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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.

This verse is differently explained: but the Prophet simply means; that the Jews were like lascivious women, who not only despise their husbands at home, but ramble here and there in all directions, and also paint their faces and seek for themselves all the charms of wantonness. He says that the Jews had acted in this way; and hence he says that they made beautiful their ways The verb in Hebrew has a wide meaning: it means to prepare, to conciliate favor. But its import here is, as though the Prophet had said, “Why dost thou disguise and paint thyself like strumpets, who use many artifices to allure young men and to inflame their lusts? why then dost thou undertake so much labor to gain a meretricious hire?” We shall hereafter see why he says this; for he upbraids them for applying to the Assyrians and the Egyptians.

It was a common thing with the Prophets to compare the people to lovers; for the Jews, while they ought to have been firmly attached to God, (like a chaste woman, who does not turn her eyes here and there, nor gad about, but has respect to her husband alone,) thought to seek safety now from the Assyrians, then from the Egyptians. This sinful disposition is then what the Prophet here condemns; and hence he speaks of them metaphorically as of an adulterous woman, who despises her husband and rambles after any she can find, and seeks wanton and silly young men in all places, and subjects herself to the gratification of all. We now then understand what the Prophet means.

The words must be noticed: he says, Why makest thou fine thy ways? But he refers here to the care which a wanton woman takes to adorn her person, as though he had said, “Why dost thou thus prepare thyself? and why dost thou seek for thyself what is splendid and elegant, that thy appearance may deceive the eyes of the simple?” For the Jews might have remained safe and secure under God’s protection, and might have been so without any calamity. As a husband is content with the beauty of his wife, and seeks no adventitious and refined elegancies; so God required nothing from that people except fidelity, like a husband, who requires chastity in his wife. The meaning then is, — “As a wife, really attached to her husband, has no need to undergo much labor, for she knows that her own native beauty pleases him, nor does she labor much to gain the heart of her husband, for the best recommendation is her chastity; so ye might have lived without any trouble by only serving me and keeping my law: but now what is your chastity? ye are like wanton women, who labor to gain the hearts of adulterers; for as they burn with lust, so there is no end nor limits to their attempts to seek embellishments; and they torment themselves, only that they might attach adulterers to themselves. Such then are ye (says God;) for ye spend much care and labor in seeking for yourselves strange lovers.”

He afterwards adds, Therefore thou hast also taught lewdnesses He alludes to the words he had before used, Thou hast made fine (or fair) thy ways: and now he says, thou hast also taught wickednesses by thy ways He declares that the Jews were worse than the Assyrians and the Egyptians, as a lascivious woman is far worse than all the adulterers whom she captivates as her paramours. For when a young man is not deceived, and the devil does not apply the fagot, he may continue chaste and pure; but when an impudent and wanton woman entices him, it is all over with him. The Prophet then says, that the Assyrians and the Egyptians were innocent when compared with his own nation. How so? “Because they have been led away,” he says, “by your allurements, like young men, who are destroyed by the fallacious ornaments of strumpets; for it is the same as though they had fallen into snares: the evil then has proceeded from you, and the fault lies with you. 6565     The exposition of this verse is no doubt materially correct. The words have been variously rendered, On the first clause there is a general agreement, The verb “taught” in the second, is in the first person in the received text; and to this reading Blayney gives the preference, and thus renders the line, —
   Therefore also have I taught calamities thy ways.

   That is, “that God had directed calamities where to find them.” But this is rather a remote idea. In favor of the second person, “thou hast taught,“ are several MSS., all the early versions and the Targum; and it is what has been by most adopted. “The wicked ones” of our version is a rendering not countenanced by any of the ancient versions, nor by the Targum; all render it evil or evils or wickednesses. — Ed.

We now understand the Prophet’s meaning: for he condemns the Jews, because they afforded an occasion of evil both to the Assyrians and to the Egyptians, while they of their own accord sought their favor. It now follows —

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