BECK index

Introduction to the Wisdom of Solomon

Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba, and he succeeded David as king of Israel, ruling for about forty years in the middle of the tenth century BC. Solomon headed a large commercial empire, accumulating 700 wives (according to I Kings), many of whom represented diplomatic alliances. He was famous for his wealth and wisdom and for building the Temple in Jerusalem. When two women asked him to settle their dispute over a baby they both claimed, he ordered the child cut in two, then gave the child to the woman who preferred to lose the child to seeing it killed.

The poetic Song of Solomon is credited to him, as are the aphorisms in the book of Proverbs. However, the WISDOM OF SOLOMON appears only to use him as a literary figure, while wisdom is personified as feminine. Scholars agree that the WISDOM OF SOLOMON was almost certainly written by a Jew in Alexandria in the first century BC. It is one of the apocryphal works written between the Old and New Testaments, but it was included in the ancient Greek edition of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The original text was probably written in Greek, and Greek fragments were found in the Essene library at Qumran in Palestine.

The speaker, identified as Solomon only by the title, describes his love of wisdom, as though he were Solomon. In the tenth chapter references to early Biblical stories include Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Chapters 11, 12, and 16-19 contrast God's treatment of the Israelites led by Moses with that of the Egyptians.

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book.

To listen to Sanderson Beck reading his translation of The Wisdom of SolomonPart 1, please click on the play triangle below.

To listen to Sanderson Beck reading his translation of The Wisdom of SolomonPart 2, please click on the play triangle below.


Translated by Sanderson Beck

1. Love Justice
2. Incorrect Reasonings
3. The Just and the Unjust
4. One Pleasing to God
5. Straying from the Way
6. Admonitions to Rulers
7. Wisdom Taught Me
8. Loving Wisdom
9. Prayer for Wisdom
10. Wisdom Rescued the Just

11. Tests
12. The Judgment of God
13. The Maker and Images
14. Degenerate Idols
15. Making Idols
16. Punishment and Mercy
17. Fear in Darkness
18. The Experience of Death
19. Escape from the Red Sea

Love justice, judges of the earth;
think about the Lord in goodness
and in singleness of heart seek it,
because it is found by those who do not test it,
and appears to those who do not distrust it.

For crooked calculations are separate from God,
and having been tested the power convicts the foolish;
because into a wily soul wisdom will not enter
nor will it dwell in a body abused by sin.

For a holy and educated spirit will flee trickery
and will stand apart from stupid calculations
and will disprove the approach of injustice.

For wisdom is a humane spirit
and will not let a blasphemer off for one's lip service,
because God is a witness of one's inmost feelings
and a true observer of one's heart
and a listener of the tongue.

Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world,
also that which holds all things together knows its voice.
On account of this no one speaking injustice is unnoticed,
nor will justice pass them by when convicting.

For the deliberations of the profane will be reviewed,
and a report of their words will come to the Lord
to convict them of lawlessness;
since zealous ears hear all things,
and muttered murmurings are not kept hidden.

Watch out then for useless murmuring
and spare the tongue from slander;
since secret vanity will not pass unnoticed,
and a lying mouth contradicts the soul.

Do not vie with death in the wandering of your life
nor bring on ruin by the work of your hands;
since God did not make death
and does not enjoy the destruction of the living.

For it brought all things into being,
and the generations of the world are preserved,
and there is no destructive drug in them
nor is the sovereignty of Hades on earth.
For justice is immortal.

But the profane by their words and deeds summon him,
believing him friendly they languished
and made a contract with him,
because they are deserving of being a part of that.

For they said to themselves reasoning incorrectly,
"Our life is short and painful,
and there is no remedy in the termination of a person,
and release from Hades is not known.
Because we were born offhand
and after this we shall be as though we had never existed;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark in the movement of our hearts,
which being extinguished the body will turn to ashes
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.

"Also our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will remember our work;
and our life will be undone like the trace of a cloud
and will be dispersed like mist
pursued by the rays of the sun
and oppressed by its heat.
For our time is a passing shadow,
and there is no calling back our end,
because it is sealed up and no one returns.

"Therefore come and let us enjoy the good things
and we shall use the creation like youths seriously;
Let us be filled with expensive wine and perfumes,
and may no flower of spring pass us by;
let us be crowned with rosebuds before they wither;
let no one be without the meadows' share of our glory;
everywhere let us leave signs of the festivity,
since this is our share and this our lot.

"Let us put down the just poor,
nor should we spare the widow
nor respect the gray hairs of old age;
and let our might be the law of right,
for the weak is proven useless.

"Let us ambush the just, who is hard for us to use
and opposed to our work
and reproaches us for legal wrongs
and accuses us for our wrongs of education;
he professes to have knowledge of God
and calls himself a child of the Lord;
he became for us a confutation of our ideas,
even seeing is burdensome to us,
because his life is unlike others,
and his habits are completely changed;
we are considered by him among the base,
and he avoids our ways as coming from impurities;
he blesses the final end of the just
and pretends God is father.

"Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen to him;
for if the just is son of God, it will assist him
and rescue him out of the hand of the adversaries.
Let us impose on him insult and torture,
so that we may know his tolerance
and let us test his endurance of evil;
let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for from his words it will watch over him."

