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Ezekiel 20:13-14

13. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.

13. Et rebelles fuerunt in me 262262     Or, “were bitter against me.” — Calvin. domus Israel 263263     We have often spoken of this word. — Calvin. in deserto: in decretis meis non ambularunt, et judicia mea spreverunt: qua qui fecerit homo rivet in ipsis: et Sabbatha mea violarunt valde: et dixi 264264     That is, “I have decreed.” — Calvin. effundere excandescentiam meam super eos in deserto ad consumendum eos.

14. But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.

14. Et feci propter nomen meum, ut non profanaretur in oculis gentium, sub quarum oculis eduxeram ipsos.


Here God pronounces that the sons were like their fathers; and that the people, after their deliverance from Egypt, were so obstinate in their wickedness as not to profit in any way. He had complained already before of their rejecting his grace: for it is equivalent to rejecting all offers to be corrupted by superstitions, and not to cleanse themselves from that defilement, although they knew it to be abominable before God. But after the law was promulgated, they then might have put away their perverse affections. And surely redemption ought to have conformed them to obey God; when they beheld his hand stretched out as it were from heaven, how was it that this spectacle did not avail to humble them, and to make them submissive to God? But in addition to the teaching of the law, God’s promise was given, by which he bore witness to them, that, if they sought from him the spirit of regeneration, the Sabbath would be really given them as a pledge and sign of it; and since all these things produced no effect, that was a proof of astounding contumacy. God says, therefore, that he obtained nothing more in the desert than he had formerly experienced from the people under their Egyptian tyranny: then, also, says he, the house of Israel exasperated me in the desert. The circumstance of place must be noticed, because they were wonderfully rescued by God’s incredible power, and they depended every moment on his good pleasure; for there they wanted food and drink: God daily rained down manna from heaven, and brought them water from the rock. (Exodus 16:14; Numbers 11:9; Deuteronomy 8:15, 16.) Since, therefore, necessity compelled them every moment to look to God, was it not more than brutal stupidity to exasperate God? When men grow wanton, it arises from becoming intoxicated by prosperity, and forgetful of their lot through not feeling how much they need God’s help. But when death is presented to our view, when terror hems us in on every side, when God is up in arms against us, what madness it is to despise him! We see, then, why the Prophet dwells so on this point.

He says too, they did not walk in God’s precepts, and they despised his judgments. He confirms what was said yesterday, that they were not deceived through ignorance, but manifested utter contempt of God, since they knew well enough what was pleasing to him. Since, then, they had a sure rule which could not deceive them, we see how they wandered away after their own superstitions by deliberate wickedness. This is the reason, then, why Ezekiel says that they despised God’s judgments. He repeats the promise which I expounded yesterday. For this reason also availed to exaggerate their crime, namely, the mildness of God in deigning to allure, them: he did not command them, exactingly and imperiously, as he might have done, but he entered into a covenant with them, and testified that a reward was prepared for them if they kept the law. Since, therefore, they neglected this promise, we see that they were not only rebels, but ungrateful to God. He adds, they had polluted his Sabbaths; which I refer not only to the outward rite, but rather to the inward spirit. It is true, indeed, that their impiety was sufficiently notorious as to outward desecration, as it appears from the seventeenth chapter of Jeremiah, when he says, that they carried their burdens on the Sabbath, and occupied themselves in common business. (Jeremiah 17:21, 22.) There is no doubt that they broke the Sabbath when they then promiscuously transacted their own business. But when it is added, that they violated the Sabbath greatly or grievously, we may understand that profanation is denoted in the mystery itself, since they struck off the yoke, and gave the rein to their own desires: for Isaiah also shows that the Sabbath was violated in this way, especially when the will of men is consulted. (Isaiah 58:13.) For hypocrites think they have discharged every duty by abstaining from all work; but the Prophet replies that this is a mere laughing-stock, since they fast on a Sabbath for strife and contention, and then that they gratify their will, which is opposed to self-denial. Hence God not only accuses the ancient people here for not hallowing the Sabbath, but also for neglecting its legitimate object and use. He now repeats what we saw yesterday. I have determined, therefore, to pour out upon them mine anger in the desert to consume them. If it is asked when this was done, it is sufficient to reply, that God’s wrath was frequently inflamed by the people’s wickedness. For although Moses does not verbally relate every event, yet there is no doubt that God often threatened the people with destruction, as we shall soon see with reference to their dispersion. It follows, I did it for my name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the eyes of the Gentiles. God repeats again that he was appeased, not because he pardoned them, but because he was unwilling to allow his name to become a laughing-stock among the nations. We said that in this way God’s twofold pity is commended, as he had already gratuitously adopted the people: hence their redemption could only be ascribed to his sole and gratuitous liberality, since it flowed from the election or adoption which we have mentioned. But though this was one kind of mercy, yet it did not suffice to render the people worthy of the grace offered them. Hence it came to pass that the promise given to Abraham could not profit them, unless God conquered the nation’s iniquity. This is the meaning of the Prophet when he says, that the people were preserved, although unworthy of it, since God saw that otherwise his name would be profaned among the nations. Without doubt he had respect to the covenant, since the Israelites had perished a hundred times over without any help from the name of God unless he had adopted them. It was necessary, therefore, that God should spare them, since their preservation was connected with his sacred name and regard for his covenant. It now follows —

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