The Forgotten Books of Eden
aka. "The Banned Books From the Bible"
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Testament of Abraham
Vita Adae et Evae
First Adam and Eve
Second Adam and Eve
Life of Adam and Eve
Story of Ahikar
Letter of Aristeas
Odes of Solomon
Testament of the 12
Psalms of Solomon
2 Esdras
IV Maccabees

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Flavius Josephus
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2 Esdras

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Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 1Chapter 1.

Chapters 1 and 2 comprise a separate literary composition also known as Ezra.

The book of the prophet Ezra son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Ahijah, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraimoth, son of Arna, son of Uzzi, son of Borith, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, who was a captive in the country of the Medes in the reign of Artaxerxes, king of the Persians.

A prophetic indictment against Israel; Prophetic historical recital of God's benefits during the Exodus.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Go, declare to my people their evil deeds, and to their children the iniquities that they have committed against me, so that they may tell their children's children that the sins of their parents have increased in them, for they have forgotten me and have offered sacrifices to strange gods. Was it not I who brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage? But they have angered me and despised my counsels. Now you, pull out the hair of your head and hurl all evils upon them, for they have not obeyed my law — they are a rebellious people. How long shall I endure them, on whom I have bestowed such great benefits? For their sake I have overthrown many kings; I struck down Pharaoh with his servants and all his army. I destroyed all nations before them, and scattered in the east the peoples of two provinces, Tyre and Sidon; I killed all their enemies.

"But speak to them and say, Thus says the Lord: Surely it was I who brought you through the sea, and made safe highways for you where there was no road; I gave you Moses as leader and Aaron as priest; I provided light for you from a pillar of fire, and did great wonders among you. Yet you have forgotten me, says the Lord.

"Thus says the Lord Almighty: The quails were a sign to you; I gave you camps for your protection, and in them you complained. You have not exulted in my name at the destruction of your enemies, but to this day you still complain. Where are the benefits that I bestowed on you? When you were hungry and thirsty in the wilderness, did you not cry out to me, saying, 'Why have you led us into this wilderness to kill us? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in this wilderness.' I pitied your groanings and gave you manna for food; you ate the bread of angels. When you were thirsty, did I not split the rock so that waters flowed in abundance? Because of the heat I clothed you with the leaves of trees. I divided fertile lands among you; I drove out the Canaanites, the Perizzites, and the Philistines before you. What more can I do for you? says the Lord. Thus says the Lord Almighty: When you were in the wilderness, at the bitter stream, thirsty and blaspheming my name, I did not send fire on you for your blasphemies, but threw a tree into the water and made the stream sweet.

Pronouncement of judgment against Israel

"What shall I do to you, O Jacob? You, Judah, would not obey me. I will turn to other nations and will give them my name, so that they may keep my statutes. Because you have forsaken me, I also will forsake you. When you beg mercy of me, I will show you no mercy. When you call to me, I will not listen to you; for you have defiled your hands with blood, and your feet are swift to commit murder. It is not as though you had forsaken me; you have forsaken yourselves, says the Lord.

"Thus says the Lord Almighty: Have I not entreated you as a father entreats his sons or a mother her daughters or a nurse her children, so that you should be my people and I should be your God, and that you should be my children and I should be your father? I gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But now, what shall I do to you? I will cast you out from my presence. When you offer oblations to me, I will turn my face from you; for I have rejected your festal days, and new moons, and circumcisions of the flesh. I sent you my servants the prophets, but you have taken and killed them and torn their bodies in pieces; I will require their blood of you, says the Lord.

"Thus says the Lord Almighty: Your house is desolate; I will drive you out as the wind drives straw; and your sons will have no children, because with you they have neglected my commandment and have done what is evil in my sight. I will give your houses to a people that will come, who without having heard me will believe. Those to whom I have shown no signs will do what I have commanded. They have seen no prophets, yet will recall their former state. I call to witness the gratitude of the people that is to come, whose children rejoice with gladness; though they do not see me with bodily eyes, yet with the spirit they will believe the things I have said.

Vision of the coming people

"And now, father, look with pride and see the people coming from the east; to them I will give as leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Hosea and Amos and Micah and Joel and Obadiah and Jonah and Nahum and Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, who is also called the messenger of the Lord.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 2Chapter 2.

Further pronouncement of judgment.

"Thus says the Lord: I brought this people out of bondage, and I gave them commandments through my servants the prophets; but they would not listen to them, and made my counsels void. The mother who bore them says to them, 'Go, my children, because I am a widow and forsaken. I brought you up with gladness; but with mourning and sorrow I have lost you, because you have sinned before the Lord God and have done what is evil in my sight. But now what can I do for you? For I am a widow and forsaken. Go, my children, and ask for mercy from the Lord.' Now I call upon you, father, as a witness in addition to the mother of the children, because they would not keep my covenant, so that you may bring confusion on them and bring their mother to ruin, so that they may have no offspring. Let them be scattered among the nations; let their names be blotted out from the earth, because they have despised my covenant.

"Woe to you, Assyria, who conceal the unrighteous within you! O wicked nation, remember what I did to Sodom and Gomorrah, whose land lies in lumps of pitch and heaps of ashes. That is what I will do to those who have not listened to me, says the Lord Almighty."

Prophetic exhortation of the new people; Blessing and instruction

Thus says the Lord to Ezra: "Tell my people that I will give them the kingdom of Jerusalem, which I was going to give to Israel. Moreover, I will take back to myself their glory, and will give to these others the everlasting habitations, which I had prepared for Israel. The tree of life shall give them fragrant perfume, and they shall neither toil nor become weary. Go and you will receive; pray that your days may be few, that they may be shortened. The kingdom is already prepared for you; be on the watch! Call, O call heaven and earth to witness: I set aside evil and created good; for I am the Living One, says the Lord.

Exhortation of the mother

"Mother, embrace your children; bring them up with gladness, as does a dove; strengthen their feet, because I have chosen you, says the Lord. And I will raise up the dead from their places, and bring them out from their tombs, because I recognize my name in them. Do not fear, mother of children, for I have chosen you, says the Lord. I will send you help, my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to their counsel I have consecrated and prepared for you twelve trees loaded with various fruits, and the same number of springs flowing with milk and honey, and seven mighty mountains on which roses and lilies grow; by these I will fill your children with joy.

"Guard the rights of the widow, secure justice for the ward, give to the needy, defend the orphan, clothe the naked, care for the injured and the weak, do not ridicule the lame, protect the maimed, and let the blind have a vision of my splendor. Protect the old and the young within your walls. When you find any who are dead, commit them to the grave and mark it, and I will give you the first place in my resurrection. Pause and be quiet, my people, because your rest will come.

"Good nurse, nourish your children; strengthen their feet. Not one of the servants whom I have given you will perish, for I will require them from among your number. Do not be anxious, for when the day of tribulation and anguish comes, others shall weep and be sorrowful, but you shall rejoice and have abundance. The nations shall envy you, but they shall not be able to do anything against you, says the Lord. My power will protect you, so that your children may not see hell.

"Rejoice, O mother, with your children, because I will deliver you, says the Lord. Remember your children that sleep, because I will bring them out of the hiding places of the earth, and will show mercy to them; for I am merciful, says the Lord Almighty. Embrace your children until I come, and proclaim mercy to them; because my springs run over, and my grace will not fail."

Encouragement of the "nations"

I, Ezra, received a command from the Lord on Mount Horeb to go to Israel. When I came to them they rejected me and refused the LORD's commandment. Therefore I say to you, O nations that hear and understand, "Wait for your shepherd; he will give you everlasting rest, because he who will come at the end of the age is close at hand. Be ready for the rewards of the kingdom, because perpetual light will shine on you forevermore. Flee from the shadow of this age, receive the joy of your glory; I publicly call on my savior to witness. Receive what the Lord has entrusted to you and be joyful, giving thanks to him who has called you to the celestial kingdoms. Rise, stand erect and see the number of those who have been sealed at the feast of the Lord. Those who have departed from the shadow of this age have received glorious garments from the Lord. Take again your full number, O Zion, and close the list of your people who are clothed in white, who have fulfilled the law of the Lord. The number of your children, whom you desired, is now complete; implore the LORD's authority that your people, who have been called from the beginning, may be made holy."

Ezra's vision of a great multitude

I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude that I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, "Who are these, my lord?" He answered and said to me, "These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God. Now they are being crowned, and receive palms." Then I said to the angel, "Who is that young man who is placing crowns on them and putting palms in their hands?" He answered and said to me, "He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world." So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord. Then the angel said to me, "Go, tell my people how great and how many are the wonders of the Lord God that you have seen."

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 3Chapter 3.

Chapters 3 - 14 comprise a separate literary composition also known as Ezra.

The first vision; Introduction

In the thirtieth year after the destruction of the city, I was in Babylon — I, Salathiel, who am also called Ezra. I was troubled as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts welled up in my heart, because I saw the desolation of Zion and the wealth of those who lived in Babylon. My spirit was greatly agitated, and I began to speak anxious words to the Most High, and said,

Addressing God, the author raises perplexing questions

"O sovereign Lord, did you not speak at the beginning when you planted the earth — and that without help — and commanded the dust and it gave you Adam, a lifeless body? Yet he was the creation of your hands, and you breathed into him the breath of life, and he was made alive in your presence. And you led him into the garden that your right hand had planted before the earth appeared. And you laid upon him one commandment of yours; but he transgressed it, and immediately you appointed death for him and for his descendants. From him there sprang nations and tribes, peoples and clans without number. And every nation walked after its own will; they did ungodly things in your sight and rejected your commands, and you did not hinder them. But again, in its time you brought the flood upon the inhabitants of the world and destroyed them. And the same fate befell all of them: just as death came upon Adam, so the flood upon them. But you left one of them, Noah with his household, and all the righteous who have descended from him.

"When those who lived on earth began to multiply, they produced children and peoples and many nations, and again they began to be more ungodly than were their ancestors. And when they were committing iniquity in your sight, you chose for yourself one of them, whose name was Abraham; you loved him, and to him alone you revealed the end of the times, secretly by night. You made an everlasting covenant with him, and promised him that you would never forsake his descendants; and you gave him Isaac, and to Isaac you gave Jacob and Esau. You set apart Jacob for yourself, but Esau you rejected; and Jacob became a great multitude. And when you led his descendants out of Egypt, you brought them to Mount Sinai. You bent down the heavens and shook the earth, and moved the world, and caused the depths to tremble, and troubled the times. Your glory passed through the four gates of fire and earthquake and wind and ice, to give the law to the descendants of Jacob, and your commandment to the posterity of Israel.

"Yet you did not take away their evil heart from them, so that your law might produce fruit in them. For the first Adam, burdened with an evil heart, transgressed and was overcome, as were also all who were descended from him. Thus the disease became permanent; the law was in the hearts of the people along with the evil root; but what was good departed, and the evil remained. So the times passed and the years were completed, and you raised up for yourself a servant, named David. You commanded him to build a city for your name, and there to offer you oblations from what is yours. This was done for many years; but the inhabitants of the city transgressed, in everything doing just as Adam and all his descendants had done, for they also had the evil heart. So you handed over your city to your enemies.

