6. Et ne ambuletis post deos alienos ad serviendum ipsis, et ad incurvandum coram ipsis (id est, ad eos adorandos,) et ne provocetis me in opere manuum vestrarum, et non malefaciam vobis.
The Prophet mentions here one kind of sin; for though the Jews in many, and even in numberless ways kindled God's wrath, yet they especially procured a heavy judgment for themselves by their superstitions. They indeed manifested their contempt of God by adultery, theft, and plunder, but in a way not so direct; for when they abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles, they thus shook off the yoke of God, as though they openly testified that he was no longer their God. And we know that nothing is so much valued and approved by God as a sincere attention to real piety; hence the Church is taught in the first table of the Law how he is to be worshipped. This is the reason why the Prophet especially reminds the Jews here that they had, in this respect, been rebellious against God, because he could not bring them back from their corrupt superstitions. He does not at the same time absolve them of other sins; but he mentions this one kind, in order that they might understand, that they were not only in part, but altogether rebellious against God; for they wholly departed from him when they vitiated his worship with wicked superstitions. We must then bear in mind, that the Jews were not condemned for some small offenses, but accused of the most heinous of sins; for they had become covenant-breakers and apostates, and had forsaken God himself and his law.
He says, Walk ye not after foreign gods to serve them and to worship them He pointed out as by the finger, how gross had been their impiety; for they had given themselves up to idols, that they might basely serve them; they had wholly devoted themselves to them. It was not then an excusable error, but a manifest treachery. He adds, Provoke me not by the work of your hands No doubt the Prophet meant by these words to confirm what has been already stated, that idolatry is before God an intolerable wickedness: and at the same time he shews, that they had not sinned through ignorance, for they had in time been reminded of the atrocity of this sin. As then they had not ceased from their superstitions, they were thus proved guilty of a diabolical madness, for they feared not to provoke God against them. And he says, by the work of your hands; and thus he speaks contemptuously or rather reproachfully of idols. They called them gods, not that they were ignorant that they were statues curiously made of wood and stone, or of some other material; but still they thought that divinity was connected with them, for they believed that God was thus rightly worshipped. Now, then, the Prophet calls them the work of hands, as though he had said, "If the Jews themselves are nothing, the idols are less than nothing; for they are only the work of hands." And this way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets, by which God intended to shake off the stupidity of men, who were become quite senseless in their own devices; as though he had said, "Have you not a particle of a right understanding in you? do you not know, that this which ye worship is the work of your own hands? and what can your hands do? for what are ye yourselves?" We now perceive what the Prophet had in view in using these words.
There is, again; a promise given, I will not do you evil God declares by these words that they would be exempt from all trouble and distress, if they continued to walk according to the rule of true religion; and thus he intimates that whatever evils they had already endured, and would have hereafter to endure, could not be imputed to anything but to their own perverseness, for God had of his own free-will promised to spare them, provided they departed from their wicked ways. And such a hope ought especially to encourage us to repent, for we see that God is ready to receive us and seeks reconciliation with us, and is always prepared to forgive all our sins, provided we from the heart return to him; and he seems as one unwilling to inflict punishment. Here again the impiety of the people is more fully proved, for they refused to receive from God this invaluable favor. It follows, --