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The Wickedness of Jerusalem


Ah, soiled, defiled,

oppressing city!


It has listened to no voice;

it has accepted no correction.

It has not trusted in the L ord;

it has not drawn near to its God.



The officials within it

are roaring lions;

its judges are evening wolves

that leave nothing until the morning.


Its prophets are reckless,

faithless persons;

its priests have profaned what is sacred,

they have done violence to the law.


The L ord within it is righteous;

he does no wrong.

Every morning he renders his judgment,

each dawn without fail;

but the unjust knows no shame.



I have cut off nations;

their battlements are in ruins;

I have laid waste their streets

so that no one walks in them;

their cities have been made desolate,

without people, without inhabitants.


I said, “Surely the city will fear me,

it will accept correction;

it will not lose sight

of all that I have brought upon it.”

But they were the more eager

to make all their deeds corrupt.


Punishment and Conversion of the Nations


Therefore wait for me, says the L ord,

for the day when I arise as a witness.

For my decision is to gather nations,

to assemble kingdoms,

to pour out upon them my indignation,

all the heat of my anger;

for in the fire of my passion

all the earth shall be consumed.



At that time I will change the speech of the peoples

to a pure speech,

that all of them may call on the name of the L ord

and serve him with one accord.


From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia

my suppliants, my scattered ones,

shall bring my offering.



On that day you shall not be put to shame

because of all the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;

for then I will remove from your midst

your proudly exultant ones,

and you shall no longer be haughty

in my holy mountain.


For I will leave in the midst of you

a people humble and lowly.

They shall seek refuge in the name of the L ord


the remnant of Israel;

they shall do no wrong

and utter no lies,

nor shall a deceitful tongue

be found in their mouths.

Then they will pasture and lie down,

and no one shall make them afraid.


A Song of Joy


Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;

shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter Jerusalem!


The L ord has taken away the judgments against you,

he has turned away your enemies.

The king of Israel, the L ord, is in your midst;

you shall fear disaster no more.


On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

Do not fear, O Zion;

do not let your hands grow weak.


The L ord, your God, is in your midst,

a warrior who gives victory;

he will rejoice over you with gladness,

he will renew you in his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing


as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you,

so that you will not bear reproach for it.


I will deal with all your oppressors

at that time.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.


At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes, says the L ord.

The Prophet speaks here again against Jerusalem; for first, the Jews ought ever to have been severely reproved, as they were given to many sins; and secondly, because there was always there some seed which needed consolation: and this has been the way pursued, as we have hitherto seen, by all the Prophets. But we must also bear in mind, that the books now extant were made up of prophetic addresses, that we might understand what was the sum of the doctrine delivered.

The Prophet here makes this charge against the Jews, that they were polluted and become filthy. And he addresses Jerusalem, where the sanctuary was; and it might therefore seem to have been superior to other cities; for God had not in vain chosen that as the place for his worship. But the Prophet shows how empty and fallacious was any boasting of this kind; for the city which God had consecrated for himself had polluted itself with many sins. The Prophet seems to allude to the ancient rites of the law, which, though many, had been prescribed, we know, by God, that the people might observe a holy course of life: for the ceremonies could not of themselves wash away their filth; but the people were instructed by these external things to worship God in a holy and pure manner. As then they often washed themselves with water, and as they carefully observed other rites of outward sanctity, the Prophet derides their hypocrisy, for they did not regard the real design of the ceremonies. Hence he says, that they were polluted, though in appearance they might be deemed the most pure; for they were defiled as to their whole life. 106106     The first word, [מוראה], is rendered "rebellions” by Newcome and Henderson. The Vulgate is nearly the same, “provocatrix—provoking.” The verb is [מרא], once in Hiphil in Job 39:8; and to take it to be the same with [מרה], to rebel, is gratuitous. The context in Job shows its idea to be that of raising up or swelling; and Parkhurst very properly renders the participle here, swelling, arrogant, insolent; and this notion entirely corresponds with the character given of the city in the next verse; being arrogant, it did “not hear the voice” of God. The verse may be rendered thus —
   Woe to the arrogant and polluted,
The city, which is an oppressor!

   Then follows a specification as to her conduct,—

   She has not hearkened to the voice,
She has not received instruction;
In Jehovah has she not trusted,
To her God has she not drawn nigh.

   To “obey the voice,” as given in our version and by Newcome, is not quite correct; she was too arrogant even to hear or attend to the voice. “Correction,” as in our version, and by Calvin, is rendered “instruction” by Newcome and Henderson; for [מוסר] has often this meaning. The Septuagint have παιδαιαν—discipline. But the same phrase occurs in verse 7, where the word necessarily means instruction, by way of warning, communicated by the example of others.—Ed.

He adds that the city was היונה, eiune; some render it the city of dove, or, a dove; for the word has this meaning: and they take it metaphorically for a foolish and thoughtless city, as we find it to be so understood in Hosea 7:11; where Ephraim was said to be a dove, because the people were void of reason and knowledge, and of their own accord exposed themselves to traps and snares. Some then consider this place to have this meaning,—that Jerusalem, which ought to have been wise, was yet wholly fatuitous and foolish. But it may be easily gathered from the context, that the Prophet means another thing, even this,—that Jerusalem was given to plunder and fraud; for the verb ינה, ine, signifies to defraud and to take by force what belongs to another; and it means also to circumvent as well as to plunder. He therefore means no doubt, that Jerusalem was a city full of every kind of iniquity, as he had before called it a polluted city; and then he adds an explanation.

