16. Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
16. Desolabitur Samaria, quia exacerbavit Deum suum: in gladio cadent; parvuli eorum allidentur, gravidae eorum scindentur.
This is the conclusion of the discourse: this verse has then been improperly separated from the former chapter 1; for the Prophet enters not here on a new subject, but only confirms what he had said of the ultimate destruction of Samaria and of the whole kingdom.
We now then see what is included in the words of the Prophet. He first shows that it was all over with Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel; as God could by no means bring them to repentance, he would now take vengeance on so desperate an obstinacy. He afterwards shows that God would do this justly, because he had been provoked; and, lastly, he shows what kind their punishment would be. That they might not think that the Assyrians would come by chance, the Prophet says that this army, which was to invade and destroy the country of Samaria, would be, as it were, conducted by the hand of God; for though the Assyrians wished to extend their own borders, and were influenced by their own avarice and cupidity, yet God would use them as instruments to execute his own judgement; and that they might know how dreadful the vengeance would be, he relates two kinds of evils, -- that their children would be dashed in pieces, and that their women would be rent asunder, and their offspring extracted from their wombs. Even to speak of this is horrible; and it is what never takes place, except when enemies are greatly enraged and extremely provoked. We now then comprehend the meaning of the Prophet.
But if any one objects and says, that infants, and babes as yet concealed in the wombs of their mothers, deserve not such a grievous punishment, as they have not hitherto merited such a thing; it may be answered, that the whole human race are guilty before God, so that infants though not yet come forth to the light, are yet included as being under guilt; so that God cannot be charged with cruelty, though he may use his own right towards them. And further, we hear what he declares in many places, that he will devolve the sins of parents on their children. Since it is so, let us learn to acquiesce in these awful judgements of God, though very repugnant to our feelings; for we know that we must not contend with God, and that it would be extreme presumption to do so; nay, it would be impious audacity. Though then the reason for this punishment may not appear to us, we ought yet reverently to regard this judgement of God. We may moreover thus reason -- If infants be not spared, even those as yet hid in the mother's womb, what will become of adults? what will become of the old, who through their whole life have continued to provoke the vengeance of God? The Lord no doubt intended by these words to terrify those godless despisers of his word, with whom he had to do. "How great a judgement," he says, "hangs over you, and how tremendous! since your infants shall not be exempted: for I shall involve you in the same judgement, when they shall be dashed against the stones, after having been drawn out of their mothers' womb. When such a dreadful punishment shall be inflicted on them, what shall be done to you? for the cause of the evil exists in you." We have now then explained this verse. Then follows an exhortation.
1 The fourteenth chapter begins in the original with this verse; but it has been thought better to retain the division of our own version.