These things they argued, and were going astray;
for their vice blinded them,
and they did not know the mysteries of God
nor hope for the reward of holiness
nor choose the prerogative of a blameless soul.

Since God created the human for incorruption
and made them in its own image of eternity;
but by envy of the devil death entered into the world,
and they tempt those who are of that part.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seem to be dead,
and their departure was considered distressing
and their passing from us crushing,
but they are at peace.

For though in the sight of humans they were punished,
their hope of immortality is fulfilled;
and being educated a little they will receive great good,
because God tested them
and found them worthy of itself;
like gold in a crucible it tested them
and like a whole-fruit offering accepted them.

Also in the time of their visitation they will revive
and run like sparks through straw;
they will judge nations and rule the common people,
and the Lord will reign over them into eternity.
Those trusting on this will understand truth,
and the faithful will wait for this in love;
because grace and mercy are in its holy ones
and watchfulness in its chosen ones.

But the profane as they reason will have pay,
who neglected justice and rejected the Lord;
for whoever disregards wisdom and education is miserable,
and their hope is vain, and their labors unprofitable,
and their work useless.
Their wives are foolish,
and their children bad,
their family cursed.

Since blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled,
who has not known a bed in transgression,
for she will have fruit in the visitation of souls,
also the eunuch who works nothing lawless in hand
nor thinks anything bad toward the Lord,
for special grace will be given him for trusting
and a place in the temple of the Lord more pleasing.
For the fruit of good work is a good report,
and unfailing is the root of understanding.

But children of adulterers will be immature,
and seed coming out of an unlawful bed will disappear.
For even if they are long-lived, they amount to nothing,
and at last their old age is without honor;
if they die young, they will have no hope
nor consolation on the day of decision;
for the end of an unjust generation is hard.

Better is childlessness with virtue;
for immortality is in its memory,
because it is known both by God and by humans.
When present they imitate it
and yearn for it when gone away;
and in eternity it proceeds crowned
winning prizes in contests of the undefiled.

But prolific progeny of the profane will not be useful
and none of their bastard offshoots will strike a deep root
nor take a firm hold;
for even if in slips they shoot up for a while,
having started insecurely they will be shaken by the wind
and by force of wind they will be rooted out.
Immature branches will be broken,
and their useless fruit, unripe for eating
and good for nothing;
for children born of unlawful sleep
are bad witnesses against their parents in examination.

But the just even if dying sooner, will rest;
for old age is not honored for long life
nor measured by the number of years,
but understanding is gray hair for humans
and a blameless life is ripe old age.

There was one well-pleasing and loved by God
who living in the middle of sinners was translated;
snatched away, lest evil change his conscience
or cunning deceive his soul;
for the slander of vice obscures the beautiful,
and roaming desire perverts an innocent mind.

Being perfected in a short time he fulfilled a long time;
for his soul was pleasing to the Lord,
because of this he was quickly out of the middle of pain;
but the people seeing also were not perceiving
nor putting this to understanding,
that grace and mercy are in its chosen ones
and watchfulness in its holy ones.

And the late just condemn the living profane
and perfected youth quickly the many old years of the unjust;
for they will see the end of the wise
and will not understand what was intended for him
and for what the Lord kept him safe.

They will see and make nothing of it;
and the Lord will laugh at them,
and after this they will become dishonored corpses
and an outrage among the dead forever,
since it will make them speechless head down
and shake them from the foundations,
and until at last they are dried out
and will be in pain,
and the memory of them perishes.
They will come in the summing up of their sins cringing,
and their lawless things will convict against them.

Then the just will stand in great openness
facing those who pressed him
and those making light of his sufferings.

Seeing they will be troubled with terrible fear
and will be amazed at the unexpected salvation;
they will talk among themselves repenting
and because of narrowness of spirit they will wail,
"This was the one whom we were once laughing at
and the fools made into a byword of reproach;
and we considered his life madness
and his end without honor.
How is he counted among the sons of God
and why is his lot among the holy?

"Then we were straying from the way of truth,
and the light of justice did not shine on us,
and the sun did not rise upon us;
we were filled up with thorns of lawlessness and destruction
and traveled through trackless deserts,
and did not know the way of the Lord.
What has arrogance gained us?
and what has wealth with pretense brought us?

"All those things passed by like a shadow
and like news ran by;
like a ship going through swelled water,
of whose passage there is no trace to find
nor of its inflexible keel in the waves;
or like a bird flying through the air
no evidence of a passage is found,
and by the stroke of wings lashing the light breeze
and divided by force of the rushing
of moving wings comes through,
and after this no sign of its approach is found in it;
or like an arrow shot at a target,
the air cut immediately is returned into itself
so that its path through is unknown;
thus we too being born failed
and we had no sign of virtue to show,
and in our evil we were squandered."

Since hope of the profane is like fuzz carried by wind
and like thin frost driven away by a hurricane
and like smoke it is dispersed by wind
and like the memory of a one-day guest passed on.

But the just live forever,
and in the Lord is their reward,
and the care of them by the highest.
On account of this they will receive the palace of dignity
and the crown of the beautiful out of the hand of the Lord,
because by the right hand it will protect them
and by the arm will shield them.

It will receive its zeal as full armor
and will make creation tools for warding off the hostile,
will put on justice as a breastplate
and wear unhypocritical judgment as a helmet,
will receive holiness as an invincible shield,
and will sharpen cut-off anger into a sword,
and the world will join in war against the deranged.

