Article Index

Book of Wisdom: Chapters 14 - 19

Chapter 14

1 Or someone else, preparing to sail the water, and about to pass through the raging waves, call upon a piece of wood more rotten than the vessel that caries him.

2 Yes, the ship is a product of the passion for gaining things, and the workman built it by his skill.

3 But your providence, O Father, is what governs the ship: for you have made a way in the sea, and a safe path in the waves; 4 showing that you can save from all danger: yes, even though a man went to sea without experience.

5 It is not your will God, for the works of your Wisdom to be without fruit. People therefore commit their lives to a small piece of wood, and passing the rough sea in a weak raft, they travel safely.

6 For in the old time also, when the proud giants perished, the hope of the world governed by your hand, and they escaped in a weak vessel, and left to all ages a seed of the new generations.

The myths of the Great Flood are alluded to

7 For blessed is the wood that serves the cause of uprightness.

8 But that which is made with hands as an idol, and is idolized, is cursed as its maker is cursed.

9 For the Godless and his ungodliness are both alike hateful unto God.

10 For that which is made shall be used for punishment together with him that made it.

11 Therefore even upon the idols of the unbelievers shall there be a visitation: because in the creation of God they have become an abomination and stumbling blocks to the souls of people, and a trap to the feet of the unwise.

12 For the devising of idols was the beginning of spiritual fornication, and the invention of them the corruption of life.

13 For neither did they exist in the beginning, or shall they exist for ever.

14 For by the vanity of humanity they came to be, and therefore shall they quickly come to an end.

Two examples of how idols can corrupt

15 Even as a father afflicted with unexpected mourning, has an image made of his child that was so soon carried off, he then pays divine honours to what yesterday was only a corpse, handing on worship mysteries and ceremonies to his people, and as time passes, the custom takes hold.

16 Thus in process of time an Godless custom grown strong is kept as a law, and hand-made images are worshipped by the commandments of kings.

17 Those who were far off and could not worship the one in person, were supplied with drawn images, so that their devotion might flatter him that is absent, as if he were present.

18 Also the beauty of the work of the artist helps people to more superstition, making the ignorant worship something they do not know about.

19 Because the artist, perhaps just willing to please one in authority, went to great trouble to make a good image.

20 And so the multitude, allured by the grace of the work, took him now for a god, him who a little before was but honoured.

21 And this became a trap for all time, that people enslaved either by calamity or tyranny, wrote onto stones and sticks the incommunicable name of their god.

Idolatry leads to ignorance of the spiritual, which leads to ignorance of social values

22 Moreover as if this is not enough for them, that they had misconceptions about God; but living in the great war of ignorance, they call these evils peace.

23 For whilst they were slaying their children in sacrifices, or used mystical ceremonies, or made revelling in strange rites;

24 they kept neither their lives or their marriages undefiled but slew one another traitorously, or grieved one another by adultery.

25 So that there reigned in all men without exception, blood guilt, manslaughter, theft, and deception, corruption, unfaithfulness, tumults, falsification,

26 disturbance of good people, forgetfulness of good favours, defiling of souls, changing of natures, disorder in marriages, adultery, and shameless uncleanness.

27 For the worshipping of idols with non-existent personalities is the beginning, the cause, and the end, of all evil.

28 For these people either make merry unto frenzy, or they prophesy lies, or live unjustly, or else lie against their better judgement quite easily.

29 For insomuch as their trust is in lifeless idols; and although they swear falsely, they think they can escape the harm which their actions will bring about.

30 But they will be justly punished for this double crime; both because they degraded the reality of God by devoting themselves to idols, and also for wickedly perjuring themselves in contempt of holiness.

31 For it is not the power of the things in which they believe, but the natural reaction against sin, the punishment of sinners that always follows offences.

Chapter 15

Addressing God

1 But you, O God, are gracious and true, slow to anger, and in mercy you govern all the universes,

2 even if we sin, we are yours, because we know your power: but we will not sin, knowing that we are counted as your children.

3 For to know you is perfect virtue: yes, to know your power is the root of immortality.

4 For neither did the mischievous invention of humans deceive us, nor an image spotted with beautiful colours, the painters’ fruitless labour; 5 the sight of which makes fools to lust after it, and so they desire the form of a dead and breathless image.

6 They that make them, they that desire them, and they that worship them, are lovers of evil things, and are worthy to have such things to trust upon.

7 Again, the potter tempering soft earth, carefully labours to make every container for us to use. From the same clay he makes both those pots that are for clean uses, and also those that are for contrary uses: but what the use of either pot is, only he decides.

