21Wicked people are wrong when they say to themselves, “Our life is short and full of sorrow, and when its end comes, there is no escape. No one has ever been known to come back from the world of the dead. 2We were born by chance, and after life is over, we will be as if we had never been born at all. Our breath is no more than a puff of smoke; our mind is nothing more than a spark thrown off by the beating of our heart. 3When that spark dies, our body will crumble into ashes, and our breath will become part of the empty air. 4In time, no one will remember anything we ever did, and even our names will be forgotten. Our lives will pass away like traces of clouds and vanish like mist in the heat of the sun. 5Our time on earth is like a passing shadow. There is no escape from the day of our death; it is fixed, and no one can postpone it.”
The wicked say, “Come on, then, let's enjoy the good things of life, and live in this world just as we did when we were young and free of care! 7Let's drink the most expensive wines and use the finest perfumes. Let's not miss a single flower in the springtime! 8Before the roses wither, let's pick them and wear them in our hair! 9Let's all join in and leave signs everywhere of our carefree revelry! Life owes us that much!
10“We'll oppress the poor, even if they are righteous. We'll show no respect for widows or old people. 11We'll call ourselves right if we are strong enough to get what we want. No one ever got anywhere by being weak! 12Righteous people are nothing but a nuisance, so let's look for chances to get rid of them. They are against what we do; they accuse us of breaking the Law of Moses and violating the traditions of our ancestors. 13They claim to know God, and they call themselves the Lord's children. 14We can't stand the sight of people like that; what they are contradicts our whole way of thinking. 15They are not like other people; they have strange ways. 16They think that our moral standards are so corrupt that everything we do should be avoided. They boast of having God for their Father, and believe that only the righteous will die happy. 17But we'll see if that's true! Let's see what will happen when it's time for them to die! 18If the righteous really are God's children, God will save them from their enemies. 19So let's put them to the test. We'll be cruel to them, and torment them; then we'll find out how calm and reasonable they are! We'll find out just how much they can stand! 20We'll condemn them to a shameful death. After all, they say that God will protect them.”
21That is how evil people think, but they are wrong. They are blinded by their own wickedness. 22They have never known God's secrets, never hoped for the rewards of a holy and blameless life. 23
When God created us, he did not intend that we should die; he made us like himself. 24It was the Devil's jealousy that brought death into the world, and those who belong to the Devil are the ones who will die.
31But righteous people are protected by God and will never suffer torment. 2
It is a foolish mistake to think that righteous people die and that their death is a terrible evil. 3They leave us, but it is not a disaster. In fact, the righteous are at peace. 4It might appear that they have suffered punishment, but they have the confident hope of immortality. 5-6
Their sufferings were light compared with the blessings they will receive. God has tested them, like gold in a furnace, and found them worthy to be with him. He has accepted them, just as he accepts the sacrifices which his worshippers burn on the altar.
7When God comes to reward the righteous, they will blaze out against the wicked like fire in dry straw. 8They will rule over nations and peoples, and the Lord will be their king for ever. 9Those who have put their trust in God will come to understand the truth of his ways. Those who have been faithful will live with him in his love, for he is kind and merciful to the ones whom he has chosen.3.9 Some manuscripts add and he protects his own people (see 4.15).
10The ungodly, however, will get the punishment their wicked thoughts deserve, because they rebelled against the Lord and ignored what was right.3.10 what was right; or righteous people. 11A man who has no use for wisdom or education has a miserable life in store for him. He has nothing to hope for. His labours are useless, and he will never accomplish anything worth while. 12The woman he marries will turn out to be irresponsible, and his children will go wrong. 13All his descendants will be under a curse.
On Judgement Day God will reward the woman who has never been able to have a child, provided she has not been guilty of adultery. Then she will be happy. 14On that day, even the man who has been castrated will be rewarded with happiness, if he has kept the Law and has not stored up resentment against the Lord. Because he has been faithful, he will receive a special reward more precious than having children: a place in the Lord's heavenly Temple. 15Honest deeds are like a tree that bears marvellous fruit. Wisdom is like a root that is alive and can always send up new shoots.
16But children born of adultery or of a forbidden union will die an early death. 17Yet even if they do live a long time, they will never amount to anything. They will not be respected in their old age, 18and if they die young, they will have no hope or comfort on Judgement Day. 19Children born of a forbidden union suffer a miserable fate.
It is better to have virtue, even if it means having no children. Your virtue will be recognized by other people and by God, and you will be remembered for it for ever. 2Virtue provides an example for people to follow; when it is not there, they miss it. It has always been the finest prize a person can win, and it will always be so. It is the noblest of all the good qualities a person can have.
3No matter how many children are born of a forbidden union, none of them will ever amount to anything. They are illegitimate; they can never lay a firm foundation for themselves, never take deep root. 4Like trees with shallow roots, they put out leaves for a while, but they sway in the wind, and storms uproot them. 5Their branches snap off before they mature; their fruit never ripens, and it is good for nothing. 6On Judgement Day children born of a forbidden union will testify to the sin of their parents and act as witnesses against them.
7Righteous people, however, will find rest, even if they die young. 8We honour old age, but not just because a person has lived a long time. 9Wisdom and righteousness are signs of the maturity that should come with old age.
Once there was a man named Enoch who pleased God, and God loved him. While Enoch was still living among sinners, God took him away, 11so that evil and falsehood could not corrupt his mind and soul. 12(We all know that people can be so fascinated by evil that they cannot recognize what is good even when they are looking right at it. Innocent people can be so corrupted with desire that they can think of nothing but what they want.) 13This man Enoch achieved in a few years' time a perfection that other people could never attain in a complete lifetime. 14The Lord was pleased with Enoch's life and quickly took him out of this wicked world. People were aware of his departure but didn't understand. They never seemed to learn the lesson 15that God is kind and merciful to his own people; he protects those whom he has chosen.
16Even when righteous people are dead and gone, they put to shame the wicked people who live on after them. In their old age the wicked will be disgraced by young people who have already achieved perfection. 17The wise may die young, but the wicked will never understand that this is the Lord's way of taking them off to safety. 18They make light of a wise person's death, but the Lord will soon be laughing at them. When they die, they will not be given an honourable burial. Even the dead will hold them in scorn and disgust for ever. 19God will throw them to the ground and make them speechless. Like buildings shaken from their foundations, they will be reduced to piles of ruins. They will be in torment. People will soon forget all about them. 20They will come in fear to the Judgement, where their sins will be counted; they will stand condemned by their own lawless actions.