2 Esdras 9:26-10:55 Common English Bible (CEB)
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![a] 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[b] 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[c] years in the world when offerings weren’t yet made in her. 46 After three thousand[d] 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.[e] ) 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. 51 For this reason I told you to remain in the field where no house is built: 52 I knew that the Most High was about to show you these things. 53 Therefore, I told you to come into the field where there is no building’s foundation, 54 for no work of human construction could survive in the place where the city of the Most High was about to be made manifest. 55 Therefore, don’t fear, and don’t let your heart be afraid. Go inside and see the splendor and greatness of the building, insofar as you are capable of seeing with your eyesight.