8 And then, employing his labours promiscuously, he makes a vain god of the same clay. Yes, even he which a short while ago was himself made of dust, and within a little while will return to dust, when his soul which was lent to him shall be demanded back.

9 Even so he does not worry about having to die or about the shortness of his life: but strives to outdo the goldsmiths and silversmiths, and endeavours to do like the workers in brass, and counts it as his honour to make counterfeits.

10 His heart is ashes, and his hope, more vile than earth, and his life is of less value than clay: 11 forasmuch as he knew not his Maker, and him that inspired into him an active soul, and breathed in a living spirit.

12 But they played out life here on earth as if it was a playtime for pastime fun, and our time here to be a market for bargains. For they say, we must make sure to get more and more things, even though it be by ignoble means.

13 For this man, more than any other, knows that he is a sinner. He makes of the same matter both brittle pots and idols.

14 And so did all the enemies of your people hold your children in oppression, and are the most foolish of all; they are more pitiable and more easily deceived than a small baby,

15 for they have regarded the idols of the heathens to be gods: which neither have the use of eyes to see, nor noses to draw breath, nor ears to hear, nor fingers or hands to handle; and as for their feet, they are slow to go;

16 because a human made them, and a human, that borrowed his own spirit, designed them: but no human can make a god of his own.

17 For being mortal, he works a dead thing with wicked hands: for he himself is better than the things which he made and worships: whereas he lived once, but they never came to life.

18 Yes, they even worshipped those beasts that are most detestable: for being compared to other animals, those are worse than others.

19 Neither are they beautiful, so much as to be desired in respect of beasts: but they went without the praise of God and his blessing.43

Chapter 16

Antithesis of frogs and quails

1 Thus they were appropriately punished by similar creatures and tormented by them.7

2 In contrast to this punishment of the unbelievers, you dealt graciously with your own people, you provided for their rough appetites those rarities and treasures among foods, even quails for them to eat.

3 The Egyptians, although hungry, because of the ugly sight of the beasts among them lost their natural appetites; but your own people, after going hungry for only a short while dined in rare cuisine, strange to their poverty fashioned customs.

4 It was thus inevitable that unceasing desire came upon those who shortly before were the oppressors: sufficient to show the upright how their enemies were tormented.

Antithesis of locusts and bronze serpents

5 Even when the horrible fierceness of beasts came upon them, and they perished with the stings of writhing serpents, your retribution did not continue forever.

6 They were afflicted for a short time only, that they might be warned, and having been given a sign of salvation to guide them and help them remember the requirements of your laws.

7 For whoever turned toward it was saved not by that which they saw, but by you, the Saviour of all.44

8 And by these things you did, your enemies had to confess that you are the One who deliver from all evil:

9 for them the bites of grasshoppers and flies were fatal, and no remedy was to be found: for they were worthy to be punished by such creatures.

10 But not even the fangs of poisonous snakes could bring your children down; for your mercy remained with them and healed them.

11 For they were stung but once; and that they should remember your words they were quicky healed, and did not fall into deep forgetfulness so they could be continually mindful of your goodness.

12 For it was neither herb, nor poultice that healed them: but your Word O God, which heals all things.

13 For you are the one who has power over life and death: even spirits led to the gates of Hades, you bring them back again.

14 But people indeed kill in wickedness: and that spirit which goes forth they cannot bring back; neither can they free the soul already received.

Antithesis of hail and manna

15 It is not possible to escape your hand.

16 The Godless who refused to seek the knowledge of you were scourged by the strength of your arm: with strange rains, hails, and unrelenting showers were they punished, and through fire were they consumed.45

17 And even more wonderful, the fire burned stronger in the water, and water supposedly quenches fire: and this, because elements of nature fight for the upright.

18 Sometimes the fire would die down, that it might not burn up the beasts that were sent against the Godless; so they may know and understand that they were being punished with the judgment of God.

19 And at another time it would burn even in the midst of water, even more fiery than fire, that it might destroy the fruit of an unjust land.

20 Instead, how different it was with your people. You fed them angels’ food, and from heaven you sent them bread prepared without their labour, food which is able to satisfy every persons’ needs and agreeing to every taste.

21 For the substance you gave showed your sweetness to your children, and according to the need of the eater, it conformed itself to every person’s desire.

22 But snow and ice46 endured the fire and melted not, this was to show that they might know that fire burning in the hail, and sparkling in the rain, did destroy the crops of the enemies;

23 but in service of the upright it would even forget its own strength, that they be nourished.