The Prophet in the first verse seems to have in view the two tables of the law. God, we know, requires in the law that his people should be holy; and then he teaches the way of living justly and innocently. Hence when the Prophet called Jerusalem a polluted city, he meant briefly to show that the whole worship of God was there corrupted, and that no regard for true religion flourished there; for the Jews thought that they had performed all their duty to God, when they washed away their filth by water. Such was the extremely foolish notion which they entertained: but we know and they ought to have known that the worship of God is spiritual. He afterwards adds, that the city was rapacious, under which term he includes every kind of injustice.

It follows, She heard not the voice, she received not correction. The Prophet now explains and defines what the pollution was of which he had spoken: for true religion begins with teachableness; when we submit to God and to his word, it is really to enter on the work of worshipping him aright. But when heavenly truth is despised, though men may toil much in outward rites, yet their impiety discovers itself by their contumacy, inasmuch as they suffer not themselves to be ruled by God’s authority. Hence the Prophet shows, that whatever the Jews thought of their purity at Jerusalem, it was nothing but filth and pollution. He says, that they were unteachable, because they did not hear the Prophets sent to them by God.

This ought to be carefully noticed; for without this beginning many torment themselves in the work of serving God, and do nothing, because obedience is better than sacrifice. If, then, we wish our efforts to be approved by God, we must begin with faith; for except the word of God obtains credit with us, whatever we may offer to him are mere human inventions. It is, in the second place, added, that they did not receive correction; and this was no superfluous addition. For when God sees that we are not submissive, and that we do not willingly come to him when he calls us, he strengthens his instruction by chastisements. He allures us at first to himself, he employs kind and gentle invitations; but when he sees us delaying, or even going back, he begins to treat us more roughly and more severely: for teaching without the goads of reproof would have no effect. But when God teaches and reproves in vain, it then appears that our disposition is wicked and perverse. So the Prophet intended here to show the wickedness of his people as extreme, by saying, that they heard not the voice nor received correction; as though he had said, that the wickedness of his people was unhealable, for they not only rejected the doctrine of salvation, when offered, but also obstinately rejected all warnings, and would not bear any correction.

But we must bear in mind, that the Prophet had to do with that holy people whom God had chosen as his peculiar treasure. There is therefore no reason why those who profess the name of Christians at this day should exempt themselves from this condemnation; for our condition is not better than the condition of that people. Jerusalem was in an especial manner, as we have already said, the sanctuary, as it were, of God: and yet we see how severely the Prophet reproves Jerusalem and all its inhabitants. We have no cause to flatter ourselves, except we willingly submit to God, and suffer ourselves to be ruled by his word, and except we also patiently bear correction, when his teaching takes no suitable effect, and when there is need of sharp goads to stimulate us.

He afterwards adds, that it did not trust in the Lord, nor draw nigh to its God. The Prophet discovers here more clearly the spring of impiety—that Jerusalem placed not the hope of salvation in God alone; for from hence flowed all the mass of evils which prevailed; because if we inquire how it is that men burn with avarice, why they are insatiable, and why they wantonly defraud and plunder one another, we shall find the cause to be this—that they trust not in God. Rightly then does the Prophet mention this here, among other pollutions at Jerusalem, as the chief—that it did not put its trust in God. The same also is the cause and origin of all superstitions; for if men felt assured that God alone is enough for them, they would not follow here and there their own inventions. We hence see that unbelief is not only the mother of all the evil deeds by which men willfully wrong and injure one another, but that it is also the cause of all superstitions.

He says, in the last place, that it did not draw nigh to God. The Prophet no doubt charges the Jews that they willfully departed from God when he was nigh them; yea, that they wholly alienated themselves from him, while he was ready to cherish them, as it were, in his own bosom. This is indeed a sin common to all who seek not God; but Jerusalem sinned far more grievously, because she would not draw nigh to God, by whom she saw that she was sought. For why was the law given, why was adoption vouchsafed, and in short, why had they the various ordinances of religion, except that they might join themselves to God? ‘And now Israel,’ said Moses, ‘what does the Lord thy God require of thee, except to cleave to him?’ God thus intended his law to be, as it were, a sacred bond of union between him and the Jews. Now when they wandered here and there, that they might not be united to him, it was a diabolical madness. Hence the Prophet here does not only accuse the Jews of not seeking God, but of withdrawing themselves from him; and thus they were ungovernable. The Lord sought to tame them; but they were like wild beasts. It now follows—

The Prophet now explains what we have stated respecting plunder and fraud. He confirms that he had not without reason called Jerusalem היונה, eiune, a rapacious city, or one given to plunder; for the princes were like lions and the judges like wolves. And when he speaks of judges, he does not spare the common people; but he shows that all orders were then corrupt: for though no justice or equity is regarded by the people, there will yet remain some shame among the judges, so as to retain the people at least within some limits, that an extreme licentiousness may not prevail: but when robbery is practiced in the court of justice, what can be said of such a city? We hence see that the Prophet in these words describes an extreme confusion: The princes of Jerusalem, he says, are lions. And we have elsewhere similar declarations; for the Prophets, when it was their object to condemn all from the least to the greatest, did yet direct their discourse especially to the judges.

