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Israel’s Apostasy


Set the trumpet to your lips!

One like a vulture is over the house of the L ord,

because they have broken my covenant,

and transgressed my law.


Israel cries to me,

“My God, we—Israel—know you!”


Israel has spurned the good;

the enemy shall pursue him.



They made kings, but not through me;

they set up princes, but without my knowledge.

With their silver and gold they made idols

for their own destruction.


Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.

My anger burns against them.

How long will they be incapable of innocence?


For it is from Israel,

an artisan made it;

it is not God.

The calf of Samaria

shall be broken to pieces.



For they sow the wind,

and they shall reap the whirlwind.

The standing grain has no heads,

it shall yield no meal;

if it were to yield,

foreigners would devour it.


Israel is swallowed up;

now they are among the nations

as a useless vessel.


For they have gone up to Assyria,

a wild ass wandering alone;

Ephraim has bargained for lovers.


Though they bargain with the nations,

I will now gather them up.

They shall soon writhe

under the burden of kings and princes.



When Ephraim multiplied altars to expiate sin,

they became to him altars for sinning.


Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions,

they are regarded as a strange thing.


Though they offer choice sacrifices,

though they eat flesh,

the L ord does not accept them.

Now he will remember their iniquity,

and punish their sins;

they shall return to Egypt.


Israel has forgotten his Maker,

and built palaces;

and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;

but I will send a fire upon his cities,

and it shall devour his strongholds.


The Prophet here notices two things, with respect to which he reprobates the perfidy and impious perverseness of the people, — they had, against the will of God, framed a religion for themselves, — and they had instituted a new kingdom. The salvation of that people, we know, was, as it were, founded on a certain kingdom and priesthood; and by these two things God testified that he was allied to the children of Abraham. We know where the happiness of the godly is deposited, even in Christ; for Christ is to us the fulness of a blessed life, because he is a king and a priest. Hence I have said, that through a certain kingdom and priesthood did the favor of God towards the people then shine forth. Now when the Israelites overturned the kingdom, which God by his own authority instituted, and when they corrupted and adulterated the priesthood, did they not, as it were, designedly extinguish the favor of God, and strive to annihilate whatever was needful for their salvation? This then is what the Prophet now speaks of, that is, that the Israelites in changing the kingdom and priesthood had undermined the whole appointment of God, and openly showed that they were unwilling to be ruled by God’s hand; for they would have never dared to turn asides even in the least degree, from the kingdom of David, nor would they have dared to set up a new and spurious priesthood, if any particle of the fear of God had prevailed in their hearts.

We now perceive the design of the Prophet, which interpreters have not sufficiently considered; for some refer this to the covenants, as it seemed strange to them, that the Israelites should be so severely reproved for setting up Jeroboam as their king, since Ahijah the Shilonite had already declared by God’s command, that it would be so. But they attend not sufficiently to what the Prophet had in view; for, as I have already said, when God instituted the priesthood, there shone forth in it the image of Christ the Mediator, whose office it is, to intercede with God that he might reconcile him to men; and then in the person of David shone forth also the kingdom of Christ. Now when the people tumultuously chose a new king for themselves without any command from God, and when they built for themselves a new temple and altar contrary to what the law prescribed, and when they divided the priesthood, was not all this a manifest corruption, a denial of religion? It is hence evident that the Israelites were in both these respects apostates; for they forsook God in two ways, — first, by separating from the house of David, — and then by forming for themselves a strange worship, which God had not commanded in his law.

With regard to the first, he says, They have caused to reign, but not through me; they have instituted a government, and I knew it not, that is, without my consent; for God is said not to know what he does not approve, or that concerning which he is not consulted. But some one may object and say, that God knew of the new kingdom since he was the founder of it. To this the answer is, that God so works, that this pretext does not yet excuse the ungodly, since they aim at something else, rather than to execute his purpose. As for instance, God designed to prove the patience of his servant Job: the robbers who took away his property, were they excusable? By no means. For what was their object, but to enrich themselves by injustice and plunder? Since then they purchased their advantage at the expense of another, and unjustly robbed a man who had never injured them, they were destitute of every excuse. The Lord, however, did in the meantime execute by them what he had appointed, and what he had already permitted Satan to do. He intended, as it has been said, that his servant should be plundered; and Satan, who influenced the robbers, could not himself move a finger except by the permission of God; nay, except it was commanded him. At the same time, the Lord had nothing in common or in connection with the wicked, because his purpose was far apart from their depraved lust. So also it must be said of what is said here by the Prophet. As God intended to punish Solomon, so he took away the ten tribes. He indeed suffered Solomon to reign to the end of his days, and to retain the government of the kingdom; but Rehoboam, who succeeded him, lost the ten tribes. This did not happen by chance; for God had so decreed; yea, he had declared that it would be so. He sent Ahijah the Shilonite to offer the kingdom to Jeroboam, who had dreamt of nothing of the kind. God then ruled the whole by his own secret counsel, that the ten tribes should desert their allegiance to Rehoboam, and that Jeroboam, being made king, should possess the greater part of the kingdom. This, I say, was done by God’s decree: but yet the people did not think that they were obeying God in revolting from Rehoboam, for they desired some relaxation, when they saw that the young king wished tyrannically to oppress them; hence they chose to themselves a new king. But they ought to have endured every wrong rather than to deprive themselves of that inestimable blessing, of which God gave them a symbol and pledge in the kingdom of David; for David, as it has been said, did not reign as a common king, but was a type of Christ, and God had promised his favor to the people as long as his kingdom flourished, as though Christ did then dwell in the midst of the people. When therefore the people shook off the yoke of David, it was the same as if they had rejected Christ himself because Christ in his type was despised.

