5. Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children re gone into captivity before
5. Fuerunt inimici ejus in caput; hostes ejus feliciter egerunt (fuerunt in pace, wls;) quia Jehova afflixit eam super magnitude scelerum, ejus; parvuli ejus the enemy. Profecti sunt in exilium coram adversario.
He first says that her enemies had become the head; and by this expression he doubtless means power; and this way of speaking he borrowed from Moses, for these are his words,
"Thou shalt be the head and not the tail,
in a high place, not obscure." (Deuteronomy 28:13.)
He then says, that enemies were the head, that is, ruled over them. And the opposite of that is to be understood, even that they had become the tail, that is, were under the feet as it were of their enemies. And he says that her enemies had acted successfully, even because Jehovah had afflicted her. He here laments after the common practice, as ungodly men are wont to do; but he mixes instruction with his mourning, and shews that God, in a state of things so turbulent and confused, appeared as a righteous judge. He then recalled them to the consideration of God's hand, when he said that her enemies had acted successfully, because God had afflicted her. Jerome renders the words, "because Jehovah hath spoken." He derives the verb from hgh, ege, which means to speak or to meditate. But this is an evident mistake, as we shall find another presently in this very chapter. There is no doubt but that the Prophet intimates that the cause of all evils was, that God had afflicted her, even on account of the greatness of her impieties, or of her sins. He now then begins to shew that there is no reason why the Jews should be swallowed up with grief and despair, if only they considered whence their evils proceeded. He thus begins to call their attention to God's judgment. This indeed of itself would not have been sufficient; but he afterwards points out a fruitful source of consolation. But we shall see these things mentioned in their due order.
Grant, Almighty God, that as the deformity of thy Church at this day is sufficient to dishearten us all, we may learn to look to thine hand, and know that the reward of our sins is rendered to us, and that we may not doubt but that thou wilt be our physician to heal our wound, provided we flee to thy mercy; and do thou so retain us in the assurance of thy goodness and paternal care, that we may not hesitate, even in extreme evils, to call on thee in the name of thine only-begotten Son, until we shall find by experience that never in vain are the prayers of those, who, relying on thy promises, patiently look for a remedy from thee alone, even in extreme evils, and also in death itself. -- Amen.
We began yesterday to explain the passage where the Prophet says, that the enemies of Jerusalem had become the head and had been successful. It was a trial which must have grievously assailed the minds of the faithful, when they saw their enemies having fortune, as they commonly say, as it were in their own hand; for it appeared as though God shewed himself favorable to them. Hence the Prophet assigns the reason, lest the faithful should fall off from religion and the fear of God, and says that the whole of this proceeded from the just vengeance of God, it being his purpose to afflict his own Church; and he states not this alone, but adds, on account of the greatness of her iniquities. For ungodly men sometimes acknowledge that they have to do with God, but yet they murmur and think that God is unjust and cruel. Hence the Prophet not only taught the Jews that God was the author of the calamities which had happened, but at, the same time reminded them that they were worthy of such a reward, not only because they had transgressed, but because they had added sins to sins; for this is what he means by the greatness of iniquities. But he will presently repeat this sentence and enlarge upon it: it is then enough now to state his object. It was for this cause, then, as he says, that her little ones went into captivity before the adversary.
It was, indeed, an indignity, calculated to embitter the minds of the faithful, to see not only their young men but also infants so cruelly treated. :For men always think that they have some just cause to contend with God, and especially when the case of infants is brought forward; who, then, is not disposed to say that God's vengeance exceeds its due limits? "If his purpose be," say they, "to punish men for their wickedness, why does he not restrain his wrath as to the innocent? for how have miserable infants sinned?" But the Prophet here checks such audacity, and says that God had just reasons for extending his vengeance even to the little ones.1 It now follows, --
5. Become have her oppressors the head,
Her enemies have prospered;
For Jehovah has afflicted her
For the number of her transgressions;
Her children are gone into captivity
Before the face of the oppressor.
The word ru is not an" adversary," but an oppressor, one who straitens and oppresses another. -- Ed.