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Ezekiel 20:32-33

32. And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.

32. Et ascendit 286286     We must understand the relative, “that which arises.” — Calvin. super spiritum vestrum non erit, quia vos dixistis, 287287     It is the participle, “you say.” — Calvin. Erimus sicut gentes, sicut familiae terrarum, ut serviamus ligno et lapidi.

33. As I live, says the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:

33. Vivo ego, dicit Dominator Iehovah, Si non in manu robusta et brachio extento, et excandescentia effusa dominabor super vos.

 

Now God discloses what those old men had in their minds who, as well as the rest of the captives, came to the Prophet for the purpose of inquiry, namely, a feeling of despair, since they thought nothing would be more useful to themselves than to revolt utterly from God, and to form themselves after the manner and rites of the Gentiles; for they found themselves specially hated by the profane nations, because they worshipped a peculiar God. Since, therefore, the law separated them from all the rest of the world, that they might escape that hatred and envy, they encouraged the perverse intention of deserting God’s worship and passing over to the Gentiles. For they hoped that those who had been formerly hostile would have shown themselves favor-able. Now God not only announces that he would not suffer it, but he asserts with an oath, what you are thinking of shall not come to pass, since I will draw you back with a strong hand, and with an extended arm, and poured out wrath. The meaning is, that although those miserable captives desired to throw off God’s yoke and to mingle themselves with the profane nations, yet God would have respect to his covenant and not suffer them to be snatched away from him, just as a master fetches back his fugitive slave; or like a prince who might destroy the perfidious and rebellious, yet only chastises them that they may groan under a hard slavery: this is the complete sense.

But this passage is worthy of observation, since in the present day the same thought makes many anxious; for the name of sincere piety distresses them, and so they consult their love of ease, and satisfy both themselves and others by uniting with the rest of the world, and avoiding the hatred of mankind in consequence of their religion. Others again desire to escape in any way from God, because they feel him hostile to them, for the condition of the Church seems to them much worse than that of the world at large. And truly as God takes special care of it, so he chastises its faults more severely. We see then how he spares unbelievers and foreigners, as if he connived at their crimes: meanwhile his hand is always extended to chastise all who profess to be in the number of the pious. But some would desire to bid farewell to God, if they could choose for themselves. Hence I said we must observe this passage. The Israelites thought that nothing would be better than to be joined to the Gentiles and to become in all respects like them, since they imagined that in this way they would enjoy relaxation, since God was more lenient to the Gentiles than he had been to them, and because they perceived themselves exposed to many dangers and troubles, harassed by assaults and subject to daily threats. Hence that perverse deliberation which is here reproved; — what arises in your mind, says he, shall not come to pass, because you say we shall be as the nations and the families of the earth. But we must also consider the end, because the people’s folly was so great that they thought they would be free from God’s chastisements, if they utterly rejected all religion. God therefore denies that he would suffer it. Now a clearer explanation follows: As I live, says he, if I will not rule over you with a strong hand and a stretched-out arm; in this sense — when they had removed all refuges he would yet be an avenger of his rights and empire, so as to compel them to return to him, as we have said, and thus violently to bring back the fugitives. We now see the great stupidity of the people in thinking the only remedy for their troubles to be in declining from true piety. Let us then be careful that we do not harden ourselves when God chastises us, and desire to withdraw from his power and dominion. Meanwhile God shows that he will rule, but in some other way; because we know with what humanity he treated his people, and what patience he exercised towards them, when they so often provoked his wrath. He now announces that he would be the Lord, but with a strong hand and a stretched-out arm, since he would forget his former clemency and subject them to perverse bondage. As when a master sees that he cannot obtain voluntary obedience from his slaves, he compels them to the galleys, or other laborious works, until they become half dead. God denounces that such will be the condemnation which he will use against them, since they never profited by either clemency or pardon. It follows —


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