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Relentless Judgment on Israel


When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;

he was exalted in Israel;

but he incurred guilt through Baal and died.


And now they keep on sinning

and make a cast image for themselves,

idols of silver made according to their understanding,

all of them the work of artisans.

“Sacrifice to these,” they say.

People are kissing calves!


Therefore they shall be like the morning mist

or like the dew that goes away early,

like chaff that swirls from the threshing floor

or like smoke from a window.



Yet I have been the L ord your God

ever since the land of Egypt;

you know no God but me,

and besides me there is no savior.


It was I who fed you in the wilderness,

in the land of drought.


When I fed them, they were satisfied;

they were satisfied, and their heart was proud;

therefore they forgot me.


So I will become like a lion to them,

like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.


I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs,

and will tear open the covering of their heart;

there I will devour them like a lion,

as a wild animal would mangle them.



I will destroy you, O Israel;

who can help you?


Where now is your king, that he may save you?

Where in all your cities are your rulers,

of whom you said,

“Give me a king and rulers”?


I gave you a king in my anger,

and I took him away in my wrath.



Ephraim’s iniquity is bound up;

his sin is kept in store.


The pangs of childbirth come for him,

but he is an unwise son;

for at the proper time he does not present himself

at the mouth of the womb.



Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?

Shall I redeem them from Death?

O Death, where are your plagues?

O Sheol, where is your destruction?

Compassion is hidden from my eyes.



Although he may flourish among rushes,

the east wind shall come, a blast from the L ord,

rising from the wilderness;

and his fountain shall dry up,

his spring shall be parched.

It shall strip his treasury

of every precious thing.


Samaria shall bear her guilt,

because she has rebelled against her God;

they shall fall by the sword,

their little ones shall be dashed in pieces,

and their pregnant women ripped open.


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. He has destroyed thee, Israel, he says. Some consider the word, calf, to be understood, “The calf has destroyed thee:” but this is strained. Others think that there is a change of person: and I am inclined to adopt this opinion, as this mode of speaking we know, is very common: Destroyed thee has Israel; thou art the cause of thine own destruction, or, “Israel has destroyed himself.” Though then there is here a verb of the third person, and there is afterwards added an affixed pronoun at the second person, we may yet thus render the passage, “Israel has destroyed himself.” At the same time, when I weigh more fully every particular, this passage, I think, would be better and more fitly explained by being taken indefinitely: “Something has destroyed thee, Israel:” as though he said, “Inquire now who has destroyed thee.” God then does not here name Israel as the author, nor does he point out any as the author of their ruin; but yet he shows that Israel was lost, and that the cause of their destruction was to be sought in some one else, and not in him. This is the meaning. Then it is, Something has destroyed thee, Israel; for in me was thy help God shows and proves that Israel, who had been hitherto preserved, is now destroyed through their own fault; for God had once adopted the people, and for this end, that he might continue to show his favour towards them. If then the wickedness and ingratitude of the people had not hindered, God would have been doubtless always like himself, and his goodness towards that people would have flowed in a continuous and uniform stream.

This is what he means in the second clause, when he says, In me was thine help; by which he seems to say, “How comes it, and what is the reason, that I do not now help thee according to my usual manner? Thou hast indeed found me hitherto to be thy deliverer: though thou hast often struggled with great and grievous dangers, I was yet never wanting to thee; thou hast ever found from me a prompt assistance. How comes it now that I have cast thee away, that thou criest in vain, and that no one brings thee any help? How comes it, that thou art thus forsaken, and receives no relief whatever from my hand, as thou hast been wont to do? And doubtless I should never be wanting to thee, if thou wouldest allow me; but thou closest the door against me, and by thy wickedness spurnest my favour, so that it cannot come to thee. It then follows, that thou art now destroyed through thy own fault: Something then has destroyed thee He speaks here indefinitely; but this suspended way of expression is more emphatical when he shows that Israel was without reason astonished, and had also without reason expostulated with God. “There is then no ground for contending with God, as if he had frustrated thy expectation, and despised thy desires and crying; God indeed is consistent with himself, for he is not changeable;” as though he said, “Their perdition is from another cause, and they ought to know that there is some hindrance, why God should not extend his hand to help them, as he has hitherto usually done.”

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.

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