13. O if my people had hearkened to me! If Israel had walked in my ways! 14. I would soon have brought their enemies low, and turned my hand against their adversaries. 15. The haters of Jehovah would have lied to him, and their time should have been everlasting. 16. I1 would have fed them with the fat of corn: and I would have satisfied thee with honey from the rock.
13. O if my people had hearkened to me! By the honorable designation which God gives to the people of Israel, He exposes the more effectually their shameful and disgraceful conduct. Their wickedness was doubly aggravated, as will appear from the consideration, that although God called them to be his people, they differed nothing from those who were the greatest strangers to him. Thus he complains by the Prophet Isaiah,
"The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider."
The Hebrew particle
14. I would soon have brought their enemies low. Here the Israelites are taught, that all the calamities which had befallen them were to be imputed to their own sins; for their enemies did not fight against them with any other strength than that with which they were supplied from above. God had promised that under his leading the chosen people would prove victorious over all their enemies; and now to take away all ground for charging him with violating his word, he affirms that he would not have failed to enable them to do this had he not been prevented by their sins. He doubtless intends tacitly to remind them that the victories which they had formerly achieved were not owing to their own military valor, but to Him under whose conduct they had been placed. Now, he tells them that he was not only kept back by their sins from putting forth his power to defend them, but that he was also compelled by their perverseness to rush against them with the sword in his hand, while he left their enemies to remain in undisturbed tranquillity.
15. The haters of Jehovah would have lied to him. Here the same thought is pursued, when the Israelites are informed that their enemies would have humbly submitted to their authority had not their impiety emboldened them to run to excess, when they shook off the yoke of God, and waxed wanton against him. In calling these enemies the enemies of Jehovah, it is intended to censure the folly of the Israelites in breaking the bond of the covenant made between God and them, and thereby separating themselves from him, and preventing him from forthwith engaging in war in their behalf against those who were alike their and his enemies. As earthly princes, when they are disappointed of the assistance promised by their allies, are excited to enter into terms of agreement with their enemies, and in this way avenge themselves on those who have been found to be guilty of perjury and covenant-breakers; so God declares that he had spared his own enemies, because he had been treacherously and wickedly deceived by the people of Israel. Why does he permit his avowed enemies to remain unpunished, and cease for a time to maintain his own glory, if it is not because his object is to set them in contrast with his own rebellious and disobedient people, whom, by this means, he intends to subdue? The meaning of the word
1 In our English Bible it is, "He should have fed them." The LXX., Vulgate, and Syriac versions, Green, Walford, and others, read as Calvin does, "I would have fed them." "This is the preferable reading," says Walford, "as the common lection introduces a too sudden change of person."
2 "Nothing," says Dr Adam Clarke on this verse, "can be more plaintive than the original: sense and sound are surprisingly united. I scruple not to say to him who understands the Hebrew, however learned, he has never found in any poet, Greek or Latin, a finer example of deep-seated grief, unable to express itself in appropriate words, without frequent interruptions of sighs and sobs, terminated with a mournful cry --
yl ems yme wl
wklhy ykrdb larsy
"He who can give the proper guttural pronunciation to the letter
4 "Their time, etc.: that is, the time, the continuance, the prosperity of my people, would have been durable." -- Warner.
5 It is an usual phrase with the Hebrews to call the most esteemed part of anything
6 Palestine abounded in wild bees, which, living in the crevices of rocks, and in the hollows of trees, furnished honey in great plenty. To this there are frequent allusions in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 32:13, Moses, speaking of God's goodness to Israel in the song with which he closed his long and eventful career, says, "He made him suck honey out of the rock." As an evidence of the great abundance of wild honey in that country, we may refer to 1 Samuel 14:25, where it is said, "And all they of the land came to a wood, and there was honey upon the ground; and when the people were come to the wood, behold the honey dropped." In proof of the same point, reference may be also made to the fact, that a part of the food of John the Baptist in the wilderness was wild honey, which most probably he found in rocks or hollow trees. In Scripture, the country is frequently described by a familiar phrase, as "A land flowing with milk and honey;" and in Job 20:17, we meet with the strong expression of "Brooks, floods, and rivers of honey." Palestine is still remarkable for this natural production. It may be observed, that the change of person in this last verse from the third to the first is highly poetical.