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The wicked and their speech. A crucial component of the legal system is people's talk, and Sirach has quite a lot to say on the subject. Most of his remarks, however, appear to refer more generally to common conversation rather than the more limited judicial setting. A "babbler" (glwsswdhj) is feared by a whole city.210 Sinners often meet their nemesis in their own speech which comes back to them with a vengeance.211 The talk of "proud men" (uperhfanwn) could even lead to bloodshed; their swearing could "make one's hair stand on end" (27 :14-15). "Slander" (diabolhn) and "false accusation" (katayeusmon) are among phenomena worse than death (26: 5).212 False and malicious speech is so dangerous that Sirach urges his audience to curse the "whisperer" (yiquron) and the "deceiver" (diglwsson). "Slander" (glwssh trith) has been the cause of many a downfall, and the tongue can be more dangerous than a sword.213

Wicked friends. Friendship is likewise a sphere where one might encounter the wicked. Sirach 12:8-18 shows this

210 211 212 9:18; cf. 8:3. 23:7-15; cf. 20:18-20; 27:28. This numerical saying is 3+1; the first three items are slander, a mob and false accusation. All three are worse than death. The fourth item is apparently a wife "envious of a rival" (v. 6). 28:13-26. 213

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