Well aimed bolts of lightning will be conveyed
and as from a well-rounded bow of clouds will roam on target,
and from rock-throwing full of courage hail will be hurled;
the water of the sea will rage against them,
and rivers will wash together relentlessly;
a powerful wind will oppose them
and like a hurricane it will winnow them out;
and lawlessness will make a desert of the whole earth,
and bad enterprises will overthrow thrones of the powerful.

Hear therefore, kings, and understand;
learn, judges of earth's opposites;
listen, you who are ruling people
and being proud over a crowd of nations;
for the rule was given you by God
and the power by the highest,
who will examine your work and question your plans;
since as servants of its sovereignty
you did not decide correctly
nor did you observe the law
nor proceed according to the plan of God.

Horribly and quickly it will come to know you,
because abrupt judgment comes to those on top.
For the lowest is pardonable by mercy,
but the powerful will be powerfully tested;
for the master of all will not prevaricate before any
nor respect greatness,
because it made the small and great itself
and provides similarly concerning all,
but severe questioning is imposed on the rulers.

For you, then, tyrants, are my words,
so that you may learn wisdom and not fall along the way;
for those observing divine laws in holiness will be purified,
and those being taught them will find a defense.
Therefore set your heart on my words,
yearn and you will be educated.

Wisdom is brilliant and unfading
and easily contemplated by those who love her
and is found by those who search for her,
is sooner to be understood by the eager.

Whoever rises early will not get tired of her;
for one will find her sitting beside one's entrance.
For the one thinking deeply about her accomplishing purpose,
and the wakeful will be quickly free of worry through her;
because she goes around searching for those worthy of her
and graciously appears to them in their routines
and in every thought replies to them.

For the beginning of her is the truest educational desire,
and concern for education is love,
and love is keeping her laws,
and attention to laws is confirmation of incorruption,
and incorruption makes one be near God;
thus desire for wisdom leads to sovereignty.
So if you like thrones and scepters, tyrants of people,
honor wisdom, so that you may reign forever.

What wisdom is and how she was born, I shall relate
and I will not conceal mysteries from you,
but from the beginning of birth I shall complete
and put the knowledge of her into the light
and will not pass by the truth.

Neither will I travel with sickly envy,
because this does not share with wisdom.
A majority of the wise is salvation of the world,
and a sensible sovereign stability of the commons.
Therefore learn from my words, and you will be helped.

I too am mortal equal to every human
and descendant of the first-formed earthborn;
and in a mother's womb shaped into flesh
in ten months' time built in blood
out of the man's seed and pleasurable coming together in bed.
And being born I sucked in the common air
and fell down on the sympathetic earth,
the first sound just like the crying of everyone;
I was wrapped up in diapers and cared for.
For no king was different at the beginning of birth,
and everyone comes into life and goes out the same way.

Because of this I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon it, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepters and thrones
and wealth I believed nothing in comparison to her;
nor did I liken a priceless stone to her,
since all gold in her sight is a little sand,
and silver is considered as clay before her;
above health and beauty I loved her
and I chose to have her instead of light,
because her light is unsleeping.

And all good things came to me along with her
and uncounted wealth in her hands;
and I enjoyed all, because wisdom leads them,
not knowing their origin to be her.

What I learned without deceit I share ungrudgingly,
nor do I hide her wealth;
for it is an unfailing treasure to humans,
who acquiring it are fit for friendship with God
because of the gifts of education being allied.

God grant me to speak according to knowledge
and to infer conclusions worthy of what has been given,
since it is the guide even of wisdom
and the corrector of the wise.
For both we and our words are in its hand,
all understanding and knowledge of working.

For it gave me unerring knowledge
to know the structure of the world and operation of elements,
the beginning and end and middle of times,
change of directions and transition of seasons,
cycles of the year and the constellations of stars,
the nature of animals and the hearts of beasts,
the force of spirits and considerations of humans,
the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots,
both what is secret and what is visible I learned;
for the builder of all things, wisdom, taught me.

For in her is a spirit, intelligent, holy,
singly born, of many parts, subtle,
mobile, clear, unpolluted,
manifest, harmless, good-loving, sharp,
unhindered, doing well, humane,
secure, certain, unworried,
omnipotent, watching over all
and moving through all spirits
intelligent, pure, and most subtle.

For wisdom is more mobile than every motion,
and extends and moves through all by purity;
for she is a breath of God's power
and an emanation of the unmixed glory of the all-ruling;
because of this nothing tainted steals into her.
For she is the brilliance of eternal light
and an unstained mirror of God's energy
and an image of its goodness.

One being can do all things
and remaining in herself she makes all things new
and each generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God and prophets;
for God loves nothing as much as those living with wisdom.

For she is more beautiful than the sun
and beyond every constellation of stars.
Compared with light she is found brighter;
for this is succeeded by night,
but evil does not prevail over wisdom.

She extends from end to end strongly
and manages all things beneficially.

I loved her and sought her from my youth
and sought to take her as a bride for myself
and I fell in love with her beauty.
Living with God magnifies nobility,
and the master of all loves her;
for she is an initiate of God's knowledge
and a chosen one of its work.

If wealth is a desirable possession in life,
what is richer than wisdom working all things?

And if understanding works,
who more than she is the builder of what exists?

