The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes on Wisdom 2:1, 12-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2012

Wis 2:1  For they have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell:

For they have said. A reference to the wicked and ungodly men introduced at the end of the last chapter with these words: But the wicked with works and words have called it  (i.e., death) to them: and esteeming it a friend, have fallen away and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof (Wisdom 1:16). Their culture of death philosophy is introduced here, and continues in the following verses. They reject the concept of immortality (Wisdom 2:1-5) and, as a result, adopt a “live for today alone” approach to the things of this world (Wisdom 2:6-9), and a “might makes right” approach to their fellow human beings (Wisdom 2:10-11). For this reason they persecute the just man whose life and very existence is a witness against them (Wisdom 2:12-20). But they err in thought, and are blinded by wickedness, unable to discern God’s plan for humanity (Wisdom 2:21-22). No doubt thinking themselves highly independent, each one priding himself on being his own man, they are in reality in the devil’s possession (Wisdom 2:23-24).

Verses 12-22 which forms the bulk of today’s readings concerns the suffering of the just man. As is the case with so many texts along these lines, this one is often applied to Christ in the liturgy. See the Responsorial Psalm used today (Psalm 34:17-23) and the Gospel reading (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30).

Wis 2:12  Let us, therefore, lie in wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.

The truly righteous man is a living witness against the sinner who cannot abide the testimony.They say he is not for our turn, i.e., he refuses to turn in their immoral direction. They are incensed that this is itself a witness against them: he is contrary to our doings. The righteous man thinks the time past is sufficient to have fulfilled the will of the Gentiles, for them who have walked in riotousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings and unlawful worshipping of idols, because they know a judgement is coming. The unrighteous, however, think it strange that you run not with them into the same confusion of riotousness (see 1 Peter 4:3-4).

(He) upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life

I’m reminded of the words of St John Chrysostom concerning St John the Baptist and King Herod:

So great a thing is virtue: so immortal is its memory, so completely even by words only doth it strike down its adversaries. For wherefore did he (Herod) cast him (John) into the prison? Wherefore did John not despise Herod? Was John going to drag him before the judgment-seat of Law? Did John demand vengeance upon Herod for his adultery? Was not what he said then simply a reproof? Why then doth Herod fear and tremble? Was it not words and talk merely? But they stung the king more than deeds. The prophet led Herod not to any judgment-seat, but he dragged him before that other tribunal of conscience; and he sets as judges upon him all who freely gave their verdicts in their thought. Therefore the tyrant trembled, unable to endure the lustre of virtue. Seest thou how great a thing is philosophy? It made a prisoner more lustrous than a king, and the latter is afraid and trembles before him. He indeed only put him in bonds; but that polluted woman rushed on to his slaughter also, although the rebuke was leveled rather against him, [than herself.] For he did not then meet “her” and say, Why cohabitest thou with the king? not that she was guiltless, (how should she be so?) but he wished by that other means to put all to rights. Wherefore he blamed the king, and yet not him with violence of manner. For he did not say, O polluted and all-polluted and lawless and profane one, thou hast trodden under foot the law of God, thou hast despised the commandments, thou hast made thy might law. None of these things; but even in his rebukings great was the gentleness of the man, great his meekness. For, “It is not lawful for! thee,” he says, “to have thy brother Philip’s wife.” The words are those of one who teacheth rather than reproveth, instructeth rather than chasteneth, who composeth to order rather than exposeth, who amendeth rather than trampleth on him. But, as I said, the light is hateful to the thief, and the mere sight of the just man is odious to sinners; “for he is grievous unto us even to behold” (Wisdom 2:15) For they cannot bear his radiance, even as diseased eyes cannot bear the sun’s. But to many of the wicked he is grievous not to behold only, but even to hear of. And therefore that polluted and all-polluted woman, the procuress of her girl, yea rather her murderess, although she had never seen him nor heard his voice, rushed on to his slaughter; and prepareth her whom she brought up in lasciviousnss to proceed also to murder, so extravagantly did she fear him (Homily 28 on 2 Corinthians).

