Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
Verse 1. - A new and distinct division of the book commences with this fourth chapter and continues till the close. What had previously been presented in figure and symbol is now plainly and literally stated. The children of Israel are summoned in the first verse of this chapter to hear the charge preferred against them and the sentence pronounced. Having convened, as it were, a public assembly and cited the persons concerned, the prophet proceeds to show cause why they are bound to give an attentive hearing. In God's controversy with the people of the land the prophet acts as his ambassador, accusing the people of great and grievous sins, and vindicating the justice of God's judgments in their punishment. The ki with which the last clause of the verse commences may be either causal or recitative, and may thus specify either the ground or subject of controversy. It is commonly understood here in the former sense. Israel is charged with want of truth, mercy, and the knowledge of God. Kimchi comments on this controversy as follows: "With the inhabitants of the land of Israel I have a controversy, for I gave them the land on the condition that they should exercise righteousness and judgment, and on this condition I pledged myself to them that my eyes would be upon them from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. But since they practice the opposite - cursing, lying, etc. - I also will act with them in a way contrary to what I assured them, and will hide my face from them." He adds, "There were some righteous among them, but they were few, and they hid themselves from the face of the multitude who were wicked." Truth and mercy are at once Divine attributes and human virtues; it is in the latter sense, of course, that they are here employed. Truth includes works as well as words, doing as well as saying; it implies uprightness in speech and behavior - thorough integrity of character and conduct, Mercy goes beyond and supplements this. We sometimes say of such a one that he is an honest but a hard man. Mercy combined with truth, on the contrary, makes a man kind as well as honest, benevolent as well as upright. In a somewhat similar sense the apostle conjoins goodness and righteousness when he says, "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die." The knowledge of God is the real root of these two virtues of truth and mercy. If we know God as he is in himself and as he stands in his relations to us, we shall conform our conduct to his character and our actions to his will. If we know God to be a God of truth, who delighteth in truth in the inward parts, we shall cultivate truth in our hearts, express it with our lips, and practice it in our lives. If we know God as a God of mercy, who has shown such boundless mercy to us in pardoning our multiplied and aggravated offences, we shall imitate that mercy in our relations to our fellow-man; nor shall we enact the part of the merciless man in the parable, who owed his lord ten thousand talents, and who, having nothing to pay, was freely forgiven the debt; but finding his fellow-servant, who owed him only an hundred pence, laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, "Pay me that thou owest," and, deaf to that fellow-servant's supplications, east him into prison till he should pay the debt. The intimate connection of the knowledge of God with the virtues in question is confirmed by the Prophet Jeremiah, "Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? he judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me, saith the Lord?"
By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
Verse 2. - Having given a picture of Israel negatively, he next presents the positive side. The absence of the virtues specified implies the presence of the opposite vices. In the most vivid and impressive manner the prophet, instead of enumerating prosaically the vices so prevalent at the time, expresses them more emphatically by a species of exclamation, using
(1) infinitives absolute instead of finite verbs; thus: "Swearing, and lying, and murdering, and stealing, and committing adultery." They may, however, be regarded as in the nominative as subjects to יֵשׁ. Instead of either supplying לְשָׁוְא, to allot, or closely connecting" allot" with the verb "to lie," which immediately follows, it is better to understand the two verbs separately, as expressing two different species of sin; that is, swearing and cursing, and lying. So the Septuagint renders them by the nouns ἀρὰ καὶ ψεῦδος, equivalent to "cursing and lying;" as also the Chaldee, "they swear falsely and lie." The commandments which the children of Israel thus violated were the third, the ninth, the sixth, the eighth, and the seventh.
(2) The construction, adopted in the LXX., Vulgate, and by Luther in his version, takes the infinitives (nounal expressions of habitual or continued actions) as nominatives to the verb paratsu; thus: "Cursing, and lying, and murder, and theft, and adultery abound (κέχυται or εκκέχυται) in the land;" "Maledictum, et mendacium, et homicidium, et furtum, et adulterium innndavernut;" and Luther translates, "Gotteslastern, Luger, Morder, Stehlen, and Ehebrechen hat uberhand genommen." The common mode
(3) of constructing the infinitives independently as above in
(1) or gerundively as in the Authorized Version, and in either ease understanding an indefinite subject to paratsu, is preferable on the whole; thus: "By swearing, etc., they break out." The allusion to the water overflowing its banks and spreading in all directions, implied in the Septuagint Version, is approved by Jerome in his Commentary: "He (the prophet) did not say est, but, to demonstrate the abundance of crimes, introduced inundaverunt (overflowed)." The common meaning of parats is to tear or break - break in upon, especially with violence, as robbers and murderers; so paritsim has the sense of murderers and robbers. It is better, therefore, to take the verb here as a present perfect connecting past and present, and to translate it" break through," or" in to," that is, as burglars into houses. So Kimchi, though figuratively: "They break through the wall which is the fence of the Law, and multiply transgressions." Similarly, De Wette has "Gewaltthat uber sie;" and Maurer likewise: "Jurare et mentiri et occidere et furari et adulterari! Violenter agunt et sanguines sanguines altingunt." The Massoretic accentuation favors (putting athnach at naopt) this construction; while the context, which speaks of bloodshed, is quite in keeping with acts of violence.
Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
Verses 3-5. - These verses relate, with much particularity, the sufferings consequent on sins, especially such as are specified in the preceding verses. The montaging of the land mentioned in ver. 3 may be understood either figuratively or literally. If in the former way, there are many Scripture parallels which represent nature in full accord with human feelings, sympathizing with man, now in joy, again in sorrow; for example: "The little hills rejoice on every side;" the valleys "shout for joy, they also sing;" on the other hand, "The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish." But if the expression be taken literally, it conveys a solemn fact, and one in perfect harmony with the entire tone and character of the old economy, according to which moral evil transmutes itself into physical evil, and impresses itself in dismal characters on the face of inanimate nature. The Hebrew commentators seem to understand the statement literally; thus Rashi: "The land shall be laid waste, and there shall be great mourning;" likewise Kimchi: "The land of Israel shall be laid waste and desolated." The latter has this further comment: "After the land of Israel shall have been laid waste, man and beast shall be cut off out of it. But under the beasts of the field the prophet does not mean the wild beasts, but the large domestic animals which dwell with the sons of men, likewise called חיה. It is also possible that even the beasts that roam at largo are included, for the wild beast does not come to inhabited places that are laid waste, unless they are partially inhabited." He also adds, in reference to the fowls of heaven, "When he speaks of the fowls of heaven, it is because most of the fowls do not dwell in the wilderness, but in inhabited places, where they find seeds and fruits and blossoms of trees. Or the fowls of heaven are mentioned by way of hyperbole to represent the matter in its totality; and, according to this sense, it is used in the Prophet Jeremiah; and it explains itself in like manner in one of these two ways." With the mourning of the land the dwellers therein languish. Nor is this languishing condition confined to rational beings; it comprises the irrational as well, and that without exception. The dominion assigned man at the beginning over the whole creation of God is here reversed in the case of Israel; while the denunciation of wrath has that reversal for its dark background. The terms of the dominion to man by the Creator are, "Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth;" but in this denunciation these terms are reversed and read backwards, being," with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also." Thus all nature, inanimate and animate, and all creation, rational and irrational, are involved in the consequences of Israel's sin. The particles "yea, even," preceding "the fishes of the sea" (such as the Sea of Galilee or other inland seas and rivers), show the entirely unexpected as well as unusual nature of the event. The Chaldee paraphrases the clause as follows: "And even the fishes of the sea shall be diminished in number, on account of their (Israel's) sins." Earth refuses sustenance to man and beast, no longer yielding grass for the cattle or herb for the service of man; the waters of the sea, being lessened by drought or becoming putrid by stagnation, no longer supply their accustomed quota of fishes for human food. An illustration of the literal sense has been quoted by Rosenmüller and Pusey from Jerome. It is the following: "Whoso believeth not that this befell the people of Israel, let him survey Illyricum, let him survey the Thraces, Macedonia, the Pannonias, and the whole land which stretches from the Propoutis and Dosphorus to the Julian Alps, and he will experience that, together with man, all the creatures also fail, which afore were nourished by the Creator for the service of man." The le before היis explained by Abarbanel in the sense of through, as though the inhabitants would be slain by wild beasts: by Hitzig as extending to; by Keil as of in enumeration. It is simply with. Ver. 4 looks like an interjected clause, coming in the middle of the enumeration of Divine judgments; and the purpose is not so much to justify the severity of those judgments as to intimate their inefficacy, owing to the incorrigible character of the people. There is
(1) the rendering of the Authorized Version, Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another. This seems to show that mutual reproof was out of place, since one was as bad as another; or that every one was to look to his own sins, and not throw the blame on others; but this rendering is not tenable nor capable of being supported by such an expression as ish beish. The correct rendering
(2) is rather, only let no man strive (with them), and let no man reprove them. This imports
(a) that reasoning with them would be useless, and reproof thrown away, in consequence of the desperate obstinacy of these offenders; or
(b) that they were so self-willed that they would not allow any one to reprove them for their conduct. The rendering
(1) is favored by Kimchi: "Let a man not strive, nor reprove his fellow for his wickedness, for it profits him not, because he also does evil like him." The fact often experienced in a season of public calamity, that every one comes forth as a correcter of morals, and transfers to his neighbor the cause of such calamity, Hitzig illustrates by the following words of Curtius: "Quod in adversis rebus fieri solet, alius in allure culpam transferebat." The explanation (2, b), which is pretty much that of Ewald, is supported by the comments of Rashi and Aben Ezra. The former explains: "Ye warn the true prophets against striving with you and against reproving you;" the latter: "There is no one that strives with another or reproves him: and yet it was the right of the priest to reprove Israel; but now they turn to reprove the priest, for he also is wicked in his works." But
(3) Pusey's rendering, though only a slight modification of the preceding, conveys a different sense. It is "Only men let him not strive, and let not man reprove," which he explains as follows: "God had taken the controversy with his people into his own hands; the Lord, he said (ver. 1), had a controversy (rib) with the inhabitants of the land. Here he forbids man to intermeddle; man let him not strive (he again uses the same word). The people were obstinate and would not hear... so God bids man to cease to speak in his Name. He himself alone will implead them, whose pleading none could evade or contradict." The rendering
(2) is, in our opinion, decidedly entitled to the preference both on the ground of simplicity and agreement with the following clause. That clause, for thy people are as they that strive with the priest, is thought by Abarbanel to allude to the opposition of Korah and his company to Aaron the high priest, as recorded in Numbers 16, and referred to in Psalm 106. In the former passage, at the eleventh verse, it is asked, "And what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?" while in the latter, at ver. 16, we read the statement: "They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord." This allusion, by which the Israelites of the prophet's day were compared to the Korathires, will appear to most as far-fetched.
