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Chapter 16

Therefore they[a] were fittingly punished by similar creatures,
    and were tormented by a swarm of insects.(A)
Instead of this punishment, you benefited your people
    with a novel dish, the delight they craved,
    by providing quail for their food,(B)
So that those others, when they desired food,
    should lose their appetite even for necessities,
    since the creatures sent to plague them were so loathsome,
While these, after a brief period of privation,
    partook of a novel dish.(C)
For inexorable want had to come upon those oppressors;
    but these needed only to be shown how their enemies were being tormented.(D)

For when the dire venom of beasts came upon them(E)
    and they were dying from the bite of crooked serpents,
    your anger endured not to the end.
But as a warning, for a short time they were terrorized,
    though they had a sign[b] of salvation, to remind them of the precept of your law.
For the one who turned toward it was saved,
    not by what was seen,
    but by you, the savior of all.
By this also you convinced our foes
    that you are the one who delivers from all evil.(F)
For the bites of locusts and of flies slew them,
    and no remedy was found to save their lives
    because they deserved to be punished by such means;(G)
10 But not even the fangs of poisonous reptiles overcame your children,
    for your mercy came forth and healed them.(H)
11 For as a reminder of your injunctions, they were stung,
    and swiftly they were saved,
Lest they should fall into deep forgetfulness
    and become unresponsive to your beneficence.(I)
12 For indeed, neither herb nor application cured them,
    but your all-healing word, O Lord!(J)
13 [c]For you have dominion over life and death;(K)
    you lead down to the gates of Hades and lead back.
14 Human beings, however, may kill another with malice,
    but they cannot bring back the departed spirit,
    or release the soul that death has confined.
15 Your hand no one can escape.

Third Example: A Rain of Manna for Israel Instead of the Plague of Storms

16 For the wicked who refused to know you
    were punished by the might of your arm,
Were pursued by unusual rains and hailstorms and unremitting downpours,
    and were consumed by fire.(L)
17 For against all expectation, in water which quenches everything,
    the fire grew more active;
For the universe fights on behalf of the righteous.(M)
18 Then the flame was tempered(N)
    so that the beasts that were sent upon the wicked might not be burnt up,
    but that these might see and know that they were struck by the judgment of God;
19 And again, even in the water, fire blazed beyond its strength
    so as to consume the produce of the wicked land.
20 Instead of this, you nourished your people with food of angels[d]
    and furnished them bread from heaven, ready to hand, untoiled-for,
    endowed with all delights and conforming to every taste.(O)
21 For this substance of yours revealed your sweetness toward your children,
    and serving the desire of the one who received it,
    was changed to whatever flavor each one wished.(P)
22 Yet snow and ice[e] withstood fire and were not melted,
    so that they might know that their enemies’ fruits
Were consumed by a fire that blazed in the hail
    and flashed lightning in the rain.(Q)

23 But this fire, again, in order that the righteous might be nourished,
    forgot even its proper strength;(R)
24 For your creation, serving you, its maker,
    grows tense for punishment against the wicked,
    but is relaxed in benefit for those who trust in you.(S)
25 Therefore at that very time, transformed in all sorts of ways,
    it was serving your all-nourishing bounty
    according to what they needed and desired;
26 That your children whom you loved might learn, O Lord,
    that it is not the various kinds of fruits that nourish,
    but your word that preserves those who believe you!(T)
27 For what was not destroyed by fire,
    melted when merely warmed by a momentary sunbeam;(U)
28 To make known that one must give you thanks before sunrise,
    and turn to you at daybreak.(V)
29 For the hope of the ungrateful melts like a wintry frost
    and runs off like useless water.(W)


  1. 16:1 They: the Egyptian idolaters, who are punished according to the principle laid down in 11:5, 15–16.
  2. 16:6 Sign: the brazen serpent, as related in Numbers 21, but the author deliberately avoids any misunderstanding by addressing the Lord as responsible for the healing, since he is “the savior of all” (v. 7; see also vv. 12 and 26 for the role of the “word” of God).
  3. 16:13–14 The author recognizes the power of the Lord over life and death, as expressed in 1 Sm 2:6; Tb 13:2. The traditional imagery of Sheol (gates and confinement) colors the passage.
  4. 16:20 Food of angels: the famous phrase (cf. the hymn “Panis Angelicus”) is taken from Ps 78:24 as rendered by the Septuagint. The “bread from heaven” (cf. Ex 16:4; Ps 105:40) with its marvelous “sweetness” becomes a type of the “bread come down from heaven” in Jn 6:32–51, and plays a large role in later Christian devotion.
  5. 16:22 Snow and ice: the manna; cf. v. 27; 19:21.