We hence see how base was the conduct of the people in joining themselves to Jeroboam. For that sedition was not merely a proof of levity, as some people do often rashly upset the state of things; it was not merely a rash levity, but an impious denial of God’s favor, the same as if they had rejected Christ himself. They had also, in this way, torn themselves from the body of the Church; and though the kingdom of Israel surpassed the kingdom of Judah in wealth and power, it yet became like a putrid member, for the whole soundness depended on the head, from which the ten tribes had cut themselves off. We now then see why the Prophet so sharply expostulates with the Israelites for setting up a kingdom, but not through God; and solved also is the question, how God here declares that was not through him, which yet he had determined and testified by the mouth of his prophet, Ahijah the Shilonite; that is, that God, as it has been said, had not given a command to the people, nor permitted the people to withdraw themselves from their allegiance to Rehoboam. God then denies that kingdom, with respect to the people, was set up by his decree; and he says that what was done was this, — that the people made a king without consulting him; for the people ought to have attended to what pleased him, to what the Lord himself conceded; this they did not, but suddenly followed their own blind impulse.

And this place is worthy of being observed; for we hence learn that the same thing is done and not done by the Lord. Foolish men at this day, not versed in the Scripture, excite great commotions among us about the providence of God; yea, there are many rabid dogs who bark at us, because we say, (what even Scripture teaches everywhere,) that nothing is done except by the ordination and secret counsel of God, and that whatever is carried on in this world is governed by his hand. “How so? Is God, then a murderer? Is God, then a thief? Or, in other words, are slaughters, thefts, and all kinds of wickedness, to be imputed to him?” These men show, while they would be deemed acute, how stupid they are, and also how absurd; nay, rather what mad wild beasts they are. For the Prophet here shows that the same thing was done and not done by the Lord, but in a different way. God here expressly denies that Jeroboam was created king by him; on the other hand, by referring to sacred history, it appears that Jeroboam was created king, not by the suffrages of the people, but by the command of God; for no such thing had yet entered the mind of the people, when Ahijah was bidden to go to Jeroboam; and he himself did not aspire to the kingdom, no ambition impelled him; he remained quiet as a private man, and the Lord stirred him up and said, “I will have thee to reign.” The people knew nothing of these things. After it was done, who could have denied but that Jeroboam was set on the throne, as it were, by the hand of God? All this is true; but with are regard to the people, he was not created by God a king. Why? Because the Lord had commanded David and his posterity to reign perpetually. We hence see that all things done in the world are so disposed by the secret counsel of God, that he regulates whatever the ungodly attempts and whatever even Satan tries to do, and yet he remains just; and it avails nothing to lessen the fault of evils when they say, that all things are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to themselves, they know what the Lord enjoins in his law; let them follow that rule: when they deviate from it, there is no ground for them to excuse themselves and say that they have obeyed God; for their design is ever to be regarded. We hence see how the Israelites appointed a king, but not by God; for it was sedition that impelled them, when, at the same time, the law enjoined that they should choose no one as a king except him who had been elected by God; and he had marked out the posterity of David, and designed that they should occupy the royal throne till the coming of Christ.

Then follows the other charge, — that they made to themselves idols from their gold and from their silver God here complains that his worship was not only fallen into decay, but that it was also wholly corrupted by superstitions. It was an impiety not to be borne, that the people had desired a new king for themselves; but it was the summit of all evils, when the Israelites converted their gold and their silver into idols. They have made, he says, their gold and silver idols; that is, “I destined the gold and the silver, with which they have been enriched, for very different purposes. When, therefore, I was liberal to them, they abused my kindness, and from their gold and their silver they made to themselves idols or gods.” Here, then, the Prophet, by implication, sharply reproves the blind madness of the people, that they made to themselves gods of corruptible things, which ought, in the meantime, to be serviceable to them; for to what purpose is money given us by the Lord, but for our daily use? Since, then, the Lord has destined gold and silver for our service, what frenzy it is when men work them into gods for themselves! But this main point must be ever remembered, that the Israelites, in all things, betrayed their own defection; for they hesitated not to overthrow the kingdom which God had instituted for their salvation, and they dared to pervert the whole worship of God, together with the priesthood, by introducing new superstitions.

Then follows a denunciation of punishment — Therefore Israel shall be cut off. Were any, indeed, to object and say that God was too rigid, there would be no reason for such an objection; for they had betrayed and violated their pledged faith, and by condemning and treading under foot both the kingdom and priesthood, they had rejected his favor. We hence see that the Prophet threatens them now with deserved destruction. Let us proceed —

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