He answered me: “The Most High made this world for the sake of many but the future world for the sake of few. But I will tell you a parable, Ezra. Just as when you ask the earth and it tells you that it provides much clay to make earthenware, but little dust from which gold comes to be, so the present world also works. Many indeed are created, but few will be saved.”

I replied: “Therefore, take delight[a] in understanding, my soul, and drink your fill of knowledge.[b] You came into the world[c] unwillingly,[d] and against your will you depart, and you are given but a little while to live. Lord above us—if you will permit your servants to pray before you—give us seed for the heart and cultivation for the understanding that there may be fruit from which every mortal who bears the form of a human being may live. You alone exist, and we are your handiwork, as you have said. Because you give life to the body that is now fashioned in the womb and give it members, your creation is preserved in fire and water. For nine months the womb you have fashioned endures what is created in it. But both the container and its contents will be conserved by your care. And when the womb at last gives forth what is created in it, 10 you have commanded that from the members themselves; that is, from the breasts, milk (the fruit of the breasts) should be provided. 11 By this means, that which is fashioned may be nourished for a time, and afterward you will dispose of this person in your mercy. 12 You nourished him with your justice, tutored him in your Law, and reproved him in your wisdom.[e] 13 You will cause him to die as your creation and give him life as your work.

14 If, therefore, you will destroy with a simple command one who was fashioned at your command with so much labor, why was he made? 15 Now I will surely speak: You know best about the sum total of humanity, but what about your people who grieve me, 16 and about your inheritance because of which I lament, and about Israel, on whose account I am sad, and about the seed of Jacob because of which I am disturbed? 17 Therefore, I will pray before you for myself and for them, because I see the defects of we who live on earth, 18 but I have heard of the swiftness of the judgment that is to come. 19 Therefore, hear my voice and consider my words, and I will speak before you.”

20 The beginning of the words of Ezra’s prayer before he was taken up.[f] He said:

Lord, you live in eternity.[g] The highest heavens are yours, and your upper chambers are in the air. 21 Your authority[h] is beyond estimation, and your glory is beyond our power to comprehend. The armies of angels wait on in fear, 22 and at your command they are changed into wind and fire. Your word is true, and what you say lasts forever. 23 Your command is powerful, and your precept is fearsome. Your gaze dries up the deeps, and your threat makes mountains melt. Your truth is acknowledged. 24 Hear your servant’s voice and listen to my request, the request of one whom you formed, and listen to my words. 25 But me! I will speak as long as I live, and while I still have understanding, I will respond.

26 Don’t pay attention to your people’s sins but to those who have served you in truth. 27 Don’t consider those who do evil by sinning but those who have kept your covenants in the midst of torments. 28 Don’t think about those who have conducted themselves wickedly in your presence but of those who have made it their purpose to know what it means to revere you. 29 Don’t set your mind to destroy those who have lived as mindlessly as cows,[i] but look on those who showed forth your glorious Law. 30 Don’t be angry at those who are esteemed lower than animals, but love those who have constantly hoped to honor you.

31 We and those before us have followed ways that lead to death, but it’s on account of us sinners that you are said to be merciful. 32 If you desire to have pity on us who have no good deeds to our credit, then you will be called compassionate. 33 The righteous who have many works laid up with you will receive a reward for their own works. 34 What are human beings that you should be angry with them, or a corrupt race that you should be irate with them? 35 In truth, no one born has not violated your commands, and no one who grew up has not sinned. 36 But this shows your goodness, Lord, when you have pity on those who have no stockpile of good works.

37 He answered me: “You have said some things correctly, and according to your words it will be done. 38 Indeed, I won’t think about the formation of sinners or their death or judgment or damnation, 39 but I will rejoice over the creation of the righteous, their journey also, and their deliverance and receipt of a reward. 40 As I’ve said, then so it is. 41 Just as a farmer sows many seeds on the land, but in time not all seeds that are sown will be saved nor will all the planted things take root, so also not all of those who are sown in the world will be saved.”

42 I answered: “If I have found favor with you, let me speak, 43 because the farmer’s seed doesn’t grow up, perhaps because it didn’t receive your rain in season; or if it was spoiled by abundance of rain, it perishes. 44 But human beings, who are shaped by your hands and named in your image, because they are made in your likeness, for whom you created all things—have you compared them to a farmer’s seeds? 45 No, Lord above us, but spare your people and have mercy on your inheritance, for you have mercy on your own creation.”

46 He answered me: “The present things are for those who now are, and the future things for the future. 47 You are a long way from loving my creation more than I do. But you have often associated yourself with the wicked. Never do so! 48 But even in this respect the Most High will admire you, 49 because you have humbled yourself, as befits you, and didn’t count yourself among the righteous so that you may be glorified the more. 50 Many miseries will afflict those who inhabit the world in the last times because they will walk in great pride. 51 But think of yourself and ask about the glory of those like you. 52 For you, paradise is opened, the tree of life is planted, the future time is prepared, abundance is made ready, the city is built, rest is appointed, goodness is perfected, and wisdom is perfected in advance. 53 The root of evil[j] is sealed off from you, weakness is abolished from you, and death is hidden; the netherworld[k] and decay have fled into oblivion. 54 Sorrows have passed, and the treasure of immortality is displayed to the end. 55 Therefore, don’t continue to ask about the great many who perish. 56 They also received freedom, but they despised the Most High, spoke ill of his Law, and abandoned his ways. 57 Moreover, they also trampled his righteous ones. 58 They said in their heart that there is no God, even though they knew that they would have to die. 59 Just as the things that are predicted will receive you, so also the thirst and torment that are prepared will receive them. The Most High didn’t intend for human beings to be destroyed, 60 but those who were themselves created defiled the name of their creator and were ungrateful to him who prepared life for them. 61 Therefore, my judgment draws close, 62 which I haven’t disclosed to all, except to you and to a few like you.”

63 I answered, “Look now, Lord, you have shown me a multitude of signs that you are about to perform in the last times, but you haven’t shown me when they will take place.”


  1. 2 Esdras 8:4 Syr and other versions; Lat dismiss
  2. 2 Esdras 8:4 Syr and other versions; Lat let the soul feed on what it knows
  3. 2 Esdras 8:5 Versions lack into the world.
  4. 2 Esdras 8:5 Versions; Lat misread the Gk.
  5. 2 Esdras 8:12 Syr; Lat intelligence
  6. 2 Esdras 8:20 Lat text has two forms for 8:30-38, with minor differences between them.
  7. 2 Esdras 8:20 Lat live forever
  8. 2 Esdras 8:21 Lat throne
  9. 2 Esdras 8:29 Lat had the ways of cattle
  10. 2 Esdras 8:53 Versions lack of evil.
  11. 2 Esdras 8:53 Lat infernum