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On the Wisdom of Solomon, Part 30: Requiem for the Wicked
While this last presentation in our commentary On the Wisdom of Solomon is titled Requiem for the Wicked, we certainly are not going to sing dirges for bastards. However we are compelled to illustrate the overarching theme in this Wisdom of Solomon which was purposely designed to impart an essential lesson, a lesson which in itself also contains many smaller lessons. Solomon’s intention here has not been to ramble on about unrelated subjects, where he may appear to have forsaken his first comparisons of the wicked and the righteous and had randomly changed to a discussion of the beginnings of idolatry and its consequences, and then again to a discussion of the Exodus account while presenting the initial prayer in which he had supplicated Yahweh for wisdom. Rather, his prayer illustrates what true wisdom is, which is the fear and the knowledge of God, and culminates by comparing the destinies of two nations, one of them wicked and one of them righteous, at least, in the eyes of God. In the end what is righteous is what Yahweh considers righteous, and not what men consider righteous.
As we read in the 111th Psalm, “10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” This is the lesson which Solomon conveys throughout this work, while making illustrations of the motives, methods and folly of all of those who depart from it. Therefore all of the changes of course throughout this work were calculated, and all of the themes which he presented here are woven together into a single cohesive lesson. However for reason of its length, for the many analogies which it contains, and for its frequent turns of course, the overarching lesson may be easily overlooked by casual readers. But clearly, by enveloping this work with discourses concerning the beginnings and the ends of the wicked, we see that the Exodus account has been set forth here as an example for both men and nations, that the ungodly, or impious, put themselves on a path to destruction, that wicked men who desire to rule by their own strength become unrighteous rulers, and they ultimately bring entire nations down that same destructive path, where in the end, the righteous will escape their destruction only by the grace of God, as the righteous are in the hand of God whether they themselves realize it or not.
So while Wisdom begins with impious men who want to oppress the righteous and live by the law of their own strength, by which they may imagine that might makes right, it ends with an illustration of the destiny of the wicked of Sodom and of Egypt. Wisdom begins by making examples of particular types of individuals, and ends by making examples of particular nations which had generally followed in the same patterns of wickedness which was attributed to those types of individuals. This is not a coincidence, that Solomon is upholding Sodom and Egypt as examples of the ends of nations which had followed those same patterns of idolatry. We read this same comparison in Revelation chapter 11 in the words of Yahshua Christ, where He prophesied the persecution of His two witnesses, witnesses which we may believe are allegorical and not actual individual people, and He said, “7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
While we do not know with certainty the beginnings of Sodom, which, comparatively speaking, seems to have been part of an early cosmopolitan megalopolis, the sin of Sodom is rather plainly described in Genesis, and the name of Sodom is synonymous with that sin today. Yet Egypt is portrayed positively in the Genesis account, while in Exodus and here in Wisdom it is apparent that Yahweh had used the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt as a vehicle by which He would punish the Egyptians for even greater sins. So Egypt would stand as an example of the ultimate fate of all those who would oppress the children of God, but the nature of the underlying sin is not so plain in Scripture.
However once we understand from Wisdom that Solomon had used the example of Egypt in his overall analogy here because the course of the nation was patterned after those same wicked types of individuals which he had described earlier, the nature of the underlying sin of Egypt becomes evident. But Solomon did not choose to use the example of Egypt because the nation followed that same course found in his examples of individuals. Rather, he developed his examples of those types of individuals from the historical examples of Egypt and other nations up to his own time. That Egypt had followed this course before the Exodus is not apparent in Scripture outside of our assertions here concerning Wisdom, but it is apparent in the surviving inscriptions of the Egyptians themselves. However first we must identify the course to which we are referring.
Throughout the early chapters of Wisdom, Solomon’s examples of wicked individuals portrayed them as having a desire to rule others by their own strength, to make their own laws, and eventually as becoming tyrants who oppressed and even killed the righteous who were intractable obstacles to them and their designs. In Wisdom chapter 3 he said “10 But the ungodly shall be punished according to their own imaginations, which have neglected the righteous, and forsaken the Lord.” In this same manner he described the death of the firstborn of Egypt, that they had actually died from fear of things produced by their own imaginations. Then he said in the very next verse of that chapter “11 For whoso despiseth wisdom and nurture, he is miserable, and their hope is vain, their labours unfruitful [which is a word literally meaning useless], and their works unprofitable [or literally worthless]: 12 Their wives are foolish, and their children wicked: 13 Their offspring is cursed.”
