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2 Esdras 5 Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Signs of the End

“Now concerning the signs: behold, the days are coming when those who dwell on earth shall be seized with great terror,[a] and the way of truth shall be hidden, and the land shall be barren of faith. And unrighteousness shall be increased beyond what you yourself see, and beyond what you heard of formerly. And the land which you now see ruling shall be waste and untrodden,[b] and men shall see it desolate. But if the Most High grants that you live, you shall see it thrown into confusion after the third period;[c]

and the sun shall suddenly shine forth at night,
    and the moon during the day.
Blood shall drip from wood,
    and the stone shall utter its voice;
the peoples shall be troubled,
    and the stars shall fall.[d]

And one shall reign whom those who dwell on earth do not expect, and the birds shall fly away together; and the sea of Sodom shall cast up fish; and one whom the many do not know shall make his voice heard by night, and all shall hear his voice.[e] There shall be chaos also in many places, and fire shall often break out, and the wild beasts shall roam beyond their haunts, and menstruous women shall bring forth monsters. And salt waters shall be found in the sweet, and all friends shall conquer one another; then shall reason hide itself, and wisdom shall withdraw into its chamber, 10 and it shall be sought by many but shall not be found, and unrighteousness and unrestraint shall increase on earth. 11 And one country shall ask its neighbor, ‘Has righteousness, or any one who does right, passed through you?’ And it will answer, ‘No.’ 12 And at that time men shall hope but not obtain; they shall labor but their ways shall not prosper. 13 These are the signs which I am permitted to tell you, and if you pray again, and weep as you do now, and fast for seven days, you shall hear yet greater things than these.”

Conclusion of the Vision

14 Then I awoke, and my body shuddered violently, and my soul was so troubled that it fainted. 15 But the angel who had come and talked with me held me and strengthened me and set me on my feet.

16 Now on the second night Phaltiel, a chief of the people, came to me and said, “Where have you been? And why is your face sad? 17 Or do you not know that Israel has been entrusted to you in the land of their exile? 18 Rise therefore and eat some bread, so that you may not forsake us, like a shepherd who leaves his flock in the power of cruel wolves.”

19 Then I said to him, “Depart from me and do not come near me for seven days, and then you may come to me.”

He heard what I said and left me. 20 So I fasted seven days, mourning and weeping, as U′riel the angel had commanded me.

Ezra’s Second Prayer of Complaint

21 And after seven days the thoughts of my heart were very grievous to me again. 22 Then my soul recovered the spirit of understanding, and I began once more to speak words in the presence of the Most High. 23 And I said, “O sovereign Lord, from every forest of the earth and from all its trees thou hast chosen one vine, 24 and from all the lands of the world thou hast chosen for thyself one region,[f] and from all the flowers of the world thou hast chosen for thyself one lily, 25 and from all the depths of the sea thou hast filled for thyself one river, and from all the cities that have been built thou hast consecrated Zion for thyself, 26 and from all the birds that have been created thou hast named for thyself one dove, and from all the flocks that have been made thou hast provided for thyself one sheep, 27 and from all the multitude of peoples thou hast gotten for thyself one people; and to this people, whom thou hast loved, thou hast given the law which is approved by all. 28 And now, O Lord, why hast thou given over the one to the many, and dishonored[g] the one root beyond the others, and scattered thine only one among the many? 29 And those who opposed thy promises have trodden down those who believed thy covenants. 30 If thou dost really hate thy people, they should be punished at thy own hands.”

Response to Ezra’s Complaints

31 When I had spoken these words, the angel who had come to me on a previous night was sent to me, 32 and he said to me, “Listen to me, and I will instruct you; pay attention to me, and I will tell you more.”

33 And I said, “Speak, my lord.” And he said to me, “Are you greatly disturbed in mind over Israel?[h] Or do you love him more than his Maker does?”

34 And I said, “No, my lord, but because of my grief I have spoken; for every hour I suffer agonies of heart, while I strive to understand the way of the Most High and to search out part of his judgment.”

