2 Esdras 9:1-10:50 Common English Bible (CEB)
9 He answered me: “Measure carefully within yourself, and when you see that a certain part of the signs that were predicted have passed, 2 then you will understand that the time has come in which the Most High will begin to visit the world that he made. 3 When the movement of places, tumult of peoples, plotting of nations, inconstancy of leaders, and confusion of princes appear in the world, 4 then you will understand that it was about these things that the Most High spoke from former days, from the beginning. 5 Just as with everything that has happened in the world, the beginning is known from the end,[a] and the end comes to be seen, 6 so also are the times of the Most High. The beginnings are manifest in prodigies and mighty works, and the end is evident in deeds and in signs. 7 All this—who will be saved, who will be able to escape through their works or through the faith with which they believe— 8 will survive the predicted dangers and will see my salvation in my land and within my borders, which I have made holy for myself for a long time. 9 Then whoever has now abused my ways will be astonished, and whoever rejected them in contempt will linger in agony. 10 Those who didn’t acknowledge me when they were alive, even though they received benefits; 11 those who despised my Law while they were enjoying freedom 12 and didn’t come to their senses but continued to scoff while the opportunity for a changed life was still open to them—these people must acknowledge me in torment after death. 13 But don’t be curious any longer about how the wicked will be tortured. Instead, inquire how and when the righteous, to whom the world belongs and because of whom the world exists, will be saved.”
14 I answered, 15 “I said before and now will say again that those who perish are more numerous than those who are saved, 16 just as a wave is greater than a drop.”
17 He answered me: “As the field is, so is the seed; and as the flowers, so also the colors; as the labor, so also the product;[b] and as the farmer, so the threshing floor. 18 There was a time in this world—when I was preparing for those who now are, before the world in which they would dwell was made for them—no one opposed me, because no one existed yet. 19 Now, however, those who have been created in this world—a world furnished with both an inexhaustible table and an endless pasture[c]—have become corrupt in their habits. 20 I considered the earth—and, observe, it was ruined. I considered my world, and, observe, it was in danger because of the intrigues of those who had come into it. 21 I saw and spared them with great difficulty; I saved for myself one grape out of a cluster and one plant out of a great forest.[d] 22 Therefore, let the multitude that was born without purpose perish, and let my grape and my plant be preserved, because I perfected these with much effort. 23 But let seven more days pass. Don’t fast during this time, 24 but go into a field of flowers, where no house is built, and eat only of the flowers of the field. Don’t taste meat, and don’t drink wine, but eat only flowers. 25 Pray to the Most High without pause, and I will come and talk to you.”
Vision of the woman in mourning
26 I went out as he told me into the field that is called Ardat. I sat there among the flowers, I ate of the plants of the field, and their food satisfied me. 27 After seven days I was lying on the grass, and my heart was disturbed again as before. 28 My mouth was opened and I began to say before the Most High: 29 “Lord, you revealed yourself to us, to our ancestors in the wilderness, when they were going out from Egypt and when they were coming into the desert that no one crossed and that bore no fruit. You said: 30 Listen to me, Israel! Offspring of Jacob, pay attention to what I say! 31 Look, I am sowing my Law in you, and it will bear fruit in you, and you will be glorified in it forever. 32 Though our parents received the Law, they didn’t keep it and didn’t observe what was lawful. The fruit of the Law didn’t perish, nor could it, since it was yours. 33 Yet those who received it perished, not keeping what was sown in them. 34 Normally, when the ground receives seed or the sea a ship or some other container food or drink, and when it happens that what was sown or what was sent or what was received is destroyed, 35 those things themselves are destroyed, but the containers remain. But this hasn’t been so in our case. 36 We who received the Law sinned and will perish, along with our hearts that received it; 37 yet the Law doesn’t perish but remains in its glory.”
38 While I was saying these things in my heart, I looked with my eyes and saw a woman to my right. She was lamenting and crying with a loud voice, and she was experiencing deep grief. Her clothes were torn, and there were ashes on her head. 39 I dismissed my own thoughts, turned to her, and said, 40 “Why are you weeping, and why do you grieve so deeply?”
41 She said to me, “Leave me alone, sir, so that I may weep for myself and continue in my grief, because I am very bitter inside, and I am depressed.”
42 I said to her, “What have you suffered? Tell me!”
43 She said to me: “I, your servant, was infertile, and I hadn’t given birth, although I had a husband for thirty years. 44 Hour after hour and day after day during these thirty years I pleaded with the Most High by night and day. 45 After thirty years God heard your servant and saw how dejected I was. He attended to my distress and gave me a son. I rejoiced greatly over him, as did my husband and all my fellow citizens, and we greatly honored the mighty one. 46 I nourished my son with much labor, 47 and when he grew up, I came to take a wife for him and set the day of the marriage feast.
10 “But it happened that when my son went into his wedding chamber, he fell down and died. 2 We extinguished all our lamps, and all my fellow citizens rose to console me. I was quiet until the next day, until nightfall. 3 But when all ceased consoling me so that I would be quiet, I got up at night and fled, and I came into this field, as you see. 4 Now I plan not to return to the city but to stay here, and I will neither eat nor drink but lament and fast without ceasing, until I die.”
