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Wisdom - Chapter 18

1 For your holy ones, however, there was a very great light. The Egyptians, who could hear them but not see them, called them fortunate because they had not suffered too;

2 they thanked them for doing no injury in return for previous wrongs and asked forgiveness for their past ill-will.

3 In contrast to the darkness, you gave your people a pillar of blazing fire to guide them on their unknown journey, a mild sun for their ambitious migration.

4 But well those others deserved to be deprived of light and imprisoned in darkness, for they had kept in captivity your children, by whom the incorruptible light of the Law was to be given to the world.

5 As they had resolved to kill the infants of the holy ones, and as of those exposed only one child had been saved, you punished them by carrying off their horde of children and by destroying them all in the wild water.

6 That night had been known in advance to our ancestors, so that, well knowing him in whom they had put their trust, they would be sure of his promises.

7 Your people thus were waiting both for the rescue of the upright and for the ruin of the enemy;

8 for by the very vengeance that you exacted on our adversaries, you glorified us by calling us to you.

9 So the holy children of the good offered sacrifice in secret and with one accord enacted this holy law: that the holy ones should share good things and dangers alike; and forthwith they chanted the hymns of the ancestors.

10 In echo came the discordant cries of their enemies, and the pitiful wails of people mourning for their children could be heard from far away.

11 One and the same punishment had struck slave and master alike, and now commoner and king had the same sufferings to endure.

12 Struck by the same death, all had innumerable dead. There were not enough living left to bury them, for, at one stroke, the flower of their offspring had perished.

13 Those whose spells had made them completely incredulous, when faced with the destruction of their first-born, acknowledged this people to be child of God.

14 When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course,

15 down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word like a pitiless warrior into the heart of a land doomed to destruction. Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword,

16 it stood, and filled the universe with death; though standing on the earth, it touched the sky.

17 Immediately, dreams and gruesome visions overwhelmed them with terror, unexpected fears assailed them.

18 Hurled down, some here, some there, half dead, they were able to say why they were dying;

19 for the dreams that had troubled them had warned them why beforehand, so that they should not perish without knowing why they were being afflicted.

20 Experience of death, however, touched the upright too, and a great many were struck down in the desert. But the Retribution did not last long,

21 for a blameless man hurried to their defence. Wielding the weapons of his sacred office, prayer and expiating incense, he confronted Retribution and put an end to the plague, thus showing that he was your servant.

22 He overcame Hostility, not by physical strength, nor by force of arms; but by word he prevailed over the Punisher, by recalling the oaths made to the Fathers, and the covenants.

23 Already the corpses lay piled in heaps, when he interposed and beat Retribution back and cut off its approach to the living.

24 For the whole world was on his flowing robe, the glorious names of the Fathers engraved on the four rows of stones, and your Majesty on the diadem on his head.

25 From these the Destroyer recoiled, he was afraid of these. This one experience of Retribution was enough.

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