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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.


6. Amidst polished stones, or, in parts of the valley. He continues the same subject, and reproves in various ways the superstitions which abounded in Judea; for no place was altogether free from idolatry. There were no rocks, no rivers, no valleys, no corner whatever, in which they had not erected a monument of their superstition. They had their groves and mountains, in which they sacrificed after the manner of the Gentiles.

Whether we here adopt the reading, “Polished stones,” or “Parts of the river,” the meaning will be the same. The Prophet means that the Jews chose their own method of worshipping God, and turned aside from the rule which he had laid down in his Law; and consequently that every kind of worship which they followed by their own choice was abominable and wicked; for in religion and in the worship of God it is only to the voice of God that we ought to listen. If it be thought preferable to render it “polished stones,” then Isaiah rebukes the contempt of the Law by which God forbade the use of hammers, (Exodus 20:25) in hewing or chiselling the stones to be employed in building the altar; for he did not wish that sacrifices should be offered on any but one altar. But as it was customary with the Gentiles to dedicate temples near fountains and rivers, the other meaning will be equally appropriate.

They, they are thy lot. The repetition of “they, they” is highly emphatic. A word may be supplied by way of permission, as if the Lord permitted the Jews to abide by their practices, since they had forsaken him and preferred idols and false worship; as it is said, “Go, sacrifice to idols.” (Ezekiel 20:39) I am disposed to favor this reading; as if he had said, “I leave to you your inventions, and willingly permit you to be entirely devoted to them, and relinquish my right; for I have nothing to do with traitors and apostates.” And yet he undoubtedly alludes to that passage in the writings of Moses, by whose mouth God said that he would be the inheritance of his people, so that they ought to be satisfied with having him alone. (Numbers 18:20) This was also followed by David, who says, “The Lord is my portion, my inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5) Since, therefore, the Jews had revolted from God, and had followed idols, the Lord justly commanded them to keep the idols to themselves, and intimated that he would have nothing in common with them.

Even to them hast thou poured a drink-offering. He proceeds in enumerating superstitions, and confirms the statement that he has been rejected and cast off by them; for they alienated to false gods what he wished to belong to himself alone. The Jews might have replied to every word of the Prophet, that they had no other intention than to worship God. But the Prophet pays no regard to such idle and frivolous pretenses; for the wrath of God is provoked by false worship, and is the more inflamed by it in proportion as it is more constant and longer continued. Hence we learn what sobriety we ought to observe in the worship of God, that we may depend on his word alone; for whosoever shall swerve from it in the smallest degree, will not only lose his labor, but will kindle the wrath of God, whose majesty he wickedly insults and does all that is in his power to lessen.

Shall I take pleasure in these things? It might also be translated, “Shall I repent?” This interpretation has been most generally adopted, because he wishes to assign a reason why he punishes the people. As if he had said, “When I take vengeance for these transgressions, is it possible that I shall repent?“ Yet the interpretation which I have followed appears to me preferable, “Shall I take delight, or consolation, from those sacrifices which thou hast offered to me?” For idolaters commonly take delight in their own inventions, and imagine that God also is delighted with everything that they pursue with mad and furious eagerness. Nor is such a question superfluous; for men think that God is like themselves, and will approve of everything that is agreeable to them. On the contrary, he declares that nothing is approved by him, or is acceptable to him, but what agrees with his word. 110110     “Jehovah adds a question, ‘Should I take consolation in these things?’ Should I shake off from my mind, and bury in oblivion, my indignation which arises from your heinous crimes, so as to allow them to pass unpunished? The meaning has been accurately expressed by the Septuagint, ἐπὶ τούτοις οὖς οὐκ ὀργισθήσομαι; ‘Shall I not be enraged on account of these things?’ which has been followed by Jerome, ‘Nunquid super his non indignabor?‘“ ­ Rosenmuller

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