"Then I said in my heart, Are the deeds of those who inhabit Babylon any better? Is that why it has gained dominion over Zion? For when I came here I saw ungodly deeds without number, and my soul has seen many sinners during these thirty years. And my heart failed me, because I have seen how you endure those who sin, and have spared those who act wickedly, and have destroyed your people, and protected your enemies, and have not shown to anyone how your way may be comprehended. Are the deeds of Babylon better than those of Zion? Or has another nation known you besides Israel? Or what tribes have so believed the covenants as these tribes of Jacob? Yet their reward has not appeared and their labor has borne no fruit. For I have traveled widely among the nations and have seen that they abound in wealth, though they are unmindful of your commandments. Now therefore weigh in a balance our iniquities and those of the inhabitants of the world; and it will be found which way the turn of the scale will incline. When have the inhabitants of the earth not sinned in your sight? Or what nation has kept your commandments so well? You may indeed find individuals who have kept your commandments, but nations you will not find."

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 4Chapter 4.

Dialogic dispute between Ezra and the angel Uriel

Then the angel that had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, answered and said to me, "Your understanding has utterly failed regarding this world, and do you think you can comprehend the way of the Most High?" Then I said, "Yes, my lord." And he replied to me, "I have been sent to show you three ways, and to put before you three problems. If you can solve one of them for me, then I will show you the way you desire to see, and will teach you why the heart is evil."

I said, "Speak, my lord." And he said to me, "Go, weigh for me the weight of fire, or measure for me a blast of wind, or call back for me the day that is past."

I answered and said, "Who of those that have been born can do that, that you should ask me about such things?"

And he said to me, "If I had asked you, 'How many dwellings are in the heart of the sea, or how many streams are at the source of the deep, or how many streams are above the firmament, or which are the exits of Hades, or which are the entrances of paradise?' perhaps you would have said to me, 'I never went down into the deep, nor as yet into Hades, neither did I ever ascend into heaven.' But now I have asked you only about fire and wind and the day — things that you have experienced and from which you cannot be separated, and you have given me no answer about them." He said to me, "You cannot understand the things with which you have grown up; how then can your mind comprehend the way of the Most High? And how can one who is already worn out by the corrupt world understand incorruption?" When I heard this, I fell on my face and said to him, "It would have been better for us not to be here than to come here and live in ungodliness, and to suffer and not understand why."

He answered me and said, "I went into a forest of trees of the plain, and they made a plan and said, 'Come, let us go and make war against the sea, so that it may recede before us and so that we may make for ourselves more forests.' In like manner the waves of the sea also made a plan and said, 'Come, let us go up and subdue the forest of the plain so that there also we may gain more territory for ourselves.' But the plan of the forest was in vain, for the fire came and consumed it; likewise also the plan of the waves of the sea was in vain, for the sand stood firm and blocked it. If now you were a judge between them, which would you undertake to justify, and which to condemn?"

I answered and said, "Each made a foolish plan, for the land has been assigned to the forest, and the locale of the sea a place to carry its waves."

He answered me and said, "You have judged rightly, but why have you not judged so in your own case? For as the land has been assigned to the forest and the sea to its waves, so also those who inhabit the earth can understand only what is on the earth, and he who is above the heavens can understand what is above the height of the heavens."

Then I answered and said, "I implore you, my lord, why have I been endowed with the power of understanding? For I did not wish to inquire about the ways above, but about those things that we daily experience: why Israel has been given over to the Gentiles in disgrace; why the people whom you loved has been given over to godless tribes, and the law of our ancestors has been brought to destruction and the written covenants no longer exist. We pass from the world like locusts, and our life is like a mist, and we are not worthy to obtain mercy. But what will he do for his name that is invoked over us? It is about these things that I have asked."

Dialogic prediction regarding the future

He answered me and said, "If you are alive, you will see, and if you live long, you will often marvel, because the age is hurrying swiftly to its end. It will not be able to bring the things that have been promised to the righteous in their appointed times, because this age is full of sadness and infirmities. For the evil about which you ask me has been sown, but the harvest of it has not yet come. If therefore that which has been sown is not reaped, and if the place where the evil has been sown does not pass away, the field where the good has been sown will not come. For a grain of evil seed was sown in Adam's heart from the beginning, and how much ungodliness it has produced until now — and will produce until the time of threshing comes! Consider now for yourself how much fruit of ungodliness a grain of evil seed has produced. When heads of grain without number are sown, how great a threshing floor they will fill!"

Then I answered and said, "How long? When will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?" He answered me and said, "Do not be in a greater hurry than the Most High. You, indeed, are in a hurry for yourself, but the Highest is in a hurry on behalf of many. Did not the souls of the righteous in their chambers ask about these matters, saying, 'How long are we to remain here? And when will the harvest of our reward come?' And the archangel Jeremiel answered and said, 'When the number of those like yourselves is completed; for he has weighed the age in the balance, and measured the times by measure, and numbered the times by number; and he will not move or arouse them until that measure is fulfilled.'"

Then I answered and said, "But, O sovereign Lord, all of us also are full of ungodliness. It is perhaps on account of us that the time of threshing is delayed for the righteous — on account of the sins of those who inhabit the earth."

He answered me and said, "Go and ask a pregnant woman whether, when her nine months have been completed, her womb can keep the fetus within her any longer."

And I said, "No, lord, it cannot." He said to me, "In Hades the chambers of the souls are like the womb. For just as a woman who is in labor makes haste to escape the pangs of birth, so also do these places hasten to give back those things that were committed to them from the beginning. Then the things that you desire to see will be disclosed to you."

I answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, and if it is possible, and if I am worthy, show me this also: whether more time is to come than has passed, or whether for us the greater part has gone by. For I know what has gone by, but I do not know what is to come."

And he said to me, "Stand at my right side, and I will show you the interpretation of a parable."

So I stood and looked, and lo, a flaming furnace passed by before me, and when the flame had gone by I looked, and lo, the smoke remained. And after this a cloud full of water passed before me and poured down a heavy and violent rain, and when the violent rainstorm had passed, drops still remained in the cloud.

He said to me, "Consider it for yourself; for just as the rain is more than the drops, and the fire is greater than the smoke, so the quantity that passed was far greater; but drops and smoke remained."

Then I prayed and said, "Do you think that I shall live until those days? Or who will be alive in those days?"

He answered me and said, "Concerning the signs about which you ask me, I can tell you in part; but I was not sent to tell you concerning your life, for I do not know.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 5Chapter 5.

Direct prediction of the future by the angel

"Now concerning the signs: lo, the days are coming when those who inhabit the earth shall be seized with great terror, and the way of truth shall be hidden, and the land shall be barren of faith. Unrighteousness shall be increased beyond what you yourself see, and beyond what you heard of formerly. And the land that you now see ruling shall be a trackless waste, and people shall see it desolate. But if the Most High grants that you live, you shall see it thrown into confusion after the third period; and the sun shall suddenly begin to shine at night, and the moon during the day.

Blood shall drip from wood, and the stone shall utter its voice; the peoples shall be troubled, and the stars shall fall.

And one shall reign whom those who inhabit the earth do not expect, and the birds shall fly away together; and the Dead Sea shall cast up fish; and one whom the many do not know shall make his voice heard by night, and all shall hear his voice. There shall be chaos also in many places, fire shall often break out, the wild animals shall roam beyond their haunts, and menstruous women shall bring forth monsters. Salt waters shall be found in the sweet, and all friends shall conquer one another; then shall reason hide itself, and wisdom shall withdraw into its chamber, and it shall be sought by many but shall not be found, and unrighteousness and unrestraint shall increase on earth. One country shall ask its neighbor, 'Has righteousness, or anyone who does right, passed through you?' And it will answer, 'No.' At that time people shall hope but not obtain; they shall labor, but their ways shall not prosper. These are the signs that I am permitted to tell you, and if you pray again, and weep as you do now, and fast for seven days, you shall hear yet greater things than these."

Conclusion of the vision

Then I woke up, and my body shuddered violently, and my soul was so troubled that it fainted. But the angel who had come and talked with me held me and strengthened me and set me on my feet.

Now on the second night Phaltiel, a chief of the people, came to me and said, "Where have you been? And why is your face sad? Or do you not know that Israel has been entrusted to you in the land of their exile? Rise therefore and eat some bread, and do not forsake us, like a shepherd who leaves the flock in the power of savage wolves."

Then I said to him, "Go away from me and do not come near me for seven days; then you may come to me." He heard what I said and left me. So I fasted seven days, mourning and weeping, as the angel Uriel had commanded me.

The second vision; Introduction

After seven days the thoughts of my heart were very grievous to me again. Then my soul recovered the spirit of understanding, and I began once more to speak words in the presence of the Most High.

Addressing God, the seer reiterates his complaints of divine injustice in dealing with Israel

I said, "O sovereign Lord, from every forest of the earth and from all its trees you have chosen one vine, and from all the lands of the world you have chosen for yourself one region, and from all the flowers of the world you have chosen for yourself one lily, and from all the depths of the sea you have filled for yourself one river, and from all the cities that have been built you have consecrated Zion for yourself, and from all the birds that have been created you have named for yourself one dove, and from all the flocks that have been made you have provided for yourself one sheep, and from all the multitude of peoples you have gotten for yourself one people; and to this people, whom you have loved, you have given the law that is approved by all. And now, O Lord, why have you handed the one over to the many, and dishonored the one root beyond the others, and scattered your only one among the many? And those who opposed your promises have trampled on those who believed your covenants. If you really hate your people, they should be punished at your own hands."

Dialogic dispute with the angel

When I had spoken these words, the angel who had come to me on a previous night was sent to me. He said to me, "Listen to me, and I will instruct you; pay attention to me, and I will tell you more."

Then I said, "Speak, my lord." And he said to me, "Are you greatly disturbed in mind over Israel? Or do you love him more than his Maker does?"

I said, "No, my lord, but because of my grief I have spoken; for every hour I suffer agonies of heart, while I strive to understand the way of the Most High and to search out some part of his judgment."

He said to me, "You cannot." And I said, "Why not, my lord? Why then was I born? Or why did not my mother's womb become my grave, so that I would not see the travail of Jacob and the exhaustion of the people of Israel?"

He said to me, "Count up for me those who have not yet come, and gather for me the scattered raindrops, and make the withered flowers bloom again for me; open for me the closed chambers, and bring out for me the winds shut up in them, or show me the picture of a voice; and then I will explain to you the travail that you ask to understand."

I said, "O sovereign Lord, who is able to know these things except him whose dwelling is not with mortals? As for me, I am without wisdom, and how can I speak concerning the things that you have asked me?"

He said to me, "Just as you cannot do one of the things that were mentioned, so you cannot discover my judgment, or the goal of the love that I have promised to my people."

Dialogic prediction concerning the future

I said, "Yet, O Lord, you have charge of those who are alive at the end, but what will those do who lived before me, or we, ourselves, or those who come after us?"

He said to me, "I shall liken my judgment to a circle; just as for those who are last there is no slowness, so for those who are first there is no haste."

