Background and Brief Notes on Wisdom 18:6-9
Posted by Dim Bulb on July 31, 2016
Background~The New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture entitles Wisdom 11:2-19:4 as a “Midrash on Pericope of Exodus,” (pericope is a Latin word meaning “selected text[s]”). The NABRE extends the section to the end of the book (i.e., 11:2-19:22) and entitles it the “Special Providence of God During the Exodus.” The author takes as his starting point various events from the Exodus and presents a series of contrasts to highlight God’s special care of His people (For through the very things by which their enemies were punished, they themselves received benefit in their need~11″5). In my opinion (following the New Jerusalem Bible and the Anchor Bible Commentary on Wisdom), there are seven contrasts. These contrasts are as follows:
III. Wis 16:5-14. Though God sent biting serpents among his people to “trouble” them “for a little while,” He also healed them when they looked upon the bronze serpent (Num 21:4-9). The Egyptians on the other hand were punished by biting insects (locust and flies) with no remedy for them (Ex 8:16-20; 10:4-15).
VI. Wis 18:5-25. The Egyptians who had killed the children of Israel (Ex 1:15-16) suffered the loss of their firstborn sons (Ex 11:1-10; 12:29-30), even as the holy children of God offered the Passover sacrifice (Ex 12:1-28). As a result the Egyptians were forced to acknowledge Israel as the child of God (Wis 18:13).
VII. Wis 19:1-12. The Egyptians broke off mourning their dead and chased after God’s people, only to lose their lives in the Red Sea while the Israelites passed through it safely (Ex 14:1-31) and celebrated (Ex 15:1-21).
Wis 18:6 That night was made known beforehand to our fathers, so that they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.
As the previous verse (Wis 18:5) makes clear, that night which was made known beforehand to our fathers is the night of the Passover and the tenth plague against Egypt (death of the firstborn. See Ex 11:1-12:36) whereby the people’s bondage was brought to an end. It was made known to the fathers by Moses (Ex 6:6-7; 11:4-7). The reason for their being informed about it beforehand is that they might have a trusting faith in God’s oaths and rejoice in their fulfillment.
In some sense it could be said that father Abraham knew of that night in advance inasmuch as he was informed by God that his descendants would be held in bondage for 400 years and then freed by God’s judgement against the nation which so held them (Ge 15:13-14).
Wis 18:7 The deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of their enemies were expected by thy people.
The people’s expectation of their deliverance and the destruction of their enemies is due to the trust they put in God’s oaths.
Wis 18:8 For by the same means by which thou didst punish our enemies thou didst call us to thyself and glorify us. By the same means highlights the basic principle of the seven contrasts outlined above (see Wis 11:6). In the immediate context this verse prepares for the contrasting experiences of God’s people and their enemies on Passover night (see Wis 18:10-13).
Wis 18:9 For in secret the holy children of good men offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the fathers.
Father James Reese comments: “The holy children of good men experienced the saving power of God’s word in their Passover sacrifices. This term implies that the meal sealed a special covenant for the generation of Moses by agreeing to the divine law.” (Reese, James M. “The Book of Wisdom, Son of Songs.” Old Testament Message: A Biblical-Theological Commentary. Vol. 20. Wilmington, Del: Michael Glazier Inc. 1983).