41The angel Uriel, who had been sent to me, replied, 2“You can't even understand what happens in this world. Do you think you can understand the ways of God Most High?”
3“Yes, sir, I do!” I answered.
The angel continued, “I have been sent to ask you to solve three riddles about what happens in this world. 4If you can explain even one of them to me, I will answer your questions about God's ways and teach you why the human race has an evil impulse.”
5“I agree, sir,” I said.
Then he said to me, “Good! How do you weigh out a kilogramme of fire? How do you measure a cubic metre4.5 Some ancient translations cubic metre; Latin blast. of wind? How do you bring back a day that has passed?”
6I answered, “Why do you ask me such questions? No human being could answer them.”
7Then he said, “What if I had asked you how many dwelling places there are at the bottom of the sea? How many rivers flow into the waters beneath the earth? How many rivers are there above the dome of the sky? Where are the exits from the world of the dead? Where are the entrances to4.7 Some ancient translations exits from… entrances to; Latin exits from. Paradise? 8If I had asked you these questions, you might have answered, ‘I have never gone down into the waters beneath the earth, and I have never entered the world of the dead. I have never gone up to heaven.’ 9But all I have asked you about is fire, wind, and the day that has just passed — things that you have experienced. Yet you have given me no answer. 10You can't even understand things that you have been familiar with since you were a child. 11How then can your little mind understand the ways of God Most High? Can one already worn down by this corrupt world understand the ways of the incorruptible God?”
When I heard this, I fell face downwards on the ground4.11 Verse 11 in Latin is unclear. 12and said to him, “It would have been better if we had never been born than to have to live in a world of sin and suffering without understanding why things happen as they do.”
13The angel Uriel answered, “I once went into the woods and heard the trees plotting together. 14They were saying, ‘Let's go to war against the sea and push it back, so that we may have more room.’ 15But the waves of the sea also plotted together and said, ‘Let's conquer the woods and extend our territory.’ 16But all the plotting of the trees was useless because fire came and destroyed them. 17And the plotting of the sea was just as useless because the sand stood firm and blocked its advance. 18Now, if you were the judge and had to decide between them, which would you pronounce right?”
19I replied, “They were both wrong, because trees belong to the land, and waves belong in the sea.”
20“You have given the right answer,” he said. “So why can't you see the answer to your own problems? 21
For just as trees have their place on land, and waves have their place in the sea, so the people of this world can understand only what goes on in this world, and only heavenly beings can understand what goes on in heaven.”
22“Please tell me, sir,” I asked, “why then was I given the ability to understand anything? 23I am not interested in asking questions about what goes on in the heavens; I am only concerned about things that go on about us. Why has God allowed Israel to be disgraced by foreign nations? Why has he let the nation he loves be handed over to the power of godless nations? Why do the Law and the covenant that were given to our ancestors mean nothing any more? 24Why do we die as quickly as insects? Why is our life shorter than a breath? Why does God think us unworthy of his mercy? 25Why doesn't God do something to help his own people? These are the questions that I want to ask.”
26Uriel answered, “If you live long enough, you will be surprised at what you will see, because this age is rapidly passing away. 27This age is so full of misery and imperfection that it cannot hold all the blessings that God has promised the righteous in the time to come. 28The evil about which you have asked me has already been planted, but the time for its harvesting has not yet arrived. 29This evil must be harvested, and this world where it was planted must be removed, before the new age where the good is to be planted can appear. 30
At the beginning of time one grain of evil seed was sown in the heart of Adam. See how much wickedness it has already produced! Think how much more it will produce before it is cut down and threshed out at Judgement Day. 31You can see for yourself what a big crop this one evil seed has produced. 32How terrible will be the harvest on Judgement Day when these countless ears of corn are threshed out!”
33Then I asked, “How long do we have to wait before this happens? Why are our lives so short and full of misery?”
34Uriel answered, “Don't be in a greater hurry than God Most High! You are thinking only of yourself, but God has to be concerned about everybody.4.34 Verse 34 in Latin is unclear. 35Your questions are the same ones asked by the souls of the righteous dead in the places where God is keeping them waiting: ‘How long must we wait here? When will the day of judgement come, when we will get our reward?’ 36
The archangel Jeremiel answers them, ‘It will happen as soon as the complete number of those who have suffered as you have are here. For God has weighed this age, 37measured the years, and numbered the days. Nothing will be changed until time has run its predetermined course.’ ”
38“But, sir,” I replied, “all of us here on earth are such wicked sinners. 39Is it possible that because of our sin the righteous dead are having to wait for their reward?”
40His answer was, “Can a pregnant woman keep her child from being born after her nine months are up?”
41“No, sir, she cannot,” I answered.
And he continued, “In the world of the dead, the place where God has stored the souls is like a womb. 42It is as eager to return the souls entrusted to it from the beginning of the world as a woman is to end her labour pains. 43When that happens, you will have the answer to all your questions.”
44“Please, sir,” I asked, “if you think I am able to understand it, can you 45tell me one more thing? Is the time that is still to come longer than the past that has already gone by? 46I know how long the past has been, but I don't know the future.”
47“Come here and stand at my right,” he commanded, “and I will show you a vision and explain its meaning.” 48So I stood by him and looked, and I saw a blazing fire pass by in front of me, and when it was gone, I saw that smoke was still there. 49Then a rain cloud passed by in front of me, bringing a heavy downpour of rain; and when the downpour was over, there was still a light rain. 50“Think about this,” said Uriel. “Just as the downpour was greater than the light rain that followed it and the fire was greater than the smoke left behind, in the same way the time that has passed is much longer than the time to come. The time that is left is like the rain and the smoke.”
“Please tell me,” I asked, “do you think I will be alive until that time? If not, who will be alive when it happens?”
52He answered, “I can tell you some of the signs of the end, if that is what you are asking about; but I am not here to tell you how long you will live, and in any case, I don't know.