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4. Unfaithful Israel

1If you will return, Israel, says Yahweh, if you will return to me, and if you will put away your abominations out of my sight; then you shall not be removed; 2and you shall swear, As Yahweh lives, in truth, in justice, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. 3For thus says Yahweh to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and don’t sow among thorns. 4Circumcise yourselves to Yahweh, and take away the foreskins of your heart, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn so that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings. 5Declare you in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow you the trumpet in the land: cry aloud and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities. 6Set up a standard toward Zion: flee for safety, don’t stay; for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. 7A lion is gone up from his thicket, and a destroyer of nations; he is on his way, he is gone forth from his place, to make your land desolate, that your cities be laid waste, without inhabitant. 8For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and wail; for the fierce anger of Yahweh hasn’t turned back from us. 9It shall happen at that day, says Yahweh, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder. 10Then said I, Ah, Lord Yahweh! surely you have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, You shall have peace; whereas the sword reaches to the life. 11At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A hot wind from the bare heights in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow, nor to cleanse; 12a full wind from these shall come for me: now will I also utter judgments against them. 13Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as the whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! for we are ruined. 14Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you? 15For a voice declares from Dan, and publishes evil from the hills of Ephraim: 16make you mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. 17As keepers of a field are they against her round about, because she has been rebellious against me, says Yahweh. 18Your way and your doings have procured these things to you; this is your wickedness; for it is bitter, for it reaches to your heart. 19My anguish, my anguish! I am pained at my very heart; my heart is disquieted in me; I can’t hold my peace; because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. 20Destruction on destruction is cried; for the whole land is laid waste: suddenly are my tents destroyed, and my curtains in a moment. 21How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? 22For my people are foolish, they don’t know me; they are foolish children, and they have no understanding; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. 23I saw the earth, and, behold, it was waste and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. 24I saw the mountains, and behold, they trembled, and all the hills moved back and forth. 25I saw, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the sky were fled. 26I saw, and behold, the fruitful field was a wilderness, and all the cities of it were broken down at the presence of Yahweh, and before his fierce anger. 27For thus says Yahweh, The whole land shall be a desolation; yet will I not make a full end. 28For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and I have not repented, neither will I turn back from it. 29Every city flees for the noise of the horsemen and archers; they go into the thickets, and climb up on the rocks: every city is forsaken, and not a man dwells therein. 30You, when you are made desolate, what will you do? Though you clothe yourself with scarlet, though you deck you with ornaments of gold, though you enlarge your eyes with paint, in vain do you make yourself beautiful; your lovers despise you, they seek your life. 31For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, the anguish as of her who brings forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, who gasps for breath, who spreads her hands, saying, Woe is me now! for my soul faints before the murderers.

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Here now the Prophet expressly and avowedly exhorts the people to repent. By bidding Jerusalem to wash from wickedness her heart, that she might be saved, he shews that there was no remedy, except the Jews were reconciled to God; and that this could not be, except they repented of their sins. He had said before, that while God was angry they could not but perish; he now confirms the same thing, — that thou mayest be saved, wash thine heart from wickedness; as though he had said, that there was war between the Jews and God, and that salvation could by no means be hoped for, since God was armed for their destruction, and shewed himself a judge to punish their vices: he at the same time reminds them of the true way of repentance; it was by washing their heart from wickedness. For hypocrites ever seek to appease God by external rites and observances; but the Prophet shows that God cannot be pacified, except they from the heart return to him. He then means that the beginning of true repentance is an inward feeling. We now perceive what the Prophet means.

But they reason foolishly who maintain that repentance is the cause of salvation, because it is said, “That thou mayest be saved, wash thy heart from wickedness:” and the Papists lay hold on such passages to set up free — will; and they hold that sins are abolished and punishment remitted through satisfactions made by us. But this is extremely absurd and frivolous. For the Prophet is not speaking of the cause of salvation; but, as I have said, he simply shows that men are extremely thoughtless when they expect a peaceable condition, while they carry on war with God, and when he is armed to execute vengeance on them. We are not then to inquire here, whether a sinner delivers himself from God’s hand by his repentance: but the Prophet had only this one thing in view — that we cannot be safe and secure, except God be reconciled to us. He further shews, that God will not be propitious to us, except we repent, and that from the heart or from a genuine feeling within.

He then adds, How long shall remain within thee the thoughts of thy vanity? He here touches on the hypocrisy of his own nation; and he in effect says, that whatever excuses they might make, they were yet proved guilty before God, and that their evasions were frivolous, because God penetrated into the inmost recesses of their hearts. He indeed speaks most suitably, for he had to do with hypocrites who thought that their outward performances pacified God; and they also thought that when they alleged their evasions they ought to be forgiven, as they could not be condemned by earthly judges. The Prophet derides these delusive thoughts, How long shall thoughts of vanity remain within thee? that is, “Though the whole world were to absolve thee, what yet would it avail thee? For vain thoughts remain in the midst of thee, that is, in the recesses of thy heart; and God knows them, for nothing is hid from him. There is then no reason for you to think that ye will gain anything by your outward display or your excuses; for God is the searcher of hearts. Let not these thoughts continue within thee.”

He calls them the thoughts of vanity The word, און, aun, means sometimes substance, but, it also means power, and sometimes grief, and sometimes vanity or trouble. The Prophet means here, I have no doubt, trouble or vanity. But some expound it as signifying lust; but I know not whether it can be so taken. Either of the two foregoing meanings may suit the passage, though vanity seems the best, How long, then, shall thoughts of vanity remain within thee? that is, by which thou deceivest thyself: for when God suspended his vengeance, the Jews thought that they had escaped from his hand. 110110     The word means also iniquity, wickedness: and this is the sense in which the Vulgate and the Targum have taken it, and also Blayney, “the devices of thine iniquity:“ and this corresponds more with the former part of the verse. The whole is as follows, —
   14. Wash from evil thine heart, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved: How long shall lodge within thee The thoughts of thy wickedness,


   Thy wicked thoughts.

   The word for “wash” here, according to Parkhurst, is ever applied to express a thorough washing, the washing away of what is inherent, such as the dirt of linen and of clothes: and he says, that there is another word, רחף, which is used when the washing of the surface of anything is intended, such as the washing of hands. “Shall lodge,” — it is no objection that this is singular, and the “thoughts” plural. It is an idiom: the same exists in Welsh: and in no other form would this sentence be rendered in that language. The present translation is incorrect, as the verb is taken to be in the second person, and applied to Jerusalem; which cannot be, as in that case it must have been in the feminine gender. The correct rendering would be, —

   Pa hyd y hetya o’th fewn Dy feddyliau drygionus!

   If the verb had followed its nominative case, it would have been in the same number; but as it precedes it, it is singular while the noun is plural. — Ed.
They might, at the same time, have been called the thoughts of trouble or sorrow from the effect; for how could it have been otherwise, but they must have found that they had procured a heavier judgment for themselves, by trifling with the indulgence and forbearance of God? Too strained is the explanation given by some, who render the words, “thoughts of grief, “because the Jews had done many wrongs to their neighbors, and caused them unjust vexations. I therefore doubt not but that the Prophet refers to those deceptive hopes, by which the Jews grew more perverse against God, so as not to fear any punishment.