(1) The usual acceptation is both simpler and more satisfactory. It takes the expression to denote such contumacy as is reproved in Deuteronomy 17:12, "The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel." The contumaciousness of Israel is thus compared to that of persons who were so obstinate and presumptuous as neither to obey nor reverence, but rather rebel against, the true priests of Jehovah, who, in his Divine Name and by Divine authority, instructed or reproved. Such persons neither feared God nor regarded man. It was the refractoriness of pupils acting in opposition to their teacher, or of a people rising in rebellion against their spiritual instructors. Thus the Chaldee understands it: "And thy people contend [quarrel] with their teachers." The last clause of ver. 4 is fairly well explained by Kimchi (except that he explains kaph of certainty and not similitude) as follows: "The prophet says, The priest should have taught, striven with, and reproved the people; but at this time the people strive with the priest; for it is not enough that they do not receive his reproof, but they strive with and reprove him, after the way they say, 'A generation that judges its judges.' Or the explanation is, 'The priest is as wicked as they, and if he reproves them so also they reprove him.'"
(2) The LXX. has ὡς ἀντι λεγόμενος ἱερεὺς, as a priest spoken against. The text being thus somewhat doubtful, Michaelis made a very slight change in the pointing, putting a patach instead of tsere in the word for "contend;" thus: כִמְרבַי instead of כִמְרִיבֵי, so that the translation would be, "And thy people are as my adversaries (those who contend with me), O priest." The people that should have learnt the Law from the lips of the priest would not even submit to reproof from the Most High himself. The expression, "priest-disputers" or "priest-gainsayers," is admittedly an unusual one, and given as a specimen of the peculiarities of this prophet's style, to which, however, there is a parallel in "boundary-movers" (cf. Hosea 5:10). Still, we see no real advantage gained by the conjectural emendation of Michaelis, though some are disposed to accept it on the ground that the representation of the incorrigibleness of a people by gainsaying opposition to the priest appears incongruous with the immediately succeeding denunciation of the priesthood. The objection is obviated by understanding, as above, opposition to the true priests of the Lord. Another conjectural reading is that of Beck, via וְעַמִּי כַכְּמָרָיו, equivalent to "and my people are like their priests." Such conjectural emendation is needless as useless.
Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
Verse 5. - The parallelism of this verse is marked by the peculiarity of dividing between the two members what belongs to the sentence as one whole. Instead of saying that the people would fall (literally, stumble) in the day, and the prophet with them in the night, the meaning of the sentence, divested of its peculiar form of parallelism, is that people and prophet alike would fall together, at all times, both by day and by night, that is to say, there would be no time free from the coming calamities; and there would be no possibility of escape, either for the sinful people or their unfaithful priests; the darkness of the night would not hide them, the light of the day would not aid them; destruction was the doom of priests and people, inevitable and at all times. And I will destroy thy mother. Their mother was the whole nation as such - the kingdom of Israel. The expression is somewhat contemptuous, as though he said of the individual members that they were truly their mother's children - resembling her erewhile in sin and soon in sorrow.
(1) Though the verb דמה is seldom used in Qal to denote "likeness," Abarbanel, as quoted by Rosenmüller, translates, "I have been like thy mother," and explains of the people addressing priest and prophet as a mother reproving her petulant children in order to improve them. Besides the far-fetched nature of such a rendering, there is the formidable grammatical objection that, in the sense of "similitude," this verb requires to be constructed with le or el. so that it should be le immeka or el immeka. "This word, when derived from demuth, likewise has el with seghol after it; but without el, it has the meaning of destroy," is the statement of Aben Ezra. The LXX., assigning to the verb the sense of "similarity," renders the phrase by πυκτὶ ὀμοίωσα τὴν μητέρα σου, "I have compared thy mother to night."
(2) Jerome, connecting the verb with דוּם or דָמַם, understands it in the sense of "silence:" "I have made thy mother silent in the night; that is, "Israel is delivered up in the dark night of captivity, sorrow, and overwhelming distress." The Syriac likewise has: "And thy mother has become silent" (if shathketh be read). The Chaldee, though more periphrastic, brings out nearly the same sense: "I will overspread your assembly with stupefaction." To the same purport is the exposition of Rashi: "My people shall be stupefied as a man who sits and is overwhelmed with stupor, so that no answer is heard from his mouth." The meaning "destroy" is well supported by the cognate Arabic, and gives a good sense; thus Gesenius renders: "I destroy thy mother, that is, lay waste thy country." Rather, the nation, collectively, is the mother; while the members individually are the children. Nor shall private persons escape in the public catastrophe - root and branch are to perish. Kimchi's comment on דמיחי is: "I will cut off the whole congregation, so that no congregation shall remain in Israel; for they shall be scattered in the exile, the one here, the other there."
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Verse 6. - My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Here the verb is plural and its subject singular, because, being collective, it comprehends all the individual members of the nation. The word כדמו is rendered
(1) by Jerome in the sense of "silence:" "conticuit populus incus," which he explains to mean "sinking into eternal silence." So also the Chaldee.
