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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.


Some read the words in the future tense, “And they will observe the statutes of Omri,” etc., and gather this meaning, — that the Prophet now foresees by the Spirit, that the people would continue so perverse in their sins, as to exclude every hope that they could be reformed by any punishments. The meaning then would be, “The Lord has indeed determined to punish sharply and severely the wickedness of this people; but they will not repent; they will nevertheless remain stupid in their obstinacy, and go on in their superstitions, which they have learned from the kings of Israel.” There is however another view, and one more generally approved and that is, — that the Jews, having forsaken God, and despised his Law, had turned aside to the superstitions of the kingdom of Israel. Hence he says, that observed were the decrees of Omri, and every work of the house of Ahab Omri was the father of Ahab, who was made king by the election of the soldiers, when Zimri, who had slain the king, was rejected. When Omri bought Samaria, he built there a city; and to secure honor to it, he added a temple; and hence idolatry increased. Afterwards his son Ahab abandoned himself to every kind of superstition. Thus matters became continually worse. Hence the Prophet, by mentioning here king Omri and his posterity, (included in the words, “the house of Ahab”) clearly means, that the Jews who had purely worshipped God, at length degenerated, and were now wholly unlike Israelites, as they had embraced all those abominations which Omri and his son Ahab had devised. True religion as yet prevailed in the tribe of Judah, though the kingdom of Israel was become corrupt, and filthy superstitions had gained the ascendancy: but in course of time the Jews became also implicated in similar superstitions. Of this sin the Prophet now accuses them; that is, that they made themselves associates with the Israelites: Observed 179179     The verb, ישתמר, is in the singular, and is followed by its nominative case, which is in the plural number. Grammarians are at a loss to account for this, and hence propose several modes of construction. But it is evidently an anomalous idiom, somewhat similar to that in Greek, when plural neuters take a verb in the singular number. As it has been already observed, such a construction as we find here, is very common in the Welsh language. The verb is in Hithpael, the reflective mood, the ת, as often the case, changing place with the first letter of the verb. It is not always that this mood is reflective, but is sometimes passive, as we find to be the case with סתר, in Isaiah 29:14, and עבר, in Deuteronomy 3:26. And so here it does not retain its reflective meaning. But it may be, that intensity, diligence, or earnestness, is intended to be conveyed; that is, that the statutes of Omri were diligently and carefully observed. — Ed. then are the edicts of Omri, and the whole work of the house of Ahab: Ye walk, he says, (the future here means a continued act, as often elsewhere,) ye walk in their counsels.

It must be observed, that the Prophet here uses respectable terms, when he says that הקעת, chekut, statutes or decrees, were observed; and when he adds, “the counsels” of the kings of Israel: but yet this is in no way stated as an excuse for them; for though men may not only be pleased with, but also highly commend, their own devices, yet the Lord abominates them all. The Prophet no doubt designedly adopted these words, in order to show that those pretenses were frivolous and of no account, which superstitious men adduce, either to commend or to excuse their own inventions. They ever refer to public authority, — “This has been received by the consent of all; that has been decreed; it is not the mistake of one or two men; but the whole Church has so determined: and kings also thus command; it would be a great sin not to show obedience to them.” Hence the Prophet, in order to show how puerile are such excuses, says, “I indeed allow that your superstitions are by you honorably distinguished, for they are approved by the edicts of your kings, and are received by the consent of the many, and they seem not to have been inconsiderately and unadvisedly, but prudently contrived, even by great men, who were become skillful through long experience.” But how much soever they might have boasted of their statutes and counsels, and however plausibly they might have referred to prudence and power in order to disguise their idolatries, yet all those things were of no account before God. By counsels, the Prophet no doubt meant that false kind of wisdom which always shines forth in the traditions of men; and by statutes, he meant the kingly authority.

We hence see that it is a vain thing to color over what is idolatrous, by alleging power on the one hand in its favor, and wisdom on the other. — How so? Because God will not allow dishonor to be done to him by such absurd things; but he commands us to worship him according to what is prescribed in his Word.

And now a denunciation of punishment follows, That I should deliver thee to desolation, and its inhabitants, etc. There is a change of person; the Prophet continually addresses the land, and under that name, the people, — that I should then deliver thee to exile, or desolation, and thine inhabitants to hissing It is a quotation from Moses: and by hissing he means the reproach and mockery to which men in a miserable state are exposed.

At last he adds, Ye shall bear the reproach of my people Some take the word, people, in a good sense, as though the Prophet had said here, that God would punish the wrongs which the rich had done to the distressed common people; but this view, in my judgment, is too confined. Others understand this by the reproach of God’s people, — that nothing would be more reproachful to the Jews, than that they had been the people of God; for it would redound to their dishonor and disgrace, that they, who had been honored by such an honorable name, were afterwards given up to so great miseries. But the passage may be otherwise explained: we may understand by the people of God the Israelites; as though the Prophet said, “Do ye not perceive how the Israelites have been treated? Were they not a part of my people? They were descendants from the race of Abraham as well as you; nor can you boast of a higher dignity: They were then equal to you in the opinion of all; and yet this privilege did not hinder my judgment, did not prevent me from visiting them as they deserved.” Such a view harmonizes with the passage: but there is, as I think, something ironical in the expression, “my people;” as though he said, “The confidence, that ye have been hitherto my people, hardens you: but this false and wicked boasting shall increase your punishment; for I will not inflict on you an ordinary punishment, as on heathens and strangers; but I shall punish your wickedness much more severely; for it is necessary, that your punishment should bear proportion to my favor, which has been so shamefully and basely despised by you.” Hence, by the reproach of God’s people, I understand the heavier judgments, which were justly prepared for all the ungodly, whom God had favored with such special honor, as to regard them as his people: for the servant, who knew his master’s will, and did it not, was on that account more severely corrected, 180180     There is another view mentioned by Drusius, — that is, the reproach which God had previously denounced on his people, in case they sinned and continued in their perverseness. Reproach in this sense would mean punishment. — Ed. Luke 12:47. Let us now proceed —

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