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He at length declares that they profited nothing by contending with God, but that a better way was open to them, that is, to return into favor with him. After having then repelled their unjust accusations, he again points out the remedy which he had already referred to — that if they dealt faithfully with God, he would be bountiful to them, and that his blessing would be promptly extended to them. This is the sum of the passage. They had been sufficiently proved guilty of rapacity in withholding the tenths and the oblations; as then the sacrilege was well known, the Prophet now passes judgement, as they say, according to what is usually done when the criminal is condemned, and the cause is decided, so that he who has been defrauded recovers his right.
So also now God deals with the Jews. Bring, he says, to the repository
The literal rendering is —
Bring ye the whole of the tenth Into the house, the treasury, And let the prey be in my house.
That is — “Let what you rob me of, the prey, or plunder, be in my house.” The word is טרף, properly prey, or plunder, and so rendered by the Septuagint, “διαρπαγὴ—plunder.” It was the Targum that gave a wrong meaning to the word, which most have followed. — Ed. (for this is the same as the house of the treasury, or of provisions) all the tenths, or the whole tenths. We hence learn that they had not withholden the whole of the tenths from the priests, but that they fraudulently brought the half, or retained as much as they could; for it was not without reason that he said, Bring all, or the whole. They then so paid the tenths as to supply the priests with a part only, and thus they trifled with God, according to what hypocrites do, who ever claim to themselves high honor, and try to perform their duty in such a way as not to discover their own perfidy, and yet they are not ashamed of the liberty they take to illude God; and of this we have here a remarkable example. We then see that it is no new or unusual thing for men to pretend to do the duties they owe to God, and at the same time to take away from him what is his own, and to transfer it to themselves, and that manifestly, so that their impiety is evident, though it be covered by the veil of dissimulation.
He then adds, Let there be meat in my house. We have elsewhere explained this form of speaking, and in the last lecture the Prophet spoke also of the meat of God, not that God needs meat and drink, but that whatever he has given us ought to be deemed his. We have already stated, that it has been recorded for our sake, that the Jews offered bread, and victims, and things of this kind, and that they feasted at Jerusalem in the presence of God: for what is more desirable than that God should dwell in the midst of us? and this is often repeated in the law. But this could not have been set forth to us in a way so familiar, as when God is represented as in a manner sitting at table with us, as though he were our guest, eating of the same bread and of the other provisions: and hence it is said in the law, “Thou shalt feast and rejoice before thy God.” (Deuteronomy 2:18.) Now as God needs not meat and drink, as it has been said, and as men in their grossness are ever prone to superstitions, he substituted the priests and the poor in his own place, to prevent the Jews from entertaining earthly notions respecting him. And this kind of modification or correction deserves to be noticed: for the Lord on the one hand intended to draw men in a kind manner to himself; but, on the other hand, he proposed to raise their minds upward to heaven, lest they should ascribe to him anything unworthy of himself, as is wont to be done, and is very common.
But, at the same time, he again accuses them of sacrilege, for he complains that he was deprived of meat; Let there then be meat in my house; and prove me by this, saith Jehovah, if I wily not open, etc. He confirms what he said before, and yet proceeds with his promise, for by subjecting himself to a proof, he boldly repels their calumny in saying that they were without cause consumed with want, and that God had changed his nature, because he had not given a large supply of provisions. God then briefly shows, that wrong had been done to him, for he admits of a proof or a trial, as though he had said, “If you choose to contest the point, I will soon settle it, for if you bring to me the tenths and them entire, there will immediately come to you a great abundance of all provisions: it will hence be evident, that I am not the cause of barrenness, but that it is your wickedness, because ye have sacrilegiously defrauded me.”
Then he adds, If I will not open to you the windows of heaven. It is the first thing as to fertility that the heavens should water the earth, according to what Scripture declares: and hence God threatens in the law that the heaven would be iron and the earth brass, (Deuteronomy 28:23,) for there is a mutual connection between the heaven and the earth, and he says elsewhere by a Prophet,
“The heaven will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn and wine, and the corn and wine will hear men.”
For when famine urges us, we cry for bread and wine, as our life seems in a manner to be dependent on these supplies. When there is no wine nor corn, we meet with a denial; but the wine and the corn cry to the earth, and why? because according to the order fixed by God, they seek as it were to break forth; for when the bowels of the earth are closed, neither the corn nor the vine can come forth, and then they in vain call on the earth. The sense is the case with the earth; for when it is dry and as it were famished, it calls on the heavens, but if rain be denied, the heavens seem to reject its prayer. Then God in this place shows that the earth could not produce a single ear of corn, except the heavens supplied moisture or rain. God indeed could from the beginning have watered the earth without rain, as Moses relates he did at first, for a vapor then supplied the want of rain. Though then rain descends naturally, we are yet reminded here that God sends it. This is the first thing.
But as rain itself would not suffice, he adds, I will unsheath, etc.; for רק, rek, means properly to unsheath; but as this metaphor seems unnatural, some have more correctly rendered it, “I will draw out” Unnatural also is this version, “I will empty out a blessing,” and it perverts the meaning. Let us then follow what I have stated as the first — that a blessing is drawn out from God when the earth discharges its office, and becomes fertile or fruitful. 257257 The verb in Hiphil, as it is here, is applied to the drawing forth of a sword or lance, Exodus 15:9, and to the drawing out of an army for battle, Genesis 14:14. It is rendered, “εκχεῶ—I will pour out, or forth,” by the Septuagint. — Ed. We hence see that God is not only in one way bountiful to us, but he also intends by various processes to render us sensible of his kindness: he rains from heaven to soften the earth, that it may in its bosom nourish the corn, and then send it forth from its bowels, as though it extended its breast to us; and further, God adds his blessing, so as to render the rain useful.
He subjoins the words עד-בלי-די, od-beli-di, which some render, “that there may not be a sufficiency,” that is, that granaries and cellars might not be capable of containing such abundance. They then elicit this meaning — that so great would be the fruitfulness of the earth, and so large would be its produce, that their repositories would not be sufficiently capacious. But others give this version, “Beyond the measure of sufficiency.” The word די, di, means properly sufficiency, or what is needful, as by inverting the letters it יד, id 258258 די not only means sufficiency, but also what is necessary to suffice, demand, requirement, as in Leviticus 25:26, כדי גאלתו, according to the demand of his redemption, or what was necessary or sufficient for his redemption. See Deuteronomy 25:2, where it means “according to what his sin may require,” or literally, “according to the requirement of his sin.” See also Nahum 2:13, בדי גרותיו, “for the demand of his whelps,” or, for what was necessary to suffice his whelps. There is a similar phrase to what we find here in Psalm 72:7, עד בלי ירח, “until no moon,” that is, until there be no moon. The literal rendering then of the phrase here would be, “until no demand,” that is, until nothing be required fully to suffice. Corresponding with this is the version of the Septuagint “εως το ἱκανωθηναι —until there should be enough.” — Ed. With regard to the general meaning there is but little difference. Suitable also is this version, “Beyond sufficiency;” that is, I will not regard what is needful for you, as though it were measured, but the abundance shall be overflowing. It follows —