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Ezekiel 20:4

4. Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt you judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:

4. An judicabo eos? an judicabo eos, fili hominis? abominationes patrum ipsorum indica 258258     Or, “explain.” — Calvin. illis.


The context flows very well if we embrace this sense, that God swears that the Israelites did not come to be subject to his Prophet, and to submit themselves modestly to his instructions. If this sense pleases, it is well added, shall you judge them? that is, shall you spend thy breath in arguing with them? He means that they are rather to be dismissed than instructed; as Christ says, You shall not cast pearls before swine. (Matthew 7:6.) And we know what God pronounces: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, because he is flesh. (Genesis 6:3.) He now means that there was no need of any dispute, since there was no means of carrying it on; so in this passage, since the Prophet was dealing with men utterly broken down, who never listened to wise counsels, nor obeyed any admonitions, nor were softened by any chastisement, he adds, therefore, shall you judge them? Some indeed coldly and insipidly explain this of taking away the part of a judge, since God rather wishes them to be called to repentance than to be condemned. But here judging embraces within itself all reproaches and threats. On the whole, since they acted deceitfully, and by no means proposed to submit themselves to God, hence he uses this bitterness, What! are they worthy of your judging them? that is, of your contending with them? for the Prophet’s duty is to argue with sinners, to threaten them, and to cite them to God’s tribunal. God, therefore, pronounces them unworthy of such disputing, because they are not only deaf, but, hardened by abandoned obstinacy. Now, therefore, we understand the sense of the words, wilt you judge them? will you judge them? The repetition is emphatic, that God may strongly express the obstinacy of that desperate people. He afterwards adds, If this be done, then show them the abominations of their fathers. God here mitigates the asperity which he had used, and by means of a correction descends to a reason for it, namely, that he may for once try whether or not they are curable. If then they are to be judged, that is, if he chooses to enter into any dispute, and to argue with them, he says that he ought to begin not with themselves, but with their fathers. God wishes them to be judged, not only on account of the wickedness of a few years, but because before they were born their fathers were obstinately attached to their abominations. In fine, God shows that the wound was deep, and could not be cured, unless the hidden poison was carefully examined, which otherwise would cause putrid matter, from which at length inflammation would arise. For many think that they have properly discharged their duty when they have but lightly probed their wounds: but sometimes it is necessary to penetrate to the inmost parts, as the people had not only provoked God lightly, and for a short time, but their impiety had been growing for ages, and their sins had become a kind of inheritance to them. Since, then, this hidden poison existed, which could not be cured either easily or by any slight remedy, hence God orders them to begin with their fathers. Show them, therefore, the abominations of their fathers. It follows —

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