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Wisdom of Solomon 14:12–21:12

The Origin and Evils of Idolatry

12 For the idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication,
and the invention of them was the corruption of life;
13 for they did not exist from the beginning,
nor will they last for ever.
14 For through human vanity they entered the world,
and therefore their speedy end has been planned.

15 For a father, consumed with grief at an untimely bereavement,
made an image of his child, who had been suddenly taken from him;
he now honoured as a god what was once a dead human being,
and handed on to his dependants secret rites and initiations.
16 Then the ungodly custom, grown strong with time, was kept as a law,
and at the command of monarchs carved images were worshipped.
17 When people could not honour monarchs* in their presence, since they lived at a distance,
they imagined their appearance far away,
and made a visible image of the king whom they honoured,
so that by their zeal they might flatter the absent one as though present.

18 Then the ambition of the artisan impelled
even those who did not know the king to intensify their worship.
19 For he, perhaps wishing to please his ruler,
skilfully forced the likeness to take more beautiful form,
20 and the multitude, attracted by the charm of his work,
now regarded as an object of worship the one whom shortly before they had honoured as a human being.
21 And this became a hidden trap for humankind,
because people, in bondage to misfortune or to royal authority,
bestowed on objects of stone or wood the name that ought not to be shared.

22 Then it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God,
but though living in great strife due to ignorance,
they call such great evils peace.
23 For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries,
or hold frenzied revels with strange customs,
24 they no longer keep either their lives or their marriages pure,
but they either treacherously kill one another, or grieve one another by adultery,
25 and all is a raging riot of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, perjury,
26 confusion over what is good, forgetfulness of favours,
defiling of souls, sexual perversion,
disorder in marriages, adultery, and debauchery.
27 For the worship of idols not to be named
is the beginning and cause and end of every evil.
28 For their worshippers* either rave in exultation,
or prophesy lies, or live unrighteously, or readily commit perjury;
29 for because they trust in lifeless idols
they swear wicked oaths and expect to suffer no harm.
30 But just penalties will overtake them on two counts:
because they thought wrongly about God in devoting themselves to idols,
and because in deceit they swore unrighteously through contempt for holiness.
31 For it is not the power of the things by which people swear,*
but the just penalty for those who sin,
that always pursues the transgression of the unrighteous.

Benefits of Worshipping the True God

15But you, our God, are kind and true,
patient, and ruling all things* in mercy.
2 For even if we sin we are yours, knowing your power;
but we will not sin, because we know that you acknowledge us as yours.
3 For to know you is complete righteousness,
and to know your power is the root of immortality.
4 For neither has the evil intent of human art misled us,
nor the fruitless toil of painters,
a figure stained with varied colours,
5 whose appearance arouses yearning in fools,
so that they desire* the lifeless form of a dead image.
6 Lovers of evil things and fit for such objects of hope*
are those who either make or desire or worship them.

The Foolishness of Worshipping Clay Idols

7 A potter kneads the soft earth
and laboriously moulds each vessel for our service,
fashioning out of the same clay
both the vessels that serve clean uses
and those for contrary uses, making all alike;
but which shall be the use of each of them
the worker in clay decides.
8 With misspent toil, these workers form a futile god from the same clay—
these mortals who were made of earth a short time before
and after a little while go to the earth from which all mortals are taken,
when the time comes to return the souls that were borrowed.
9 But the workers are not concerned that mortals are destined to die
or that their life is brief,
but they compete with workers in gold and silver,
and imitate workers in copper;
and they count it a glorious thing to mould counterfeit gods.
10 Their heart is ashes, their hope is cheaper than dirt,
and their lives are of less worth than clay,
11 because they failed to know the one who formed them
and inspired them with active souls
and breathed a living spirit into them.
12 But they considered our existence an idle game,
and life a festival held for profit,
for they say one must get money however one can, even by base means.
13 For these people, more than all others, know that they sin
when they make from earthy matter fragile vessels and carved images.