And if someone loves justice,
her labors are excellent;
for she teaches discretion and understanding,
justice and courage,
than which nothing is more beneficial in human life.

And if someone longs for much experience,
she knows the ancient and infers the things to come,
understands turns of logic and solutions of riddles,
foreknows signs and wonders
and the outcome of seasons and times.

So I decided to take her to live together
aware that she will be a counselor of good to me
and an advisor of concerns and grief.

Because of her I shall have fame among the crowd
and honor from elders as the young one;
I shall be found sharp in judgment
and in the sight of the powerful will be admired;
being silent they wait for me
and in talking they will pay attention
and speaking at length
they will put their hands on their mouths.

Because of her I shall have immortality
and leave an eternal memory to the ones after me.
I shall govern peoples, and nations will be subject to me;
horrible tyrants hearing of me will be afraid;
among people I appear good and in war courageous.

Entering my house I shall rest with her;
for her companionship has no bitterness
nor does living with her have any pain,
but gladness and joy.

Considering these things in myself
and contemplating in my heart,
that in relationship with wisdom is immortality
and in her friendship pure delight
and in the labor of her hands unfailing wealth
and in her company while exercising together understanding
and in partnership with her words good reputation,
I went around searching how I could get her for myself.

As a child I was good natured
and was granted a good soul,
or rather being good I came into an undefiled body.
Aware that I would not be master any way unless God gave it,
and this was understanding to know someone's grace,
I pleaded with the Lord and begged him
and said from my whole heart:

"God of fathers and Lord of mercy,
who made all things in your logic
and by your wisdom prepared humanity,
so as to be master of the created beings under you
and manage the world in holiness and justice
and decide judgments in openness of soul,
give me the wisdom sitting beside your throne
and do not reject me from your servants;
since I am your slave and son of your servant-girl,
a person weak and short-lived
and lesser in understanding of judgment and laws;
for even if someone is perfect among sons of humans,
absent from your wisdom one is considered nothing.

"You selected me sovereign of your common people
and judge of your sons and daughters;
you said to construct a temple on your holy mountain
and an altar in your city of encampment,
a copy of the holy tent, which was prepared from the start.

"Also with you is the wisdom which knows your work
and was present when you made the world,
and knows what is acceptable in your sight
and what is in line with your commands.

"Send her out from the holy heavens
and from the throne of your glory send her,
so that being present with me she may work hard,
and I may know what is acceptable before you.

"For she knows and understands all things
and will guide me wisely in my actions
and watch over me in her glory;
and my work will be acceptable,
and I shall judge your common people justly
and shall be worthy of my father's throne.

"For what human knows the plan of God?
Or who can be conscious of what the Lord wills?
For the calculations of mortals are poor,
and our designs precarious;
for a perishable body burdens the soul,
and the earthy tent weighs down a thoughtful mind.

"Also we hardly guess at things on earth
and things in hand we find with labor;
but who traced out the things in heaven?
Who knew your plan, unless you have given wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from the highest?

"And thus the paths of those on earth were set right,
and the things acceptable to you were taught to humans,
and they were saved by wisdom."

She watched over the first-formed father of the world
being created alone
and delivered him from a peculiar transgression,
and gave him strength to rule everything.

But standing apart from her an unjust one in his anger
perished in the spirit of brother-murdering.
By this the earth being flooded again wisdom saved
by paltry wood steering the just.

Also when the nations were confused in vicious agreement
she knew the just and kept him blameless for God
and guarded the strength in the feelings for the child.

She rescued the just when the profane were perishing
escaping the fire falling down on the Five Cities,
of which there is still evidence of the viciousness
in a continually smoking barren land
and the incomplete seasons of fruit-bearing plants,
a standing monument of an unbelieving soul, a pillar of salt.

For passing by wisdom
not only were they blocked from knowing beautiful things,
but also left a reminder of the folly for the living,
so that among these the mishap could not go unnoticed.

Wisdom rescued out of troubles those serving her.
When a just person fled a brother's anger
she led in straight paths,
showed him the sovereignty of God
and gave him knowledge of the holy ones,
supplied him in hardship
and made full his labors,
in the greed of the overpowering stood by him
and enriched him,
protected him from enemies
and assured against ambushings,
and in stiff competitions arbitrated for him,
so he would know that piety is more powerful than everything.

A just person being sold she did not leave him behind,
but out of failure rescued him,
went down with him into a pit
and in prison did not leave him,
until she brought him a scepter of sovereignty
and authority over his tyrants,
and showed him the lies of the accusers
and gave him eternal glory.

A holy people and blameless seeds
she rescued out of a nation of oppressors;
she entered into the soul of a servant of the Lord
and stood up to terrible kings with signs and wonders.

She gave to the holy the reward of their labors,
led them on a marvelous way
and for them turned into a shelter by day
and into flames of stars at night.

She brought them over the Red Sea
and led them through deep water,
but drowned their enemies
and tossed them up from the depth of the abyss.

On account of this the just plundered the profane
and sang hymns, Lord, to your holy name
and praised with one accord your defending hand;
because wisdom opened the mouth of the dumb
and made the tongues of babes clear.

She prospered their work in the hand of a holy prophet.
They journeyed through an uninhabited desert
and pitched tents in inaccessible places;
they stood up to wars and warded off enemies.
They were thirsty and called upon you,
and water was given them out of sharply cut rock
and healing of thirst out of hard stone.

