10. I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
10. Tanquam uvas in deserto inveni Israel, sicut primum fructum ficulneae in suo exordio vidi patres eorum: ipsi ingressi sunt ad Baalpeor, et segregati sunt in opprobrium, et fuerunt abominationes secundum amores suos. 1
In this verse God reproves the Israelites for having preferred to prostitute themselves to idols, rather than to continue under his protection, though he had from the beginning showed his favour to them; as though he had said that they having been previously favoured with his free love, had transferred their affections to others; for he says, that he had found them as grapes in the wilderness. The word wilderness, ought to be joined with grapes, as if he had said, that they had been as sweet and acceptable to him as a grape when found in a desert. When a traveller finds, by chance, a grape in a barren and desolate place, he not only admires it, but takes great delight in a fruit so unlooked for. And thus the Lord, by this comparison, shows his great love towards the Israelites. He adds, --
The first part then shows that God had great delight in this people. It is the same or similar sentence to that in Hosea 11, where he says, 'When Ephraim was yet a child, I loved him,' except that there is not there so much fervour and warmth of love expressed; but the same argument is there handled, and the object is the same, and it is to prove, that God anticipated his people by his love. There remained, in this case, less excuse, when men rejected God calling them, and responded not to his love. A perverseness like this would be hardly endured among men. Were any one to love me freely, and I to slight him, it would be an evidence of pride and rudeness: but when God himself gratuitously treats us with kindness, and when, not content with common love, he regards us as delectable fruit, does not the rejection of this love, does not the contempt of this favour, betray, on our part, the basest depravity? We now then understand the design of the Prophet. In the first clause, he says, in the person of God, "I have loved Israel, as a traveller does grapes, when he finds them in the desert, and as the first ripe figs are wont to be loved: since then, I so much delighted in them, ought they not to have honoured me in return? Ought not my gratuitous love to have inflamed their hearts, so as to induce them to devote themselves wholly to me?"
Now, what is here taught is worthy of being noticed and is useful. For, as we have said, inexcusable is our wickedness, if we despise the gratuitous love of God, bestowed unasked. When God then comes to us of his own accord, when he invites us, when he offers to us the privilege of children, an inestimable benefit, and when we reject his favour, is not this more than savage ferocity? It was to reprobate such conduct as this that the Prophet says, that God had loved Israel, as when one finds grapes in the desert, or as when one eats the first ripe figs. But it must, at the same time, be noticed why the Prophet so much extols the dealings of God with the people of Israel; it was for this reason, because their adoption, as it is well known, was not an ordinary privilege, nor what they enjoyed in common with other nations. Since, then, the people had been chosen to be God's special possession, the Prophet here justly extols this love with peculiar commendation. And the like is our case at this day; for God vouchsafes not to all the favour which has been presented to us through the shining light of the gospel. Other people wander in darkness, the light of life dwells only among us: does not God thus show that he delights especially in us? But if we continue the same as we were, and if we reject him and transfer our love to others, or rather if lust leads us astray from him, is not this detestable wickedness and obstinacy?
But what the Prophet says, that they
1 'As grapes in the desert have I found Israel,
As the first fruit on the fig-tree in its first season
Have I seen your fathers:
They went to Baal-peor,
And dedicated themselves to shame,
And became filthy like what they loved.'
Or, literally, 'like their love.' --Ed.