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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.

The Prophet goes on with the same subject. He had said before that the people were like an unfaithful wife, who having left her husband rambles here and there to gratify her lusts. For this view he now gives the reason; for he might have appeared to treat the people too severely, had not the fact been pointed out as it were by the finger; and this he does now. He says, that they ran here and there, not in a common manner, but in a way to render evident their shameful levity, such as is seen in strumpets, who without any shame seek either adulterers or fornicators.

But I have already briefly shewn what the Prophet means: When any danger was nigh, the Jews sought aid, now in Egypt, then in Assyria. Yet they knew that this was forbidden them; not that it was in itself an evil or a bad thing to seek help from neighbors; but because it was God’s will that the safety and security of that people should be dependent on him only; for he had taken them under his safeguard. As then the Jews were God’s dependents, they ought to have acquiesced in his protection. When they wandered here and there, it was an evidence of unbelief; and what they attributed to the Egyptians or to Assyrians, they took away from their own God, who had promised that their safety would be the object of his care. Hence he compares these movements to wanton levity; they were like those of strumpets, who ramble in all directions. Now a strumpet must be wholly shameless, when she thus seeks the gratification of her lust: for harlots often wait for the coming of lovers; but when they ramble everywhere, they are altogether abominable. This then is what the Prophet now means, that is, that the Jews ran here and there; and thus it was, that they changed their ways

There remains indeed often in harlots some natural love; but it is a proof of a brutish, shameless, and monstrous lust, when a woman seeks the company of any one she may see, or when a man lusts after any woman he may meet with. When there is such a shamelessness as this, it appears that no modesty remains, nor even what is natural; for as I have already said, it ought to be deemed monstrous, when a woman is inflamed with lust at the sight of any one. And yet this lewdness is what the Prophet reprobates in the Jews when he says, that they ran here and there to change their ways: so that their love never continued, but they lusted after any they met with; nay, they went here and there to allure them. This subject is spoken of oftener and more at large by Ezekiel; and we shall find this comparison used also in other parts of this book. But it is enough for me to mention briefly the design of the Prophet. 6868     The idea of gadding, or of running here and there, is not countenanced by any of the early versions. The notion of vileness or degradation is what the versions convey. The Vulgate is, —
   Quinn vilis factus es nimis, iterans vias tuas!
How extremely worthless art thou become, iterating thy ways!

   The other versions are nearly of the same general import. Blayney’s version is, —

   Why wilt thou make thyself exceedingly vile, In repeating over again thy ways?

   Modern critics have considered the verb to be אזל, and not זל. It no doubt may be either. As shame is threatened at the end of the verse, the latter verb is the most suitable, —

   Why shouldest thou become wholly degraded By repeating thy course?
Even by Egypt shalt thou be put to shame, As thou hast been put to shame by Assyria.

   “Course,” or way, means here a proceeding, and to repeat it is to pursue a course similar to what had been previously adopted. — Ed.

He then adds, Ashamed shalt thou also be of the Egyptians, as ashamed thou hast been of the Assyrians Before the time of Hezekiah, the Jews had made a treaty with the Assyrians against the Syrians and the Israelites, as it is well known; and then against the Egyptians; for soon after a war arose between them and the Egyptians, who had been their confederates, and changing their policy, they went for help to Assyria. They afterwards reconciled themselves to their ancient enemies; but this second treaty also turned out unhappily. Hence the Prophet says, that the end would be the same with what they had before experienced. God had indeed chastised their ungodly defection when they went to Assyria. He now says, that no better success would attend the help of the Egyptians than what attended the help of the Assyrians. The Jews, we know, were ever subjected to plunder, and suffered more loss from their associates than from their open enemies. It was the just reward of their impiety and defection. God then declares that he would be the avenger of this second defection, as he had been of the former. It follows —


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