And this is worthy of being noticed, for there was then no Church of God, except at Jerusalem. Yet the Prophet says, that the judges, and prophets, and priests, were all apostates. What comfort could the faithful have had? But we hence see that the fear of God had not wholly failed in his elect, and that they firmly and with an invincible heart contended against all offenses and trials of this kind. Let us also learn to fortify ourselves at this day with the same courage, so that we may not faint, however much impiety may everywhere prevail, and all religion may seem extinct among men.

But we may also hence learn, how foolishly the Papists pride themselves in their vain titles, as though they thought that God was bound as it were to them, because they have bishops and pastors. But the Prophet shows, that even those who performed the ordinary office of executing the laws could yet be the wicked and perfidious despisers of God. He also shows, that neither prophets nor priests ought to be spared; for when God sets them over his Church, he gives them no power to tyrannize, so that they might dare to do anything with impunity, and not be reproved. For though the priesthood under the law was sacred, we yet see that it was subject to correction. So let no one at this day claim for himself a privilege, as though he was exempt from all instruction and reproof, while occupying a high station among the people of God.

He distinguishes between princes and judges; and the reason is, because the kingdom was as yet standing. So the courtiers, who were in favor and authority with the king, drew a part of the spoil to themselves, and the judges devoured another part. Though Scripture often makes no difference between these two names, yet I doubt not but he means by שרים, sherim, princes, the chiefs who were courtiers; and he calls them שפטים, shepthim, judges, who administered justice. And he says that the judges were evening wolves, that is, hungry, for wolves become furious in the evening when they have been roaming about all day and have found nothing. As their want sharpens the savageness of wolves, so the Prophet says that the judges were hungry like evening wolves, whose hunger renders them furious. And for the same purpose he adds, that they broke not the bones in the morning; that is, they waited not till the dawn to break the bones; 107107     This is the explanation of Grotius, Mede, and Henderson. The latter’s version is—“They gnaw no bones in the morning;” i.e., all is devoured in the night. Newcome, adopting the conjecture of Houbigant, supposes the true reading to be [ידמו], and gives this rendering—“They wait not until the morning,” which seems to have no meaning in this connection. What Cocceius proposes is more probable—“Who have not gnawed in the morning;” and on this account they were exceedingly voracious in the evening. But the idea of our common version is very appropriate; it implies that they were like wild beasts prowling all night, and carrying as it were their prey to their dens, that they might devour it there in the morning. This is the view taken by Henry. “They devour the flesh,” says Adam Clarke, “in the night, and gnaw the bones, and extract the marrow afterwards.”—Ed. for when they devoured the flesh they also employed their teeth in breaking the bones, because their voracity was so great. We now apprehend the Prophet’s meaning. It afterwards follows—

The Prophet again reverts to the pollution and filth of which he has spoken in the first verse. He shows that he had not without reason cried against the polluted city; for though the Jews used their washings, they could not yet make themselves clean in this manner before God, as the whole of religion was corrupted by them.

He says that the Prophets were light. He alone speaks here, and he condemns the many. We hence see that there is no reason why the ungodly should allege their great number, when God by his word accuses them, as the Papists do at this day, who deny it to be right in one or two, or few men, to speak against their impiety, however bad the state of things may be; there must be the consent of the whole world, as though the Prophet was not alone, and had not to contend with a great many. It is indeed true that he taught at the same time with the Prophet Jeremiah, as we have elsewhere seen; but yet hardly two or three did then discharge faithfully their office of teaching; and from this and other places we learn that the false Prophets, relying on their number, were on that account bolder. But Zephaniah did not for this reason cease to cry against them. However much then the false Prophets raged against him, and terrified him by the show of their number, he still exercised his liberty in condemning them. So at this day, though the whole world should unite in promoting impiety, there is yet no reason why the few should be disheartened when observing the worship of God perverted; but they ought on the contrary to encourage themselves by this example, and strenuously to resist thousands of men if necessary; for no union formed by men can possibly lessen the authority of God.

It now follows that they were men of transgressions. What we render light, others render empty; (vacuous;) but the word פוחזים, puchezim, means strictly men of nought, and also the rash, and those who are void of judgment as well as of all moderation. In short, it is the same as though the Prophet had said that they were stupid and blind; and he says afterwards that they were fraudulent, than which there is nothing more inconsistent with the Prophetic office. But Zephaniah shows that the whole order was then so degenerated among the people, that the thickest darkness prevailed among those very leaders whose office it was to bring forth the light of celestial truth. And he makes a concession by calling them Prophets. The same we do at this day when we speak of Popish bishops. It is indeed certain that they are unworthy of so honorable a title; for they are blinder than moles, so that they are far from being overseers. We also know, that they are like brute beasts; for they are immersed in their lusts: in short, they are unworthy to be called men. But we concede to them this title, in order that their turpitude may be more apparent. The Prophet did the same, when he said, that the Jews did not draw nigh to their God; he conceded to them what they boasted; for they ever wished to be regarded as the holy and peculiar people of God: but their ingratitude did hence become more evident, because they went back and turned to another object, when God was ready to embrace them, as though they designedly meant to show that they had nothing to do with him. It is then the same manner of speaking, that Zephaniah adopts here, when he says, that the Prophets were light and men of transgressions. 108108     Her prophets are light, they are treacherous men.—Newcome.
   Her prophets are vainglorious, hypocritical men.—Henderson.