5 I abandoned the thoughts that had preoccupied me and responded to her in anger: 6 “Most foolish of all women, don’t you see our grief and what has befallen us? 7 Zion the mother of us all is afflicted in sadness and utterly dejected. Grieve mightily 8 now because we all grieve, and be sorrowful because we are all sorrowful. But you are mourning only for one son![e] 9 Ask the earth, and she will tell you that she is the one who should mourn, since so many have sprouted upon her. 10 From her, from the beginning, all have been born and others will come. Look, nearly all go to ruin, and their multitude is doomed to destruction. 11 Who then ought to mourn the more? Shouldn’t she who has lost such a great multitude rather than you, who grieve for one? 12 Perhaps you say to me, ‘My lamentation isn’t like that of the earth, because I lost the fruit of my womb, which I bore with pains and brought forth with sorrows. 13 The earth, however, is just following the way of the earth; the multitude that is present on it goes as it came.’ 14 I would then say to you, ‘As you gave birth with grief, so also from the beginning the earth yielded its fruit, humanity, to him who made it.’ 15 Therefore, keep your grief to yourself, and bear valiantly whatever misfortunes befall you. 16 If you declare the decree of God to be just, you will receive your son back in due time and also be praised among women. 17 Therefore, go into the city to your husband.”
She said to me, 18 “I will not, and I will not go into the city, but I will die here.”
19 I spoke again to her: 20 “Don’t say this, but let yourself be persuaded because of Zion’s fate and be consoled because of Jerusalem’s grief. 21 You see that our sanctuary is laid waste, our altar is demolished, our temple is destroyed, 22 our harp is brought low, our hymnody has been silenced, our joy is undone, the light of our lampstand is extinguished, the chest containing our covenant has been taken as plunder, our holy things have been defiled, and the name that is invoked over us has been dishonored. Our free citizens[f] have suffered abuse, our priests have been burned to death, our Levites have gone into captivity, our virgins have been defiled, our wives have been raped, our righteous men have been snatched away, our little ones have been given over, our youths have been enslaved, and our strong men have been deprived of strength. 23 Even more than all this, the seal of Zion (for she has now loosed the seal of her glory) is handed over to those who hate us. 24 Shake off your great sadness then, and put away the multitude of your sorrows so that the mighty one may show you favor and the Most High may give you peace and rest from your labors.”
25 While I was speaking to her, look! Suddenly her face shone brightly and her countenance became a flashing splendor. I became afraid of her, and I wondered what was happening. 26 Without warning she let out a noise, a great voice full of fear, so that the earth itself shook with the sound. 27 I watched, and she no longer appeared to me as a woman, but there was a city built, and a place with great foundations appeared. I was afraid, and I shouted with a great voice, 28 “Where’s the angel Uriel, who came to me from the beginning? He’s the one who’s brought me to the end of my wits! My end has turned into decay and my prayer into a reproach.”
29 While I was saying these things, the angel who had come to me in the beginning came to me again and looked at me. 30 I was laid out like a dead man, and I had lost my mind. He held my strong hand, comforted me, set me on my feet, and said to me, 31 “What has happened to you? Why are you agitated? Why are your mind, your intellect, and your understanding all in turmoil?”
I said, 32 “Because you abandoned me. I followed your instructions, and I went out into the field, and look here, I saw and see what I can’t describe.”
He said to me, 33 “Stand up like a man, and I’ll remind you.”
I said, 34 “Speak, my Lord, only don’t abandon me so that I may not die for nothing. 35 I can’t make sense out of what I saw, and I don’t understand what I’ve heard. 36 Or is my mind deceived and my soul dreaming? 37 Now then I beg you to explain this bewildering sight to your servant.”
38 He answered me: “Listen to me. Let me teach you, and I will speak to you about what you fear, for the Most High has revealed many mysteries to you. 39 He saw that you walk the straight way, because you grieve for your people without ceasing and you mourn greatly over Zion.
40 “Here then is the meaning of the vision. This is the explanation of the woman who appeared to you a little while ago, 41 whom you saw mourning and whom you began to console 42 (though now you don’t see a woman, but a fully constructed city has appeared to you), 43 and who told you about the fate of her son. 44 This woman whom you saw is Zion, whom you now see built as a city. 45 As for what she said to you, that she was infertile for thirty years, it is because there were three thousand[g] years in the world when offerings weren’t yet made in her. 46 After three thousand[h] years, Solomon built the city and made offerings. That is when the infertile woman bore a son. 47 As for what she said to you, that she nourished him with labor, this was the time that Jerusalem was inhabited. 48 And as for what she said to you, that her son came into his wedding chamber and died and that misfortune happened to her, this is the destruction that happened to Jerusalem. 49 Indeed, you saw her likeness, how she mourns her son, and you began to console her over these things that had happened. (These things were to be shown to you.[i] ) 50 Now the Most High, seeing that you are sincerely saddened and that you suffer for her with all your heart, has shown you the splendor of her glory and the beauty with which she is adorned.