24 For the creation being at the service of you the Creator, increases its strength against the unrighteous for their punishment, and decreases its strength for the benefit of those who put their trust in you.

25 Thus were the elements changed to act differently and was obedient to your grace, that nourishes all things, according to the desire of them that had need: 26 that your children O God, whom you love, might know, that it is not the growing of crops that nourish humans: but that it is your word which preserves those that put their trust in thee.

27 For that which was the fire could not destroy, was a little while later warmed with a little sunbeam, and soon melted away:

28 that it might be known, that we must rise before the sun to give thee thanks, and at the dayspring to meet with you;

29 whereas the hope of the unthankful melt away like winter frost, and flows away as spilled water.

Chapter 17

Antithesis of darkness and fire

1 For great are your judgments, and cannot be expressed: that is why un-instructed souls go astray.

2 For when unrighteous people thought to oppress your holy children; they themselves were shut up in their houses, prisoners of darkness, and restrained with the bonds of a long night, they lay there exiled from the eternal providence.47

3 For while they thought they could hide their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, being horribly astonished and troubled with strange apparitions.

4 For neither could the hiding place shelter them from their fear: noises echoed around them and terrified them, and sad visions appeared to them with gloomy faces.

5 No fire had power enough to give them light: neither could the brightly blazing stars bring light to that horrible night.

6 The only light for them was a great self-moving blaze - a frightening thing to see: for being much terrified, they thought the things which they saw to be worse than the sight they did not see.

7 As for the illusions of art and magic, they were useless now, and their previous boasting of wisdom was turned to disgrace.

8 For they, that promised to drive away terrors and troubles from a sick soul, were themselves sick of fear, worthy to be laughed at.

9 For though no terrible thing did fear them; yet being scared with beasts that passed by, and hissing of serpents, 10 they died for fear, refusing to even look at the air, which could of no possibility be avoided.

11 For wickedness is really very cowardly, and under pressure of conscience it always assumes the worst and most grievous things.

12 For fear is nothing else but a betrayal of the encouragement which reason offers.

13 And the less you rely from within yourself on this reason, the more terrible it is not to know what causes your torment.

14 But they, all lying asleep under that same darkness of night, which was actually quite powerless in itself, but was believed to issue out of the bottom of Hades, 15 were now persecuted and tormented with their own monstrous apparitions, and now paralysed by the fainting of their souls, the were gripped in fear of apparitions appearing to them.

16 So then whoever fell down was clamped up in themselves, as if in a prison without iron bars, 17 whether he was a field keeper or shepherd, or a labourer in the field, he was overtaken, and endured that necessity, which could not be avoided: for they were all bound with one chain of darkness.

18 Whether it were a whistling wind or a melodious noise of birds among the spreading branches or a pleasing fall of water running violently,

19 or a terrible sound of stones cast down, or a running that could not be seen of skipping beasts or a roaring voice of most savage wild beasts or a rebounding echo from the hollow mountain, these things made them delirious for fear.

20 For the whole world shined with the clear light of day, and none were hindered in their labour:

21 only over them was spread that heavy night, an image of that darkness which should afterward receive them: but heavier than the darkness was the torment they were unto themselves.

Chapter 18

1 Nevertheless for your holy ones you had a very great light. The Egyptians could hear them but not see them, and they called them fortunate because they had not suffered the same things.

2 And that the holy ones did not hurt them at that time, and for past transgressions which the Egyptians committed against them, they thanked them, and pleaded with them for forgiveness that they had been their enemies.

3 Instead of the darkness you gave your people a burning pillar of fire, both to be a guide on the unknown journey, and as a harmless sun to help on their ambitious pilgrimage.

4 For the others were well worthy to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness, they who had kept your children imprisoned, your children through whom the pure light of the knowledge of your laws was to be given unto the world.

Antithesis of the two nights

5 And when they decided to massacre the babies of the holy ones, only one of the exposed children was saved; to punish them you took away the multitude of their children, and destroyed them altogether in a mighty water.

6 Of that night our fathers knew in advance, so that when it happened they were assured of whom they had put their trust, and would be sure of his promises.

7 Your people were thus waiting both for the rescue of the upright, and the ruin of their enemies.

8 For with the very careful vengeance which you planned over your adversaries, by the same you did glorify us whom you called.

9 For the holy children of the good things made mystical sacrifices, and with one consent made a holy law; that the holy ones should be like partners, sharing the same good and evil, and from then on they would all chant the hymns of the ancestors.

