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A Call to Repentance


“Come, let us return to the L ord;

for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;

he has struck down, and he will bind us up.


After two days he will revive us;

on the third day he will raise us up,

that we may live before him.


Let us know, let us press on to know the L ord;

his appearing is as sure as the dawn;

he will come to us like the showers,

like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Impenitence of Israel and Judah


What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?

What shall I do with you, O Judah?

Your love is like a morning cloud,

like the dew that goes away early.


Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,

I have killed them by the words of my mouth,

and my judgment goes forth as the light.


For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.



But at Adam they transgressed the covenant;

there they dealt faithlessly with me.


Gilead is a city of evildoers,

tracked with blood.


As robbers lie in wait for someone,

so the priests are banded together;

they murder on the road to Shechem,

they commit a monstrous crime.


In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;

Ephraim’s whoredom is there, Israel is defiled.



For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed.


When I would restore the fortunes of my people,

God then subjoins a complaint, — But they like men have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against me. Here God shows that the Israelites boasted in vain of their sacrifices and of all the pomps of their external worship, for God did not regard these external things, but only wished to exercise the faithful in spiritual worship. Then the import of the whole is this, “My design was, when I appointed the sacrifices and the whole legal worship, to lead you so to myself, that there might be nothing carnal or earthly in your sacrificing; but ye have corrupted the whole law; you have been perverse interpreters; for sacrifices have been nothing else among you but mockery as if it were a satisfaction to me to have an ox or a ram killed. You have then transgressed my covenant; and it is nothing that the people say to me, that they have diligently performed the outward ceremonies, for such a worship is not in the least valued by me.”

And he proceeds still farther and says, There have they dealt treacherously against me. He had said before, ‘They have transgressed the covenant;’ as though he said, “If they wished to keep my covenant, this was the first thing, — to worship me spiritually, even in faith and love; but they, having despised true worship, laid hold only on what was frivolous: they have therefore violated my covenant.” But now he adds, that “there” appeared their perfidy; yea, that they were convicted of violating their faith, and shown to be covenant-breakers, by this, — that they abused the sacred marks by which God had sanctioned his covenant, to cover their own perfidy. There is then great importance in the adverb שם, shim, as if he had said, “In that particular you have acted perfidiously:” for the Prophet means, that when hypocrites especially raise their crests, they are convicted of falsehood and perjury. But how? Because they set forth their own ceremonies, as we see them introduced as speaking thus in Isaiah 58, 3636     Isaiah 58:3. — fj. ‘Wherefore have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded?’ In this passage they accuse God of too much rigor, because they lost all their toil when they worshipped so laboriously, “We have then in vain spent labour and so diligently worshipped him.” God answers: ‘Who has required this at your hands?’ So also in this place the Prophet says, and more sharply, There have they dealt treacherously against me: that is, “They think that my mouth would be stopped by this defense only, when they brought forward their sacrifices, and, after their manner, made a great display, as if they were the best observers of religion; but I will show that in this very thing they are covenant-breakers.” How? “Because there is no falsehood worse than to turn the truth of God into a lie, and to adulterate his pure doctrine.” And this is what all hypocrites do, when they thus turn sacraments into gross abuses and false worship, when they build temples, when they imagine that God is rightly worshipped whenever an ox or a ram is offered. Since then hypocrites so grossly mock God and turn away sacrifices from Christ, they turn away from the doctrine of repentance and faith; in a word, they regard God only as a dead idol. When then they thus deprave the whole worship of God and adulterate it, when they so impiously corrupt the word of God and pervert his institutions, are they not covenant-breakers? There then they perfidiously acted against me. This ought to be carefully observed, because it has not been noticed by interpreters.

Some thus render the word אדם, adam, — “As the covenant of man have they transgressed it,” transferring it to the genitive case, “And they have transgressed the covenants as if it was that of man;” that is, as if they had to do with a mortal man, so have they despised and violated my holy covenant; and this exposition is not very unsuitable, except that it somewhat changes the construction; for in this case the Prophet ought to have said, “They have transgressed the covenant as that of a man;” but he says, ‘They as a man,’ etc. 3737     The words of the original are these, — והמה כאדם עברו ברית. The transposition as proposed above is wholly impossible; no such meaning can be made of the words. The translation preferred by Calvin is the only one that can be admitted. The word אדם is commonly taken for men or mankind: the literal rendering is, — “But they like men have transgressed the covenant.” —Ed. But this rendering is far from being that of the words as they are, ‘They as men have transgressed the covenant.’ I therefore interpret the words more simply, as meaning, that they showed themselves to be men in violating the covenant.

And there is here an implied contrast or comparison between God and the Israelites; as though he said, “I have in good faith made a covenant with them, when I instituted a fixed worship; but they have been men towards me; there has been in them nothing but levity and inconstancy.” God then shows that there had not been a mutual concord between him and the Israelites, as men never respond to God; for he sincerely calls them to himself, but they act unfaithfully, or when they have given some proof of obedience, they soon turn back again, or despise and openly reject the offered instruction. We then see in what sense the Prophet says that they had transgressed the covenant of God as men.

Others explain the words thus, “They have transgressed as Adam the covenant.” But the word, Adam, we know, is taken indefinitely for men. This exposition is frigid and diluted, “They have transgressed as Adam the covenant;” that is, they have followed or imitated the example of their father Adam, who had immediately at the beginning transgressed God’s commandment. I do not stop to refute this comment; for we see that it is in itself vapid. Let us now proceed —

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