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8. Sin and Punishment

At that time, saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of his princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: 2And they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth. 3And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the Lord of hosts.

4Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? 5Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. 6I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. 7Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. 8How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain. 9The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them? 10Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. 11For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. 12Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.

13I will surely consume them, saith the Lord: there shall be no grapes on the vine, nor figs on the fig tree, and the leaf shall fade; and the things that I have given them shall pass away from them. 14Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the Lord our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord. 15We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble! 16The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come, and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein. 17For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord.

18 When I would comfort myself against sorrow, my heart is faint in me. 19Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country: Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her king in her? Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities? 20The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. 21For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?

Though God had reminded his Prophet of the event, yet he still invites the Jews to repentance; not that there was any hope of restoring them to a right mind, (for he had said that they were wholly irreclaimable,) but that their perverseness might be less excusable; and it was also his object to afford some relief to the small number of the godly who still remained; for they had not all fallen away into impiety, though the great body of the people had become corrupt. God then, partly to aggravate the sin of the ungodly, and partly to provide for his faithful people, exhorts those to repentance, who were yet wholly intractable. And here we ought to consider that God’s goodness, when abused, brings a much heavier judgment. God does here in a manner contend with the wickedness of his people, by setting before them the hope of pardon, if they repented.

Thou shalt then say to them; that is, “Though I have already testified to thee that thy labor would be in vain, yet thou shalt not give over thy work.” Shall they who have fallen rise again? This sentence is variously explained; the greater part of interpreters confine it to the Jews only, “Shall the Jews who have fallen rise again?” As to the second clause, some give this explanation, “If Israel returns, will not God also return?” that is, from his wrath, or, “Will he not be propitious?” Or, “If Israel turns away, will not God also turn away?” Others understand both parts of the sentence of the people, “If the people have once turned away, will they not yet return to God?” For the verb שוב, shub, has contrary meanings; it means, to fall away, to rebel, to go back; and it means also to return. But after having maturely considered the words and the design of the Prophet, I think it to be a general statement, as though he had said, “When any one falls, he immediately thinks of recovering his fall; when any one deviates from the right course, being warned of his going astray, he immediately looks for the road. This is what is usually done, what then means this so great a stupidity, that the people of Jerusalem do not repent, when yet they ought to have long ago acknowledged their fall and their wanderings?”

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