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Ezra’s Prayer of Complaint

In the thirtieth year after the destruction of our city, I Salathiel, who am also called Ezra, was in Babylon. I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon. My spirit was greatly agitated, and I began to speak anxious words to the Most High, and said, “O sovereign Lord, didst thou not speak at the beginning when thou didst form the earth—and that without help—and didst command the dust[a] and it gave[b] thee Adam, a lifeless body? Yet he was the workmanship of thy hands, and thou didst breathe into him the breath of life, and he was made alive in thy presence. And thou didst lead him into the garden which thy right hand had planted before the earth appeared. And thou didst lay upon him one commandment of thine; but he transgressed it, and immediately thou didst appoint death for him and for his descendants. From him there sprang nations and tribes, peoples and clans, without number. And every nation walked after its own will and did ungodly things before thee and scorned thee, and thou didst not hinder them. But again, in its time thou didst bring the flood upon the inhabitants of the world and destroy them. 10 And the same fate befell them: as death came upon Adam, so the flood upon them. 11 But thou didst leave one of them, Noah with his household, and all the righteous who have descended from him.

12 “When those who dwelt on earth began to multiply, they produced children and peoples and many nations, and again they began to be more ungodly than were their ancestors. 13 And when they were committing iniquity before thee, thou didst choose for thyself one of them, whose name was Abraham; 14 and thou didst love him, and to him only didst thou reveal the end of the times, secretly by night. 15 Thou didst make with him an everlasting covenant, and promise him that thou wouldst never forsake his descendants; and thou gavest to him Isaac, and to Isaac thou gavest Jacob and Esau. 16 And thou didst set apart Jacob for thyself, but Esau thou didst reject; and Jacob became a great multitude. 17 And when thou didst lead his descendants out of Egypt, thou didst bring them to Mount Sinai. 18 Thou didst bend down the heavens and shake[c] the earth, and move the world, and make the depths to tremble, and trouble the times. 19 And thy glory passed through the four gates of fire and earthquake and wind and ice, to give the law to the descendants of Jacob, and thy commandment to the posterity of Israel.

20 “Yet thou didst not take away from them their evil heart, so that thy law might bring forth fruit in them. 21 For the first Adam, burdened with an evil heart, transgressed and was overcome, as were also all who were descended from him. 22 Thus the disease became permanent; the law was in the people’s heart along with the evil root, but what was good departed, and the evil remained. 23 So the times passed and the years were completed, and thou didst raise up for thyself a servant, named David. 24 And thou didst command him to build a city for thy name, and in it to offer thee oblations from what is thine. 25 This was done for many years; but the inhabitants of the city transgressed, 26 in everything doing as Adam and all his descendants had done, for they also had the evil heart. 27 So thou didst deliver the city into the hands of thy enemies.

Babylon Compared with Zion

28 “Then I said in my heart, Are the deeds of those who inhabit Babylon any better? Is that why she has gained dominion over Zion? 29 For when I came here I saw ungodly deeds without number, and my soul has seen many sinners during these thirty years.[d] And my heart failed me, 30 for I have seen how thou dost endure those who sin, and hast spared those who act wickedly, and hast destroyed thy people, and hast preserved thy enemies, 31 and hast not shown to any one how thy way may be comprehended.[e] Are the deeds of Babylon better than those of Zion? 32 Or has another nation known thee besides Israel? Or what tribes have so believed thy covenants as these tribes of Jacob? 33 Yet their reward has not appeared and their labor has borne no fruit. For I have traveled widely among the nations and have seen that they abound in wealth, though they are unmindful of thy commandments. 34 Now therefore weigh in a balance our iniquities and those of the inhabitants of the world; and so it will be found which way the turn of the scale will incline. 35 When have the inhabitants of the earth not sinned in thy sight? Or what nation has kept thy commandments so well? 36 Thou mayest indeed find individual men who have kept thy commandments, but nations thou wilt not find.”


  1. 2 Esdras 3:4 Syr Ethiop
  2. 2 Esdras 3:5 Syr
  3. 2 Esdras 3:18 Syr Ethiop Arab 1 Georg: Lat didst set fast
  4. 2 Esdras 3:29 Ethiop Arab 1 Arm: Lat Syr in this thirtieth year
  5. 2 Esdras 3:31 Syr: Lat how this way should be forsaken

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