First dialogue

[a] In the thirtieth year after our city was destroyed, I, Salathiel, who am also Ezra, was in Babylon. I was disturbed as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts kept welling up inside me, because I saw how Zion lay in ruins and how those who lived in Babylon enjoyed abundance. I was deeply disturbed, and I began to speak reverently to the Most High: “Supreme Lord, didn’t you speak in the beginning, when you fashioned the earth, and did this alone? Didn’t you command the earth,[b] and it gave you[c] Adam, a lifeless body? But it was the work of your hands, and so you breathed into him the breath of life, and he came to life in your presence. You led him into paradise, which your strong hand had planted before earth came to be. You gave him one command, and he disobeyed it, and so you immediately appointed death for him and for his descendants. Nations, tribes, peoples, and families without number were born from him. Each nation lived by its own will, and people acted without giving you a thought. They acted with scorn, and you didn’t prevent them. But again, in time you brought the flood over the world and upon those who live in it[d] and destroyed them. 10 Their fate was all the same: as death came upon Adam so the flood came upon them. 11 But you left one of them, Noah, with his household, and all the righteous descended from him.

12 “When those who lived on earth began to multiply (and multiply they did—children, peoples, and many nations), they began again to act wickedly, even more so than the previous ones. 13 When they committed iniquity before you, you chose one from among them whose name was Abraham. 14 You loved him and showed him alone the end of times, secretly by night. 15 You made an eternal covenant with him, and you told him that you would never abandon his family line. You gave him Isaac, and you gave Jacob and Esau to Isaac. 16 You set Jacob apart for yourself, but you set Esau aside, and Jacob became a great multitude. 17 When you brought his descendants out of Egypt, you led them to Mount Sinai. 18 You bent down the heavens; you shook[e] the earth; you moved the world; you made the abyss tremble; you made the whole cosmos shudder. 19 Your glory passed through the four gates of fire, earthquake, wind, and ice so that you would give the Law to Jacob’s descendants, the rules to be observed to Israel’s offspring.

20 “But you didn’t take away from them the inclination to do evil[f] so that your Law might bear fruit in them. 21 The first Adam, burdened with this inclination, disobeyed you and was overcome, but so were all those descended from him. 22 The disease became permanent; the Law was in the people’s heart along with the wicked root, and that which was good departed and the wickedness remained. 23 Times passed and years were completed, and you raised up for yourself a servant named David. 24 You told him to build a city to your name and to bring you offerings in it from what is yours. 25 This was done for many years. But those who inhabited the city sinned, 26 doing in every matter just as Adam and all his descendants had done, for they too exercised their inclination to do evil. 27 So you handed your city over to your enemies.

28 “I said then in my heart, Are the lives of Babylon’s inhabitants any better? Is that why Babylon has gained dominion[g] over Zion? 29 But when I came here, I saw their countless godless acts. I have seen many sinners during these thirty years.[h] Then my heart failed, 30 because I saw how you sustain these sinners and have spared those who act without giving you a thought. I saw how you destroyed your people and preserved your enemies, 31 and haven’t given anyone any clue as to how to make sense of these ways.[i] Does Babylon do better than Zion? 32 Has any other nation known you besides Israel? What tribes have believed your covenants as have these tribes of Jacob, 33 whose reward hasn’t appeared and whose labor hasn’t borne fruit? I have traveled widely among the nations and seen them enjoying abundance while not giving your commandments a thought. 34 Now then put our sins on one side of a pair of scales, and put the sins of those who live in the world on the other side. Let’s see then which way the scales tip. 35 When have those who live on earth not sinned in your sight, or what other nation has observed your commandments as has ours? 36 You will find individuals who have kept your laws, but nations you will not find.”


  1. 2 Esdras 3:1 Chaps 3–14 = Fourth Ezra
  2. 2 Esdras 3:4 Syr, Eth dust
  3. 2 Esdras 3:5 Correction; Lat you gave
  4. 2 Esdras 3:9 Syr, Eth; Lat those inhabiting the age
  5. 2 Esdras 3:18 Syr; Lat you established
  6. 2 Esdras 3:20 Lat wicked heart
  7. 2 Esdras 3:28 Correction; Lat will gain dominion
  8. 2 Esdras 3:29 Eth; Lat in this thirtieth year
  9. 2 Esdras 3:31 Syr; Lat how to abandon this way