E.D. Reymond, «Sirach 40,18-27 as ‘T@o=b-Spruch’», Vol. 82 (2001) 84-92
Although the series of comparisons that make up Sirach 40,18-27 are often characterized as ‘better-than’ proverbs or t@o=b-Sprüche, they do not convey a generic idea of degree, but rather express the superiority of items in the specific context of verbs’ semantic fields. This construction emphasizes the tangible benefit of the ‘superior’ elements, a nuance that the more typical t@o=b-Sprüche would not express. In addition, Ben Sira describes each superior item as unambiguously virtuous, implying a connection between righteous behavior and a joyous, satisfying and successful life.
The term ‘t@o=b-Spruch’ was first used by Walther Zimmerli to designate proverbs in which one thing is said to be ‘better’ than another through the construction t@o=b ... min ...2. Because some analogous phrases appear in which the t@o=b is absent 3, the title was logically extended to designate these constructions. Most analyses of the poem in Sirach 40,18-27 and general treatments of t@o=b -Sprüche which mention this poem have considered the expressions in it ‘better-than’ proverbs similar to others which omit the adjective t@o=b4. Unfortunately, such an interpretation does not elucidate these comparisons, but rather obscures their nuances.
Each comparison in this poem is constructed of two cola. In
the first colon two synonymous, coordinate items are the subject of a finite
verb (e.g., v. 18 begins: wqtmy rk#<w>
rty yyx ‘A life of plenty