Conclusion (Wis 19:22-19:22)

“In everything,

O Lord!,

You have exalted your people.

You have glorified your people.

You have not neglected to help them

At all times.

You have not neglected to help them

In all places.”

There seems to be an abrupt ending to this book that has wandered away from wisdom into a reflection on the Exodus situation. This books ends with an exclamation or praise of the Lord because he has exalted and glorified his people. In other words, the Lord (Κύριε) has made his people great, since he never neglects them at any time or in any place.

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The upside down side of nature (Wis 19:18-19:21)

“The elements changed places with one another.

As on a harp

The notes vary the nature of the rhythm,

While each note remains the same.

This may be clearly inferred

From the sight of what took place.

The land animals were transformed into water creatures.

The creatures that swim moved over to the land.

Fire even in water retained its normal power.

Water forgot its fire-quenching nature.

On the contrary,

Flames failed to consume

The flesh of perishable creatures

That walked among them.

Nor did they melt the crystalline,

Quick melting kind of heavenly food.”

Now we see what happened in the desert on the way to the Promised Land. Nature was turned upside down. Somehow the rhythm of life had changed. Just like notes on a harp, there was a new sound. The land animals became water creatures, while the water creatures moved to the land. What is this author talking about? Probably this is a reference to some cattle that might have crossed the Red Sea. The water frogs, however, were on land. Water did not quench fire as the fire blazed even in water. The use of water and fire at various times on this journey points to their unique powers. Finally the manna from heaven did not melt. Most of this can be found in chapter 16 of this book.

Egypt was more culpable than Sodom (Wis 19:13-19:17)

“The punishments did not come upon the sinners

Without prior signs

With the violence of thunder.

They justly suffered

Because of their wicked acts.

They practiced a more bitter hatred of strangers.

Others had refused to receive strangers

When they came to them.

But these made slaves of guests

Who were their benefactors.

Not only so,

While punishment of some sort

Will come upon the former

For having received strangers with hostility,

The latter,

Having first received them with festal celebrations,

Afterward afflicted them with terrible sufferings.

They had already shared the same rights.

They were stricken also with loss of sight.

Just as were those at the door of the righteous man.

When surrounded by yawning darkness,

Each tried to find the way through their own door.”

Who was worse, the Egyptians or the Sodomites from Genesis, chapters 18-19? Did the Egyptians deserve to be punished? The decision rested on how they treated strangers. Interesting enough, the argument is not about immorality but about hospitality. There is no explicit mention of Sodom or Egypt, but the implications are clear. These Egyptians were clearly warned with the various plagues. Instead of refusing strangers, the Egyptians had welcomed the Israelites, especially based on the stories about Joseph in Genesis, chapters 37-47. There his whole family, father and brothers, the sons of Jacob were welcomed into Egypt. However, as pointed out at the beginning of Exodus, chapters 1 and 5, they then enslaved them and tried to kill the Israelite male babies. Unlike the Sodomites they were not blind, but simply lived in darkness. This story about blindness is clearly from the Sodomite story in Genesis.

Food on the journey (Wis 19:10-19:12)

“They still recalled the events of their sojourn.

Instead of producing animals,

The earth brought forth gnats.

Instead of fish,

The river spewed out vast numbers of frogs.

Afterward they saw also new kind of birds.

When desire led them to ask for luxurious food,

To give them relief,

Quails came up from the sea.”

Based on the Exodus stories in chapters 8 and 16 and Numbers, chapter 11, this author tells how the Israelites were feed in the wilderness or strange land (γῆ σκνῖπα). Interesting there is no mention of manna. They ate gnats and frogs and some kind of birds. The luxury foods were the quails (παραμυθίαν) that somehow came from the sea.

The marvelous Red Sea experience (Wis 19:6-19:9)

“The whole creation

In its nature

Was fashioned anew.

It complies with your commands.

Thus your children might be kept unharmed.

The cloud was seen overshadowing the camp.

Dry land emerged

Where water had stood before.

