If this is your first visit, please see my introduction to these Lenten readings.
8 March. Wisdom chapters 16-19
These four chapters concluding the book are all about the Plagues of Eqypt and the beginning of the Exodus. The story is re-told in vivid poetic language as the writer imagines what it was like for the Egyptians to feel God’s displeasure and suffer the many effects of the plagues, while the people of Israel were unaffected. Indeed they were particularly blessed: protected from the venom of snakes by the bronze serpent on a pole (later understood as representing the healing power of Christ); protected from the destroying angel (here identified as the Word of God, 18:15, again a name for Christ); given a pillar of fire to lead them while the Egyptians had been terrified by darkness; and fed manna and quail in the desert while the Egyptians went hungry.
Interestingly, the writer imagines not so much physical suffering as psychological trauma, as they become terrified of the darkness by day, and mourn for their firstborn sons and the drowned army. When disaster strikes and the natural reaction is fear, he says, it quickly becomes apparent who is trusting in God (and can therefore face these things calmly) and who does not (and quickly panics when their means of psychological support is taken away) – “Fear is nothing other than the abandonment of reason; the less you rely within yourself on these, the more alarming it is not to know the cause of your suffering” (17:11-12).
Of course nothing is so clear-cut in real life: some people with strong faith in God may still be of a nervous disposition, and vice-versa. But one of the themes running through the Bible, and this book in particular, is that God is the rock, the fortress, the solid and dependable support in all circumstan