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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.

Here again, the Prophet confirms what I have before stated, — that the people would at length find, willing or unwilling, what it was to deport from God; as though he had said, “As thou hast not hitherto learnt by so many evidences, that thy perfidy is the cause of all thy evils, God will heap evils on evils, that thou mayest at length know, even against thy will, that thou receivest, a reward due to thy wickedness.” This is the sum of the whole.

But he says first, chastise thee shall thy wickedness, as though he had said, that though God ascended not his tribunal, nor put forth his hand to punish the people, yet judgment would be evident in their very sins. And this is much more powerful, and has greater weight in it than if the Prophet had said only, that God would inflict on the people a just punishment; thy wickedness, he says, shall chastise thee; and a similar mode of speaking is adopted by Isaiah;

“Stand;” he says, “against thee shall thy wickedness,”
(Isaiah 3:9; Isaiah 59:12)

as though God had said, “If I were even to be silent and not to take upon me the office of a judge, and if there were no other accuser, and no one to plead the cause, yet stand against thee will thy wickedness, and fill thee with shame.” To the same purpose is what is said here, thy wickedness 4545     Blarney renders it “adversity.” That the word sometimes means that, is true, but most commonly wickedness; and this is the sense required by the context: it must be that which corresponds in character with the word that follows — apostasy, or turning aside. “Wickedness” is the meaning sanctioned by all the early versions, as well as modern. — Ed. shall chastise thee

But we must consider the reason why the Prophet said this. There were then, we know, complaints in the mouths of many, — that God was too rigid and severe. Since then they thus continually clamored against God; the Prophet repels such calumnies, and says that their wickedness was sufficient to account for the vengeance executed upon them. He says the same of their turnings aside; 4646     The word is singular in all the early versions. It is rendered “apostasy — ἀποστασία,” by the Septuagint, and, “turning aside — aversio,” by the Vulgate Though there is no MS. in favor of the singular, yet the verb connected with it is in that number. The true reading no doubt is according to the versions, confirmed as it is by the number of the verb. — Ed but what he had said generally before, he now expresses more particularly, — that the people had withdrawn themselves from the worship of God and obedience to him. He therefore points out here the kind of wickedness of which they were guilty, as though he had said that there was no need of an accuser, of witnesses, or of a judge, but that the defections of the people alone would sufficiently avail to punish them.

He afterwards adds, Thou shalt know and see how wicked and bitter it is to forsake Jehovah thy God These are words hard in their construction; but we have already explained the meaning; “Thy forsaking,” or thy defection, means, “that thou hast forsaken thy God.” And my fear was not on, or, in thee Here, again, the Prophet points out as by the finger the sins of the people. He had before spoken of their turnings aside; but he now mentions their defection, — that the people had plainly and openly departed from the true God. They, indeed, ever continued some kind of worship in the Temple: but as the whole of religion was corrupted by many superstitions, and as there was no fidelity, no sincerity; and as they mingled the worship of idols with that of the true God, they had dearly departed from God, who is jealous of his honor, according to what is in the law, and allows of no rivals. (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14) We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet.

He says, Thou shalt know that it is an evil and a bitter thing, etc. This must be applied to punishment; and he repeats what he had said before, — that the evils which the people then suffered did not happen by chance, and that as they were overwhelmed with many bitter sorrows, the cause was not to be sought afar off, for their bitterness, and whatever calamities they endured, flowed from their impiety. Thou shalt then know by the reward itself; even experience will convince thee what it is to depart from God; and he says, from Jehovah thy God, or, to forsake Jehovah thy God. For, if God had not made known his grace to the Israelites, their perverseness would not have been so detestable; but since they had found God to be a Father to them, and since he had so bountifully treated them, having been pleased to enter into a covenant with them, their wickedness was inexcusable.

And afterwards the person is changed, And my fear was not in thee Here at length the Prophet intimates, that they were destitute of every sense of religion; for by the fear of God is meant reverence for his name. Men often fall, we know, through mistake, and are deceived by the craft of Satan; and when made thus miserable they are to be pitied. But the Prophet shews here that the people were wholly undeserving of pardon. How so? Because there was no fear of God in them. “You cannot,” he says, “object and say, that you have been deceived, or make any pretense by which you may cover your wickedness: it is evident that you have acted shamelessly and basely in forsaking thy God, for there was no fear of God in you. 4747     The verse literally is as follows, —
   19. Chastise thee shall thy wickedness, And thy apostasy, it shall correct thee; Know then and see, That evil and bitter shall be Thy forsaking of Jehovah thy God; And my fear is not in thee, Saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts.

   The future is spoken of. They were warned; they were to know and see, or consider, that the forsaking of God, “the apostasy,” would be afflictive and bitter: and then the cause of the “wickedness” first mentioned is stated, no “fear” of God. How “wickedness” was to chastise them, and “apostasy” to correct them, is signified, — they would turn out to be “evil” — afflictive — hurtful, and “bitter” — grievous — painfully distressing. Hence Grotfius’s exposition cannot be right —”Thy wickedness shall be a proof that thou art justly punished.” The reference is to the very evils and miseries to which their “wickedness” and “apostasy” would inevitably lead them. Their foreign alliances were eventually the means of their degradation and misery; and in seeking them, they forsook God as their protector; and by adopting idols, they forsook him as the object of their worship. — Ed.
He subjoins at last, saith Jehovah of hosts: by which words the Prophet secures more authority to what he had announced; for what he had said must have been very bitter to the people: and many of them, no doubt, according to their usual manner, shook their heads; for we know how insolent were most of them. Hence the Prophet here openly declares, that he was not the author of what he had said, but only the proclaimer; that it proceeded from God, and that he had spoken nothing but what God himself had commanded.


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