Pillar of fire for the holy ones (Wis 18:1-18:4)

“But for your holy ones

There was very great light.

Their enemies heard their voices.

But they did not see their forms.

They counted them happy

For not having suffered.

They were thankful

That your holy ones,

Though previously wronged,

Were doing them no injury.

They begged their pardon

For having been at variance with them.

Therefore you provided a flaming pillar of fire.

This was a guide for your people’s unknown journey.

This was also a harmless sun

For their glorious wandering.

Their enemies deserved to be deprived of light.

They deserved to be imprisoned in darkness.

They had kept your children imprisoned,

Through whom the imperishable light of the law

Was to be given to the world.”

The pillar of fire (πυριφλεγῆ στῦλον) can be found in Exodus, chapter 13. Here it seems like the Egyptians repented when they were in darkness. The Israelites were heard but not seen. The Egyptians, continually named as the enemies, were happy that these Israelites were going to leave them alone. After all, they had wronged them. Thus they asked for forgiveness and pardon for their deeds. God then provided the pillar of fire to help the Israelites on their wanderings. The enemies deserved their darkness (σκότει). They had imprisoned the children of God through whom the light of the world in the form of the law (νόμου φῶς) would be given to the world. There was this persistent theme of light and darkness. Israel was in the light. Egypt was in darkness.

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