30. For the children of Israel, and the children of Judah, have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord.
30. Quia fuerunt filii Israel et filii Jehudah tantummodo parrantes malum in oculis meis a pueritia sua; quia Israel tantummodo fuerunt provocantes me in opere manum suarum, dicit Jehova.
He amplifies the sin of the people, that they never departed from their vices. And he mentions the ten tribes, and also the tribe of Judah. The ten tribes, we know, had departed from the pure worship of God, when as yet true religion continued at Jerusalem. By mentioning then the children of Judah, he no doubt aggravated their guilt, intimating that they had fallen together with the Israelites, while yet they had for a time been preserved. The Israelites had become degenerated, afterwards the whole seed of Abraham became implicated in the same defection, so that they forsook the true worship of God. But afterwards he mentions only the children of Israel, but he includes also the tribe of Judah. For it ought to be observed, that when Scripture connects Israel with Judah, Israel then means the ten tribes, and that for the sake of honor or reproach the house of Judah is referred to separately; from the kingdom of Israel; but that when Israel is alone mentioned, it includes generally all the children of Abraham without exception. So it is in this place, when he says that the children of Israel and the children of Judah had done nothing but provoked God. Afterwards he mentions only Israel, and includes the twelve tribes.
But he says that the children of Israel and of Judah had only provoked him from their youth. The particle Ka ak, is sometimes taken as an affinnative, and sometimes as an adversative, but, or nevertheless; and this latter sense would be suitable, were the context to allow it. I am inclined to agree with those who render it "only;" and the Prophet seems to have removed all ambiguity, for he not only says, that they had done, but that they had been doing evil, which is a mode of speaking that intimates a continued action; they had then been doing evil, that is, they never ceased. And he confirms this declaration by saying Ka, ak, only, that is, their purpose had been nothing else, or all their study has been no other than to provoke me without end and measure.1 We hence see that every ground of complaint is taken away from the Jews, because God, by long forbearance, had deferred his vengeance, for he might have punished them many ages before. As then they had never ceased to provoke God, the rigor shewn to them could not have appeared too much, for he had, in his goodness, invited them to repentance, but with no effect.
And from their youth here is not to be understood of individuals, but is to be extended to the whole people; and so youth is to be taken for the time of their redemption, as we shall hereafter see. For the Church was in a manner then born, and in the desert, when they had been recently brought to the light, for God had delivered them from the darkness of death. In their very childhood they began to provoke God; from that time they had always been perverse in their wickedness.
The meaning then is, that the people of Israel had been of such a perverse disposition that it became necessary at length to punish them severely, for they ceased not to add evils to evils. And the particle Ka ak, shews their aggravated guilt, because they applied their whole minds to provoke God, and had been ingenious in devising superstitions, by which they polluted the worship of God: They have then, he says, been only doing evil.
And he adds, with the work of their hands. This explanation is added, because the Israelites might have raised a clamor, and asked what that evil was. God had indeed shewn sufficiently that it availed them nothing to seek evasions, for he had made himself their judge when he said, before my eyes; for by these words the Prophets intimate that a right judgment cannot be formed of men's works by themselves, for willing or unwilling, they must stand or fall according to the judgment of God. Whenever then God declares that men have sinned before his eyes, he means that it is in vain for them to seek subterfuges, by alleging their good intentions, as they are wont commonly to say, because with him is the authority to judge. But this truth he confirms, when he says, that they had provoked him by the work of their hands.2 By the work of their hands the Prophet means the superstitions will tell the people had invented for themselves. And we must ever bear in mind the contrast between God's commands and the works of our hands, for whatever we obtrude on God besides his Law is the work of our hands; but obedience is better than sacrifice. Then God here expressly condemns all the inventions of men, as though he had said, that however men may delight in their own superstitions, they are yet impious and detestable, for it is not lawful to devise anything. For God having given us his Law, has left nothing for us to do, except to follow what he has commanded; and when we turn aside and add something of our own, we do nothing but what is sacrilegious. It now follows --
For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have doubtless been doing the evil before mine eyes from their youth; for the children of Israel have doubtless been provoking me with the work of their hands, saith Jehovah.
The connection in this way appears more obvious. -- Ed.