1Again, one preparing for a voyage and about to traverse the wild waves
cries out to wood more unsound than the boat that bears him.a
2For the urge for profits devised this latter,
and Wisdom the artisan produced it.
3* But your providence, O Father! guides it,
for you have furnished even in the sea a road,
and through the waves a steady path,b
4Showing that you can save from any danger,
so that even one without skill may embark.c
5But you will that the products of your Wisdom be not idle;
therefore people trust their lives even to most frail wood,
and were safe crossing the waves on a raft.d
6For of old, when the proud giants were being destroyed,
the hope of the universe, who took refuge on a raft,*
left to the world a future for the human family, under the guidance of your hand.
7For blest is the wood through which righteousness comes about;
8but the handmade idol is accursed, and its maker as well:
he for having produced it, and the corruptible thing, because it was termed a god.e
9Equally odious to God are the evildoer and the evil deed;
10and the thing made will be punished with its maker.
11Therefore upon even the idols of the nations shall a judgment come,
since they became abominable among God’s works,
Snares for human souls
and a trap for the feet of the senseless.f
The Origin and Evils of Idolatry
12For the source of wantonness is the devising of idols;
and their invention, a corruption of life.g
13For in the beginning they were not,
nor can they ever continue;h
14for from human emptiness they came into the world,
and therefore a sudden end is devised for them.
15* For a father, afflicted with untimely mourning,
made an image of the child so quickly taken from him,
And now honored as a god what once was dead
and handed down to his household mysteries and sacrifices.
16Then, in the course of time, the impious practice gained strength and was observed as law,
and graven things were worshiped by royal decrees.i
17People who lived so far away that they could not honor him in his presence
copied the appearance of the distant king
And made a public image of him they wished to honor,
out of zeal to flatter the absent one as though present.
18And to promote this observance among those to whom it was strange,
the artisan’s ambition provided a stimulus.
19For he, perhaps in his determination to please the ruler,
labored over the likeness* to the best of his skill;j
20And the masses, drawn by the charm of the workmanship,
soon took as an object of worship the one who shortly before was honored as a human being.k
21And this became a snare for the world,
that people enslaved to either grief or tyranny
conferred the incommunicable Name on stones and wood.
22Then it was not enough for them to err in their knowledge of God;l
but even though they live in a great war resulting from ignorance,
they call such evils peace.m
23For while they practice either child sacrifices or occult mysteries,
or frenzied carousing in exotic rites,n
24They no longer respect either lives or purity of marriage;
but they either waylay and kill each other, or aggrieve each other by adultery.
25And all is confusion—blood and murder, theft and guile,o
corruption, faithlessness, turmoil, perjury,
26Disturbance of good people, neglect of gratitude,
besmirching of souls, unnatural lust,
disorder in marriage, adultery and shamelessness.
27For the worship of infamous idols
is the reason and source and extreme of all evil.p
28For they either go mad with enjoyment, or prophesy lies,
or live lawlessly or lightly perjure themselves.q
29For as their trust is in lifeless idols,
they expect no harm when they have sworn falsely.
30But on both counts justice shall overtake them:
because they thought perversely of God by devoting themselves to idols,r
and because they deliberately swore false oaths, despising piety.*
31For it is not the might of those by whom they swear,
but the just retribution of sinners,
that ever follows upon the transgression of the wicked.*
* [14:3–6] The wooden ship mentioned in vv. 1–2 prompts a short meditation on the providence of God, who in fact has watched over boats in their dangerous courses. The wood as described in v. 7 became a favorite patristic type for the wood of the cross.
* [14:6] Noah.
* [14:15–21] The author develops two examples of idolatry: cult of the dead, and cult of the king.
* [14:19] Likeness: he made this more flattering than the reality.
* [14:30] Piety: the sanctity of oaths.
* [14:31] Perjury is a form of deceit which calls for punishment even though it be practiced in the name of a lifeless idol.
b. [14:3] Ps 107:23–30; Is 43:16.
f. [14:11] Wis 3:7; Nm 33:4; Jos 23:13; Ps 115:4; Jer 6:15; 10:15; 46:25; Hos 9:15.
i. [14:16] 1 Mc 1:47–50; Dn 3:4–7.
l. [14:22–31] Jer 2:20; 3:1–25; Hos 4:1–2, 9–19; Rom 1:26–31; Gal 5:19–21; 1 Tm 1:9–10.
m. [14:22] Jer 6:14; Ez 13:10.
n. [14:23] Wis 12:4–5; 14:15; Is 57:5.
o. [14:25–26] Jer 7:8–9; 22:17.