35 And he said to me, “You cannot.” And I said, “Why not, my lord? Why then was I born? Or why did not my mother’s womb become my grave, that I might not see the travail of Jacob and the exhaustion of the people of Israel?”

36 He said to me, “Count up for me those who have not yet come, and gather for me the scattered raindrops, and make the withered flowers bloom again for me; 37 open for me the closed chambers, and bring forth for me the winds shut up in them, or show me the picture of a voice; and then I will explain to you the travail that you ask to understand.”[i]

38 And I said, “O sovereign Lord, who is able to know these things except he whose dwelling is not with men? 39 As for me, I am without wisdom, and how can I speak concerning the things which thou hast asked me?”

40 He said to me, “Just as you cannot do one of the things that were mentioned, so you cannot discover my judgment, or the goal of the love that I have promised my people.”

Why Successive Generations Have Been Created

41 And I said, “Yet behold, O Lord, thou dost have charge of those who are alive at the end, but what will those do who were before us, or we, or those who come after us?”

42 He said to me, “I shall liken my judgment to a circle;[j] just as for those who are last there is no slowness, so for those who are first there is no haste.”

43 Then I answered and said, “Couldst thou not have created at one time those who have been and those who are and those who will be, that thou mightest show thy judgment the sooner?”

44 He replied to me and said, “The creation cannot make more haste than the Creator, neither can the world hold at one time those who have been created in it.”

45 And I said, “How hast thou said to thy servant that thou[k] wilt certainly give life at one time to thy creation? If therefore all creatures will live at one time[l] and the creation will sustain them, it might even now be able to support all of them present at one time.”

46 He said to me, “Ask a woman’s womb, and say to it, ‘If you bear ten[m] children, why one after another?’ Request it therefore to produce ten at one time.”

47 I said, “Of course it cannot, but only each in its own time.”

48 He said to me, “Even so have I given the womb of the earth to those who from time to time are sown in it. 49 For as an infant does not bring forth, and a woman who has become old does not bring forth any longer, so have I organized the world which I created.”

When and How Will the End Come?

50 Then I inquired and said, “Since thou hast now given me the opportunity, let me speak before thee. Is our mother, of whom thou hast told me, still young? Or is she now approaching old age?”

51 He replied to me, “Ask a woman who bears children, and she will tell you. 52 Say to her, “Why are those whom you have borne recently not like those whom you bore before, but smaller in stature?‘ 53 And she herself will answer you, ‘Those born in the strength of youth are different from those born during the time of old age, when the womb is failing.’ 54 Therefore you also should consider that you and your contemporaries are smaller in stature than those who were before you, 55 and those who come after you will be smaller than you, as born of a creation which already is aging and passing the strength of youth.”

56 And I said, “O Lord, I beseech thee, if I have found favor in thy sight, show thy servant through whom thou dost visit thy creation.”


  1. 2 Esdras 5:1 Syr: Ethiop confusion: Latin is uncertain
  2. 2 Esdras 5:3 Syr: Latin is corrupt
  3. 2 Esdras 5:4 Literally after the third; Ethiop after three months; Arm after the third vision; Georg after the third day
  4. 2 Esdras 5:5 Ethiop Compare Syr and Arab: Latin is uncertain
  5. 2 Esdras 5:7 Cn: Lat fish; and it shall make its voice heard by night, which the many have not known, but all shall hear its voice.
  6. 2 Esdras 5:24 Ethiop: Lat pit
  7. 2 Esdras 5:28 Syr Ethiop Arab: Lat prepared
  8. 2 Esdras 5:33 Or You are greatly distracted in mind over Israel.
  9. 2 Esdras 5:37 Lat see
  10. 2 Esdras 5:42 Or crown
  11. 2 Esdras 5:45 Syr Ethiop Arab 1: Latin text is uncertain
  12. 2 Esdras 5:45 Latin omits If . . . one time
  13. 2 Esdras 5:46 Syr Ethiop Arab 2 Arm: Latin text is corrupt
Revised Standard Version (RSV)

Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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