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Ezekiel 20:25

25. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;

25. Ego quoque dedi illis decreta non bona, et judicia in quibus ton vivent.


Here God announces that he had taken vengeance upon people so hard and obstinate, by permitting them to endure another yoke, since they would not be ruled by the doctrine of the law; for we saw that, when God imposed the law upon the Israelites, they would have been extremely happy, had they only considered how honorable it was to be in covenant with God, who deigned to bind them to himself in mutual fidelity. This was a remarkable honor and privilege, since God not only showed them what was right, but promised them a reward which he by no means owed them. But what was the conduct of that unteachable nation? It threw off the yoke of the law; hence it deserved to experience a different government. God, therefore, gave them laws that were not good, when he suffered them to be miserably subjected to an immense heap of errors: such laws as these were not good. Some writers have violently distorted this passage, by thinking the law itself, as promulgated by Moses, “not good,” since Paul calls it deadly; but they corrupt the Prophet’s sense, since God is comparing his law with the superstitions of the Gentiles: others explain it of the tributes which the people were compelled to pay to foreigners. But, first of all, God does not speak here of only one age; nay, during the, time of the Israelites’ freedom his vengeance was nevertheless severe.

Thus, in the next verse, the Prophet confirms what I have briefly touched on, namely, that the laws called not good are all the fictions of men, by which they harass themselves, while they think that God is worshipped acceptably in this way: for we know how miserably men labor and distract themselves when Satan has fascinated them with his toils, and when they anxiously invent numerous rites, because there is no end of their superstitions; hence these statutes are not good: for when they have undergone much labor in their idolatry, no other reward awaits them than God’s appearance against them as an avenger to punish the profanation of his own lawful worship. They indeed by no means look for this, but they utterly deceive themselves; hence they must hope for no reward but what is founded on the covenant and promise of God; for all false and vicious forms of worship, all adventitious rites, which men heap together from all sides, have no promise from God, and hence they vainly trust to them for life. God began to show them this in the wilderness; but in succeeding ages he did not fail to exercise the same vengeance. We see how they fell in with the superstitions of the Moabites; and why so? unless God blinded them by his just judgments. (Numbers 25:1-3.) He had experienced their untamed dispositions, and so he set them free from control; and not only so, but afterwards gave them up to Satan, and so he says that he gave them laws that were not good. The Prophet might indeed have said, that they despised God’s law through their own wisdom, that they foolishly and rashly legislated for themselves: this was indeed true; but he wished to express the penalty of which Paul speaks, when he says that the impious were delivered to a reprobate mind, and to obedience to a lie, (Romans 1:24-26,) since they did not submit to the truth, and did not suffer themselves to be ruled by God, and thus were given up to the tyranny of Satan and to the service of mere creatures. Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet’s meaning, I have given them also, says he, laws not good, as if he had said that the people so threw themselves into various idolatries, that God desired in this way to avenge their incredible obstinacy; for if the Jews had calmly acquiesced in God’s sovereignty, he had not given them evil laws, that is, he had not suffered them to be so tormented under Satan’s tyranny; but when they were entangled in his snares, God openly shows them to be unworthy of his government and care, since they were too refractory. It follows —

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