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God Pleads with Israel to Repent


The word of the L ord came to me, saying: 2Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the L ord:

I remember the devotion of your youth,

your love as a bride,

how you followed me in the wilderness,

in a land not sown.


Israel was holy to the L ord,

the first fruits of his harvest.

All who ate of it were held guilty;

disaster came upon them,

says the L ord.


4 Hear the word of the L ord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the L ord:

What wrong did your ancestors find in me

that they went far from me,

and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?


They did not say, “Where is the L ord

who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

who led us in the wilderness,

in a land of deserts and pits,

in a land of drought and deep darkness,

in a land that no one passes through,

where no one lives?”


I brought you into a plentiful land

to eat its fruits and its good things.

But when you entered you defiled my land,

and made my heritage an abomination.


The priests did not say, “Where is the L ord?”

Those who handle the law did not know me;

the rulers transgressed against me;

the prophets prophesied by Baal,

and went after things that do not profit.



Therefore once more I accuse you,

says the L ord,

and I accuse your children’s children.


Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,

send to Kedar and examine with care;

see if there has ever been such a thing.


Has a nation changed its gods,

even though they are no gods?

But my people have changed their glory

for something that does not profit.


Be appalled, O heavens, at this,

be shocked, be utterly desolate,

says the L ord,


for my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,

and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns

that can hold no water.



Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant?

Why then has he become plunder?


The lions have roared against him,

they have roared loudly.

They have made his land a waste;

his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.


Moreover, the people of Memphis and Tahpanhes

have broken the crown of your head.


Have you not brought this upon yourself

by forsaking the L ord your God,

while he led you in the way?


What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

Or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?


Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the L ord your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the Lord G od of hosts.



For long ago you broke your yoke

and burst your bonds,

and you said, “I will not serve!”

On every high hill

and under every green tree

you sprawled and played the whore.


Yet I planted you as a choice vine,

from the purest stock.

How then did you turn degenerate

and become a wild vine?


Though you wash yourself with lye

and use much soap,

the stain of your guilt is still before me,

says the Lord G od.


How can you say, “I am not defiled,

I have not gone after the Baals”?

Look at your way in the valley;

know what you have done—

a restive young camel interlacing her tracks,


a wild ass at home in the wilderness,

in her heat sniffing the wind!

Who can restrain her lust?

None who seek her need weary themselves;

in her month they will find her.


Keep your feet from going unshod

and your throat from thirst.

But you said, “It is hopeless,

for I have loved strangers,

and after them I will go.”



As a thief is shamed when caught,

so the house of Israel shall be shamed—

they, their kings, their officials,

their priests, and their prophets,


who say to a tree, “You are my father,”

and to a stone, “You gave me birth.”

For they have turned their backs to me,

and not their faces.

But in the time of their trouble they say,

“Come and save us!”


But where are your gods

that you made for yourself?

Let them come, if they can save you,

in your time of trouble;

for you have as many gods

as you have towns, O Judah.



Why do you complain against me?

You have all rebelled against me,

says the L ord.


In vain I have struck down your children;

they accepted no correction.

Your own sword devoured your prophets

like a ravening lion.


And you, O generation, behold the word of the L ord!

Have I been a wilderness to Israel,

or a land of thick darkness?

Why then do my people say, “We are free,

we will come to you no more”?


Can a girl forget her ornaments,

or a bride her attire?

Yet my people have forgotten me,

days without number.



How well you direct your course

to seek lovers!

So that even to wicked women

you have taught your ways.


Also on your skirts is found

the lifeblood of the innocent poor,

though you did not catch them breaking in.

Yet in spite of all these things


you say, “I am innocent;

surely his anger has turned from me.”

Now I am bringing you to judgment

for saying, “I have not sinned.”


How lightly you gad about,

changing your ways!

You shall be put to shame by Egypt

as you were put to shame by Assyria.


From there also you will come away

with your hands on your head;

for the L ord has rejected those in whom you trust,

and you will not prosper through them.


The Prophet here shews that the Jews were possessed of such a brazen front, that they could not be led by any admonitions to feel any shame. Though then they were like adulterous women, and though they gave meretricious hire to such as they ran to in all parts, and though also they had murdered the prophets and the pious ministers of God, yet they boasted, as persons conscious of no evil, that they were innocent.