For through that by which their enemies were punished,
through these they being at a loss were served well.
Instead of a fountain of an ever-flowing river
troubled with the defiled gore of blood
in confutation of the baby-killing order
you gave them abundant water unexpectedly
showing through the thirst then
how the adversaries were punished.

For when they were tested, though being educated in mercy,
they knew how being judged in anger the profane were tried;
for you tested them like a father in admonition,
but those you examined like an abrupt king in sentencing.
Both the absent and the present were similarly distressed;
for a double grief took hold of them
and a moaning at the memory of what had passed;
for when they heard that through their own punishments
they were being served well, they became aware of the Lord.

For in the exposing long before
they scoffing denied the cast-off,
at the end of the escape they marveled
thirsting not like the just.
In return for their misunderstanding unjust calculations,
in which straying they worshipped
irrational reptiles and mean beasts,
you sent upon them many irrational animals in avenging,
so that they would know that
one is punished through the things by which one sins.

For your omnipotent hand was not at a loss
also having created the world out of formless matter
to send upon them many bears or bold lions
or newly created unknown beasts full of rage
or such as breathe fire-breathing gasps
or a roar scattering smoke
or terrible lightning sparks from the eyes,
of which not only could the damage exterminate them,
but even the sight could destroy them out of fear.

Even without these they could fall in one breath
being pursued by justice
and scattered by your powerful spirit,
but you arranged everything by measure and number and weight.
For it is always possible for you to greatly prevail,
and who can stand against the rule of your arm?
Since like a turn of the scale is the whole world before you
and like a drop of morning dew falling on the earth.

But you are merciful to all,
because you can do everything,
and you overlook human sins into repentance.
For you love all beings
and you are nauseated by none of the things you made;
for you would not hate anything you built.
How would anything remain, if you had not willed it,
or what was not called forth by you be maintained?
You spare all, because they are yours, life-loving master.

For your incorruptible spirit is in all.
Therefore you refute a little at a time the fallen ones
and reminding admonish for the things in which they sin,
so that releasing the vice they will trust in you, Lord.

For even those inhabiting your holy land long ago
you hated for practicing hostility,
works of drugs and unholy rites
and merciless murdering of children
and sacrificial feasting on human flesh and blood,
out of the middle of a secret cult
and autocratic parents of helpless lives,
you planned to destroy by the hands of our fathers,
so that the most valuable land of all for you
might receive a settlement worthy of God's servants.

But even these you spared as humans
sending wasps in advance of your army,
so that they would be destroyed gradually.
Not unable in battle to give the profane to the just hands
or to terrible reptiles
or to wipe them out at once by an abrupt word,
but judging gradually giving an opportunity of repentance
not being ignorant that their origin was bad
and their vice implanted
and that their calculating would never change.
For the seed was cursed from the beginning,
and not from deference to anyone
did you grant amnesty to them for sin.

For who will say, "What did you do?"
Or who will stand against your judgment?
Who will accuse you for destroying nations which you made?
Or who will come into an institution to you
without law concerning unjust persons?

For neither is there a god except you,
who cares about all,
so that you should show that you did not judge unjustly,
nor can a king or tyrant confront you about those punished.
Being just you manage all things justly
believing it alien to your power
to condemn one not deserving to be punished.

For your strength is the first cause of justice,
and your mastering all makes you spare all.
For to show strength the disbelieving of complete power
also you refute among those knowing courage;
you of masters' strength judge in fairness
and with much restraint you manage us;
for the power is present for you whenever you will it.

You taught the common people through such work
that the just must be humane,
and you made your sons have good hope
that you would grant repentance for sins.
For if the enemies of your servants also deserving death
with such attentive vengeance and indulgence
given time and opportunity by which they may give up vice,
with what precision did you judge your sons,
to whose fathers you gave
oaths and covenants of good promise?

So educating us our enemies got ten thousand scourges,
so that when judging we may meditate on your goodness,
and being judged we may expect mercy.
From this also those in folly of life living unjustly
through their own abominations you tormented;
for they also wandered farther on paths of error
taking gods even in animals dishonored of the shameful
being deceived after the manner of foolish children.

On account of this like thoughtless children
you sent judgment for mocking.
But those not being admonished by censure for mockery
will experience the merited judgment of God.
For upon this suffering they are irritated,
upon those they believed were gods being punished with them
seeing, whom before they refused to know,
recognizing the true God;
wherefore the end of judgment came upon them.

For all persons vain by nature who were ignorant of God
and from good sights were not able to know the existing
nor observing the work did they recognize the artisan,
but either fire or wind or swift air
or the circle of stars or forceful water
or the lights of heaven presiding over the world
they assumed were gods.

If enjoying the beauty they took these as gods
let them know how much better than these is the master,
for the architect of beauty created these;
and if by power and good work they were astonished,
let them be aware from these
how much more powerful is the one who arranged these;
for out of the greatness and beauty of creation
analogously their maker is contemplated.

Nevertheless on these there is little blame,
for perhaps they go astray
seeking and wishing to find God;
for in returning to its works they search
and trust the sight, because beautiful things are seen.

But again not even these are pardoned;
for if they were able to know so much
that they could guess the age,
why did they not find the master of these sooner?

