Then the angel who had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, replied: “Your mind[a] has utterly failed with regard to this world, and do you think you can understand the way of the Most High?”

I said, “Yes, my Lord.”

He answered: “I am sent to show you three ways and to set three problems before you. If you can say anything to me about one of these, I will show you the way you want to see, and I will teach you why the heart leans toward evil.”

I said, “Speak, my Lord.”

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, “Who alive can do this? How can you ask me these things?”

Uriel said to me: “If I had asked you, ‘How many dwellings are in the depths of the sea, or how many springs are in the source of the abyss, or how many paths are there above the dome, or which are the exits of paradise,’[b] you would perhaps have said to me: ‘I haven’t descended into the abyss nor as yet into hell, nor have I ever ascended to heaven.’ But I’ve only asked you here about fire and wind and the day you have passed through, things you can’t exist without, and you haven’t answered me about them.”

10 He said to me: “You can’t even understand the things that are yours, which you have grown up with. 11 How then can your mind[c] contain the way of the Most High? How can a person who is already corrupted by the corrupt world understand the realm beyond corruption?”

I fell on my face 12 and said to him, “It would have been better not to have come into being than to come here, live in the middle of wickedness, suffer, and not understand why.”

13 He answered me: “I went forth to a forest of trees on the plain,[d] and they devised a plan 14 and said: ‘Come, let’s go and make war on the sea so that it may recede before us, and let’s make for ourselves more forests.’ 15 And likewise, the waves of the sea also formed a plan and said, ‘Come, let’s go up and subdue the forest on the plain so that there too we may complete another region for ourselves.’ 16 But the plan of the forest came to naught, for fire came and consumed it. 17 Likewise also the plan of the waves of the sea, for the sand stood firm and prevented it. 18 If then you were judge of these, which would you begin to justify and which to condemn?”

19 I answered, “Each made a stupid plan, for land is given to the forest, and the sea is the appointed place for its waves.”

20 Uriel answered me: “You have judged well. So why haven’t you judged well in your own case? 21 As the land is given to the forest and the sea to the waves, so also only those who live on earth can understand the things that are on earth, and only those who live above the heavens can understand the things that are above the height of the heavens.”

22 I answered, “I beg you, Lord, why has the sense of understanding been given to me? 23 It wasn’t my purpose to ask about the ways above but about the things that we see every day. Why has Israel been handed over to the Gentiles to our shame? Why has the people you loved been given over to godless tribes? Why has the Law of our ancestors been invalidated and the written ordinances come to nothing? 24 Why do we pass from the world like locusts and our life like a mist? Why aren’t we worthy to obtain mercy? 25 What will God do for the sake of his name, which is bestowed on us? About these things I have asked.”

26 He answered me: “If you remain alive, you’ll see. If you live, you will often be amazed, because the world is indeed rushing to its end. 27 Indeed, it can’t bring the things that are promised to the just during this age, because this world is full of sadness and sickliness. 28 The evil about which you asked me has been sown, and its full harvest hasn’t yet come. 29 If that which was sown isn’t reaped, and the place where evil has been sown hasn’t departed, the field where good is sown won’t come. 30 A grain of evil seed was sown in the heart of Adam from the beginning, and how much godlessness it has produced until now and will produce until the time for threshing comes! 31 Calculate for yourself how much godless fruit the grain of evil seed will have produced! 32 When the innumerable ears of grain are sown, how great a threshing floor will they begin to make!”

33 I answered: “Where and when will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?”

34 He answered: “Don’t be in a greater hurry than the Most High. You hurry only for yourself, but the Most High on behalf of many. 35 Didn’t the souls of the just in their resting places ask about these things, saying, ‘How long are we to remain here,[e] and when will the harvest of our reward come?’ 36 Then Jeremiel the angel answered them, ‘When the number of those like you[f] is complete, for God has weighed the world in a balance 37 and measured the times by measure and numbered the times by number, and he won’t move or arouse himself until the prescribed measure is fulfilled.’”

38 I answered: “Supreme Lord, we all are also full of impiety. 39 Is it perhaps because of us, and because of the sins of those who live on earth, that the harvest of the just is delayed?”

40 He answered me, “Go ask a pregnant woman whether her womb can keep the baby inside her when she has completed her nine months.”

41 I said, “It can’t, Lord.”

He said to me: “The underworld[g] and the resting places of the souls are like the womb. 42 As the one who gives birth hastens to escape the distress of giving birth, so these also hasten to give back those things that were entrusted to them from the beginning. 43 Then you will be shown the things you want to see.”

44 I answered, “If I have found favor with you, if it is possible, if I am worthy, 45 show me this also, whether there is more time yet to come than has past or whether the greater times have passed over us, 46 for I know what has passed, but I don’t know what is to come.”

47 He answered me: “Stand off to the right, and I will show you the interpretation of a parable.”

48 I stood aside and looked, and right there a burning furnace passed before me, and when the flame had passed, I looked and the smoke remained. 49 And after this a cloud full of water passed before me, and it poured down much rain with force, and when the rainstorm had passed there remained drops in the cloud.[h]

50 He said to me, “Consider for yourself: as the rain is greater than the drops and the fire is greater than the smoke, so the measure that has passed is greater, but drops and smoke remain.”

51 I prayed and said, “Do you think I will live until those days? Who will be alive in those days?”

52 He answered me: “I can tell you in part concerning the signs you ask about, but about your own life I’m not sent to tell you. I don’t know.


  1. 2 Esdras 4:2 Lat heart
  2. 2 Esdras 4:7 Lat; other versions have exits of the netherworld and entrances of paradise.
  3. 2 Esdras 4:11 Lat cup
  4. 2 Esdras 4:13 Lat; Syr Once upon a time the forests of trees on the plain set forth
  5. 2 Esdras 4:35 Syr, Aram; Lat How long must I hope for this?
  6. 2 Esdras 4:36 Syr; Lat when the number of seeds is completed for you
  7. 2 Esdras 4:41 Lat inferno
  8. 2 Esdras 4:49 Lat in it