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Ezekiel 5:7-8

7. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you;

7. Propterea sic dicit Dominator Iehovah propter multiplicare vestrum 113113     Or, “because of your multiplication.” — Calvin. prae cunctis gentibus, quae in circuitu vestro sunt, ut in statutis meis non ambularetis, et judicia mea non faceretis, et secundum judicia gentium, quae in circuitu vestro sunt non faceretis

8. Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.

8. Propterea sic dicit Dominator Iehovah, Ecce ego contra to, etiam ego: et faciam in medio tui judicia coram oculis gentium.

 

This verse is variously expounded on account of the word המנכם, hemenekem: for some read it jointly in one context, as if through being multiplied they did not worship God; as if he meant that they were luxurious through their opulence, as horses are restive through too much food and fatness. That passage of Moses has been marked: Israel, when highly fed, kicked; therefore they think that this place is like it, and so they combine it together: because thou hast been multiplied beyond. all Gentiles which were around thee, thou hast despised my judgments, for thou hast become blind and drunken by prosperity. (Deuteronomy 32:15.) But I do not approve of this sense, for it is clearly too forced. Others derive it from המה, hemeh, which signifies to be agitated or disturbed, and elicit this sense, because ye are tumultuous beyond all nations — -that is, because your lasciviousness and licentiousness surpass that of all people, whilst your eagerness has drawn you on as it were without a bridle. But I fear that explanation is far-fetched, and so I take it simply for to be multiplied, or multiplication; for machor may be either a noun or a verb, but in the same sense. At the same time, I do not refer this to the number and multitude of the people, nor even to the abundance of goods, as the majority do; for they say that the number of persons was multiplied, which does not suit the sense; if it be referred to wealth, it is indeed true that God had acted liberally towards that city, but I take it actively, that they have multiplied beyond all nations: and Jerome, in my opinion, has not rendered it badly by translating, “because ye have surpassed the nations,” yet he has departed from the proper sense of the word: so it will be better to retain the verb “multiply” or the noun “multiplication,” yet actively, because they had wantoned intemperately in their superstitions, so that they surpassed all nations in evil doing. On account then of your multiplying, or on account of your multiplication beyond all nations, that is, because ye were not content with moderate impiety, but heaped together all kinds of wickedness, so that your impiety has arrived at the highest pitch whence a curse follows it: but before he comes to that he confirms what he had said before, namely, because they had not walked in his statutes, and had not kept his judgments This, therefore, is the meaning of to multiply, because when the law was delivered to them they despised it, and imitated the wickedness of the nations and the countries around them. These sentences then agree, because beyond all the nations they had been rebellious in impiety against God, and then because they had multiplied beyond all nations and countries. Again the reason is to be observed, because they did not walk in God’s statutes For the Gentiles held no course, hence it is not surprising that they wandered in their own oblique direction. But a way had been shown to the Jews: the language of Moses was not in vain. (Deuteronomy 30:19.) I call heaven and earth to witness that I have set before you life and death: choose ye therefore life. Since then God had thus laid down the doctrine of salvation for the Jews, he was the more indignant at their insolence and baseness in not walking according to his statutes. Life then had been set before them, as Moses says; it remained for them to walk therein, which the Gentiles could not do.

Now he adds, and according to the judgments of the Gentiles which are round about you Here the Prophet seems to blame what otherwise and in many places is praised. For the Jews ought to be separate from the Gentiles, so that they might worship God in purity, and the Prophets often expostulate with them because they followed the judgments or statutes of the Gentiles. On these words I have said nothing, because they occur often, and it has been already shown in many places why God calls his judgments laws. Some distinguish between judgments and statutes, because judgments belong to mortals, and statutes to ceremonies. But this distinction is not everywhere observed. But God, in very many places, commends the precepts of his law, since he shows that nothing necessary to a complete system of teaching was omitted. But. this name is sometimes transferred to perverse rites and vicious superstitions, so that to walk in the judgments of the Gentiles, is to corrupt oneself with their perverse morals. As I have said already, the Jews were often condemned by the Prophets because they gave themselves up to the corruptions of the Gentiles.

