman because her beauty could draw him into an even worse sin.

Because elsewhere in the wisdom books (which includes Sirach and Proverbs), is this:
*Prov. 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.*Similarly, Sirach also says:*Sir. 7:19 Do not deprive yourself of a wise and good wife, for her charm is worth more than gold.*Anyone who knows how gold is referenced in Scripture knows that it is a figure of the greatest value or of something pure and holy. So, the highest praise given for being around a good woman is certainly there in the text. In light of that, the chapter 42 quote could possibly be understood as the best among women who attract lustful gazes.

Chapters 25-26 go on to use similar language as chapter 42. For example, compare:*42:14 Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good

25:13 Any wound, but not a wound of the heart! Any wickedness, but not the wickedness of a wife!*You see in both of these examples how the author is referring to the woman as the “worse” of two bad things. But if we expound on the context of chapter 25, we see just a few verses later:*26:1-3 Happy is the husband of a good wife; the number of his days will be doubled. A loyal wife rejoices her husband, and he will complete his years in peace. A good wife is a great blessing; she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.*So you see even though in one breath the author is talking about how “bad” it is to be around a “wicked” woman, but how a good woman is a blessing from God Himself.

At any rate, it seems to me on first analysis that this is a warning about the danger of sinning by associating with a wicked woman who may draw lustful gazes. It’s not just beauty itself, because elsewhere the author praises the beauty of a good wife’s face (26:16-17).

In good Christian culture the different genders always have a certain amount of separation.

That comment from the commentary is so true. Let’s just say I learned that the hard way.

I don’t have a Douay-Rheims Bible, but I plan to get one. Do they all come with that commentary, or is that something I have to get separately or in a special edition?

I took this from a copy of the original Douai, sometimes called the real Douai, which is rare and only found in a few places, normally the Challoner version is sold as the ‘Douay-Rheims’. The original has a great deal more and often but not always different commentary than others versions.The original is a more literal translation than the Challoner. The Haydock also uses the Challoner as a base.

I have the updated spelling copy of the original that Dr. von Peters worked on, it’s provided through Lulu (which you can easily find discount coupons for). That one is completely updated so that older English characters no longer are used, but that is all.

(A fellow called John D. Litteral is, I think, working on individual volumes updated differently in spelling, to remove the ‘thees and thous’ with ‘yous’ and has finished a few volumes.)

There’s also the original facsimile the Church Latin website provides. Those are the sources I know of to get it in print! :slight_smile:

The e-book facsimile (large file) is also available here. Dr. von Peter’s work is also sold in e-text PDF, in a much smaller format, as it is not a facsimile. :slight_smile:

Someone in my Sunday Scripture class observed last week that Sirach is traditionally believed to be written by or based on the teaching of Solomon - certainly a man who had too much experience with women, and who was drawn astray by the women he chose to marry. . .


Hi guys,

Im confused on this part of the passage in Sirach 42 after reading it through.

It is the line on Sirach 42.14 “Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; it is woman who brings shame and disgrace.”

From how I interpret it… I dont quite like it. Im sure theres something Im missing?

I’m not exactly sure what translation that is. NAB has it like this: “Better a man’s harshness than a woman’s indulgence, a frightened daughter than any disgrace.”

Douay: * Sirach 42:14 For better is the iniquity of a man, than a woman doing a good turn, and a woman bringing shame and reproach.*

Here’s are the commentary notes from the Geo. Haydock Bible:

Ver. 14. Better, &c. That is, there is, commonly speaking, less danger to be apprehended to the soul from the churlishness, or injuries we receive from men, than from the flattering favours and familiarity of women. (Challoner) — Josephus (contra Apion ii.) attributes this sentence to Moses, and prefers the worst man to the best woman, as Euripides does in Clement. (Strom. iv.) (Calmet) — But this is ridiculous. — Reproach. This explains what sort of good the woman aforesaid has done; she had fostered the passions of men, and brought them to shame, which all the malevolence of an enemy could not have done. (Haydock) — The company of women is therefore more dangerous, chap. ix. (Worthington)

James1990, you asked the same question in another thread about a week earlier, and you got a few good answers:
Question about Sirach. Men and Women

Could you give us an update on how you are doing with this? Since posting it last time and getting some responses, do you have a better understand of the passage? Is there some specific point or issue that is still troubling you? In other words, how can we help?

English vernacular…:mad:

melior est iniquitas viri quam benefaciens mulier et mulier confundens in obprobrium

Now to a closer vernacular, Italian (CEI translation):

Meglio la cattiveria di un uomo che la bontà di una donna, una donna che porta vergogna fino allo scherno.

This says that the iniquity of a man is better than the goodness of a woman that brings confusion in shame. Haydock puts it well: there is less danger to the soul from men than from the flattering favours and familiarity of women, for she can foster the passions of men and bring them to shame - which all the malevolence of an enemy could not do.

Don’t try to read too much into it…it’s basically a heads up for guys.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit