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God’s Compassion Despite Israel’s Ingratitude


When Israel was a child, I loved him,

and out of Egypt I called my son.


The more I called them,

the more they went from me;

they kept sacrificing to the Baals,

and offering incense to idols.



Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,

I took them up in my arms;

but they did not know that I healed them.


I led them with cords of human kindness,

with bands of love.

I was to them like those

who lift infants to their cheeks.

I bent down to them and fed them.



They shall return to the land of Egypt,

and Assyria shall be their king,

because they have refused to return to me.


The sword rages in their cities,

it consumes their oracle-priests,

and devours because of their schemes.


My people are bent on turning away from me.

To the Most High they call,

but he does not raise them up at all.



How can I give you up, Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah?

How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

My heart recoils within me;

my compassion grows warm and tender.


I will not execute my fierce anger;

I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and no mortal,

the Holy One in your midst,

and I will not come in wrath.



They shall go after the L ord,

who roars like a lion;

when he roars,

his children shall come trembling from the west.


They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,

and like doves from the land of Assyria;

and I will return them to their homes, says the L ord.



Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,

and the house of Israel with deceit;

but Judah still walks with God,

and is faithful to the Holy One.

Here again God amplifies the sin of the people, by saying, that by no kindness, even for a long time, could they be allured, or turned, or reformed, or reduced to a sound mind. It was surely enough that the people of Israeli who had been brought by the hand of God from the grave to the light of life, should have repudiated every instruction; it was a great and an atrocious sin; but now God goes on farther, and says, that he had not ceased to show his love to them, and yet had attained nothing by his perseverance; for the wickedness and depravity of the people were incurable. Hence he says, I have led Ephraim on foot 7676     The word occurs no where in Scripture but here. Gesenius in his Lexicon gives it as a quadriliteral verb, and says that it means “to teach to go,” or, “to guide the steps.” But Parkhurst is of the same opinion with Calvin, and renders it “a footing,” or, “going on foot,” and translates this passage thus: — “And as for me, my footing was for Ephraim;” q.d., “I footed after him, I attended him pn foot, as a nurse does a child.” Buxtorf considers that ת is put for ה, and regards it as a Hiphil of the verb רגל, “I have footed,” or, “taught Ephraim how to foot or walk.” Newcome is of the same opinion. — Ed. Some are of opinion that it is a noun, from רגל, regel, foot, and it seems the most suitable. For otherwise there will be a change of a letter, which grammarians do not allow in the beginning of a word; for ת, tau, in this case would be put instead of ה, he; and put so as if it was of frequent occurrence in Hebrew; but no such instance can be adduced. So they who are skilful in the language think that for this reason it is a noun, and with them I agree. They, however, who regard it as a verb, give this view, — “I have led him on foot, תרגלתי, teregelti; that is, as a child who cannot yet walk with a firm foot, is by degrees accustomed to do so, and the nurse, or the father, or the mother, who lead him, have a regard for his infancy; so also have I led Israel, as much as his feet could bear. But the other version is less obscure, and that is, My walking on foot was for him; that is, I humbled myself as mothers are wont to do; and hence he says, that he had carried the people on his shoulders; and we shall presently see the same comparison used. And Moses says in Deuteronomy, 7777     Deuteronomy 32:10-12. — fj. that the people had been carried on God’s wings, or that God had expanded his wings like the eagle who flies over her young ones. With regard to the matter itself the meaning of the Prophet is not obscure; for he means, that this people had been treated by God in a paternal and indulgent manner; and also, that the perseverance of the Lord in continuing to bestow his blessings on them had been without any fruit.

He afterwards adds, To carry on his arms Some render the expression, קחם, kochem, “He carried them,” as if the verb were in the past tense; and they consider the word, Moses, to be understood. But it is God who speaks here. Some think it to be an infinitive — “To carry,” as when one carries another on his shoulders; and this seems to be the most suitable exposition. There is in the sense no ambiguity; for the design of the Prophet is what I have already stated, which is to show that this people were most wicked in not obeying God, since they had been so kindly treated by Him. For what could they have expected more than what God had done for them? As he also says by Isaiah, 7878     Isaiah 5:4. — fj. ‘What, my vine, ought I to have done more than what I have done?’ So also in this place, My walking has been on foot with Ephraim; and for this end, to carry them, as when one carries another in his arms. ‘They yet,’ he says, ‘did not know that I healed them;’ that is, “Neither the beginning of my goodness, nor its continued exercise, avails anything with them. When I brought them forth from Egypt, I restored the dead to life; this kindness has been blotted out. Again, in the desert I testified, in various ways, that I was their best and most indulgent Father: I have in this instance also lost all my labour.” How so? “Because my favour has been in no way acknowledged by this perverse and foolish people.” We now then see what the Prophet meant: and he continues the same subject in the next verse.

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