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God Challenges Israel


Hear what the L ord says:

Rise, plead your case before the mountains,

and let the hills hear your voice.


Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the L ord,

and you enduring foundations of the earth;

for the L ord has a controversy with his people,

and he will contend with Israel.



“O my people, what have I done to you?

In what have I wearied you? Answer me!


For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

and redeemed you from the house of slavery;

and I sent before you Moses,

Aaron, and Miriam.


O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,

what Balaam son of Beor answered him,

and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the saving acts of the L ord.”


What God Requires


“With what shall I come before the L ord,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?


Will the L ord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”


He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the L ord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?


Cheating and Violence to Be Punished


The voice of the L ord cries to the city

(it is sound wisdom to fear your name):

Hear, O tribe and assembly of the city!


Can I forget the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,

and the scant measure that is accursed?


Can I tolerate wicked scales

and a bag of dishonest weights?


Your wealthy are full of violence;

your inhabitants speak lies,

with tongues of deceit in their mouths.


Therefore I have begun to strike you down,

making you desolate because of your sins.


You shall eat, but not be satisfied,

and there shall be a gnawing hunger within you;

you shall put away, but not save,

and what you save, I will hand over to the sword.


You shall sow, but not reap;

you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;

you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.


For you have kept the statutes of Omri

and all the works of the house of Ahab,

and you have followed their counsels.

Therefore I will make you a desolation, and your inhabitants an object of hissing;

so you shall bear the scorn of my people.


And he points out what sort of punishment it would be; and he mentions even two kinds in this verse. He says first, Thou shalt eat, and shalt not be satisfied. One of God’s plagues, we know, is famine: and so the Prophet here declares, that the people would be famished, but not through the sterility of the fields. God indeed brings a famine in two ways: now the land yields no fruit; the corn withers, or, being smitten with hail, gives no fruit; and thus God by the sterility of the fields often reduces men to want and famine: then another mode is adopted, by which he can consume men with want, namely, when he breaks the staff of bread, when he takes away from bread its nourishing virtues so that it can no more support men, whatever quantity they may swallow; and this is what experience proves, if only we have eyes to observe the judgments of God. We now see the meaning of this clause, when he says, Thou shalt eat, and shalt not be satisfied; as though he said, “I can indeed, whenever it pleases me, deprive you of all food; the earth itself will become barren at my command: but that ye may more clearly understand that your life is in my hand, a good supply of fruit shall be produced, but it shall not satisfy you. Ye shall then perceive that bread is not sufficient to support you; for by eating ye shall not be able to derive from bread any nourishment.”

He then adds, And thy dejection 177177     Newcome, without the authority of a single MS., but following the Septuagint and Houbigant, has changed ישחך into יחשך, “it shall be dark.” Though the meaning of the passage is not thus materially affected, it is an alteration without sufficient reasons, there being no MS. in its favor, and no necessity arising from the passage itself: indeed, dejection or depression, or casting down, is more suitable to the context, and more emphatical. — Ed. shall be in the midst of thee; that is, though no man from without disturb or afflict thee yet thou shalt pine away with intestine evils. This is the real meaning; and interpreters have not sufficiently considered what the Prophet means, through too much negligence. But the passage ought to be noticed: for the Prophet, after having threatened a famine, not from want, but from the secret curse of God, now adds, Thy dejection shall be in the midst of thee; that is “Though I should rouse against thee no enemies, though evidences of my wrath should not appear, so as to be seen at a distance, yea, though no one should disturb thee, yet thy dejection, thy calamity, shall be in the midst of thee, as though it were cleaving to thy bowels; for thou shalt pine away through a hidden malady, when God shall pronounce his curse on thee.”

He now subjoins another kind of punishment, Thou shalt take hold, 178178     The verb is תסנ, which Henderson considers to be in Hephil, the י being left out, which is sometimes the case: with Drusius and others, he renders it, “remove,” that is not goods, as he says, but wives and children; for if any were for a time removed to a place of safety, they were afterwards to be given up to the sword. Several copies have ש instead of ס, which makes it to be the verb נשג, and this has the meaning of laying hold or apprehending. But either meaning will suit the context. — Ed. but shalt not deliver, and what thou shalt deliver, I will give up to the sword Some read, “A woman shall lay hold,” that is, conceive seed, “and shall not preserve it;” and then, “though she may bring forth in due time, I will yet give up what may be born to the sword.” But this meaning is too strained. Others apply the words to fathers, “Thou, father, shalt lay hold;” that is thou shalt endeavor to preserve thy children, “and thou shalt not preserve them.” But I wonder that interpreters have thus toiled in vain in a matter so simple and plain. For he addresses here the land, or he addresses the city: as though he said, “The city shall take hold,” or embrace, as every one does who wishes to preserve or keep any thing; for what we wish to keep safe, we lay hold on it, and keep it as it were in our arms; “and what thou shalt preserve, I will give up to the sword: thou wilt try all means to preserve thyself and thy people, but thou shalt not succeed: thou shalt then lose all thy labor, for though thou shouldest preserve some, yet the preserved shall not escape destruction.”

If any one prefers to refer what is said to women, with regard to conception, as the third person of the feminine gender is used, let him have his own opinion; for this sense may certainly be admitted, that is, that the Lord would render the women barren, and that what they might bring forth would be given up to the slaughter, inasmuch as the Lord would at length destroy with the sword both the parents and their children.

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