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The Total Corruption of the People


Woe is me! For I have become like one who,

after the summer fruit has been gathered,

after the vintage has been gleaned,

finds no cluster to eat;

there is no first-ripe fig for which I hunger.


The faithful have disappeared from the land,

and there is no one left who is upright;

they all lie in wait for blood,

and they hunt each other with nets.


Their hands are skilled to do evil;

the official and the judge ask for a bribe,

and the powerful dictate what they desire;

thus they pervert justice.


The best of them is like a brier,

the most upright of them a thorn hedge.

The day of their sentinels, of their punishment, has come;

now their confusion is at hand.


Put no trust in a friend,

have no confidence in a loved one;

guard the doors of your mouth

from her who lies in your embrace;


for the son treats the father with contempt,

the daughter rises up against her mother,

the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

your enemies are members of your own household.


But as for me, I will look to the L ord,

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

my God will hear me.


Penitence and Trust in God


Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;

when I fall, I shall rise;

when I sit in darkness,

the L ord will be a light to me.


I must bear the indignation of the L ord,

because I have sinned against him,

until he takes my side

and executes judgment for me.

He will bring me out to the light;

I shall see his vindication.


Then my enemy will see,

and shame will cover her who said to me,

“Where is the L ord your God?”

My eyes will see her downfall;

now she will be trodden down

like the mire of the streets.


A Prophecy of Restoration


A day for the building of your walls!

In that day the boundary shall be far extended.


In that day they will come to you

from Assyria to Egypt,

and from Egypt to the River,

from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.


But the earth will be desolate

because of its inhabitants,

for the fruit of their doings.



Shepherd your people with your staff,

the flock that belongs to you,

which lives alone in a forest

in the midst of a garden land;

let them feed in Bashan and Gilead

as in the days of old.


As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt,

show us marvelous things.


The nations shall see and be ashamed

of all their might;

they shall lay their hands on their mouths;

their ears shall be deaf;


they shall lick dust like a snake,

like the crawling things of the earth;

they shall come trembling out of their fortresses;

they shall turn in dread to the L ord our God,

and they shall stand in fear of you.


God’s Compassion and Steadfast Love


Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity

and passing over the transgression

of the remnant of your possession?

He does not retain his anger forever,

because he delights in showing clemency.


He will again have compassion upon us;

he will tread our iniquities under foot.

You will cast all our sins

into the depths of the sea.


You will show faithfulness to Jacob

and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,

as you have sworn to our ancestors

from the days of old.

The Prophet confirms what he had previously said, — that the land was so full of every kind of wickedness, that they who were deemed the best were yet thorns and briers, full of bitterness, or very sharp to prick; as though he said, “The best among them is a thief; the most upright among them is a robber.” We hence see, that in these words he alludes to their accumulated sins, as though he said, “The condition of the people cannot be worse; for iniquity has advanced to its extreme point: when any one seeks for a good or an upright man, he only finds thorns and briers; that is, he is instantly pricked.” But if the best were then like thorns, what must have been the remainder? We have already seen that the judges were so corrupt that they abandoned themselves without feeling any shame to any thing that was base. What then could have been said of them, when the Prophet compares here the upright and the just to thorns; yea, when he says, that they were rougher than briers? Though it is an improper language to say, that the good and the upright 186186     It is better, as it is done here, to take the words simply as they are, and not to make superlatives of them: nor is there any change necessary in the second line as proposed by Dathius, Newcome, and others, by taking the מ from one word and attaching it to another. There is no MS. In its favor, and it is done only on the authority of the Targum. The two lines are these, —
   Their good man is like a brier,
The upright worse than a thorny hedge.

   The preposition מ is often rendered “rather than;” but it may, in many places, be rendered “better than,” or “worse than,” according to the import of the passage. — Ed.
among them were like briers; for words are used contrary to their meaning, as it is certain, that those who inhumanely pricked others were neither good nor just: yet the meaning of the Prophet is in no way obscure, — that there was then such license taken in wickedness, that even those who retained in some measure the credit of being upright were yet nothing better than briers and thorns. There is then in the words what may be deemed a concession.

He then adds, The day of thy watchmen, thy visitation comes He here denounces the near judgment of God, generally on the people, and especially on the rulers. But he begins with the first ranks and says The day of thy watchmen; as though he said, “Ruin now hangs over thy governors, though they by no means expect it.” Watchmen he calls the Prophets, who, by their flatteries, deceived the people, as well as their rulers: and he sets the Prophets in the front, because they were the cause of the common ruin. He does not yet exempt the body of the people from punishment; nay, he joins together these two things, — the visitation of the whole people, and the day of the watchmen.

And justly does he direct his discourse to these watchmen, who, being blind, blinded all the rest; and who, being perverted, led astray the whole people. This is the reason why the Prophet now, in an especial manner, threatens them; but, as I have already said, the people were not on this account to be excused. There may seem indeed to have been here a fair pretense for extenuating their guilt: the common people might have said that they had not been warned as they ought to have been; nay, that they had been destroyed through delusive falsehoods. And we see at this day that many make such a pretense as this. But a defense of this kind is of no avail before God; for though the common people are blinded, yet they go astray off their own accord, since they lend a willing ear to impostors. And even the reason why God gave loose reins to Satan as well as to his ministers, and why he gives, as Paul says, (2 Thessalonians 2:11,) power to delusion, is this, — because the greater part of the world ever seeks to be deceived. The denunciation of the Prophet then is this, — that as the judges and the Prophets had badly exercised their office, they would be led to the punishment which they deserved, for they had been, as it has been elsewhere observed, the cause of ruin to others: in the meantime, the common people were not excusable. The vengeance of God then would overtake them and from the least to the greatest, without any exemption. Thy visitation then comes.

He afterwards speaks in the third person, Then shall be their confusion, or perplexity, or they shall be ashamed. The Prophet here alludes indirectly to the hardness of the people; for though the Prophets daily threatened them, they yet remained all of them secure; nay, we know that all God’s judgments were held in derision by them. As then the faithful teachers could not have moved wicked men either with fear or with shame, the Prophet says, Then confusion shall come to them; as though he said, “Be hardened now as much as ye wish to be, as I see that you are stupid, yea, senseless, and attend not to the word of the Lord; but the time of visitation will come, and then the Lord will constrain you to be ashamed, for he will really show you to be such as ye are; and he will not then contend with you in words as he does now; but the announced punishment will divest you of all your false pretenses; and he will also remove that waywardness which now hardens you against wholesome doctrine and all admonitions.”

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