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5. A Promised Ruler From Bethlehem
1Now shalt thou gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us; they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. 2But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. 3Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she who travaileth hath brought forth: then the residue of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. 4And he shall stand, and shall feed his flock in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God: and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth. 5And this man shall be our peace. When the Assyrian shall come into our land, and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. 6And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our border. 7And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples as dew from Jehovah, as showers upon the grass, that tarry not for man, nor wait for the sons of men. 8And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, as a lion among the beasts of the forest, as a young lion among the flocks of sheep; who, if he go through, treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and there is none to deliver. 9Let thy hand be lifted up above thine adversaries, and let all thine enemies be cut off. 10And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and will destroy thy chariots: 11and I will cut off the cities of thy land, and will throw down all thy strongholds. 12And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thy hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers: 13and I will cut off thy graven images and thy pillars out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thy hands; 14and I will pluck up thine Asherim out of the midst of thee; and I will destroy thy cities. 15And I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath upon the nations which hearkened not.
He now adds, I will cut off thy graven images and thy statues from the midst of thee; and thou shalt not hereafter bend down before the works of thine hands This verse is plain and contains nothing new: for the Prophet teaches that God cannot become propitious to his Church, to keep and make her safe, until he purges her from her filth, even from idolatry and other vices, by which the worship of God was corrupted, or even entirely subverted. I will, therefore, cut off thy graven images and statues 158158 מצבות, rather pillars or columns than statues: τας στηλας in the Sept. The pillar of stone which Jacob set up is called by this name, Genesis 28:18. They were commemorative pillars at which the Canaanites, and afterwards the Jews, offered idolatrous worship. There was a pillar of this kind in the house of Baal, 2 Kings 10:26, 27. They were not altars, though altars might have been reared by them, for both are mentioned together in Deuteronomy 12:3. The word is derived from יצב, to set, to fix firmly. The noun is rendered by Parkhurst, a standing pillar. — Ed. from the midst of thee We see that God anticipates us by his gratuitous goodness, not only by forgiving us, but also by calling us back, when wandering, into the right way. Since then we have deviated from the right way, and God thus withdraws his hand that it might appear that he has cast us away it is certain that we ought not only to pray him to have mercy on us, but also to ascribe to him a higher favor, inasmuch as he takes away the very impediments which separate us from him, and suffer him not to come nigh us. We hence see that God is not only inclined to pardon when men repent, but that it is his peculiar office to remove the obstacles.
This ought to be carefully noticed, that we may know that our salvation, from the first beginning, proceeds from the mere favor of God, — and that we may also learn, that all those things, of which the Papists vainly talk respecting preparations, are mere figments.
He then adds, thou shalt not bend hereafter before the work of thine hands. God expresses here the cause why he so much abominates idols, even because he sees that his honor is transferred to them: this is one thing. He further arraigns the Jews as guilty, while he makes evident their defection: for surely nothing could have been more shameful, than to take away from God his honor and worship, and to transfer them to dead things; and he says here by way of reproach, that they were the work of their hands. What can be more insane, than for men to ascribe divinity to their own inventions, or to believe that it is in the power of men to make a god from wood or stone? This is surely monstrous in the extreme. Then the Prophet by this form of speaking aggravates the sin of the people of Israel, that is, when he says that they bowed the head before the work of their oven hands.