2 Esdras 3:1-9:25 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Ezra’s Prayer of Complaint
3 In the thirtieth year after the destruction of the city, I was in Babylon—I, Salathiel, who am also called Ezra. I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, 2 because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon. 3 My spirit was greatly agitated, and I began to speak anxious words to the Most High, and said, 4 “O sovereign Lord, did you not speak at the beginning when you planted[a] the earth—and that without help—and commanded the dust[b] 5 and it gave you Adam, a lifeless body? Yet he was the creation of your hands, and you breathed into him the breath of life, and he was made alive in your presence. 6 And you led him into the garden that your right hand had planted before the earth appeared. 7 And you laid upon him one commandment of yours; but he transgressed it, and immediately you appointed death for him and for his descendants. From him there sprang nations and tribes, peoples and clans without number. 8 And every nation walked after its own will; they did ungodly things in your sight and rejected your commands, and you did not hinder them. 9 But again, in its time you brought the flood upon the inhabitants of the world and destroyed them. 10 And the same fate befell all of them: just as death came upon Adam, so the flood upon them. 11 But you left one of them, Noah with his household, and all the righteous who have descended from him.
12 “When those who lived 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 in your sight, you chose for yourself one of them, whose name was Abraham; 14 you loved him, and to him alone you revealed the end of the times, secretly by night. 15 You made an everlasting covenant with him, and promised him that you would never forsake his descendants; and you gave him Isaac, and to Isaac you gave Jacob and Esau. 16 You set apart Jacob for yourself, but Esau you rejected; and Jacob became a great multitude. 17 And when you led his descendants out of Egypt, you brought them to Mount Sinai. 18 You bent down the heavens and shook[c] the earth, and moved the world, and caused the depths to tremble, and troubled the times. 19 Your glory passed through the four gates of fire and earthquake and wind and ice, to give the law to the descendants of Jacob, and your commandment to the posterity of Israel.
20 “Yet you did not take away their evil heart from them, so that your law might produce 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 hearts of the people 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 you raised up for yourself a servant, named David. 24 You commanded him to build a city for your name, and there to offer you oblations from what is yours. 25 This was done for many years; but the inhabitants of the city transgressed, 26 in everything doing just as Adam and all his descendants had done, for they also had the evil heart. 27 So you handed over your city to your 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 it 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 because I have seen how you endure those who sin, and have spared those who act wickedly, and have destroyed your people, and protected your enemies, 31 and have not shown to anyone how your way may be comprehended.[e] Are the deeds of Babylon better than those of Zion? 32 Or has another nation known you besides Israel? Or what tribes have so believed the 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 your commandments. 34 Now therefore weigh in a balance our iniquities and those of the inhabitants of the world; and it will be found which way the turn of the scale will incline. 35 When have the inhabitants of the earth not sinned in your sight? Or what nation has kept your commandments so well? 36 You may indeed find individuals who have kept your commandments, but nations you will not find.”
Limitations of the Human Mind
4 Then the angel that had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, answered 2 and said to me, “Your understanding has utterly failed regarding this world, and do you think you can comprehend the way of the Most High?” 3 Then I said, “Yes, my lord.” And he replied to me, “I have been sent to show you three ways, and to put before you three problems. 4 If you can solve one of them for me, then I will show you the way you desire to see, and will teach you why the heart is evil.”
5 I said, “Speak, my lord.”
And he said to me, “Go, weigh for me the weight of fire, or measure for me a blast[f] of wind, or call back for me the day that is past.”
6 I answered and said, “Who of those that have been born can do that, that you should ask me about such things?”
7 And he said to me, “If I had asked you, ‘How many dwellings are in the heart of the sea, or how many streams are at the source of the deep, or how many streams are above the firmament, or which are the exits of Hades, or which are the entrances[g] of paradise?’ 8 perhaps you would have said to me, ‘I never went down into the deep, nor as yet into Hades, neither did I ever ascend into heaven.’ 9 But now I have asked you only about fire and wind and the day—things that you have experienced and from which you cannot be separated, and you have given me no answer about them.” 10 He said to me, “You cannot understand the things with which you have grown up; 11 how then can your mind comprehend the way of the Most High? And how can one who is already worn out[h] by the corrupt world understand incorruption?”[i] When I heard this, I fell on my face[j] 12 and said to him, “It would have been better for us not to be here than to come here and live in ungodliness, and to suffer and not understand why.”
Parable of the Forest and the Sea
13 He answered me and said, “I went into a forest of trees of the plain, and they made a plan 14 and said, ‘Come, let us go and make war against the sea, so that it may recede before us and so that we may make for ourselves more forests.’ 15 In like manner the waves of the sea also made a plan and said, ‘Come, let us go up and subdue the forest of the plain so that there also we may gain more territory for ourselves.’ 16 But the plan of the forest was in vain, for the fire came and consumed it; 17 likewise also the plan of the waves of the sea was in vain,[k] for the sand stood firm and blocked it. 18 If now you were a judge between them, which would you undertake to justify, and which to condemn?”
19 I answered and said, “Each made a foolish plan, for the land has been assigned to the forest, and the locale of the sea a place to carry its waves.”
