Wisdom 18

Chapter 18

1 But for your holy ones there shone a very great light.
Their enemies who heard their voices but did not see their forms
considered them blessed because they had not also suffered.
2 They were grateful that your holy ones had not done them any injury despite being previously wronged,
and they asked forgiveness for having been their enemies.
3 Instead of darkness, you provided for your people a pillar of fire
to guide them on their unfamiliar journey,
and a gentle sun for their glorious pilgrimage.
4 But their enemies deserved to be denied light and to be incarcerated in darkness,
for they had made prisoners of your children
through whom the incorruptible light of your law was to be given to the world.[a]

The Exterminator

5 After they had decided to slay the infants of your holy ones,
and just a single boy[b] had been abandoned and rescued,
you in retribution carried off a multitude of their sons
and destroyed them all in the raging waters.
6 That night had been made known beforehand[c] to our ancestors,
so that, with accurate knowledge of the promises in which they had put their confidence,
they could be of good heart.
7 Your people thus awaited
the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies.
8 For you employed the same means to punish our adversaries
as you did to glorify us when you called us to yourself.
9 For the holy children of good people were offering sacrifices in secret,
and with one accord they agreed to keep the divine law,
so that your holy ones would share alike both blessings and dangers,
after first chanting the praises of the ancestors.[d]
10 In response came the dissonant cry of their enemies,
and the piteous lamentation for their children spread abroad.
11 The slave received the same punishment as the master,
and now commoner and king had to endure identical sufferings.
12 And all alike, afflicted by the same form of death,
had corpses too many to count.
For there were not enough who were left alive to bury the dead,
since in a single instant their most precious offspring had been destroyed.
13 Formerly they had disbelieved everything as a result of their sorceries,
but at the destruction of their firstborn they acknowledged this people to be the offspring of God.
14 [e]For when profound silence encompassed all things
and the night was at midpoint in its swift course,
15 your all-powerful Word leapt from your royal throne in heaven
like a relentless warrior into the midst of a land doomed to destruction.
16 Carrying the sharp sword of your inexorable decree,
and touching the heavens while standing on earth,
he filled the universe with death.
17 Immediately the godless were terrified by apparitions in terrible dreams,
and unexpected fears attacked them.
18 Cast down to the ground half-dead, some here, others there,
they revealed clearly why they were dying.
19 For the dreams that disturbed them had forewarned them of this
so that they would not perish without knowing the reason for their suffering.
20 Even the righteous were touched by the experience of death
when large numbers of them were struck down by a plague in the wilderness.
But the wrath did not endure for long.
21 For a blameless man[f] hastened to be their champion,
bearing the weapons of his ministry,
prayer and propitiating incense;
and he withstood the wrath and put an end to the plague,
thereby showing that he was indeed your servant.
22 He overcame the wrath
neither by physical strength nor by force of arms;
rather, by his word he subdued the avenger,[g]
calling to mind the oaths and the covenants given to our ancestors.
23 For when the corpses were already piled up in heaps,
he intervened and held back the wrath
and cut off its way to the living.
24 For the entire world was depicted on his full-length robe,[h]
and the glorious names of our ancestors were carved on the four rows of stones,
and your majesty was seen on the diadem upon his head.
25 To these the destroyer yielded, for these he feared;
a mere sampling of wrath was sufficient.


  1. Wisdom 18:4 The Prophets had declared that the Jews would be the light of the nations (see Isa 42:1; 60:9-11; Jn 4:22).
  2. Wisdom 18:5 Single boy: i.e., Moses.
  3. Wisdom 18:6 Made known beforehand: by Moses, who transmitted to the people the orders and promises he received from God (Ex 11–12), and perhaps also by the Patriarchs (Gen 15:13-14).
  4. Wisdom 18:9 Praises of the ancestors: see Wis 10; Sir 44–50.
  5. Wisdom 18:14 God intervenes by his word in the middle of the night. A Jewish tradition assigned to the night of the Passover the great events of the history of the chosen people: Creation, appearance of Abraham, the Exodus, and the coming of the Messiah. The Liturgy has applied this text in the accommodated sense to the birth of Jesus (“Word” of God) that took place precisely by night.
    Concerning the Word, a double-edged sword that executes God’s judgments, see Isa 49:2; Heb 4:12; Rev 1:16; 2:12.
  6. Wisdom 18:21 Blameless man: i.e., Aaron, carrying out the duties of his office as high priest and intercessor.
  7. Wisdom 18:22 Avenger: i.e., the destroying angel; see Wis 18:25.
  8. Wisdom 18:24 Robe: according to a tradition, symbols of the whole world adorned the vestment of the high priest.

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