Pope John Paul II (Veritatis Splendor #93)~By witnessing fully to the good, they (martyrs and saints) are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf.  Wisdom 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20)

(he) upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and divulgeth against us the sins of our way of life.

Christological: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint and anise and cummin and have left the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and faith. These things you ought to have done and not to leave those undone (Matt 23:23).

Wis 2:13  He boasteth that he hath the knowledge of God, and calleth himself the son of God.
Wis 2:14  He is become a censurer of our thoughts.

He hath the knowledge of God…He is become a censurer of our thoughts. Recall that these men were described as “reasoning within themselves, but not rightly (Wisdom 2:1). In their own thoughts they are deceived, and they know not the secrets of God (Wisdom 2:21-22).

He hath the knowledge of God.

Christological: And you have not known him: but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him and do keep his word (John 8:55).

And calleth himself the Son of God.

Christological:  And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, And saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.  In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking said: He saved others: himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross: and we will believe him.  He trusted in God: let him now deliver him if he will have him. For he said: I am the Son of God. (Matt 27:39-43).

Do you say of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world: Thou blasphemest; because I said: I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works: that you may know and believe that the Father is in me and I in the Father. They sought therefore to take him: and he escaped out of their hands (John 10:36-39).

He is become a censurer of our thoughts.

Christological: And he entered again into the synagogue: and there was a man there who had a withered hand. And they watched him whether he would heal on the sabbath days, that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand: Stand up in the midst. And he saith to them: Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to destroy? But they held their peace. And looking round about on them with anger, being grieved for the blindness of their hearts, he saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth: and his hand was restored unto him. And the Pharisees going out, immediately made a consultation with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him (Mark 3:1-6).

Wis 2:15  He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, and his ways are very different.

The very sight of the righteous man makes them irate. This statement of the unrighteous will take on added meaning in verses 17 and 19 (see notes below)

Wis 2:16  We are esteemed by him as triflers, and he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness, and he preferreth the latter end of the just, and glorieth that he hath God for his father.

Triflers because of their superficial philosophy (Wisdom 2:1-5) and the lifestyle they have embraced because of it (Wisdom 2:6-10). Triflers because they treat the righteous man of no account, and persecute him (Wisdom 2:12-20). They are thoroughly superficial:  clouds without water, which are carried about by winds: trees of the autumn, unfruitful, twice dead, plucked up by the roots: Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion: wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever (Jude 12-13).

Wis 2:17  Let us see then if his words be true, and let us prove what shall happen to him, and we shall know what his end shall be.
Wis 2:18  For if he be the true son of God, he will defend him, and will deliver him from the hands of his enemies.

In verse 15 they said, he is grievous to us, even to behold, but here they wish to try and test him to see for themselves if he is righteous and true, and if his end is as he hopes. Here they imitate Satan, the Devil, in whose possession they are (Wisdom 2:24-25, John 8:42-44), for he tempted Christ is just such a manner: If thou be the son of God…(Matt 4:1-11). See also Matt 27:39-43.

Wis 2:19  Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness, and try his patience.

Note the reference to examining and knowing. They bring up once again the theme of sight (verse 15 & 17) and knowledge (“reasoning with themselves”, verse 1). Also, having determined that we are born of nothing, and after this we shall be as if we had not been: for the breath in our nostrils is smoke (Wisdom 2:2), the unrighteous have decided that the lives of others of of no real consequence: Let us examine him by outrages and tortures.

Wis 2:20  Let us condemn him to a most shameful death: for there shall be respect had unto him by his words.

Modern translation such as the RSV differ regarding the second part of the verse: Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

Wis 2:21  These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them.
Wis 2:22  And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls.

These verses take us back to the beginning of the passage.


4 Responses to “My Notes on Wisdom 2:1, 12-22”

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