20 He answered me and said, “You have judged rightly, but why have you not judged so in your own case? 21 For as the land has been assigned to the forest and the sea to its waves, so also those who inhabit the earth can understand only what is on the earth, and he who is[l] above the heavens can understand what is above the height of the heavens.”
The New Age Will Make All Things Clear
22 Then I answered and said, “I implore you, my lord, why[m] have I been endowed with the power of understanding? 23 For I did not wish to inquire about the ways above, but about those things that we daily experience: why Israel has been given over to the Gentiles in disgrace; why the people whom you loved has been given over to godless tribes, and the law of our ancestors has been brought to destruction and the written covenants no longer exist. 24 We pass from the world like locusts, and our life is like a mist,[n] and we are not worthy to obtain mercy. 25 But what will he do for his[o] name that is invoked over us? It is about these things that I have asked.”
26 He answered me and said, “If you are alive, you will see, and if you live long,[p] you will often marvel, because the age is hurrying swiftly to its end. 27 It will not be able to bring the things that have been promised to the righteous in their appointed times, because this age is full of sadness and infirmities. 28 For the evil about which[q] you ask me has been sown, but the harvest of it has not yet come. 29 If therefore that which has been sown is not reaped, and if the place where the evil has been sown does not pass away, the field where the good has been sown will not come. 30 For a grain of evil seed was sown in Adam’s heart from the beginning, and how much ungodliness it has produced until now—and will produce until the time of threshing comes! 31 Consider now for yourself how much fruit of ungodliness a grain of evil seed has produced. 32 When heads of grain without number are sown, how great a threshing floor they will fill!”
When Will the New Age Come?
33 Then I answered and said, “How long?[r] When will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?” 34 He answered me and said, “Do not be in a greater hurry than the Most High. You, indeed, are in a hurry for yourself,[s] but the Highest is in a hurry on behalf of many. 35 Did not the souls of the righteous in their chambers ask about these matters, saying, ‘How long are we to remain here?[t] And when will the harvest of our reward come?’ 36 And the archangel Jeremiel answered and said, ‘When the number of those like yourselves is completed;[u] for he has weighed the age in the balance, 37 and measured the times by measure, and numbered the times by number; and he will not move or arouse them until that measure is fulfilled.’”
38 Then I answered and said, “But, O sovereign Lord, all of us also are full of ungodliness. 39 It is perhaps on account of us that the time of threshing is delayed for the righteous—on account of the sins of those who inhabit the earth.”
40 He answered me and said, “Go and ask a pregnant woman whether, when her nine months have been completed, her womb can keep the fetus within her any longer.”
41 And I said, “No, lord, it cannot.”
He said to me, “In Hades the chambers of the souls are like the womb. 42 For just as a woman who is in labor makes haste to escape the pangs of birth, so also do these places hasten to give back those things that were committed to them from the beginning. 43 Then the things that you desire to see will be disclosed to you.”
How Much Time Remains?
44 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, and if it is possible, and if I am worthy, 45 show me this also: whether more time is to come than has passed, or whether for us the greater part has gone by. 46 For I know what has gone by, but I do not know what is to come.”
47 And he said to me, “Stand at my right side, and I will show you the interpretation of a parable.”
48 So I stood and looked, and lo, a flaming furnace passed by before me, and when the flame had gone by I looked, and lo, the smoke remained. 49 And after this a cloud full of water passed before me and poured down a heavy and violent rain, and when the violent rainstorm had passed, drops still remained in the cloud.[v]
50 He said to me, “Consider it for yourself; for just as the rain is more than the drops, and the fire is greater than the smoke, so the quantity that passed was far greater; but drops and smoke remained.”
51 Then I prayed and said, “Do you think that I shall live until those days? Or who will be alive in those days?”
52 He answered me and said, “Concerning the signs about which you ask me, I can tell you in part; but I was not sent to tell you concerning your life, for I do not know.
Signs of the End
5 “Now concerning the signs: lo, the days are coming when those who inhabit the earth shall be seized with great terror,[w] and the way of truth shall be hidden, and the land shall be barren of faith. 2 Unrighteousness shall be increased beyond what you yourself see, and beyond what you heard of formerly. 3 And the land that you now see ruling shall be a trackless waste, and people shall see it desolate. 4 But if the Most High grants that you live, you shall see it thrown into confusion after the third period;[x]
and the sun shall suddenly begin to shine at night,
6 And one shall reign whom those who inhabit the earth do not expect, and the birds shall fly away together; 7 and the Dead Sea[z] 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.[aa] 8 There shall be chaos also in many places, fire shall often break out, the wild animals shall roam beyond their haunts, and menstruous women shall bring forth monsters. 9 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 One country shall ask its neighbor, ‘Has righteousness, or anyone who does right, passed through you?’ And it will answer, ‘No.’ 12 At that time people shall hope but not obtain; they shall labor, but their ways shall not prosper. 13 These are the signs that 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 woke up, 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, and do not forsake us, like a shepherd who leaves the flock in the power of savage wolves.”
19 Then I said to him, “Go away from me and do not come near me for seven days; then you may come to me.”
He heard what I said and left me. 20 So I fasted seven days, mourning and weeping, as the angel Uriel had commanded me.
