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435

CHAPTER XXXI

OUR MOTHER OF SORROWS

Micah vii. 7-20.

After so stern a charge, so condign a sentence, confession is natural, and, with prayer for forgiveness and praise to the mercy of God, it fitly closes the whole book. As we have seen,916916   Above, pp. 372 ff. the passage is a cento of several fragments, from periods far apart in the history of Israel. One historical allusion suits best the age of the Syrian wars; another can only refer to the day of Jerusalem's ruin. In spirit and language the Confessions resemble the prayers of the Exile. The Doxology has echoes of several Scriptures.917917   Cf. with it Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7 (J); Jer. iii. 5, l. 20; Isa. lvii. 16; Psalms ciii. 9, cv. 9, 10.

But from these fragments, it may be of many centuries, there rises clear the One Essential Figure: Israel, all her secular woes upon her; our Mother of Sorrows, at whose knees we learned our first prayers of confession and penitence. Other nations have been our teachers in art and wisdom and government. But she is our mistress in pain and in patience, teaching men with what conscience they should bear the chastening of the Almighty, with what hope and humility they should wait for their God. Surely not less lovable, but only more human, that her pale cheeks flush for436 a moment with the hate of the enemy and the assurance of revenge. Her passion is soon gone, for she feels her guilt to be greater; and, seeking forgiveness, her last word is what man's must ever be, praise to the grace and mercy of God.

Israel speaks:—

But I will look for the LORD,
I will wait for the God of my salvation:
My God will hear me!
Rejoice not, O mine enemy, at me:
If I be fallen, I rise;
If I sit in the darkness, the LORD is a light to me.

The anger of the LORD will I bear—
For I have sinned against Him—
Until that He take up my quarrel,
And execute my right.
He will carry me forth to the light;
I will look on His righteousness:
So shall mine enemy see, and shame cover her,
She that saith unto me, Where is Jehovah thy God?—
Mine eyes shall see her,
Now is she for trampling, like mire in the streets!

The prophet918918   It was a woman who spoke before, the People or the City. But the second personal pronouns to which this reply of the prophet is addressed are all masculine. Notice the same change in vi. 9-16 (above p. 427). responds:—

A day for the building of thy walls shall that day be!
437Broad shall thy border be919919   ירחק־חק, Ewald: "distant the date." Notice the assonance. It explains the use of the unusual word for border. LXX. thy border. The LXX. also takes into ver. 11 (as above) the יום הוא of ver. 12. on that day!

...920920   Something has probably been lost here.and shall come to thee
From Assyria unto Egypt, and from Egypt to the River,
And to Sea from Sea, and Mountain from Mountain;921921   For ההר read מהר.
Though922922   It is difficult to get sense when translating the conjunction in any other way. But these two lines may belong to the following. the land be waste on account of her inhabitants,
Because of the fruit of their doings.

An Ancient Prayer:—

Shepherd Thy people with Thy staff,
The sheep of Thy heritage dwelling solitarily....923923   The words omitted above are literally jungle in the midst of gardenland or Carmel. Plausible as it would be to take the proper name Carmel here along with Bashan and Gilead (see Hist. Geog., 338), the connection prefers the common noun garden or gardenland: translate "dwelling alone like a bit of jungle in the midst of cultivated land." Perhaps the clause needs rearrangement: יערבתוככרמל, with a verb to introduce it. Yet compare יַעַר כַּרְמִלּוֹ, 2 Kings xix. 23; Isa. xxxvii. 24.
May they pasture in Bashan and Gilead as in days of old!
As in the days when Thou wentest forth from the land of Miṣraim, give us wonders to see!
Nations shall see and despair of all their might;
Their hands to their mouths shall they put,
Their ears shall be deafened.
They shall lick the dust like serpents;
Like worms of the ground from their fastnesses,
To Jehovah our God they shall come trembling,
And in fear before Thee!

438

A Doxology:—

Who is a God like to Thee? Forgiving iniquity,
And passing by transgression, to the remnant of His heritage;
He keepeth not hold of His anger for ever,
But One who delighteth in mercy is He;
He will come back, He will pity us,
He will tread underfoot our iniquities—
Yea, Thou wilt cast to the depths of the sea every one of our sins.
Thou wilt show faithfulness to Jacob, leal love to Abraham,
As Thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of yore.


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