13. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
13. Arastis impietatem, iniquitatem messuistes; comedistis fructum mendacii: quia confisus es in via tua, in multitudine fortium tuorum.
The reason is here found, why I thought that the Prophet did not simply exhort the people, but rather charged them with obduracy for not growing better, though often admonished. He then relates how much God had previously done to restore the people to a sound mind; for it had been his constant teaching, Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap, in proportion, kindness, or according to the proportion of kindness; plough a ploughing for yourselves; it is the time to seek the Lord. Though then the people heard these words daily, and had their ears almost stunned by them, they did not yet change for the better, nor made themselves pliable; nay, as it were with a fixed purpose, they ploughed, he says, ungodliness, they reaped iniquity; they therefore did eat the fruit of falsehood, for they sustained just punishments, or satiated themselves with falsehood and treachery. We now apprehend the meaning of the Prophet: I will come to particulars.
Sow for yourselves righteousness. He shows that the salvation of this people had not been neglected by God; for he had tried whether they were healable. The remedy was, that the people were to know that God would be pacified towards them, if they devoted themselves to righteousness. The Lord offered his favour: "Return only to me; for as soon as the seed of righteousness shall be sown by you, the harvest shall be prepared, a reward shall be laid up for you; ye shall then reap fruit according to your kindness."
But if any one asks, whether it be in the power of men to sow righteousness, the answer is ready, and that is that the Prophet explains not here how far the ability of men extends, but requires what they ought to do. For whence is it that so many of God's curses often overwhelm us, except that we sow seed similar to the produce? that is, God repays us what we have deserved. This then is what the Prophet shows, when he says, "Sow for yourselves righteousness:" he shows that it was their fault, if the Lord did not cherish them kindly and bountifully, and in a paternal manner; it was because their impiety suffered him not.
And the Prophet only speaks of the duties of the second table, as also the Prophets do, when they exhort men to repentance: they often begin with the second table of the law, because the perverseness of men with regard to this is more palpable, and they can thereby be more easily convicted.
But what he afterwards subjoins, ryn wryn, niru nir, plough the ploughing, is not, I confess, in its proper place; but there is in this nothing inconsistent: for after having exhorted them to plough, he now adds, that they were like uncultivated and desert fields, so that it was not right to sow the seed until they had been prepared. The Prophet then ought, according to the order of nature, to have begun with ploughing; but he simply said what he wished to convey, that the Israelites received not the fruit they desired, because they had only sown unrighteousness. If they now wished to be dealt with more kindly, he shows the remedy, which is to sow righteousness. If it was so, that they were already filled with wickedness, he shows that they were like a field overgrown with briers and thorns. When therefore a field has long remained uncultivated, thorns and thistles and other noxious herbs grow there, and a double ploughing will be necessary, and this double labour is called Novation; 1 and Jeremiah speaks of the same thing, when he shows that the people had grown hardened in their wickedness, and that they could not bear any fruit until the thorns were torn up by the roots, and until they had been well cleansed from the vices in which they had become fixed; and hence he says, --
'Plough again your fallow-ground,' (Jeremiah 4:3.)
And it is the time for seeking Jehovah, until he come. Here the Prophet offers a hope of pardon to the people, to encourage them to repent: for we know that when men are called back to God, they are torpid and even faint in their minds, until they are assured that God will be propitious to them; and this is what we have treated of more fully in another place. The Prophet now handles the same truth, that it is the time for seeking the Lord. He indeed uses the word te, ot, which means a seasonable time. It is then the time for seeking the Lord; as though he said, "The way of salvation is not yet closed against you; for the Lord invites you to himself, and he is of his own self inclined to mercy." This is one thing. We are, however, at the same time, taught that there ought to be no delay; for such tardiness will cost them dear, if they despise so kind an invitation of God, and go on in their own obstinacy. It is then the time for seeking Jehovah; as Isaiah also says
'Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he is nigh: Behold, now is the time of good-pleasure; behold, now is the day of salvation,' (Isaiah 55:6.)
