11. And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the Lord;
11. Et ad domum (vel, palatium) regis Jehudah, Audite sermonem Jehovae:
12. O house of David, thus saith the Lord, Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
12. Domus David, sic dicit Jehova, judicate mane judicium (sunt quidemt duo verba, sed utrunque significat judicare; sensus antem est, judicare mature, et proferre rectum et oequum judicium; postea adjungit speciem unam,) liberate spoliatum e manu oppressoris, ne exeat, tamquam ignis, indignatio mea, et ardeat, et non sit extinguens, a facie malitiae studiorum ipsorum (hoc est, propter malitiam scelerum ipsorum).
Now the Prophet tells us that he was sent to the king and his counsellors. Hitherto he has been addressing the king and the whole people indiscriminately; but here a special message is committed to him to be delivered at the palace of the king; and he was to say that judgment was nigh him and his counsellors. But he is not now threatened as before, for there is a condition interposed: he exhorts them to repent, and indirectly promises them pardon, for in vain would he have spoken to them of repentance had he not given them some hopes of pardon and deliverance. He is not yet inconsistent with himself, for though the king was to be driven into exile, he might yet obtain some favor, after having submitted to a paternal correction. Though, then, the Prophet here exhorts the king and his counsellors to repent, he does yet shew that they were not to be wholly free from punishment, and yet he promises some mitigation.1
And this passage reminds us that we ought not to rush headlong into despair when some great evil is suspended over us, and when God shews that we cannot wholly escape punishment. For there is nothing more unreasonable than that the fear by which God restores us to himself should be the cause of despair, so that we repent not; for though God's wrath be not wholly removed, yet it is a great thing that it is mitigated, which is an alleviation accompanying the evil itself.
In short, the Prophet intimates that God's wrath might be alleviated, though not wholly pacified, provided the king and his counsellors began to act rightly and justly. But he mentions the house of David, not for honor's sake, but, on the contrary, by way of reproach; nor does he refer to David, as some unmeaningly assert, because he ruled justly and was a most excellent and upright king; but the Prophet had regard to God's covenant. For we know that they deceived themselves when they thought that they were to be exempt from trouble through a peculiar privilege, because God had chosen that family, and promised that the kingdom would be perpetual. Thus hypocrites appropriate to their own advantage whatever God has promised; and at the same time they boast, though without faith and repentance, that God is bound to them. Such, then, was the presumption of the king and his counsellors; for they who were David's descendants doubted not but that they were exempt from the common lot of men, and that they were, as they say, sacred beings. Hence the Prophet says, in contempt, The house of David! that is, "let these vain boastings now cease, for God will not spare you, though you may a hundred times boast that you are the descendants of David." And at the same time he upbraids them with having become wholly degenerate, for God had made a covenant with David on the condition that he served him faithfully; but his posterity were become perfidious and apostates. Therefore the Prophet brought before them the name of David, in order that he might the more reproach them, because they were become wholly unlike their father, having departed from his piety.
Thus saith Jehovah, he adds, Judge ye judgment. There was no doubt a great liberty taken by the king and his courtiers in committing plunder, for the Prophet would not have here recommended justice to them had they not wholly neglected what was just and right. As, then, there was no care to administer justice, the Prophet bade them to recognize what was due to God and to his people. But it was a most grievous trial to all the godly to see that the sacred house, in which the living image of God ought to have shone forth brightly, was become a house of spoils, where robbers dwelt, who with impunity plundered all around them. When, therefore, the state of things is in such a disorder that the very judges, whom God has set over his Church, are like robbers, let us know that such a thing happened formerly; nor is there a doubt but that God thus took vengeance on the impiety and wickedness of the people, for he would have never suffered that house to be so contaminated and so filled with so many crimes, had not the people been unworthy of a good and faithful king and of upright counsellors. Let us, then, know that the Prophet exhorted the king and his counsellors to execute justice, because they had forgotten their office, and were become like rapacious wolves.2
He specifies one act, Free ye the spoiled from the hand of his oppressor. Some read, "from the hand of the fraudulent," as though qse, oshek, should mean to oppress by calumny and malice, or by fraudulent means; but it is to be taken otherwise here. Some distinguish between the two words qse, oshek, and lzg, gesal, and say that the first means to retain a deposit or wages, or anything that belongs to another, and that the latter signifies to take a thing by force, to plunder. But this difference, as it appears, is not observed by the Prophet, for he says, "Free ye the plundered or the spoiled." From whose hand? from "the hand of the oppressor." As, then, these two words correspond, I doubt not but that lzg, gesal, means both to take by force and to plunder; and that though qse, oshek, means often fraudulently to oppress, yet not always. However this may be, God intimates that neither the king nor his counsellors had any care for the poor, so as to repress violence, and robbery, and plunder. Then the very judges themselves were the associates of robbers, for they allowed them with impunity to rob and plunder without affording any aid to helpless men when they were thus wickedly harassed. There is, however, no doubt but that God would have them to perform their duties towards all, both rich and poor, without exception; but as injustice in this particular was especially seen, this is the reason why by stating a part for the whole he specified only one thing.3
He then adds, Lest my indignation go forth like fire, and burn, and there be none to extinguish it. Here the Prophet intimates, that except the king and his courtiers repented, it was all over with them. There is then a contrast to be understood here between that paternal correction of which he had spoken, and the destruction of which the Prophet now speaks. God's indignation had been already kindled, nor could it be immediately extinguished; and though they had to suffer, yet the issue would have been happy and according to their wishes: but he here declares that there would be an irreconcilable war with God, except they labored to return to his favor. He adds, On account of the wickedness of their doings. There is here a change of person, except we read Mk, cam, "you;" but this sort of change often occurs in Scripture. The Prophet, after having addressed them, says now, "on account of the wickedness of their doings," as though having finished his discourse, he spoke of them as being absent, or as though God, after having given orders to his Prophet, then added, "I denounce this on them, because they have so deserved."
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not, by new crimes, daily to kindle thy wrath, we may not proceed to obstinacy or contempt; and since it is good for us to be chastised by thine hand, grant that we may resignedly submit to thy scourges, and allow thee to act the part of a Father towards us, in restoring us to the right way, and never cease to hope in thee, even when thou seemest to be angry with us; but may our hope regard that issue which thou promisest, even that evils themselves shall be an aid to our salvation, until having gone through all the miseries of the present life, we shall come into that blessed rest which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us. -- Amen.