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Israel’s Futile Idolatry


The righteous perish,

and no one takes it to heart;

the devout are taken away,

while no one understands.

For the righteous are taken away from calamity,


and they enter into peace;

those who walk uprightly

will rest on their couches.


But as for you, come here,

you children of a sorceress,

you offspring of an adulterer and a whore.


Whom are you mocking?

Against whom do you open your mouth wide

and stick out your tongue?

Are you not children of transgression,

the offspring of deceit—


you that burn with lust among the oaks,

under every green tree;

you that slaughter your children in the valleys,

under the clefts of the rocks?


Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion;

they, they, are your lot;

to them you have poured out a drink offering,

you have brought a grain offering.

Shall I be appeased for these things?


Upon a high and lofty mountain

you have set your bed,

and there you went up to offer sacrifice.


Behind the door and the doorpost

you have set up your symbol;

for, in deserting me, you have uncovered your bed,

you have gone up to it,

you have made it wide;

and you have made a bargain for yourself with them,

you have loved their bed,

you have gazed on their nakedness.


You journeyed to Molech with oil,

and multiplied your perfumes;

you sent your envoys far away,

and sent down even to Sheol.


You grew weary from your many wanderings,

but you did not say, “It is useless.”

You found your desire rekindled,

and so you did not weaken.



Whom did you dread and fear

so that you lied,

and did not remember me

or give me a thought?

Have I not kept silent and closed my eyes,

and so you do not fear me?


I will concede your righteousness and your works,

but they will not help you.


When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!

The wind will carry them off,

a breath will take them away.

But whoever takes refuge in me shall possess the land

and inherit my holy mountain.


A Promise of Help and Healing


It shall be said,

“Build up, build up, prepare the way,

remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”


For thus says the high and lofty one

who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

I dwell in the high and holy place,

and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,

to revive the spirit of the humble,

and to revive the heart of the contrite.


For I will not continually accuse,

nor will I always be angry;

for then the spirits would grow faint before me,

even the souls that I have made.


Because of their wicked covetousness I was angry;

I struck them, I hid and was angry;

but they kept turning back to their own ways.


I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;

I will lead them and repay them with comfort,

creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.


Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the L ord;

and I will heal them.


But the wicked are like the tossing sea

that cannot keep still;

its waters toss up mire and mud.


There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.


5. Inflaming yourselves. Others render it, “Taking delight” or “consolation;” but the Prophet makes use of a metaphor which is often found in Scripture, and which is exceedingly adapted to the present subject; for the Lord compares the ardor by which idolaters are hurried along to the love of a harlot, by which poor wretched men are inflamed so as to be transported with blind eagerness. (Jeremiah 3:1; Hosea 2:2; 4:5) Idolaters have no moderation, and do not permit themselves to be reclaimed from their madness by any arguments. In the sight of God idolatry is a very base kind of fornication.

Under the oaks, or, with the gods. Some translate אלים (elim) “gods,” and others “oaks.” 109109     See Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. 1, p. 84, n. 1. I leave every one at liberty to adopt either reading; for the meaning will always be the same, and commentators are agreed that the Prophet condemns idolatry. I do not dispute, therefore, about the reading; though it is probable that the same thing is twice repeated, in accordance with the practice of Hebrew writers, in a particular and in a general form, and yet that the Prophet, by means of an ambiguous word, alludes to “the gods.”

Sacrificing children. Here he bears still harder on the Jews, and shows that they are not the true seed of Abraham; seeing that they pollute themselves with superstitions of every kind. In consequence of the delight which the Jews took in such practices, he exposes their vileness. “You shelter yourselves, indeed, under the name of religion, but I declare that you commit fornication with idols.” In this manner it was proper to expose and freely to point out that wickedness which base and malicious men endeavor to cloak under various pretenses; and thus the Prophet boldly discharges his duty by summoning men to the judgment­seat of God, and holding them to be guilty, though they wish to take every method of excusing themselves. He shows that they are treacherous, and have departed from the law of God by abominable idolatry, and mentions one kind of shocking and even accursed and monstrous worship; namely, the “sacrificing of children,” from which it is very evident how powerful is the spirit of error, when men have once turned aside from God. Satan seizes their minds (2 Thessalonians 2:9) in such a manner that he drives them altogether to madness and rage. They who do not hesitate to slay their children, as if on the ground of its being a righteous sacrifice, must be in a state of furious madness.

And yet those cruel murderers of their children did not want some pretense; for they cloaked their crime under the example of Abraham, who did. not spare (Genesis 22:16) his only­begotten son; and the ancient Hebrew writers pronounce it to have been (κακοζηλία) a wicked imitation “If we are Abraham’s descendants, we ought not to spare our children.” But Abraham did this (Genesis 22:2) by the command of God; while they did it of their own accord, and without God’s command. It was an extraordinary example, by which the Lord intended to try and attest Abraham’s faith. Besides, Isaac was not sacrificed; for the Lord was satisfied with Abraham’s cheerful and ready will. (Genesis 22:12) They slew their children. It was, therefore, a perverse and damnable imitation, for they differed widely from their father This should be carefully observed; for a large portion of superstitions has proceeded from this source of (κακοζηλία) wicked imitation. Men have rashly and without discrimination seized on everything that was done by the fathers.

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