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A Plea for Repentance


Return, O Israel, to the L ord your God,

for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.


Take words with you

and return to the L ord;

say to him,

“Take away all guilt;

accept that which is good,

and we will offer

the fruit of our lips.


Assyria shall not save us;

we will not ride upon horses;

we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.”


Assurance of Forgiveness


I will heal their disloyalty;

I will love them freely,

for my anger has turned from them.


I will be like the dew to Israel;

he shall blossom like the lily,

he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.


His shoots shall spread out;

his beauty shall be like the olive tree,

and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.


They shall again live beneath my shadow,

they shall flourish as a garden;

they shall blossom like the vine,

their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.



O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?

It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress;

your faithfulness comes from me.


Those who are wise understand these things;

those who are discerning know them.

For the ways of the L ord are right,

and the upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them.

God here confirms what we have observed respecting his gratuitous reconciliation, nor is the repetition useless; for as men are disposed to entertain vain and false hopes, so nothing is more difficult than to preserve them in dependence on the one God, and to pacify their minds, so that they disturb not nor fret themselves, as experience teaches us all. For when we embrace the promises of free pardon, our flesh ever leads us to distrust, and we become harassed by various fancies. “What! can you or dare you promise with certainty to yourself that God will be propitious to you, when you know that for many reasons he is justly angry with you?” Since, then, we are so inclined to harbour distrust, the Prophet again confirms the truth which we have before noticed, which is, that God is ready to be reconciled, and that he desires nothing more than to receive and embrace his people.

Hence he says, I will heal their defections The way of healing is by a gratuitous pardon. For though God, by regenerating us by his Spirit, heals our rebellion, that is, subdues us unto obedience, and removes from us our corruptions, which stimulate us to sin; yet in this place the Prophet no doubt declares in the person of God, that the Israelites would be saved from their defections, so that they might not come against them in judgement, nor be imputed to them. Let us know then that God is in two respects a physician while he is healing our sins: he cleanses us by his Spirit, and he abolishes and buries all our offences. But it is of the second kind of healing that the Prophet now speaks, when he says, I will heal their turnings away: and he employs a strong term, for he might have said, “your faults or errors” but he says, “your defections from God;” as though he said, “Though they have so grievously sinned, that by their crimes they have deserved hundred deaths, yet I will heal them from these their atrocious sins, and I will love them freely.”

The word נדבה, nudebe, may be explained either freely or bountifully. I will then love them bountifully, that is, with an abounding and not a common love; or I will love them freely, that is gratuitously. But they who render the words “I will love them of mine own accord,” that is, not by constraint, pervert the sense of the Prophet; for how frigid is the expression, that God is not forced to love us; and what meaning can hence be elicited? But the Lord is said to love us freely, because he finds in us no cause of love, for we are unworthy of being regarded or viewed with any favour; but he shows himself liberal and beneficent in this very act of manifesting his love to the unworthy.

We then perceive that the real meaning of the Prophet is this, that though the Israelites had in various ways provoked the wrath of God, and as it were designedly wished to perish, and to have him to be angry with them; yet the Lord promises to be propitious to them. In what way? Even in this, for he will give proof of his bounty, when he will thus gratuitously embrace them. We now see how God becomes a Father to us, and regards us as his children, even when he abolishes our sins, and also when he freely admits us to the enjoyment of his love. And this truth ought to be carefully observed; for the world ever imagines that they come to God, and bring something by which they can turn or incline him to love them. Nothing can be more inimical to our salvation than this vain fancy.

Let us then learn from this passage, that God cannot be otherwise a Father to us than by becoming our physician and by healing our transgressions. But the order also is remarkable, for God puts love after healing. Why? Because, as he is just, it must be that he regards us with hatred as long as he imputes sins. It is then the beginning of love, when he cleanses us from our vices, and wipes away our spots. When therefore it is asked, how God loves men, the answer is, that he begins to love them by a gratuitous pardon; for while God imputes sins, it must be that men are hated by him. He then commences to love us, when he heals our diseases.

It is not without reason that he adds, that the fury of God is turned away from Israel. For the Prophet intended to add this as a seal to confirm what he taught; for men ever dispute with themselves when they hear that God is propitious to them. “How is this, that he heals thine infirmities? for hitherto thou hast found him to be angry with thee, and how art thou now persuaded that his wrath is pacified?” Hence the Prophet seals his testimony respecting God’s love, when he says, that his wrath has now ceased. Turned away then is my fury “Though hitherto I have by many proofs, manifested to thee my wrath, yet I now come to thee as one changed. Judge me not then by past time, for I am now pacified to thee, and my fury is from thee turned away It follows —

The Prophet now again repeats what he had said, that God, after restoring the people to favour, would be so beneficent, as to render apparent the fruit of reconciliation. Seeing that the Israelites had been afflicted, they ought to have imputed this to their own sins, they ought to have perceived by such proofs, the wrath of God. They had been so stupid as to have on the contrary imagined, that their adversities happened to them by chance. The Prophet had been much engaged in teaching this truth, that the Israelites would be ever miserable until they turned to God, and also, that all their affairs would be unhappy until they obtained pardon. He now speaks of a change, that God would not only by words show himself propitious to them, but would also give a proof by which the Israelites might know that they were now blessed, because they had been reconciled to God; for his blessing would be the fruit of his gratuitous love. Thus then ought this sentence, I will be to Israel as the dew, to be connected: He intimates that they were before dry, because they had been deprived of God’s favour. He compares them to a rose or lily: for when the fields or meadows are burnt up by the heat of the sun, and there is no dew distilling from heaven, all things wither. How then can lilies and roses flourish, except they derive moisture from heaven, and the dew refreshes the grounds that they may put forth their strength? The reason then for the similitude is this, because men become dry and destitute of all vigour, when God withdraws his favour. Why? Because God must, as it were, distil dew, otherwise, as it has been said, we become wholly barren and dry. I will be then as dew to Israel

