14. But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;
14. Si autem non audieritis me, neque feceritis omnia praecepta ista.
15. And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant:
15. Et, si decreta mea spreveritis, et judicia mea abominata fuerit anima vestra, ita ut non faciatis omnia praecepta mea, et irritum faciatis pactum meum:
16. I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain; for your enemies shall eat it.
16. Etiam ego faciam hoc vobis: constituam super vos terrorem, tabem, et febrem, consumentia oculos, et dolore afficientia animam, seretisque frustra semen vestrum: nam comedent illud inimici vestri.
17. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
17. Dabo praeterea iram meam in vos, et trademini coram inimicis vestris, dominabunturque vobis qui odio habent vos: fugietisque, nec erit persequens vos.
18. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
18. Quod si usque ad haec non audieritis me, addam corripere vos septuplo propter peccata vestra.
19. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass.
19. Conteramque superbiam fortitudinis vestrae, ac dabo coelum vestrum sicut ferrum, et terram vestram sicut aes.
20. And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
20. Et consumetur frustra fortitudo vestra, neque dabit terra vestra fructum suum, et arbores regionis non dabnut fructum suum.
21. And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you, according to your sins.
21. Si autem ambulaveritis mecum fortuito, et nolueritis audire me, addam super vos plagam septuplo secundum peccata vestra.
22. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high-ways shall be desolate.
22. Immittamque in vos bestiam agri, et orbabit vos, et succidet jumentum vestrum, ac diminuet vos, et desolabuntur viae vestrae.
23. And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;
23. Quod si per haec non recipiatis doctrinam meam, sed ambulaveritis mecum fortuito:
24. Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
24. Ambulabo etiam ego vobiscum fortuito, et percutiam vos quoque septuplo propter peccata vestra:
25. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
25. Atque inducam super vos gladium ultorem ultionis foederis: ubi congregati eritis ad urbes vestras, tunc mittam pestilentiam in medium vestri, ac trademini in manum inimici.
26. And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.
26. Dum confregero vobis baculum panis, coquent decem mulieres panem vestrum in clibano uno, reddentque panem vestrum in pondere: comedetis autem, et non saturabimini.
27. And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;
27. Quod si in hoc non audieritis me, sed ambulaveritis mecum fortuito:
28. Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.
28. Incedam vobiscum in ira fortuito, et corripiam vos etiam ego septuplo propter peccata vestra.
29. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.
29. Comedetisque carnem filiorum vestrorum, et carnem filiarum vestrarum comedetis.
30. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.
30. Atque dissipabo excelsa vestra, et succidam imagines vestras: ponamque cadavera vestra super cadavera idolorum vestrorum, et abominabitur vos anima mea.
31. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odorous.
31. Daboque urbes vestras in desolationem, ac desolabo sanetuaria vestra, neque odorabor odorem quietis vestrae.
32. And I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.
32. Desolabo, inquam, ego terram, ita ut obstupescant super eam inimici vestri qui habitabunt in ea.
33. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you; and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.
33. Vos autem dispergam in gentes, et evaginabo post vos gladium: eritque terra vestra desolata, et urbes vestrae erunt destructae.
34. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.
34. Tunc perficiet (vel, oblectabitur) terra sabbatha sua cunctis diebus quibus desdata fuerit: vos autem eritis in terra inimicorum vestrorum: tunc, inquam, requiescet terra, et perficiet sabbatha sua.
35. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.
35. Omnibus diebus quibus desolata fuerit, requiescet: quia non requievit in sabbathis vestris, dum habitaretis in ea.
36. And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth.
36. Qui autem remanserint ex vobis, inducam teneritudinem in cor eorum in terris inimicorum suorum, et persequetur eos sonus folii impulsi, et fugient fuga gladii, cadentque nemine persequente.
37. And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth: and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.
37. Impingent autem alter in alterum tanquam a facie gladii, nullo persequente: neque erit vobis resistentia coram inimicis vestris.