Here, therefore, the Prophet says, that they had not done according to the judgments of the Gentiles But he understands that in this particular, also, they had surpassed the madness of the Gentiles, because they had not embraced the law of God so as to remain constantly in obedience to it. For we saw in the second chapter of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 2:10, 11,) that the Gentiles were obstinate in their madness. Although that was not praiseworthy, yet God deservedly blames his people because they held him in less honor than the Gentiles did their idols. For we know how obstinately the nations were fixed in their superstitions, for they did not change their religion except by some violent impulse, just as if heaven and earth were shaken together. Since, therefore, the religion of each was firm and fixed, God accuses the Jews of trifling deservedly, because they inclined towards the errors and madness of the heathen. This, therefore, is Ezekiel’s meaning when he says, the Jews had not done according to the statutes of the Gentiles: as if he had said, they should have looked at the Gentiles, and as they saw them obstinately worshipping idols, so they should have persisted in my law and in pure worship. But while the obstinacy of the Gentiles was so great that they could not be torn away from their own superstition, my people, says he, have perfidiously declined from me and my law by rash impulse, and without necessity for it. Now, therefore, we perceive why the Prophet adds this to their crimes, that the people had not walked after the judgments or manners of the Gentiles. Hence they might have perceived, that what men had once embraced they ought not lightly to have thrown away, because when we are suddenly and easily turned aside in the matter of the worship of God, it is certain that we have never put forth living roots. Since, then, the Gentiles instructed the Jews in their duty, their crime became more detestable.

Now follows the threat, that God was prepared to take vengeance. Behold, I, even, I, am against you The particle גם, gam, “even,” is used as we in French say, yea, even: I, even I. We now see that the repetition is emphatic, as if God asserted a horrible destruction to be hanging over the Jews. For he wishes to inspire them with fear, since he assures them that he will prove an avenger. Though I do not receive Jerome’s comment, for he says, that angels and other ministers of God’s wrath are excluded, because God determined to destroy the Jews by himself. This we know to be false, for he made use of the Assyrians and Chaldeans. Since then those people were his scourges, it follows, that angels and men are not excluded when God pronounces himself an avenger. But he increases the weight of the punishment when he says, I, even I, am he with whom thou shalt have to do Now he adds, I will execute judgments, by which word jurisdiction, as they call it, is intended. What Jerome and those interpreters who follow him affirm is not correct, that by this name God’s justice is asserted, as if he meant, that he would not be cruel in exacting punishment, nor yet unjust nor too rigid. For to execute judgment means merely to exercise jurisdiction, and an earthly judge is said to exercise justice when he sits on his tribunal, even if he perverts justice and equity. This, indeed, cannot be the case with God, although the word allows of it. Besides, there is a suitable antithesis between the doctrinal judgments and the actual ones; God complained that the Jews did not execute his judgments: now he threatens that he himself would execute them, because he will vindicate his law by punishments.

The sum of the whole is that he will execute judgments in the midst of Jerusalem, because he will ascend a tribunal and compel the wicked to plead their cause, and to render an account of their life. God, therefore, then executed his judgments when he manifested his vengeance by means of the Chaldeans, and so famine was a part of his punishment, as well as the sword and the pestilence. For while he delays, he seems to have ceased from his duty, and then the impious indulge themselves as if he had forgotten to execute judgment. Therefore, in opposition to this, he denounces that he would execute judgments: as if he had said, I will appear as judge although you think me asleep. For he says, he will execute judgments in the midst of Jerusalem, before the eyes of the Gentiles, by which assertion he means, that their punishments would be remarkable, and such as might be easily considered by all the nations: for we know that the Gentiles were then blind, for they thought that good and evil happened by chance. But God affirms, that his judgments will be so manifest that the blind will be, as it were, eye-witnesses. Now it follows —


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