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Chapter 11

She prospered their affairs through the holy prophet.(A)

III. Special Providence of God During the Exodus[a]


They journeyed through the uninhabited desert,
    and in lonely places they pitched their tents;(B)
    they withstood enemies and warded off their foes.(C)
When they thirsted, they called upon you,
    and water was given them from the sheer rock,
    a quenching of their thirst from the hard stone.
For by the things through which their foes were punished
    they in their need were benefited.(D)

First Example: Water Punishes the Egyptians and Benefits the Israelites

Instead of a river’s[b] perennial source,
    troubled with impure blood(E)
    as a rebuke to the decree for the slaying of infants,
You gave them abundant water beyond their hope,
    after you had shown by the thirst they experienced
    how you punished their adversaries.
For when they had been tried, though only mildly chastised,(F)
    they recognized how the wicked, condemned in anger, were being tormented.
10 You tested your own people, admonishing them as a father;
    but as a stern king you probed and condemned the wicked.
11 Those near and far were equally afflicted:(G)
12     for a twofold grief[c] took hold of them(H)
    and a groaning at the remembrance of the ones who had departed.
13 For when they heard that the cause of their own torments
    was a benefit to these others, they recognized the Lord.
14 For though they had mocked and rejected him who had been cast out and abandoned long ago,
    in the final outcome, they marveled at him,
    since their thirst proved unlike that of the righteous.(I)

Second Example: Animals Punish the Egyptians and Benefit the Israelites

15 In return for their senseless, wicked thoughts,
    which misled them into worshiping dumb[d] serpents and worthless insects,
You sent upon them swarms of dumb creatures for vengeance;(J)
16     that they might recognize that one is punished by the very things through which one sins.(K)

Digression on God’s Mercy

17 For not without means was your almighty hand,(L)
    that had fashioned the universe from formless matter,[e]
    to send upon them many bears or fierce lions,
18 Or newly created, wrathful, unknown beasts
    breathing forth fiery breath,
Or pouring out roaring smoke,
    or flashing terrible sparks from their eyes.
19 Not only could these attack and completely destroy them;
    even their frightful appearance itself could slay.
20 Even without these, they could have been killed at a single blast,
    pursued by justice
    and winnowed by your mighty spirit.
But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.(M)
21 For great strength is always present with you;
    who can resist the might of your arm?(N)
22 Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance,[f]
    or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.(O)

23 [g]But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
    and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.(P)
24 For you love all things that are
    and loathe nothing that you have made;
    for you would not fashion what you hate.(Q)
25 How could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
    or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?(R)
26 But you spare all things, because they are yours,
    O Ruler and Lover of souls,(S)
    for your imperishable spirit is in all things!(T)


  1. 11:2–19:22 Few verses in chaps. 11–19 can be fully understood without consulting the passages in the Pentateuch which are indicated in the cross-references. The theme of this part of the book is expressed in v. 5 and is illustrated in the following chapters by five examples drawn from Exodus events.
  2. 11:6–8 River: the Nile; the contrast is between the first plague of Egypt (Ex 7:17–24) and the water drawn from the rock in Horeb (Ex 17:5–7; Nm 20:8–11).
  3. 11:12 Twofold grief: the double distress described in vv. 13–14.
  4. 11:15 Dumb: that is, irrational.
  5. 11:17 Formless matter: a Greek philosophical concept is used to interpret the chaos of Gn 1:2.
  6. 11:22 Grain from a balance: a tiny particle used for weighing on sensitive scales.
  7. 11:23 The combination of divine mercy and power is an unusual paradox, but cf. 12:15–18; Ps 62:12–13; Sir 2:18. The main emphasis is on a creating that is motivated by love; the divine “imperishable spirit” (either Wisdom as in 1:4, 7, or perhaps the breath of life as in Gn 2:7) is in everything (12:1).