9. O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.
9. A diebus Gabaa peccasti Israel: illic steterunt; non apprehendit eos in Gibea proelium super filios iniquitatis.
He here reproaches Israel for having been long inured in their sins, and not for being lately corrupted. This is the substance. He had said in the last chapter that they were deep in their sins, as in the days of Gibeah: we then explained why the Prophet adduced the example of Gibeah, and that was, because the Gibeonites had fallen away from all fear of God, as if not a word about the law had ever been heard among them. We indeed know that they abandoned themselves to filthy and monstrous lusts, like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorra. Seeing, then, that so great obscenity prevailed openly and with impunity in Gibeah, rightly did the Prophet say that the Israelites were then lost and past hope, as the case was at that time. But now he regards another thing, even this, -- that from that time they had not ceased to accumulate evils on evils, and thus to spin, as it were, a continuous rope of iniquity, as it is said in another place, --
But this seems an unjust charge; for we know that the whole people united together against the tribe of Benjamin. Since, then, the Israelites revenged that wickedness which was committed in the city of Gibeah, why does the Prophet bring against them the crime of which they had been the avengers? But we know that it often happens, that they who execute the vengeance of God are in no respect better; and we had a remarkable example of this at the beginning in Jehu; for he had been God's minister in punishing superstitions; yet God calls him a robber, and compares the vengeance he executed to robbery; 'I will avenge,' he says, 'on the head of Jehu the blood of the house of Ahab, which he has shed.' And yet we know that he was armed with the sword of God. This is indeed true; but he acted not with a sincere and upright heart, for he afterwards followed the same example. So now the Prophet says, that the Israelites had sinned even from that time; as though he said, "The Lord by the hand of your fathers took vengeance on the Gibeonites and on the whole tribe of Benjamin: but they were wholly like them. This corruption has from that time overwhelmed, like a deluge, the whole land of Israel. There is then no reason for you to boast that you have been better, inasmuch as it afterwards fully appeared what you were, for you imitated the Gibeonites." We now then understand the design of the Prophet, and how justly he brings this charge against the Israelites, that they had sinned from the days of Gibeah. They indeed thought that crime was confined to a small corner of the land; but the Prophet says that the whole land was covered with it, and that they all exposed themselves to God's judgement, and deserved the same punishment with the Gibeonites and their brethren, the whole tribe of Benjamin. 'Thou, Israel, hast then sinned from the days of Gibeah:' the Israelites said, that the Benjamites alone sinned; but that sin, he says was common.
But what follows,
We ought further to bear in mind, that when men go on in their wickedness, whatever sins their fathers have done are justly imputed to them. When we return to the right way, the Lord instantly buries all our sins, and reconciles us to himself on this condition, that he will pardon whatever fault there may be in us: though we may, through our whole life, have provoked his wrath against us, he will yet as I have said, instantly bury the whole. But if we repent not, the Lord will remember, not only our own sins, but also those of our fathers, as it is evident from what is here said by the Prophet.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once appeared in the person of thy only-begotten Son, and hast rendered in him thy glory visible to us, and as thou dost daily set forth to us the same Christ in the glass of thy gospel, -- O grant, that we, fixing our eyes on him, may not go astray, nor be led here and there after wicked inventions, the fallacies of Satan, and the allurements of this world: but may we continue firm in the obedience of faith and persevere in it through the whole course of our life, until we be at length fully transformed into the image of thy eternal glory, which now in part shines in us, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.