14 But most foolish, and more miserable than an infant,
are all the enemies who oppressed your people.
15 For they thought that all their heathen idols were gods,
though these have neither the use of their eyes to see with,
nor nostrils with which to draw breath,
nor ears with which to hear,
nor fingers to feel with,
and their feet are of no use for walking.
16 For a human being made them,
and one whose spirit is borrowed formed them;
for none can form gods that are like themselves.
17 People are mortal, and what they make with lawless hands is dead;
for they are better than the objects they worship,
since* they have life, but the idols* never had.

Serpents in the Desert

18 Moreover, they worship even the most hateful animals,
which are worse than all others when judged by their lack of intelligence;
19 and even as animals they are not so beautiful in appearance that one would desire them,
but they have escaped both the praise of God and his blessing.

16Therefore those people* were deservedly punished through such creatures,
and were tormented by a multitude of animals.
2 Instead of this punishment you showed kindness to your people,
and you prepared quails to eat,
a delicacy to satisfy the desire of appetite;
3 in order that those people, when they desired food,
might lose the least remnant of appetite*
because of the odious creatures sent to them,
while your people,* after suffering want a short time,
might partake of delicacies.
4 For it was necessary that upon those oppressors inescapable want should come,
while to these others it was merely shown how their enemies were being tormented.

5 For when the terrible rage of wild animals came upon your people*
and they were being destroyed by the bites of writhing serpents,
your wrath did not continue to the end;
6 they were troubled for a little while as a warning,
and received a symbol of deliverance to remind them of your law’s command.

7 For the one who turned towards it was saved, not by the thing that was beheld,
but by you, the Saviour of all.
8 And by this also you convinced our enemies
that it is you who deliver from every evil.
9 For they were killed by the bites of locusts and flies,
and no healing was found for them,
because they deserved to be punished by such things.
10 But your children were not conquered even by the fangs of venomous serpents,
for your mercy came to their help and healed them.
11 To remind them of your oracles they were bitten,
and then were quickly delivered,
so that they would not fall into deep forgetfulness
and become unresponsive* to your kindness.
12 For neither herb nor poultice cured them,
but it was your word, O Lord, that heals all people.
13 For you have power over life and death;
you lead mortals down to the gates of Hades and back again.
14 A person in wickedness kills another,
but cannot bring back the departed spirit,
or set free the imprisoned soul.

Disastrous Storms Strike Egypt

15 To escape from your hand is impossible;
16 for the ungodly, refusing to know you,
were flogged by the strength of your arm,
pursued by unusual rains and hail and relentless storms,
and utterly consumed by fire.
17 For—most incredible of all—in water, which quenches all things,
the fire had still greater effect,
for the universe defends the righteous.
18 At one time the flame was restrained,
so that it might not consume the creatures sent against the ungodly,
but that seeing this they might know
that they were being pursued by the judgement of God;
19 and at another time even in the midst of water it burned more intensely than fire,
to destroy the crops of the unrighteous land.

The Israelites Receive Manna

20 Instead of these things you gave your people food of angels,
and without their toil you supplied them from heaven with bread ready to eat,
providing every pleasure and suited to every taste.
21 For your sustenance manifested your sweetness towards your children;
and the bread, ministering* to the desire of the one who took it,
was changed to suit everyone’s liking.
22 Snow and ice withstood fire without melting,
so that they might know that the crops of their enemies
were being destroyed by the fire that blazed in the hail
and flashed in the showers of rain;
23 whereas the fire,* in order that the righteous might be fed,
even forgot its native power.

24 For creation, serving you who made it,
exerts itself to punish the unrighteous,
and in kindness relaxes on behalf of those who trust in you.
25 Therefore at that time also, changed into all forms,
it served your all-nourishing bounty,
according to the desire of those who had need,*
26 so that your children, whom you loved, O Lord, might learn
that it is not the production of crops that feeds humankind
but that your word sustains those who trust in you.
27 For what was not destroyed by fire
was melted when simply warmed by a fleeting ray of the sun,
28 to make it known that one must rise before the sun to give you thanks,
and must pray to you at the dawning of the light;
29 for the hope of an ungrateful person will melt like wintry frost,
and flow away like waste water.

