9. For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers.
9. Quia ipsi ascenderunt in Assyriam, onager (asinus sylvestris) solitarius (aliqui tamen generaliter accipiunt pro quavis fera; sylvestris ergo asinus solitarius:) Ephraim conduxit amores (vel, amatores conduxerunt; est quidem verbum pluralis numeri wnth, sed Ephraim est collectivum nomen, ideo nihil est obsurdi. Sequitur)
10. Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes.
10. Quanivis conducant (vel, conduxerint) inter gentes, nunc congregabo eos et dolebunt (vel, incipient) paululum ab onere regis, principum (hoc est, regis et principum, subaudienda enim est copula inter nomen Klm et Myrs.)
Here again the Prophet derides all the labour the people had undertaken to exempt themselves from punishment. For though hypocrites dare not openly and avowedly to fight against God, yet they seek vain subterfuges, by which they may elude him. So the Israelites ceased not to weary themselves to escape the judgment of God; and this folly, or rather madness, the Prophet exposes to scorn. They have gone up to Assyria, he says, as a wild ass alone; Ephraim had hired lovers. In the first clause he indirectly reprobates the brutish wildness of the people, as though he said, "They are like the wild animals of the wood, which can by no means be tamed." And Jeremiah uses this very same similitude, when he complains of the people as being led away by their own indomitable lust, being like the wild ass, who, snuffing the wind, betakes himself, in his usual manner, to a precipitant course, (Jeremiah 2:24.) Probably he touches also, in an indirect way, on the unbelief of the people in having despised the protection of God; for the people ought not to have thus hastened to Assyria, as if they were destitute of every help, because they knew that they were protected by the hand of God. And the Prophet here reproves them for regarding as nothing that help which the Lord had promised, and which he was really prepared to afford, had not the Israelites betaken themselves elsewhere. Hence he says, Ephraim, as a wild ass, has gone up to Assyria; he perceived not that he would be secure and safe, provided he sheltered himself under the shadow of the hand of his God; but as if God could do nothing, he retook himself to the Assyrians: this was ingratitude. And then he again takes up the similitude which we have before noticed, that the people of Israel had shamefully and wickedly departed from the marriage-covenant which God had made with them: for God, we know, was to the Israelites in the place of a husband, and had pledged his faith to them; but when they transferred themselves to another, they were like unchaste women, who prostitute themselves to adulterers, and desert their own husbands. Hence the Prophet again reproves the Israelites for having violated their faith pledged to God, and for being like adulterous women. He indeed goes farther, and says, that they hired adulterers for wages. Unchaste women are usually enticed by the charms of gain; for when adulterers wish to corrupt a woman, they offer gifts, they offer money. He says that this practice was inverted; and the same thing is expressed by the Prophet Ezekiel; who, after having stated that women are usually corrupted by having some gain or some advantage proposed to them, adds,
'But thou wastest thine own property, and settest not thyself to hire, but on the contrary thou hirest wantons,'
So the Prophet speaks here, though more briefly, Ephraim, he says, has hired lovers.
But it follows, Though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them. This place may be variously expounded. The commonly received explanation is, that God would gather the hired nations against Israel; but I would rather refer it to the people themselves. But it admits of a twofold sense: the first is, that the great forces which the people has on every side acquired for themselves, would not prevent God from destroying them; for the verb Pbq, kobets, which they render, "to gather," often means in Hebrew to throw by a slaughter into an heap, as we say in French, Trousser, (to bundle.) And this meaning would be very suitable -- that though they extended themselves far and wide, by gathering forces on every side, they would yet be collected in another way, for they would be brought together into a heap. The second sense is this -- that when Israel should be drawn away to the Gentiles, the Lord would gather him; as though he said, "Israel burns with mad lusts, and runs here and there among the Gentiles; this heat is nothing else than dispersion; it is the same as if he designedly wished to destroy the unity in which his safety consists; but I will yet gather him against his will; that is, preserve him for a time."
It then follows, They shall grieve a little for the burden of the king and princes. The word which the Prophet uses interpreters expound in two ways. Some derive wlxy, ichelu, from the verb lx, chel, and others from llx, chelal, which means, "to begin;" and therefore give this rendering, "They shall begin with the burden of the king and princes;" that is, They shall begin to be burdened by the king and princes. Others offer this version, "They shall grieve a little for the burden of the king and princes;" that is, They shall be tributaries before the enemies shall bring them into exile; and this will be a moderate grief.
If the first interpretation which I have mentioned be approved, then there is here a comparison between the scourges with which God at first gently chastised the people, and the last punishment which he was at length constrained to inflict on them; as though he said, "They complain of being burdened by tributes; it is nothing, or at least it is nothing so grievous, in comparison with the dire future grief which their last destruction will bring with it."
But this clause may well be joined with that mitigation which I have briefly explained, and that is, that when the people had willingly dispersed themselves, they had been preserved beyond expectation, so that they did not immediately perish; for they would have run headlong into destruction, had not God interposed an hindrance. Thus the two verses are to be read conjointly, They ascended into Assyria as a wild ass; that is, "They showed their unnameable and wild disposition, when thus unrestrainedly carried away; and then they offer me a grievous insult; for as if they were destitute of my help, they run to the profane Gentiles, and esteem as nothing my power, which would have been ready to help them, had they depended on me, and placed their salvation in my hand." He then reproaches their perfidy, that they were like unchaste women, who leave their husbands, and abandon themselves to lewdness. Then it follows, Though they do this, that is, "Though having despised my aid, they seek deliverance from the profane Gentiles, and though they despise me, and choose to submit themselves to adulterers rather than to keep their conjugal faith with me, I will yet gather them, when thus dispersed." The Lord here enhances the sin of the people; for he did not immediately punish their ingratitude and wickedness, but deferred doing so for a time; and in his kindness he would have led them to repentance, had not their madness been wholly incurable: though then they thus hire among the Gentiles, I will yet gather them, that is, "preserve them;" and for what purpose? That they may grieve a little, and that is, that they may not wholly perish, as persons running headlong into utter ruin; for they seemed designedly to seek their last destruction, when they were thus wilfully and violently carried away to profane nations. That is indeed a most dreadful tearing of the body, which cannot be otherwise than fatal. They shall, however, grieve a little; that is, "I will so act, that they may by degrees return to me, even by the means of moderate grief."
We hence see more clearly why the Prophet said, that this grief would be small, which was to be from the burden of the king and princes. It was designed by the Israelites to excite the Assyrians immediately to war; and this would have turned out to their destruction, as it did at last; but the Lord suspended his vengeance, and at the same time mitigated their grief, when they were made tributaries. The king and his counsellors were constrained to exact great tributes; the people then grieved: but they had no other than a moderate grief, that they might consider their sins and return to the Lord; yet all this was without any fruit. Hence the less excusable was the obstinacy of the people. We now perceive what the Prophet meant. It now follows --