Wisdom 12

Chapter 12

1 Your imperishable spirit permeates all things;
2 that is why, bit by bit, you correct those who err,
and you admonish them and call to mind the very things in which they go wrong,
so that they may renounce their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.

God Cares Even for the Canaanites[a]

3 The ancient inhabitants of your holy land
4 you despised for their loathsome practices:
their acts of sorcery and sacrilegious rites,
5 their merciless slaughter of children,
and their cannibalistic feasting on human flesh and blood.[b]
Those initiates of secret rituals,
6 those parents who slaughtered defenseless children,
you willed to destroy by the hands of our ancestors,
7 so that the land cherished by you above all others
might receive a worthy colony of children of God.
8 [c]But even these, since they were men, you spared,
and you sent wasps as forerunners of your army
to exterminate them little by little.
9 It was well within your power to have the godless vanquished in battle by the righteous
or to destroy them in an instant by savage beasts or by one stern word.
10 But by carrying out your sentence in stages,
you gave them the chance to repent.
You were well aware that they came from an evil stock,
and that their wickedness was innate,
and that their way of thinking would never change,
11 for they were an accursed race from the beginning.

God’s Power and Goodness

Again, it was not because of fear of anyone
that you allowed their sins to go unpunished.
12 For who can say to you: “What have you done?”
or who can challenge your judgment?
Who can bring accusation against you
when the nations you have created are destroyed?
Or who can come into your presence
as the defender of the wicked?
13 For there is no other god besides you, who show concern for the wellbeing of all people,
to whom you must prove that you have not been unjust in your judgments.
14 Nor can any king or ruler confront you in defense of those you have punished.
15 You are righteous, and you govern all things with righteousness,
considering it not in keeping with your power
to condemn anyone not deserving of punishment.
16 For your strength is the source of righteousness,
and your universal dominion makes you gracious to all.[d]
17 You display your strength when people doubt the absolute degree of your power,
and you rebuke any insolence shown by those who are aware of your might.
18 But even though your strength is unsurpassed, you show mercy in your judgment,
and you govern us with great leniency,
for you possess the power to act whenever you so choose.

The Righteous Must Be Kind to Others[e]

19 By acting in this way you have taught your people
that the righteous man must be kind to others,
and you have gifted your children with blessed hope
because you grant them repentance for their sins.[f]
20 For if you have shown such great solicitude and indulgence
in punishing the enemies of your children who deserved to die
and have granted them time and opportunity to repudiate their wickedness,
21 with what attentiveness have you judged your children
to whose ancestors you made such wonderful promises through oaths and covenants!
22 Hence, while you chastise us, you scourge our enemies ten thousand times more,
so that we may recall your goodness when we judge,
and when we are judged, we may hope for mercy.

The Judgment of God[g]

23 This is why against those who lived wicked lives of folly
you used their own abominations to torment them.
24 For they went far astray along the paths of error,
accepting as gods the vilest and most despicable animals,
being deluded like foolish infants.
25 Therefore, as though they were children unable to reason,
you imposed a sentence upon them to mock them.
26 However, those who have paid no heed to the warning of mild rebukes
will experience the full weight of God’s judgment.
27 They were angered at their suffering,
finding themselves punished because of those creatures they had regarded as gods.
But then they saw and recognized as the true God
the one whom previously they had refused to know,
and with this the very height of condemnation fell upon them.[h]


  1. Wisdom 12:3 The Canaanites were regarded as accursed forever (Gen 9:25). Our author gives a repugnant description of their customs; for him, Canaan is the symbol of the most odious perversion, expressed in the practice of sacrificing infants.
  2. Wisdom 12:5 And their cannibalistic feasting on human flesh and blood: there is no consensus about the translation of this line, which is obscure in the Greek text and in all other translations of it. In any case, crimes of this kind were not unheard of in the ancient pagan world.
  3. Wisdom 12:8 By judging the Canaanites little by little (see also Ex 23:29-30), God gave them the chance to repent (see Heb 12:17).
  4. Wisdom 12:16 The wicked use power to defeat justice (see Wis 2:11), but God uses his strength to temper justice.
  5. Wisdom 12:19 God’s moderation in the midst of the harsh actions of peoples also constitutes a discovery of the values of humankind. May his people henceforth show respect and consideration for every person, across frontiers of race and religion. This is a new affirmation, doubtless fostered by frequent contacts with foreign worlds and their ideas. In the next century, Christ will affirm with unforgettable clarity the primacy of love for every human being in all circumstances (see Mt 5:43-48; 1 Jn 4:20-21), and on reading verse 22, one is already reminded of that other word of Christ: “Do not judge, so that you in turn may not be judged. For you will be judged in the same way that you judge others” (Mt 7:1-2; see also Lk 6:37-42).
  6. Wisdom 12:19 Sacred history, which reveals the way God behaves, is the source of the moral life. If God and his Wisdom have manifested love in history (see Wis 1:6), the righteous must in their turn be the friends of human beings. In the New Testament, Jesus will give the conduct of the Father toward human beings as the criterion for the whole of moral life; see, e.g., Mt 20:15: “Are you envious because I am generous?” See also Tit 3:4-5.
  7. Wisdom 12:23 In the eyes of the author, the chastisements in Egypt were intended to lay bare idolatry and its vanity. The Letter to the Romans (Rom 1:20-21) will later give the verdict on such conduct: “The conduct of these people is inexcusable. Despite knowing God, they refused to honor him as God or give thanks to him.” We must grasp the measure of this sin in order to understand the extraordinary salvation in Jesus.
  8. Wisdom 12:27 At first, Pharaoh was obstinate (see Ex 7–11), but in the end, he acknowledged the power of God (Ex 12:31-32), though he did not repent.

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