Terror Strikes the Egyptians at Night

17Great are your judgements and hard to describe;
therefore uninstructed souls have gone astray.
2 For when lawless people supposed that they held the holy nation in their power,
they themselves lay as captives of darkness and prisoners of long night,
shut in under their roofs, exiles from eternal providence.
3 For thinking that in their secret sins they were unobserved
behind a dark curtain of forgetfulness,
they were scattered, terribly* alarmed,
and appalled by spectres.
4 For not even the inner chamber that held them protected them from fear,
but terrifying sounds rang out around them,
and dismal phantoms with gloomy faces appeared.
5 And no power of fire was able to give light,
nor did the brilliant flames of the stars
avail to illumine that hateful night.
6 Nothing was shining through to them
except a dreadful, self-kindled fire,
and in terror they deemed the things that they saw
to be worse than that unseen appearance.
7 The delusions of their magic art lay humbled,
and their boasted wisdom was scornfully rebuked.
8 For those who promised to drive off the fears and disorders of a sick soul
were sick themselves with ridiculous fear.
9 For even if nothing disturbing frightened them,
yet, scared by the passing of wild animals and the hissing of snakes
10 they perished in trembling fear,
refusing to look even at the air, though it nowhere could be avoided.
11 For wickedness is a cowardly thing, condemned by its own testimony;*
distressed by conscience, it has always exaggerated* the difficulties.
12 For fear is nothing but a giving up of the helps that come from reason;
13 and hope, defeated by this inward weakness,
prefers ignorance of what causes the torment.
14 But throughout the night, which was really powerless
and which came upon them from the recesses of powerless Hades,
they all slept the same sleep,
15 and now were driven by monstrous spectres,
and now were paralysed by their souls’ surrender;
for sudden and unexpected fear overwhelmed them.
16 And whoever was there fell down,
and thus was kept shut up in a prison not made of iron;
17 for whether they were farmers or shepherds
or workers who toiled in the wilderness,
they were seized, and endured the inescapable fate;
for with one chain of darkness they all were bound.
18 Whether there came a whistling wind,
or a melodious sound of birds in wide-spreading branches,
or the rhythm of violently rushing water,
19 or the harsh crash of rocks hurled down,
or the unseen running of leaping animals,
or the sound of the most savage roaring beasts,
or an echo thrown back from a hollow of the mountains,
it paralysed them with terror.
20 For the whole world was illumined with brilliant light,
and went about its work unhindered,
21 while over those people alone heavy night was spread,
an image of the darkness that was destined to receive them;
but still heavier than darkness were they to themselves.

Light Shines on the Israelites

18But for your holy ones there was very great light.
Their enemies* heard their voices but did not see their forms,
and counted them happy for not having suffered,
2 and were thankful that your holy ones,* though previously wronged, were doing them no injury;
and they begged their pardon for having been at variance with them.*
3 Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire
as a guide for your people’s* unknown journey,
and a harmless sun for their glorious wandering.
4 For their enemies* deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness,
those who had kept your children imprisoned,
through whom the imperishable light of the law was to be given to the world.

The Death of the Egyptian Firstborn

5 When they had resolved to kill the infants of your holy ones,
and one child had been abandoned and rescued,
you in punishment took away a multitude of their children;
and you destroyed them all together by a mighty flood.
6 That night was made known beforehand to our ancestors,
so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.
7 The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies
were expected by your people.
8 For by the same means by which you punished our enemies
you called us to yourself and glorified us.
9 For in secret the holy children of good people offered sacrifices,
and with one accord agreed to the divine law,
so that the saints would share alike the same things,
both blessings and dangers;
and already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.*
10 But the discordant cry of their enemies echoed back,
and their piteous lament for their children was spread abroad.
11 The slave was punished with the same penalty as the master,
and the commoner suffered the same loss as the king;
12 and they all together, by one form* of death,
had corpses too many to count.
For the living were not sufficient even to bury them,
since in one instant their most valued children had been destroyed.
13 For though they had disbelieved everything because of their magic arts,
yet, when their firstborn were destroyed, they acknowledged your people to be God’s child.
14 For while gentle silence enveloped all things,
and night in its swift course was now half gone,
15 your all-powerful word leapt from heaven, from the royal throne,
into the midst of the land that was doomed,
a stern warrior
16 carrying the sharp sword of your authentic command,
and stood and filled all things with death,
and touched heaven while standing on the earth.
17 Then at once apparitions in dreadful dreams greatly troubled them,
and unexpected fears assailed them;
18 and one here and another there, hurled down half dead,
made known why they were dying;
19 for the dreams that disturbed them forewarned them of this,
so that they might not perish without knowing why they suffered.

