9. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.
9. Cum fletu venient, et in precationibus (vel, miserationibus) addiscam cos; deducam ad fluvios aquarum, in viam rectam, ubi non impingent (non impingent in ea, ad verbum, sed
The Prophet still pursues the same subject; but he adds, that though they went with weeping into exile, yet that would be no impediment, that God should not restore them again to their own country: for I take the beginning of this verse,
"Going forth they went forth and wept; but coming they shall come with exultation, carrying their sheaves." (Psalm 126:6)
For the Prophet compares the exile of the people to sowing; for except the seed cast on the earth dies, it remains dry and barren, and does not germinate: the death then of the seed is the cause of production. So also it was necessary for the people to be by exile thus cast on the ground, that their calamity might be a kind of death to them. But he says that the Jews when cast forth as a seed, that is, when driven into exile to be put to death by the chastening rod of God, "had come with weeping;" but that afterwards they returned with joy as in harvest, that is, when liberty to return was granted them. So also the Prophet here speaks, as I think, in an adversative sense, of the Jews; the particle though is to be understood.
It afterwards follows,
Then he says,
"A voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight the paths of our God; let every valley be raised and mountain be made low, so that rough places may become plain, and the crooked (or tortuous) become straight ways."
We thus see how these prophecies harmonize, and ought to be regarded as teaching the same thing, -- that God surmounts all obstacles when it is his purpose to save his Church; for how much soever all the elements may unite against the salvation of the godly, God can by one breath dissipate them all, and cast down the loftiest mountains that may be in his way, and give rivers in deserts and dry lands; and thus he can constrain to obey him whatever may seem opposed to the salvation of his Church.
He afterwards adds,
"I will say to her who obtained not mercy, Thou shalt obtain mercy; I will say to the not beloved, Thou art a beloved people." (Hosea 2:23)
For nothing could have been said of the Jews when expelled from their inheritance, but that they were wholly alienated from God. He was therefore no Father to them at that time, that is, he did not appear to be so, although he did prove himself to be a Father really and effectually. He then began to be a Father when the people returned into their own country, because God's favor then shone forth, which for a time had been as it were extinct.2
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast so often been pleased to receive into favor thine ancient people, though extremely provoked by their perverse wickedness, -- O grant, that mercy may also at this day be shewn to us, and that though we wholly deserve to perish eternally, thou mayest yet stretch forth thine hand to us and grant to us a testimony of thy favor, so that we may be able with a cheerful mind to call on thee as our Father, and ever to entertain hope of thy mercy, until we shall be gathered into that kingdom, where we shall perfectly render to thee the sacrifice of praise, and rejoice in the fruition of that eternal life, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Nineteenth
We explained yesterday how God began to be a Father to Israel when he restored him from exile. Adoption, with regard to God, remained indeed the same, as it has been stated; but as to the judgment of men, it was abolished. He then began anew so to collect his people, that they might really know him as their Father.
He afterwards adds, that
"And God refused the tribe of Joseph, and rejected the tabernacles of Ephraim; he chose the tribe of Judah whom he loved."
(Psalm 78:67, 68)
There a comparison is made between the kingdom of Judah which God had erected, having added a promise, and the kingdom of Jeroboam, which was, as it were, spurious; for the revolt from the family of David had torn the body of the Church, so that it became as it were mutilated. For this reason it is said that Ephraim was rejected, that is, because God regarded David alone and his posterity with paternal favor; and of his whole family it was said,
"He shall call me, 'My Father;' and I will say to him
'Thou art my Son.'" (Psalm 89:26)
In this place then, the Prophet speaks generally of the people, as though he had said that it was only a temporary division when the ten tribes had formed for themselves a kingdom of their own, but that they would become one people, so that Ephraim would differ in nothing any more from Judah. To the same purpose is what is said by Hosea,
"When Israel was a child I loved him,
and from Egypt have I called my Son." (Hosea 11:1)
There the Prophet calls the people Israel; he does not, however, denote the ten tribes only, but he placed in the first rank David and his posterity. Indeed, the Prophets, when prophesying of the restoration of the Church, direct their eyes to the first unity which God had fixed among the people, for it was then only the true state of things, when the twelve tribes preserved a fraternal union. We now then perceive why the Prophet says that Ephraim was God's first-born.
But it may be asked here, "With respect to whom is he thus called? for it follows that there were other sons of God, if Ephraim was the first-born among them." But this conclusion is not well-founded; for Mary is said to have brought forth her first-born son, who was yet her only son, (Matthew 1:25) and Christ is called elsewhere the first-begotten with: reference to all the faithful,
"that he might be the first-born among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
But Mary had brought forth her only son. Hence the word, "first-born," does not prove that others follow, the second and the third in their order; but we may say that Ephraim was called the first-born of God with reference to the Gentiles, who at length became partakers of free adoption: for we also are the children of Abraham, because we have been planted by faith among the elect people; yet this solution seems to me more refined than solid. I then give this simple interpretation, that Ephraim was called the first-born because he was preferred to all the Gentiles; God was pleased to choose them as his people. This then was the peculiar privilege of the seed of Abraham; for though the human race was one and the same, yet it pleased God to choose and adopt Abraham and his posterity. It now follows, --
1 The Targ. and the Versions, excepting the Vulg., give a similar meaning to these two clauses. They give the sense of "departing" to the first verb, while it commonly has the sense of "coming." It is also in the future tense, and therefore cannot refer to the departing of the Israelites, who are meant here, for they had already gone into exile. Their return is no doubt what is spoken of, which would be attended with "weeping," not for joy, but for their sins, as it is distinctly expressed in verses 18 and 19 (Jeremiah 31:18-19); and also with entreaties or supplications. And it is better with Venema to join the two words with "coming," --
With weeping shall they come and with supplications; I will bring them, I will lead them, By streams of water, in a straight way; They shall not stumble in it.
He promises two things, to "bring" and to "lead;" then the leading refers to the streams of water, and the bringing to the straight way; which is a kind of arrangement that is often to be met with in Scripture. Two things, especially necessary for travelers, are promised, water and a good road. "Straight" seems to apply to the surface of the road as well as to its sides; hence some render it "smooth" or even, such as would have nothing that might cause one to stumble. -- Ed.
2 What is here said is no doubt true: but the auxiliary verb is, "I was," not "I shall be;" and so it is rendered by the Sept., Vulg., and Targ.; and by the Syr., I am. Then the Versions, very incorrectly, give the next clause, in which there is no verb, in the present tense, while it ought to be in the past tense, like the foregoing. The words literally are, --
For I was (or, have been) to Jacob a Father, And Ephraim, my first-born he (i.e. was he.)
And to this purpose has Blayney rendered the passage. Whenever the auxiliary verb is understood, its tense must be regulated by the context. On "first-born," see Exodus 4:22, 23, and 1 Chronicles 5:1. -- Ed.
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