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Israel’s Sin and Captivity


Israel is a luxuriant vine

that yields its fruit.

The more his fruit increased

the more altars he built;

as his country improved,

he improved his pillars.


Their heart is false;

now they must bear their guilt.

The L ord will break down their altars,

and destroy their pillars.



For now they will say:

“We have no king,

for we do not fear the L ord,

and a king—what could he do for us?”


They utter mere words;

with empty oaths they make covenants;

so litigation springs up like poisonous weeds

in the furrows of the field.


The inhabitants of Samaria tremble

for the calf of Beth-aven.

Its people shall mourn for it,

and its idolatrous priests shall wail over it,

over its glory that has departed from it.


The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria

as tribute to the great king.

Ephraim shall be put to shame,

and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol.



Samaria’s king shall perish

like a chip on the face of the waters.


The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel,

shall be destroyed.

Thorn and thistle shall grow up

on their altars.

They shall say to the mountains, Cover us,

and to the hills, Fall on us.



Since the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel;

there they have continued.

Shall not war overtake them in Gibeah?


I will come against the wayward people to punish them;

and nations shall be gathered against them

when they are punished for their double iniquity.



Ephraim was a trained heifer

that loved to thresh,

and I spared her fair neck;

but I will make Ephraim break the ground;

Judah must plow;

Jacob must harrow for himself.


Sow for yourselves righteousness;

reap steadfast love;

break up your fallow ground;

for it is time to seek the L ord,

that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.



You have plowed wickedness,

you have reaped injustice,

you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Because you have trusted in your power

and in the multitude of your warriors,


therefore the tumult of war shall rise against your people,

and all your fortresses shall be destroyed,

as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle

when mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.


Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel,

because of your great wickedness.

At dawn the king of Israel

shall be utterly cut off.


They have spoken words, they have uttered words. Some give this explanation, that they daringly followed their own counsels, as the despisers of God are wont to settle and determine what comes to their minds according to their own will; for they deign not to inquire of God what is right. Thus they take the meaning to be; but I view it to be different, that is, that they spoke words, or very freely testified, that they would be the best and the most faithful worshipers of God. Then it follows, By swearing falsely. Some refer this to covenants. I will explain the words one by one; for I shall hereafter speak of the real meaning of the Prophet.

Then he says, that they swore falsely, that is, according to some because there was in them much levity and changeableness. And, indeed, I confess it to be true, that they procured for themselves grievous punishments by their perjuries; but the Prophet rather means those who swore falsely to the Lord. It then follows, By cutting a covenant, by making a covenant. Here again the Prophet no doubt reproves them for renewing their covenant with God perfidiously; for it was a mere dissimulation. But it follows, Judgement will germinate as wormwood Some render the word כראש, carash as gall; but the similitude is not suitable, since the Prophet speaks here of fields; for he adds, In the furrows of the field; that is, judgement will germinate in the furrows as wormwood or some other bitter plant.

I have thus briefly explained how some understand this verse, namely, that Israel was daring and haughty in their counsels, boldly determining whatever pleased them, as if it were not in the power of God to change what men resolve to do, — and then, that they implicated themselves in many compacts, that without any faith they violated them with this and that nation, and that at last they had nothing but bitterness. This is their exposition: but I rather think that the cause of God is here pleaded by the Prophet; that is, that the Israelites, as often as they promised some repentance, and gave some sign of it, only dissembled and lied to God. Hence he says They have spoken words, but they were only words; for they were never from a heart touched with any feeling as to God’s wrath, so as to abhor themselves for their vices. They therefore uttered words only.

He afterwards expresses the same deceitfulness in other words: They have sworn falsely, he says, and made a covenant; which means, that though they seemed to wish to return to God, it was yet a fallacious pretence; yea, a perjury. When they wished to prove themselves to be especially faithful, they then sinned more grievously by renewing their covenant.

Judgement shall therefore germinate as wormwood in the furrows of the field. Judgement is here to be taken as rectitude, as though the Prophet had said, “When they exhibit some appearance of religion, and give a colour to their impieties, it seems indeed to be judgement, there seems to be some justice; but it will be at last wormwood, and will germinate in the furrows of the field.”

Interpreters seem not to me to have understood the design of the Prophet. For why does he say, “in the furrows of the field,” rather than in the field? Even for this reason, because there is some preparation made, when the field is ploughed, for the good seed to grow. When therefore, noxious herbs grow on the furrows of the land, it is less to be endured than when they grow in dry and desert places; for this is what is wont naturally to happen. But when wormwood grows up instead of wheat in the furrows, that is, on lands well cultivated, it is a thing more strange and less to be endured. We now then apprehend what the Prophet meant. They indeed seemed at times to be touched with some feeling of piety, and promised much, and were very liberal in good words; they even swore, and seemed prepared to renew their covenant with God, — but what was all this? It was the same as if a husband man had prepared his field, and noxious herbs had grown up where he had bestowed much labour and toil. Such was their rectitude, — a disguised form or shadow of religion; it was nothing else, but like wormwood growing in well-cultivated land.

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