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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.

11. And whom hast thou worshipped and feared? Here he breaks out more vehemently against the Jews, because they were destitute of the fear of God, though they boasted of their holiness and sheltered themselves under an empty title of religion. Not only do hypocrites flatter themselves in their superstitions, but they are likewise regarded by the common people as holy and pious; and, therefore, they act haughtily and insolently towards God and men. But the Prophet declares that true fear of God cannot exist, where the worship is not pure and agreeable to his word. All the opinions entertained by men, as to the plausible forms of worship observed by superstitious persons, are absolute wickedness and folly, he declares, therefore, that there is no fear of him and no religion among them, although they are greatly delighted with their masks.

What is more, by their religious ceremonies, as manifest proofs, they show that they have no reverence or fear of God; for God testifies, by Moses, that he makes trial whether or not they love him with all their heart, when he permits superstition and idolatry to be introduced by the false prophets. (Deuteronomy 13:3) All that fly to them, therefore, show that they are altogether destitute of the fear of God; for, if they considered that they must one day give an account to him, they would not so daringly trample under foot his commandments.

And hast not remembered me. When he complains of having been forgotten, he shows that it was through obstinate wickedness that they fought against God, and not through ignorance that they wandered from him; because, having a sure rule of leading a holy life, they willingly revolted from him, and broke the promise which they had made to him. We ought to consider diligently how dreadful is the thunder launched against hypocrites, who mock at all threatenings, and cover themselves by vain disguises, when he declares that they are destitute of the fear of God, and that they are liars and have forgotten him.

Is it not because I held my peace? 113113     “Have I not held my peace?” ­ (Eng. Ver.) Here I have thought it right to insert the word “because,” which needs to be supplied, in order to bring out more fully the Prophet’s meaning; for those who do not supply some word subject themselves to a vast amount of trouble in bringing out an exposition; and we know how frequently this mode of expression is employed by the Hebrew writers. He reproaches the Jews with having abused God’s forbearance and patience, by which their hearts ought rather to have been softened. But such is the wickedness of men, that it renders them bolder in transgression, and leads them to think that they may do what they please without being punished.

Accordingly, in the last clause of the verse I consider the particle ו (vau) to mean therefore. “And therefore thou dost not fear me, because I held my peace, whereas thou oughtest rather to have been melted by my goodness.” Hence we infer that the Jews could not complain of God’s excessive severity, since he bore patiently with them for a long time, and they grew worse and worse in consequence of having been exempted from punishment. It was therefore necessary that he should assume a totally different character, and punish them more severely for their iniquities.

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