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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 16

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1 FOR that reason it was fitting that the oppressors were chastised by creatures like these: they were tormented by swarms of vermin. 2They were punished; but your own people you treated with kindness, sending quails for them to eat, a novel food to satisfy their hunger. 3Your purpose was that whereas those others, hungry as they were, should turn in loathing even from essential food because the creatures sent against them were so repulsive, your people, after a short spell of scarcity, should partake of novel delicacies. 4It was right that the scarcity falling on the oppressors should be inexorable, and that your people should learn by brief experience how their enemies were tortured.

5Even when fierce and venomous snakes attacked your people and the bites of writhing serpents were spreading death, your anger did not continue to the bitter end. 6Their short-lived trouble was sent them as a lesson, and they were given a symbol of salvation to remind them of the requirements of your law. 7Anyone turning towards it was saved, not by what he looked at but by you, the saviour of all. 8In this way also you convinced our enemies that you are the deliverer from every evil. 9Those others died from the bites of locusts and flies, and no remedy to save their lives was found, because they deserved to be punished by such creatures.

10But your people did not succumb to the fangs of snakes, however poisonous, because your mercy came to their aid and healed them. 11It was to remind them of your decrees that they were bitten, and they were quickly healed for fear they might fall into deep forgetfulness and become unresponsive to your kindness. 12It was neither herb nor poultice that cured them, but your all-healing word, O Lord. 13You have the power of life and death, you bring a person down to the gates of death and you bring him up again. 14In his wickedness a human being may kill, but he cannot bring back the breath of life that has gone or release a soul that death has arrested.

15But from your hand there is no escape; 16for the godless who refused to acknowledge you were scourged by your mighty arm, they were pursued by unwonted storms of rain and hail falling in relentless torrents, and were utterly destroyed by fire. 17Strangest of all, in water, that quenches everything, the fire burned more fiercely; creation itself fights to defend the righteous. 18At one time the flame was moderated, so that it should not burn up the living creatures inflicted on the godless, who were to learn from this that it was by God's judgement they were pursued; 19at another time it blazed even in water with more than the natural power of fire, to destroy the produce of a sinful land.

20In contrast to this your own people were given angels' food. You sent to them from heaven, without labour on their part, bread ready to eat, rich in every kind of delight and suited to every taste. 21The sustenance you supplied showed the sweetness of your disposition towards your children, and the bread, serving the appetite of every person who ate it, was transformed into what each wished. 22Though like snow and ice, yet it resisted fire and did not melt, to teach them that whereas their enemies' crops had been destroyed by fire blazing in the hail and flashing through the teeming rain, 23that same fire had now forgotten its own power, in order that the godly might be fed.

24For creation, serving you its Maker, strains to punish the unrighteous and relaxes into benevolence towards those who put their trust in you. 25It was so at that time too: it adapted itself endlessly in the service of your universal bounty, according to the desire of your suppliants. 26So your people, whom you, Lord, have loved, were to learn that it is not by the growing of crops that mankind is nourished, but it is by your word that those who trust in you are sustained. 27That substance, which fire did not destroy, simply melted away when warmed by the sun's first rays, 28to teach us that we must rise before the sun to give you thanks and pray to you as daylight dawns. 29The hope of the ungrateful will melt like wintry hoar-frost, and drain away like water that runs to waste.

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