3. For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the Lord; what then should a king do to us?
3. Quia nunc dicent, Non rex nobis, quia non timuimus Jehovam, et rex quid faciet nobis?
He explains more at large what he had briefly referred to, when he said, that the condemnation, which would discover their wickedness, was now near at hand. He now adds, that even they themselves would, of their own accord, say, that they were deservedly punished in being deprived of a king; nay, that a king would avail them nothing, because they had not feared Jehovah. There is always to be understood a contrast between the perverse boasting of the people and the feeling of God's wrath, of which the Prophet now speaks. For as long as God spared the Israelites, they abused his forbearance and his kindness. They did not then think that there was any thing to be reprehended in their life; nay, we know how petulantly they contended with the Prophets: as soon as a severe word came out of the mouth of any Prophet, great contentions arose. "What! dost thou treat thus the people of God, and the elect race of Abraham?" Since, then, they so obstinately spurned every instruction, the Prophet says here, "The time shall come, when they shall say that they have no king, because they did not fear the Lord." The meaning is, that as they did not profit by the word of the Lord, another kind of teaching was soon to be adopted; for the Lord would really show his wrath, and even force them to confess against their will what they now excused: for this confession of sin would have never been expressed, had not the Lord dealt severely with them. They shall therefore say, -- when? even when they shall be taken to another school; for the Lord will not henceforth remonstrate with them in words, but will so strike them with his hand, that they will understand that they have to do with him.
But it must be observed, that the Prophet speaks not here of the repentance of the people, nor relates their words, but rather mentions the thing itself. Hypocrites either clamour against God when he visits their sins, or feignedly own that they are worthy of such punishments, and all the while the same perverseness remains within. But when the Prophet introduces them as speaking, he does not mean that they will say what he relates; but, as I have said already, he rather speaks of the thing itself. Hence They will say, that is, the event itself will declare, that they are deprived of a king, because they feared not Jehovah; yea, that though a king ruled over them, he would be useless. Though, then, the Israelites had never ceased to clamour against God, nor given over openly to vomit forth their blasphemies against him, yet this, which the Prophet says, would have been still true. How so? Because it was sufficient that they were in reality convicted, though God had not extorted from them this confession; yea, they were themselves made to feel that they were justly smitten by the hand of God, however they might obstinately deny this before men.
The Prophet shows here also, that profane men, while any hope on earth is set before them, proudly despise the hand of God, and grow torpid in their own security, as in their own dregs. While Israel saw their king in the midst of them, they thought themselves safe from every harm, and boldly despised all threatening. This, then, is what the Prophet meant. Still further, when the Lord takes away every thing that dazzles the eyes of profane and wicked men, they then begin to own how foolishly they had flattered themselves, and how much they had been deceived by Satan. This is what is meant by Hosea, when he says, that the Israelites shall be constrained to know that they had no king, because they feared not God: but this repentance would be too late, for it would be without advantage. It now follows --