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Chapter 14

Again, one preparing for a voyage and about to traverse the wild waves
    cries out to wood more unsound than the boat that bears him.(A)
For the urge for profits devised this latter,
    and Wisdom the artisan produced it.

[a]But your providence, O Father! guides it,
    for you have furnished even in the sea a road,
    and through the waves a steady path,(B)
Showing that you can save from any danger,
    so that even one without skill may embark.(C)
But you will that the products of your Wisdom be not idle;
    therefore people trust their lives even to most frail wood,
    and were safe crossing the waves on a raft.(D)
For of old, when the proud giants were being destroyed,
    the hope of the universe, who took refuge on a raft,[b]
    left to the world a future for the human family, under the guidance of your hand.

For blest is the wood through which righteousness comes about;
    but the handmade idol is accursed, and its maker as well:
    he for having produced it, and the corruptible thing, because it was termed a god.(E)
Equally odious to God are the evildoer and the evil deed;
10     and the thing made will be punished with its maker.
11 Therefore upon even the idols of the nations shall a judgment come,
    since they became abominable among God’s works,
Snares for human souls
    and a trap for the feet of the senseless.(F)

The Origin and Evils of Idolatry

12 For the source of wantonness is the devising of idols;
    and their invention, a corruption of life.(G)
13 For in the beginning they were not,
    nor can they ever continue;(H)
14     for from human emptiness they came into the world,
    and therefore a sudden end is devised for them.

15 [c]For a father, afflicted with untimely mourning,
    made an image of the child so quickly taken from him,
And now honored as a god what once was dead
    and handed down to his household mysteries and sacrifices.
16 Then, in the course of time, the impious practice gained strength and was observed as law,
    and graven things were worshiped by royal decrees.(I)
17 People who lived so far away that they could not honor him in his presence
    copied the appearance of the distant king
And made a public image of him they wished to honor,
    out of zeal to flatter the absent one as though present.
18 And to promote this observance among those to whom it was strange,
    the artisan’s ambition provided a stimulus.
19 For he, perhaps in his determination to please the ruler,
    labored over the likeness[d] to the best of his skill;(J)
20 And the masses, drawn by the charm of the workmanship,
    soon took as an object of worship the one who shortly before was honored as a human being.(K)
21 And this became a snare for the world,
    that people enslaved to either grief or tyranny
    conferred the incommunicable Name on stones and wood.

22 Then it was not enough for them to err in their knowledge of God;(L)
    but even though they live in a great war resulting from ignorance,
    they call such evils peace.(M)
23 For while they practice either child sacrifices or occult mysteries,
    or frenzied carousing in exotic rites,(N)
24 They no longer respect either lives or purity of marriage;
    but they either waylay and kill each other, or aggrieve each other by adultery.
25 And all is confusion—blood and murder, theft and guile,(O)
    corruption, faithlessness, turmoil, perjury,
26 Disturbance of good people, neglect of gratitude,
    besmirching of souls, unnatural lust,
    disorder in marriage, adultery and shamelessness.
27 For the worship of infamous idols
    is the reason and source and extreme of all evil.(P)

28 For they either go mad with enjoyment, or prophesy lies,
    or live lawlessly or lightly perjure themselves.(Q)
29 For as their trust is in lifeless idols,
    they expect no harm when they have sworn falsely.
30 But on both counts justice shall overtake them:
    because they thought perversely of God by devoting themselves to idols,(R)
    and because they deliberately swore false oaths, despising piety.[e]
31 For it is not the might of those by whom they swear,
    but the just retribution of sinners,
    that ever follows upon the transgression of the wicked.[f]


  1. 14:3–6 The wooden ship mentioned in vv. 1–2 prompts a short meditation on the providence of God, who in fact has watched over boats in their dangerous courses. The wood as described in v. 7 became a favorite patristic type for the wood of the cross.
  2. 14:6 Noah.
  3. 14:15–21 The author develops two examples of idolatry: cult of the dead, and cult of the king.
  4. 14:19 Likeness: he made this more flattering than the reality.
  5. 14:30 Piety: the sanctity of oaths.
  6. 14:31 Perjury is a form of deceit which calls for punishment even though it be practiced in the name of a lifeless idol.