(2) The LXX., understands it in the sense of "likeness:" "My people are like (ὡμοιώθη) as if they had no knowledge." Aben Ezra disproves this sense as follows: "This word, if it were from the root signifying 'likeness,' would have after it el with seghol, as, 'To [el with seghol] whom art thou like in thy greatness?' (Ezekiel 31:2); but without the word el it has the meaning of ' cutting off.'" So Kimchi: "Here also it has the sense of 'cutting off.'" The article before "knowledge" implies renewed mention and refers to the word in ver. 1; or it may emphasize the word as that knowledge by way of eminence, which surpasses all other knowledge, and without which no other knowledge can really prove a blessing in the end. The knowledge of God is the most excellent of all sciences. Paul counted all things but loss in comparison with its possession; and our blessed Lord himself says, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent;" while the Prophet Isaiah attributed the captivity to its absence: "My people are gone into captivity because they have no knowledge." Because thou hast rejected knowledge... seeing thou hast forgotten the Law of thy Son. The cause of this ignorance is here charged on the unfaithfulness of the priesthood. They rejected knowledge and forgot the Law of their God. The two concluding clauses of this verse may be regarded as "split members" of a single sentence. As rejection implies the presence of the object rejected, while forgetfulness implies its absence from the mind or memory, some have understood rejection of knowledge as the sin of the priest, and forgetfulness that of the people. This separation is not necessary, for what men continue for a time to despise they will by-and-by forget. The forgetfulness is thus an advance upon rejection. The sin of these priests was very great, for, while the priests' lips were required to keep knowledge, they neither preserved that knowledge themselves nor promoted it among the people; hence the indignant and direct address. Thus Kimchi says: "He addresses the priestly order that existed at that time: Thou hast rejected he knowledge for thyself and to teach it to the people, consequently I will reject thee from being a priest unto me. Since thou dost not exercise the office of priest, which is to teach the Law, I will reject thee so that thou shalt not be a priest in my house." I will also reject thee that thou shalt be no priest to me... I will also forget thy children, even I. The punishment resembles the offence; the human delinquency is reflected in the Divine retaliation. To make this the more pointed, the "thou on thy part (attah)" at the head of the sentence has its counterpart, or rather is counterbalanced by the "even I" or "I too (gam ani)" at its close. The severity of the punishment is augmented by the threat that, not only the then existing priests, but their sons after them, would be excluded from the honor of the priesthood. This was touching painfully the tenderest part. It needs scarcely be observed that forgetfulness is only spoken of God in a figurative sense, and after the manner of men, that being forgotten which is no longer the object of attention or affection. "The meaning of אשׁ," says Kimchi, "is by way of figure, like the man who forgets something and does not take it to heart." The unusual form אֶמְאָסְאָך has been variously accounted for. The Massorites mark the aleph before caph as redundant; it is omitted in several manuscripts of Kennicott and De Rossi, as also some of the early printed editions. Kimchi confesses his ignorance of its use. Olshausen treats it as a copyist's error; but Ewald "regards it as an Aram-seen pausal form." Some take the reference to be to Israel as a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6) rather than to the actual priesthood.
As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.
Verses 7, 8. - As they were increased; rather, multiplied. Whether כְּרֻבָּם be taken as infinitive with suffix and prefix, or as a noun, it will amount to the same. The reference is rather to the multitude of the population than to the greatness of their prosperity or the abundance of their wealth. In the latter sense it is understood by the Chaldee paraphrase, but in the former by the Syriac translator. So also Kimchi, where he says, "As for Aaron the priest their father, the Law of truth was in his mouth; but now that his sons have multiplied and spread abroad, they have sinned against me and forgotten my law; according as I did them good they did evil." He also gives as the explanation of others, "As I increased them in wealth and riches, they sinned against me." Their glory will I change into shame. The "therefore" of the Authorized Version is inserted unnecessarily. Both the Chaldee and Syriac render, "And they changed their glory into shame;" as they took אָמִיר for the infinitive הָמִיר, and that in the sense of the preterit; or the infinitive in the gerundival sense: "changing their glory into shame." Kimchi explains the meaning correctly: "Therefore I made them beads over the people and expiators, yet if they do not observe my Law I will change their glory into shame; and the people will contemn and despise them." Their numbers multiplied with the multiplication of idols, and the apostasy of the people kept pace with both; and now as a fit punishment they are to be deprived of their priestly glory - their dignity and splendor. They eat up the sin of my people. The word חַטַּאה may be understood in either of two senses; and the meaning of the verse will correspond thereto. It may either mean that these faithless priests lived upon the sin of the people, deriving their livelihood and profit from the people's idolatrous practices; or that they were delighted with their sin, approving rather than reproving them for the same. The other explanation understands the word of sin offering, and is thus expressed by Kimchi: "They are only priests for eating up the sin and trespass offering which the people offer on account of sins, not for teaching the Law or right way." To their iniquity they lift up (each one) his soul. They set their heart upon and eagerly desire the continued practice of sin on the part of the people that they may profit by the sacrifices. Thus Kimchi explains this clause in accordance with his exposition of the former: "The priests lift up every one his soul to the sin of the people, saying, When will they sin, and bring sin offering and trespass offering that we may eat?"
They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.