But the miserable and their hopes in dead things,
who call gods the works of human hands,
gold and silver of skilled practice
and models of animals
or a useless stone work of an ancient hand.

If some skilled woodcutter
sawing down an easily moved tree
stripped off deftly all its bark
and crafting it well
prepared a useful implement for the service of life,
and the thrown away things of the work
spent for preparing food he ate his fill,
but thrown away from these good for nothing,
a stick crooked and full of knots,
taking he carves with care in his idleness
and by practice of recreation shapes it,
forming it in the image of a person
or likens it to some cheap animal
applying red and coloring its surface red
and applying it to every blemish on it
and making a dwelling for it worthy of it
he puts it in a wall securing it with iron.
Thus so it may not fall, he provides for it
knowing that it cannot help itself;
for it is an image and has need of help.

And praying about possessions and marriage and children
he is not ashamed of talking to a lifeless thing
and concerning health he calls upon a weak thing,
and concerning life thinks fit a dead thing,
and concerning aid asks the most inexperienced,
and concerning a journey what cannot take a step,
and concerning procuring and working and success with hands
he asks the most inactive for active hands.

Again someone sailing and intending to venture wild waves
cries out to wood more fragile than the ship carrying him.
For desire of gain contrived that,
and the technician wisdom built it;
but your providence, father, steers it through,
because you gave it both a way in the sea
and on waves a safe path
showing that you could save it from everything,
so that even someone without skill may go on.

You will your works of wisdom not be undone;
because of this also humans trust lives to the smallest wood
and coming through waves on a boat are preserved.
For even at the start when arrogant giants were perishing
the hope of the world escaping on a boat
left to the ages seeds of generation by your guiding hand.

For praised be the wood by which justice comes;
but the hand-made is cursed itself and the one who made it,
because he did the work, and the corruptible was named a god.
For equally hated by God are the profane and his profanity;
for the action will also be punished with the doer.

Because of this too on idols of nations will be oversight,
since in the creation of God they fell into abomination
and into traps for human souls
and into snares for the feet of fools.

For the concept of idols
was the beginning of prostitution,
and their discovery corruption of life.
For neither was it from the beginning nor will it be forever;
for by the delusion of humans it came into the world,
and on account of this their shortened end was conceived.

For a father consumed by untimely mourning
made an image of a child suddenly taken away
then honored a human now dead as a god
and gave over to those under him mysteries and rites;
then in time the profane custom held to was kept as a law.

And by orders of tyrants the carvings were worshipped,
whom humans could not honor in person due to living far away
impressing again the sight from a distance
they made a visible image of the honored king,
so that the absent as present they might flatter by zeal.

The ambition of the technician urged also
the ignorant into the duty of worship;
for perhaps wishing to please the ruling
he forced out by skill resemblance to the beautiful;
and many attracted by the popularity of the work
considered the one honored a little before as a person
now a religious object.
And this became for the living an ambush,
since persons enslaved by either circumstance or tyranny
conferred the unshareable name on stones and wood.

Next it was not enough to err about knowledge of God,
but also living in a great war of ignorance
they label such evils peace.
For whether child-murdering rites or clandestine mysteries
or celebrating frantic revels of peculiar institutions
they no longer keep lives nor marriages pure,
but either take off another by ambush
or pain another by adultery.

All is promiscuous blood and murder, theft and deceit,
corruption, mistrust, disorder, perjury,
confusion of the good, forgetfulness of favors,
pollution of souls, perverting of generation,
marriage disorders, adultery and licentiousness.

For the worship of nameless idols
is the beginning and cause and end of every vice;
for either cheering they go mad or prophesy lies
or live unjustly or quickly commit perjury;
for trusting in lifeless idols
swearing viciously they do not expect to be wronged.

But the just avenge them both ways
since they thought viciously about God praying to idols
and swore unjustly in deceit disdaining holiness;
for not the power of the things sworn,
but the justice due from the sinning
always prosecutes the deviation of the unjust ones.

But you, our God, are kind and true,
patient and merciful managing all things.
For even if we sin, we are yours, knowing your rule;
but we shall not sin, knowing that we are considered yours.
For to know you is complete justice,
and to know your rule is the root of immortality.

For neither did the design of humans' evil arts mislead us
nor the fruitless labor of painters,
a figure stained with varied colors,
whose sight returns fools into desire,
and they yearn for the lifeless form of a dead image.
Lovers of vices and those deserving of such hopes
are the ones doing and desiring and worshipping.

For potters pressing hard on the soft earth
mold each one for our service;
but remodel out of the same clay
furnishings serving both the clean work
and the opposite, all similarly;
but what the use of each of these is
the clay-workers decide.
Also by bad labor an idle god out of the same clay they mold
who a little before were made out of earth
after a while they go to that out of which they were taken,
the debt of the soul being demanded.

But it is no concern to them
that they are about to retire
or that they have a short life,
but they compete with goldsmiths and silversmiths
and imitate copper-molders
and believe it glory that they mold counterfeits.

Their heart is ash, and cheaper than earth their hope,
and less honored than clay their life,
because they were ignorant of the one who molded them
and inspired them with an energized soul
and breathed into them living spirit,
but they considered our life a game
and living a festival for profit,
for it is necessary, they say,
to procure it from whatever source, even from vice.
For they above all know that they sin
making fragile furnishings of earth and carvings of wood.