38. And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
38. Et peribitis inter Gentes, et absumet vos terra inimicorum vestrorum.
39. And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.
39. Et qui remanserint ex vobis, dissolventur propter iniquitatem suam in terris inimicorum vestrorum, atque etiam propter iniquitates patrum suorum, cum eis dissolventur.
40. If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;
40. Donec confiteantur iniquitatem suam, et iniquitatem patrum suorum, juxta praevaricationem suam qua praevaricati sunt in me: et etiam quod ambulaverint mecum fortuito:
41. And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:
41. Quod etiam ego ambulaverim cum illis fortuito, et induxerim eos in terram inimicorum suorum: tuncque humilietur cor eorum incircuncisum, ac propitient pro iniquitate sua.
42. Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.
42. Tunc recordabor pacti mei cum Jacob, et etiam pacti mei cum Isaac, et insuper pacti mei cum Abraham recordabor, terrae quoque memor ero.
43. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity; because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.
43. Terra interim deseretur ab eis, et perficiet sabbatha sua quae desolata est ab illis, et ipsi exsolvent mulctam suam, eo quod, inquam, judicia mea spreverint, et decreta mea abominata sit anima eorum.
44. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God.
44. Et tamen etiam hoc modo quum ipsi fuerint in terra inimicorum suorum, non reprobavi eos, neque abominatus sum eos, ut consumerem eos, irritum faciendo pactum meum cum eis: ego enim Jehova Deus eorum.
45. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.
45. Sed recordabor propter eos pacti priorum, ego qui eduxi eos e terra Aegypti in oculis Gentium, ut essem illis in Deum: ego Jehova.
14. But if ye will not hearken unto me. Thus far a kind invitation has been set before the people in the shape of promises, in order that the observance of the Law might be rendered pleasant and agreeable; since, as we have already seen, our obedience is then only approved by God when we obey willingly. But, inasmuch as the sluggishness of our flesh has need of spurring, threatenings are also added to inspire terror, and at any rate to extort what ought to have been spontaneously performed. It may seem indeed that it may thus be inferred that threats are absurdly misplaced when applied to produce obedience to the Law, which ought to be voluntary; for he who is compelled by fear will never love God; and this is the main point in the Law. But what I have already shewn, will in some measure avail to solve this difficulty, viz., that the Law is deadly to transgressors, because it holds them tight under that condemnation from which they would wish to be released by vain presumptions; whilst threats are also useful to the children of God for a different purpose, both that they may be prepared to fear God heartily before they are regenerate, and also that, after their regeneration, their corrupt affections may be daily subdued. For although they sincerely desire to devote themselves altogether to God, still they have to contend continually with the remainders of their flesh. Thus, then, although the direct object of threats is to alarm the reprobate, still they likewise apply to believers, for the purpose of stimulating their sluggishness, inasmuch as they are not yet thoroughly regenerate, but still burdened with the remainders of sin.
15. And if ye shall despise my statutes. This seems only to apply to ungodly and depraved apostates, who deliberately revolt from the service and worship of God: for if a person falls through infirmity, and offends from levity and inconsideration, he will not be said to have despised God's Law, or to have made void His covenant. And certainly it is probable that God designedly spoke of gross rebellion, which could not be extenuated under the pretense of error. Still it must be borne in mind that all transgressors, whether they have violated the Law in whole or in part, are brought under the curse. But God would remind His people betimes to what lengths those at last proceed who assume the liberty of sinning; and also from what source all transgressions arise. For, although every one who turns out of the right path into sin does not altogether repudiate or abominate the Law, yet all sins betray contempt of the Law, and tend to break the covenant of God. He justly, therefore, denounces them as covenant-breakers, and proud despisers, unless they obey His commandments: and, first, He threatens that He will destroy them with "terror, consumption," and other diseases; and then adds external calamities, such as scarcity of corn, violent invasions of enemies, and the plunder of their goods; of which it will be more convenient to speak more fully in expounding the passage in Deuteronomy.
18. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken. The gradation of punishments, which is here mentioned, shews that they are so tempered by God's kindness, that He only lightly chastises those whose stupidity or hardness of heart he has not yet proved; but when obstinacy in sin is superadded, the severity of the punishments is likewise increased; and justly so, because those who, being admonished, care not to repent, wage open war with God. Hence the more moderately He deals with us, the more attentive we ought to be to His corrections, in order that even the gentle strokes, which He in His kindness softens and tempers, may be enough. Paul says that hypocrites heap up to themselves a treasure of greater vengeance, if they take occasion from His forbearance to continue unmoved, (Romans 2:4, 5;) for those who do not repent, when admonished by light chastisements, are the less excusable. Wherefore let us give heed to that exhortation of David, that we "be not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle;" because "many sorrows shall be to the wicked." (Psalm 32:9, 10.) In sum, as soon as God has begun to put forth His hand to smite us, there is one remedy whereby He may be appeased, i.e., teachableness. It would be more prudent of us to anticipate Him, and to return to Him of our own accord, though He should withhold punishment; but when we are smitten without profit, it is a sin of obstinate wickedness. He threatens, therefore, that unless they repent when smitten with the ferule, He will use the rod to correct them. When He says, "I will punish you seven times more," He does not mean to define the number, but, according to the common phrase of Scripture, uses the number seven, by way of amplification. In the next verse He shews that there is a just cause for His becoming more severe, because they cannot be subdued except by violent means; for although the word Nwag,1 geon, is not always used in a bad sense, still, in this passage, it signifies that they are disobedient, being puffed up to be proud by their power; for, as Moses says elsewhere, Israel "waxed fat, and kicked" against God, just as horses grow restive by being overfed. He therefore calls their obstinacy, wherein they became more hardened, although God spared them, "the pride of their power;" for prosperity begets security, in which stubborn men try their strength against the scourges of God.
21. And if ye walk. Translators give various renderings of the word yrq,2 keri. The Chaldee takes it to mean with hardness, as if it were their purpose to contend against God. Jerome renders it ex adverso mihi, (in opposition to me;) but, since the word signifies an accidental occurrence, or contingency, this sense has seemed to me much the most appropriate. To "walk at adventures" (fortuito) with God, therefore, is equivalent to passing by His judgments with their eyes shut; and even so to stupify themselves as to ascribe their adversities to fortune, and thus not to be humbled beneath His mighty hand; for hence arises unconquerable obstinacy, when the sinner imagines that whatever he suffers happens by chance. Therefore Jeremiah inveighs against the Jews in a severe reproof, because they supposed that evil and good did not proceed from the ordinance and decree of God, (Lamentations 3:38;) for hence is engendered brutal madness, so that wretched men rush with all their might to their own destruction. It will accord very well, then, that if men do not take heed to God's judgments, but rush onwards like furious beasts, His meeting with them will be, as it were, fortuitous, when He shall smite them indiscriminately, from right to left, high and low, as we say in French aller a tors et travers. This, therefore, the sinner at length obtains by his stupid obstinacy, that, overwhelmed by his manifold punishments, he sees no end to his troubles. Meanwhile there is no doubt but that Moses rebukes the iron obstinacy of the people, as David declares, that with the gentle God will be gentle, but that He will be stubborn, as it were, with the perverse. (Psalm 18:25, 26.) He finally points out the source of obstinacy, when the sinner is intoxicated by his stupidity into contempt for God, whilst he turns away from himself, as much as possible, the sense of His wrath. Let us learn, then, to withdraw our thoughts from vague speculations to the consideration of God's hand in all the punishments which He inflicts; because hence will arise acknowledgment of our guilt, which may lead to repentance. Else that will occur which Isaiah seems to have taken from this passage, that God's anger will never be turned away; but that, when we think that we are acquitted, His hand will be stretched out still. (Isaiah 9:12.)