Ezra’s Second Prayer of Complaint
21 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 I said, “O sovereign Lord, from every forest of the earth and from all its trees you have chosen one vine, 24 and from all the lands of the world you have chosen for yourself one region,[ab] and from all the flowers of the world you have chosen for yourself one lily, 25 and from all the depths of the sea you have filled for yourself one river, and from all the cities that have been built you have consecrated Zion for yourself, 26 and from all the birds that have been created you have named for yourself one dove, and from all the flocks that have been made you have provided for yourself one sheep, 27 and from all the multitude of peoples you have gotten for yourself one people; and to this people, whom you have loved, you have given the law that is approved by all. 28 And now, O Lord, why have you handed the one over to the many, and dishonored[ac] the one root beyond the others, and scattered your only one among the many? 29 And those who opposed your promises have trampled on those who believed your covenants. 30 If you really hate your people, they should be punished at your 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 He said to me, “Listen to me, and I will instruct you; pay attention to me, and I will tell you more.”
33 Then I said, “Speak, my lord.” And he said to me, “Are you greatly disturbed in mind over Israel? Or do you love him more than his Maker does?”
34 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 some part of his judgment.”
35 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, so that I would 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 out 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.”[ad]
38 I said, “O sovereign Lord, who is able to know these things except him whose dwelling is not with mortals? 39 As for me, I am without wisdom, and how can I speak concerning the things that you have 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 to my people.”
Why Successive Generations Have Been Created
41 I said, “Yet, O Lord, you have charge of those who are alive at the end, but what will those do who lived before me, or we, ourselves, or those who come after us?”
42 He said to me, “I shall liken my judgment to a circle;[ae] 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, “Could you not have created at one time those who have been and those who are and those who will be, so that you might show your judgment the sooner?”
44 He replied to me and said, “The creation cannot move faster than the Creator, nor can the world hold at one time those who have been created in it.”
45 I said, “How have you said to your servant that you[af] will certainly give life at one time to your creation? If therefore all creatures will live at one time[ag] 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[ah] 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 I have 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 I have made the same rule for the world that I created.”
When and How Will the End Come?
50 Then I inquired and said, “Since you have now given me the opportunity, let me speak before you. Is our mother, of whom you have 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 that already is aging and passing the strength of youth.”
56 I said, “I implore you, O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, show your servant through whom you will visit your creation.”
6 He said to me, “At the beginning of the circle of the earth, before[ai] the portals of the world were in place, and before the assembled winds blew, 2 and before the rumblings of thunder sounded, and before the flashes of lightning shone, and before the foundations of paradise were laid, 3 and before the beautiful flowers were seen, and before the powers of movements[aj] were established, and before the innumerable hosts of angels were gathered together, 4 and before the heights of the air were lifted up, and before the measures of the firmaments were named, and before the footstool of Zion was established, 5 and before the present years were reckoned and before the imaginations of those who now sin were estranged, and before those who stored up treasures of faith were sealed— 6 then I planned these things, and they were made through me alone and not through another; just as the end shall come through me alone and not through another.”
The Dividing of the Times
7 I answered and said, “What will be the dividing of the times? Or when will be the end of the first age and the beginning of the age that follows?”
8 He said to me, “From Abraham to Isaac,[ak] because from him were born Jacob and Esau, for Jacob’s hand held Esau’s heel from the beginning. 9 Now Esau is the end of this age, and Jacob is the beginning of the age that follows. 10 The beginning of a person is the hand, and the end of a person is the heel;[al] seek for nothing else, Ezra, between the heel and the hand, Ezra!”
More Signs of the End
11 I answered and said, “O sovereign Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, 12 show your servant the last of your signs of which you showed me a part on a previous night.”
13 He answered and said to me, “Rise to your feet and you will hear a full, resounding voice. 14 And if the place where you are standing is greatly shaken 15 while the voice is speaking, do not be terrified; because the word concerns the end, and the foundations of the earth will understand 16 that the speech concerns them. They will tremble and be shaken, for they know that their end must be changed.”
17 When I heard this, I got to my feet and listened; a voice was speaking, and its sound was like the sound of mighty[am] waters. 18 It said, “The days are coming when I draw near to visit the inhabitants of the earth, 19 and when I require from the doers of iniquity the penalty of their iniquity, and when the humiliation of Zion is complete. 20 When the seal is placed upon the age that is about to pass away, then I will show these signs: the books shall be opened before the face of the firmament, and all shall see my judgment[an] together. 21 Children a year old shall speak with their voices, and pregnant women shall give birth to premature children at three and four months, and these shall live and leap about. 22 Sown places shall suddenly appear unsown, and full storehouses shall suddenly be found to be empty; 23 the trumpet shall sound aloud, and when all hear it, they shall suddenly be terrified. 24 At that time friends shall make war on friends like enemies, the earth and those who inhabit it shall be terrified, and the springs of the fountains shall stand still, so that for three hours they shall not flow.
25 “It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. 26 And they shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death; and the heart of the earth’s[ao] inhabitants shall be changed and converted to a different spirit. 27 For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched; 28 faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome, and the truth, which has been so long without fruit, shall be revealed.”
Conclusion of the Second Vision
29 While he spoke to me, little by little the place where I was standing began to rock to and fro.[ap] 30 And he said to me, “I have come to show you these things this night.[aq] 31 If therefore you will pray again and fast again for seven days, I will again declare to you greater things than these,[ar] 32 because your voice has surely been heard by the Most High; for the Mighty One has seen your uprightness and has also observed the purity that you have maintained from your youth. 33 Therefore he sent me to show you all these things, and to say to you: ‘Believe and do not be afraid! 34 Do not be quick to think vain thoughts concerning the former times; then you will not act hastily in the last times.’”
