Thirty years after the fall of Jerusalem, I, Shealtiel (also known as Ezra), was in Babylon. I was lying on my bed, troubled and disturbed, 1
as I thought about the ruins of Jerusalem and the prosperity of those who lived in Babylon.
I was deeply disturbed and began to express my fears to God Most High.
"O Lord and Master," I said, "you, and you alone, spoke the word at the beginning of creation and formed the world. At your command the dust
produced the lifeless body of Adam. Then with your hands you shaped it, you breathed into it the breath of life, and he began to live.
You brought him into the Garden of Eden, which you yourself had planted before the earth was made.
You gave him just one commandment, but he disobeyed it, and you immediately made him and his descendants subject to death. 2 "From Adam were born more nations, tribes, clans, and families than can be counted.
All the nations did whatever they wished; they sinned against you and rejected your commands. But you did nothing to stop them. 3
Then again, after a while, you brought on the flood and destroyed the world's population. 4
They all suffered the same fate: as death had come to Adam, so now death came to a whole generation in the flood.
But you spared one man, Noah, with his family and all his righteous descendants.
"The number of people living on earth began to increase, and the number of families, tribes, and nations grew. They too fell into sin and were worse than the generations before them.
But then you chose Abraham.
You loved him, and to him alone in the dead of night, you secretly disclosed how the world would end.
You made an everlasting covenant with him and promised him that you would never abandon his descendants. You gave him Isaac, and to Isaac you gave Jacob and Esau.
You chose Jacob, and his descendants became a great nation, but you rejected Esau.
"You rescued the descendants of Jacob from Egypt and led them to Mount Sinai.
There you bent down the skies, shook the earth, moved the world, made the waters beneath the earth tremble, and brought disorder to the universe.
The dazzling light of your presence passed through the four gates of fire, earthquake, wind, and frost, in order to give the Law and its commandments to Jacob's descendants, the people of Israel.
Yet you did not remove their evil impulse, but let your Law guide their lives. 5
The first man, Adam, weighed down with an evil impulse, sinned and was defeated, and the same was true of all of his descendants.
So the disease became permanent, and although the Law was in the hearts of the people, so also was the root of evil! That is why what was good passed away, while what was evil continued.
"Many years later you sent your servant David
and told him to build a city which would bear your name and in which sacrifices would be offered to you.
This was done for many years, but then the inhabitants of the city disobeyed you
and sinned just like Adam and all his descendants, because they had the same evil impulse.
So you handed over your own city to your enemies.
"I said to myself, "Perhaps Babylon has been allowed to conquer Jerusalem because the people who live there are better than we are.'
But when I got to Babylon, I saw more sins than I could count, and now for thirty years I have seen many sinners here. So I was perplexed
when I saw how you tolerate sinners and do not punish them, how you protect your enemies and yet destroy your own people.
You haven't given the faintest hint as to how these ways of yours can be changed. Surely Babylon is no better than Jerusalem.
No other nation, except Israel, has ever known you or accepted your covenants.
But Israel was never rewarded, and never profited from its labor. I have traveled widely in the other nations, and I have seen how prosperous they are, although they don't keep your commands.
Now then, Lord, if you would just weigh our sins on the scales against those of the rest of the world, it would be perfectly clear that their sins are heavier.
There has never been a time when the people of the world did not sin against you; but has any other nation kept your commands as well as Israel has?
You may find individuals who have, but you won't find a nation that has done so."