25. And I will bring a sword upon you. There is no doubt but that He means the hostile swords of all the nations, whereby the Israelites were sorely afflicted; and teaches that whosoever should bring trouble and perplexity upon them were the just executioners of His vengeance; just as He constantly declares by the prophets that He was the Leader of the people's enemies, and that the Assyrians and Chaldeans both fought under Him. He calls the Assyrian His axe, and the rod of His anger which He wields in His hand, (Isaiah 10:15, and 5;) and Nebuchadnezzar His hired soldier. He says that He will call the Egyptians with a hiss, and will arouse the Chaldeans by the sound of his trumpet. (Isaiah 7:20, 18, and elsewhere.) But since this point is sufficiently well known, there will be no occasion of further proofs. The sum is, that all wars are stirred by His command, and that the soldiers are armed at His will, and are strong in His strength. Hence it follows that He has innumerable forces by whose hand He may execute His vengeance whensoever He pleases. Afterwards, therefore, when the Israelites were harassed, and even cruelly oppressed by their enemies, God's truth was manifested in all those continual defeats; whilst, from His great severity, we may gather how gross was the perversity of their conduct.
26. And when I have broken the staff of your bread. By these words God implies, that although He should not punish them by the sterility of the land, still He was prepared with other means for destroying them by famine. We shall indeed see hereafter that, when God was wroth, the earth in a manner shut up her bowels so as to produce no food; and that the heaven also grew hard so as not to fertilize it with dew or rain. In a word, all unseasonableness of weather and infertility of soil is a sign of the curse of God; but now He goes further, viz., that although there should be no scarcity of food, still they should suffer from hunger, when He had taken away its nourishing qualities from their bread. This curse confirms the instruction which we have seen elsewhere, that man does not live by bread, but by3 the command of God, just as if the efficacy contained in the bread proceeded out of His mouth. (Deuteronomy 8:3.) And assuredly an inanimate thing could not give rigor to our senses except by the secret ordinance of God. He employs a very appropriate comparison, calling the support of bread, whereby man's strength is refreshed, "the staff;" as we see the old and weak leaning on their sticks as they walk, when otherwise they would totter and fall. God says, then, that it is in His power to break this staff, so that their bread should only fill their stomachs without refreshing their strength. Ezekiel has borrowed from Moses this figure, which he makes use of in several places, (Ezekiel 4:16; 5:16; and 14:13,) although he there adverts to two sorts of punishment, like another Prophet, when He says, "Ye have sown much and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that; earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes;" and again,
"Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it;" (Haggai 1:6, 9;)
for he points out scarcity of food as one of God's scourges, and the inability to profit by their abundance, as another; and with this Micah also accords, for after he has said, "Thou shalt eat, but not be satisfied," he adds,
"Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but thou shalt not anoint thee with oil; and sweet wine, but shalt not drink wine." (Micah 6:14, 15.)
But Moses, in order that the curse may be more apparent, says that there shall be abundance of bread; and also that there shall be no deception practiced in kneading and baking it; for that two4 women shall come to one oven together, who may mutually observe whether weight is duly given. He implies, therefore, that there shall be abundance in their hands, and yet, when they are filled, they shall not be satisfied.
29. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons. This scourge is still more severe and terrible (than the others;5) yet we know that the Israelites were smitten with it more than once. This savage act would be incredible; but we gather from it how terrible it is to fall into the hands of God, when men, by adding crime to crime, cease not to provoke His wrath. Jeremiah6 mentions this monstrous case among others: "The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children," and prepared them for food, (Lamentations 4:10;) and hence, not without cause, he mourns that this had not been done elsewhere, that women should devour the offspring which they themselves had brought up. (Lamentations 2:20.) And7 the last siege of Jerusalem, which in the fullness of their crimes was, as it were, the final act of God's vengeance, reduced the wretched people who were then alive to such straits, that they commonly partook of this unholy food.
When He again declares that He "will cast their carcases upon those of their idols," He shews by the very nature of the punishment that their impiety would be manifest; for apostates take marvelous delight in their superstitions, until God openly appears as the avenger of His service. But that their idols should be cast into a common heap with the bones of the dead, was as if the finger of God pointed out His abomination of their false worship. And then, because their last resource was in sacrifices, He declares that they should be of no avail for atonement; for, in the expression, "savour of peace,"8 He embraces all the expiatory rites, by their confidence in which they were the more obstinate. Afterwards He threatens banishment as well as the desolation of the land; by which punishment He made it apparent that they were utterly renounced, as we shall again see a little further on.
34. Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths. In order that the observance of the Sabbath should be the more honored, God in a manner associated the land in it together with man; for whereas the land had rest every seventh year from sowing, and harvest, and all cultivation, He thus desired to stir up men more effectually to a greater reverence for the Sabbath. God now bitterly reproves the Israelites because they not only profane the Sabbath themselves, but do not even allow the land to enjoy its prescribed rest; for this repose of the seventh year did not hinder the land from continually groaning under a heavy burden as long as it nourished such ungodly inhabitants. He says, therefore, that the land was disturbed by ceaseless inquietude, and thus was deprived of its lawful Sabbaths, since it bore on its shoulders, as it were, and not without great distress, such impious despisers of God. Moreover, because the whole worship of God is sometimes included by synecdoche in the word Sabbath, (Jeremiah 17:21; Ezekiel 20:12,) He indirectly administers a sharp reproof to His people, because not only is He defrauded of His right by their impiety, but He cannot be duly honored in the Holy Land unless He expels them all from hence; as if He had said, that this was the only means that remained for the assertion of the honor due to His name, viz., that the land should be cleared of its inhabitants, and reduced to desolation; inasmuch as this extorted rest should be substituted in the room of the voluntary Sabbath.
39. And they that are left of you. This is another form of vengeance, that, although they may survive for a time, still they shall gradually pine away; and this may be referred both to those who go into captivity, and to those who shall remain in the land. He had before threatened that they should be destroyed either by famine or sword; but now lest they should boast that they had escaped, if they had not perished by a violent death, He pronounces that they also should die a lingering death; and He also declares the manner of it, viz., that He will fill their hearts with trembling, so that they should fly when none pursued them, (as Solomon also says, Proverbs 28:1,) and fear at the sound of a falling leaf. Thus He signifies that the ungodly shall be no better off, although free from external troubles, because they are afflicted internally by hidden torments; for although their audacity may proceed even to madness, still it cannot be but that their evil conscience should smite them continually. Their forgetfulness of God may sometimes stupify them; nay, they may seek to shake off all feeling; but, after God has suffered them thus to become brutalized, He presently interrupts their lethargy, and hurries them on so that they are their own executioners. This passage shews us that, the more strait-hearted the wicked are in their contempt of God, the weaker they become, so as to tremble at their own shadow; and this condition is far more wretched than to be cut off at a single blow.
40. If they shall confess their iniquity. Although Moses has been discoursing of very severe and cruel punishments, still he declares that even in the midst of this awful severity God is to be appeased if only the people should repent, notwithstanding that they may have stripped themselves of all hope of pardon by their long-continued sins. For he does not address sinners in general, but those who by their obstinacy and brutal impetuosity have come nearer and nearer to the vengeance of God; and even these he encourages to a good hope, if only they be converted from their hearts. Let us be assured, then, that God's mercy is offered to the worst of men, who have been plunged by their guilt in the depths of despair, as though it reached even to hell itself. Whence, too, it follows, that all punishments are like spurs to rouse the inert and hesitating to repentance, whilst the sorer plagues are intended to break their hard hearts. Yet at the same time it must be observed that this favor is vouchsafed by special privilege to the Church of God; for Moses soon afterwards expressly assigns its cause, i.e., that God will remember His covenant. Whence it is plain that God, out of regard to His gratuitous adoption, will be gracious to the unworthy whom He has elected; and whence also it comes to pass, that, provided we do not close the gate of hope against ourselves, God will still voluntarily come forward to reconcile us to Himself, if only we lay hold of the covenant from which we have fallen by our own guilt, like ship-wrecked sailors seizing a plank to carry them safe into port. But it will be well for us earnestly to examine the fruits of repentance which Moses here enumerates. In the first place stands confession, not such as is exacted under the Papacy, that wretched men should unburden themselves in the ear of a priest (sacrifici,) as if secretly disgorging their sins, but whereby they acknowledge themselves to be guilty before God. This confession stands contrasted both with the noisy complaints, and the subterfuges and evasions of the wicked. A memorable instance of it occurs in the case of David, who, when overwhelmed by the reproof of the Prophet Nathan, ingenuously confesses that he has sinned against God. (2 Samuel 12:13.) By the word "fathers" He magnifies the greatness of their sins, because for a long space of time they had not ceased to add sin to sin, as if the fathers had conspired with their children, and the children with their own descendants; and, since God is a just avenger even to the third and fourth generation, it is not without reason that posterity is commanded humbly to pray that God would pardon the guilt contracted long ago. Hence also it is plainly seen how little the imitation of their fathers will avail to extenuate the faults of the children, since we perceive that it renders them less excusable, so far is God from admitting this silly plea. It is further added, that their confession should correspond with the greatness of their transgressions, and that it should not be trifling and perfunctory; for although hypocrites, when convicted, do not deny that they have sinned, still in confessing they extenuate their guilt, as if they were only guilty of venial offenses. God, therefore, would have the circumstances of their sins taken into account, and this also He prescribes with respect to their obstinacy, lest they should pretend that their punishments were not deservedly redoubled, because they had walked9 at adventures with God.