These wives must have been foolish because the ungodly made foolish choices in their selection of wives, as Solomon continues by contrasting them to the woman who “hath not known the sinful bed” and to a eunuch who did not imagine “wicked things against God”. Then later in the chapter he wrote “16 As for the children of adulterers, they shall not come to their perfection, and the seed of an unrighteous bed shall be rooted out.” Commenting on that verse in Part 7 of our commentary, we explained that in ancient Greek writings that word for adulterer described a race-mixing fornicator as well as one who would have his neighbor’s wife. Finally, the meaning is further elucidated in Wisdom chapter 4: “3 But the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive [or be useful], nor take deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation. 4 For though they flourish in branches for a time; yet standing not last, they shall be shaken with the wind, and through the force of winds they shall be rooted out.”
The Egyptians certainly had engaged in the same fornication which Solomon attributes to the ungodly in those early chapters of Wisdom. This we had discussed at length in another presentation of the writings of Solomon, which is Part 8 of our commentary on Ecclesiastes. Here I will cite three paragraphs from that earlier presentation:
Likewise with Egypt, originally only native and true-born Egyptians were even considered to be people. But in the later Middle Kingdom, as Egypt transitioned itself to become a great empire, things began to change. This is evident in Egyptian writings such as The Admonitions of Ipu-Wer, a text believed to date to the period between the Old and Middle Kingdoms, or perhaps from 2300 to 2050 BC. The translation of the text found in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), edited by James Pritchard and published in its 3rd edition at Princeton in 1969, is prefaced with a statement which says in part: “The following text is ‘prophetic’ in a biblical sense. The ‘prophet’ is not foretelling the future but is standing before a pharaoh and condemning the past and present administration of Egypt.” Jeremiah did the same thing in Jerusalem nearly 1600 years later.
So we read from The Admonitions of Ipu-Wer, from page 441 of ANET, in part: “A man regards his son as his enemy…. A man of character goes in mourning because of what has happened in the land. . . . Foreigners have become people everywhere….” The translator, John Wilson, made a footnote at the word for people here which says: “The term ‘men, humans, people,’ was used by the Egyptians to designate themselves, in contrast to their foreign neighbors, who were not conceded to be real people.” So we see that the acceptance of the concept that racial aliens can be people is protested by the writer, an Egyptian prophet, and he described this event as having driven wedges between fathers and sons, a situation upon which he expects men of character to mourn. Our own empire, which we generally call America, entered into this same stage of its own history with the passage of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which by decree had turned Negroes and other savages into “people”.
These changing attitudes towards race in Egypt had eventually changed even the religious beliefs of the people. This is evident in a Hymn to Amon-Re which ostensibly dates to as early as the 13th Dynasty, or the beginning of the 18th century BC, so it was written only a couple of hundred years after the admonitions of Ipu-Wer. In the preface to this hymn the editors write, in part: “Egypt's world position under her Empire produced strong tendencies toward centralization and unification of Egyptian religion, with universalism and with syncretism of the gods.” This is the same thing which happened under the later Roman empire, and it is also just what we can see happening in America today. Today the policy that is repeated to the public by our own governments and institutions is that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same god, and that is certainly not true. So we read in this hymn made to the creator god of the Egyptian religion, in part, from ANET p. 366: “Hail to thee, o Re, lord of truth! Whose shrine is hidden, the lord of the gods, Khepri in the midst of his barque [the barque of the sun god, in which he rode across the daytime sky], Who gave commands, and the gods came into being. Atum [another title for the same god], who made the people, distinguished their nature, made their life, and separated colors, one from another….” At first, foreigners were not even people. But now, after Egypt transitions from a nation into an empire, not only are foreigners people too, but they were all created by the same god, and all colors and cultures became equally esteemed.