   The word rendered “light,” as a river, and not “unstable,” as in our version. It is applied as a participle in Judges 9:4, to designate persons overflowing in wickedness, dissolute, licentious, dissipated; and as a noun in Jeremiah 23:32, to set forth the licentious conduct of the false prophets, who like the priests under the Papacy, were given to lasciviousness, and “committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives,” Jeremiah 29:23. See also Jeremiah 23:14. As Zephaniah was contemporary with Jeremiah, his description of the Prophets is thus seen to be the same, “Her Prophets are licentious,” or lascivious.

   Men of dissimulations or deceits, [אנשי בגדות], signify, that under the pretense of telling the truth, they delivered what was false; or in the words of Jeremiah, they “caused the people to err by their lies,” while they pretended to deliver true messages from God: so that Jeremiah 23:32, contains an explanation of this clause. “Deceiving men” would perhaps be the best rendering. Though they were licentious, yet they deceived men, and made them to believe that they were true Prophets. They were impostors, and notwithstanding their immoral character, they persuaded deluded men that they were true and faithful.—Ed.

He then adds, The priests have polluted the holy place. The tribe of Levi, we know, had been chosen by God; and those who descended from him, were to be ministers and teachers to others: and for this reason the Lord in the law ordered the Levites to be dispersed through the whole country. He might indeed have given them as to the rest, a fixed habitation; but his will was, that they should be dispersed among the whole population, that no part of the land should be without good and faithful ministers. The Prophet now charges them, that they had polluted the holy place. By the word קדש, kodash the Prophet means whatsoever is holy; at the same time he speaks of the sanctuary. Moreover, since the sanctuary was as it were the dwelling-place of God, when the Prophets speak of divine worship and religion, they include the whole under the word, Temple, as in this place. He says then that the sanctuary was polluted by the priests, and then that they took away or subverted the law. 109109     The word, [קדש], as Calvin intimates, does not specifically mean the sanctuary, but holiness, or, as Henderson renders it, “what is sacred,” or holy. Both our version and Newcome improperly render it “the sanctuary.” The explanation of what is meant may be found in Ezekiel 12:2. The word for sanctuary is [מקדש]. See Ezekiel 23:38,39
   The words, [חמסו תורה], have been taken to mean,—either, “They violated the law,” as the words are rendered in Ezekiel 12:26, that is, transgressed it by acting contrary to it; or, “They perverted the law,” forcing it, as it were, out of its plain meaning by subtle glosses. The Septuagint render the verb ηθετησαν—set aside or abolished, in Ezekiel, and here ἀσεβουσι—act impiously. “Trangressed,” says Grotius; “Do violence to,” say Piscator and Drusius, that is, by wresting its words. It occurs much oftener as a noun than as a verb, and it commonly means a wrong or injustice done in an outrageous and violent manner. According to this general idea, we may render the phrase here, “they have outraged the law,” either by their conduct, or by their comments. It was in either case a wrong done to the law, that was enormous, passing all reason and decency. So that to transgress or to violate, or to do violence to, or to pervert the law, does not convey the full meaning.—Ed.

We here see how boldly the Prophet charges the priests. There is then no reason why they who are divinely appointed over the Church should claim for themselves the liberty of doing what they please; for the priests might have boasted of this privilege, that without dispute everything was lawful for them. But we see that God not only calls them to order by his Prophets, but even blames them more than others, because they were less excusable. Now the Papists boast, that the clergy, even the very dregs collected from the filthiest filth, cannot err; which is extremely absurd; for they are not better than the successors of Aaron. But we see what the Prophet objects now to them,—that they subverted the law: he not only condemns their life, but says also, that they were perfidious towards God; for they strangely corrupted the whole truth of religion. The Papists confess, that they indeed can sin, but that the sin dwells only in their moral conduct. They yet seek to exempt themselves from all the danger of going astray. Though the Levitical priests were indeed chosen by the very voice of God, we yet see that they were apostates. But God confirms the godly, that they might not abandon themselves to impiety, though they saw their very leaders going astray, and rushing headlong into ruin. For it behaved the faithful to fortify themselves with constancy, when the priests not only by their bad conduct withdrew the people from every fear of God, but also perverted every sound doctrine; it behaved, I say, the faithful to remain then invincible. Though then at this day those who hold the highest dignity in the Church neglect God and even despise every celestial truth, and thus rush headlong into ruin, and though they attempt to turn God’s truth into falsehood, yet let our faith continue firm; for John has not without reason declared, that it ought to be victorious against the whole world. 1 John 5:4. It follows—

Here the Prophet throws back against hypocrites what they were wont to pretend, when they sought wickedly to reject every instruction and all warnings; for they said, that God dwelt in the midst of them, like the Papists at the present day, who raise up this as their shield against us,—that the Church is the pillar of the truth. Hence they think that all their wicked deeds are defended by this covering. So the Jews at that time had this boast ever on their lips,—We are notwithstanding the holy people of God, and he dwells in the midst of us, for he is worshipped in the Temple, which has been built, not according to men’s will, but by his command; for that voice proceeded not from earth, but came from heaven, ‘This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell.’ Psalm 132:14. Since then the Jews were inflated with this presumption, the Prophet concedes what they claimed, that God dwelt among them; but it was for a far different purpose, which was, that they might understand, that his hand was nigh to punish their sins. This is one thing.