Verse 9. - Like people, like priest. As it had fared with the people who had sinned and had been punished, as is stated in the third and fifth verses; so shall it be with the priest or whole priestly order. He has involved himself in sin and punishment like the people, and that as the consequence of his extreme unfaithfulness; whereas by faithful dealing with the people and discharge of his duty he might have delivered his own soul, as stated by Ezekiel 33:9, "Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul." It is well explained by Kimchi as follows: "These two caphs of likeness are by way of abbreviation, and the explanation is - the people are like the priest and the priest is like the people. And the meaning is that, as the people and the priest are equal with respect to sin, so shall they be equal in relation to punishment." And I will visit upon his ways, and his doings I will bring back to him. The retribution here threatened includes the whole priestly order, not people and priest as one man, according to Pusey, who, however, makes the following excellent comment on מעלליו: "The word rendered doings signifies great doings when used of God, bold doings on the part of man. These bold presumptuous doings against the Law and will of God, God will bring back to the sinner's bosom," or rather, down overwhelmingly upon his head. The singular individualizes; so both Aben Ezra and Kimchi: "Upon every one of them."
For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.
Verse 10. - For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase. This part of the verso states the punishment to be inflicted and the reward to be received; it is thus an expansion of the closing clause of the preceding verse, with an obvious allusion to the sin specified in the eighth verse. To eat and not be satisfied may occur in time of famine, or be the effect of disease or the consequence of insatiable craving. "Since," says Kimchi, "they eat in an unlawful manner, their food shall not be to them a blessing." This was one of the punishments threatened for violation of the Law, as we read in Leviticus 26:26, "When I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied." Further, the multiplication of wives or concubines would not increase their posterity; Solomon long previously had been a notable exemplification of this. "So in their cohabitation with their women, since it is in a whorish manner, they shall not increase, for they shall not have children by them; or, if they have, they shall die from the birth." The Hiph. hiznu has rather the intensive sense of Qal than that of causing or encouraging whoredom. Because they have left off to take heed to the Lord. The verbal lishmor either
(1) has Jehovah for its object, as in the Authorized Version; or
(2) durko or darkair may be supplied, as is done by Kimchi and Aben Ezra. The former has, "To observe his ways, for they have no delight in him and in his ways; to observe his ways they have left off;" the latter has, "They have forsaken Jehovah, to observe his way or his Laws." But
(3) Kimchi informs us that "Saadiah Gaon of blessed memory has connected the word with the verse that comes after it; they have forsaken the Lord to observe whoredom and wine and new wine."
Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
Verse 11. - It makes no great difference whether we regard this verse as concluding the foregoing or commencing a new paragraph, though we prefer the latter mode of connecting it. It states the debasing influence which debauchery and drunkenness are known to exercise over both head and heart: they dull the faculties of the former and deaden the affections of the latter. The heart is not only the seat of the affections, as with us; it comprises also the, intellect and hill; while the word יִקַּת is not so much to take away as to captivate the heart, Rashi gives the former sense: "The whoredom and drunkenness to which they are devoted take away their heart from me." Kimchi's explanation is judicious: "The whoredom to which they surrender themselves and the constant drunkenness which they practice take their heart, so that they have no understanding to perceive what is the way of goodness along which they should go." He further distinguishes the tirosh from the yayin, remarking that the former is the new wine which takes the heart and suddenly intoxicates. The prophet, having had occasion to mention the sin of whoredom in ver. 10, makes a general statement about the consequences of that sin combined with drunkenness in ver. 10, as not only debasing, but depriving men of the right use of their reason and the proper exercise of their natural affections. The following verses afford abundant evidence of all this in the insensate conduct of Israel at the time referred to.
My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.
Verses 12-14. - The first of these verses exhibits the private life of the people as depraved by sin and folly; the second their public life as degraded by idolatry and lewdness; while the third points to the corresponding chastisement and its cause. My people ask counsel at their stocks (literally, wood), and their staff declareth unto them. Rashi explains "stocks," or literally, "wood," to mean "a graven image made out of wood;" while Aben Ezra prefaces his exposition of this by an observation which serves well as a link of connection between the eleventh and twelfth verses. It is as follows: "The sign that they are in reality without heart, is that my people turn to ask counsel of its stocks and wood." Kimchi not inaptly remarks, "They are like the blind man to whom his staff points out the way in which he should go." The stupidity of idolatry and the sin of divination are here combined. By the "wood" is meant an idol carved out of wood; while the staff may likewise have an image carved at the top for idolatrous purposes, or it may denote mode of divination by a staff which by the way it fell determined their course. Theophylaet explains this method of divination as follows: "They set up two rods, and muttered some verses and enchantments; and then the rods falling through the influence of demons, they considered how they fell, whether forward or backward, to the right or the left, and so gave answers to the foolish people, using the fall of the rods for signs." Cyril, who attributes the invention of rabdomancy to the Chaldeans, gives the same account of this method of divination. Herodotus mentions a mode of divination prevalent among the Scythians by means of willow rods; and Tacitus informs us that the Germans divined by a rod cut from a fruit-bearing tree. "They (the Germans) cut a twig from a fruit tree, and divide it into small pieces, which, distinguished by certain marks, are thrown promiscuously on a white garment. Then the priest or 'the canton, it' the occasion be public - if private, the master of the family - after an invocation of the gods, with his eyes lifted up to heaven, thrice takes out each piece, and as they come up, interprets their signification according to the marks fixed upon them." The sin and folly of any people consulting an idol of wood about the success or otherwise of an undertaking, or deciding whether by a species of teraphim or staff divination, is sufficiently obvious. But the great aggravation of Israel's sin arose from the circumstance not obscurely hinted by the possessive "my" attached to "people." That a people like Israel, whom God had chosen from among the nations of the earth and distinguished by special tokens of Divine favor, and to whom he had given the ephod with the truly oracular Urim and Thummim, should forsake him and the means he had given them of knowing his will, and turn aside to gods of wood, evinced at once stupidity unaccountable and sin inexcusable. "The prophet," says Calvin, "calls here the Israelites the people of God, not to honor them, but rather to increase their sin; for the more heinous was the perfidy of the people, that, having been chosen, they had afterwards forsaken their heavenly Father.... Now this people, that ought to be mine, consult their own wood, and their staff answers them!" For the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a-whoring from under their God. In this part of the verse the prophet attempts to account for the extreme folly and heinous sin of Israel, as described in the first clause. It was an evil spirit, some demoniac power, that had inspired them with an insuperable fondness for idolatry, which in prophetic language is spiritual adultery. The consequence was a sad departure from the true God and a sinful wandering away from his worship, notwithstanding his amazing condescension and love by which he placed himself in the relation of a husband towards them.
