Wisdom 4

Chapter 4

1 Far better than this is childlessness accompanied by virtue,[a]
for immortality is gained by a remembrance of virtue,
since it is acknowledged both by God and by men.
2 When it is present, men imitate it,
and they long for it in its absence.
And throughout eternity it marches crowned in triumph,
victorious in the struggle for prizes that are undefiled.[b]
3 However, the prolific progeny of the wicked will avail nothing;
none of their illegitimate stock will put forth deep roots
or lay a firm foundation.
4 For even if they put forth branches for a time,
without a firm foundation they will be shaken by the wind
and torn up by the violence of the storms.
5 Their immature branches will be broken off
and their fruit will be useless,
not ripe enough to eat and fit for no purpose.
6 For children born of unlawful unions
bear witness to the wickedness of their parents
when God brings them to judgment.[c]

Better To Die Young than To Die in Wickedness[d]

7 But the righteous man, even if he dies prematurely, will be at rest.[e]
8 For the honor that comes with age is not due to the length of life
or determined by the number of years.
9 Gray hairs for anyone consists in understanding,
and ripe old age consists in a blameless life.
10 [f]He has sought to please God, so God has loved him;
while living among sinners, he has been taken up.
11 He has been snatched away so that evil would not pervert his understanding
or guile deceive his soul.
12 For the spell of wickedness beclouds what is good,
and the swirl of desire corrupts the simple heart.
13 Having achieved perfection in a short time,
he attained a lengthy span of years.
14 Since his soul was pleasing to the Lord,
he quickly removed him from the midst of wickedness.
People observed this yet failed to comprehend,
nor did they reflect on this fact,
15 that grace and mercy are reserved for God’s holy ones
and he shows concern for his elect.[g]
16 The righteous man who dies condemns the godless who are still alive,
and youth that has quickly achieved perfection
condemns the prolonged age of the wicked.
17 For they observe the death of the wise man
but understand neither the designs of the Lord for him
nor why he has kept him safe.
18 They look on and sneer contemptuously at him,
but the Lord will laugh them to scorn.
19 Afterward they will become dishonored corpses
and objects of contempt among the dead forever.
For he will cast them speechless to the ground
and shake them to their very foundations.
They will be completely laid waste,
overwhelmed with grief,
and their memory will perish.

The Final Judgment of the Wicked[h]

20 The godless will cringe with terror when their sins are reckoned,
and their lawless deeds will convict them to their face.

Footnotes

  1. Wisdom 4:1 The Liturgy applies this verse in its Latin translation to the glory of virginity: “Oh, how beautiful is the chaste generation in its glory.”
  2. Wisdom 4:2 Paul uses the image of sporting competition in 1 Cor 9:24-27.
  3. Wisdom 4:6 Here it is a case of the judgment of God (see Wis 3:18).
  4. Wisdom 4:7 The premature death of the righteous person was a shock to the ancients who were convinced that God had to reward him by a long life. The Book of Wisdom overturns this principle that was so solidly entrenched. Since death was henceforth regarded as the threshold of eternity, the old religious ideas of recompense were evolving. It must have been scandalous, at this time, to affirm that death can be a mark of favor given by the Lord to someone that he wishes thereby to keep out of sin.
  5. Wisdom 4:7 This rest is peace; i.e., for the author of Wisdom, not an eternal sleep but a fullness of life (see Wis 3:3).
  6. Wisdom 4:10 These verses contain allusions to Enoch, who was young in terms of the life-span of the Patriarchs (Gen 5:21-24) and Lot (Gen 19:10-11; 2 Pet 2:7-8). Taken up: the righteous are “taken up” like Enoch (Gen 5:24), Elijah (2 Ki 2:1, 11), and Christ at the Ascension (Acts 1:11, 22).
  7. Wisdom 4:15 These two lines repeat the last two lines of Wis 3:9.
  8. Wisdom 4:20 The author gives us a poem of the precariousness and the brevity of earthly life; completely unfortunate is one who makes it the be-all and end-all of existence (Wis 5:8-13)!

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