So it is clear that the Egyptians, upon becoming an empire, had neglected their own people and ultimately began producing bastards, and for that their ultimate punishment in the death of the firstborn of Egypt was also “according to their own imaginations”. Even the pharaoh of the Exodus, Thutmose III, was the son of a concubine whose origins are not mentioned in surviving Egyptian records. His father, Thutmose II, was described as “a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph”, and he was also the son of a lesser, secondary wife of Thutmose I, although she was apparently an Egyptian, but there is no definite record of that either. In reference to the pre-Exodus military exploits of Thutmose III, Werner Keller had written in his book The Bible as History that “The multicolored army of mercenaries which the Egyptians controlled, consisting of Negroes, Asiatics, and Nubians, marched on northward through Canaan.” Clifton had cited that passage in his September, 2000 Watchman's Teaching Letter #29 while writing on this same subject.
Here in these latter chapters of Wisdom, in Solomon’s example of Egypt in the days leading up to the Exodus, he described how the principle men of Egypt, and then the general body of the population, had apparently all gone along with the oppression of the Israelites, and had even enjoyed partaking of it. So we see that in his analogy, Egypt represented the tyrants who would oppress and even kill the righteous, as Solomon described the wicked in his early chapters of Wisdom. There is another example from Scripture which elucidates the fact that the impious do indeed rejoice in the oppression of the righteous, who are intractable to them as Solomon also described, where we see that phenomenon in that same passage of the Revelation chapter 11 which we have already cited concerning Sodom and Egypt, where it continues and we read concerning the same two witnesses: “9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.”
As we have often pointed out in our professions in this commentary that the Wisdom of Solomon should be counted among the canonical books of Scripture, here it is once again apparent that its message is fully consistent with that of the apostles of Christ, and also of Christ Himself, and it also frequently seems to have been an inspiration for the words of the apostles in the analogies which they themselves made in their epistles. Furthermore, we cannot lose sight of the fact that it was the purpose of Solomon, as he had stated explicitly in Wisdom chapter 6, to convey these lessons as warnings to the “kings of the earth” which were, in his own time, the present and future rulers of the nations of the children of Israel, and even to the children of Israel themselves who were destined to be “kings and priests unto God”, as we read in Revelation chapter 1. This is apparent where we read in Wisdom chapter 6: “1 Hear therefore, O ye kings, and understand; learn, ye that be judges of the ends of the earth. 2 Give ear, ye that rule the people, and glory in the multitude of nations. 3 For power is given you of the Lord, and sovereignty from the Highest, who shall try your works, and search out your counsels. 4 Because, being ministers of his kingdom, ye have not judged aright, nor kept the law, nor walked after the counsel of God; 5 Horribly and speedily shall he come upon you: for a sharp judgment shall be to them that be in high places.” They didn’t need to learn in order to become kings, but they needed to learn because they were kings, which is also an exhortation to humility as well as to righteous governance.
Now here in this last half of Wisdom chapter 19, a fitting end for the work is this description of the plight of Egypt in comparison to the end of Sodom and Gomorrah, as it also foreshadows the end of the ungodly even as it is later described in the words of the apostles. So where we left off in Wisdom chapter 19, Solomon was contrasting the plight of the Egyptians as compared to the more wonderful experience of the Israelites as they fled from Egypt, and after making another reference to the quail-mothers by which the Israelites had been sustained in the desert, he now turns to the Egyptians once more and says:
13 And punishments came upon the sinners not without former signs by the force of thunders: for they suffered justly according to their own wickedness, insomuch as they used a more hard and hateful behaviour toward strangers.
While the sense of the translation is fine, we would rather translate the last clause in a more concordant manner to read “… they practised a more hard hatred of strangers.” The Greek word μισοξενία, a hatred of strangers or guests, appears only here in the Biblical writings. However it also appears in Josephus’ War of the Judaeans, in Book 1 where he discussed the ancient Sodomites and says “194 About this time the Sodomites grew proud, on account of their riches and great wealth: they became unjust toward men, and impious toward God, insomuch that they did not call to mind the advantages they received from him: they hated strangers, and abused themselves with sodomy.”