Then I answered and said, "Could you not have created at one time those who have been and those who are and those who will be, so that you might show your judgment the sooner?"

He replied to me and said, "The creation cannot move faster than the Creator, nor can the world hold at one time those who have been created in it."

I said, "How have you said to your servant that you will certainly give life at one time to your creation? If therefore all creatures will live at one time and the creation will sustain them, it might even now be able to support all of them present at one time."

He said to me, "Ask a woman's womb, and say to it, 'If you bear ten children, why one after another?' Request it therefore to produce ten at one time."

I said, "Of course it cannot, but only each in its own time."

He said to me, "Even so I have given the womb of the earth to those who from time to time are sown in it. For as an infant does not bring forth, and a woman who has become old does not bring forth any longer, so I have made the same rule for the world that I created."

Then I inquired and said, "Since you have now given me the opportunity, let me speak before you. Is our mother, of whom you have told me, still young? Or is she now approaching old age?"

He replied to me, "Ask a woman who bears children, and she will tell you. Say to her, 'Why are those whom you have borne recently not like those whom you bore before, but smaller in stature?' And she herself will answer you, 'Those born in the strength of youth are different from those born during the time of old age, when the womb is failing.' Therefore you also should consider that you and your contemporaries are smaller in stature than those who were before you, and those who come after you will be smaller than you, as born of a creation that already is aging and passing the strength of youth."

I said, "I implore you, O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, show your servant through whom you will visit your creation."

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 6Chapter 6.

He said to me, "At the beginning of the circle of the earth, before the portals of the world were in place, and before the assembled winds blew, and before the rumblings of thunder sounded, and before the flashes of lightning shone, and before the foundations of paradise were laid, and before the beautiful flowers were seen, and before the powers of movements were established, and before the innumerable hosts of angels were gathered together, and before the heights of the air were lifted up, and before the measures of the firmaments were named, and before the footstool of Zion was established, and before the present years were reckoned and before the imaginations of those who now sin were estranged, and before those who stored up treasures of faith were sealed — then I planned these things, and they were made through me alone and not through another; just as the end shall come through me alone and not through another."

I answered and said, "What will be the dividing of the times? Or when will be the end of the first age and the beginning of the age that follows?"

He said to me, "From Abraham to Isaac, because from him were born Jacob and Esau, for Jacob's hand held Esau's heel from the beginning. Now Esau is the end of this age, and Jacob is the beginning of the age that follows. The beginning of a person is the hand, and the end of a person is the heel; seek for nothing else, Ezra, between the heel and the hand, Ezra!"

Direct prediction of the future

I answered and said, "O sovereign Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, show your servant the last of your signs of which you showed me a part on a previous night."

He answered and said to me, "Rise to your feet and you will hear a full, resounding voice. And if the place where you are standing is greatly shaken while the voice is speaking, do not be terrified; because the word concerns the end, and the foundations of the earth will understand that the speech concerns them. They will tremble and be shaken, for they know that their end must be changed."

When I heard this, I got to my feet and listened; a voice was speaking, and its sound was like the sound of mighty waters. It said, "The days are coming when I draw near to visit the inhabitants of the earth, and when I require from the doers of iniquity the penalty of their iniquity, and when the humiliation of Zion is complete. When the seal is placed upon the age that is about to pass away, then I will show these signs: the books shall be opened before the face of the firmament, and all shall see my judgment together. Children a year old shall speak with their voices, and pregnant women shall give birth to premature children at three and four months, and these shall live and leap about. Sown places shall suddenly appear unsown, and full storehouses shall suddenly be found to be empty; the trumpet shall sound aloud, and when all hear it, they shall suddenly be terrified. At that time friends shall make war on friends like enemies, the earth and those who inhabit it shall be terrified, and the springs of the fountains shall stand still, so that for three hours they shall not flow.

"It shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. And they shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death; and the heart of the earth's inhabitants shall be changed and converted to a different spirit. For evil shall be blotted out, and deceit shall be quenched; faithfulness shall flourish, and corruption shall be overcome, and the truth, which has been so long without fruit, shall be revealed."

The conclusion of the vision

While he spoke to me, little by little the place where I was standing began to rock to and fro. And he said to me, "I have come to show you these things this night. If therefore you will pray again and fast again for seven days, I will again declare to you greater things than these, because your voice has surely been heard by the Most High; for the Mighty One has seen your uprightness and has also observed the purity that you have maintained from your youth. Therefore he sent me to show you all these things, and to say to you: 'Believe and do not be afraid! Do not be quick to think vain thoughts concerning the former times; then you will not act hastily in the last times.'

The third vision

Now after this I wept again and fasted seven days in the same way as before, in order to complete the three weeks that had been prescribed for me. Then on the eighth night my heart was troubled within me again, and I began to speak in the presence of the Most High. My spirit was greatly aroused, and my soul was in distress.

Addressing God, the seer recounts God's work in six days of creation

I said, "O Lord, you spoke at the beginning of creation, and said on the first day, 'Let heaven and earth be made,' and your word accomplished the work. Then the spirit was blowing, and darkness and silence embraced everything; the sound of human voices was not yet there. Then you commanded a ray of light to be brought out from your store-chambers, so that your works could be seen.

"Again, on the second day, you created the spirit of the firmament, and commanded it to divide and separate the waters, so that one part might move upward and the other part remain beneath.

"On the third day you commanded the waters to be gathered together in a seventh part of the earth; six parts you dried up and kept so that some of them might be planted and cultivated and be of service before you. For your word went forth, and at once the work was done. Immediately fruit came forth in endless abundance and of varied appeal to the taste, and flowers of inimitable color, and odors of inexpressible fragrance. These were made on the third day.

"On the fourth day you commanded the brightness of the sun, the light of the moon, and the arrangement of the stars to come into being; and you commanded them to serve humankind, about to be formed.

"On the fifth day you commanded the seventh part, where the water had been gathered together, to bring forth living creatures, birds, and fishes; and so it was done. The dumb and lifeless water produced living creatures, as it was commanded, so that therefore the nations might declare your wondrous works.

"Then you kept in existence two living creatures; the one you called Behemoth and the name of the other Leviathan. And you separated one from the other, for the seventh part where the water had been gathered together could not hold them both. And you gave Behemoth one of the parts that had been dried up on the third day, to live in it, where there are a thousand mountains; but to Leviathan you gave the seventh part, the watery part; and you have kept them to be eaten by whom you wish, and when you wish.

"On the sixth day you commanded the earth to bring forth before you cattle, wild animals, and creeping things; and over these you placed Adam, as ruler over all the works that you had made; and from him we have all come, the people whom you have chosen.

"All this I have spoken before you, O Lord, because you have said that it was for us that you created this world. As for the other nations that have descended from Adam, you have said that they are nothing, and that they are like spittle, and you have compared their abundance to a drop from a bucket. And now, O Lord, these nations, which are reputed to be as nothing, domineer over us and devour us. But we your people, whom you have called your firstborn, only begotten, zealous for you, and most dear, have been given into their hands. If the world has indeed been created for us, why do we not possess our world as an inheritance? How long will this be so?"

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 7Chapter 7.

Dispute between Ezra and the angel

When I had finished speaking these words, the angel who had been sent to me on the former nights was sent to me again. He said to me, "Rise, Ezra, and listen to the words that I have come to speak to you."

I said, "Speak, my lord." And he said to me, "There is a sea set in a wide expanse so that it is deep and vast, but it has an entrance set in a narrow place, so that it is like a river. If there are those who wish to reach the sea, to look at it or to navigate it, how can they come to the broad part unless they pass through the narrow part? Another example: There is a city built and set on a plain, and it is full of all good things; but the entrance to it is narrow and set in a precipitous place, so that there is fire on the right hand and deep water on the left. There is only one path lying between them, that is, between the fire and the water, so that only one person can walk on the path. If now the city is given to someone as an inheritance, how will the heir receive the inheritance unless by passing through the appointed danger?"

I said, "That is right, lord." He said to me, "So also is Israel's portion. For I made the world for their sake, and when Adam transgressed my statutes, what had been made was judged. And so the entrances of this world were made narrow and sorrowful and toilsome; they are few and evil, full of dangers and involved in great hardships. But the entrances of the greater world are broad and safe, and yield the fruit of immortality. Therefore unless the living pass through the difficult and futile experiences, they can never receive those things that have been reserved for them. Now therefore why are you disturbed, seeing that you are to perish? Why are you moved, seeing that you are mortal? Why have you not considered in your mind what is to come, rather than what is now present?"

Then I answered and said, "O sovereign Lord, you have ordained in your law that the righteous shall inherit these things, but that the ungodly shall perish. The righteous, therefore, can endure difficult circumstances while hoping for easier ones; but those who have done wickedly have suffered the difficult circumstances and will never see the easier ones."

He said to me, "You are not a better judge than the Lord, or wiser than the Most High! Let many perish who are now living, rather than that the law of God that is set before them be disregarded! For the Lord strictly commanded those who came into the world, when they came, what they should do to live, and what they should observe to avoid punishment. Nevertheless they were not obedient, and spoke against him; they devised for themselves vain thoughts, and proposed to themselves wicked frauds; they even declared that the Most High does not exist, and they ignored his ways.

They scorned his law, and denied his covenants; they have been unfaithful to his statutes, and have not performed his works.

That is the reason, Ezra, that empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full.

Direct prediction of the future by the angel

"For indeed the time will come, when the signs that I have foretold to you will come to pass, that the city that now is not seen shall appear, and the land that now is hidden shall be disclosed. Everyone who has been delivered from the evils that I have foretold shall see my wonders. For my son the Messiah shall be revealed with those who are with him, and those who remain shall rejoice four hundred years. After those years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. Then the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings, so that no one shall be left. After seven days the world that is not yet awake shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish. The earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who rest there in silence; and the chambers shall give up the souls that have been committed to them. The Most High shall be revealed on the seat of judgment, and compassion shall pass away, and patience shall be withdrawn. Only judgment shall remain, truth shall stand, and faithfulness shall grow strong. Recompense shall follow, and the reward shall be manifested; righteous deeds shall awake, and unrighteous deeds shall not sleep. The pit of torment shall appear, and opposite it shall be the place of rest; and the furnace of hell shall be disclosed, and opposite it the paradise of delight. Then the Most High will say to the nations that have been raised from the dead, 'Look now, and understand whom you have denied, whom you have not served, whose commandments you have despised. Look on this side and on that; here are delight and rest, and there are fire and torments.' Thus he will speak to them on the day of judgment — a day that has no sun or moon or stars, or cloud or thunder or lightning, or wind or water or air, or darkness or evening or morning, or summer or spring or heat or winter or frost or cold, or hail or rain or dew, or noon or night, or dawn or shining or brightness or light, but only the splendor of the glory of the Most High, by which all shall see what has been destined. It will last as though for a week of years. This is my judgment and its prescribed order; and to you alone I have shown these things."