Jehovah is in the midst of them; Granted, he says; I allow that he dwells in this city; for he has commanded a temple to be built for him on Mount Sion, he has ordered a holy altar for himself; but why does God dwell among you, and has preferred this habitation to all others? Surely, he says, he will not do iniquity. Consider now what the nature of God is; for when he purposed to dwell among you, he certainly did not deny himself, nor did he cease to be what he is. There is therefore no reason for you to imagine, as though God intended, for the sake of those to whom he bound himself, to throw aside his own justice, or intended to pollute himself by the defilements of men. He warns the Jews, that they absurdly blended these things together. God then who dwells in the midst of you, will not do iniquity; that is, He will not approve of your evil deeds; and though he may for a time connive at them, he will not yet bear with them continually. Do not therefore foolishly flatter yourselves, as though God were the approver of your wickedness.

Some apply this to the people,—that they ought not to have done iniquity; but this is a strained exposition, and altogether foreign to the context. Most other interpreters give this meaning, that God is just and will do no iniquity, for he had sufficient reasons for executing his vengeance on a people so wicked. They hence think, that the Prophet anticipates the Jews, lest they murmured, as though the Lord was cruel or too rigid. He will not do iniquity, that is, Though the Lord may inflict on you a most grievous punishment, yet he cannot be arraigned by you as unjust; and ye in vain contend with him, for he will ever be found to be a righteous judge. But this also is a very frigid explanation. Let us bear in mind what I have already said,—that the Prophet here, by way of irony, concedes to the Jews, that God dwelt among them, but afterwards brings against them what they thought was a protection to them,— God dwells in the midst of you; I allow it, he says; but is not he a just God? Do not then dream that he is one like yourselves, that he approves of your evil deeds. God will not do iniquity; ye cannot prevail with him to renounce himself, or to change his own nature. Why then does God dwell in the midst of you? In the morning, in the morning, he says, his judgment will he bring forth to light; the Lord will daily bring forth his judgment. How this is to be understood, we shall explain tomorrow.

Here the Prophet shows in another way that there was no hope for a people, who could not have been instructed by the calamities of others, to seek to return to God’s favor. For God here complains that he had in vain punished neighboring nations, and made them examples, in order to recall the Jews to himself. Had they been of a sane mind they might have been led, by their quiet state, while God spared them, to consider what they had deserved—If this is done in the green tree, what at length will be done in the dry? They might then have thought within themselves, that a most grievous calamity was at hand, except they anticipated God’s wrath, which had grown ripe against them; and God also testified that he intended by such examples to stay the judgment which he might have already justly executed on them. As they then even hastened it, it is evident that their wickedness was past remedy. This is the sum of the whole.

He says first, I have cut off nations; by which words he shows that he warned the Jews to repent, not only by one example, but by many examples; for not one instance only of God’s wrath had appeared, but God had on all sides manifested himself to be a judge, in inflicting punishment on one nation after another. Since then they had been so often warned, we may hence learn that they were wholly blinded by their wickedness.

He now enhances the atrocity of the punishment inflicted, and says, that citadels had been demolished and streets cut off, that no one passed through; and then, that cities had been reduced to solitude, so that there was no inhabitant. For when punishment is of an ordinary kind, it is wont, for the most part, to be disregarded; but when God showed, by so remarkable proofs, that he was displeased with the nations, that is, with the ignorant, who in comparison with the Jews were innocent, how could such an instance as this be disregarded by the Jews, whom God thus recalled to himself, except that they were of a disposition wholly desperate and irreclaimable? We now then see why the Prophet enlarges on the punishments which, having been inflicted on the nations, ought to have been considered by the Jews. 111111     This verse, literally rendered, is as follows,—
   I have cut off nations;
Desolate are become their towers;
I have made solitary their streets, without a passenger;
Deserted are become their cities,
Without a man, without an inhabitant.

   It is not the destruction. The nations being cut off, then the towers became desolate, the streets empty, and the cities forsaken. The last line but one is literally—“Hunted have been their cities,” so that no man was left behind.—Ed.

He now subjoins the object which God had in view, I said, Surely thou wilt fear me. Here God assumes the character of man, as he does often elsewhere: for he does not wait for what is future, as though he was doubtful; but all things, as we know, are before his eyes. Hence God was not deceived, as though something had happened beyond his expectation; but as I have already said, he undertakes here the character of man; for he could not otherwise have sufficiently expressed how inexcusable the Jews were who had despised all his warnings. For what was God’s design when he punished the heathens, one nation after another, except that the Jews might be awakened by the evils of others, and not provoke his wrath against themselves? Paul makes use of the same argument.

‘On account of these things,’ he says,
‘the wrath of God comes upon all the unbelieving.’
Romans 1:17 [Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6].

Inasmuch as men for the most part deceive themselves by self-flatteries and cherish with extreme indulgence their own wickedness, Paul says, that the wrath of God comes on the unbelieving: and it is a singular proof of God’s love, that he does not immediately assail us, but sets before us the examples of others. As when any one lays hold of his servant in the presence of his son, and punishes him severely, the son must be moved by the sight, except he be wholly an abandoned character: however, in such a case the father’s love manifests itself; for he withholds his hand from his son and inflicts punishment on the servant, and this for the benefit of his son, that he may learn wisdom by what another suffers. God declares in this place that he had done the same; but he complains that it had been without benefit, for the Jews had frustrated his purpose.