In the Scriptures the children of Israel are warned to hospitality, first in Exodus chapter 22 where we read: “21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” However in the events of the lives of Abraham and Lot we see that there was a much older tradition of hospitality towards strangers, even to the point of defending them from harm by others. For that reason, when the Sodomites wanted to rape the angels who were guests in the home of Lot, did Lot go even so far as to offer them his own virgin daughters in their place. So Paul of Tarsus also warned, in Hebrews chapter 13, “2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
This same custom is also seen in the ancient Greek poets, although they were some time after Abraham. In the earliest Greek writings, those of Homer, the word ξενία appeared and it described the rights of a guest. So the adjective ξένιος described what is belonging to a friend and guest, which is hospitality, as Liddell & Scott define the words. Likewise, the word φιλοξενία described the love which one who was a φιλόξενος had expressed for a stranger by taking care of him as he sojourned in the land, or a friend who visited one’s home. However ξένος, a word which was also primarily an adjective, described not any mere alien who happened to wander into one’s neighborhood, but a guest-friend, someone who had a right to one’s hospitality by treaty or custom. As Liddell & Scott also explain, in Classical Greek “the term was politely used of any one whose name was unknown, and the address ὦ ξένε came to mean little more than friend.”
Now Solomon, considering the Israelites to have been such strangers in Egypt, as the account in Genesis fully describes, makes the Egyptians who later enslaved their guest-friends to have been sinners even beyond the men of Sodom:
14 For the Sodomites did not receive those, whom they knew not when they came: but these brought friends into bondage, that had well deserved of them.
The verb δέχομαι, translated as receive here, carries with it the implication of welcoming or regarding a person, and perhaps to render it as regard here is better considering the context of Genesis chapter 19, where the Sodomites wanted to abuse the angels who were visiting in the home of Lot. Yet the point which Solomon makes here is that the Sodomites, although their conduct was abhorrent, did not know the angels beforehand, whereas the Egyptians had abused the Israelites who had for a long time been welcomed as guests, and who deserved to be treated well rather than being abused.
But only the context of the passage, and of this prayer in the last 10 chapters Wisdom in general, informs us that Solomon is referring to Sodom here, as the word for Sodomites does not appear in the text. So for this and other difficulties in the King James translation of the passage, we would translate it to read:
14 For indeed those others not knowing [οἱ μὲν γὰρ τοὺς ἀγνοοῦντας] did not regard those who were [literally those being] present [οὐκ ἐδέχοντο παρόντας], but these [οὗτοι δὲ] had enslaved friends who were benefactors [εὐεργέτας ξένους ἐδουλοῦντο].
By the description of the first group it is clearly evident that Solomon is referring to the men of Sodom without mentioning them by name. However as we already stated, by the overall context of this prayer in Wisdom that is also apparent in Wisdom chapter 10 where he wrote of Wisdom personified that: “6 When the ungodly perished, she delivered the righteous man, who fled from the fire which fell down upon the five cities. 7 Of whose wickedness even to this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony, and plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness: and a standing pillar of salt is a monument of an unbelieving soul. 8 For regarding not wisdom, they gat not only this hurt, that they knew not the things which were good; but also left behind them to the world a memorial of their foolishness: so that in the things wherein they offended they could not so much as be hid.” So there he was also clearly referring to Sodom, and doing so he had also avoided mentioning them by name.
Here the word ξένος, which is an adjective, modifies the noun εὐεργέτης, which is a well-doer or benefactor, and in the Classical period it was also used as a title of honor describing a benefactor of a king or of a nation. So we wrote “friends who were benefactors”, however a technical translation would compel us to write “guest-friend benefactors”. Solomon is asserting that the presence of the Israelites in Egypt when they were friendly to them had benefitted the Egyptians, which is certainly evident in the history of the life of Joseph. But in spite of that they enslaved the Israelites, so Solomon continues in reference to that by making another comparison to the event which precipitated the destruction of Sodom:
15 And not only so, but peradventure some respect shall be had of those, because they used strangers not friendly:
For the purpose of clarity, and especially because of some of the archaic language, we would translate this verse to read:
And not only [καὶ οὐ μόνον], but there shall be a certain visitation [ἀλλ᾽ ἤ τις ἐπισκοπὴ ἔσται] of them [αὐτῶν], since hatefully [ἐπεὶ ἀπεχθῶς] they received the others [προσεδέχοντο τοὺς ἀλλοτρίους].
