They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?
The conscience of Israel is here addressed. The coincidence of new idolatries with "war in the gates" was strikingly suggestive. It could not be accidental. There was nothing in which Israel had had more continued experience than in the connection of idolatry with national weakness and misery.
I. DECLINE COMMENCES WITH THE FIRST DEPARTURE FROM THE WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH. It was as they trusted in Jehovah and acquainted themselves with him that they were able to drive out their enemies. The weakening of this religious principle undermined the moral character and strengthened the force of sensuous influences. It is only as the soul anchors itself on the Eternal that it is able rightly to regard the outward and temporary affairs of life.
II. THE ADOPTION OF OTHER GODS IS PUNISHED AS A CULMINATING AFFRONT. In this we see not so much the indirect results of idolatrous practice as the immediate chastisement of Jehovah's own hand. The apostasy is deliberate; punishment must be proportionately stern and extreme. Those who have known his character and will, and yet deliberately despise them, deserve the more condign punishment. We see this principle at work in many a life. There are sins which seem to invite a terrible vengeance. Do we provoke God's anger? Let us remember that he can be a consuming fire. Deliberate rejection of God is a direct invitation and challenge to his wrath.
III. THE FINAL RESULT OF IDOLATRY IS EFFEMINACY AND ABJECT HELPLESSNESS. This is proved by an appeal to history. The Israelites had an instance of it in their own experience. There may have been weapons in Israel, but the idol worshipper had lost the courage to wield them. Idolatry, as a degraded conception of God, degrades its votaries. It has ever been linked with licentiousness and vice. The conscience is gradually destroyed, and with it all moral strength disappears. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?