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Lecture Sixth

We began yesterday to explain the verse in which the Lord speaks of the intermission of the Sabbath, and of the new-moon, and of external worship. The people of Israel, as we have stated, were to be deprived of these excellent gifts with which they had been favoured. And God, we know, is in two respects bountiful to men. There is his common bounty as to foods and other earthly benefits: but he is especially bountiful to his people in those gifts which are called supernatural. Hence the Prophet says in the first place, I will make to cease the sabbath, and the new-moon, and the festal-days They indeed thought themselves, blessed when they celebrated the festal-days, when they offered sacrifices, and in a word, when the external pomp of God’s worship shone forth among them: yet we know that they worshipped God neither in a lawful place nor in a right manner, as he had commanded in the law; for they mingled many superstitions; nay, the whole of religion among them was polluted; and yet they thought that their worship pleased God. We now see that the object of their punishment was this, — that the people of Israel might now cease to felicitate themselves on account of their external form of religion, when deprived of their temple, and sacrifices, and all outward worship: and all this happened when the Israelites were driven away into exile. We indeed know that they did not leave off their superstitions until they were deprived of their country and driven into banishment.

I now come to the second kind of nakedness: the Prophet says, I will waste or destroy her vine and her fig-tree, of which she has said, Reward are these to me; that is, These things are wages to me, which my lovers have given to me: and I will make them a forest, and feed on them shall the beast of the field. The second part of the spoiling, as we have said, is, that the Israelites would be reduced to miserable want, who, before, had not only great abundance of good things, but also luxury, as we shall hereafter see more fully in other passages. As then they were swollen with pride on account of their prosperity, the Prophet now announces their future nakedness, I will take away, he says, the vine and the fig-tree. It is a mode of speaking by which a part is to be taken for the whole; for under the vine and the fig-tree the Prophet intended to comprehend every variety of temporal blessings. Whatever then belongs to man’s support, the Prophet here includes in these two words: and he repeats what he had said before, that the Israelites falsely thought, that it was a reward paid them for their superstitions, while they worshipped false gods.

She said, These are my reward. The word is derived from the verb תנה tene: some have rendered it gift, but not rightly. I indeed allow that נתנו“natnu”, which means to give, follows shortly after; from which some derive this word. But we know that in many parts of Scripture אתנה, atne, is strictly taken for reward; and is sometimes applied to hired soldiers: but the Prophets often use this word when they speak of harlots. Hence the Prophet here introduces the people of Israel under the character of a harlot; These are my reward, or, These things are my reward, which to me have my lovers given.

Since then the Israelites had so hardened themselves in their superstitions, that this false persuasion could not be driven out of them, until they were deprived of all their blessings, he announces to them this punishment, — that God would take away whatever they thought had come to them from their idols or false gods: I will turn, he says, all these into a forest, that is, “I will reduce to a waste, both the vineyards and all the well cultivated parts; so that they will produce nothing, as is usually the case with desert places.” We now understand the whole meaning of the Prophet. Let us proceed —

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