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Ezekiel 20:27-28

27. Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus says the Lord GOD; Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.

27. Propterea loquere ad domum Israel, fili hominis, et dic illis, Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah: Adhuc in hoc contumeliosi in me fuerunt me, patres vestri praevaricando in me praevaricatione.

28. For when I had brought them into the land, for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savour, and poured out there their drink-offerings.

28. Nam introduxi 281281     “For the copula ought to be resolved in this way.” — Calvin. in terram pro qua sustuleram manum meam ad dandum eam ipsis: et viderunt omnem collem excelsum, et omnem arborem frondosam: et sacrificarunt illic sacrificia sua, et obtulerunt illic irritationem oblationis suae, et posuerunt illic odorem bonae fragrantiae suae, et fuderunt illic sua libamina.

 

He now descends to the wickedness of the people, by which God was provoked after they had taken possession of the land of Canaan, since they despised God after being so carefully warned. He complains, therefore, that this was very disgraceful, since, after he had put them in possession of the land of promise, they had never desisted from purposely insulting him. This disgrace was intolerable, since he had profited nothing by them in the wilderness: this witnessing was sufficiently serious to stir them up. “Walk you not in the decrees of your fathers: I am your God, observe you my law.” Since. therefore, God drew them under obedience to himself, what a mark of pride it was not to attend to that witness-bearing, but to pursue their own mad career? In truth, the crime was the more atrocious when at length they entered the land of Canaan, and had obtained so many victories, that they did not learn by experience how God declared his pourer for the very purpose of binding them closer to himself. For the numerous benefits which God had conferred upon them were but so many bonds by which they were bound more closely to him. This expostulation, then, is not in vain, when he reproaches them by saying, when they dishonored me, or rebelled against me. This was not a single crime, or simple perfidy, but a continual delight in wantonly insulting him; for גדף, gedef, signifies to reject, treat contumeliously, or disdain. God, therefore, by this word wishes to express the deliberate insolence of the people, while they rose so wickedly against him as if they would spit in his face. The full meaning is, that they were not only breakers of treaties and rebels when they contaminated the land of Canaan with their superstitions, but were so petulant that they professedly threw scorn upon God.

Hence, after I had brought them into the land for which, or concerning which, I had lifted up my hand to give it them, they saw, says he, every high hill, and every green or branching tree, and there they sacrificed. God wished to have one altar built for himself, and sacrifices to be offered in one place; nay, before the people had any certain and fixed station, God was unwilling that any altar should be built to him of polished stones, that no trace of it should remain; but a mound only was to be made of either turf or rough stones. (Exodus 20:25; Deuteronomy 27:5, 6.) Now he says, whenever hills and branching trees were lying before them, there they found enticements to superstition. This, therefore, is the reproach which God now complains was offered to him. But this passage, like many others, teaches, that not only is God’s worship corrupted when his honor is transferred to idols, but also when men heap up their own fictions, and contaminate God’s commands by the mixture. We must remember, then, that there are two kinds of idolatries; the one being grossest when idols are worshipped openly, and Moloch, or any Baal, is substituted for the living God: that is a palpable superstition, because God is in some sense cast down from his throne. But the other kind of idolatry, although more hidden, is abominable before God, namely, when, under the disguise of a name, men boldly mingle whatever comes into their minds, and invent various modes of worship; as at present we see in the papacy statues adored, and dead men invoiced, and God’s honor violated in various ways. Hence, however, the papists chatter, they are self-convicted, and the wonder is that they are not utterly silenced, since their superstitions are so gross that even boys perceive them. But there are other superstitions more specious and refined; for when they have invented many things in honor of God, they will not bring forward the names of either St. Barbara or St. Christopher, but the name of God covers all those abominations. But we see that this excuse is frivolous, when men assert that they have nothing else in their mind than the worship of God. Not only does God wish worship to be offered to himself alone, but that it should be without any dependence on human will: he wishes the law to be the single rule of true worship; and thus he rejects all fictitious rites. Hence the Prophet deservedly excuses the Israelites, because they turned their eyes towards every high hill and every branching tree, and there offered the provocation of their offering. He calls it the provocation of their offering, since they not only foolishly poured forth much money on those vitiated rites, but also provoked God to anger. We see, therefore, that men not only lose their labor when they decline from God’s commands, and rashly fatigue themselves with their own superstitions, but they provoke God to a contest, because they snatch from him the right of a lawgiver: for it is in his power to determine how he ought to be worshipped; and when men claim this power to themselves, it is like ascending to the very throne of God. But if they follow the inventions of others, still it is setting them up as lawgivers, while God is degraded from his tribunal. Thus it is not surprising if God’s wrath is provoked by any sacrifices, besides those which the law prescribes. And this is expressed very clearly by Isaiah, when God announces that he will do what will frighten them all as an unexpected prodigy: I will blind the eyes of the wise, says he, and I will take away prudence from the aged. (Isaiah 29:14.) And why so? because they worship me by the precepts of men.

It follows, And they offered their sweet odor, or agreeable fragrance. These two things seem contrary to each other, that their offerings inflamed God’s wrath, and yet their savor was sweet. But the Prophet. speaks ironically when he says, their incense was sweet-smelling. By conceding this he derides them, since they falsely supposed God was appeased in this way, although he reproves them at the same time for defiling, by their corruption’s, that incense which ought to have been of delightful fragrance. For the language of Moses is repeated: The scent shall reach God’s nostrils, and he shall be appeased. (Deuteronomy 33:10.) Since, then, the incense of the law was sweet-smelling, God here bitterly reproaches the Jews for infecting that good odor with their foulness. Hence the phrase is used in a sense contrary to its direct meaning. Lastly, he says, they have poured out their drink-offerings there. Here God reviews the various kinds of oblations which he had fully prescribed in the law but he shows that the Jews were rebellious against them all; and he further detects their unbridled petulance, since they had not only violated the law in one point, but had left no part untouched by their superstitions. God had commanded sacrifices, but these they rendered polluting: he added various oblations, yet all these they defiled: he desired libations to be made, and will to be poured out, but this part of the service was not kept pure from superstitions. Thus he shows that the people purposely took all means of declaring war against God, when they falsely pretended that nothing more was prescribed than to worship him as they pleased. It follows —


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