Apparently, in the eyes of Solomon, the commission of sodomy is a much more grievous act when it is forced upon men than it is when it is voluntarily, but in any case the law states, in Leviticus chapter 20, that “13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Once again this day, the world is replete with Sodomites who await this punishment, although being confident in their own pride, which is arrogance, they refuse to admit it. They also seek to oppress the righteous, believing that they can rule by their own strength.
It is certainly apparent that there were Canaanites, Kenites, Rephaim and people who were of other and uncertain origins in Sodom and the cities of the plain, just as there were in all the land of Canaan. But since these were cosmopolitan cities it is quite plausible that there were also many people of the other Adamic tribes in the region who lived in them, as Lot and his family had also chosen to live there. For that reason, speaking to His apostles of the cities of Judaea which would reject them, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 15 Christ had warned them that “15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
Now, after once again referring to the Sodomites without mentioning them by name, Solomon turns again to contrast their sins to the sin of Egypt:
16 But these very grievously afflicted them, whom they had received with feastings, and were already made partakers of the same laws with them.
The word translated as laws here, δίκαιος, was in Homer and early writers, where it referred to persons: observant of custom and social rule, well-ordered, civilized, and also, according to Liddell & Scott, used by Herodotus in the phrase δικαίη ζόη to describe a regular way of living. The Israelites, being guests in the land of the Egyptians, naturally would have been expected to observe the civil laws and customs of Egypt. Likewise we read in the laws given later at the time of the Exodus, in Exodus chapter 12: “49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” The word for stranger there, which is geyr, was used much the same as ξένος was by the Greeks.
In Genesis chapter 47 we read: “1 Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen. 2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.” Then a little further on: “5 And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: 6 The land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle. 7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh: and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old art thou? 9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh. 11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.”
As a digression, it is interesting that the Pharaoh instructed Joseph to take some of his more ambitious brethren and make them “make them rulers over my cattle”. The Pharaoh of the Exodus was Thutmose III, and his eldest son Amenemhat did not succeed him, as he died prior to his father. Of course, we believe that he died on the night of the death of the firstborn of Egypt, and there is no record of why he died in the tombs of the kings. However the Egyptian records do state that he was “Overseer of the Cattle”, and it is noted that the title for a prince is unusual. However if he was given that title to replace men of the children of Israel who held it prior, then from that aspect it may be better understood.
So in this respect were the Egyptians sinners even beyond the despicable Sodomites, as they had at first received the Israelites hospitably and even honored them, but no later than the third generation they had turned against them and enslaved them and they began forcing them to expose their infant boys so that they would die. This we know because Moses was only the fourth generation after Jacob, and upon his birth his parents had been compelled to set him out in the river exposed to death. So from Exodus chapter 1 we read: “15 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: 16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. 18 And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? 19 And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. 20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. 21 And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. 22 And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.”
In the very next verse, in chapter 2, there begins the account of the birth of Moses, so even in that regard, Moses having been exposed in the river but saved by the daughter of the very same pharaoh, grew to lead Israel out in the Exodus and therefore even in that manner the Egyptians were punished in the imaginations of their own hearts. Today those who would oppress the righteous use different tactics, by luring young women to abortion clinics.
Now Solomon once again turns to describe the punishment of the Egyptians for this sin, and once again he compares them to the Sodomites:
17 Therefore even with blindness were these stricken, as those were at the doors of the righteous man: when, being compassed about with horrible great darkness, every one sought the passage of his own doors.
The blindness which struck the Egyptians was not the blindness of one who has no eyesight, which is τυφλός. Rather, the word ἀορασία which appears here is an inability to see, something which can happen under a variety of circumstances. Of course, the righteous man mentioned here is Lot, and it was at the door of his house that the Sodomites were stricken blind by the angels, where we read in Genesis chapter 19: “11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.” So evidently the Sodomites who wanted to mistreat, or actually rape, the angels, even upon being stricken blind had still tried to find the door into the house. Once again, Solomon refers to them without mentioning them by name.