And further, He shall Flourish as the lily, and his roots he shall send forth Some render ויך, vaic, “and he will strike;” and נכה, nuke, means to strike. Others render the words, “His branches will extend:” but the verb is in the singular number, and the noun, “roots,” is in the plural. The Prophet then speaks of Israel, that he strikes his roots; but he means to fix in a metaphorical sense: he will then fix his roots. As when we strike, we fetch a blow, and extend our arms; so he will spread forth his roots as Libanus. This is the second effect of God’s favour and blessing; which means, that the happiness of the people would be perpetual. With regard to the rose or lily, the meaning of the metaphor is, that God would suddenly, and as in a moment, vivify the Israelites, though they were like the dead. as in one night the lily rises, and unexpectedly also the rose; so sudden would be the change signified by this metaphor. But as the lilies and the roses soon wither, it was not enough to promise to Israel that their salvation would come suddenly; but it was needful to add this second clause, — that though they would be like lilies and roses, they yet would be also like tall trees, which have deep roots in the ground, by which they remain firm and for a long time flourish.

We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet. He mentions here the twofold effect of God’s blessing as to the Israelites, — that their restoration would be sudden, as soon as God would distil like the dew his favour upon them, and also that this happiness would not be fading, but enduring and permanent. And the words may be rendered, as Libanus, or as those of Libanus: as Libanus he shall cast forth his roots, as the trees which grow there; or, he shall cast forth his roots as the trees which are in Libanus. But as to the sense there is no difference. It follows —

The Prophet goes on with the same subject, but joins the beginning of the first verse with the second clause of the former verse. He had said that the roots of the people would be deep when God should restore them. Now he adds, that their branches shall go on He mentions here “to go on” metaphorically for extending far; for branches of trees seem to go on, when they extend and spread themselves far and wide. His branches, then, shall go on; which means, that a tree, after striking roots, remains not in the same state, but grows and spreads forth its branches in all directions. In short, God promises a daily increase to his blessing, after he has once begun to show himself bountiful to the people of Israel. “I will then be bountiful at the beginning; and further, he says, my blessing shall, as time passes, increase and be multiplied.”

He afterwards adds, His comeliness shall be like the olive The Prophet accumulates similitudes, that he might more fully confirm the people. And we certainly see that the minds of men grow faint, when they look for prosperity from this or that quarter; for there is hardly one in a hundred who is fully persuaded that when God is propitious, all things turn out well and happily: for men regard not the love of God when they wish things to be well with them, but wander here and there through the whole world; and now they seek prosperity from themselves, then from the earth, now from the air, then from the sea. Since then it is so difficult to impress this truth fully on the hearts of men, that the love of God is the fountain of all blessings, the Prophet has collected together a number of similitudes to confirm what he teaches. Then his comeliness, he says, shall be like the olive; and further, his fragrance like that of Libanus: and odoriferous trees, we know, grow on Mount Libanus. But by these various similes the Prophet shows that the state of the people would be prosperous and happy as soon as they should be received by God into favour. He afterwards adds, the dwellers under his shadow shall return; but I defer this till to-morrow.

The dwellers under his shadow shall return, (so it is literally;) they shall revive themselves with corn, (or, revive as the corn;) they shall grow as the vine: his odour shall be as the wine of Libanus. The Prophet proceeds with the same subject, that God would show himself bountiful to his people, that it might plainly appear from their different state that they had before suffered just punishment. And he says, The dwellers under his shadow shall return. But the verb ישבו, ishibu, in this place rightly means, “to be refreshed,” as in Psalm 19; where the law of God is spoken of as משיבת, meshibet, converting the soul; which signifies the same as refreshing or restoring the soul. So the Prophet intimates, that after the Israelites shall begin to flourish again, their shadow would be vivifying, such as would restore and refresh those lying under it. He calls the “dwellers under his shadow”, all those who belong to the people; and compares the common state of the people of Israel to a tree full of leaves, which extends its branches far and wide, so that they who flee under its shadow are defended from the heat of the sun. We now see the design of this metaphor, and what the Prophet means by the verb ישבו, ishibu

He afterwards adds They shall vivify themselves with corn, or, revive as corn. If we read the word in the nominative case, the preposition כ, caph, is to be understood. The ablative case is more approved by some, “They shall vivify themselves with corn.” But the former sense seems more suitable; for, as I have said yesterday, the Prophet, as he handles a truth difficult to be believed, does on this account accumulate similitudes, such as serve for confirmation. Hence they shall revive as corn; that is, they shall increase. As from one grain, we know, many stalks proceed; so also, since the prophet speaks of the increase of the people after their restoration to God’s favour, he says that they would grow like corn.

But he adds, They shall germinate as the vine This similitude strengthens what I have just said, that the people are compared both to trees and to corn, and also to vines. And what is said of dwellers ought not to appear strange, for he wished more fully to express how this common benefit would come, that is, to every one. He afterwards adds, His odour shall be as the wine of Libanus; that is, when they shall germinate as the vine, they shall not produce common or sour wine, but the sweetest, such as is made on Mount Libanus, and which is of the best odour. But the Prophet means no other thing than that the Israelites will be happy, and that their condition will be prosperous and joyful, when they shall be converted from their superstitions and other vices, and shall wholly surrender themselves to be governed by God. This is the meaning. Let us now proceed —

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