The second section of the third vision

I answered and said, "O sovereign Lord, I said then and I say now: Blessed are those who are alive and keep your commandments! But what of those for whom I prayed? For who among the living is there that has not sinned, or who is there among mortals that has not transgressed your covenant? And now I see that the world to come will bring delight to few, but torments to many. For an evil heart has grown up in us, which has alienated us from God, and has brought us into corruption and the ways of death, and has shown us the paths of perdition and removed us far from life — and that not merely for a few but for almost all who have been created."

He answered me and said, "Listen to me, Ezra, and I will instruct you, and will admonish you once more. For this reason the Most High has made not one world but two. Inasmuch as you have said that the righteous are not many but few, while the ungodly abound, hear the explanation for this.

"If you have just a few precious stones, will you add to them lead and clay?" I said, "Lord, how could that be?" And he said to me, "Not only that, but ask the earth and she will tell you; defer to her, and she will declare it to you. Say to her, 'You produce gold and silver and bronze, and also iron and lead and clay; but silver is more abundant than gold, and bronze than silver, and iron than bronze, and lead than iron, and clay than lead.' Judge therefore which things are precious and desirable, those that are abundant or those that are rare?"

I said, "O sovereign Lord, what is plentiful is of less worth, for what is more rare is more precious."

He answered me and said, "Consider within yourself what you have thought, for the person who has what is hard to get rejoices more than the person who has what is plentiful. So also will be the judgment that I have promised; for I will rejoice over the few who shall be saved, because it is they who have made my glory to prevail now, and through them my name has now been honored. I will not grieve over the great number of those who perish; for it is they who are now like a mist, and are similar to a flame and smoke — they are set on fire and burn hotly, and are extinguished."

I replied and said, "O earth, what have you brought forth, if the mind is made out of the dust like the other created things? For it would have been better if the dust itself had not been born, so that the mind might not have been made from it. But now the mind grows with us, and therefore we are tormented, because we perish and we know it. Let the human race lament, but let the wild animals of the field be glad; let all who have been born lament, but let the cattle and the flocks rejoice. It is much better with them than with us; for they do not look for a judgment, and they do not know of any torment or salvation promised to them after death. What does it profit us that we shall be preserved alive but cruelly tormented? For all who have been born are entangled in iniquities, and are full of sins and burdened with transgressions. And if after death we were not to come into judgment, perhaps it would have been better for us."

He answered me and said, "When the Most High made the world and Adam and all who have come from him, he first prepared the judgment and the things that pertain to the judgment. But now, understand from your own words — for you have said that the mind grows with us. For this reason, therefore, those who live on earth shall be tormented, because though they had understanding, they committed iniquity; and though they received the commandments, they did not keep them; and though they obtained the law, they dealt unfaithfully with what they received. What, then, will they have to say in the judgment, or how will they answer in the last times? How long the Most High has been patient with those who inhabit the world! — and not for their sake, but because of the times that he has foreordained."

Dialogic prediction of the future

I answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, show this also to your servant: whether after death, as soon as everyone of us yields up the soul, we shall be kept in rest until those times come when you will renew the creation, or whether we shall be tormented at once?"

He answered me and said, "I will show you that also, but do not include yourself with those who have shown scorn, or number yourself among those who are tormented. For you have a treasure of works stored up with the Most High, but it will not be shown to you until the last times. Now concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone out from the Most High that a person shall die, as the spirit leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High. If it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the way of the Most High, who have despised his law and hated those who fear God — such spirits shall not enter into habitations, but shall immediately wander about in torments, always grieving and sad, in seven ways. The first way, because they have scorned the law of the Most High. The second way, because they cannot now make a good repentance so that they may live. The third way, they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the covenants of the Most High. The fourth way, they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days. The fifth way, they shall see how the habitations of the others are guarded by angels in profound quiet. The sixth way, they shall see how some of them will cross over into torments. The seventh way, which is worse than all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame, and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High in whose presence they sinned while they were alive, and in whose presence they are to be judged in the last times.

"Now this is the order of those who have kept the ways of the Most High, when they shall be separated from their mortal body. During the time that they lived in it, they laboriously served the Most High, and withstood danger every hour so that they might keep the law of the Lawgiver perfectly. Therefore this is the teaching concerning them: First of all, they shall see with great joy the glory of him who receives them, for they shall have rest in seven orders. The first order, because they have striven with great effort to overcome the evil thought that was formed with them, so that it might not lead them astray from life into death. The second order, because they see the perplexity in which the souls of the ungodly wander and the punishment that awaits them. The third order, they see the witness that he who formed them bears concerning them, that throughout their life they kept the law with which they were entrusted. The fourth order, they understand the rest that they now enjoy, being gathered into their chambers and guarded by angels in profound quiet, and the glory waiting for them in the last days. The fifth order, they rejoice that they have now escaped what is corruptible and shall inherit what is to come; and besides they see the straits and toil from which they have been delivered, and the spacious liberty that they are to receive and enjoy in immortality. The sixth order, when it is shown them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on. The seventh order, which is greater than all that have been mentioned, because they shall rejoice with boldness, and shall be confident without confusion, and shall be glad without fear, for they press forward to see the face of him whom they served in life and from whom they are to receive their reward when glorified. This is the order of the souls of the righteous, as henceforth is announced; and the previously mentioned are the ways of torment that those who would not give heed shall suffer hereafter."

Then I answered and said, "Will time therefore be given to the souls, after they have been separated from the bodies, to see what you have described to me?"

He said to me, "They shall have freedom for seven days, so that during these seven days they may see the things of which you have been told, and afterwards they shall be gathered in their habitations."

Dispute between Ezra and the angel

I answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, show further to me, your servant, whether on the day of judgment the righteous will be able to intercede for the ungodly or to entreat the Most High for them — fathers for sons or sons for parents, brothers for brothers, relatives for their kindred, or friends for those who are most dear."

He answered me and said, "Since you have found favor in my sight, I will show you this also. The day of judgment is decisive and displays to all the seal of truth. Just as now a father does not send his son, or a son his father, or a master his servant, or a friend his dearest friend, to be ill or sleep or eat or be healed in his place, so no one shall ever pray for another on that day, neither shall anyone lay a burden on another; for then all shall bear their own righteousness and unrighteousness."

I answered and said, "How then do we find that first Abraham prayed for the people of Sodom, and Moses for our ancestors who sinned in the desert, and Joshua after him for Israel in the days of Achan, and Samuel in the days of Saul, and David for the plague, and Solomon for those at the dedication, and Elijah for those who received the rain, and for the one who was dead, that he might live, and Hezekiah for the people in the days of Sennacherib, and many others prayed for many? So if now, when corruption has increased and unrighteousness has multiplied, the righteous have prayed for the ungodly, why will it not be so then as well?"

He answered me and said, "This present world is not the end; the full glory does not remain in it; therefore those who were strong prayed for the weak. But the day of judgment will be the end of this age and the beginning of the immortal age to come, in which corruption has passed away, sinful indulgence has come to an end, unbelief has been cut off, and righteousness has increased and truth has appeared. Therefore no one will then be able to have mercy on someone who has been condemned in the judgment, or to harm someone who is victorious."

I answered and said, "This is my first and last comment: it would have been better if the earth had not produced Adam, or else, when it had produced him, had restrained him from sinning. For what good is it to all that they live in sorrow now and expect punishment after death? O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants. For what good is it to us, if an immortal time has been promised to us, but we have done deeds that bring death? And what good is it that an everlasting hope has been promised to us, but we have miserably failed? Or that safe and healthful habitations have been reserved for us, but we have lived wickedly? Or that the glory of the Most High will defend those who have led a pure life, but we have walked in the most wicked ways? Or that a paradise shall be revealed, whose fruit remains unspoiled and in which are abundance and healing, but we shall not enter it because we have lived in perverse ways? Or that the faces of those who practiced self-control shall shine more than the stars, but our faces shall be blacker than darkness? For while we lived and committed iniquity we did not consider what we should suffer after death."

He answered and said, "This is the significance of the contest that all who are born on earth shall wage: if they are defeated they shall suffer what you have said, but if they are victorious they shall receive what I have said. For this is the way of which Moses, while he was alive, spoke to the people, saying, 'Choose life for yourself, so that you may live!' But they did not believe him or the prophets after him, or even myself who have spoken to them. Therefore there shall not be grief at their destruction, so much as joy over those to whom salvation is assured."

I answered and said, "I know, O Lord, that the Most High is now called merciful, because he has mercy on those who have not yet come into the world; and gracious, because he is gracious to those who turn in repentance to his law; and patient, because he shows patience toward those who have sinned, since they are his own creatures; and bountiful, because he would rather give than take away; and abundant in compassion, because he makes his compassions abound more and more to those now living and to those who are gone and to those yet to come for if he did not make them abound, the world with those who inhabit it would not have life and he is called the giver, because if he did not give out of his goodness so that those who have committed iniquities might be relieved of them, not one ten-thousandth of humankind could have life; and the judge, because if he did not pardon those who were created by his word and blot out the multitude of their sins, there would probably be left only very few of the innumerable multitude."

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 8Chapter 8.

He answered me and said, "The Most High made this world for the sake of many, but the world to come for the sake of only a few. But I tell you a parable, Ezra. Just as, when you ask the earth, it will tell you that it provides a large amount of clay from which earthenware is made, but only a little dust from which gold comes, so is the course of the present world. Many have been created, but only a few shall be saved."

The third section of the third vision; Monologue of Ezra

I answered and said, "Then drink your fill of understanding, O my soul, and drink wisdom, O my heart. For not of your own will did you come into the world, and against your will you depart, for you have been given only a short time to live. O Lord above us, grant to your servant that we may pray before you, and give us a seed for our heart and cultivation of our understanding so that fruit may be produced, by which every mortal who bears the likeness of a human being may be able to live. For you alone exist, and we are a work of your hands, as you have declared. And because you give life to the body that is now fashioned in the womb, and furnish it with members, what you have created is preserved amid fire and water, and for nine months the womb endures your creature that has been created in it. But that which keeps and that which is kept shall both be kept by your keeping. And when the womb gives up again what has been created in it, you have commanded that from the members themselves (that is, from the breasts) milk, the fruit of the breasts, should be supplied, so that what has been fashioned may be nourished for a time; and afterwards you will still guide it in your mercy. You have nurtured it in your righteousness, and instructed it in your law, and reproved it in your wisdom. You put it to death as your creation, and make it live as your work. If then you will suddenly and quickly destroy what with so great labor was fashioned by your command, to what purpose was it made? And now I will speak out: About all humankind you know best; but I will speak about your people, for whom I am grieved, and about your inheritance, for whom I lament, and about Israel, for whom I am sad, and about the seed of Jacob, for whom I am troubled. Therefore I will pray before you for myself and for them, for I see the failings of us who inhabit the earth; and now also I have heard of the swiftness of the judgment that is to come. Therefore hear my voice and understand my words, and I will speak before you."