However in order to make that more clear, we would change the punctuation of the verse, as the clause which reads “as those were at the doors of the righteous man” refers to the Sodomites, and the entire balance of the verse refers to the Egyptians. So we would translate it to read:
17 So with blindness they were stricken [ἐπλήγησαν δὲ καὶ ἀορασίᾳ] (just as those at the doors of the righteous man) [ὥσπερ ἐκεῖνοι ἐπὶ ταῖς τοῦ δικαίου θύραις] when having been enveloped in gaping darkness [ὅτε ἀχανεῖ περιβληθέντες σκότει] each had sought a passage through their own doors [ἕκαστος τῶν ἑαυτοῦ θυρῶν τὴν δίοδον ἐζήτει].
Earlier in Wisdom, Solomon had described the darkness which had enveloped the Egyptians on the night of the death of the firstborn, and it is they who are described here as attempting to find the passage to their own doors, where we read in Wisdom chapter 17: “17 For whether he were husbandman, or shepherd, or a labourer in the field, he was overtaken, and endured that necessity, which could not be avoided: for they were all bound with one chain of darkness.” Then a little further on in that chapter: “21 Over them only was spread an heavy night, an image of that darkness which should afterward receive them: but yet were they unto themselves more grievous than the darkness.” Now, speaking not only of that one night, but of all the plagues of Egypt, he says:
18 For the elements were changed in themselves by a kind of harmony, like as in a psaltery notes change the name of the tune, and yet are always sounds; which may well be perceived by the sight of the things that have been done.
The word μεθαρμόζω, “changed” here, is more literally to change the order of something, or to adapt. The noun ὄνομα, literally a name, but in refence to the sound of notes in a rythym of music it would better be translated as expression. So while the sense here may be fine, we will translate the verse anew:
18 For the elements themselves being adapted [δι᾽ ἑαυτῶν γὰρ τὰ στοιχεῖα μεθαρμοζόμενα] just as tones on a harp [ὥσπερ ἐν ψαλτηρίῳ φθόγγοι] changing the expression of the rythm [τοῦ ῥυθμοῦ τὸ ὄνομα διαλλάσσουσιν] always abide in a sound [πάντοτε μένοντα ἤχῳ], that very thing is to be inferred [ὅπερ ἐστὶν εἰκάσαι] from the precise appearance of the things which transpired [ἐκ τῆς τῶν γεγονότων ὄψεως ἀκριβῶς].
So Solomon appears to be comparing the changing of the elements from their normal behavior, as he had described earlier in Wisdom, to the different rhythms made by changing the order of the same notes on a stringed instrument. In Wisdom chapter 16, Solomon had marvelled that in the wonders which Yahweh had done Egypt “fire had more force in the water”, that “sometime the flame was mitigated, that it might not burn up the beasts that were sent against the ungodly” but that “at another time it burneth even in the midst of water above the power of fire”, and that “snow and ice endured the fire, and melted not, that they might know that fire burning in the hail, and sparkling in the rain, did destroy the fruits of the enemies.”
Perhaps it is conjecture to imagine that Solomon understood the composition of elements in order to describe them in this manner, however in Wisdom chapter 7 he attested to having had that knowledge, where we read: “17 For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements.”
Now, once again referring to the plagues of Egypt, in his description of the changing of the elements he also seems to include the appearance of multitudes of beasts in unexpected places:
19 For earthly things were turned into watery, and the things, that before swam in the water, now went upon the ground.
The purpose here seems to be to evoke words which Solomon had used earlier in this chapter, where referring to the plagues of Egypt he spoke of “how the ground brought forth flies instead of cattle, and how the river cast up a multitude of frogs instead of fishes.” But the underlying intent of his discourse is to attest that Yahweh God has control over the elements of nature, so he continues, evoking the imagery by which he had employed to describe these things in Wisdom chapter 16:
20 The fire had power in the water, forgetting his own virtue: and the water forgat his own quenching nature.
Speaking of this same phenomenon, Solomon had also attested in Wisdom chapter 17 that “the world is a defender of the righteous” and for that reason, Yahweh God using the elements to punish the Egyptians, contrary to expectation the pillar of fire had prevailed over the waters which would have been expected to extinguish the fire. But earlier on in the plagues of Egypt, fire and hail were also able to simultaneously rain destruction down upon the Egyptians, contrary to expectation having coexisted in close proximity for that purpose, as we read in Exodus chapter 9: “23 And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.” Now, once again speaking of the plagues of Egypt and how the elements had acted in a manner contrary to expectation:
21 On the other side, the flames wasted not the flesh of the corruptible living things, though they walked therein; neither melted they the icy kind of heavenly meat that was of nature apt to melt.
