God’s Punishment of Sinners*
1Do not yearn for worthless children,
or rejoice in wicked offspring.
2Even if they be many, do not rejoice in them
if they do not have fear of the LORD.
3Do not count on long life for them,a
or have any hope for their future.
For one can be better than a thousand;
rather die childless than have impious children!
4Through one wise person a city can be peopled;
but through a clan of rebels it becomes desolate.
5Many such things my eye has seen,
and even more than these my ear has heard.
6Against a sinful band fire is kindled,b
upon a godless people wrath blazes.*
7He did not forgive the princes of old*
who rebelled long ago in their might.c
8He did not spare the neighbors of Lot,* d
abominable in their pride.
9He did not spare the doomed people,*
dispossessed because of their sin;
10Nor the six hundred thousand foot soldiers,* e
sent to their graves for the arrogance of their hearts.
11Had there been but one stiff-necked* person,
it would be a wonder had he gone unpunished.
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
he remits and forgives, but also pours out wrath.
12Great as his mercy is his punishment;
he judges people, each according to their deeds.
13Criminals do not escape with their plunder;
the hope of the righteous, God never leaves unfulfilled.
14Whoever does good has a reward;
each receives according to their deeds.†
17Do not say: “I am hidden from God;
and on high who remembers me?
Among so many people I am unknown;
what am I in the world of spirits?
18Look, the heavens and the highest heavens,
the abyss and the earth tremble at his visitation.
19The roots of the mountains and the earth’s foundations—
at his mere glance they quiver and quake.
20Of me, therefore, he will take no notice;
with my ways who will be concerned?
21If I sin, no eye will see me;
if all in secret I act deceitfully, who is to know?f
22Who tells him about just deeds?
What can I expect for doing my duty?”
23Such the thoughts of the senseless;
only the foolish entertain them.
Divine Wisdom Seen in Creation*
24Listen to me, my son, and take my advice,
and apply your mind to my words,
25While I pour out my spirit by measure
and impart knowledge with care.
26When at the first God created his works
and, as he made them, assigned their tasks,g
27He arranged for all time what they were to do,
their domains from generation to generation.
They were not to go hungry or grow weary,
or ever cease from their tasks.
28Never does a single one crowd its neighbor,
or do any ever disobey his word.
29Then the Lord looked upon the earth,
and filled it with his blessings.h
30Its surface he covered with every kind of living creature
which must return into it again.
* [16:1–23] One child who does God’s will is a greater blessing than many sinful offspring (vv. 1–4), for history and experience show that God punishes sin (vv. 5–10). God judges everyone according to their deeds (vv. 11–14); no one can hide from God or escape retribution at his hand (vv. 17–23).
* [16:6] For Korah and his band (v. 6a), see 45:18–19; Nm 16:1–35; Ps 106:18; for the disgruntled Israelites (v. 6b), Ps 78:21–22.
* [16:7] The princes of old: e.g., the mighty destroyed in the flood (Gn 6:1–4; Wis 14:6; Bar 3:26–28), as well as the king of Babylon (Is 14:4–21) and Nebuchadnezzar (Dn 4:7–30).
* [16:8] Neighbors of Lot: the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, condemned elsewhere for their sexual violence (Gn 19:24–25) and failure at hospitality (Ez 16:49–50).
* [16:9] Doomed people: the Canaanite tribes whose aberrant religious practices, at least in Israelite opinion, caused their downfall: Ex 23:23–24, 27–33; 33:2; 34:11–16; Dt 7:1–2; Wis 12:3–7.
* [16:10] Six hundred thousand foot soldiers: the number given for those rescued by Moses, who murmured against the Lord in the wilderness and died there: 46:1, 7–8; Nm 11:20; 14:1–12, 22–24, 29, 36–38; 26:65; Dt 1:35–38.
* [16:11] Stiff-necked: sinful Israelites; cf. Ex 32:9; 33:3, 5. Not even one Israelite would have gone unpunished for insolence or pride.
† [16:14] Other ancient texts read as vv. 15–16:
15 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he did not recognize him
whose acts were manifest under the heavens;
16 His mercy was seen by all his creatures,
and his light and his darkness he apportioned to humankind.
* [16:24–17:23] In harmony with Gn 1–2, the author describes God’s wisdom in creating the universe and everything in it (vv. 24–30), endowing human beings with a moral nature, with wisdom, knowledge, and freedom of will (cf. 15:14) according to his own image (17:1–3, 7). Now they can govern the earth (vv. 3–4), praise God’s name (vv. 9–10), obey his law (vv. 11–14), and render to him an account of their deeds (v. 23). Cf. Ps 19; 104.
c. [16:7] Gn 6:4; Wis 14:6; Bar 3:26–28.