Wisdom 19

Chapter 19

The Transformation of the Red Sea and of Nature[a]

1 But the godless were assailed to the very end by merciless anger,
for God knew beforehand what they would do—
2 that although they had agreed to let his people go
and had hastened to send them forth,
they would have a change of heart and pursue them.
3 For while they were still conducting their funeral rites
and mourning at the tombs of their dead,
they made another rash decision
and pursued as fugitives
those whom they had entreated to leave and had sent away.
4 For the fate they deserved urged them on to this decision
and made them forget what had already befallen them,
so that they might experience the full range of torments required to complete their punishment,
5 and so that your people might experience a glorious[b] journey
while their enemies would meet an unusual death.
6 For the whole creation with its varied elements was fashioned anew[c]
in compliance with your commands
so that your children might be preserved safe and sound.
7 The cloud was seen to overshadow the camp,
and dry land emerged where previously water had flowed.
In the midst of the Red Sea an unobstructed road appeared,
a grassy plain arising out of the raging waves,
8 over which crossed the entire nation protected by your hand
after beholding marvelous wonders.
9 For they frolicked about like horses
and bounded about like lambs,
praising you, O Lord, who delivered them.
10 For they still recalled the events of their exile,
how instead of producing animals the land brought forth gnats,
and instead of fish the river disgorged swarms of frogs.
11 Later they were introduced to a new kind of bird
when, moved by appetite, they demanded savory food,
12 and quail came up from the sea to satisfy them.

Egypt More Guilty than Sodom[d]

13 The punishments did not rain down on the sinners
without previous warnings in the form of violent thunder.[e]
And they justly suffered for their wicked deeds,
since they had exhibited such bitter hatred to strangers.
14 There had been others[f] who had refused to receive strangers who had come to them,
but these had made slaves of their guests who were their benefactors.
15 There will indeed be punishment inflicted upon the former
since they had offered a hostile reception to strangers.
16 But the latter, after first welcoming them with festive celebrations,
afterward oppressed with terrible sufferings
those who had already shared with them the same rights.
17 Therefore, they were also struck with blindness,[g]
like the sinners at the door of the righteous man,
when, surrounded by yawning darkness,
all of them had to grope their way to their own doorways.

Nature Transformed during the Exodus

18 A new arrangement of the elements occurred,
just as the strings of a harp can produce varied rhythms
while each note remains the same.
This can be clearly perceived
from an observation of what took place.
19 Land animals[h] became water creatures,
while creatures that swim migrated to dry land.
20 Even in water, fire maintained its normal strength,
and water forgot its fire-quenching nature.
21 Flames, by contrast, failed to consume the flesh
of perishable animals that walked in their midst,
nor did they melt the icelike composition of heavenly food so prone to liquefy.

Conclusion[i]

22 In every way, O Lord, you have exalted and glorified your people;
you have never failed to help them at any time and in every circumstance.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom 19:1 The author embellishes history in order to better awaken confidence in God; it becomes the poetic symbol of the unimaginable happiness that God reserves for those who have embraced his love, a happiness that never stopped astonishing Paul the Apostle (see 1 Cor 2:9).
  2. Wisdom 19:5 Glorious: it can also be translated as “wondrous” (see v. 22; 18:8).
  3. Wisdom 19:6 Fashioned anew: a principle of interpretation of sacred history: creation and its various elements are at the service of the divine plan for the salvation of Israel and the defeat of the wicked.
  4. Wisdom 19:13 For the author, the events of history must unfold in accord with the law of talion (“an eye for an eye,” Ex 21:23ff). His explanation seems to play fast and loose with the facts and especially after the announcement of God’s mercy for all nations, an announcement made by Christ (see Mt 5:38-48). Nonetheless, human beings and nations must again be called to order when injustice sweeps them along.
  5. Wisdom 19:13 Allusion to the storm that preceded the passage through the Red Sea (see Ex 14:21-24).
  6. Wisdom 19:14 Others: the inhabitants of Sodom (Gen 19). Benefactors: Joseph had rendered great services to the Egyptians in his day, but the Israelites were reduced to slavery by the Egyptians who came later.
  7. Wisdom 19:17 Blindness: allusion to the plague of darkness (Ex 10:21-23).
  8. Wisdom 19:19 Land animals: i.e., the Israelites together with their cattle who passed across the Red Sea. Creatures that swim: i.e., frogs (Ex 7:26ff).
  9. Wisdom 19:22 Other concluding doxologies are found in Tob 14:15; Ps 150; Sir 51:30.

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