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5

The people will be oppressed,

everyone by another

and everyone by a neighbor;

the youth will be insolent to the elder,

and the base to the honorable.

 


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5. The people will oppress every man his neighbor He describes the utmost confusion, which was about to overtake the Jews, when order was destroyed or relaxed; and this will happen to all nations, as soon as government is removed or falls to the ground. We know how great is the wantonness of the human mind, when every man is hurried along by ambition and, in short, how furious the lawless passions are when they are laid under no restraint. There is no reason, therefore, to wonder if, when the judgment-seats have been laid low, every man insults his neighbor, cruelty abounds, and licentiousness rages without control. If we considered this wisely, we would set a higher value on the kindness of God, when he preserves us in any tolerable condition, and does not allow us to be lamentably ruined. Hence it is evident that they who direct or apply their minds to sap the foundations of civil government are the open enemies of mankind, or rather, they are in no respect different from wild beasts.

But this confusion described by the Prophet is most disgraceful, that a child shall dare to insult an old man, that the dregs of a low and despised multitude shall rise up against nobles and men of high reputation; for it is the most preposterous of all things that modesty shall be thrown away, so that they who were worthy of veneration shall be treated with contempt. And yet this spectacle, so shameful and revolting, must unavoidably be exhibited when civil government has been overthrown. As to my rendering of the verb נגש (niggash) in an active sense, to oppress, I was forced to adopt it, for otherwise the meaning of the passage would have been imperfect.




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