1 These people said to themselves with deluded reasoning:
“Brief and burdensome is our life,
and there is no remedy when death summons,
nor has anyone been known to have returned[a] from the netherworld.
2 For we were born as the result of happenstance,
and afterward we shall be as though we had never existed.
The breath in our nostrils is merely a puff of smoke,
and our reason is a spark enkindled by the beating of our hearts.
3 Once it is extinguished, our body will turn to ashes,
and our spirit will melt away like empty air.
4 Our name will be forgotten with the passing of time,
and no one will remember our deeds.
Our life will pass away like the wisps of a cloud
and be scattered like mist
pursued by the rays of the sun
and overwhelmed by its heat.
5 For our lifetime is but a passing shadow,
and there is no way to recall our end
because it is sealed, and no one can bring it back.
A Challenge To Rejoice
6 “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things of life,
and use creation fully, with youthful ardor.
7 Let us take our fill of expensive wine and perfumes
and allow no flower of spring to escape our notice;
8 let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.[b]
9 Let none of us fail to share in our wanton doings;
let us leave traces of our revelry everywhere,
since this is our portion, this our lot.
Let Us Wait in Hiding for the Righteous Man[c]
10 “Let us oppress the righteous man who is in need;[d]
let us not spare the widow
or show respect for the venerable gray head of the aged.
11 Rather, let our might serve as the yardstick of justice,
for what is feeble has proved itself useless.
12 Let us wait in hiding for the righteous man,
for he inconveniences us and opposes our deeds.
He reproaches us for our sins against the law
and accuses us of failures in what we have been taught.
13 He claims to have knowledge of God
and refers to himself as a child of the Lord.
14 He has become for us a reproof to our manner of thinking,
and the very sight of him is a source of pain to us.
15 For his life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are just as different.[e]
16 He considers us to be counterfeit,
and he steers clear of our ways as unclean.
He proclaims the final end of the righteous as blessed,
and he boasts that God is his Father.
17 Let us see if what he says is true,
and let us probe what will happen at the conclusion of his life.
18 For if the righteous man is a child of God,[f] he will defend him
and deliver him from the power of his enemies.
19 Let us test him with insults and torments
so that we may be able to measure his gentleness
and ascertain the depths of his forbearance of evil.
20 Let us condemn him[g] to a shameful death,
since, according to his words, he will be protected.”
The Horrible Face of Death[h]
21 Such was their reasoning, but they were wrong,
for their own malice blinded them.
22 They did not discern the hidden plans of God,
or hope for the recompense of holiness
or recognize the reward destined for innocent souls.
23 For God created us to be immortal
and formed us in the image of his own nature.[i]
24 But as a result of the devil’s envy, death entered the world,
and those who follow him experience it.
- Wisdom 2:1 Known to have returned: another translation is: “known to have been delivered.” The author places on the lips of fools an entire philosophy of life: the little time allotted to humans on earth must be used in enjoyment because there is no hereafter. This theme is also found in Job 7:1-10; Ps 39:5-14; Lk 12:16-21; 1 Cor 15:32.
- Wisdom 2:8 Most Latin versions add: “let no meadow be free of our excesses.”
- Wisdom 2:10 The violence of those without a conscience crushes the righteous who entrust themselves to God. Already one seems to envisage the leader who hunts down Christ and all the poor that he represents. Yet, who is really the free person? Many even regard these verses as directly prophetic of Christ’s Passion (see Mt 27:41-44).
- Wisdom 2:10 The righteous man who is in need: the godless jeer that the righteous man is in need despite the promises of Scripture (see Tob 4:21; Pss 37:25; 112:3; Prov 3:9-10; 12:21).
- Wisdom 2:15 The author is here reproducing the opinion current in the world of his day that the Jewish people were set apart from all others by their belief and way of life.
- Wisdom 2:18 The righteous and the poor (vv. 10-12) bear the name of child of God, a title applied to the whole people of Israel (Ex 4:22-23; Hos 11:1), to the king and Messiah (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7), and finally, to Christ (Heb 1:3-4; 12:3) and, by extension, to all Christians who live in him.
- Wisdom 2:20 Him: i.e., the faithful Jew who was mocked and persecuted for his faith. Christian tradition sees in this verse a foreshadowing of Christ’s Passion, the innocent One hated by his enemies (see Heb 12:3; see also Mt 27:43).
- Wisdom 2:21 A mysterious adversary (in the juridic sense: “accuser”) for human beings—called here the devil (diabolos: the word that, in the Septuagint, translates the Hebrew for Satan; see Job 1:6)—is at work; for the first time, he is presented as the tempter of human beings.
- Wisdom 2:23 Nature: other translations: “eternity” or “likeness.”