Ezra's Prayer

The beginning of the words of Ezra's prayer, before he was taken up. He said: "O Lord, you who inhabit eternity, whose eyes are exalted and whose upper chambers are in the air, whose throne is beyond measure and whose glory is beyond comprehension, before whom the hosts of angels stand trembling and at whose command they are changed to wind and fire, whose word is sure and whose utterances are certain, whose command is strong and whose ordinance is terrible, whose look dries up the depths and whose indignation makes the mountains melt away, and whose truth is established forever — hear, O Lord, the prayer of your servant, and give ear to the petition of your creature; attend to my words. For as long as I live I will speak, and as long as I have understanding I will answer. O do not look on the sins of your people, but on those who serve you in truth. Do not take note of the endeavors of those who act wickedly, but of the endeavors of those who have kept your covenants amid afflictions. Do not think of those who have lived wickedly in your sight, but remember those who have willingly acknowledged that you are to be feared. Do not will the destruction of those who have the ways of cattle, but regard those who have gloriously taught your law. Do not be angry with those who are deemed worse than wild animals, but love those who have always put their trust in your glory. For we and our ancestors have passed our lives in ways that bring death; but it is because of us sinners that you are called merciful. For if you have desired to have pity on us, who have no works of righteousness, then you will be called merciful. For the righteous, who have many works laid up with you, shall receive their reward in consequence of their own deeds. But what are mortals, that you are angry with them; or what is a corruptible race, that you are so bitter against it? For in truth there is no one among those who have been born who has not acted wickedly; among those who have existed there is no one who has not done wrong. For in this, O Lord, your righteousness and goodness will be declared, when you are merciful to those who have no store of good works."

Dispute between Ezra and the angel

He answered me and said, "Some things you have spoken rightly, and it will turn out according to your words. For indeed I will not concern myself about the fashioning of those who have sinned, or about their death, their judgment, or their destruction; but I will rejoice over the creation of the righteous, over their pilgrimage also, and their salvation, and their receiving their reward. As I have spoken, therefore, so it shall be.

"For just as the farmer sows many seeds in the ground and plants a multitude of seedlings, and yet not all that have been sown will come up in due season, and not all that were planted will take root; so also those who have been sown in the world will not all be saved."

I answered and said, "If I have found favor in your sight, let me speak. If the farmer's seed does not come up, because it has not received your rain in due season, or if it has been ruined by too much rain, it perishes. But people, who have been formed by your hands and are called your own image because they are made like you, and for whose sake you have formed all things — have you also made them like the farmer's seed? Surely not, O Lord above! But spare your people and have mercy on your inheritance, for you have mercy on your own creation."

He answered me and said, "Things that are present are for those who live now, and things that are future are for those who will live hereafter. For you come far short of being able to love my creation more than I love it. But you have often compared yourself to the unrighteous. Never do so! But even in this respect you will be praiseworthy before the Most High, because you have humbled yourself, as is becoming for you, and have not considered yourself to be among the righteous. You will receive the greatest glory, for many miseries will affect those who inhabit the world in the last times, because they have walked in great pride. But think of your own case, and inquire concerning the glory of those who are like yourself, because it is for you that paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the age to come is prepared, plenty is provided, a city is built, rest is appointed, goodness is established and wisdom perfected beforehand. The root of evil is sealed up from you, illness is banished from you, and death is hidden; Hades has fled and corruption has been forgotten; sorrows have passed away, and in the end the treasure of immortality is made manifest. Therefore do not ask any more questions about the great number of those who perish. For when they had opportunity to choose, they despised the Most High, and were contemptuous of his law, and abandoned his ways. Moreover, they have even trampled on his righteous ones, and said in their hearts that there is no God — though they knew well that they must die. For just as the things that I have predicted await you, so the thirst and torment that are prepared await them. For the Most High did not intend that anyone should be destroyed; but those who were created have themselves defiled the name of him who made them, and have been ungrateful to him who prepared life for them now. Therefore my judgment is now drawing near; I have not shown this to all people, but only to you and a few like you."

Direct prediction of the future by the angel

Then I answered and said, "O Lord, you have already shown me a great number of the signs that you will do in the last times, but you have not shown me when you will do them."

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 9Chapter 9.

He answered me and said, "Measure carefully in your mind, and when you see that some of the predicted signs have occurred, then you will know that it is the very time when the Most High is about to visit the world that he has made. So when there shall appear in the world earthquakes, tumult of peoples, intrigues of nations, wavering of leaders, confusion of princes, then you will know that it was of these that the Most High spoke from the days that were of old, from the beginning. For just as with everything that has occurred in the world, the beginning is evident, and the end manifest; so also are the times of the Most High: the beginnings are manifest in wonders and mighty works, and the end in penalties and in signs.

"It shall be that all who will be saved and will be able to escape on account of their works, or on account of the faith by which they have believed, will survive the dangers that have been predicted, and will see my salvation in my land and within my borders, which I have sanctified for myself from the beginning. Then those who have now abused my ways shall be amazed, and those who have rejected them with contempt shall live in torments. For as many as did not acknowledge me in their lifetime, though they received my benefits, and as many as scorned my law while they still had freedom, and did not understand but despised it while an opportunity of repentance was still open to them, these must in torment acknowledge it after death. Therefore, do not continue to be curious about how the ungodly will be punished; but inquire how the righteous will be saved, those to whom the age belongs and for whose sake the age was made."

I answered and said, "I said before, and I say now, and will say it again: there are more who perish than those who will be saved, as a wave is greater than a drop of water."

He answered me and said, "As is the field, so is the seed; and as are the flowers, so are the colors; and as is the work, so is the product; and as is the farmer, so is the threshing floor. For there was a time in this age when I was preparing for those who now exist, before the world was made for them to live in, and no one opposed me then, for no one existed; but now those who have been created in this world, which is supplied both with an unfailing table and an inexhaustible pasture, have become corrupt in their ways. So I considered my world, and saw that it was lost. I saw that my earth was in peril because of the devices of those who had come into it. And I saw and spared some with great difficulty, and saved for myself one grape out of a cluster, and one plant out of a great forest. So let the multitude perish that has been born in vain, but let my grape and my plant be saved, because with much labor I have perfected them.

Conclusion and injunctions

"Now, if you will let seven days more pass — do not, however, fast during them, but go into a field of flowers where no house has been built, and eat only of the flowers of the field, and taste no meat and drink no wine, but eat only flowers — and pray to the Most High continually, then I will come and talk with you."

The fourth vision; Introduction

So I went, as he directed me, into the field that is called Ardat; there I sat among the flowers and ate of the plants of the field, and the nourishment they afforded satisfied me. After seven days, while I lay on the grass, my heart was troubled again as it was before. Then my mouth was opened, and I began to speak before the Most High, and said,

Ezra's address

"O Lord, you showed yourself among us, to our ancestors in the wilderness when they came out from Egypt and when they came into the untrodden and unfruitful wilderness; and you said, 'Hear me, O Israel, and give heed to my words, O descendants of Jacob. For I sow my law in you, and it shall bring forth fruit in you, and you shall be glorified through it forever.' But though our ancestors received the law, they did not keep it and did not observe the statutes; yet the fruit of the law did not perish — for it could not, because it was yours. Yet those who received it perished, because they did not keep what had been sown in them. Now this is the general rule that, when the ground has received seed, or the sea a ship, or any dish food or drink, and when it comes about that what was sown or what was launched or what was put in is destroyed, they are destroyed, but the things that held them remain; yet with us it has not been so. For we who have received the law and sinned will perish, as well as our hearts that received it; the law, however, does not perish but survives in its glory."

The first part of the vision

When I said these things in my heart, I looked around, and on my right I saw a woman; she was mourning and weeping with a loud voice, and was deeply grieved at heart; her clothes were torn, and there were ashes on her head. Then I dismissed the thoughts with which I had been engaged, and turned to her and said to her, "Why are you weeping, and why are you grieved at heart?"

She said to me, "Let me alone, my lord, so that I may weep for myself and continue to mourn, for I am greatly embittered in spirit and deeply distressed."

I said to her, "What has happened to you? Tell me."

And she said to me, "Your servant was barren and had no child, though I lived with my husband for thirty years. Every hour and every day during those thirty years I prayed to the Most High, night and day. And after thirty years God heard your servant, and looked upon my low estate, and considered my distress, and gave me a son. I rejoiced greatly over him, I and my husband and all my neighbors; and we gave great glory to the Mighty One. And I brought him up with much care. So when he grew up and I came to take a wife for him, I set a day for the marriage feast.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 10Chapter 10.

"But it happened that when my son entered his wedding chamber, he fell down and died. So all of us put out our lamps, and all my neighbors attempted to console me; I remained quiet until the evening of the second day. But when all of them had stopped consoling me, encouraging me to be quiet, I got up in the night and fled, and I came to this field, as you see. And now I intend not to return to the town, but to stay here; I will neither eat nor drink, but will mourn and fast continually until I die."

The second part of the vision

Then I broke off the reflections with which I was still engaged, and answered her in anger and said, "You most foolish of women, do you not see our mourning, and what has happened to us? For Zion, the mother of us all, is in deep grief and great distress. It is most appropriate to mourn now, because we are all mourning, and to be sorrowful, because we are all sorrowing; you are sorrowing for one son, but we, the whole world, for our mother. Now ask the earth, and she will tell you that it is she who ought to mourn over so many who have come into being upon her. From the beginning all have been born of her, and others will come; and, lo, almost all go to perdition, and a multitude of them will come to doom. Who then ought to mourn the more, she who lost so great a multitude, or you who are grieving for one alone? But if you say to me, 'My lamentation is not like the earth's, for I have lost the fruit of my womb, which I brought forth in pain and bore in sorrow; but it is with the earth according to the way of the earth — the multitude that is now in it goes as it came'; then I say to you, 'Just as you brought forth in sorrow, so the earth also has from the beginning given her fruit, that is, humankind, to him who made her.' Now, therefore, keep your sorrow to yourself, and bear bravely the troubles that have come upon you. For if you acknowledge the decree of God to be just, you will receive your son back in due time, and will be praised among women. Therefore go into the town to your husband."

She said to me, "I will not do so; I will not go into the city, but I will die here."

So I spoke again to her, and said, "Do not do that, but let yourself be persuaded — for how many are the adversities of Zion? — and be consoled because of the sorrow of Jerusalem. For you see how our sanctuary has been laid waste, our altar thrown down, our temple destroyed; our harp has been laid low, our song has been silenced, and our rejoicing has been ended; the light of our lampstand has been put out, the ark of our covenant has been plundered, our holy things have been polluted, and the name by which we are called has been almost profaned; our children have suffered abuse, our priests have been burned to death, our Levites have gone into exile, our virgins have been defiled, and our wives have been ravished; our righteous men have been carried off, our little ones have been cast out, our young men have been enslaved and our strong men made powerless. And, worst of all, the seal of Zion has been deprived of its glory, and given over into the hands of those that hate us. Therefore shake off your great sadness and lay aside your many sorrows, so that the Mighty One may be merciful to you again, and the Most High may give you rest, a respite from your troubles."

A vision of the transformed Jerusalem

While I was talking to her, her face suddenly began to shine exceedingly; her countenance flashed like lightning, so that I was too frightened to approach her, and my heart was terrified. While I was wondering what this meant, she suddenly uttered a loud and fearful cry, so that the earth shook at the sound. When I looked up, the woman was no longer visible to me, but a city was being built, and a place of huge foundations showed itself.

