7. How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses.
7. Quomodo super hoc parcam tibi (hoc est, parcerem, nam debet resolvi futurum tempus in modum potentialem, quomodo, inquit, parcerem tibi super hoc?) Filii tui dereliquerunt me, et jurarunt in non Deo: ego autem saturavi eos, et scortati sunt (tamen scortati sunt;) et domus meretricis congregaverunt se (vel, in domum meretricis, ita subaudienda erit litera b servilis.)
There is here what rhetoricians call a conference: for God seems here to seek the judgment of the adverse party, with whom he contends, on the cause between them, though it was sufficiently clear; and this is a proof of confidence. When advocates wish to shew that there is nothing doubtful or obscure, they thus deliberate with the opposite party, -- "Why, I will propose the matter privately to yourself; have you anything to say? Even if you were at liberty to determine the question, would not reason compel you to pronounce such a judgment as this?" So now God shews that he was constrained, as it were, by necessity to inflict on the Jews a most severe punishment, and intimates that he was not, as it were, at liberty to do otherwise. "If I am, "he says, "the judge of the world, is it possible that they can escape unpunished, who thus openly provoke me? Should I not expose to ridicule my glory? and should I not also divest myself of my own power? I should cease to be what I am, and in a manner deny myself, were I not to punish a people so wicked and irreclaimable." We now perceive the Prophet's meaning.
Some consider w, vau, to be understood, and take ya, ai, for Nya, ain, and read thus, "I will not spare thee for this." But as there is no reason to make any change, and many agree in the view that has been given, I prefer to follow what has been most commonly received. The meaning of ya, ai, in Hebrew is "where;" but it also means "how: "and here it is to be understood, not of place, but of manner, "How could I for this be propitious to you?"
We see how God, as it were, deliberates with the opposite party, and even appeals to them for judgment, "Say now, were I to allow you so much liberty and power as to decide the question, could I, who am the judge of the world, spare you who are guilty of such vices?"
Thy sons have forsaken me. This was the first sin: and when God complained that he was forsaken, he intimated that the people had willfully, and from deliberate wickedness, cast off the yoke; for the same thing could not have been said of heathens. It is indeed true, if we have regard to the beginning, that all may be charged with defection, for God had revealed himself to the sons of Adam and of Noah; and when they fell away into superstitions, they became apostates. But the defection of the Jewish people was much more recent, and less to be borne: nay, when they boasted that they were God's people, who could have alleged the pretense of ignorance? We now then see what the Prophet means when he says, that God had been forsaken by the people.
He then adds, They have sworn by a no- god. He means, by stating a part for the whole, that the worship of God was become corrupt and vitiated: for swearing, as it was stated yesterday, is a part of God's worship. Whenever we swear by God's name, we profess that we are under his power, and that we cannot escape if we swear falsely: we also ascribe to him his glory as the God of truth; and we further testify that nothing escapes him, or is hid from his view. Hence, by saying here that the Israelites swore by a no- god, he means that God was deprived of his own right. They were indeed guilty of other sins; but, as it has been stated, the Prophet includes under one kind all the superstitions which then prevailed among the people. It was then the same as though he had said, that they worshipped idols and gods, whom they had devised for themselves.
He adds a circumstance which enhanced their guilt, I have filled them, he says, and they have committed adultery. There is here a striking alliteration, which must not be omitted, he had said, Nebsy, ishbon, "they have sworn;" and now he says, ebsa, ashbo, "I have filled them." The only difference is in a point; when placed on the left side of s, shin, the word means to fill, and when on the right, to swear.1 The Prophet then says, that they had sworn to another God, and yet had been filled. God shews here how base and disgraceful had been the ingratitude of the people; for they had been filled to the full with all blessings, and yet they did not acknowledge their own God, who had been to them a Father, so kind and bountiful: I have filled them, he says, and they have committed adultery.
Now this passage teaches us, that they who go astray, when allured by God's paternal kindness and bounty, are on that account the more unworthy of pardon. When men grow wanton against God, while he is kindly indulging them, they no doubt treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath, as Paul tells us in Romans 2:5. Let us then take heed, lest we indulge ourselves, while God is, as it were, indulging us; and lest prosperity should lead us to wantonness: but let us learn to submit ourselves willingly to him, even because he thus kindly and sweetly invites us to himself; and when he shews himself so loving, let us learn to love him.
He says, that they committed adultery. This may be taken metaphorically: but as in the next verse he inveighs against their vagrant lusts and adulteries, this phrase may be taken in its literal sense. I yet think that adultery here is to be understood figuratively, as meaning that they had no spiritual chastity, inasmuch as they did not give God his own glory. He further says, And at the house of the harlot have they assembled together. The word "house" may be taken in the nominative case, as the Jews might have been called the house of the harlot; as though the Prophet had said, that all Jerusalem and Judea were like brothels. But some consider b, beth, to be understood, so that they assembled themselves, as it were, at the house of a harlot; and that he thus alludes to the temple. And it is a mark of great shamelessness, when many adulterers or wanton men assemble in one house; for most are ashamed of their adulteries, so that they endeavor to hide their baseness: but when they come together in troops, as though under an uplifted banner, it is a proof that there is no shame, but that they thus disregard all decency, like brute beasts. The most suitable meaning then is, that they are said to have assembled together in brothels, because they gloried in their own superstitions and sacrileges.2 It follows --
And the house of the harlot they crowd.
The verb for "crowd" seems here to be transitive, though it be intransitive in Micah 5:1.-Ed.