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Unfaithful Israel


If a man divorces his wife

and she goes from him

and becomes another man’s wife,

will he return to her?

Would not such a land be greatly polluted?

You have played the whore with many lovers;

and would you return to me?

says the L ord.


Look up to the bare heights, and see!

Where have you not been lain with?

By the waysides you have sat waiting for lovers,

like a nomad in the wilderness.

You have polluted the land

with your whoring and wickedness.


Therefore the showers have been withheld,

and the spring rain has not come;

yet you have the forehead of a whore,

you refuse to be ashamed.


Have you not just now called to me,

“My Father, you are the friend of my youth—


will he be angry forever,

will he be indignant to the end?”

This is how you have spoken,

but you have done all the evil that you could.


A Call to Repentance

6 The L ord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? 7And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. 8She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. 9Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the L ord.

11 Then the L ord said to me: Faithless Israel has shown herself less guilty than false Judah. 12Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:

Return, faithless Israel,

says the L ord.

I will not look on you in anger,

for I am merciful,

says the L ord;

I will not be angry forever.


Only acknowledge your guilt,

that you have rebelled against the L ord your God,

and scattered your favors among strangers under every green tree,

and have not obeyed my voice,

says the L ord.


Return, O faithless children,

says the L ord,

for I am your master;

I will take you, one from a city and two from a family,

and I will bring you to Zion.


15 I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the L ord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the L ord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. 17At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the L ord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the L ord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. 18In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.



I thought

how I would set you among my children,

and give you a pleasant land,

the most beautiful heritage of all the nations.

And I thought you would call me, My Father,

and would not turn from following me.


Instead, as a faithless wife leaves her husband,

so you have been faithless to me, O house of Israel,

says the L ord.



A voice on the bare heights is heard,

the plaintive weeping of Israel’s children,

because they have perverted their way,

they have forgotten the L ord their God:


Return, O faithless children,

I will heal your faithlessness.


“Here we come to you;

for you are the L ord our God.


Truly the hills are a delusion,

the orgies on the mountains.

Truly in the L ord our God

is the salvation of Israel.

24 “But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our ancestors had labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us; for we have sinned against the L ord our God, we and our ancestors, from our youth even to this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of the L ord our God.”


Interpreters have perverted this verse, for none of them have understood the design of the Prophet. The Jews, for the most part, have adduced frigid and far — fetched glosses, — that they would no more bring out to battles the Ark of the Covenant, as no enemy would invade their land. They think then that a peaceable state is promised to the people, as they would be constrained by no hostile force to carry the Ark of the Covenant here and there. But we clearly see that the words mean no such thing: it is then a comment wholly foreign to the subject. Others say, that what is said must be applied to the time of the Messiah, and none even of the Jews deny this; for it afterwards follows, that the Israelites would return with the tribe of Judah. This had not yet been fulfilled; it hence follows, that the Prophet here predicts of the kingdom of Christ. But the Jews, while allowing this, do not understand that anything is said of the abrogation of legal ceremonies; it has yet been thought by almost all Christians, that the Prophet here teaches us, that when Christ should come, an end would be put to all the shadows of the law, so that there would be no more any Ark of the Covenant, as the fullness of the Godhead would dwell in Christ.

This indeed is a view which seems plausible, but the meaning of the Prophet, as I think, is wholly different: for he refers here to that divorce or division which had for a long time existed between the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. Though the kingdom of Israel, as to the number of its men, largeness of territory and wealth, was more flourishing and prosperous than the kingdom of Judah; yet there remained these advantages to the Jews, — that they had a Temple built according to God’s command, — that its place had been chosen by God, — that they had the Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of God’s presence. Hence there was contention between the kingdom of Judah and the ten tribes: the Israelites were elated on account of their number and their riches, and other temporal advantages; and the Jews gloried in their Temple and the Ark of the Covenant. And what now does the Prophet say? He declares that such would be the concord between the Israelites and the Jews, that the Jews would no more say, “The Ark of the Covenant,” “The Temple of God;” for God would be present with them all. And the Prophet proceeds to confirm more fully what I have just said: it is therefore necessary to add the two following verses. He then says —

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