11. Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.
11. Praedae expositus est Ephrain (vel, direptus est; qse significat diripere et praedari,) fractus judicio: quia volens ambulavit post mandata.
Here again the Prophet shows that the vengeance of God would be just against Israel, because they willingly followed the impious edicts of their king. The people might indeed have appeared to be excusable, since religion had not been changed by their voice, or by public consent, or by any contrivance of the many, but by the tyrannical will of the king alone: Jeroboam was not induced by superstition, but by subtile wickedness, to erect altars elsewhere, and not at Jerusalem. The people then might have appeared to be without blame; for the king alone devised this artifices to secure himself from danger. But the Prophet shows that all were implicated in the same guilt before God, because the people adopted with alacrity the impious forms of worship which the king had commanded. He therefore says, that Ephraim is exposed to plunder, that he is broken by judgment, (or, "shall be broken," for the words may be rendered in the future tense.) That the people then were thus torn, and were also to bear in future far more grievous things, was not, as he says, because they had to suffer all these things undeservedly, for they were not innocent. -- How so? Because they willingly followed the commands of their king; for the king did not force them to forsake the doctrine of the law, but every one went voluntarily after impious superstitions. Since then they willingly obeyed their king, they could not now excuse themselves, they could not object that this was done by one man, and that they were not admitted to consult with him. Their promptitude proved them to be perfidious.
Some render lyawh, evail, to begin," and lay, ial, is often taken in this sense: but as it oftener signifies, "to be willing," the Prophet no doubt means here, that the Israelites had not been compelled by force and fear to go astray after superstitions; but that they were prompt and ready to obey, for there was in them no fear of God, no religion. If any one should now ask, whether they are excusable, who are tyrannically drawn away into superstitions, as we see to be done under the Papacy, the answer is ready, that those are not here absolved who regarded men more than God: nor is terror, as we know, a sufficient excuse, when we prefer our own life to the glory of God, and when, anxious to provide for ourselves and to avoid the cross, we deny God, or turn aside from making a confession of the right and pure faith: but the fault is rendered double, when men easily comply with any thing commanded by tyrants; for they show, that they were already fully inclined to despise God and to deny true religion. Hence the impiety of Jeroboam discovered the common ungodliness and wickedness of the whole people; for as soon as he raised his finger and bid them to worship God corruptly, all joyfully followed the impious edict. There was an occasion then offered to them; but the evil dwelt before in their hearts; for they were not so inclined and prompt to obey God. We now then see what the Prophet had in view.
He says that God would justly punish all the Israelites, yea, even all the common people; for though Jeroboam alone had commanded them to worship God corruptly, yet all of them willingly embraced what he wished to be done: and thus it became manifest that they had in them no fear of God. We now see how vain is the excuse of those who say that they ought to obey kings, and at the same time forsake the word of God: for what does the Prophet reprove here, but that the Israelites had been too submissive to their king? "But this in itself was worthy of praise." True, when the king commanded nothing contrary to God's word; but when he perverted God's worship, when he set up corrupt superstitions, then the people ought to have firmly resisted him: but as they were too pliant, nay, willingly allowed themselves to be drawn away from the true worship of God, the Prophet says here, that they had no reason to complain, that they were too sharply and too severely chastised by the Lord. It follows --