The Third Vision
35 Now after this I wept again and fasted seven days in the same way as before, in order to complete the three weeks that had been prescribed for me. 36 Then on the eighth night my heart was troubled within me again, and I began to speak in the presence of the Most High. 37 My spirit was greatly aroused, and my soul was in distress.
God’s Work in Creation
38 I said, “O Lord, you spoke at the beginning of creation, and said on the first day, ‘Let heaven and earth be made,’ and your word accomplished the work. 39 Then the spirit was blowing, and darkness and silence embraced everything; the sound of human voices was not yet there.[as] 40 Then you commanded a ray of light to be brought out from your store-chambers, so that your works could be seen.
41 “Again, on the second day, you created the spirit of the firmament, and commanded it to divide and separate the waters, so that one part might move upward and the other part remain beneath.
42 “On the third day you commanded the waters to be gathered together in a seventh part of the earth; six parts you dried up and kept so that some of them might be planted and cultivated and be of service before you. 43 For your word went forth, and at once the work was done. 44 Immediately fruit came forth in endless abundance and of varied appeal to the taste, and flowers of inimitable color, and odors of inexpressible fragrance. These were made on the third day.
45 “On the fourth day you commanded the brightness of the sun, the light of the moon, and the arrangement of the stars to come into being; 46 and you commanded them to serve humankind, about to be formed.
47 “On the fifth day you commanded the seventh part, where the water had been gathered together, to bring forth living creatures, birds, and fishes; and so it was done. 48 The dumb and lifeless water produced living creatures, as it was commanded, so that therefore the nations might declare your wondrous works.
49 “Then you kept in existence two living creatures;[at] the one you called Behemoth[au] and the name of the other Leviathan. 50 And you separated one from the other, for the seventh part where the water had been gathered together could not hold them both. 51 And you gave Behemoth[av] one of the parts that had been dried up on the third day, to live in it, where there are a thousand mountains; 52 but to Leviathan you gave the seventh part, the watery part; and you have kept them to be eaten by whom you wish, and when you wish.
53 “On the sixth day you commanded the earth to bring forth before you cattle, wild animals, and creeping things; 54 and over these you placed Adam, as ruler over all the works that you had made; and from him we have all come, the people whom you have chosen.
Why Do God’s People Suffer?
55 “All this I have spoken before you, O Lord, because you have said that it was for us that you created this world.[aw] 56 As for the other nations that have descended from Adam, you have said that they are nothing, and that they are like spittle, and you have compared their abundance to a drop from a bucket. 57 And now, O Lord, these nations, which are reputed to be as nothing, domineer over us and devour us. 58 But we your people, whom you have called your firstborn, only begotten, zealous for you,[ax] and most dear, have been given into their hands. 59 If the world has indeed been created for us, why do we not possess our world as an inheritance? How long will this be so?”
Response to Ezra’s Questions
7 When I had finished speaking these words, the angel who had been sent to me on the former nights was sent to me again. 2 He said to me, “Rise, Ezra, and listen to the words that I have come to speak to you.”
3 I said, “Speak, my lord.” And he said to me, “There is a sea set in a wide expanse so that it is deep and vast, 4 but it has an entrance set in a narrow place, so that it is like a river. 5 If there are those who wish to reach the sea, to look at it or to navigate it, how can they come to the broad part unless they pass through the narrow part? 6 Another example: There is a city built and set on a plain, and it is full of all good things; 7 but the entrance to it is narrow and set in a precipitous place, so that there is fire on the right hand and deep water on the left. 8 There is only one path lying between them, that is, between the fire and the water, so that only one person can walk on the path. 9 If now the city is given to someone as an inheritance, how will the heir receive the inheritance unless by passing through the appointed danger?”
10 I said, “That is right, lord.” He said to me, “So also is Israel’s portion. 11 For I made the world for their sake, and when Adam transgressed my statutes, what had been made was judged. 12 And so the entrances of this world were made narrow and sorrowful and toilsome; they are few and evil, full of dangers and involved in great hardships. 13 But the entrances of the greater world are broad and safe, and yield the fruit of immortality. 14 Therefore unless the living pass through the difficult and futile experiences, they can never receive those things that have been reserved for them. 15 Now therefore why are you disturbed, seeing that you are to perish? Why are you moved, seeing that you are mortal? 16 Why have you not considered in your mind what is to come, rather than what is now present?”
The Fate of the Ungodly
17 Then I answered and said, “O sovereign Lord, you have ordained in your law that the righteous shall inherit these things, but that the ungodly shall perish. 18 The righteous, therefore, can endure difficult circumstances while hoping for easier ones; but those who have done wickedly have suffered the difficult circumstances and will never see the easier ones.”
