1* But you, our God, are good and true,
slow to anger, and governing all with mercy.a
2For even if we sin, we are yours, and know your might;
but we will not sin, knowing that we belong to you.b
3For to know you well is complete righteousness,
and to know your might is the root of immortality.c
4For the evil creation of human fancy did not deceive us,
nor the fruitless labor of painters,d
A form smeared with varied colors,
5the sight of which arouses yearning in a fool,
till he longs for the inanimate form of a dead image.
6Lovers of evil things, and worthy of such hopes
are they who make them and long for them and worship them.e
The Potter’s Clay Idols
7For the potter, laboriously working the soft earth,
molds for our service each single article:
He fashions out of the same clay
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.f
8* With misspent toil he molds a meaningless god from the selfsame clay,
though he himself shortly before was made from the earth,
And is soon to go whence he was taken,
when the life that was lent him is demanded back.g
9But 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 fashioning counterfeits.h
10Ashes his heart is!* more worthless than earth is his hope,i
more ignoble than clay his life;
11Because he knew not the one who fashioned him,
and breathed into him a quickening soul,
and infused a vital spirit.j
12Instead, he esteemed our life a mere game,
and our span of life a holiday for gain;
“For one must,” says he, “make a profit in every way, be it even from evil.”k
13For more than anyone else he knows that he is sinning,
when out of earthen stuff he creates fragile vessels and idols alike.
14But most stupid of all and worse than senseless in mind,
are the enemies of your people who enslaved them.l
15For they esteemed all the idols of the nations as gods,
which cannot use their eyes to see,
nor nostrils to breathe the air,
Nor ears to hear,
nor fingers on their hands for feeling;
even their feet are useless to walk with.m
16For it was a mere human being who made them;n
one living on borrowed breath who fashioned them.
For no one is able to fashion a god like himself;
17he is mortal, and what he makes with lawless hands is dead.
For he is better than the things he worships;
he at least lives, but never his idols.
Second Example Resumed
18* Besides, they worship the most loathsome beasts—o
as regards stupidity, these are worse than the rest,*
19For beasts are neither good-looking nor desirable;
they have escaped both the approval of God and his blessing.p
* [15:1–3] As often before (11:26; 12:2; 14:3–6), the author addresses God directly, so that chaps. 11–19 can be conceived as a more or less continuous prayer (cf. 11:7 and 19:22). This is the living God who is in stark contrast to the deadness of the idols that have been discussed. The merciful God (cf. Ex 34:6) is the source of immortality (1:15) for the community.
* [15:8–9] The author matches the irony of his words about the carpenter in 13:15–19 with this description of the potter’s vain work.
* [15:10] Ashes his heart is!: the words of this cry are taken from Is 44:20 (the Septuagint).
* [15:18–19] The author here returns (11:15; 12:23–27) to the main theme of chaps. 11–19, which was interrupted by the digression of 13:1–15:17.
* [15:18] Worse than the rest: this may mean that the creatures worshiped by the Egyptians (e.g., crocodiles, serpents, scarabs, etc.) were less intelligent than the general run of beasts.
a. [15:1] Ex 34:6–7; Ps 86:5, 15; 145:8, 9, 14.
f. [15:7] Wis 13:11; Jer 18:3–4; Rom 9:21; 2 Tm 2:20–21.
m. [15:15] Wis 14:11; Dt 4:28; Ps 115:4–7; 135:15–18.