The appearance of the angel

I was afraid, and cried with a loud voice and said, "Where is the angel Uriel, who came to me at first? For it was he who brought me into this overpowering bewilderment; my end has become corruption, and my prayer a reproach."

While I was speaking these words, the angel who had come to me at first came to me, and when he saw me lying there like a corpse, deprived of my understanding, he grasped my right hand and strengthened me and set me on my feet, and said to me, "What is the matter with you? And why are you troubled? And why are your understanding and the thoughts of your mind troubled?"

I said, "It was because you abandoned me. I did as you directed, and went out into the field, and lo, what I have seen and can still see, I am unable to explain."

He said to me, "Stand up like a man, and I will instruct you."

I said, "Speak, my lord; only do not forsake me, so that I may not die before my time. For I have seen what I did not know, and I hear what I do not understand — or is my mind deceived, and my soul dreaming? Now therefore I beg you to give your servant an explanation of this bewildering vision."

Interpretation of the vision

He answered me and said, "Listen to me, and I will teach you, and tell you about the things that you fear; for the Most High has revealed many secrets to you. He has seen your righteous conduct, and that you have sorrowed continually for your people and mourned greatly over Zion. This therefore is the meaning of the vision. The woman who appeared to you a little while ago, whom you saw mourning and whom you began to console (you do not now see the form of a woman, but there appeared to you a city being built) and who told you about the misfortune of her son — this is the interpretation: The woman whom you saw is Zion, which you now behold as a city being built. And as for her telling you that she was barren for thirty years, the reason is that there were three thousand years in the world before any offering was offered in it. And after three thousand years Solomon built the city, and offered offerings; then it was that the barren woman bore a son. And as for her telling you that she brought him up with much care, that was the period of residence in Jerusalem. And as for her saying to you, 'My son died as he entered his wedding chamber,' and that misfortune had overtaken her, this was the destruction that befell Jerusalem. So you saw her likeness, how she mourned for her son, and you began to console her for what had happened. For now the Most High, seeing that you are sincerely grieved and profoundly distressed for her, has shown you the brilliance of her glory, and the loveliness of her beauty. Therefore I told you to remain in the field where no house had been built, for I knew that the Most High would reveal these things to you. Therefore I told you to go into the field where there was no foundation of any building, because no work of human construction could endure in a place where the city of the Most High was to be revealed.

Conclusion and injunctions

"Therefore do not be afraid, and do not let your heart be terrified; but go in and see the splendor or the vastness of the building, as far as it is possible for your eyes to see it, and afterward you will hear as much as your ears can hear. For you are more blessed than many, and you have been called to be with the Most High as few have been. But tomorrow night you shall remain here, and the Most High will show you in those dream visions what the Most High will do to those who inhabit the earth in the last days."

So I slept that night and the following one, as he had told me.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 11Chapter 11.

The fifth vision; description of the vision

On the second night I had a dream: I saw rising from the sea an eagle that had twelve feathered wings and three heads. I saw it spread its wings over the whole earth, and all the winds of heaven blew upon it, and the clouds were gathered around it. I saw that out of its wings there grew opposing wings; but they became little, puny wings. But its heads were at rest; the middle head was larger than the other heads, but it too was at rest with them. Then I saw that the eagle flew with its wings, and it reigned over the earth and over those who inhabit it. And I saw how all things under heaven were subjected to it, and no one spoke against it — not a single creature that was on the earth. Then I saw the eagle rise upon its talons, and it uttered a cry to its wings, saying, "Do not all watch at the same time; let each sleep in its own place, and watch in its turn; but let the heads be reserved for the last."

I looked again and saw that the voice did not come from its heads, but from the middle of its body. I counted its rival wings, and there were eight of them. As I watched, one wing on the right side rose up, and it reigned over all the earth. And after a time its reign came to an end, and it disappeared, so that even its place was no longer visible. Then the next wing rose up and reigned, and it continued to reign a long time. While it was reigning its end came also, so that it disappeared like the first. And a voice sounded, saying to it, "Listen to me, you who have ruled the earth all this time; I announce this to you before you disappear. After you no one shall rule as long as you have ruled, not even half as long."

Then the third wing raised itself up, and held the rule as the earlier ones had done, and it also disappeared. And so it went with all the wings; they wielded power one after another and then were never seen again. I kept looking, and in due time the wings that followed also rose up on the right side, in order to rule. There were some of them that ruled, yet disappeared suddenly; and others of them rose up, but did not hold the rule.

And after this I looked and saw that the twelve wings and the two little wings had disappeared, and nothing remained on the eagle's body except the three heads that were at rest and six little wings.

As I kept looking I saw that two little wings separated from the six and remained under the head that was on the right side; but four remained in their place. Then I saw that these little wings planned to set themselves up and hold the rule. As I kept looking, one was set up, but suddenly disappeared; a second also, and this disappeared more quickly than the first. While I continued to look the two that remained were planning between themselves to reign together; and while they were planning, one of the heads that were at rest (the one that was in the middle) suddenly awoke; it was greater than the other two heads. And I saw how it allied the two heads with itself, and how the head turned with those that were with it and devoured the two little wings that were planning to reign. Moreover this head gained control of the whole earth, and with much oppression dominated its inhabitants; it had greater power over the world than all the wings that had gone before.

After this I looked again and saw the head in the middle suddenly disappear, just as the wings had done. But the two heads remained, which also in like manner ruled over the earth and its inhabitants. And while I looked, I saw the head on the right side devour the one on the left.

Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Look in front of you and consider what you see." When I looked, I saw what seemed to be a lion roused from the forest, roaring; and I heard how it uttered a human voice to the eagle, and spoke, saying, "Listen and I will speak to you. The Most High says to you, 'Are you not the one that remains of the four beasts that I had made to reign in my world, so that the end of my times might come through them? You, the fourth that has come, have conquered all the beasts that have gone before; and you have held sway over the world with great terror, and over all the earth with grievous oppression; and for so long you have lived on the earth with deceit. You have judged the earth, but not with truth, for you have oppressed the meek and injured the peaceable; you have hated those who tell the truth, and have loved liars; you have destroyed the homes of those who brought forth fruit, and have laid low the walls of those who did you no harm. Your insolence has come up before the Most High, and your pride to the Mighty One. The Most High has looked at his times; now they have ended, and his ages have reached completion. Therefore you, eagle, will surely disappear, you and your terrifying wings, your most evil little wings, your malicious heads, your most evil talons, and your whole worthless body, so that the whole earth, freed from your violence, may be refreshed and relieved, and may hope for the judgment and mercy of him who made it."

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 12Chapter 12.

While the lion was saying these words to the eagle, I looked and saw that the remaining head had disappeared. The two wings that had gone over to it rose up and set themselves up to reign, and their reign was brief and full of tumult. When I looked again, they were already vanishing. The whole body of the eagle was burned, and the earth was exceedingly terrified.

The seer's response

Then I woke up in great perplexity of mind and great fear, and I said to my spirit, "You have brought this upon me, because you search out the ways of the Most High. I am still weary in mind and very weak in my spirit, and not even a little strength is left in me, because of the great fear with which I have been terrified tonight. Therefore I will now entreat the Most High that he may strengthen me to the end."

Then I said, "O sovereign Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, and if I have been accounted righteous before you beyond many others, and if my prayer has indeed come up before your face, strengthen me and show me, your servant, the interpretation and meaning of this terrifying vision so that you may fully comfort my soul. For you have judged me worthy to be shown the end of the times and the last events of the times."

The interpretation

He said to me, "This is the interpretation of this vision that you have seen: The eagle that you saw coming up from the sea is the fourth kingdom that appeared in a vision to your brother Daniel. But it was not explained to him as I now explain to you or have explained it. The days are coming when a kingdom shall rise on earth, and it shall be more terrifying than all the kingdoms that have been before it. And twelve kings shall reign in it, one after another. But the second that is to reign shall hold sway for a longer time than any other one of the twelve. This is the interpretation of the twelve wings that you saw.

"As for your hearing a voice that spoke, coming not from the eagle's heads but from the midst of its body, this is the interpretation: In the midst of the time of that kingdom great struggles shall arise, and it shall be in danger of falling; nevertheless it shall not fall then, but shall regain its former power. As for your seeing eight little wings clinging to its wings, this is the interpretation: Eight kings shall arise in it, whose times shall be short and their years swift; two of them shall perish when the middle of its time draws near; and four shall be kept for the time when its end approaches, but two shall be kept until the end.

"As for your seeing three heads at rest, this is the interpretation: In its last days the Most High will raise up three kings, and they shall renew many things in it, and shall rule the earth and its inhabitants more oppressively than all who were before them. Therefore they are called the heads of the eagle, because it is they who shall sum up his wickedness and perform his last actions. As for your seeing that the large head disappeared, one of the kings shall die in his bed, but in agonies. But as for the two who remained, the sword shall devour them. For the sword of one shall devour him who was with him; but he also shall fall by the sword in the last days.

"As for your seeing two little wings passing over to the head which was on the right side, this is the interpretation: It is these whom the Most High has kept for the eagle's end; this was the reign which was brief and full of tumult, as you have seen.

"And as for the lion whom you saw rousing up out of the forest and roaring and speaking to the eagle and reproving him for his unrighteousness, and as for all his words that you have heard, this is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the offspring of David, and will come and speak with them. He will denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness, and will display before them their contemptuous dealings. For first he will bring them alive before his judgment seat, and when he has reproved them, then he will destroy them. But in mercy he will set free the remnant of my people, those who have been saved throughout my borders, and he will make them joyful until the end comes, the day of judgment, of which I spoke to you at the beginning. This is the dream that you saw, and this is its interpretation. And you alone were worthy to learn this secret of the Most High.

Conclusion and injunctions

Therefore write all these things that you have seen in a book, put it in a hidden place; and you shall teach them to the wise among your people, whose hearts you know are able to comprehend and keep these secrets. But as for you, wait here seven days more, so that you may be shown whatever it pleases the Most High to show you." Then he left me.

The seer comforts those who were grieved because of his absence

When all the people heard that the seven days were past and I had not returned to the city, they all gathered together, from the least to the greatest, and came to me and spoke to me, saying, "How have we offended you, and what harm have we done you, that you have forsaken us and sit in this place? For of all the prophets you alone are left to us, like a cluster of grapes from the vintage, and like a lamp in a dark place, and like a haven for a ship saved from a storm. Are not the disasters that have befallen us enough? Therefore if you forsake us, how much better it would have been for us if we also had been consumed in the burning of Zion. For we are no better than those who died there." And they wept with a loud voice.

Then I answered them and said, "Take courage, O Israel; and do not be sorrowful, O house of Jacob; for the Most High has you in remembrance, and the Mighty One has not forgotten you in your struggle. As for me, I have neither forsaken you nor withdrawn from you; but I have come to this place to pray on account of the desolation of Zion, and to seek mercy on account of the humiliation of our sanctuary. Now go to your homes, every one of you, and after these days I will come to you." So the people went into the city, as I told them to do. But I sat in the field seven days, as the angel had commanded me; and I ate only of the flowers of the field, and my food was of plants during those days.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 13Chapter 13.