It may be here asked, whether men so frustrate God that he looks for something different from what happens. I have already said, that God speaks after the manner of men, and in a language not strictly correct: and hence we ought not here to enter or penetrate into the secret purpose of God, but to be satisfied with this reason,—that if we profit nothing when God warns us either by his word or by his scourges, we are then equally guilty, as though he was deceived by us: and hence also the madness of those is reproved, who are unwilling to ascribe anything to God but what is conveyed in these common forms of speech: God says, that he wills the salvation of all, 1 Timothy 2:4;) hence there is no election, which makes a distinction between one man and another; but the Lord leaves the whole human race to their free-will, so that every one may provide for himself as he pleases; otherwise the will of God must be twofold. So unlearned men vainly talk; and such not only show their ignorance in religion, but are also wholly destitute of common sense. For what is more absurd than to conclude, that there is a twofold will in God, because he speaks otherwise with us than is consistent with his incomprehensible majesty? God’s will then is one and simple, but manifold as to the perceptions of men; for we cannot comprehend his hidden purpose, which angels adore with reverence and humility. Hence the Lord accommodates himself to the measure of our capacities, as this passage teaches us with sufficient clearness. For if we receive what the fanatics imagine, then God is like man, who hopes well, and finds afterwards that he has been deceived: but what can be more alien to his glory? We hence see how these insane men not only obscure the glory of God, but also labor, as far as they can, to reduce his whole essence to nothing. But this mode of speaking ought to be sufficiently familiar to us,—that God justly complains that he has been deceived by us, when we do not repent, inasmuch as he invites us to himself, and even stimulates us, I said, Surely thou wilt fear me

This word said, ought not then to be referred to the hidden counsel of God, but to the subject itself, and that is, that it was time to repent. Who would not have hoped but that you would have returned to the right way? When the next house was on fire, how was it possible for you to sleep, except ye were extremely stupid? And when so many examples were presented before your eyes without any advantage, it is evident that there is no more any hope of repentance. Thou, then, wilt fear me; that is, God might have hoped for some amendment, though he had not yet touched you even with his smallest finger; for ye beheld, while in a tranquil state, how severely he punished the contempt of his justice as to the heathens. He uses a similar language in Isaiah 5:4,

‘My vine, what have I done to thee? or what could I have done to thee more than what I have done? I expected thee to bring forth fruit; but, behold, thou hast brought forth wild grapes.’

God in that passage expostulates with the Jews as though they had by their perfidiousness deceived him. But we know, that whatever happens was known to him before the creation of the world: but, as I have already said, the fact itself is to be regarded by us, and not the hidden judgment of God.

He afterwards adds, Thou wilt receive correction; that is, thou wilt be hereafter more tractable: for monstrous is our stupidity, when we fear not God’s vengeance; when yet it evidently appears that we are warned, as I have already said, to repent, by all the examples of judgments which are daily presented to us. But if we proceed in our wickedness, what else is it but to kick against the goad, as the old proverb is? In short, we here see described an extreme wickedness and obstinacy, which admitted of no remedy.

Hence the Prophet adds again, And cut off should not be her habitation, howsoever I might have visited her; that is, though the Jews had already provoked me, so that the punishment they have deserved was nigh; yet I was ready to withdraw my hand and to forgive them, if they repented: not that God ever turns aside from his purpose, for there is no shadow of turning in him; but he sets before them the fact as it was; for the subject here, as I have said, is not respecting the secret purpose of God, but we ought to confine ourselves to the means which he employs in promoting our salvation. God had already threatened the Jews for many years; he had as yet deferred to execute what he had threatened. In the meantime his wrath had been manifested through the whole neighborhood; the heathen nations had suffered the severest judgments. God here declares, that he had been so lenient to his people as to give time to repent; and he complains that he had delayed in vain, for they had gone on in their wickedness, and had mocked, as it were, his patience. When, therefore, he says, Cut off should not be her habitation, howsoever I might have visited her, or have visited her, he pursues still the same mode of speaking, that is, that he was prepared to forgive the Jews, though he had before destined them to destruction; not that he, as to himself, would retract that sentence; but that he was still reconcilable, if the Jews had been touched by any feeling of repentance. 112112     The last clause has been variously rendered. There is no assistance from the Septuagint, as the whole text is very different. Marckius, after Drusius, connects it, not with the preceding, but with the following line, in this sense, that how much soever God had punished the city, yet its inhabitants were the more best to corrupt their ways. But the words can hardly admit of this meaning. Henderson supposes [כ] to be understood before [כל], and gives this rendering of the two lines—
   That her habitation might not be cut off,
According to all that I had appointed concerning her.

   Newcome differs as to the last line—

   After all the punishment with which I had visited her.

   None of these are satisfactory. Grotius, taking the sense of the Targum, means to have given the best meaning. He says that [פקד], followed by [על], means sometimes to appoint or constitute, and refers to 2 Chronicles 36:23, “All the good which I have appointed to her,” or promised; but he unnecessarily supposes “shall come” to be understood; for the word, “all which,” may be considered to be in apposition with “habitation.” I give the following version of this whole verse—

   I said, “Surely thou wilt fear me,
Thou wilt receive instruction;”
Then cut off should not be her habitation

All that I have committed to her:
Yet they rose up early, they corrupted all their doings.

   To rise up early is a Hebrew phrase, which means a resolved and diligent attention to a thing. The import of the line is, that they with full-bent purpose and activity corrupted all their doings.—Ed.