That “icy kind of heavenly meat” seems to be a reference to snow, as there certainly was no manna by the time which is being referenced. It is plausible that the ancients ate fresh snow, as children and even sometimes adults often do today.
So those whom Yahweh does not want to be harmed with the elements of nature will not be harmed, as He has full control over those elements. As we read in the Wisdom of Sirach, in chapter 39: “29 Fire, and hail, and famine, and death, all these were created for vengeance.” Thus we read also in the 148th Psalm: “7 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye serpents, and all deeps. 8 Fire, hail, snow, ice, stormy wind; the things that perform his word.” Yet as Solomon has also described here, the fiery serpents were employed for the chastisement, or correction, of the ancient Israelites, but not for their destruction.
We have already stated earlier in this commentary and in connection with Solomon’s descriptions of the plagues of Egypt, that he is presenting the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt as a type for the coming Messiah and the culmination of the final redemption of the children of Israel from the bondage of the wicked, where, as we have seen, in the Revelation the temporal powers which hold them in bondage are described as Sodom and Egypt. That type which Solomon presents here also seems to have been an inspiration for the apostles of Christ who described that very thing.
So in that very manner, here Solomon’s words also evoke a description of the future judgement of the wicked which is found in the second epistle of Peter, where we will read from the Christogenea New Testament for clarity: “10 But the day of the Prince shall come as a thief, at which the heavens shall pass away with a rushing noise, and the elements shall dissolve with burning heat and the earth and the works in it shall be discovered. 11 Thusly with all of these things being dissolved in such manner, it is necessary for you to be in holy conduct and piety, 12 expecting and being anxious for the coming of the day of Yahweh, on account of which the heavens being ablaze shall dissolve and the elements melt burning with heat. 13 But we may expect new heavens and a new earth according to His promise, in which righteousness dwells.”
If we, as Peter says as he wrote to “lost sheep” Israelites being reconciled to Christ, “look for a new heavens and a new earth”, then perhaps once again, as Solomon also described here in Wisdom, the righteous are not harmed by those elements as they destroy the wicked. So it seems that Paul of Tarsus had this same thing in mind, where he wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, again from the Christogenea New Testament: “50 But this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood are not be able to inherit the kingdom of Yahweh, nor does decay inherit incorruption. 51 Behold I tell you a mystery, we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed. 52 In an instant, in a dart of an eye, with the last trumpet; for it shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 This decay wants to be clothed in incorruptibility, and this mortal to be clothed in immortality. 54 And when this decay shall have put on incorruptibility, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then the word that has been written shall come to pass: ‘Death has been swallowed in victory.’”
In that same chapter, Paul had also said that “22… as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” That statement fully agrees with Wisdom chapter 2 where Solomon had attested “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. ” But where Paul had said that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, those with the Spirit of God certainly shall inherit it, as the apostle John had said in his first epistle, that “9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” However reading those descriptions by both Peter and Paul, perhaps we may also see the destruction of the wicked as it is described in Obadiah: “15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. 16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. 17 But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
Of course, in relation to these same things there are also calls to “arise and thresh” and to “come out of her My people” and “reward unto her double as she rewarded you”, speaking of Mystery Babylon, that city likened to Sodom and Egypt. So deliverance from captivity may be a long trek, as it was also a long trek for those who were first redeemed from Egypt. But today we have that same assurance with which Solomon now ends this book of Wisdom:
22 For in all things, O Lord, thou didst magnify thy people, and glorify them, neither didst thou lightly regard them: but didst assist them in every time and place.
So in reference to that same new heaven and new earth described by Peter, which come upon the melting of the elements of this world, we read in Revelation chapter 21: “1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. [The sea representing the wicked, in our opinion.] 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”
Here it may be apparent that even the end of Wisdom and the end of the Revelation are similar. However a bastard shall not enter the congregation of Yahweh, as Yahshua Christ Himself had attested in Revelation chapter 2, that He will kill such children with death. So an expectation of the fulfillment of that promise is the only requiem which we should have for the wicked.
This now concludes our commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon.