13. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.
13. Tantnm modo (vel, atqui) cognosce iniquitatem tuam, quia adversus Jehovam Deum tuum scelerate egisti, et dispersisti (vel, dissipasti, aut, prostituisti) vias tuas alienis, sub omni arbore frondosa, et vocem meam non audivisti, inquit Jehova.
God lays down here a condition, lest hypocrites, relying on his goodness, should become more and more hardened, and yet think that he is bound as it were to them; for they usually reason thus, -- "God is so kind that he recalls us to himself, and of his own free will invites even sinners; we may therefore easily settle matters with him." Thus hypocrites by false thoughts' delude themselves, thinking that they can elude God, since he seeks nothing else but to restore sinners to himself. Hence with the promise of favor there ought ever to be connected an exhortation to repentance. God then reminds here the Israelites, that they were greatly deceived, if they thought they could without any difficulty obtain pardon.
Hence he says, know thine iniquity. The particle Ka, ak, may be rendered only, or but, or yet. I prefer the second meaning, but; for an exception, as I have said, is here added, lest the Israelites slumbered in their vices, if they persuaded themselves that God was, as it, were, in their power and subject to their will. We hence see that the Prophet, modifying what he had said, introduces this sentence, "But in the meantime know thine iniquity, otherwise thou canst expect no peace with God." Then these words follow, because thou hast acted wickedly against Jehovah thy God. By these words the Prophet proves that the Israelites were guilty, lest they supposed that they could by evasions escape the wrath of God; for we know that often, even those who are conscious of their guilt, are not willing to confess their sins; and it is strange that men are so besotted as ever to contend with God. On this account the Prophets, when they exhorted the people to repent, at the same time brought to light their sins. Were there in men frankness and honesty, there would be no need thus to charge them; but as they either boldly deny their sins, or are so callous as to be moved by no fear, it is necessary to prick them sharply and even deeply to wound them. This is what the Prophet now does; Thou, he says, hast done wickedly against thy God; as though he had said, "I do not now in vain remind thee to own thy sins, for God himself condemns thee: think not thou that thou canst gain anything by thy subterfuges."
He mentions also particulars, that he might come into closer quarters with them, Thou hast dispersed, he says, or scattered, thy ways to strangers, under every shady tree. He again compares the Israelites to strumpets, who commonly so prostitute themselves, that they ramble from one place to another, invite and allure all they meet with. The Prophet then says, that the Israelites had thus dispersed themselves. He speaks delicately on an indelicate subject. But what he means is, that the Israelites were not content with one kind of superstition or with one idol, but blended together as many superstitions as they could, and borrowed false notions from all quarters: they were like a rambling strumpet, who prostitutes herself to all men indifferently. And strangers he calls all their fictitious gods; for as I have often said, they ought to have regarded him as their husband. When therefore the Israelites turned away to other gods, they became like a woman, who leaves her husband and prostitutes herself to any she can find. It is indeed a most common thing for those who forsake the true worship of God to seek for themselves various errors from all quarters, and to abandon themselves unreservedly to all kinds of superstitions.
He at length adds, And thou hast not hearkened to my voice. By this fact the Prophet enhances their sin; for they had been instructed in the doctrine of the law, and understood the right way of salvation: how then was it that they thus polluted themselves with so many superstitions? It could not have been attributed to ignorance. It was then their manifest rebellion against God. The Prophet then shews that they had been disobedient and intractable, and that they had relapsed into idolatry and pernicious errors, because they had shaken off the yoke of God, and suffered not themselves to be ruled and guided by his word.1
We now then perceive the meaning of this verse: God first requires a confession of sins from the Israelites; and thus he sets forth how available that return would be which he had previously mentioned; for until a sinner knows his sinfulness, he will never really and from the heart return to God, as the beginning of repentance is the confession of guilt. He then proves them to have been guilty, that he might cut off from them every pretense for evasion. He mentions in the third place specific sins, that he might hold them as it were fast bound, even that they had polluted themselves with superstitions, and that they had become, not only like an adulterous woman who follows another man, but also like filthy strumpets, who run here and there and make no difference between men known or unknown. He shews in the last place, that all this happened through mere obstinacy; for they had cast aside every regard for God, though he had given them his law, and sent the prophets as its faithful interpreters, so that they understood what God approved and what was just and right. The reason then why they went astray was, that they closed their ears to God's word, and suffered not themselves to be ruled by it, but became wholly unteachable. Let us go on --
But yet know thine iniquity, That against Jehovah thy God hast thou rebelled; For thou hast diversified thy ways for strangers, Under every green tree; And to my voice ye hearkened not, saith Jehovah.
The word Ka is rendered by the early versions and the Targum, But, or But yet, or Nevertheless, "Verum," "Verumtamen." The third line is thus explained by Parkhurst, "Thou hast run after various heathen nations in their several idolatries." And this they did, while they refused to attend to the voice of God. To attend to, rather than to obey, is what is meant. So the Vulgate and the Syriac, "My voice ye heard not," or, as the former, "thou didst not hear.-Ed.