7. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:
7. Et ero illis tanquam leo, tanquam pardus in via Assur (vel, aspiciam, vel, insidiabor, ut alii vertunt.)
8. I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.
8. Occurram illis tanquam ursus orbatus (suis parvulis scilicet;) et disrumpam clausuram cordis eorum; vorabo eos quasi leo; 1 bestia agri scindet (vel, lacerabit) ipsos.
The Prophet denounces again on the Israelites the vengeance of God; and as they were become torpid through their own flatteries, as we have already often observed, he here describes the terrible judgement of God, that he might strike fear into the obstinate, so that they might at length perceive that they had to do with God, and begin to dread his power. And this, as we have said, was very necessary, when the Prophets intended to awaken hypocrites; for self- confidence so inebriates them, that they hesitate not to despise all the threatenings of God: and this is the reason why he adopts these three similitudes. He first compares God to a lion, then to a leopard, and then to a bear. I will be, he says, like a lion, like a leopard, and then like a bear. God, we know, is in his own nature merciful and kind; when he says that he will be like a lion, he puts on as it were another character; but this is done on account of men's wickedness, as it is said in Psalm 18,
'With the gentle, thou wilt be gentle; with the perverse,
thou wilt be perverse.'
For, though God speaks sharply and severely through his Prophet, he yet expresses what we ought to remember, and that is, that he thus speaks, because we do not allow him to treat us according to his own nature, that is, gently and kindly; and that when he sees us to be obstinate and unnameable, he then contends with us (so to speak) with the like contumacy; not that perversity properly belongs to God, but he borrows this similitude from men, and for this reason, that men may not continue to flatter themselves when he is displeased with them. I shall therefore be like a lion, like a leopard in the way.
As to the word Assur, interpreters take it in various ways. Some render it, Assyria, though it is here written with Kamets: but the Hebrews consider it as an appellative, not the name of a place or country. Some again render it thus, "I will look on them," and derive it from rws, shur, and take a aleph, as designative of the future tense. Others derive it from rsa, asher, and will have it to be in the conjugation Pual: and here they differ again among themselves. Some render it, "I will lay in wait for them:" and others think it to be Shoar, "I will be a layer in wait like a leopard." But this variety, with regard to the meaning of the passage, is of but little moment; for we see the drift of the Prophet's object. He intends here to take away from hypocrites their vain confidence, and to terrify them with the apprehension of God's vengeance which was impending. He therefore says that though God had hitherto spared them, nay, had in a manner kindly cherished them, yet since they continued to provoke his wrath, their condition would soon be very different; for he would come against them like a lion; that is, he would leap on them with the greatest fury; he would also be like a leopard: and a leopard, we know, is a very cruel beast: and, lastly, he compares him to a bereaved she-bear, or, a bereaved bear.
But he afterwards adds, I will rend, or will tear, the inclosure of their heart. They who understand the enclosure of the heart to be their obstinate hardness, seem to refine too much on the words of the Prophet. We know, indeed, that the Prophets sometimes use this mode of speaking; for they call that a hard heart, or a heart covered with fatness, which is not pliant, and does not willingly receive sound doctrine. But the Prophet rather alludes to the savageness of the bear, when he says, I will rend or tear in pieces the membrane of the heart, and will devour you as a lion. For it is the most cruel kind of death, when the lion with his claws and teeth aims at the heart itself and tears the bowels of man. The Prophet therefore intended to set forth this most cruel kind of death. "I will therefore," he says, "tear asunder the pericardium, or the enclosure of the heart." I do not at the same time say, that the Prophet does not allude to the hardness of the people, while he retains his own similitude.
And the beast of the field shall rend them. He speaks now without a similitude; for God means that all the wild beasts would be his ministers to execute his judgement. "I will then send all the beasts of the field to rend and tear them, so that nothing among them shall remain safe." We now see the purport of this passage, and to what use it ought to be applied. If we are by nature so slothful, yea, and careless, and when God does not stir us up, we indulge our own delusions, we ought to notice those figurative representations which tend to shake off from us our tardiness and show to us how dreadful the judgement of God is. For the same purpose are those metaphors respecting the eternal fire and the worm that never dies. For Gods seeing the feelings of men to be so torpid has in Scripture applied those things which may correct their sluggishness. Whenever then God puts on a character not his own, let us know that it is through our fault; for we suffer him not to deal with us according to his own nature, inasmuch as we are intractable. Let us go on --