19 He said to me, “You are not a better judge than the Lord,[ay] or wiser than the Most High! 20 Let many perish who are now living, rather than that the law of God that is set before them be disregarded! 21 For the Lord[az] strictly commanded those who came into the world, when they came, what they should do to live, and what they should observe to avoid punishment. 22 Nevertheless they were not obedient, and spoke against him;
they devised for themselves vain thoughts,
25 That is the reason, Ezra, that empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full.
The Temporary Messianic Kingdom
26 “For indeed the time will come, when the signs that I have foretold to you will come to pass, that the city that now is not seen shall appear,[ba] and the land that now is hidden shall be disclosed. 27 Everyone who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders. 28 For my son the Messiah[bb] shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. 29 After those years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath.[bc] 30 Then the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings, so that no one shall be left. 31 After seven days the world that is not yet awake shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. 32 The earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who rest there in silence; and the chambers shall give up the souls that have been committed to them. 33 The Most High shall be revealed on the seat of judgment, and compassion shall pass away, and patience shall be withdrawn.[bd] 34 Only judgment shall remain, truth shall stand, and faithfulness shall grow strong. 35 Recompense shall follow, and the reward shall be manifested; righteous deeds shall awake, and unrighteous deeds shall not sleep.[be] 36 The pit[bf] of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of hell[bg] shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. 37 Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised from the dead, ‘Look now, and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised. 38 Look on this side and on that; here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments.’ Thus he will[bh] speak to them on the day of judgment— 39 a day that has no sun or moon or stars, 40 or cloud or thunder or lightning, or wind or water or air, or darkness or evening or morning, 41 or summer or spring or heat or winter[bi] or frost or cold, or hail or rain or dew, 42 or noon or night, or dawn or shining or brightness or light, but only the splendor of the glory of the Most High, by which all shall see what has been destined. 43 It will last as though for a week of years. 44 This is my judgment and its prescribed order; and to you alone I have shown these things.”
Only a Few Will Be Saved
45 I answered and said, “O sovereign Lord, I said then and[bj] I say now: Blessed are those who are alive and keep your commandments! 46 But what of those for whom I prayed? For who among the living is there that has not sinned, or who is there among mortals that has not transgressed your covenant? 47 And now I see that the world to come will bring delight to few, but torments to many. 48 For an evil heart has grown up in us, which has alienated us from God,[bk] and has brought us into corruption and the ways of death, and has shown us the paths of perdition and removed us far from life—and that not merely for a few but for almost all who have been created.”
49 He answered me and said, “Listen to me, Ezra,[bl] and I will instruct you, and will admonish you once more. 50 For this reason the Most High has made not one world but two. 51 Inasmuch as you have said that the righteous are not many but few, while the ungodly abound, hear the explanation for this.
52 “If you have just a few precious stones, will you add to them lead and clay?”[bm] 53 I said, “Lord, how could that be?” 54 And he said to me, “Not only that, but ask the earth and she will tell you; defer to her, and she will declare it to you. 55 Say to her, ‘You produce gold and silver and bronze, and also iron and lead and clay; 56 but silver is more abundant than gold, and bronze than silver, and iron than bronze, and lead than iron, and clay than lead.’ 57 Judge therefore which things are precious and desirable, those that are abundant or those that are rare?”
58 I said, “O sovereign Lord, what is plentiful is of less worth, for what is more rare is more precious.”
59 He answered me and said, “Consider within yourself[bn] what you have thought, for the person who has what is hard to get rejoices more than the person who has what is plentiful. 60 So also will be the judgment[bo] that I have promised; for I will rejoice over the few who shall be saved, because it is they who have made my glory to prevail now, and through them my name has now been honored. 61 I will not grieve over the great number of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke—they are set on fire and burn hotly, and are extinguished.”
Lamentation of Ezra, with Response
62 I replied and said, “O earth, what have you brought forth, if the mind is made out of the dust like the other created things? 63 For it would have been better if the dust itself had not been born, so that the mind might not have been made from it. 64 But now the mind grows with us, and therefore we are tormented, because we perish and we know it. 65 Let the human race lament, but let the wild animals of the field be glad; let all who have been born lament, but let the cattle and the flocks rejoice. 66 It is much better with them than with us; for they do not look for a judgment, and they do not know of any torment or salvation promised to them after death. 67 What does it profit us that we shall be preserved alive but cruelly tormented? 68 For all who have been born are entangled in[bp] iniquities, and are full of sins and burdened with transgressions. 69 And if after death we were not to come into judgment, perhaps it would have been better for us.”
70 He answered me and said, “When the Most High made the world and Adam and all who have come from him, he first prepared the judgment and the things that pertain to the judgment. 71 But now, understand from your own words—for you have said that the mind grows with us. 72 For this reason, therefore, those who live on earth shall be tormented, because though they had understanding, they committed iniquity; and though they received the commandments, they did not keep them; and though they obtained the law, they dealt unfaithfully with what they received. 73 What, then, will they have to say in the judgment, or how will they answer in the last times? 74 How long the Most High has been patient with those who inhabit the world!—and not for their sake, but because of the times that he has foreordained.”
State of the Dead before Judgment
75 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, show this also to your servant: whether after death, as soon as everyone of us yields up the soul, we shall be kept in rest until those times come when you will renew the creation, or whether we shall be tormented at once?”