Finally, in order to prove the reality of their conversion, all dissembling is excluded by the humbling of their hearts; for it is as if God would reject their prayers, until in sincere and heart-felt humility they should seek for pardon. This humiliation is contrasted with security as well as with contumacy and pride; and it is also compared with circumcision, where the heart is called uncircumcised before it is subdued and reduced to obedience. For, whereas circumcision was a mark of distinction between the people of God and heathen nations, it must needs have been also a sign of regeneration.10 But since the Jews neglected the truth, and foolishly and improperly gloried only in the outward symbol, Moses, by reproving the uncircumcision of their hearts, refutes that empty boast. Thus, as Paul testifies, unless the Law be obeyed, literal circumcision is useless, and is made into uncircumcision. (Romans 2:25.) So Moses accuses the Israelites of unfaithfulness, because they profess to be God's holy people, whilst they cherish filthiness and uncleanness in their heart. The Prophets also often reproach them with being uncircumcised in heart, or in ears; and in this Stephen followed them. (Jeremiah 6:10; Ezekiel 44:7; Acts 7:51.)
Others elicit a very different meaning from the words11 which we have translated, "let them atone (propitient) for their iniquity." The noun used is Nwe, gnevon, which means both iniquity and punishment; and the verb hur, ratzah, which is to expiate, or to esteem grateful, or to appease. Some, therefore, explain it, they shall bear their punishment patiently, or esteem it pleasant; but it appears to me that Moses connects with repentance the desire of appeasing God, without which men are never really dissatisfied with themselves, or renounce their sins; and his allusion is to the sacrifices and legal ablutions, whereby they reconciled themselves to God. The sum is, that when they shall seriously endeavor to return to God's favor, He will be propitiated towards them on account of His covenant.
43. The land also shall be left of them. He again refers to the punishment of banishment, which is equivalent to their being disinherited; and at the same time repeats that the worship of God could not be restored in the Holy Land, until it should be purified from their defilements; yet immediately afterwards He moderates this severity, inasmuch as, when He seemed to deal with them most rigorously, He still will not utterly cast them off. The verbs He uses12 are in the past tense, though they have reference to the future; as much as to say, even then "they shall feel that they are not rejected." He therefore stretches out His hand to them, as it were, in their miserable estate, to uplift them to confidence, and commands them, although afflicted with the extremity of trouble, nevertheless to put their trust in His Covenant. Herein His marvelous and inestimable goodness is displayed, in still retaining as His own those who are alienated from Him: thus, it is said in Hosea, (2:23,) "I will say to them that are not my people, Thou art my people."
When He promises that He will remember His covenant "for their sakes," He does not mean for their merit, or because they have acquired such a favor for themselves; but for their profit or salvation, in that the recollection of the Covenant shall extend even to them. Their deliverance (from Egypt) is also added in confirmation of the Covenant, as though He had said that He would be the more disposed to forgive them, not only because He always perseveres in His faithfulness to His promises, but because He would maintain His goodness towards them, and carry it on even to the end. Thus we see He refers the cause of His mercy only to Himself.