The Hidden Counsels of God*
A. ON SUFFERING*
1The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,a
and no torment shall touch them.
2They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
3and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.b
4For if to others, indeed, they seem punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
5Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.c
6As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
7In the time of their judgment* they shall shine
and dart about as sparks through stubble;e
8They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.f
9Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,g
and his care is with the elect.
10But the wicked shall receive a punishment to match their thoughts,*
since they neglected righteousness and forsook the LORD.
11For those who despise wisdom and instruction are doomed.h
Vain is their hope, fruitless their labors,
and worthless their works.i
12Their wives are foolish and their children wicked,
accursed their brood.j
B. ON CHILDLESSNESS*
13Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled,
never knew transgression of the marriage bed;
for she shall bear fruit at the judgment of souls.*
14So also the eunuch whose hand wrought no misdeed,
who held no wicked thoughts against the LORD—
For he shall be given fidelity’s choice reward*
and a more gratifying heritage in the LORD’s temple.k
15For the fruit of noble struggles is a glorious one;
16But the children of adulterers* will remain without issue,
and the progeny of an unlawful bed will disappear.m
17For should they attain long life, they will be held in no esteem,
and dishonored will their old age be in the end;
18Should they die abruptly, they will have no hope
nor comfort in the day of scrutiny;
19for dire is the end of the wicked generation.n
* [3:1–4:19] The central section of chaps. 1–6. The author begins by stating that immortality is the reward of the righteous, and then in the light of that belief comments on three points of the traditional discussion of the problem of retribution (suffering, childlessness, early death) each of which was often seen as a divine punishment.
* [3:6] Offerings: the image is that of the burnt offering, in which the victim is completely consumed by fire.
* [3:7] Judgment: the Greek episkopē is God’s loving judgment of those who have been faithful to him; the same word is used in 14:11 for the punishment of the wicked at God’s judgment. Cf. also v. 13.
* [3:15] Root of understanding: the root that is understanding (wisdom).