Threat of Annihilation in the Desert

20 The experience of death touched also the righteous,
and a plague came upon the multitude in the desert,
but the wrath did not long continue.
21 For a blameless man was quick to act as their champion;
he brought forward the shield of his ministry,
prayer and propitiation by incense;
he withstood the anger and put an end to the disaster,
showing that he was your servant.
22 He conquered the wrath* not by strength of body,
not by force of arms,
but by his word he subdued the avenger,
appealing to the oaths and covenants given to our ancestors.
23 For when the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,
he intervened and held back the wrath,
and cut off its way to the living.
24 For on his long robe the whole world was depicted,
and the glories of the ancestors were engraved on the four rows of stones,
and your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.
25 To these the destroyer yielded, these he* feared;
for merely to test the wrath was enough.

The Red Sea

19But the ungodly were assailed to the end by pitiless anger,
for God* knew in advance even their future actions:
2 how, though they themselves had permitted* your people to depart
and hastily sent them out,
they would change their minds and pursue them.
3 For while they were still engaged in mourning,
and were lamenting at the graves of their dead,
they reached another foolish decision,
and pursued as fugitives those whom they had begged and compelled to leave.
4 For the fate they deserved drew them on to this end,
and made them forget what had happened,
in order that they might fill up the punishment that their torments still lacked,
5 and that your people might experience* an incredible journey,
but they themselves might meet a strange death.

God Guides and Protects His People

6 For the whole creation in its nature was fashioned anew,
complying with your commands,
so that your children* might be kept unharmed.
7 The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp,
and dry land emerging where water had stood before,
an unhindered way out of the Red Sea,
and a grassy plain out of the raging waves,
8 where those protected by your hand passed through as one nation,
after gazing on marvellous wonders.
9 For they ranged like horses,
and leapt like lambs,
praising you, O Lord, who delivered them.
10 For they still recalled the events of their sojourn,
how instead of producing animals the earth brought forth gnats,
and instead of fish the river spewed out vast numbers of frogs.
11 Afterwards they saw also a new kind* of birds,
when desire led them to ask for luxurious food;
12 for, to give them relief, quails came up from the sea.

The Punishment of the Egyptians

13 The punishments did not come upon the sinners
without prior signs in the violence of thunder,
for they justly suffered because of their wicked acts;
for they practised a more bitter hatred of strangers.
14 Others had refused to receive strangers when they came to them,
but these made slaves of guests who were their benefactors.
15 And not only so—but, while punishment of some sort will come upon the former
for having received strangers with hostility,
16 the latter, having first received them with festal celebrations,
afterwards afflicted with terrible sufferings
those who had already shared the same rights.
17 They were stricken also with loss of sight—
just as were those at the door of the righteous man—
when, surrounded by yawning darkness,
all of them tried to find the way through their own doors.

A New Harmony in Nature

18 For the elements changed* places with one another,
as on a harp the notes vary the nature of the rhythm,
while each note remains the same.*
This may be clearly inferred from the sight of what took place.
19 For land animals were transformed into water creatures,
and creatures that swim moved over to the land.
20 Fire even in water retained its normal power,
and water forgot its fire-quenching nature.
21 Flames, on the contrary, failed to consume
the flesh of perishable creatures that walked among them,
nor did they melt* the crystalline, quick-melting kind of heavenly food.


22 For in everything, O Lord, you have exalted and glorified your people,
and you have not neglected to help them at all times and in all places.


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