Wisdom 17 ( 1 – 21 )
Yes, your judgements are great and impenetrable, which is why uninstructed souls have gone astray.
While the wicked supposed they had a holy nation in their power, they themselves lay prisoners of the dark, in the fetters of long night, confined under their own roofs, banished from eternal providence.
While they thought to remain unnoticed with their secret sins, curtained by dark forgetfulness, they were scattered in fearful dismay, terrified by apparitions.
The hiding place sheltering them could not ward off their fear; terrifying noises echoed round them; and gloomy, grim-faced spectres haunted them.
No fire had power enough to give them light, nor could the brightly blazing stars illuminate that dreadful night.
The only light for them was a great, spontaneous blaze — a fearful sight to see! And in their terror, once that sight had vanished, they thought what they had seen more terrible than ever.
Their magical illusions were powerless now, and their claims to intelligence were ignominiously confounded;
for those who promised to drive out fears and disorders from sick souls were now themselves sick with ludicrous fright.
Even when there was nothing frightful to scare them, the vermin creeping past and the hissing of reptiles filled them with panic;
they died convulsed with fright, refusing even to look at empty air, which cannot be eluded anyhow!
Wickedness is confessedly very cowardly, and it condemns itself; under pressure from conscience it always assumes the worst.
Fear, indeed, is nothing other than the failure of the help offered by reason;
the less you rely within yourself on this, the more alarming it is not to know the cause of your suffering.
And they, all locked in the same sleep, while that darkness lasted — which was in fact quite powerless and had issued from the depths of equally powerless Hades-
were now chased by monstrous spectres, now paralysed by the fainting of their souls; for a sudden, unexpected terror had attacked them.
And thus, whoever it might be that fell there stayed clamped to the spot in this prison without bars.
Whether he was ploughman or shepherd, or somebody at work in the desert, he was still overtaken and suffered the inevitable fate, for all had been bound by the one same chain of darkness.
The soughing of the wind, the tuneful noise of birds in the spreading branches, the measured beat of water in its powerful course, the headlong din of rocks cascading down,
the unseen course of bounding animals, the roaring of the most savage of wild beasts, the echo rebounding from the clefts in the mountains, all held them paralysed with fear.
For the whole world shone with the light of day and, unhindered, went about its work;
over them alone there spread a heavy darkness, image of the dark that would receive them. But heavier than the darkness was the burden they were to themselves.
18 ( 1 – 4 )
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;
they thanked them for doing no injury in return for previous wrongs and asked forgiveness for their past ill-will.
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.
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.
••• BIBLICAL RESPONSES •••