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Lecture Thirty-ninth.

Hear this, ye old men; and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land: has this been in your days, and in the days of your fathers? This declare to your children and your children to their children, and their children to the next generation: the residue of the locust has the chafer eaten, and the residue of the chafer has the cankerworm eaten, and the residue of the cankerworm has the caterpillar eaten 22     All these are different kinds of locusts. There are in Hebrew ten names for them, designative probably of so many kinds. There are four here: גזם, gizam, the young locust; ארבה, arebe, so called from their number, one on the wing; ילק, ilak, one of the hairy bristly kind; and λψσ᾿, chesil, one unfledged. Following the probable ideal meaning of the words, we may give them these names, —the cutter, the multiplier, the licker, and the devourer.Ed. I have in the last Lecture already mentioned what I think of this passage of the Prophet. Some think that a future punishment is denounced; but the context sufficiently proves that they mistake and pervert the real meaning of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he reproves here the hardness of the people, — that they fell not their plagues. And as men are not easily moved by God’s judgments, the Prophet here declares that God had executed such a vengeance as could not be regarded otherwise than miraculous; as though he said, “God often punishes men, and it behooves them to be attentive as soon as he raises up his finger. But common punishments are wont to be unheeded; men soon forget those punishments to which they have been accustomed. God has, however, treated you in an unusual manner, having openly as it were put forth his hand from heaven, and brought on you punishments nothing less than miraculous. Ye must then be more than stupid, if ye perceive not that you are smitten by God’s hand.” This is the true meaning of the Prophet, and may be easily gathered from the words.

Hear, ye old men, he says. He expressly addresses the old, because experience teaches men much; and the old, when they see any thing new or unusual, must know, that it is not according to the ordinary course of things. He who has past his fiftieth or sixtieth year, and sees something new happening which he had never thought of, doubtless acknowledges it as the unusual work of God. This is the reason why the Prophet directs here his discourse to the old; as though he said, “I will not terrify you about nothing; but let the old hear, who have been accustomed for many years to many revolutions; let them now answer me, whether in their whole life, which has been an age on the earth, have they seen any such thing ” We now perceive the design of the Prophet; for he intended to awaken the Jews that they might understand that God had put forth his hand from heaven, and that it was impossible to ascribe what they had seen with their eyes to chance or to earthly causes, but that it was a miracle. And his object was to make the Jews at length ashamed of their folly in not having hitherto been attentive to God’s punishments, and in having always flattered themselves, as though God slept in heaven, when yet he so violently thundered against them, and intended by an extraordinary course to move them, that they might at last perceive that they were summoned to judgment.

He afterwards adds, And all ye inhabitants of the land. Had the Prophet addressed only the old, some might seize on some pretext for their ignorance; hence he addressed and from the least to the greatest; and this he did, that the young might not exempt themselves from blame in proceeding in their obstinacy and in thus mocking God, when he called them to repentance. Hear, he says, all ye inhabitants of the land; has this been in your days or in the days of your fathers? He says first, has such a thing been in your days, for doubtless what happens rarely deserves a greater consideration. It is indeed true that foolish men are blind to the daily works of God; as the favor of God in making his sun to rise daily is but little thought of by us. This happens through our ingratitude; but our ingratitude is doubled, and is much more base and less excusable, when the Lord works in an unwonted manner, and we yet with closed eves overlook what ought to be deemed a miracle. This dullness the Prophet now reproves, Has such a thing, he says, “happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Ye can recall to mind what your fathers have told you. It is certain that for two ages no such thing has happened. Your torpidity then is extreme, since ye neglect this judgment of God, which from its very rareness ought to have awakened your minds.”

He then adds, Tell it to your children, your children to their children, their children to the next generation. In this verse the Prophet shows that the matter deserved to be remembered, and was not to be despised by posterity, even for many generations. It appears now quite clear that the Prophet threatens not what was to be, as some interpreters think; it would have been puerile: but, on the contrary, he expostulates here with the Jews, because they were so slothful and tardy in considering God’s judgments; and especially as it was a remarkable instance, when God employed not usual means, but roused, and, as it were, terrified men by prodigies. Of this then tell: for עליה olie means no other thing than ‘tell or declare this thing to your children;’ and further, your children to their children. When any thing new happens, it may be, that we are at first moved with some wonder; but our feeling soon vanishes with the novelty, and we disregard what at first caused great astonishment. But the Prophet here showed, that such was the judgment of God of which he speaks, that it ought not to have been overlooked, no, not even by posterity. Let your children, he says, declare it to those after them, and their children to the fourth generation: it was to be always remembered.

He adds what that judgment was, — that the hope of food had for many years disappointed them. It often happened, we know, that locusts devoured the standing corn; and then the chafers and the palmer worms did the same: these were ordinary events. But when one devastation happened, and another followed, and there was no end; when there had been four barren years, suddenly produced by insects, which devoured the growth of the earth; — this was certainly unusual. Hence the Prophet says, that this could not have been chance; for God intended to show to the Jews some extraordinary portent, that even against their will they might observe his hand. When any thing trifling happens, if it be rare, it will strike the attention of men; for we often see that the world makes a great noise about frivolous things. But this wonder, says the Prophet, “ought to have produced effect on you. What then will ye do, since ye are starving, and the causes are evident; for God has cursed your land, and brought these insects, which have consumed your food before your eyes. Since it is so, it is surely the time for you to repent; and you have been hitherto very regardless having overlooked God’s judgments, which have been so remarkable and so memorable.” Let us now proceed.

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