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12. Israel's Sin

Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. 2The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. 3He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: 4Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us; 5Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial. 6Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

7 He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. 8And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin. 9And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast. 10I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets. 11 Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields. 12And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. 13And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. 14Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.

The Prophet amplifies the sin of the people in having always obstinately opposed God, so that they were without any pretext of ignorance: for men, we know, evade God’s dreadful judgement as long as they can plead either ignorance or thoughtlessness. The Prophet denies that the people had fallen through want of information, for they had been often, nay, continually warned by the Prophets. It then appears that this people were become, as it were, wilfully rebellious against God; for they had ever despised the Prophets, not once or twice, but when the Lord sent them in succession: I have spoken, he says, upon my prophets, or, by my Prophets; for על, ol, is variously taken: ‘I have spoken upon my Prophets,’ that is, I have deposited with them the doctrine which ought to have restored you to the right way; and not only so, but I have multiplied visions; it has not been in one way that I have tried to gather you, but I have accumulated many visions: and then he says, In the hand of Prophets I have placed similitudes; that is, I have endeavoured in every way possible to restore you to a sound mind; for God speaks after the manner of men. He might indeed, if he chose, effect this by the secret movement of his Spirit; but it is enough to take away every excuse from men to allege the fact, that they obey not the word, and offer not themselves to God as submissive and teachable, when he by his Prophets cohorts them to repentance. It is then an enhancing of sin worthy of being noticed, when God remonstrates, and says, that he had uselessly spent all his efforts to collect the dispersed Israel, though he had constantly employed the labours of his Prophets.

But this reproach may be also applied to us at this day; yea, whatever the Prophet has hitherto said may justly be turned against us. For we see how the world hardens itself against all warnings; and we see also how long the Lord suspends his judgements, and tolerates men who scoff at his forbearance. Then the same depravity rages now in the world, which the Prophet describes in this place. Besides, God has not only redeemed us from Egypt, but from the lowest hell, and we know that we have been redeemed by Christ for this end, — that we may be wholly devoted to God; for Christ died and rose again for this purpose, — that he might be the Lord of the living and of the dead. But we see how much is the perverseness of men, and how with impunity they grow wanton against God. Who among us remember that they are no longer their own, because they have been purchased by the blood of Christ? Few think of this. And not only this only true and perpetual redemption ought to be kept in mind by us; for the Lord again redeemed us when we were sunk in the gulf of Popery; and daily also does he renew the same kindness towards us; and yet we are so forgetful, that often the grace of God is not remembered by us. We now see how necessary is this doctrine even for our age.

Besides, God, as I have already said, ceases not daily to stimulate and urge us; he multiplies prophecies and similitudes; that is, he in various ways accommodates himself to us; for by similitudes he means all forms of teaching. And doubtless we see that God in a manner transforms himself in his word, for he speaks not according to his own majesty, but as he sees to be suitable to our capacities and weakness; for the Scriptures set before us various representations, which show to us the face of God. Since God then thus accommodates himself to our rudeness, how great is our ingratitude, when no fruit follows? Let us then remember that the Prophet so reproved the men of his age, that he also speaks to us at this day. Let us now proceed —

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