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57. God's Accusation Against Wicked

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. 2He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.

3But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore. 4Against whom do ye sport yourselves? against whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are ye not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood, 5Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks? 6Among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion; they, they are thy lot: even to them hast thou poured a drink offering, thou hast offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these? 7Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed: even thither wentest thou up to offer sacrifice. 8Behind the doors also and the posts hast thou set up thy remembrance: for thou hast discovered thyself to another than me, and art gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and made thee a covenant with them; thou lovedst their bed where thou sawest it. 9And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell. 10Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. 11And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fearest me not? 12I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.

13When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain; 14And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people. 15For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. 16For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. 17For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. 18I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. 19I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. 20But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

10. Thou art wearied. He means that men undertake superfluous and useless labors, when they do not follow God. They vex themselves in vain, as has been already said; for nothing that is attempted in opposition to God can ever be successful. Besides, he wittily ridicules the wicked practices of those who choose rather to waste themselves by incessant toil than to advance calmly wherever God calls them.

And hast not said, There is no hope; that is, “Although thou seest that thy labors are fruitless, yet thou obstinately perseverest and pursuest thy designs; whereas even fools, when they are unsuccessful, commonly repent.” Men must therefore be obstinate and desperate, when an unhappy and unsuccessful issue of their schemes does not sometimes lead them to ask themselves, What are you doing? Jeremiah glances at this obstinacy, hut in different words; for he says that the Jews were so fool­hardy as to say,

“We are undone, yet we will follow our own thoughts. This has been determined by us, and our opinion cannot be changed.” (Jeremiah 18:12)

But here he censures that stupidity which bewildered them so much that they could not acknowledge their folly and repent, and turn again to the right road.

Thou hast found the life of thine hand. “Life” is here supposed by some to mean “food; “as if the Prophet had said, “Thy labor was as delightful to thee as if thou wert gaining food for thyself by thy hand.” 111111     “Comme si tu eusses gaigne ta vie en travaillant de tes mains.” “As if thou hadst gained thy life by labouring with thy hands.” Others take “the life of the hand” to mean delight, or the highest pleasure; and both interpretations amount to the same thing.

But there is somewhat greater difficulty in the question, “Does he speak sincerely or ironically?” If the words be taken in the literal sense, the meaning will be, “Thou didst not grieve, because fortune appeared to favor thee for a time.” When unbelievers succeed to their wish, they encourage themselves the more in their unbelief, and, as the common saying is, “Men are blinded by prosperity.” But especially this happens when men have forsaken God, and abide by their own ways and schemes; for then they fearlessly despise God. But they may also be viewed as ironical, “How comes it that thou dost not retrace thy steps and repent? Why dost thou not acknowledge thy folly? Is it because thou hast life in thy hand, and because everything goes prosperously with thee? 112112     “Dathius thus translates the Hebrew text, ‘Thou hast found thy life, therefore thou dost not feel thy disease,’ and adds in a note, ‘The phrase, (thy life,) is used ironically by the Prophet to denote idols, which brought destruction instead of life to the people. He calls them the life of the hand for this reason, that they employed all their industry in making them.’ The simplest meaning appears to me to be, to take ‘the life of the hand’ as denoting either their strength or the supports of life procured by the hand; so that the meaning is, Still thou thinkest that by these thy labors thou wilt procure strength and assistance.” ­ Rosenmuller.

I prefer the latter interpretation, though I do not reject the former. It is plain enough from history that the Jews had no good reason for being proud of their prosperity or success; for the treaty into which they entered, first with the Egyptians, next with the Assyrians, and lastly with the Babylonians, was destructive and fatal to them; and they found by experience how rash they had been in calling allies to their aid; so that the Prophet justly taunts them with having found “the life of their hand.” Thus he heightens his description of the foolishness of this people, who willingly rush forward to their own destruction, and obstinately bring down ruin on themselves, when they ought, at least, like fools, to have gained wisdom by the misery which they had experienced.

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