76 He answered me and said, “I will show you that also, but do not include yourself with those who have shown scorn, or number yourself among those who are tormented. 77 For you have a treasure of works stored up with the Most High, but it will not be shown to you until the last times. 78 Now concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone out from the Most High that a person shall die, as the spirit leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High. 79 If it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the way of the Most High, who have despised his law and hated those who fear God— 80 such spirits shall not enter into habitations, but shall immediately wander about in torments, always grieving and sad, in seven ways. 81 The first way, because they have scorned the law of the Most High. 82 The second way, because they cannot now make a good repentance so that they may live. 83 The third way, they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the covenants of the Most High. 84 The fourth way, they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days. 85 The fifth way, they shall see how the habitations of the others are guarded by angels in profound quiet. 86 The sixth way, they shall see how some of them will cross over[bq] into torments. 87 The seventh way, which is worse[br] than all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame,[bs] and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High in whose presence they sinned while they were alive, and in whose presence they are to be judged in the last times.
88 “Now this is the order of those who have kept the ways of the Most High, when they shall be separated from their mortal body.[bt] 89 During the time that they lived in it,[bu] they laboriously served the Most High, and withstood danger every hour so that they might keep the law of the Lawgiver perfectly. 90 Therefore this is the teaching concerning them: 91 First of all, they shall see with great joy the glory of him who receives them, for they shall have rest in seven orders. 92 The first order, because they have striven with great effort to overcome the evil thought that was formed with them, so that it might not lead them astray from life into death. 93 The second order, because they see the perplexity in which the souls of the ungodly wander and the punishment that awaits them. 94 The third order, they see the witness that he who formed them bears concerning them, that throughout their life they kept the law with which they were entrusted. 95 The fourth order, they understand the rest that they now enjoy, being gathered into their chambers and guarded by angels in profound quiet, and the glory waiting for them in the last days. 96 The fifth order, they rejoice that they have now escaped what is corruptible and shall inherit what is to come; and besides they see the straits and toil[bv] from which they have been delivered, and the spacious liberty that they are to receive and enjoy in immortality. 97 The sixth order, when it is shown them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on. 98 The seventh order, which is greater than all that have been mentioned, because they shall rejoice with boldness, and shall be confident without confusion, and shall be glad without fear, for they press forward to see the face of him whom they served in life and from whom they are to receive their reward when glorified. 99 This is the order of the souls of the righteous, as henceforth is announced;[bw] and the previously mentioned are the ways of torment that those who would not give heed shall suffer hereafter.”
100 Then I answered and said, “Will time therefore be given to the souls, after they have been separated from the bodies, to see what you have described to me?”
101 He said to me, “They shall have freedom for seven days, so that during these seven days they may see the things of which you have been told, and afterwards they shall be gathered in their habitations.”
No Intercession for the Ungodly
102 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, show further to me, your servant, whether on the day of judgment the righteous will be able to intercede for the ungodly or to entreat the Most High for them— 103 fathers for sons or sons for parents, brothers for brothers, relatives for their kindred, or friends for those who are most dear.”
104 He answered me and said, “Since you have found favor in my sight, I will show you this also. The day of judgment is decisive[bx] and displays to all the seal of truth. Just as now a father does not send his son, or a son his father, or a master his servant, or a friend his dearest friend, to be ill[by] or sleep or eat or be healed in his place, 105 so no one shall ever pray for another on that day, neither shall anyone lay a burden on another;[bz] for then all shall bear their own righteousness and unrighteousness.”
36 106 I answered and said, “How then do we find that first Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom, and Moses for our ancestors who sinned in the desert, 37 107 and Joshua after him for Israel in the days of Achan, 38 108 and Samuel in the days of Saul,[ca] and David for the plague, and Solomon for those at the dedication, 39 109 and Elijah for those who received the rain, and for the one who was dead, that he might live, 40 110 and Hezekiah for the people in the days of Sennacherib, and many others prayed for many? 41 111 So if now, when corruption has increased and unrighteousness has multiplied, the righteous have prayed for the ungodly, why will it not be so then as well?”
42 112 He answered me and said, “This present world is not the end; the full glory does not[cb] remain in it;[cc] therefore those who were strong prayed for the weak. 43 113 But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning[cd] of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away, 44 114 sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared. 45 115 Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on someone who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm[ce] someone who is victorious.”
Lamentation over the Fate of Most People
46 116 I answered and said, “This is my first and last comment: it would have been better if the earth had not produced Adam, or else, when it had produced him, had restrained him from sinning. 47 117 For what good is it to all that they live in sorrow now and expect punishment after death? 48 118 O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants. 49 119 For what good is it to us, if an immortal time has been promised to us, but we have done deeds that bring death? 50 120 And what good is it that an everlasting hope has been promised to us, but we have miserably failed? 51 121 Or that safe and healthful habitations have been reserved for us, but we have lived wickedly? 52 122 Or that the glory of the Most High will defend those who have led a pure life, but we have walked in the most wicked ways? 53 123 Or that a paradise shall be revealed, whose fruit remains unspoiled and in which are abundance and healing, but we shall not enter it 54 124 because we have lived in perverse ways?[cf] 55 125 Or that the faces of those who practiced self-control shall shine more than the stars, but our faces shall be blacker than darkness? 56 126 For while we lived and committed iniquity we did not consider what we should suffer after death.”