They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.
Verse 13. - They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good. The prophet here enlarges on the sin of idolatry mentioned in the preceding verse, and explains fully how it showed itself in the public life of the people. Two places are specified as scenes of idolatrous worship: one was the tops of mountains and hills; the other under every green tree, here specified as oaks, poplars, and terebinths, whether growing alone or in groves, in vale or upland. The hills and mountain-tops were selected on account of their elevation, as though the worshippers were thus brought nearer to the objects of their adoration; the green trees as affording shade from the scorching heat of an Eastern sun, secrecy for their licentious rites, and a sort of solemn awe associated with such shadow. In such scenes they not only slew victims, but burnt odors in honor of their idols. The resemblance to, if not imitation of, the rites of heathenism in all this is obvious. Among the Greeks the oak was sacred to Jupiter at Dodona, and among the old Britons the Druidical priests practiced their superstitions in the shadow of the yaks. The poplar again was sacred to Hercules, affording a most grateful shade; while in Ezekiel 6:13 we read that "under every thick terebinth" was one of the places where "they did offer sweet savor to their idols." The inveterate custom of these idolaters is implied in the Piel or iterative form of the verb; the singular of the nouns, under oak and poplar and terebinth, intimates that scene after scene of Israel's sin passes under the prophet's review, each exciting his deep indignation; the mention of the goodly shadow seems designed to heighten that feeling of just indignation, as though it came into competition or comparison with "the shadow of the Almighty," the abiding-place of him that "dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High." Therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses (properly, daughters-in-law) shall commit adultery. כַּלָּה primarily signifies "bride," but for the parents of the bridegroom, "daughter-in-law," its secondary sense. The bad example of the parents acts upon their children and reacts upon themselves; on their children in causing bad conduct, on themselves by way of chastisements. The parents had been guilty of spiritual whoredom by their idolatry; their daughters and daughters-in-law would commit whoredom in the literal and carnal sense. This would wound the parents' feelings to the quick and pain them in the tenderest part. Their personal honor would be compromised by such scandalous conduct on the part of their daughters; their family honor would be wounded and the fair fame of posterity tarnished by such gross misconduct on the part of the daughters-in-law. The following observations are made on the last member of this thirteenth verse by the Hebrew commentators: "Because the men of the house go out of the city to the high mountains and under every green tree there to serve idols, therefore their daughters and daughters-in-law have opportunity to commit whoredom and adultery" (Kimchi). To like purpose Aben Ezra writes: "The sense is - On the bare mountains and so on the hills they sacrifice; they say to the priests of Baal that they shall sacrifice; and therefore, because the men go out of the cities in order to burn incense, the daughters and daughters-in-law remain in the houses behind, therefore they commit whoredom." Somewhat different is the explanation of Rashi: "Because ye associate for idolatry after the manner of the heathen, and the heathen associate with you, and ye form affinities with them, your daughters also who are born to you by the daughters of the heathen conduct themselves after the manner of their mothers, and commit whoredom."
I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.