So also in this place, the Prophet testifies that God will be easily entreated, if Israel returned to the right way; but that, if they continued obstinately in their sins, this time would not be perpetual; for the door would be shut, and the people would cry in vain, after having neglected this seasonable invitation, and abused the patience of God.
It is then the time, he says, for seeking the Lord, until he come. This last clause is a confirmation of the former; for the Prophet here expressly declares that it would not be useless labour for Israel to begin to seek God -- 'He will come to you.' He at the same time warns them not to be too hasty in their expectations; for though God may receive us into favour, he does not yet immediately deliver us from all punishments or evils. We must, then, patiently wait until the fruit of reconciliation appears. We hence see that both points are here wisely handled by the Prophet; for he would have Israel to hasten with deep concern, and not to delay long the time of repentance, and also to remain quiet, if God did not immediately show himself propitious, and show tokens of his favour; the Prophet wished, in this case, the people to be patient.
And rain righteousness upon you. The word hry, ire, means indeed "to teach," and also "to throw;" but as the word hrwm, mure, derived from this verbs as it is well known, means the rain, I could not explain it here otherwise than "he will rain righteousness upon you." What, indeed, could the teaching of righteousness mean? For the Prophet alludes to the harvest; and the people might say, "Are we sure of provision, if we seek God?" "Certainly," he says; "he will come -- he will come to you, and will rain righteousness, or the fruit of righteousness, upon you." In short, the Prophet here shows, that whenever God is sought sincerely and from the heart by sinners, he comes forth to meet them, and shows himself kind and merciful. But as he had spoken of ploughing and sowing, the fruit or the harvest was now to be mentioned; that he might therefore hold forth a promise that they who had sown righteousness would not lose their expense and toil, he says, the Lord will rain upon you the fruit of righteousness.
Now follows the other verse, which, as I have said, completes the passage, Ye have ploughed ungodliness, iniquity have ye reaped: ye have eaten the fruit of falsehood. The Prophet shows that the people had in vain been daily admonished, and so kindly and sweetly allured by the Lord; for they had not only slighted wholesome warnings, but had, in their perverse wickedness, abandoned themselves to a contrary course: ye have ploughed, he says, impiety; God has exhorted you to sow righteousness, -- what have ye sown? Impiety; and then ye have reaped iniquity. Some think that the punishments which the people had to bear are pointed out here; as though the Prophet had said, "God has returned to you such a produce as was suitable to your sowing; ye are therefore satiated with falsehood -- that is, with your own false confidence." But he seems rather to pursue the same strain of thought, and to say, that they had ploughed impiety -- that is, that they had been from the beginning ungodly; and then, that they had reaped iniquity -- that is, that they had continued their wickedness to the very harvest, and laid up their fruit as it were in a storehouse, that they might satiate themselves with treachery. The Prophet, I think, speaks in this sense; but let there be a free choice. I only show what seems to me most suitable.
For it follows then, For thou hast trusted in thine own way, in the multitude of thy valiant ones. Here the Prophet points out the chief spring-head of all sins; for the Israelites, trusting in their own counsels, gave no ear to the word of God: and then, being fortified by their own strength, they dreaded not his judgements, nor fled to his pledged protection to defend them. This pride is not then named here by the Prophet without reason as the chief source of all sins. For when one distrusts his own wisdom, or is afraid, being conscious of his weakness, he can be easily subdued; but when pride possesses man's minds so that he thinks himself wise, nothing will then prevail with him, neither counsel nor instruction. It is the same when any one greatly extols his own strength, and is inflated with pride, he cannot be made tractable, were he admonished a hundred times. The Prophet then defines here the falsehood, the impiety, and the iniquity of which he had been speaking. For though the people sinned in various ways, the fountain and root was in this lie or falsehood, that they were wont to set up their own strength in opposition to God, and thought themselves so endued with wisdom, that they had no need of teachers. Since, then, the people were so blinded with their own pride, the Prophet shows here that it was this lie with which they had satiated themselves. It follows --