But most foolish and wretched beyond an infant soul
are all the enemies who oppressed your common people,
since they thought all the idols of the nations were gods,
which neither have use of eyes for sight
nor nostrils for drawing together air
nor ears to hear
nor fingers of hands for touching
and their feet inactive for walking.

For a person made them,
and the spirit that has been borrowed molded them;
for no person can mold a god like oneself;
being mortal one works the dead with lawless hands;
for one is better than one's religious objects,
being oneself alive, but those never.

They even worship the most hated animals;
for judging by ignorance they are worse than the others;
and even as animals the beauty of sight is not to be desired,
but they have fled from both God's approval and its praise.

Because of this they were
deservedly punished by similar ones
and were tormented by many beasts.
Instead of punishment you worked well your common people
into a desire of appetite for a strange taste
having prepared quails for food,
so that those desiring food
due to the loathsomeness of what was sent to them
might turn away the necessary appetite,
and these being needful for a short while
also might partake of a strange taste.

For inevitable poverty must come upon those tyrants,
while to these it was only shown
how their enemies were tormented.

For when the terrible beasts' rage came upon them
and they were destroyed by the biting of twisting snakes,
your anger did not continue until the end;
as a warning they were disturbed for a short while
having an omen of safety as a reminder of your law's command;
for the one who turned was saved not by the seeing,
but by you, the savior of all.

Also in this way you convinced our enemies
that you are the rescuer from every evil;
for the bites of locusts and flies killed them,
and no healing was found for their soul,
because they deserved to be punished by such things;
but the teeth of poisonous snakes did not conquer your sons,
for your mercy came by opposite and healed them.
for they were bitten as a reminder of your oracles
and swiftly were delivered,
lest falling into deep forgetfulness
they might become unresponsive to your good work.
For neither herb nor poultice cured them,
but Lord, your all-healing word did.

For you have authority over life and death,
and you lead down into the gates of Hades and up again;
a person kills by one's vice,
but the spirit that went out does not return
nor is the soul taken over released.

To escape from your hand is impossible;
for refusing to know you the profane
were whipped by the strength of your arm
pursued by strange rains and hails and sweeping storms
and consumed by fire;
for, most incredible, in the water which quenches all
the fire was fully active,
for the universe is the defender of the just;
for at one time the flame was subdued,
lest it burn up the animals sent upon the profane,
so that they seeing this might know that
they were driven by the judgment of God;
and at another time even in the middle of water
it burned more dynamically than fire,
so that it might ruin the crops of an unjust land.

Instead of this you fed your common people angels' food
and provided for them effortlessly handy bread from heaven
satisfying every pleasure and suited to every taste;
for your sustenance manifested sweetness to your children,
and serving the desire of those using it
it was transformed to whatever one wished.

Snow and ice submitted to fire and did not melt,
so that they would know that the fruits of the enemies
were destroyed by the fire blazing in the hail
and flashing in the rain;
but this again was so that the just might eat,
and it forgot about its own power.

For the creation serving you who made it
stretches for the punishment of the unjust
and relaxes for good work on behalf of those who trusted you.
On account of this also then changing into all things
it served your all-nourishing gift
according to the will of the needing,
so that your sons whom you loved, Lord, might learn
that the production of fruits does not feed a person,
but your saying maintains those trusting in you.

For what was not ruined by fire
simply melted when warmed by a brief ray of sun,
so it may be known that it is necessary
to first come giving thanks to you before the sun
and before the rising of the light meet with you;
for the hope of the ungrateful will melt like winter frost
and run off like useless water.

For great are your judgments and hard to describe;
on account of this uneducated souls have gone astray.
For assuming power over the holy nation the lawless
captives of the dark and prisoners of the long night
lay enclosed under roofs fugitives from eternal providence.

For thinking to be unnoticed in their secret sins
by the obscure curtain of forgetfulness
they were dispersed astounded terribly
and agitated by apparitions.
For not even the closet holding them kept them fearless,
but shattering sounds roared around them,
and downcast phantoms with unsmiling faces appeared.

Also no force of fire was able to light,
nor did the bright flames of stars
manage to shine on that gloomy night.
Shining through to them alone was
a self-moving fearful fire,
and frightened by what was not seen of that sight
they believed the things looked at were worse.

Tricks of magic art were laid down,
and the pretense of boasted wisdom was refuted;
for those promising to drive off
the frights and agitation of a sick soul,
these deriding caution became sick.

For even if nothing agitating frightened them,
scared by the passage of monsters and hissing reptiles
they perished trembling
refusing to look even at the air from nowhere avoided.

For miserable cowardice testifies condemned by itself,
it always takes hold of difficulties oppressed by conscience;
for fear is nothing but giving up the helps from reason,
and the inner expectation being weak
counts on full ignorance of the cause promising torture.

On the really powerless night
and out of the powerless recesses of Hades coming upon
the ones sleeping the same sleep
monstrous things of phantoms drove them,
and things of the soul paralyzed by betrayal;
for unforeseen and unexpected fear poured over them.