He at last adds, Surely, (some render it, but,) surely they have hastened. The verb שכם, shecam, means properly to rise early, but is to be taken metaphorically in the sense of hastening; as though he had said, They run headlong to corrupt their ways. God had said that he had been indulgent to them for this end—that he might lead them by degrees to repentance: now he complains, that they on the contrary had run another way, when they saw that he suspended his judgments, as though it was their designed object to accelerate his wrath. Thus they hastened to corrupt their ways. The meaning, then, is that this people were not only irreclaimable in their obstinacy, but that they were also sottish and presumptuous, as though they wished to hasten the judgment, which the Lord was ready for a time to defer. It now follows—

God here declares that the last end was near, since he had found by experience that he effected nothing by long forbearance, and since he had even found the Jews becoming worse, because he had so mercifully treated them. Some think that the address is made to the faithful, that they might prepare themselves to bear the cross; but this view is foreign to the subject of the Prophet: and though this view has gained the consent of almost all, I yet doubt not but that the Prophet, as I have now stated, breaks out into a complaint, and says, that God would not now deal in words with a people so irreclaimable.

Look for me, he says; that is, I am now present fully prepared: I have hitherto endeavored to turn you, but your hearts have become hardened in depravity. But inasmuch as I have lost all my labor in teaching, warning, and exhorting you, even when I presented to you examples on every side among heathen nations, which ought to have stimulated you to repentance, and inasmuch as I have effected nothing, it is now all over with you—Look for me: I shall no more contend with you, nor is there any ground for you to hope that I shall any more send Prophets to you.

Look then for me, until I shall rise —for what purpose? to the prey. Some render the word לעד, laod, forever; but the Prophet means, that God was so offended with the contumacy of the people, that he would now plunder, spoil and devour, and forget his kindness, which had been hitherto a sport to them—I shall come as a wild beast; as lions rage, lacerate, tear, and devour, so also will I now do with you; for I have hitherto too kindly and paternally spared you. We hence see that these things are not to be referred to the hope and patience of the godly; but that God on the contrary does here denounce final destruction on the wicked, as though he had said—I bid you adieu; begone, and mind your own concerns; for I will no longer contend with you; but I shall shortly come, and ye shall find me very different from what I have been to you hitherto. We now see that God, as it were, repudiates the Jews, and threatens that he would come to them with a drawn sword; and at the same time he compares himself to a savage and cruel wild beast.

He afterwards adds—For my judgment is; that is, I have decreed to gather all nations. We have elsewhere spoken of this verb אסף, asaph; it is the same in Hebrew as the French trousser. It is then my purpose to gather, that is, to heap together into one mass all nations, to assemble the kingdoms, so that no corner of the earth may escape my hand. But he speaks of all nations and kingdoms, that the Jews might understand that his judgment could no longer be deferred; for if a comparison be made between them and the heathen nations, judgment, as it is written, is wont to begin with the house of God, 1 Peter 4:17; and further, they were less excusable than the unbelieving, who went astray, which is nothing strange, in darkness, for they were without the light of truth. God then threatens nations and kingdoms, that the Jews might know that a most dreadful punishment was impending over their heads, for they had surpassed all others in wickedness and evil deeds. 113113     This verse is considered by Newcome and Henderson to be addressed to the godly, to encourage them at the approaching calamities, while Piscator, Grotius, Marckius, and Dathius, agree with Calvin that it is an awful warning to the wicked Jews, spoken of in the preceding verse. Differing somewhat from Calvin, they regard the “nations” and “kingdoms” to be the Babylonians, who were composed of various nations and kingdoms, and “upon them” to be the Jews, and “the whole land” to be that of Judea. This view, no doubt, is the most consistent with the context. The objection made by Henderson, that the words expect, or wait for me, are ever used in a good sense, seems to have no force, for these words by themselves can mean neither what is good nor what is bad, the whole depends on the context. The verb [חכה] simply means to tarry, to wait—μενειν. The word “therefore” seems to connect this with the preceding verse, and there is nothing in the foregoing part of the chapter that alludes to the godly. Besides, the words which follow “wait for me” explain them, as will be seen by the following literal rendering of the whole verse—
   8. Therefore wait for me, saith Jehovah,
For the day of my rising to the prey!
For my purpose is to gather nations,
To assemble kingdoms,
In order to pour on them my indignation,
All the heat of my anger;
For by the fire of my jealousy
Shall be consumed the whole land.

   The “fire of God’s jealousy” sufficiently proves that what is meant is the land of Judea. (See chapter 1:18.)—Ed.
He afterwards adds—

The Prophet now mitigates the asperity of his doctrine, which might have greatly terrified the godly; nay, it might have wholly disheartened them, had no consolation been applied. God then moderates here what he had previously threatened; for if the Prophet had only said this—My purpose is to gather all the nations, and thus the whole earth shall be devoured by the fire of indignation, what could the faithful have concluded but that they were to perish with the rest of the world? It was therefore necessary to add something to inspire hope, such as we find here.

We must at the same time bear in mind what I have reminded you of elsewhere—that the Prophet directs his discourse one while to the faithful only, who were then few in number, and that at another time he addresses the multitude indiscriminately; and so when our Prophet threatens, he regards the whole body of the people; but when he proclaims the favor of God, it is the same as though he turned his eyes towards the faithful only, and gathered them into a place by themselves. As for instance, when a few among a people are really wise, and the whole multitude unite in hastening their own ruin, he who has an address to make will make a distinction between the vast multitude and the few; he will severely reprove those who are thus foolish, and live for their own misery; and he will afterwards shape his discourse so as to suit those with whom he has not so much fault to find. Thus also the Lord changes his discourse; for at one time he addresses the ungodly, and at another he turns to the elect, who were but a remnant. So the Prophet has hitherto spoken by reproofs and threatening, for he addressed the whole body of the people; but now he collects, as I have said, the remnant as it were by themselves, and sets before them the hope of pardon and of salvation.

