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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.


He afterwards more fully confirms the same by saying, I will be; and then he says, Thy king, where is he? By saying, ‘I will be,’ God retreats what he had before declared, that he would always be the same; for, as James says

‘No overshadowing happens to him,’ (James 1:17.)

Hence ‘I will be;’ that is, “Though the Israelites rail against me, that I do not pursue my usual course of kindness, it is yet most false; for I remain ever the same, and am always ready to show kindness to men; for I do not, as I have elsewhere declared, forsake the works of my hands, (Psalm 138:8.) Seeing then that I thus continue my favour towards men, it must be that the way to my favour is closed up by their wickedness. Let them therefore examine themselves, when they cry and I answer not. When in their evils they in a manner pine away, and find no relief, let them acknowledge it to be their own fault; for I would have made myself the same as ever I have been, and they would have found me a deliverer, had not a change taken place in them.” We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet in the ninth verse, and as to the expression, אהי, aei, I will be, in the verse which follows.

He then says, Where is thy king? God again reproaches the Israelites for having reposed their confidence in their king and other earthly helps, by which they thought themselves to have been well fortified. Where is thy king? he says. He derides the Israelites; for they saw that their king was now stripped of every power to help, and that all their princes were destitute both of prudence and of all other means. Since then there was no protection from men, the Prophet shows now that Israel had but a vain trust, when they thought themselves safe under the shadow of their king, when they considered themselves secure as long as they were governed by prudent men. All these things, he says, are vain. But we must ever bear in mind what he had said before I will be; for had not this shield been set up, hypocrites would have ever said in return, “Where now is God? What is his purpose? Why does he delay?” Hence God mentioned before that he was ready to help them, but that they by their wickedness had closed up the way.

But he further derides them for having in vain placed their hope and their help in their king and princes. Where is thy king, he says, that he may save thee in all thy cities? It is not without reason that the Prophet mentions cities, because the Israelites despised all threatening, while their cities were on every side unassailable and strong to keep out enemies. Hence when God threatened them by his Prophets, they regarded what was said to them as fables, and thus defended themselves, “How can enemies assail us? Though there were hundred wars nigh at hand, have we not cities which can resist the onsets of enemies? We shall therefore dwell in safety, and enjoy our pleasures, though God should shake heaven and earth.” Since then they were so inebriated with this false confidence, the Prophet now says, “I know that you excel in having great and many cities; but as you deem them as your protection, God will show that this hope is vain and deceptive. Where then is thy king, that he may save thee in thy cities? And though thy king be well furnished with an army and with defences, it will yet avail thee nothing, when God shall once rise up against thee.”

But he subjoins, And thy judges of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes? Here the Prophet ascends higher; for he shows that the people of Israel had not only sinned in this respect, that they had placed their hope in their king, and in other helps; but that they had also chosen for themselves a king, whom God had not approved. For David, we know, was anointed for this end, that he might unite together the whole body of the people; and God intended that his Church and chosen people should remain under one head, that they might be safe. It was therefore an impious separations when the ten tribes wished for themselves a new king. How so? Because a defection from the kingdom of David was as it were a denial of God. For if it was said to Samuel,

‘Thee have they not rejected, but me,
that I should not reign over them,’ (1 Samuel 8:7,)

it was certainly more fully verified as to David. We now then see what the Prophet meant: after having inveighed against the false confidence of the people for thinking that they were safe through the power of their king, he now adds, “I will advance to another source: for thou didst not then begin to sin, when thou didst transfer the glory of God to the king, but when thou didst wish to have a kingdom of thine own, being not content with that kingdom which he had instituted in the person of David.” The Prophet does now then accuse the people of defection, when a new king, that is, Jeroboam, was elected by them. For though it was done according to the certain purpose of God, as we have elsewhere observed, yet this availed nothing to alleviate the fault of the people; for they, as far as they could, renounced God. As the foot, if cut off from the body, is not only a mutilated and useless member, but immediately putrefies; so also was Israel, being like a half part of a torn and mutilated body; and they must have become putrified, had they not been miraculously preserved. But at the same time God here justly condemns that defection, that Israel, by desiring a new king, had broken asunder the sacred unity of the Church and introduced an impious separation.

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