So whoever was there fell down,
thusly they were kept shut up in an ironless prison;
for whether someone was a farmer or a shepherd
or a worker laboring in the desert,
being seized one endured the inescapable fate,
for with one chain of darkness all were bound;
whether a hissing wind
or melodious sounds of birds in widespreading branches
or rhythm of water moving by force
or the harsh crash of rocks thrown down
or leaping animals running unseen
or the sound of howling rough beasts
or an echo bounced back out of most hollow mountains,
terrorizing paralyzed them.

For the whole world was illuminated with bright light
and was held together with unhindered work;
but over those alone heavy night was spread,
an image of the darkness about to take its turn.
But they were heavier to themselves than darkness.

But for your holy ones there was great light;
who hearing the sound but not seeing the form,
since also those not having suffered, were blessed,
because the ones wronged before were not harming,
being thankful they even asked pardon for being different.
Against which you provided a pillar of flaming fire
as a guide for their unknown journey,
and a harmless sun of foreign ambition.

For those deserved to be deprived of light
and kept in the dark,
the ones guarding your sons as prisoners,
through whom the incorruptible light of law
was about to be given to the ages.

When they were planning
to kill the babies of the holy ones,
and one child had been exposed and saved,
in confutation many of their children were taken away
and in like spirit destroyed in violent water.

That night was known before by our fathers,
so that securely knowing the promises in which they trusted
they might be heartened.
The salvation of the just and the destruction of the enemies
were expected by your common people;
for in the same way you avenged the opposition,
you calling us forward glorified us.

For in secret the holy children of the good sacrificed
and in unity agreed to the most divine law
similarly both their goods
and dangers the saints were sharing
already singing the fathers' praises.

But the discordant cry of the enemies resounded,
and the pitiable wailing sound for the children was borne;
by a like sentence a slave was punished along with a master
and the people suffered the same things as a king,
and in like spirit all in one name of death
had uncounted dead;
for the living ones were not even enough for the burial,
since in one moment their honored generation was destroyed.

For mistrusting all because of drugs
upon the death of the first-born
they acknowledged common people to be God's son.
For with still silence surrounding all things
and night in its swiftness half spent
by your omnipotent word from heaven out of a royal throne
a ruthless warrior wandered in the middle of the ruined land
carrying the sharp sword of your unanswered injunction
and stood filling all things with death
and reached heaven while walking on earth.

Then on the spot phantoms in terrible dreams agitated them,
and unexpected fears set upon them,
and here and there hurled half-dead
through which they showed the reason for death;
for disturbing dreams forewarned them of this,
lest they perish ignorant of why they badly suffer.

The experience of death reached also the just,
and a plague came to many in the desert.
However the anger did not remain for long;
for a blameless man hurried to defend
bringing his personal shield of ministry,
prayer and propitiating incense;
standing up to the anger he also put an end to the event
showing that he is your servant;
he conquered the anger not by strength of body,
nor by activity of weapons,
but by logic he subordinated the ones punishing
reminding them of the fathers' promises and covenants.

For the dead having fallen on each other in heaps
standing between he drove back the anger
and severed through its way to the living.
For on a robe to the feet was the whole world,
and fathers' glories were carved on four rows of stones,
and your majesty on the crown on his head.
To these the destroyer yielded, and these he feared;
for the trial of the anger alone was enough.

The profane were set upon until the end by pitiless anger,
for it knew ahead even their intentions,
that they being committed to the departing
and with speed sending them forth
regretting it they would pursue.

For while they were still mourning
and lamenting at the graves of the dead
they fixed on another foolish reason
and those whom begging they threw out,
these as fugitives they pursued.

For the fate they deserved drew them on to this end
and made them forget what had happened,
so that they might fill up the punishment
with what remained of the torments,
and your common people experience an incredible journey,
and those might find a strange death.

For the whole creation in particular
came to be reformed again from above
complying with your orders,
so that your children might be kept unharmed.

The cloud overshadowed the encampment,
and out of what was water before dry land was seen coming up,
an unhindered way out of the Red Sea
and a plain of green grass out of the violent surf;
where the whole nation came through sheltered by your hand
seeing marvelous wonders.

For like horses they were grazing
and like lambs were leaping
praising you, Lord, who rescued them.
For they still remembered their sojourning,
how instead of producing animals
the earth brought forth gnats,
and instead of emptying itself of water
the river was full of frogs.
Later they also saw a new generation of birds,
when desire led them to ask for luxurious meats;
for their relief quails came up from the sea.

Also the vengeance did not come upon the sinners
without previous signs by the force of thunderbolts;
for justly they suffered for their bad peculiarities,
for also they practiced the harsher hating of strangers.

For some did not receive the ignorant who passed by;
but these enslaved beneficial strangers.
Not only that, but some oversight will be theirs,
since hatefully they received the aliens;
but the ones with celebrations
whom they already received having shared the same rights
they treated badly with terrible toil.

Also they were struck with loss of sight
as those were at the door of the just,
when surrounded by yawning darkness
each of them tried to find the way through their door.

For the elements being corrected by themselves,
as on a harp notes vary the kind of rhythm
all the time continuing by ringing,
this is inferred out of clearly seeing what happened;
for land things were transformed into water things,
and the swimming changed to walk on earth;
fire maintained in water its own power,
and water forgot its quenching nature;
flames contrary to destroying animals
did not wither the flesh of those walking around,
nor did they melt the crystals
of the easily melted type of ambrosial food.

For in all things, Lord,
you exalted and glorified your common people
and not overlooking stood by in every time and place.

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.


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