The Destiny of Israel or Wisdom at Work in History[a]
The History of the Patriarchs[b]
Adam, Cain, Noah
1 Wisdom preserved the first-formed father of the world[c]
when he alone had been created.
She delivered him from his transgression
2 and gave him the power to rule over all things.
3 But when the wicked man[d] forsook her in his wrath,
he perished because of his fratricidal fury.
4 When a flood overwhelmed the earth because of him, Wisdom again saved it,
steering the righteous man[e] to safety on a fragile piece of wood.
Abraham and Lot
5 And when the nations were thrown into confusion after indulging in wicked conspiracy,
Wisdom singled out the righteous man[f] and kept him blameless in God’s sight
and steeled him in the face of his compassion for his son.
6 Wisdom rescued the righteous man[g] from the midst of the godless who were being destroyed,
and he escaped the fire that rained down on the Five Cities.
7 As evidence of their wickedness,
there still remains a smoldering waste,
together with plants whose fruit never ripens;
and a pillar of salt stands
as a memorial of an unbelieving soul.[h]
8 For by forsaking Wisdom
they not only lost the ability to recognize what is good,
but also bequeathed to humanity a reminder of their folly
so that their offenses might never be forgotten.
Jacob and Joseph[i]
9 But Wisdom rescued from tribulations
those who served her.
10 When the righteous man was fleeing from the anger of his brother,
she steered him to straight paths.
She showed him the kingdom of God
and bestowed upon him a knowledge of holy things.
She gave success to his labors
and multiplied the fruit of his work.
11 She aided him against the greed of his oppressors
and made him a wealthy man.
12 She protected him from his enemies
and saved him from ambushers.
In his arduous struggle she brought him victory
so that he might realize that piety[j] is more powerful than anything else.
13 When the righteous man[k] was sold, Wisdom did not desert him,
but she delivered him from sin.
14 She descended with him into the dungeon,
and she did not forsake him in his chains
until she had brought him a royal scepter
and power over his adversaries.
She exposed the falsity of his accusers
and bestowed on him everlasting glory.
The Wonders of the Exodus[l]
15 It was Wisdom who delivered a holy people and blameless race
from a nation of oppressors.
16 She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord[m]
and withstood dread kings with signs and wonders.
17 She gave the holy ones the recompense of their labors;[n]
she guided them on a wondrous way,
becoming a shelter for them by day
and a starry light throughout the night.
18 She brought them across the Red Sea
and led them through the deep waters.
19 But she submerged their enemies
and cast them up from the bottom of the deep.
20 Therefore, the righteous despoiled the wicked;[o]
they extolled your holy name, O Lord,
and with one voice praised your protecting hand;
21 for Wisdom opened the mouths of the dumb
and loosened the tongues of infants.[p]
- Wisdom 10:1 From here on, the author considers the entire unfolding of sacred history, and especially the Exodus, from the viewpoint of Wisdom. The protagonists will receive the name of “righteous” or “wicked” according to whether they have followed the path of Wisdom or have gone astray, for it is Wisdom that steers history.
- Wisdom 10:1 In the style of the rabbinic commentaries of the time, the author now sets forth sketches of seven exemplary Israelite ancestors, whose destiny God guided and whose courage he rewarded (Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Jacob, and Joseph).
Adam knew how to expiate his faults and preserve for human beings their mastery over creation. And from the beginning, injustice, like that of Cain, led to perdition.
- Wisdom 10:1 Father of the world: i.e., Adam (Gen 1:26—5:5).
- Wisdom 10:3 Wicked man: i.e., Cain (Gen 4:8-12).
- Wisdom 10:4 Righteous man: i.e., Noah; he alone emerged from a humankind submerged by its fatal hatred (Gen 5:28—9:29).
- Wisdom 10:5 Righteous man: i.e., Abraham, who was obedient even to the extent of being ready to offer his only son to God (see Gen 12; 22).
- Wisdom 10:6 Righteous man: i.e., Lot (see Gen 14:2; 19:1-26). Five Cities: i.e., the Pentapolis, a group of cities close to the Dead Sea: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar.
- Wisdom 10:7 Unbelieving soul: i.e., Lot’s wife (see Gen 19:26).
- Wisdom 10:9 Jacob, in exile and hunted by his brother (see Gen 27:41-45), puts his trust in God (see Gen 28–30). The innocent Joseph, sold into slavery, resists sin; tribulation prepares him for the highest of destinies (Gen 37ff).
- Wisdom 10:12 Piety: i.e., “fear of the Lord” (see Prov 1:7). In Jacob’s spiritual struggle with God, it was Wisdom that aided him to realize that the only help for human beings is in fear of the Lord.
- Wisdom 10:13 Righteous man: i.e., Joseph (see Gen 37ff).
- Wisdom 10:15 To provide the most powerful demonstration of the superiority of Israel, the author begins his use of antitheses, to which he will return in chapter 16. This first antithesis deals with the theme of the waters, which turned into the plague of blood for the Egyptians (Ex 7:14-24) but into refreshment for the Israelites (Ex 17:3-6).
- Wisdom 10:16 Servant of the Lord: i.e., Moses (see Ex 3:12; 4:12; 7:1). Dread kings: the author may be alluding generally to various kings who afflicted the Israelites, but he is thinking specifically of the Egyptian Pharaoh. A good deal of the saving activity, here attributed to Wisdom, had been assigned to God by Isaiah (Isa 63:11-14).
- Wisdom 10:17 Recompense of their labors: i.e., the riches and precious articles that the Hebrews carried off at the time of the Exodus (Ex 12:35-36).
- Wisdom 10:20 The author seems to be alluding to a tradition that the Israelites took away the weapons of the dead Egyptians.
- Wisdom 10:21 The Lord loosened the mouth of the victorious Israelites (infants) so that they might utter his praises (see Ex 15:1ff) just as he had loosened the mouth of Moses so that he could speak to Pharaoh (see Ex 4:10; 6:12-30).