57 127 He answered and said, “This is the significance of the contest that all who are born on earth shall wage: 58 128 if they are defeated they shall suffer what you have said, but if they are victorious they shall receive what I have said.[cg] 59 129 For this is the way of which Moses, while he was alive, spoke to the people, saying, ‘Choose life for yourself, so that you may live!’ 60 130 But they did not believe him or the prophets after him, or even myself who have spoken to them. 61 131 Therefore there shall not be[ch] grief at their destruction, so much as joy over those to whom salvation is assured.”
Ezra Appeals to God’s Mercy
62 132 I answered and said, “I know, O Lord, that the Most High is now called merciful, because he has mercy on those who have not yet come into the world; 63 133 and gracious, because he is gracious to those who turn in repentance to his law; 64 134 and patient, because he shows patience toward those who have sinned, since they are his own creatures; 65 135 and bountiful, because he would rather give than take away;[ci] 66 136 and abundant in compassion, because he makes his compassions abound more and more to those now living and to those who are gone and to those yet to come— 67 137 for if he did not make them abound, the world with those who inhabit it would not have life— 68 138 and he is called the giver, because if he did not give out of his goodness so that those who have committed iniquities might be relieved of them, not one ten-thousandth of humankind could have life; 69 139 and the judge, because if he did not pardon those who were created by his word and blot out the multitude of their sins,[cj] 70 140 there would probably be left only very few of the innumerable multitude.”
8 He answered me and said, “The Most High made this world for the sake of many, but the world to come for the sake of only a few. 2 But I tell you a parable, Ezra. Just as, when you ask the earth, it will tell you that it provides a large amount of clay from which earthenware is made, but only a little dust from which gold comes, so is the course of the present world. 3 Many have been created, but only a few shall be saved.”
Ezra Again Appeals to God’s Mercy
4 I answered and said, “Then drink your fill of understanding,[ck] O my soul, and drink wisdom, O my heart. 5 For not of your own will did you come into the world,[cl] and against your will you depart, for you have been given only a short time to live. 6 O Lord above us, grant to your servant that we may pray before you, and give us a seed for our heart and cultivation of our understanding so that fruit may be produced, by which every mortal who bears the likeness[cm] of a human being may be able to live. 7 For you alone exist, and we are a work of your hands, as you have declared. 8 And because you give life to the body that is now fashioned in the womb, and furnish it with members, what you have created is preserved amid fire and water, and for nine months the womb[cn] endures your creature that has been created in it. 9 But that which keeps and that which is kept shall both be kept by your keeping.[co] And when the womb gives up again what has been created in it, 10 you have commanded that from the members themselves (that is, from the breasts) milk, the fruit of the breasts, should be supplied, 11 so that what has been fashioned may be nourished for a time; and afterwards you will still guide it in your mercy. 12 You have nurtured it in your righteousness, and instructed it in your law, and reproved it in your wisdom. 13 You put it to death as your creation, and make it live as your work. 14 If then you will suddenly and quickly[cp] destroy what with so great labor was fashioned by your command, to what purpose was it made? 15 And now I will speak out: About all humankind you know best; but I will speak about your people, for whom I am grieved, 16 and about your inheritance, for whom I lament, and about Israel, for whom I am sad, and about the seed of Jacob, for whom I am troubled. 17 Therefore I will pray before you for myself and for them, for I see the failings of us who inhabit the earth; 18 and now also[cq] I have heard of the swiftness of the judgment that is to come. 19 Therefore hear my voice and understand my words, and I will speak before you.”
The beginning of the words of Ezra’s prayer,[cr] before he was taken up. He said: 20 “O Lord, you who inhabit eternity,[cs] whose eyes are exalted[ct] and whose upper chambers are in the air, 21 whose throne is beyond measure and whose glory is beyond comprehension, before whom the hosts of angels stand trembling 22 and at whose command they are changed to wind and fire,[cu] whose word is sure and whose utterances are certain, whose command is strong and whose ordinance is terrible, 23 whose look dries up the depths and whose indignation makes the mountains melt away, and whose truth is established[cv] forever— 24 hear, O Lord, the prayer of your servant, and give ear to the petition of your creature; attend to my words. 25 For as long as I live I will speak, and as long as I have understanding I will answer. 26 O do not look on the sins of your people, but on those who serve you in truth. 27 Do not take note of the endeavors of those who act wickedly, but of the endeavors of those who have kept your covenants amid afflictions. 28 Do not think of those who have lived wickedly in your sight, but remember those who have willingly acknowledged that you are to be feared. 29 Do not will the destruction of those who have the ways of cattle, but regard those who have gloriously taught your law.[cw] 30 Do not be angry with those who are deemed worse than wild animals, but love those who have always put their trust in your glory. 31 For we and our ancestors have passed our lives in ways that bring death;[cx] but it is because of us sinners that you are called merciful. 32 For if you have desired to have pity on us, who have no works of righteousness, then you will be called merciful. 33 For the righteous, who have many works laid up with you, shall receive their reward in consequence of their own deeds. 34 But what are mortals, that you are angry with them; or what is a corruptible race, that you are so bitter against it? 35 For in truth there is no one among those who have been born who has not acted wickedly; among those who have existed[cy] there is no one who has not done wrong. 36 For in this, O Lord, your righteousness and goodness will be declared, when you are merciful to those who have no store of good works.”
