The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Wisdom
Brightest of all, that light shone on thy chosen people. These neighbours of theirs, heard but not seen, the Egyptians must congratulate on their escape from the common doom,
thank them for letting vengeance be, and ask forgiveness for past ill-will.✻
To these thou gavest, not darkness, but a pillar of burning fire, to be the guide of their unfamiliar journey, a sun, all gracious welcome, that brought no harm.✻
A fitting punishment it was for the Egyptians, this loss of light; fitting that they should be imprisoned in darkness, who had kept thy own sons in prison; thy own sons, through whom that law, which is light unfailing, was to be given to the world.
It was their purpose, besides, to slay all the children born of that holy stock; but one child survived exposure and lived to rebuke them; through him thou didst destroy Egypt’s own children in their thousands, and drown its assembled host in the rushing waves.
Of what should befall that night, our fathers had good warning; confidence in thy sworn protection should keep them unafraid.
A welcome gift it was to thy people, rescue for the just, and doom for their persecutors;
at one stroke thou didst punish our enemies, and make us proud men by singling us out for thyself.
In secret they offered their sacrifice, children of a nobler race, all set apart; with one accord they ratified the divine covenant, which bound them to share the same blessings and the same perils; singing for prelude their ancestral hymns of praise.
But music was none in the enemy’s cry that answered them; here all was dirge for children untimely mourned.
Slave and master, prince and peasant, a common doom met them, and a common loss; death levelled all under one title;
unnumbered everywhere the slain, nor might the living suffice to bury them; all in one moment, the flower of their race had perished.
Against those earlier plagues, sorcery had hardened their hearts; Israel they recognized for God’s children only when the first-born died.
There was a hush of silence all around, and night had but finished half her swift journey,
when from thy heavenly throne, Lord, down leaped thy word omnipotent. Never lighted sterner warrior on a doomed land;
never was sword so sharp, errand so unmistakable; thy word that could spread death everywhere, that trod earth, yet reached up to heaven.
All at once came terror in their dreams; phantoms dismayed, and sudden alarms overtook them;
and when they lay a-dying, each fallen where fall he must, they confessed what fault it was they expiated;
all was foretold by the dreams that so disquieted them; they were not suffered to perish ignorant of their offence.
There was a time, too, when God’s own people tasted the bitterness of death; out there in the desert a plague fell upon the common folk; but not for long this vengeance lasted.
A peerless champion they found, in Aaron, that quickly took up the shield of his appointed ministry; the power of intercession that was his, and the atoning incense, held thy wrath in check, and brought the calamity to an end; none could doubt now he was the man of thy choice!
Not by strength of body, not by prowess in arms, he won the victory;✻ by persuasion he disarmed resistance, calling to mind the sworn covenant of our race.
Already the corpses were piled thick one on another; but he kept vengeance at bay, standing in between to breach the path between dead and living.
Such blazonings he bore; what meant that long robe of his but the whole world’s orbit, the four rows of gems but the great deeds of our first fathers, the mitre on his head but thy own greatness?
In awe of these shrank the destroying angel away; for thy own people, some taste of thy vengeance should be enough.
The Holy Bible