Thou hast yet said; that is, “How darest thou to pretend to be innocent, since thou art proved to be guilty, not by allegations, but by manifest and glaring proofs?” In short, the Prophet shews that the condition of the people was past remedy, for they would not receive any admonition; nay, they dared, as it were with the front of brass, obstinately to boast that they were innocent: Thou hast said, (he still speaks of a woman, in the feminine gender,) Thou hast yet said, surely I am clean Thus hypocrites not only excuse themselves, and allege vain pretences, but dare to come forth publicly, and to fly as it were above the clouds, elated by their own self — confidence. “Who will dare to allege anything against me?” Thus hypocrites willfully and impertinently challenge all the servants of God and seek by their own presumption to close the mouth of all. The Prophet now condemns this petulancy in the Jews; for though they were manifestly proved guilty, yet they boastingly asserted that they were innocent. Only (אך, ak, I take here to mean only) depart, etc. The Prophet upbraids the Jews with another crime, — that they said, that wrong was done to them by God in seeking to bring them to a right mind by punishment and by reproofs. For God, as it is well known, had inflicted many punishments on the Jews, and had also added serious reproofs. He tried by these means to find out whether they were capable of being healed. What did they say? “I am innocent; and God is angry with me without a cause. Let him remove his anger from me;” that is, “only let not God deal severely with us, nor use his supreme authority, and we shall be able to prove our innocency.” Thus ungodly men, when urged with severe warnings, vomit forth their blasphemies against God, — “O what can I do? I know that I am not able to resist; God fights with a shadow when he afflicts me; his violence I must indeed bear though he may overwhelm me; yet he doeth me wrong: but were he to deal justly and fairly with me, I could prove that I do not deserve these evils.” Such then was the language of the Jews, — only depart let his fury from me, we could then shew that we are just, or at least excusable.

Now also in this part we perceive the design of the Prophet: it was to shew, that the Jews not only dared dishonestly and proudly to claim innocency for themselves, but hesitated not to contend with God, and to intimate that he with too much severity oppressed them, and did not treat them justly, but announced a cruel sentence for the purpose of overwhelming them.

Behold, he says, I will judge thee, because thou hast said, I have not sinned Some give this version, “I judge, or, condemn thee.” But there is here no doubt a contrast between the fury of God and his judgment. The people said, that God was too rigorous; this was his fury: God now mentions his judgment. “There is no reason,” he says, “for you to allege such a pretext as this, as it will vanish into nothing; for I will in judgment contend with you;” that is, “I will really prove that I am a just judge and not a tyrant, that I execute just punishments and according to the law, and that I am not like a man in anger, who takes vengeance on his enemies and does so precipitantly and rashly: I will shew,” he says, “that I am a just judge.”

We may hence gather a profitable instruction. Let it in the first place be observed, that nothing is so displeasing to God as this headstrong presumption, that is, when we seek to appear innocent, while our own conscience condemns us. Then in the second place observe, that all who thus perversely rebel and strive dishonestly and shamelessly to defend their own vices, contend at the same time with God: for false excuses have ever this tendency — to charge God with unjust severity. But we see what such men gain for themselves; for God shews that he will be at length their judge, and that he will openly discover the vices of those who thought that they could excuse themselves by evasions and by false charges against himself. They then who thus obstinately resist God, must at length, according to what the Prophet declares, come to this end, — that they will be constrained to acknowledge that God has not been too violently angry with them, but has only executed a just punishment. 6767     The literal rendering of this verse is as follows: —
   35. And thou hast said, “Verily I have been innocent; Surely turned away has he his anger from me:“ Behold I will contend in judgment with thee, On account of thy saying, “I have not sinned.”

   The Septuagint have rendered the second line, “Let his anger be turned away from me;” the Vulgate and the Arabic are the same. The Syriac is, “therefore he turns away his anger from me.” “Turned away is his anger,“ is the Targum, Piscator, Jun. and Trem. Blayney renders it, —

   Surely his wrath shall turn from me.

   There is no reason for construing the verb in the future tense, or in the imperative mood. It is in the past tense, and there is no other reading. The claim of innocency is made on the supposition that God had turned away his displeasure. Hence the declaration that follows — that God would contest the matter — would bring it as it were into trial, as the verb here when in Niphal means. — Ed.

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