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

Chapter 18

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1For your holy ones, however, there shone a very great light. Their enemies, hearing their voices but not seeing them, counted them happy because they had not suffered as they themselves had; 2they thanked them for their forbearance under provocation, and begged as a favour that they should part company. 3In place of the darkness you provided a pillar of fire to be the guide of their uncharted journey, a sun that would not scorch them on that glorious expedition. 4Their enemies did indeed deserve to lose the light of day and be imprisoned in darkness, for they had kept in durance your people, through whom the imperishable light of the law was to be given to the world.

5They planned to kill the new-born infants among your holy people but, when one babe had been exposed and rescued, you deprived them of their children in requital, and drowned them all together in the swelling waves. 6Of that night our forefathers were given warning in advance, so that, having sure knowledge, they might be heartened by the promises which they trusted. 7Your people were looking for the deliverance of the godly and the destruction of their enemies; 8for you used the same means to punish our assailants and to make us glorious when we heard your call. 9The devout children of a virtuous race were offering sacrifices in secret, and covenanted with one accord to keep the law of God and to share alike in the same benefits and the same dangers; already they were singing their ancestral sacred songs of praise.

10In discordant contrast there came a clamour from their enemies, as piteous lamentation for their children spread abroad. 11Master and slave were punished together with the same penalty; king and commoner suffered the selfsame fate. 12All alike had dead past counting, struck down by one common form of death; there were not even enough living to bury the dead; at one stroke the most precious of their offspring had perished. 13Relying on their magic arts, they had scouted all warnings; but when they saw the destruction of their firstborn, they acknowledged that your people have God as their Father.

14All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, 15when your all-powerful word leapt from your royal throne in heaven into the midst of that doomed land like a relentless warrior, 16bearing the sharp sword of your inflexible decree; with his head touching the heavens and his feet on earth he stood and spread death everywhere. 17Then all at once nightmare phantoms appalled the godless, and fears unlooked-for beset them; 18flinging themselves half dead to the ground, one here, another there, they made clear why they were dying; 19for the dreams that tormented them had taught them before they died, so that they should not perish still ignorant of why they suffered.

20The godly also had a taste of death when large numbers were struck down in the wilderness. But the divine wrath did not long continue, 21for a blameless man was quick to be their champion, bearing the weapons of his priestly ministry, prayer and the incense that propitiates; he withstood the divine anger and set a limit to the disaster, thus showing that he was indeed your servant. 22He overcame the anger a 18:22 anger: prob. rdg; Gk crowd. neither by bodily strength nor by force of arms; but by words he subdued the avenger, appealing to the sworn covenants made with our forefathers. 23The dead were already fallen in heaps when he interposed himself and drove back the divine wrath, barring its line of attack on those still alive. 24On his long-skirted robe the whole world was represented; the glories of the fathers were engraved on his four rows of precious stones; and your majesty was on the diadem upon his head. 25To these the destroyer yielded, for they made him afraid. It was only a taste of the wrath, but it was enough.

Notes:

a 18:22 anger: prob. rdg; Gk crowd.

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