10 But on the other echoed the ill cry of the enemies, and a lamentable noise was carried abroad for their children that were mourned.

11 The master and the servant were punished after one another; and like as the king, so suffered the common person.

12 So they all together had innumerable dead, and from the same cause; and the living were not sufficient in number to bury them: because in one moment the noblest offspring of them was destroyed.

13 For as they would not believe anything by reason, still hoping in their magic; only upon the destruction of their firstborn did they acknowledged this people to be the children of God.

14 For while all things were in quiet silence and that night was in the middle of her course

15 your Almighty Word leaped down from heaven out of your royal throne as a fierce warrior into the midst of a land of destruction,

16 and brought thy clear commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up, filled all things with death and it touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth.

17 Then suddenly visions and horrible dreams afflicted them, and unexpected terrors came upon them.

18 And one was thrown here, and another there, half dead, able to say why they were dying.

19 For the dreams that troubled them did showed them the reason, lest they should perish and not know why they were afflicted.

Threat of annihilation

20 Yes, the tasting of death touched the upright also, and there was a destruction of the multitude in the wilderness: but the retribution did not last for long.

21 For then a blameless man hurried to their defence; and bringing the shield of his proper ministry, prayer, and the use of incense, he set himself against the retribution and so brought the calamity to an end, declaring that he was your servant.

Aaron

22 So he overcame hostility, not with strength of body, nor force of arms, but with a word subdued the Punisher, by recalling the oaths and covenants made by the fathers.48

23 For when the dead were fallen down by heaps one upon another, he interposed, and beat back the retribution, and cut off its approach to the living.

24 For in the long garment was the whole world, and in the four rows of the twelve stones the names of the fathers were engraved, and your Majesty upon the golden flower of his head.

25 Unto these the Destroyer gave way, and was afraid of them: for this one experience of retribution which they tasted was enough.

Chapter 19

The Red Sea

1 As for the Godless retribution continued without mercy right the end: for he knew beforehand what they would do, 2 how after the Egyptian king had given them leave to depart and sent them away in a hurry, they would charge their minds and pursue them again.

3 For whilst they were still mourning and making funeral rites at the graves of the dead, another foolish scheme came to them, and they pursued them as fugitives, those whom they had begged to leave.

4 For their well deserved fate brought them to this end, and made them forget the things that had already happened, and again they acted, that they might obtain the final punishment which was still outstanding:

5 and while your people experienced a wonderful journey: they might encounter a strange death.

6 For the whole creature in his proper mind was refashioned anew; by serving the peculiar commandments that were given unto them, your children could be kept without harm:

7 as example, a cloud shadowing the camp appeared; and where water stood before, dry land appeared; and through the Red Sea a way without difficulty; and out of the violent stream a green field appeared:

8 through which all the people went that were defended with your hand, seeing your marvellous strange wonders.

9 For they went freely like horses, and leaped like lambs, praising thee, O God, who delivered them.

10 For they were still remembering the things that were done while they sojourned in the strange land, how the ground brought forth flies instead of cattle, and how the river cast up a multitude of frogs instead of fishes.

11 But afterwards, being led by their desires they saw a new way to generate birds, and tasted delicate meats,

12 because quails came up unto them from the sea, for their satisfaction.

Spiritual Fornicators guiltier than material fornicators.

13 And upon the sinners punishments came down unceasingly, and not without warning signs by the force of thunder: for they suffered according to their own wickedness, also since they treated strangers scornfully and with hatred.

14 For the Sodomites did not receive strangers with decency: but the Egyptians enslaved their own friends who had served them well.

15 And it is so that those who treated strangers with contempt will be punished, 16 but these sinners grievously afflicted their guests, guests whom they had received with feasting and were already partners under the same laws with them.

17 Therefore even with blindness were these stricken, as those were at the doors of the upright man: when, being surrounded with horrible great darkness, every one groped for passage through his own door.

A new law of nature.

18 For the elements were changed in themselves by a kind of harmony, as different notes may change the rhythm but the note be maintained, and this is exactly what happened;

19 terrestrials were turned into aquatics, and the things, that before swam in the water, now went upon the ground.

20 The fire had power in the water, forgetting his own virtue: and the water forgot his own quenching nature.

21 On the other side, the flames wasted not the flesh of the corruptible living things, though they walked therein: neither melted they the icy kind of heavenly meat that was of nature.

Summary

22 For in all things, O God, you magnified your Children, and glorified them, neither did you lightly regard them: but did assist them in every time and place.