4. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.
4. Ipsi regnare fecerunt et non ex me: principatum instituerunt et nescivi: argentum suum et aurum suum fecerunt sibi idola, propterea excidetur.
The Prophet here notices two things, with respect to which he reprobates the perfidy and impious perverseness of the people, -- they had, against the will of God, framed a religion for themselves, -- and they had instituted a new kingdom. The salvation of that people, we know, was, as it were, founded on a certain kingdom and priesthood; and by these two things God testified that he was allied to the children of Abraham. We know where the happiness of the godly is deposited, even in Christ; for Christ is to us the fulness of a blessed life, because he is a king and a priest. Hence I have said, that through a certain kingdom and priesthood did the favor of God towards the people then shine forth. Now when the Israelites overturned the kingdom, which God by his own authority instituted, and when they corrupted and adulterated the priesthood, did they not, as it were, designedly extinguish the favor of God, and strive to annihilate whatever was needful for their salvation? This then is what the Prophet now speaks of, that is, that the Israelites in changing the kingdom and priesthood had undermined the whole appointment of God, and openly showed that they were unwilling to be ruled by God's hand; for they would have never dared to turn asides even in the least degree, from the kingdom of David, nor would they have dared to set up a new and spurious priesthood, if any particle of the fear of God had prevailed in their hearts.
We now perceive the design of the Prophet, which interpreters have not sufficiently considered; for some refer this to the covenants, as it seemed strange to them, that the Israelites should be so severely reproved for setting up Jeroboam as their king, since Ahijah the Shilonite had already declared by God's command, that it would be so. But they attend not sufficiently to what the Prophet had in view; for, as I have already said, when God instituted the priesthood, there shone forth in it the image of Christ the Mediator, whose office it is, to intercede with God that he might reconcile him to men; and then in the person of David shone forth also the kingdom of Christ. Now when the people tumultuously chose a new king for themselves without any command from God, and when they built for themselves a new temple and altar contrary to what the law prescribed, and when they divided the priesthood, was not all this a manifest corruption, a denial of religion? It is hence evident that the Israelites were in both these respects apostates; for they forsook God in two ways, -- first, by separating from the house of David, -- and then by forming for themselves a strange worship, which God had not commanded in his law.
With regard to the first, he says,
We hence see how base was the conduct of the people in joining themselves to Jeroboam. For that sedition was not merely a proof of levity, as some people do often rashly upset the state of things; it was not merely a rash levity, but an impious denial of God's favor, the same as if they had rejected Christ himself. They had also, in this way, torn themselves from the body of the Church; and though the kingdom of Israel surpassed the kingdom of Judah in wealth and power, it yet became like a putrid member, for the whole soundness depended on the head, from which the ten tribes had cut themselves off. We now then see why the Prophet so sharply expostulates with the Israelites for setting up a kingdom, but not through God; and solved also is the question, how God here declares that was not through him, which yet he had determined and testified by the mouth of his prophet, Ahijah the Shilonite; that is, that God, as it has been said, had not given a command to the people, nor permitted the people to withdraw themselves from their allegiance to Rehoboam. God then denies that kingdom, with respect to the people, was set up by his decree; and he says that what was done was this, -- that the people made a king without consulting him; for the people ought to have attended to what pleased him, to what the Lord himself conceded; this they did not, but suddenly followed their own blind impulse.
And this place is worthy of being observed; for we hence learn that the same thing is done and not done by the Lord. Foolish men at this day, not versed in the Scripture, excite great commotions among us about the providence of God; yea, there are many rabid dogs who bark at us, because we say, (what even Scripture teaches everywhere,) that nothing is done except by the ordination and secret counsel of God, and that whatever is carried on in this world is governed by his hand. "How so? Is God, then a murderer? Is God, then a thief? Or, in other words, are slaughters, thefts, and all kinds of wickedness, to be imputed to him?" These men show, while they would be deemed acute, how stupid they are, and also how absurd; nay, rather what mad wild beasts they are. For the Prophet here shows that the same thing was done and not done by the Lord, but in a different way. God here expressly denies that Jeroboam was created king by him; on the other hand, by referring to sacred history, it appears that Jeroboam was created king, not by the suffrages of the people, but by the command of God; for no such thing had yet entered the mind of the people, when Ahijah was bidden to go to Jeroboam; and he himself did not aspire to the kingdom, no ambition impelled him; he remained quiet as a private man, and the Lord stirred him up and said, "I will have thee to reign." The people knew nothing of these things. After it was done, who could have denied but that Jeroboam was set on the throne, as it were, by the hand of God? All this is true; but with are regard to the people, he was not created by God a king. Why? Because the Lord had commanded David and his posterity to reign perpetually. We hence see that all things done in the world are so disposed by the secret counsel of God, that he regulates whatever the ungodly attempts and whatever even Satan tries to do, and yet he remains just; and it avails nothing to lessen the fault of evils when they say, that all things are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to themselves, they know what the Lord enjoins in his law; let them follow that rule: when they deviate from it, there is no ground for them to excuse themselves and say that they have obeyed God; for their design is ever to be regarded. We hence see how the Israelites appointed a king, but not by God; for it was sedition that impelled them, when, at the same time, the law enjoined that they should choose no one as a king except him who had been elected by God; and he had marked out the posterity of David, and designed that they should occupy the royal throne till the coming of Christ.
Then follows the other charge, -- that
Then follows a denunciation of punishment --