The sixth vision; description of the vision

After seven days I dreamed a dream in the night. And lo, a wind arose from the sea and stirred up all its waves. As I kept looking the wind made something like the figure of a man come up out of the heart of the sea. And I saw that this man flew with the clouds of heaven; and wherever he turned his face to look, everything under his gaze trembled, and whenever his voice issued from his mouth, all who heard his voice melted as wax melts when it feels the fire.

After this I looked and saw that an innumerable multitude of people were gathered together from the four winds of heaven to make war against the man who came up out of the sea. And I looked and saw that he carved out for himself a great mountain, and flew up on to it. And I tried to see the region or place from which the mountain was carved, but I could not.

After this I looked and saw that all who had gathered together against him, to wage war with him, were filled with fear, and yet they dared to fight. When he saw the onrush of the approaching multitude, he neither lifted his hand nor held a spear or any weapon of war; but I saw only how he sent forth from his mouth something like a stream of fire, and from his lips a flaming breath, and from his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks. All these were mingled together, the stream of fire and the flaming breath and the great storm, and fell on the onrushing multitude that was prepared to fight, and burned up all of them, so that suddenly nothing was seen of the innumerable multitude but only the dust of ashes and the smell of smoke. When I saw it, I was amazed.

After this I saw the same man come down from the mountain and call to himself another multitude that was peaceable. Then many people came to him, some of whom were joyful and some sorrowful; some of them were bound, and some were bringing others as offerings.

The seer prays that God will interpret the vision to him

Then I woke up in great terror, and prayed to the Most High, and said, "From the beginning you have shown your servant these wonders, and have deemed me worthy to have my prayer heard by you; now show me the interpretation of this dream also. For as I consider it in my mind, alas for those who will be left in those days! And still more, alas for those who are not left! For those who are not left will be sad because they understand the things that are reserved for the last days, but cannot attain them. But alas for those also who are left, and for that very reason! For they shall see great dangers and much distress, as these dreams show. Yet it is better to come into these things, though incurring peril, than to pass from the world like a cloud, and not to see what will happen in the last days."

The interpretation

He answered me and said, "I will tell you the interpretation of the vision, and I will also explain to you the things that you have mentioned. As for what you said about those who survive, and concerning those who do not survive, this is the interpretation: The one who brings the peril at that time will protect those who fall into peril, who have works and faith toward the Almighty. Understand therefore that those who are left are more blessed than those who have died.

"This is the interpretation of the vision: As for your seeing a man come up from the heart of the sea, this is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages, who will himself deliver his creation; and he will direct those who are left. And as for your seeing wind and fire and a storm coming out of his mouth, and as for his not holding a spear or weapon of war, yet destroying the onrushing multitude that came to conquer him, this is the interpretation: The days are coming when the Most High will deliver those who are on the earth. And bewilderment of mind shall come over those who inhabit the earth. They shall plan to make war against one another, city against city, place against place, people against people, and kingdom against kingdom. When these things take place and the signs occur that I showed you before, then my Son will be revealed, whom you saw as a man coming up from the sea.

"Then, when all the nations hear his voice, all the nations shall leave their own lands and the warfare that they have against one another; and an innumerable multitude shall be gathered together, as you saw, wishing to come and conquer him. But he shall stand on the top of Mount Zion. And Zion shall come and be made manifest to all people, prepared and built, as you saw the mountain carved out without hands. Then he, my Son, will reprove the assembled nations for their ungodliness (this was symbolized by the storm), and will reproach them to their face with their evil thoughts and the torments with which they are to be tortured (which were symbolized by the flames), and will destroy them without effort by means of the law (which was symbolized by the fire).

"And as for your seeing him gather to himself another multitude that was peaceable, these are the nine tribes that were taken away from their own land into exile in the days of King Hoshea, whom Shalmaneser, king of the Assyrians, made captives; he took them across the river, and they were taken into another land. But they formed this plan for themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the nations and go to a more distant region, where no human beings had ever lived, so that there at least they might keep their statutes that they had not kept in their own land. And they went in by the narrow passages of the Euphrates river. For at that time the Most High performed signs for them, and stopped the channels of the river until they had crossed over. Through that region there was a long way to go, a journey of a year and a half; and that country is called Arzareth.

"Then they lived there until the last times; and now, when they are about to come again, the Most High will stop the channels of the river again, so that they may be able to cross over. Therefore you saw the multitude gathered together in peace. But those who are left of your people, who are found within my holy borders, shall be saved. Therefore when he destroys the multitude of the nations that are gathered together, he will defend the people who remain. And then he will show them very many wonders."

I said, "O sovereign Lord, explain this to me: Why did I see the man coming up from the heart of the sea?"

He said to me, "Just as no one can explore or know what is in the depths of the sea, so no one on earth can see my Son or those who are with him, except in the time of his day. This is the interpretation of the dream that you saw. And you alone have been enlightened about this, because you have forsaken your own ways and have applied yourself to mine, and have searched out my law; for you have devoted your life to wisdom, and called understanding your mother.

Conclusion and injunctions

Therefore I have shown you these things; for there is a reward laid up with the Most High. For it will be that after three more days I will tell you other things, and explain weighty and wondrous matters to you."

Then I got up and walked in the field, giving great glory and praise to the Most High for the wonders that he does from time to time, and because he governs the times and whatever things come to pass in their seasons. And I stayed there three days.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 14Chapter 14.

The seventh vision

On the third day, while I was sitting under an oak, suddenly a voice came out of a bush opposite me and said, "Ezra, Ezra!" And I answered, "Here I am, Lord," and I rose to my feet. Then he said to me, "I revealed myself in a bush and spoke to Moses when my people were in bondage in Egypt; and I sent him and led my people out of Egypt; and I led him up on Mount Sinai, where I kept him with me many days. I told him many wondrous things, and showed him the secrets of the times and declared to him the end of the times. Then I commanded him, saying, 'These words you shall publish openly, and these you shall keep secret.' And now I say to you: Lay up in your heart the signs that I have shown you, the dreams that you have seen, and the interpretations that you have heard; for you shall be taken up from among humankind, and henceforth you shall live with my Son and with those who are like you, until the times are ended. The age has lost its youth, and the times begin to grow old. For the age is divided into twelve parts, and nine of its parts have already passed, as well as half of the tenth part; so two of its parts remain, besides half of the tenth part. Now therefore, set your house in order, and reprove your people; comfort the lowly among them, and instruct those that are wise. And now renounce the life that is corruptible, and put away from you mortal thoughts; cast away from you the burdens of humankind, and divest yourself now of your weak nature; lay to one side the thoughts that are most grievous to you, and hurry to escape from these times. For evils worse than those that you have now seen happen shall take place hereafter. For the weaker the world becomes through old age, the more shall evils be increased upon its inhabitants. Truth shall go farther away, and falsehood shall come near. For the eagle that you saw in the vision is already hurrying to come."

Ezra's prayer for inspiration to restore the holy scriptures is granted

Then I answered and said, "Let me speak in your presence, Lord. For I will go, as you have commanded me, and I will reprove the people who are now living; but who will warn those who will be born hereafter? For the world lies in darkness, and its inhabitants are without light. For your law has been burned, and so no one knows the things which have been done or will be done by you. If then I have found favor with you, send the holy spirit into me, and I will write everything that has happened in the world from the beginning, the things that were written in your law, so that people may be able to find the path, and that those who want to live in the last days may do so."

He answered me and said, "Go and gather the people, and tell them not to seek you for forty days. But prepare for yourself many writing tablets, and take with you Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ethanus, and Asiel — these five, who are trained to write rapidly; and you shall come here, and I will light in your heart the lamp of understanding, which shall not be put out until what you are about to write is finished. And when you have finished, some things you shall make public, and some you shall deliver in secret to the wise; tomorrow at this hour you shall begin to write."

Ezra reproves the people

Then I went as he commanded me, and I gathered all the people together, and said, "Hear these words, O Israel. At first our ancestors lived as aliens in Egypt, and they were liberated from there and received the law of life, which they did not keep, which you also have transgressed after them. Then land was given to you for a possession in the land of Zion; but you and your ancestors committed iniquity and did not keep the ways that the Most High commanded you. And since he is a righteous judge, in due time he took from you what he had given. And now you are here, and your people are farther in the interior. If you, then, will rule over your minds and discipline your hearts, you shall be kept alive, and after death you shall obtain mercy. For after death the judgment will come, when we shall live again; and then the names of the righteous shall become manifest, and the deeds of the ungodly shall be disclosed. But let no one come to me now, and let no one seek me for forty days."

The revelation of scriptures

So I took the five men, as he commanded me, and we proceeded to the field, and remained there. And on the next day a voice called me, saying, "Ezra, open your mouth and drink what I give you to drink." So I opened my mouth, and a full cup was offered to me; it was full of something like water, but its color was like fire. I took it and drank; and when I had drunk it, my heart poured forth understanding, and wisdom increased in my breast, for my spirit retained its memory, and my mouth was opened and was no longer closed. Moreover, the Most High gave understanding to the five men, and by turns they wrote what was dictated, using characters that they did not know. They sat forty days; they wrote during the daytime, and ate their bread at night. But as for me, I spoke in the daytime and was not silent at night. So during the forty days, ninety-four books were written. And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, "Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first, and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge." And I did so.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 15Chapter 15.

Chapters 15 and 16 - comprise a separate literary composition also known as Ezra.

The commissioning of the prophet

Speak in the ears of my people the words of the prophecy that I will put in your mouth, says the Lord, and cause them to be written on paper; for they are trustworthy and true. Do not fear the plots against you, and do not be troubled by the unbelief of those who oppose you. For all unbelievers shall die in their unbelief.

Prediction of worldwide catastrophes

Beware, says the Lord, I am bringing evils upon the world, the sword and famine, death and destruction, because iniquity has spread throughout every land, and their harmful doings have reached their limit. Therefore, says the Lord, I will be silent no longer concerning their ungodly acts that they impiously commit, neither will I tolerate their wicked practices. Innocent and righteous blood cries out to me, and the souls of the righteous cry out continually. I will surely avenge them, says the Lord, and will receive to myself all the innocent blood from among them. See, my people are being led like a flock to the slaughter; I will not allow them to live any longer in the land of Egypt, but I will bring them out with a mighty hand and with an uplifted arm, and will strike Egypt with plagues, as before, and will destroy all its land.

Let Egypt mourn, and its foundations, because of the plague of chastisement and castigation that the Lord will bring upon it. Let the farmers that till the ground mourn, because their seed shall fail to grow and their trees shall be ruined by blight and hail and by a terrible tempest. Alas for the world and for those who live in it! For the sword and misery draw near them, and nation shall rise up to fight against nation, with swords in their hands. For there shall be unrest among people; growing strong against one another, they shall in their might have no respect for their king or the chief of their leaders. For a person will desire to go into a city, and shall not be able to do so. Because of their pride the cities shall be in confusion, the houses shall be destroyed, and people shall be afraid. People shall have no pity for their neighbors, but shall make an assault upon their houses with the sword, and plunder their goods, because of hunger for bread and because of great tribulation.

