2 Esdras 16 Common English Bible (CEB)
Oracles of doom against the nations
16 How terrible it will be for you, Babylon and Asia! How terrible for you, Egypt and Syria! 2 Dress yourselves in mourning clothes. Howl over your children and grieve for them, because distress has drawn near to you. 3 The sword has been sent against you, and who can turn it away? 4 Fire has been sent against you, and who can extinguish it? 5 Disasters are sent against you, and who can ward them off? 6 Can anyone ward off a hungry lion in the woods? Or put out a fire in dried hay, once it has begun to burn? 7 Or repel an arrow shot by a strong archer? 8 The Lord God sends disasters; who can ward them off? 9 His anger blazes like fire; who can extinguish it? 10 When lightning flashes, who isn’t afraid? When it thunders, who doesn’t feel fear? 11 The Lord threatens, and who isn’t shaken to the core in his presence? 12 The earth and its foundations shake. The sea heaves from the deep; its waves and fish are sent into turmoil when the Lord shows his face and reveals the glory of his power. 13 The one who shoots the arrow is mighty in glory; the tip of the arrow he releases is sharp and won’t miss when it’s shot to the ends of the earth. 14 Look, disasters are sent forth, and they don’t turn back until they fall upon the earth. 15 Fire is lit and not extinguished until it consumes the foundations of the earth. 16 As an arrow that is shot by a powerful archer doesn’t turn back, so the disasters that will be unleashed upon the earth won’t turn back.
17 I am doomed! I am doomed! Who will save me when those days arrive?
18 The beginning of groaning and an abundance of sighing! The beginning of famine, and many will perish; the beginning of wars, and powerful ones will be afraid; the beginning of disasters, and all will be terrified. 19 What will they do when the disasters come? 20 Look! A plague of famine has been sent out, and the distress it inflicts is like a whip, a punishment for discipline. 21 But in the midst of all these, they won’t turn from their sins and won’t keep the plagues in mind.
22 Look! In a short time provisions will be so cheap on earth that people will think that peace has been established for them, but then disasters will blossom all over the earth—the sword and famine. 23 They will lack life’s necessities, and the sword will scatter those who survive the famine. 24 The dead will be tossed out like dung, and there will be no one to console them, for the earth will be left abandoned, and its cities will be cast down. 25 No farmer will be left to till the ground or to sow seed upon it. 26 Trees will yield fruit, but who will harvest them? 27 Grapes will ripen, but who will gather them? There will be vast, empty wastelands. 28 A person will want to see another human being and hear his voice. 29 Ten will survive out of an entire city; out of a field only two who have hidden themselves in dense groves and fissures in the rocks will be left. 30 As three or four olives are left on individual trees in an olive orchard, 31 or as in a vineyard that has been harvested a few clusters are left by those who diligently search the vineyard, 32 so in those days three or four will be left by those who search house to house with the sword. 33 The earth will be left desolate, and its fields will be taken over by thornbushes, and its roads and all its paths will sprout thorns, because sheep won’t pass on them. 34 Virgins will mourn, having no bridegrooms; women will mourn, having no husbands; their daughters will mourn, having no support. 35 Their grooms will be killed in war, and their husbands will perish from famine.
Exhortations to God’s suffering people
36 Listen to these things and understand them, you servants of the Lord. 37 Here is the Lord’s word. Accept it. Don’t disbelieve the things that the Lord speaks about. 38 Look, the disasters are approaching and won’t be delayed. 39 A woman in the ninth month of pregnancy, when the hour for giving birth arrives, experiences great pains around her womb for two or three hours beforehand, but when the infant is ready to come forth from the womb she doesn’t delay for a moment. 40 In the same way, these disasters won’t delay to come forth on the earth, but the world will groan and pangs will envelop it.
41 Hear the word, my people. Prepare yourselves for battle, and in the midst of disasters be like strangers on earth. 42 Let the person who sells be like a person who is about to run away, and let the person who buys be like a person who is about to lose. 43 Let one who does business be as one who makes no profit; one who builds as one who won’t get to live in the building; 44 one who sows as one who will not reap; one who prunes as one who will not harvest; 45 those who get married as people who will have no children; and those who don’t marry as though they were widowed, 46 because those who toil, toil for no reason. 47 Foreigners will gather their fruits, plunder their wealth, knock down their houses, and take their children captive, for in captivity and hunger they will produce their offspring. 48 Those who transact business do so only to be plundered. The longer they adorn their cities and houses, possessions and persons, 49 the more I will be enraged against them on account of their sins, says the Lord. 50 Just as a proper and good woman is enraged at a woman who is promiscuous,[a] 51 so justice will be enraged against sin when it tries to make itself beautiful, and will accuse it to its face since he who defends will come, hunting up sins on the earth. 52 Therefore, don’t be like it or its ways.
53 Look, just a little longer and sin will be removed from the earth and justice will rule over us. 54 Let sinners not deny that they have sinned, for God will burn coals of fire over the head of those who say, “I haven’t sinned before God and his glory.” 55 Look, the Lord knows all the works of humanity, their devices, their plotting, and their hearts. 56 He said, “Let the earth be made,” and it was made; “Let heaven be made” and it was made. 57 At his word the stars were established, and he knows their number. 58 He examines the abyss and its treasuries. He measures the sea and its contents. 59 He shut up the sea in the midst of the waters and suspended the earth over the waters by his word. 60 He stretched out the heaven like a vaulted ceiling and sank its pillars into the waters. 61 He put springs of water in the desert and lakes on the tops of mountains to send forth rivers from on high so that the earth might drink. 62 He formed the human being and put a heart in the middle of his body and gave him spirit, life, and intelligence 63 and the breath of God almighty, who made all things and examines the things that are hidden in dark corners. 64 He certainly knows your designs and what you think in your hearts.
How terrible it will be for those who sin and want to hide their sins. 65 The Lord will certainly examine all their works and will put you all on parade. 66 You will be put to shame when your sins are paraded before people; your own sins will stand up as your accusers on that day. 67 What will you do? How will you hide your sins before God and his glory? 68 Look, God is judge. Fear him. Stop sinning and forget your wicked practices, never again to commit them. Then God will lead you out and deliver you from all tribulation.
69 Look, the rage of a large crowd will be stirred up against you. They will take some of you and try to feed you meat that was sacrificed to idols. 70 Those who consent to this will be mocked and disgraced by them and trampled underfoot. 71 There will be great uprisings against those who fear the Lord in many places and in neighboring cities. 72 People will be like maniacs on account of their own distress. They will spare no one, seeking to plunder and destroy those who still fear the Lord. 73 They will destroy and rob their possessions and throw them out of their own homes. 74 In that time, the genuine commitment of my chosen ones will be shown, as gold that is tested by fire.
75 Listen, my chosen ones, says the Lord, the days of distress are at hand, and I will deliver you from these. 76 Don’t fear or hesitate, for God is your leader. 77 You who keep my commandments and precepts, says the Lord God, don’t let your sins drag you down, and don’t let wickedness get the upper hand over you. 78 How terrible it will be for those who are choked by their sins and covered over by their iniquities, as a field is choked by overgrowth and its paths are covered over by thorns so that a human being can’t pass through. It is shut off and consigned to destruction by fire.