Hence he says, But then 114114     [כי אן], “For then,” Henderson; “Surely then,” Newcome; “Postea vero—but afterwards,” Dathius and Grotius. And Newcome says, that [אן] is used here largely, for “afterwards.” It refers to the time after the execution of the judgments previously mentioned.
   “The pure lip” is evidently not the language which God would adopt in addressing the nations, but the language they would adopt in addressing him. What is meant is a pure heart; what gives utterance to the heart is mentioned for the heart itself; as the “shoulder” is afterwards used for the service that is rendered to God.

   The verb [הפך], to turn, means to change the form, condition, or course of a thing, conveying perhaps here the idea, that the pure lip is substituted for that which is impure: “I will give them as a change, instead of what they have, a pure lip.” Μεταστρεψω—“I will change,” Sept. and Sym.; στρεψω—“I will turn,” Aq. and Theod. It is rendered “reddam“ and “restituam“ by Drusius and Grotius

   Newcome, following the conjecture of Houbigant, reads [אשפך], “I will pour out,” contrary to all the ancient versions, and without the countenance of a single MS.

   Though the word, [עמים], peoples, most frequently means the nations, yet there are instances in which it means the people of Israel, inasmuch as they were composed of various tribes. See 1 Kings 22:28; Joel 2:6. And if we render the verb, “restore,” with Drusius and Grotius, then we must adopt this meaning. Eleven MSS. have “and,” [ו], before the verb to “serve:” and as there is no preposition before “shoulder,” we may render the verse—

   But I will then restore to the people a pure lip,
That they may, all of them, call on the name of Jehovah,

And one shoulder, that they may serve him.

(for I take כי, ki, as an adversative) will I turn to the people a pure lip. God intimates that he would propagate his grace wider, after having cleansed the earth; for he will be worshipped not only in Judea, but by foreign nations, and even by the remotest. For it might have been objected, Will God then extinguish his name in the world? For what will be the state of things when Judea is overthrown and other nations destroyed, except that God’s name will be exposed to reproach! It will nowhere be invoked, and all will outvie one another in blasphemies against him. The Prophet meets this objection, and says, that God has in his own hand the means by which he will vindicate his own glory; for he will not only defend his Church in Judea, but will also gather into it nations far and wide, so that his name shall be everywhere celebrated.

But he speaks first of a pure lip, I will turn, he says, to the nations a pure lip. By this word he means, that the invocation of God’s name is his peculiar work; for men do not pray through the suggestion of the flesh, but when God draws them. It is indeed true, that God has ever been invoked by all nations; but it was not the right way of praying, when they heedlessly cast their petitions into the air: and we also know, that the true God was not invoked by the nations; for there was no nation then in the world which had not formed for itself some idol. As then the earth was full of innumerable idols, God was not invoked except in Judea only. Besides, though the unbelieving had an intention to pray to God, yet they could not have prayed rightly, for prayer flows from faith. God then does not without reason promise, that he would turn pure lips to the nations; that is, that he would cause the nations to call on his name with pure lips. We hence then learn what I have stated—that God cannot be rightly invoked by us, until he draws us to himself; for we have profane and impure lips. In short, the beginning of prayer is from that hidden cleansing of the Spirit of which the Prophet now speaks.

But if it be God’s singular gift, to turn a pure lip to the nations, it follows that faith is conferred on us by him, for both are connected together. As God then purifies the hearts of men by faith, so also he purifies their lips that his name may be rightly invoked, which would otherwise be profaned by the unbelieving. Whenever they pretend to call on God’s name, it is certain that it is not done without profanation.

As to the word all, it is to be referred to nations, not to each individual; for it has not been that every one has called on God; but there have been some of all nations, as Paul also says in the first chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians 1 Corinthians 1:1: for in addressing the faithful, he adds, ‘With all who call on the name of the Lord in every place’—that is, not only in Judea; and elsewhere he says,

‘I would that men would stretch forth hands to heaven in every place.’
(1 Timothy 2:8.)

He afterwards adds, That they may serve him with one shoulder; that is, that they may unitedly submit to God in order to do him service; for to serve him with the shoulder is to unite together, so as to help one another. The metaphor seems to have been derived from those who carry a burden; for except each assists, one will be overpowered, and then the burden will fall to the ground. We are said then to serve God with one shoulder when we strive by mutual consent to assist one another. And this ought to be carefully noticed, that we may know that our striving cannot be approved by God, except we have thus the same end in view, and seek also to add courage to others, and mutually to help one another. Unless then the faithful thus render mutual assistance, the Lord cannot approve of their service. 115115     The expression “with one shoulder” is rendered by the Septuagint, “under one yoke”—ὑπὸ ζυγὸν ἕνα. The idea is that of oxen drawing together. To serve God under one yoke, is to do the same service unitedly. “A metaphor,” says Newcome, “from the joint efforts of yoked beasts.”—Ed.

We now see how foolishly they talk who so much extol free-will and whatever is connected with it: for the Lord demands faith as well as other duties of religion; and he requires also from all, love and the keeping of the whole law. But he testifies here that his name cannot be invoked, as the lips of all are polluted, until he has consecrated them, cleansing by his Spirit what was before polluted: and he shows also that men will not undertake the yoke, unless he joins them together, so as to render them willing. I must not proceed farther.

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