See how I am calling together all the kings of the earth to turn to me, says God, from the rising sun and from the south, from the east and from Lebanon; to turn and repay what they have given them. Just as they have done to my elect until this day, so I will do, and will repay into their bosom. Thus says the Lord God: My right hand will not spare the sinners, and my sword will not cease from those who shed innocent blood on earth. And a fire went forth from his wrath, and consumed the foundations of the earth and the sinners, like burnt straw. Alas for those who sin and do not observe my commandments, says the Lord; I will not spare them. Depart, you faithless children! Do not pollute my sanctuary. For God knows all who sin against him; therefore he will hand them over to death and slaughter. Already calamities have come upon the whole earth, and you shall remain in them; God will not deliver you, because you have sinned against him.

A vision of warfare in the east

What a terrifying sight, appearing from the east! The nations of the dragons of Arabia shall come out with many chariots, and from the day that they set out, their hissing shall spread over the earth, so that all who hear them will fear and tremble. Also the Carmonians, raging in wrath, shall go forth like wild boars from the forest, and with great power they shall come and engage them in battle, and with their tusks they shall devastate a portion of the land of the Assyrians with their teeth. And then the dragons, remembering their origin, shall become still stronger; and if they combine in great power and turn to pursue them, then these shall be disorganized and silenced by their power, and shall turn and flee. And from the land of the Assyrians an enemy in ambush shall attack them and destroy one of them, and fear and trembling shall come upon their army, and indecision upon their kings.

A vision of destructive storm clouds

See the clouds from the east, and from the north to the south! Their appearance is exceedingly threatening, full of wrath and storm. They shall clash against one another and shall pour out a heavy tempest on the earth, and their own tempest; and there shall be blood from the sword as high as a horse's belly and a man's thigh and a camel's hock. And there shall be fear and great trembling on the earth; those who see that wrath shall be horror-stricken, and they shall be seized with trembling. After that, heavy storm clouds shall be stirred up from the south, and from the north, and another part from the west. But the winds from the east shall prevail over the cloud that was raised in wrath, and shall dispel it; and the tempest that was to cause destruction by the east wind shall be driven violently toward the south and west. Great and mighty clouds, full of wrath and tempest, shall rise and destroy all the earth and its inhabitants, and shall pour out upon every high and lofty place a terrible tempest, fire and hail and flying swords and floods of water, so that all the fields and all the streams shall be filled with the abundance of those waters. They shall destroy cities and walls, mountains and hills, trees of the forests, and grass of the meadows, and their grain. They shall go on steadily to Babylon and blot it out. They shall come to it and surround it; they shall pour out on it the tempest and all its fury; then the dust and smoke shall reach the sky, and all who are around it shall mourn for it. And those who survive shall serve those who have destroyed it.

And you, Asia, who share in the splendor of Babylon and the glory of her person — woe to you, miserable wretch! For you have made yourself like her; you have decked out your daughters for prostitution to please and glory in your lovers, who have always lusted after you. You have imitated that hateful one in all her deeds and devices. Therefore God says, I will send evils upon you: widowhood, poverty, famine, sword, and pestilence, bringing ruin to your houses, bringing destruction and death. And the glory of your strength shall wither like a flower when the heat shall rise that is sent upon you. You shall be weakened like a wretched woman who is beaten and wounded, so that you cannot receive your mighty lovers. Would I have dealt with you so violently, says the Lord, if you had not killed my chosen people continually, exulting and clapping your hands and talking about their death when you were drunk?

Beautify your face! The reward of a prostitute is in your lap; therefore you shall receive your recompense. As you will do to my chosen people, says the Lord, so God will do to you, and will hand you over to adversities. Your children shall die of hunger, and you shall fall by the sword; your cities shall be wiped out, and all your people who are in the open country shall fall by the sword. Those who are in the mountains and highlands shall perish of hunger, and they shall eat their own flesh in hunger for bread and drink their own blood in thirst for water. Unhappy above all others, you shall come and suffer fresh miseries. As they pass by they shall crush the hateful city, and shall destroy a part of your land and abolish a portion of your glory, when they return from devastated Babylon. You shall be broken down by them like stubble, and they shall be like fire to you. They shall devour you and your cities, your land and your mountains; they shall burn with fire all your forests and your fruitful trees. They shall carry your children away captive, plunder your wealth, and mar the glory of your countenance.

Listen to 2 Esdras, Chapter 16Chapter 16.

The inevitability of God's judgment

Woe to you, Babylon and Asia! Woe to you, Egypt and Syria! Bind on sackcloth and cloth of goats' hair, and wail for your children, and lament for them; for your destruction is at hand. The sword has been sent upon you, and who is there to turn it back? A fire has been sent upon you, and who is there to quench it? Calamities have been sent upon you, and who is there to drive them away? Can one drive off a hungry lion in the forest, or quench a fire in the stubble once it has started to burn? Can one turn back an arrow shot by a strong archer? The Lord God sends calamities, and who will drive them away? Fire will go forth from his wrath, and who is there to quench it? He will flash lightning, and who will not be afraid? He will thunder, and who will not be terrified? The Lord will threaten, and who will not be utterly shattered at his presence? The earth and its foundations quake, the sea is churned up from the depths, and its waves and the fish with them shall be troubled at the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. For his right hand that bends the bow is strong, and his arrows that he shoots are sharp and when they are shot to the ends of the world will not miss once. Calamities are sent forth and shall not return until they come over the earth. The fire is kindled, and shall not be put out until it consumes the foundations of the earth. Just as an arrow shot by a mighty archer does not return, so the calamities that are sent upon the earth shall not return. Alas for me! Alas for me! Who will deliver me in those days?

Prediction of desolation on the earth

The beginning of sorrows, when there shall be much lamentation; the beginning of famine, when many shall perish; the beginning of wars, when the powers shall be terrified; the beginning of calamities, when all shall tremble. What shall they do, when the calamities come? Famine and plague, tribulation and anguish are sent as scourges for the correction of humankind. Yet for all this they will not turn from their iniquities, or ever be mindful of the scourges. Indeed, provisions will be so cheap upon earth that people will imagine that peace is assured for them, and then calamities shall spring up on the earth — the sword, famine, and great confusion. For many of those who live on the earth shall perish by famine; and those who survive the famine shall die by the sword. And the dead shall be thrown out like dung, and there shall be no one to console them; for the earth shall be left desolate, and its cities shall be demolished. No one shall be left to cultivate the earth or to sow it. The trees shall bear fruit, but who will gather it? The grapes shall ripen, but who will tread them? For in all places there shall be great solitude; a person will long to see another human being, or even to hear a human voice. For ten shall be left out of a city; and two, out of the field, those who have hidden themselves in thick groves and clefts in the rocks. Just as in an olive orchard three or four olives may be left on every tree, or just as, when a vineyard is gathered, some clusters may be left by those who search carefully through the vineyard, so in those days three or four shall be left by those who search their houses with the sword. The earth shall be left desolate, and its fields shall be plowed up, and its roads and all its paths shall bring forth thorns, because no sheep will go along them. Virgins shall mourn because they have no bridegrooms; women shall mourn because they have no husbands; their daughters shall mourn, because they have no help. Their bridegrooms shall be killed in war, and their husbands shall perish of famine.

Exhortation of God's people

Listen now to these things, and understand them, you who are servants of the Lord. This is the word of the Lord; receive it and do not disbelieve what the Lord says. The calamities draw near, and are not delayed. Just as a pregnant woman, in the ninth month when the time of her delivery draws near, has great pains around her womb for two or three hours beforehand, but when the child comes forth from the womb, there will not be a moment's delay, so the calamities will not delay in coming upon the earth, and the world will groan, and pains will seize it on every side.

Hear my words, O my people; prepare for battle, and in the midst of the calamities be like strangers on the earth. Let the one who sells be like one who will flee; let the one who buys be like one who will lose; let the one who does business be like one who will not make a profit; and let the one who builds a house be like one who will not live in it; let the one who sows be like one who will not reap; so also the one who prunes the vines, like one who will not gather the grapes; those who marry, like those who will have no children; and those who do not marry, like those who are widowed. Because of this, those who labor, labor in vain; for strangers shall gather their fruits, and plunder their goods, overthrow their houses, and take their children captive; for in captivity and famine they will produce their children. Those who conduct business, do so only to have it plundered; the more they adorn their cities, their houses and possessions, and their persons, the more angry I will be with them for their sins, says the Lord. Just as a respectable and virtuous woman abhors a prostitute, so righteousness shall abhor iniquity, when she decks herself out, and shall accuse her to her face when he comes who will defend the one who searches out every sin on earth.

Therefore do not be like her or her works. For in a very short time iniquity will be removed from the earth, and righteousness will reign over us.

The impossibility of hiding sins from God

Sinners must not say that they have not sinned; for God will burn coals of fire on the head of everyone who says, "I have not sinned before God and his glory." The Lord certainly knows everything that people do; he knows their imaginations and their thoughts and their hearts. He said, "Let the earth be made," and it was made, and "Let the heaven be made," and it was made. At his word the stars were fixed in their places, and he knows the number of the stars. He searches the abyss and its treasures; he has measured the sea and its contents; he has confined the sea in the midst of the waters; and by his word he has suspended the earth over the water. He has spread out the heaven like a dome and made it secure upon the waters; he has put springs of water in the desert, and pools on the tops of the mountains, so as to send rivers from the heights to water the earth. He formed human beings and put a heart in the midst of each body, and gave each person breath and life and understanding and the spirit of Almighty God, who surely made all things and searches out hidden things in hidden places. He knows your imaginations and what you think in your hearts! Woe to those who sin and want to hide their sins! The Lord will strictly examine all their works, and will make a public spectacle of all of you. You shall be put to shame when your sins come out before others, and your own iniquities shall stand as your accusers on that day. What will you do? Or how will you hide your sins before the Lord and his glory? Indeed, God is the judge; fear him! Cease from your sins, and forget your iniquities, never to commit them again; so God will lead you forth and deliver you from all tribulation.

Prediction of persecutions

The burning wrath of a great multitude is kindled over you; they shall drag some of you away and force you to eat what was sacrificed to idols. And those who consent to eat shall be held in derision and contempt, and shall be trampled under foot. For in many places and in neighboring cities there shall be a great uprising against those who fear the Lord. They shall be like maniacs, sparing no one, but plundering and destroying those who continue to fear the Lord. For they shall destroy and plunder their goods, and drive them out of house and home. Then the tested quality of my elect shall be manifest, like gold that is tested by fire.

Concluding instructions to the elect

Listen, my elect ones, says the Lord; the days of tribulation are at hand, but I will deliver you from them. Do not fear or doubt, for God is your guide. You who keep my commandments and precepts, says the Lord God, must not let your sins weigh you down, or your iniquities prevail over you. Woe to those who are choked by their sins and overwhelmed by their iniquities! They are like a field choked with underbrush and its path overwhelmed with thorns, so that no one can pass through. It is shut off and given up to be consumed by fire.