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Chapter 3

The Hidden Counsels of God[a]

A. On Suffering[b]

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,(A)
    and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
    and their passing away was thought an affliction
    and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.(B)
For if to others, indeed, they seem punished,
    yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
    because God tried them
    and found them worthy of himself.(C)
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
    and as sacrificial offerings[c] he took them to himself.(D)
In the time of their judgment[d] they shall shine
    and dart about as sparks through stubble;(E)
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
    and the Lord shall be their King forever.(F)
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
    and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,(G)
    and his care is with the elect.
10 But the wicked shall receive a punishment to match their thoughts,[e]
    since they neglected righteousness and forsook the Lord.
11 For those who despise wisdom and instruction are doomed.(H)
Vain is their hope, fruitless their labors,
    and worthless their works.(I)
12 Their wives are foolish and their children wicked,
    accursed their brood.(J)

B. On Childlessness[f]

13 Yes, blessed is she who, childless and undefiled,
    never knew transgression of the marriage bed;
    for she shall bear fruit at the judgment of souls.[g]
14 So also the eunuch whose hand wrought no misdeed,
    who held no wicked thoughts against the Lord
For he shall be given fidelity’s choice reward[h]
    and a more gratifying heritage in the Lord’s temple.(K)
15 For the fruit of noble struggles is a glorious one;
    and unfailing is the root of understanding.[i](L)
16 But the children of adulterers[j] will remain without issue,
    and the progeny of an unlawful bed will disappear.(M)
17 For should they attain long life, they will be held in no esteem,
    and dishonored will their old age be in the end;
18 Should they die abruptly, they will have no hope
    nor comfort in the day of scrutiny;
19     for dire is the end of the wicked generation.(N)


  1. 3:1–4:19 The central section of chaps. 1–6. The author begins by stating that immortality is the reward of the righteous, and then in the light of that belief comments on three points of the traditional discussion of the problem of retribution (suffering, childlessness, early death) each of which was often seen as a divine punishment.
  2. 3:1–12 The author affirms that, for the righteous, sufferings are not punishments but purification and opportunities to show fidelity, whereas for the wicked suffering is truly a punishment.
  3. 3:6 Offerings: the image is that of the burnt offering, in which the victim is completely consumed by fire.
  4. 3:7 Judgment: the Greek episkopē is God’s loving judgment of those who have been faithful to him; the same word is used in 14:11 for the punishment of the wicked at God’s judgment. Cf. also v. 13.
  5. 3:10 To match their thoughts: a fate as empty as that which they describe in 2:1–5.
  6. 3:13–4:6 The true fruit of life is not children but virtue which leads to immortality. The many children of the wicked will be a disappointing fruit.
  7. 3:13 See vv. 7–9.
  8. 3:14 Fidelity’s choice reward: cf. Is 56:1–8. More gratifying: better than sons and daughters; cf. Is 56:5.
  9. 3:15 Root of understanding: the root that is understanding (wisdom).
  10. 3:16 Adulterers: understood here as a type of sinners in general; cf. Is 57:3–5.