Wisdom chapter 17

Solomon recounts the plague of darkness in Egypt. The Egyptians were terrified by the manifestations of the One God.

 


 

The Book of Wisdom is recognized as Deuterocanonical Scripture by the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Catholic Churches

 


 

THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS

 

VERSE 1. For great are your judgments, and hard to interpret; Therefore souls undisciplined went astray.

 

VERSE 2. For when lawless men had supposed that they held a holy nation in their power, They, themselves, prisoners of darkness, and bound in the fetters of a long night, Close kept beneath their roofs, Lay exiled from the eternal providence.

 

VERSE 3. For while they thought that they were unseen in their secret sins, They were sundered one from another by a dark curtain of forgetfulness, Stricken with terrible awe, and sore troubled by spectral forms.

sundered. That is, scattered by.

NAB translation. For they who supposed their secret sins were hid under the dark veil of oblivion, were scattered in fearful trembling, terrified by apparitions.

fearful trembling, terrified by apparitions. Those who refuse to respectfully fear God will one day be consumed by a terrifying fear of God.

There’s a great depiction of this in the movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Hitler’s elite SS troops and a mercenary archaeologist discover the Ark of the Covenant, the box containing the Ten Commandments. They transport it to a remote island.

Defying the sovereign command of God Almighty, they open it. Soon, loud, otherworldly screeches emanate. Light flashes. Nazi movie cameras and electrical equipment burns out explosively. Heavenly angels appear then turn into ghastly phantoms.

Hitler’s elite SS troops either die of fright or erupt into flames where they stand.

In the end, the only people alive are the two who closed their eyes, out of respectful fear of God: Professor Indiana Jones and Marian Ravenwood.

 

VERSE 4. For neither did the dark recesses that held them guard them from fears, But sounds rushing down rang around them, And phantoms appeared, cheerless with unsmiling faces.

NAB translation.  For not even their inner chambers kept them fearless, for crashing sounds on all sides terrified them, and mute phantoms with somber looks appeared.

 

VERSE 5. And no force of fire prevailed to give them light, Neither were the brightest flames of the stars strong enough to illumine that gloomy night:

 

VERSE 6. But only there appeared to them the glimmering of a fire self-kindled, full of fear; And in terror they deemed the things which they saw To be worse than that sight, on which they could not gaze.

 

VERSE 7. And they lay helpless, made the sport of magic are, And a shameful rebuke of their vaunts of understanding:

NAB translation. And mockeries of the magic art were in readiness, and a jeering reproof of their vaunted shrewdness.

 

VERSE 8. For those who promised to drive away terrors and troublings from a sick soul, These were themselves sick with a ludicrous fearfulness:

 

VERSE 9. For even if no troublous thing affrighted them, Yet, scared with the creeping of vermin and hissing of serpents,

 

VERSE 10. they perished for very trembling, Refusing even to look on the air, which could on no side be escaped.

 

VERSE 11. For wickedness, condemned by a witness within, is a coward thing, And, being pressed hard by conscience, always forecasts the worst lot:

NAB translation. For wickedness, of its nature cowardly, testifies in its own condemnation, and because of a distressed conscience, always magnifies misfortunes.

wickedness, of its nature cowardly. This does not seem to be the case. Wicked people can be quite courageous in living their convictions.

always magnifies misfortunes. This is what politicians do. They exaggerate anything that is bad, in order to frighten people into voting for them.

 

VERSE 12. For fear is nothing else but a surrender of the help which reason offers;

 

VERSE 13. And from within the heart the expectation of them being less Makes of greater account the ignorance of the cause that brings the torment.

 

VERSE 14. But they, all through the night which was powerless indeed, And which came upon them out of the recesses of powerless Hades, All sleeping the same sleep,

 

VERSE 15. Now were haunted by monstrous apparitions, And now were paralyzed by their soul’s surrendering; For fear sudden and unlooked for came upon them.

fear … came upon them. Some manuscripts read “fear … was poured out on them.”

 

VERSE 16. So then every man, whoever it might be, sinking down in his place, Was kept in ward shut up in that prison which was barred not with iron:

 

VERSE 17. For whether he were a husbandman, or a shepherd, Or a laborer whose toils were in the wilderness, He was overtaken, and endured that inevitable necessity, For with one chain of darkness were they all bound.

 

VERSE 18. Whether there were a whistling wind, Or a melodious noise of birds among the spreading branches, Or a measured fall of water running violently,

 

VERSE 19. Or a harsh crashing of rocks hurled down, Or the swift course of animals bounding along unseen, Or the voice of wild beasts harshly roaring, Or an echo rebounding from the hollows of the mountains, All these things paralyzed them with terror.

 

VERSE 20. For the whole world beside was enlightened with clear light, And was occupied with unhindered works;

 

VERSE 21. While over them alone was spread a heavy night, An image of the darkness that should afterward receive them; But yet heavier than darkness were they to themselves.

 


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