The Book of Wisdom – Chapter 15

The Bible – Old Testament

The Book of Wisdom

The Book of Wisdom

Chapter 15


But you, our God, are good and true, slow to anger, and governing all with mercy.


For even if we sin, we are yours, and know your might; but we will not sin, knowing that we belong to you.


For to know you well is complete justice, and to know your might is the root of immortality.


For neither did the evil creation of men’s fancy deceive us, nor the fruitless labor of painters, A form smeared with varied colors,


the sight of which arouses yearning in the senseless man, till he longs for the inanimate form of a dead image.


Lovers of evil things, and worthy of such hopes are they who make them and long for them and worship them.


For truly the potter, laboriously working the soft earth, molds for our service each several article: Both the vessels that serve for clean purposes and their opposites, all alike; As to what shall be the use of each vessel of either class the worker in clay is the judge.


And with misspent toil he molds a meaningless god from the selfsame clay; though he himself shortly before was made from the earth And after a little, is to go whence he was taken, when the life that was lent him is demanded back.


But his concern is not that he is to die nor that his span of life is brief; Rather, he vies with goldsmiths and silversmiths and emulates molders of bronze, and takes pride in modeling counterfeits.


Ashes his heart is! more worthless than earth is his hope, and more ignoble than clay his life;


Because he knew not the one who fashioned him, and breathed into him a quickening soul, and infused a vital spirit.


Instead, he esteemed our life a plaything, and our span of life a holiday for gain; «For one must,» says he, «make profit every way, be it even out of evil.»


For this man more than any knows that he is sinning, when out of earthen stuff he creates fragile vessels and idols alike.


But all quite senseless, and worse than childish in mind, are the enemies of your people who enslaved them.


For they esteemed all the idols of the nations gods, which have no use of the eyes for vision, nor nostrils to snuff the air, Nor ears to hear, nor fingers on their hands for feeling; even their feet are useless to walk with.


For a man made them; one whose spirit has been lent him fashioned them. For no man succeeds in fashioning a god like himself;


being mortal, he makes a dead thing with his lawless hands. For he is better than the things he worships; he at least lives, but never they.


1 2 And besides, they worship the most loathsome beasts –  for compared as to folly, these are worse than the rest,


Nor for their looks are they good or desirable beasts, but they have escaped both the approval of God and his blessing.


1 [18-20] The author here returns to the main theme of Wisdom 10-19 which was interrupted by the digression ⇒ Wisdom 13:1-15, ⇒ 17.
2 [18] For . . . rest: this may mean that the creatures worshiped by the Egyptians (e.g., crocodiles, serpents, scarabs, etc.) were more patently lacking in intelligence than the general run of beasts; cf ⇒ Wisdom 11:15; ⇒ 12:24.