Response to Ezra’s Prayer
37 He answered me and said, “Some things you have spoken rightly, and it will turn out according to your words. 38 For indeed I will not concern myself about the fashioning of those who have sinned, or about their death, their judgment, or their destruction; 39 but I will rejoice over the creation of the righteous, over their pilgrimage also, and their salvation, and their receiving their reward. 40 As I have spoken, therefore, so it shall be.
41 “For just as the farmer sows many seeds in the ground and plants a multitude of seedlings, and yet not all that have been sown will come up[cz] in due season, and not all that were planted will take root; so also those who have been sown in the world will not all be saved.”
42 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, let me speak. 43 If the farmer’s seed does not come up, because it has not received your rain in due season, or if it has been ruined by too much rain, it perishes.[da] 44 But people, who have been formed by your hands and are called your own image because they are made like you, and for whose sake you have formed all things—have you also made them like the farmer’s seed? 45 Surely not, O Lord[db] above! But spare your people and have mercy on your inheritance, for you have mercy on your own creation.”
Ezra’s Final Appeal for Mercy
46 He answered me and said, “Things that are present are for those who live now, and things that are future are for those who will live hereafter. 47 For you come far short of being able to love my creation more than I love it. But you have often compared yourself[dc] to the unrighteous. Never do so! 48 But even in this respect you will be praiseworthy before the Most High, 49 because you have humbled yourself, as is becoming for you, and have not considered yourself to be among the righteous. You will receive the greatest glory, 50 for many miseries will affect those who inhabit the world in the last times, because they have walked in great pride. 51 But think of your own case, and inquire concerning the glory of those who are like yourself, 52 because it is for you that paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built, rest is appointed,[dd] goodness is established and wisdom perfected beforehand. 53 The root of evil[de] is sealed up from you, illness is banished from you, and death[df] is hidden; Hades has fled and corruption has been forgotten;[dg] 54 sorrows have passed away, and in the end the treasure of immortality is made manifest. 55 Therefore do not ask any more questions about the great number of those who perish. 56 For when they had opportunity to choose, they despised the Most High, and were contemptuous of his law, and abandoned his ways. 57 Moreover, they have even trampled on his righteous ones, 58 and said in their hearts that there is no God—though they knew well that they must die. 59 For just as the things that I have predicted await[dh] you, so the thirst and torment that are prepared await them. For the Most High did not intend that anyone should be destroyed; 60 but those who were created have themselves defiled the name of him who made them, and have been ungrateful to him who prepared life for them now. 61 Therefore my judgment is now drawing near; 62 I have not shown this to all people, but only to you and a few like you.”
Then I answered and said, 63 “O Lord, you have already shown me a great number of the signs that you will do in the last times, but you have not shown me when you will do them.”
More about the Signs of the End
9 He answered me and said, “Measure carefully in your mind, and when you see that some of the predicted signs have occurred, 2 then you will know that it is the very time when the Most High is about to visit the world that he has made. 3 So when there shall appear in the world earthquakes, tumult of peoples, intrigues of nations, wavering of leaders, confusion of princes, 4 then you will know that it was of these that the Most High spoke from the days that were of old, from the beginning. 5 For just as with everything that has occurred in the world, the beginning is evident,[di] and the end manifest; 6 so also are the times of the Most High: the beginnings are manifest in wonders and mighty works, and the end in penalties[dj] and in signs.
7 “It shall be that all who will be saved and will be able to escape on account of their works, or on account of the faith by which they have believed, 8 will survive the dangers that have been predicted, and will see my salvation in my land and within my borders, which I have sanctified for myself from the beginning. 9 Then those who have now abused my ways shall be amazed, and those who have rejected them with contempt shall live in torments. 10 For as many as did not acknowledge me in their lifetime, though they received my benefits, 11 and as many as scorned my law while they still had freedom, and did not understand but despised it[dk] while an opportunity of repentance was still open to them, 12 these must in torment acknowledge it[dl] after death. 13 Therefore, do not continue to be curious about how the ungodly will be punished; but inquire how the righteous will be saved, those to whom the age belongs and for whose sake the age was made.”[dm]
The Argument Recapitulated
14 I answered and said, 15 “I said before, and I say now, and will say it again: there are more who perish than those who will be saved, 16 as a wave is greater than a drop of water.”
17 He answered me and said, “As is the field, so is the seed; and as are the flowers, so are the colors; and as is the work, so is the product; and as is the farmer, so is the threshing floor. 18 For there was a time in this age when I was preparing for those who now exist, before the world was made for them to live in, and no one opposed me then, for no one existed; 19 but now those who have been created in this world, which is supplied both with an unfailing table and an inexhaustible pasture,[dn] have become corrupt in their ways. 20 So I considered my world, and saw that it was lost. I saw that my earth was in peril because of the devices of those who[do] had come into it. 21 And I saw and spared some[dp] with great difficulty, and saved for myself one grape out of a cluster, and one plant out of a great forest.[dq] 22 So let the multitude perish that has been born in vain, but let my grape and my plant be saved, because with much labor I have perfected them.
23 “Now, if you will let seven days more pass—do not, however, fast during them, 24 but go into a field of flowers where no house has been built, and eat only of the flowers of the field, and taste no meat and drink no wine, but eat only flowers— 25 and pray to the Most High continually, then I will come and talk with you.”