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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 goes on with the same subject; for God adduces here no small crime against his people, as they had buried his favom’s in oblivion. Indeed, a redemption so wonderful was worthy of being celebrated in all ages, not only by one nation, but by all the nations of the earth. As then the Jews had thus buried the memory of a favor so remarkable and valuable, their base impiety appeared evident. Had they not experienced the power and kindness of God, or had they only witnessed them in an ordinary way, their guilt might have been extenuated; but as God had from heaven made an unusual display of his power, and as his majesty had been manifested before the eyes of the people, how great was their sottishness in afterwards forgetting their God, who had openly and with such proofs made himself known to them!

We now then understand what the Prophet means by saying, they have not said: for God here sharply reproves the stupidity of the Jews, — that they did not consider that they were under perpetual obligations to him for his great kindness in delivering them in a manner so wonderful from the land of Egypt. By saying that they did not say, Where is Jehovah, he intimates that he was present with them and nigh them, but that they were blind, and that hence they were without an excuse for their ignorance, as he was not to be sought as one at a distance, or by means tedious and difficult. If then this only had come to their mind, “Did not God once redeem us?” they could not have departed after their vanities. How then was it that their error, or rather their madness, was so great that they followed idols? Even because they did not choose to make any effort, or to apply their minds to seek or to inquire after God.

Here then the Prophet meets the objection of the hypocrites, who might have said, that they had been deceived, and had relapsed through ignorance; for they have ever some evasions ready at hand, when they are called to an account for their sins. But lest the Jews should make any pretense of this kind, the Prophet here shews that they had not been through a mistake deceived, but that they had followed after falsehood through a wicked disposition, for they had willfully despised God and refused to inquire respecting him, though he was sufficiently nigh them.

This passage deserves to be especially noticed; for there is nothing more common than for the ungodly, when they are proved guilty, to have recourse to this subterfuge, — that they acted with good intention, when they gave themselves up to their own superstitions. The Prophet then takes off this mask, and shews that where God is once known, his name and his glory cannot be obliterated, except through the depravity of men, as they knowingly and willfully depart from him. Hence all apostates are by this one clause condemned, that they may no more dare to make evasions, as though they have been through more simplicity deceived: for when the matter is examined, their malignity and ingratitude are discovered, because they deign not to inquire, Where is Jehovah?

And he afterwards adds what explains this sentence. I have said that other nations are not here condemned, but the Jews, who had known by clear experience that God was their father. As then God had, by many testimonies, made himself known to them, they had no pretext for their ignorance. Hence the Prophet says, that they did not consider where God was who brought them from the land of Egypt, and made them to pass through the desert He could not have stated this indiscriminately of all nations; but, as it has been said, the words are addressed particularly to the Jews, who had clearly witnessed the power of God; so that they could not have sinned except willfully, even by extinguishing, through their own malignity, the light presented to them, which shone before their eyes. And here, also, the Prophet amplifies their guilt by various circumstances: for he says, not simply that they had been brought out of Egypt, but intimates that God had been their constant guide for forty years; for this time is suggested by the word “desert.” The history was well known; hence a brief allusion was sufficient. He, at the same time, by mentioning the desert, greatly extols the glory of God.

But the first thing to be observed is, that the Jews were inexcusable, who had not considered that their fathers had been wonderfully and in an unusual manner preserved by God’s hand for forty years; for they had no bread to eat, nor water to drink. God drew water for them from a rock, and satisfied them with heavenly bread; and their garments did not wear out during the whole time. We then see that all those circumstances enhanced their guilt. Then follows what I have referred to: the Prophet calls the desert a dry or a waste land, a dreary land, a horrible land, a land of deadly gloom, as though he had said, that the people had been preserved in the midst of death, yea in the midst of many deaths: for man was not wont to pass through that land, nor did any one dwell in it 3030     Though the general import of this verse is given, yet the version is not very accurate. I offer the following-
   And they have not said, “Where is Jehovah, Who brought us up from the land of Egypt, Who led us in the wilderness, Through a land of waste and of the pit, Through a land of drought and of the shadow of death, Through a land in which no man traveled, And no human being dwelt there?”

   The word “pit” is used poetically, the singular for the plural, and correctly rendered “pits” in our version. It is probably an allusion to the practice of digging pits and covering them over, in order to catch wild beasts; and the word is used here only to express hidden dangers. “The shadow of death” means a barren dreariness. After “land,” in the last line but one, אשר is supplied by three MSS., and by the Septuagint, though by no means in character with the Greek language; but the idiom of the Hebrew requires it, and is no doubt the true reading. I have rendered אדם in the last line, after Blayney, “human being.” The five last lines are thus given by the Septuagint,

   Who conducted you in the wilderness,
In a land unknown and inaccessible (
In a land without water and barren (
ἀκάρπῳ fruitless)
In a land through which no man passed,
And no son of man inhabited there.

   The word “barren” is rendered more literally by Theodotion, σκιασ θανάτου — of the shadow of death.” — Ed
“Whence then,” he says, “did salvation arise to you? from what condition? even from death itself: for what else was the desert but a horrible place, where you were surrounded, not only by one kind of death, but by a hundred? Since then God brought you out of Egypt by his incredible power, and fed you in a supernatural manner for forty years, what excuse can there be for so great a madness in now alienating yourselves from him?” Now this passage teaches us, that the more favors God confers on us, the more heinous the guilt if we forsake him, and less excusable will be our wickedness and ingratitude, especially when he has manifested his kindness to us for a long time and in various ways.

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