Verse 14. - I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery. The spiritual adultery of parents and husbands would be punished by the carnal adultery of daughters and wives; sin would thus be punished by sin. Their own dishonor and disgrace, through the unfaithfulness of persons so near to them, would impress them with a sense of the dishonor done to God, the spiritual Husband of his people; their feeling of pain and shame in consequence would convey to them a clearer notion of the abhorrence which their offences had occasioned to God. But their punishment would become more severe, and their pain intensified by the Divine refusal to avenge them by punishing the lewdness that caused such dishonor. While punishment would prevent the sin and consequent reproach, impunity, or the postponement of punishment, would leave the offenders to go on in their course of sin and shame. Aben Ezra comments on this fourteenth verse as follows: "The sense is - It is not to be wondered at if the daughters commit whoredom; for they themselves, when they go up to the tops of the mountains to burn incense, eat and drink with harlots and commit whoredom - all of them. And, behold, the sense is, not that he shall not punish them at all, but he speaks in regard to, i.e. in comparison with, the fathers; for they teach them to commit whoredom doing according to their works. Perhaps the daughters are still little, therefore I shall not punish." Rashi thinks that this threatening refers to the disuse of the bitter waters of jealousy, so that suspected guilt could not be detected. But there is nothing to intimate such a reference; nor would it be in keeping with the scope of the passage. Again, some, as in the margin of the Authorized Version, read the words, not indicatively, but interrogatively - "Shall I not punish," etc.? This would require such a meaning to be read into the passage as the following: "Assuredly I shall punish them; and not the daughters and daughters-in-law only, but the parents and husbands still more severely, because of their greater criminality." Equally unsatisfactory is the explanation of Theodoret, who, taking פָקַד in a good sense, which it has with the accusative, understands it of God's refusing any protection or preservation of their daughters and spouses from outrage at the hands of a hostile soldiery, so that such sins as they themselves had been guilty in private, would be committed with the females of their family in public. For they themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots. The change of person appears to imply that God turns away with inexpressible disgust from such vileness, and, turning aside to a third party, explains the grounds of his procedure. The Qedesheth were females who devoted themselves to licentiousness in the service of Ashtaroth, the Sidonian Venus. Persons of this description were attached to idol temples and idolatrous worship in heathen lands in ancient times, as in India at the present time. The 'Speaker's Commentary' calls them "devotee-harlots," and cites an allusion to the custom from the Moabite Stone, as follows: "I did not kill the women and maidens, for I devoted them to Ashtar-kemosh." After stating the humiliating fact that fathers and husbands in Israel, instead of uniting with their wives in the worship of Jehovah, separated themselves, going aside with these female idolaters for the purpose of lewdness, and shared in their sacrificial feasts, the prophet, or rather God by the prophet, impatient of the recital of such shameless licentiousness, and indignant at such presumptuous sinning, closes abruptly with the declaration of the recklessness, and denunciation of the ruin of all such offenders, in the words - the people that doth not understand shall fall; margin, be punished; rather, dashed to the ground, or plunge into ruin (nilbat). Both Aben Ezra and Kimchi give from the Arabic, as an alternative sense of silbat, to fall into error.
Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.
Verses 15-17. - In this section the prophet, as if despairing of any improvement or amendment on the part of Israel, still resolutely bent on spiritual whoredom, addresses an earnest warning to Judah. From proximity to those idolatries and debaucheries so prevalent in this northern kingdom, and from the corruption at least of the court in the southern kingdom during the reigns of Joram, Ahaziah, and Ahaz, Judah was in danger; and hence the prophet turned aside, with words of earnest warning, to the sister kingdom not to involve herself in the same or similar guilt. Rashi's brief comment here is, "Let not the children of Judah learn their ways." Verse 15. - And come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Beth-avert, nor swear, The Lord liveth. From a solemn warning in general terms, he proceeds to a specific prohibition. The prohibition forbids pilgrimages to places of idol-worship, such as Gilgal and Bethaven; it also forbids a profession of Jehovah-worship to be made by persons inclined to idolatrous practices. Gilgal, now the village of Jiljilia, which had been a school of the prophets in the days of Elijah and Elisha, had, as we may rightly infer from passages in Hoses and Amos, become a seat of idolatrous worship. The Hebrew interpreters confound the Gilgal here referred to with the still more renowned Gilgal between Jericho and the Jordan, where Joshua circumcised the people a second time, and celebrated the Passover, and where, manna failing, the people ate of the old corn of the land. "And why," asks Kimchi, "to Gilgal? Because at Gilgal the sanctuary was at the first when they entered the land; therefore when they went to worship idols they built high places there for the idols. But with respect to the tribe of Judah, what need has it to go to Gilgal and to leave the house of the sanctuary which is in their own cities?" And Beth-el, now Beitin, had become Beth-avon - the house of God a house of idols, after Jeroboam had set up the calf there. Judah was to eschew those places so perilous to purity of worship; also a practice hypocritical in its nature and highly dangerous in its tendency, namely, confessing Jehovah with the lips, and by a solemn act of attestation indicative of adherence to his worship, but belying that confession by complicity in idolatrous practices, like the peoples who "worshipped Jehovah, but served their own gods." Kimchi observes as follows: "For ye engage in strange worship, and yet swear by the Name of Jehovah; this is the way of incensing and despising him."
For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
Verse 16. - For Israel slideth back as a back, sliding heifer: now the Lord will feed them s, a lamb in a large place. This verse conveys the reason of the warning contained in the preceding; and that reason is the punishment which is to overtake Israel as the consequence of their refractoriness. If this view of the connection be correct, it will help to the right understanding of a difficult passage. The "backsliding," according to the Authorized Version, is rather "stubbornness," "intractableness," or "unmanageableness." Keil renders it "refractory." This refractoriness was Israel's sin; the people would have their own way, and became refractory, like an unmanageable heifer, which rebels upon being trained. Aben Ezra explains סֹרֵרָה (which, by the way, has tsere before the tone syllable) as follows: "סי is he who turns aside from the way that is appointed him, so that he does not walk in it. And, behold, he compares Israel to a stubborn cow, with which a man cannot plough." So also Kfinchi: "Like a heifer which goes on a crooked way, and curves itself from under the yoke, that a man cannot plough with it; so Israel are crooked under their God, as they have taken upon them the yoke of the Law and of the command-meats which he commanded them, and curve themselves under the yoke, and break from off them the yoke of the commandments." Israel rebelled against instruction, waxed stubborn and intractable. They would have their own way, and worshipped according to their own will, in indulging all the while with a high hand in vilest lusts. Now the season of punishment is arrived; and as they refused instruction and rebelled against Divine guidance, God, in just judgment and deserved punishment, leaves them to themselves. Carried into captivity, they may worship what they will, and live as they list. In these circumstances they will resemble a lamb taken away into a wilderness, and left there to range the wild and live at large, but without provision and without protection. Untended by the shepherd's watchful care, unguarded from ravening wolves or other beasts of prey, that lamb is in a lost and perishing condition. So shall it be with Israel. Aben Ezra gives as an alternative sense: "Now (Jehovah will feed them like a lamb) alone in a wide place, and it wanders to and fro." Kimchi cites as the opinion of others: "Some say, Now will Jehovah let them feed alone in a wide place, like a lamb which bleats and goes to and fro, and neither rests nor feeds." Another meaning has been attached to the verse, to the effect that Israel, subdued by chastise-meat, will renounce their stubbornness, and, rendered tractable and tame, become like a lamb, which, brought to feel its helplessness amid a wilderness, requires and receives the shepherd's care. We much prefer the former.
Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
Verse 17. - Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. Ephraim being the dominant tribe, gave its name to the northern kingdom. The idols were Ephraim's folly, and to that they were wedded; and in consequence they are left to their folly, and at the same time surrendered to their fate. They may persist in their folly; they cannot be prevented. "Give him rest," as the words literally mean, from exhortations and expostulations, from remonstrances and reproofs; he will persist in his folly, prepare for his fate, and perish by his sin. This abandonment of Ephraim proves the desperate nature of his case. Left to his own recklessness, he is rushing towards ruin. Judah is warned to stand aloof from the contagion, lest by interference he might get implicated in the sin and involved in the punishment of Ephraim. The Hebrew commentators express the word rendered "joined to" in the Authorized Version (ver. 17) by words importing "yoked to," "allied with," and "cleaving to." Again, הַנַה, imperative of הֵנִחַ, is explained by them as follows: - Rashi: "Leave off, O prophet, and prophesy not to reprove him, for it is of no use." Aben Ezra: "Let him alone till God shall chastise him; perhaps his eyes shall then open." Kimchi: "Jehovah says to the prophet, Cease to reprove him, for it is of no use .... As a man who is angry with his fellow, because he will not hearken to him when he reproves him, and says, Since thou hearkenest not to me, I will cease for ever to reprove thee."
Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.
Verses 18, 19. - The first of these two verses gives a picture of the degeneracy of the times; the second predicts the destruction that would ensue. Their drink is sour (margin, is gone): they have committed whoredom continually. If the first clause be taken literally,
(1) it denotes a charge of drunkenness preferred against Ephraim. To this vice the people of the northern kingdom, as is well known, were addicted: the wine, from oft-repeated potations, became sour in the stomach and produced loathsome eructations.
(2) Some, connecting closely the first and second clauses, and translating as in the margin, explain the meaning to be that "when their intoxication is gone they commit whoredom." But though drunkenness and debauchery frequently go together, it is rather during the former than afterwards that the latter is indulged in.
(3) The first clause had better be understood figuratively, and the latter either literally or figuratively, or both. Thus the sense is the degeneracy of principle among the people in general, or rather among the principal men of that day. By the finest wine becoming vapid, the prophet represents the leading men of the nation, on whom so much depended and from whom so much might be expected, as becoming unprincipled, and as being addicted to immorality or idolatry, or probably both (hazneh hiznu): "whoring they have committed whoredom."
(1) Her rulers (margin, shields) with shame do love, Give ye; or rather,
(2) her shields lore, love shame. The first takes הֵביּ for הָבוּ, as imperative of יָהַב, to give, and should rather be, "Her shields love, ' Give ye - shame, as there is no preposition before the word "shame;" even thus it is awkward. Most modern expositors take הֵבוּ as a contraction of אָהֵב ו, and so a repetition of part of the full verb preceding; thus: אָחְבוּ הֵבוּ, equivalent to "loved, loved." Ewald, Delitzsch, and Pusey understand it so; the latter says this "is probably one of the earliest forms of the intensive verb, repeating a part of the verb itself with its inflection." And Keil calls it "a construction resembling the pealal form." Among the sebirin, or conjectural readings, we find both words united into one; thus: אֲהַבהֵבוּ, equivalent to "mightily love." The shields are the princes, or natural protectors of the state, as in Psalm 47:9, "The princes of the people are gathered together.., for the shields of the earth be. long unto God." The shame they loved was the sin which is a shame to either princes or people, causes shame, and ends in shame. Isaiah expounds the thought (in Isaiah 1:22), a comparison of which confirms the above exposition.
(1) The wind hath bound her up in her wings; or,
(2) she hath bound up the wind with her in her skirts.
In the one case the wind is the strong storm-wind of Divine wrath that will seize on Ephraim, wrap her up with its wings, and carry her away. In the other, Ephraim wraps up the wind, that is, disappointment, the result of her sin, in the fold of her skirt. The
(1) translation of the first clause of ver. 19 is supported by Rashi: "The storm takes her in its wings, as that bird which the wind does not let rest until it makes him go far away; so the enemies will come upon them and carry them into exile." Translation
(2) is favored by Aben Ezra and Kimchi; the former says, "As the man who binds the wind in the folds of his robe without finding anything therein." And they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices. Frustrated in her hopes, and disappointed by the idols, from which she hoped so much and got so little, she is ashamed of the sacrifices she offered them; not of the altars (LXX.), for the preposition rain is indispensable.
The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.