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Unfaithful Israel


If a man divorces his wife

and she goes from him

and becomes another man’s wife,

will he return to her?

Would not such a land be greatly polluted?

You have played the whore with many lovers;

and would you return to me?

says the L ord.


Look up to the bare heights, and see!

Where have you not been lain with?

By the waysides you have sat waiting for lovers,

like a nomad in the wilderness.

You have polluted the land

with your whoring and wickedness.


Therefore the showers have been withheld,

and the spring rain has not come;

yet you have the forehead of a whore,

you refuse to be ashamed.


Have you not just now called to me,

“My Father, you are the friend of my youth—


will he be angry forever,

will he be indignant to the end?”

This is how you have spoken,

but you have done all the evil that you could.


A Call to Repentance

6 The L ord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? 7And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. 8She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the L ord.

11 Then the L ord said to me: Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah. 12Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:

Return, faithless Israel,

says the L ord.

I will not look on you in anger,

for I am merciful,

says the L ord;

I will not be angry forever.


Only acknowledge your guilt,

that you have rebelled against the L ord your God,

and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree,

and have not obeyed my voice,

says the L ord.


Return, O faithless children,

says the L ord,

for I am your master;

I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,

and I will bring you to Zion.


15 I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the L ord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the L ord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. 17At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the L ord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the L ord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. 18In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.



I thought

how I would set you among my children,

and give you a pleasant land,

the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.

And I thought you would call me, My Father,

and would not turn from following me.


Instead, as a faithless wife leaves her husband,

so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel,

says the L ord.



A voice on the bare heights is heard,

the plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,

because they have perverted their way,

they have forgotten the L ord their God:


Return, O faithless children,

I will heal your faithlessness.


“Here we come to you;

for you are the L ord our God.


Truly the hills are a delusion,

the orgies on the mountains.

Truly in the L ord our God

is the salvation of Israel.

24 “But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our ancestors had labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us; for we have sinned against the L ord our God, we and our ancestors, from our youth even to this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of the L ord our God.”


The Prophet, after having shewn that the tribe of Judah deserved a heavier punishment than the ten tribes, and having mentioned the cause, that they had seen their brethren severely chastised and were not moved, now turns his discourse to the Israelites themselves, or the ten tribes, and promises that God would be propitious to them. The kingdom of Israel had now been overthrown, and the people had been banished into Assyria, Persia, and Media. They had been scattered, and the name of the kingdom had been obliterated. The land had been often laid waste and the kingdom partly existed, as four tribes only were first driven to exile; but at, length the very name of a kingdom ceased to exist, and they were all, as I have said, led away into captivity. Hence the Prophet is bidden to address his words towards the north; for though the greater part of the people dwelt then in the east, yet as they had been banished by the Assyrians, God had a regard to the capital of the monarchy in bidding the Prophet to address those whom the enemies had led away to the north.

Cry, then, not so much on account of the distance of the place, but that the Jews, who were deaf, might hear him crying; for the Prophet was bidden to speak not only for the sake of the Israelites, but that through them he might set before the Jews the mercy of God, if only they returned to a sound mind. Now the import of the whole is, — that though the Israelites had been rebellious and had turned away from God, yet pardon was ready for them, if they returned. What the Prophet means by the word return, we have already in part explained, and we shall have to speak on the subject more fully elsewhere. He then requires repentance, and promises that God would be propitious to them in case they returned to him.

He afterwards adds, I will not make my face, or rather, my wrath, to fall upon you; for this latter meaning is the most appropriate. God had already severely punished their sins; for what can happen to a people more grievous than to be banished from their own country, and then to be oppressed by cruel tyranny? They yet suffered a heavier punishment; for the worship according to the Law had been taken away from them, they had been repudiated by God, they had lost that glory by which they thought that they excelled all other nations in having been chosen as God’s peculiar people. All these things had been entirely lost. In what sense then does God declare that he would not be angry with them? By this way of speaking the Prophet simply means, that God would not be irreconcilable, as though he had said, “My wrath shall not dwell, or shall not he upon you; but I will mitigate the punishment which I have inflicted.” Hence I do not disapprove of Jerome’s rendering, “I will not make steady,” (firmabo;) though when he adds “face, “he does not sufficiently set forth the meaning of the Prophet. But this may be admitted, “I will not make steady my wrath upon you;” that is, “My wrath shall not lie or dwell on your heads, so as wholly to overwhelm you.” God’s wrath had already fallen upon them, but in such a way that there was still some hope of deliverance. God then denies, that the calamities, by which he had chastised their sins, would be fatal, for he would withdraw his hand and not pursue them to the last extremity.

The meaning then is, — that if the people returned to God they would obtain pardon, because God of his own free will invited them and promised that the punishment which he had inflicted on account of their sins, would be only for a time. 8282    
   12. Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, — Return, apostate Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not cause my wrath to fall on you, For merciful am I, saith Jehovah; I will not reserve it for ever.

   That פני, commonly rendered “face,” means sometimes wrath or anger, is evident, see Psalm 21:9; Lamentations 4:16. God is said to have his face against the wicked, Psalm 34:16, and to make his face to shine on his people, Psalm 80:3. This accounts for the word being taken sometimes, as it were, in a bad sense: He has an angry as well as a smiling face.

   The rendering of the Septuagint is, “I will not set firm (στηριῶ) my face upon you,” of the Vulgate, “I will not turn away my face from you,” of the Syriac and Arabic, “I will not harden my face against you,” and of the Targum, “I will not send my wrath upon you.” The last comes nearest to the Hebrew.

   Blayney’s version is a paraphrase, —

   I will not look down upon you with a lowering brow;

   and so is his version of the last line, —

   I will not keep displeasure in view for ever.

   Our version in both instances is much to be preferred. — Ed.

God further confirms this truth by mentioning what his nature is, for merciful am I, and I will not retain wrath for ever The promise was special in case the people returned; God now adds a general truth by way of confirmation, — that he was disposed to shew mercy, and that he would readily forgive for his mercy’s sake. Since God then is such, and cannot deny himself, there is no reason why a sinner should despair and thus close up the way, that he should not in his penitence implore God’s mercy.

We may hence gather a profitable doctrine, — that whenever unbelief lays hold on our minds, so that we cannot apply to our benefit the promises of God, this should ever be remembered by us — that God is merciful. As God then is so gracious, that he reserves not wrath for ever, but that it is only for a time, we ought to entertain hope; and corresponding with this is what is said in the Psalms,

“A moment is he in his wrath;
and life is in his goodness and mercy,” (Psalm 30:5;)

as though he had said, that God’s wrath soon passes away, provided we repent, but that he shews his mercy through all ages; for this is what is meant by the word “life.” He then goes on —

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