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1. A Rebellious Nation

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 4Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

5Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. 7Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

10Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

16Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

21How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 22Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: 23Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. 24Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:

25And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 26And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. 27Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.

28And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. 29For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. 30For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. 31And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.

3. The ox knoweth his owner This comparison marks the more strongly the criminality of the revolt; for the Lord might have compared his people to the Gentiles; but he is still more severe when he compares them to dumb beasts, and pronounces them to be more stupid than the beasts are. Though beasts are destitute of reason and understanding, still they are capable of being taught; to such an extent, at least, as to recognize those who feed them. Since, therefore, God had not only fed this people at a stall, but had nourished them with all the kindness which is wont to be exercised by a father towards his sons, and had not only filled their bellies, but supplied them daily with spiritual food; having perceived them to be so exceedingly sluggish, he justly considers that they deserve to be taught in the school of beasts, and not of men; and therefore he sends them to the oven and asses to learn from them what is their duty. Nor ought we to wonder at this; for the beasts frequently observe the order of nature more correctly, and display greater kindness, than men themselves.

Not to multiply instances, it will be sufficient to notice that which is here mentioned by Isaiah, that the beasts, though they are exceedingly dull and stupid, do, notwithstanding, obey their masters and those who have the charge of them. But if we choose to attend to other points in which they excel men, how many shall we discover? What is the reason why scarcely any animal is cruel to its own species, and that it recognizes in another its own likeness? What is the reason why all animals commonly bestow so much care in rearing their young, while it frequently happens that mothers, forgetful of the voice of nature and of humanity, forsake their children? What is the reason why they are accustomed to take no more meat and drink than what is sufficient for sustaining their life and their strength, while men gorge themselves, and utterly ruin their constitutions? In a word, What is the reason why they do not, in any respect, transgress the laws which nature has prescribed to them?

The papists, who are accustomed to set aside the true meaning of the Scriptures, and to spoil all the mysteries of God by their own fooleries, have here contrived an absurd fable; for they have falsely alleged that the oxen and asses in the stall worshipped Christ when he was born; by which they show themselves to be egregious asses. (And indeed I wish that they would imitate the ass which they have invented; for then they should be asses worshipping Christ, and not lifting up the heel against his divine authority.) For here the Prophet does not speak of miracles, but of the order of nature, and declares, that those who overturn that order may be regarded as monsters. We must not contrive new miracles for the purpose of adding to the authority of Christ; for, by mingling the false with the true, there is danger lest both should be disbelieved; nor can there be any doubt but that, if such a miracle had been wrought, the Evangelists would have committed it to writing.

Israel doth not know. The name Israel, which he contrasts with those beasts, is emphatic. We know how honorable it was for the posterity of Abraham to be known by this name, which God had bestowed on the holy patriarch, because he had vanquished the angel in wrestling. (Genesis 32:28.) So much the more dishonorable was it for bastard and rebellious children to make false boasting of that honor. First, there is an implied reproof, not only because those who do not at all resemble the holy mall do wrong in assuming his name, but because they are ungrateful to God, from whom they had received most valuable blessings. Secondly, there is also conveyed an indirect comparison; for the higher their rank was in being far exalted above all other nations, so much the greater disgrace is flow intended to be expressed by separating them from other nations under the honorable designation of Israel

The Greek translators have added the word me 1313     ‘Ἰσραὴλ δέ με οὐκ ἔγνω, καὶ ὁ λαός με ού συνὢκενBut Israel doth not know me, and the people doth not understand me ; but I prefer to repeat what he had said before, Israel doth not know His Owner, that is, God; nor his crib, that is, the Church, in which he had been brought up, and to which he ought to be attracted; while those beasts, on the other hand, recognize the master by whom they are nourished, and willingly return to the place where they have been fed.


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