9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
9. Perdidit te Israel; quia in me auxilium tuum. 1
10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
10 Ero: Rex tuus ubi, ut servet te in cunctis urbibus tuis, et judices tui, de quibus dixisti, Da mihi regem et principes?
11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
11 Dabo tibi (hoc est, Dedi tibi regem in ira mea, et sustuli in furore meo.
In the first place, God upbraids the Israelites for having in their perverseness rejected whatever was offered for their safety: but he proceeds farther and says, that they were past hope, and that there was a hidden cause which prevented God from helping them, and bringing them aid when they laboured under extreme necessity.
This is what he means in the second clause, when he says,
We now perceive the mind of the Prophet: he in the first place records what God had been hitherto to the people; and then he takes for granted that he does not change, but that he possesses a uniform and unwearied goodness. But since he had hitherto helped his people, he concludes, that Israel was destroyed through some other cause, inasmuch as God brought him no aid; for unless Israel had intercepted God's goodness, it would have certainly flowed as usual. It then appears that its course was impeded by the wickedness of the people; for they put as it were an obstacle in its way.
And this passage teaches us, that men in vain clamour against God in their miseries: for he would be always ready to help them, were they not to spurn the favour offered to them. Whenever then God does not help us in our necessity, and suffers us to languish, and as it were to pine away in our afflictions, it is doubtless so, because we are not disposed to receive his favour, but, on the contrary, we obstruct its way; as it is said by Isaiah,
"Shortened is not the Lord's hand, that it cannot save, nor is my ear heavy, that it does not hear. Your sins, he says, have set up a mound between you and me," (Isaiah 59:1, 2.)
To the same purpose are the words of the Prophet here when he says, that we ought to inquire what the cause of our destruction is, when the Lord does not immediately deliver us: for as he has once given us a taste of his goodness so he will continue to do the same to the end; for he is not wearied in his kindness, nor can his bounty be exhausted. The fault then belongs to us. We hence see how remarkable is this passage, and what useful instruction it contains.
He afterwards more fully confirms the same by saying,
'No overshadowing happens to him,' (James 1:17.)
Hence 'I will be;' that is, "Though the Israelites rail against me, that I do not pursue my usual course of kindness, it is yet most false; for I remain ever the same, and am always ready to show kindness to men; for I do not, as I have elsewhere declared, forsake the works of my hands, (Psalm 138:8.) Seeing then that I thus continue my favour towards men, it must be that the way to my favour is closed up by their wickedness. Let them therefore examine themselves, when they cry and I answer not. When in their evils they in a manner pine away, and find no relief, let them acknowledge it to be their own fault; for I would have made myself the same as ever I have been, and they would have found me a deliverer, had not a change taken place in them." We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet in the ninth verse, and as to the expression,
He then says,
But he further derides them for having in vain placed their hope and their help in their king and princes.
But he subjoins,
'Thee have they not rejected, but me,
that I should not reign over them,' (1 Samuel 8:7,)
it was certainly more fully verified as to David. We now then see what the Prophet meant: after having inveighed against the false confidence of the people for thinking that they were safe through the power of their king, he now adds, "I will advance to another source: for thou didst not then begin to sin, when thou didst transfer the glory of God to the king, but when thou didst wish to have a kingdom of thine own, being not content with that kingdom which he had instituted in the person of David." The Prophet does now then accuse the people of defection, when a new king, that is, Jeroboam, was elected by them. For though it was done according to the certain purpose of God, as we have elsewhere observed, yet this availed nothing to alleviate the fault of the people; for they, as far as they could, renounced God. As the foot, if cut off from the body, is not only a mutilated and useless member, but immediately putrefies; so also was Israel, being like a half part of a torn and mutilated body; and they must have become putrified, had they not been miraculously preserved. But at the same time God here justly condemns that defection, that Israel, by desiring a new king, had broken asunder the sacred unity of the Church and introduced an impious separation.
We now understand what the Prophet means. At the same time, we learn from this passage, that God so executes his judgements, that whatever evil there is, it ought to be ascribed to men. For the raising of Jeroboam to the kingdom, we certainly allow to have been rash and unjust; for thereby was violated that celestial decree made known to David,
"My Son art thou, I have this day begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles,' etc., (Psalm 2:8.)
But who appointed Jeroboam to be king? The Lord himself. How could it be, that God raised Jeroboam to the throne, and that he yet by his decree set David, not only over the children of Abraham, but also over the Gentiles, with reference to Christ who was to come? God seems here to be inconsistent with himself. By no means; for when he set David over his chosen people, it was a lawful appointment: but when he raised Jeroboam to the throne, it was a singular judgement; so that in God there is no inconsistency. The people at the same time, who by their suffrages adopted Jeroboam and made him their king, acted impiously and perversely. "Yet God seems to have directed the whole by his providence." True; for before the people knew any thing of the new king, God had already determined to elect him and resolved also to punish in this way the defection and ingratitude of Solomon. All these things are true, that is, that God by his secret counsel had directed the whole business, and yet that he had no participation in the sin of the people.
Thus let us learn wisely to admire the secret judgements of God, and not imitate those profane cavillers, who make a great noise, because they cannot understand how God thus makes use of wicked men, and how he directs for the best end what is done by men wickedly and foolishly. As they do not perceive this, they conclude that if the Lord governs all things, he must be the author of sin. But the Scripture, as we see, when it speaks of the wrath and fury of God, does at the same time set forth to us his rectitude in all his judgements, and distinguishes between God and men, even as the difference is great; for God does not turn the perverse designs of men to answer their own ends -- he is a just judge. And yet his purpose is not always apparent to us: it is, however, our duty reverently and with chastened minds to admire and adore those mysteries which surpass our comprehension. It follows --
1 Bishop Horsley's rendering of this verse which was that of Rivet, is the following -- "It is thy destruction, O Israel, that upon me (alone it lies) to help thee." He adds in a note -- "Thy great privilege, to have God alone for thy defense, becomes the occasion of thy destruction. In my wrath I withdrew my special aid; and since forsaken by me, thou hast no other helper, thy ruin must ensue.
In this instance our version, as to the first clause, seems preferable to that offered by Calvin. The verb is not in the third person, but the second. Its final radica; letter is
There is reason to doubt the correctness of our version, as well as that of Calvin, as to the second clause. Literally it is, "Though in me for thy help," which seems to mean this, "Though it was in my power to help thee."
But if the first word of the verse be taken as a substantive, as it is by many critics, then the first clause may be considered as having reference to the preceding verses. The meaning then would be, that such would be Israel's destruction, though at the same time there was for him help in God, if he had sought it: --
Such thy destruction, Israel!
Though in me there was help for thee.
Then follows the next verse, -- I will be the same: thy king, where is he? etc. For changing