There was an unhindered way

Out of the Red Sea.

There was a grassy plain

Out of the raging waves.

Those protected by your hand

They passed through as one nation.

After gazing on marvelous wonders.

They ranged like horses.

They leaped like lambs.

They praised you.

O Lord!

You delivered them.”

Creation itself helped the righteous Israelites as they complied with the commands of God to help his children (σοὶ παῖδες). There was a cloud (παρεμβολὴν) over the camp. Dry land emerged from the Red Sea (ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης) as in Exodus, chapter 13. Here there is an explicit mention of the Red Sea as they passed through a grassy plain in the middle of the raging waters. God’s hand (χειρί) protected them as they passed through the Red Sea together like horses and lambs. They praised the Lord (Κύριε) for their deliverance.

The escape from Egypt (Wis 19:1-19:5)

“The ungodly were assailed to the end

By pitiless anger.

God knew in advance

Even their future actions.

Even though they themselves had permitted

Your people to depart,

As they hastily sent them forth.

They would change their minds.

They would pursue them.

While they were still busy in mourning,

As they were lamenting

At the graves of their dead,

They reached another foolish decision.

They pursued as fugitives

Those whom they had begged to depart.

They had compelled them to depart.

The fate that they deserved

Drew them on to this end.

Fate made them forget

What had happened.

Thus they might fill up the punishment

That their torments still lacked.

Thus your people might experience an incredible journey.

However they themselves might meet a strange death.”

Once again, without any specific mention of the Red Sea incident in Exodus, chapter 13, there is an explanation of that event that is unmistakable. These ungodly (ἀσεβέσι) Egyptians had let God’s chosen ones go. However, they changed their minds. They were still in mourning, lamenting at the graves of their dead (νεκρῶν) children. Then they made another foolish decision, even thought God knew in advance that they would. Although they had begged and compelled the Israelites to leave, they now decided to pursue them as fugitives. For this, they deserved the fate that awaited them. While the people of God (λαός σου) experienced an incredible journey, these ungodly people met a strange death (θάνατον) at the Red Sea.

 

The plague on the righteous (Wis 18:20-18:25)

“The experience of death

Touched also the righteous.

A plague came upon the multitude

In the desert.

But the wrath did not long continue.

A blameless man was quick

To act as their champion.

He brought forward the shield of his ministry.

He brought forth prayer.

He brought forward propitiation by incense.

He withstood the anger.

He put an end to the disaster.

He showed that he was your servant.

He conquered the wrath

Not by strength of body,

Not by force of arms,

But by his word

He subdued the avenger.

He appealed to the oaths given to our ancestors.

He appealed to the covenants given to our ancestors.

When the dead had already fallen on one another in heaps,

He intervened.

He held back the wrath.

He cut off its way to the living.

On his long robe

The whole world was depicted.

The glories of the ancestors

Were engraved on the four rows of stones.

Your majesty was on the diadem upon his head.

The destroyer yielded to these.

The destroyer feared these.

Merely to test the wrath was enough.”

This section takes part of the Exodus story in chapters 32 and the Numbers presentation in chapter 17 and combines them into one episode. In other words, the righteous (δικαίων) were not free from the wrath of God. A plague came upon them in the desert (ἐν ἐρήμῳ) that nearly killed 15,000 of them because the Israelites had rebelled against Moses and Aaron. However, Moses instructed Aaron to make reparation by prayer (προσευχὴν) and incense. The blameless man was Aaron, and not Moses, but there is no indication of his explicit name here since in the Exodus story Aaron had rebelled also. This blameless man subdued the avenger by his prayerful sacrificial actions. He remembered the oaths and covenants that his ancestors had made. The use of the robe is definitely the Levitical robe of Aaron from Exodus, chapter 28. His lovely robe had 4 rows of stones. He also had a diadem on his head (διαδήματος κεφαλῆς αὐτοῦ). Obviously, this is from the time of the settled Israelites, but it was enough to scare off this destroyer. The Israelites learned from this episode.