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2. Israel Forsakes God

Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. 3Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. 4Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:

5Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain? 6Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt? 7And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination. 8The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

9Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead. 10For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. 13For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

14 Is Israel a servant? is he a homeborn slave? why is he spoiled? 15The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. 16Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. 17Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way? 18And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? 19Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

20For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot. 21Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? 22For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much sope, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD. 23How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways; 24A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her. 25Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst: but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go. 26As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets, 27Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us. 28But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah. 29Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the Lord. 30In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.

31O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee? 32Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number. 33Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways. 34Also in thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these. 35Yet thou sayest, Because I am innocent, surely his anger shall turn from me. Behold, I will plead with thee, because thou sayest, I have not sinned. 36Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria. 37Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the Lord hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.

These verses are to be read together; for the Prophet first shews that Israel was not as to his original condition miserable, but that this happened through a new cause, and then he mentions the cause. He then first asks, whether Israel was a servant or a slave? God had adopted them as his people, and had promised to be so bountiful to them as to render them in every way happy; and what was more, as a proof of their happiness, he said, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:14.) We then see what was the original condition of Israel; they excelled all other nations, because they were God’s peculiar people, they were his heritage, they were a royal priesthood.

Hence the Prophet, as though astonished at something new and strange, asks this question, Is Israel a servant? He was free beyond all nations; for he was the first — born son of God: it was therefore necessary to inquire for the cause why he was so miserable; for he says afterwards, that lions roared against him, and sent forth their voice; he says, that their cities were burnt, or destroyed; he says, that their land was reduced to desolation; and at length he adds, Has not this done these things to thee? This again is put as a question, but it is doubly affirmative, for it takes away every doubt: “What do you say is the cause why you are so miserable? for all are hostile to you, and you are exposed to the wrongs of all: whence can you say has all this proceeded, except from your own wickedness?” We now see what the Prophet means.

But that what he says may be more clear, we must remember that he reminds the people, by way of reproach, of the benefits which God had conferred on them. As then the children of Abraham had been honored with so many singular favors that they had the preeminence over all the world, this dignity is now referred to, but only for the purpose of exposing their base conduct, as though he had said, “God did not deceive you, when he promised to be bountiful to you; his adoption is not deceptive nor in vain: hence you would have been happier than all other nations, had not your own wickedness rendered you miserable.” We now see for what end the Prophet asked, Is Israel a servant or a slave? They were indeed on an equality with other people, as they were by nature; but as they had been chosen by God, and as he had favored them with that peculiar privilege, the Prophet asks, whether they were servants, as though he had said, “What is it that prevents that blessedness to appear among you, which God has promised? for it was not God’s design to disappoint you: it then follows that you are miserable through your own fault.” 4141     The difficulty of understanding this passage has arisen from not considering the questions in a negative sense, as implying a strong denial-”Is Israel a servant (or, rather a slave)?” No, by no means. “Is he one begotten in the house,” that is, in a state of bondage? No, by no means. Then the following question comes naturally; since he is neither a purchased slave, nor a slave born in the house, “why has he become a prey?” That there were two sorts of slaves of this kind is evident from many parts of Scripture. See Genesis 17:12, Genesis 17:23, Genesis 17:27; Exodus 21:4; Leviticus 22: 11. This is the view taken evidently in our version, by Jun and Trem., Piscator, Gataker, Grotius, Henry, and Scott.
   Blarney renders the two first lines thus, —

   Is Israel a slave? or if a child of the household, Wherefore is he exposed to spoil?

   He considers “the child of the household” to be the son and the heir, as Isaac was, and refers to Galatians 4:7. Horsley coincides with him. But the usus loquendi gives no countenance to this view, while it confirms the other. To refer to filiusfamilias in Latin is to no purpose. “The child of the house,” as the expression literally is, and similar phrases, ever mean in Scripture those who were born slaves in a family. — Ed.

And by saying, Why is he become a prey, he intimates that except Israel had been deprived of God’s protection, they would not have been thus exposed to the caprice of their enemies. They were not then become a prey except for this reason, because God had forsaken them, according to what is said in the song of Moses,

“How should one chase a thousand, and ten should put to flight as many thousands, except God had given us up as captives, except we had been shut up by his hand.”
(Deuteronomy 32:30.)

For Moses in that passage does also in an indirect manner remind the people how often and how wonderfully God had given them victories over their enemies, and thus he leaves it to their posterity, when in distress, to consider how the change came that one should chase a thousand; that is, how could it be, that they, possessing great forces, should yet be put to flight by their enemies; for they were not wont to turn their backs, but to conquer their enemies: it then follows, that they were made captives by God, and not by the men who chased them. So also here the Prophet shews, that Israel would not have been made a prey, had they not been deprived of God’s assistance.

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