11. Thus saith the Lord God, Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.
This confirms what we have formerly seen concerning the slaughter of the ten tribes. The kingdom of Israel had been indeed afflicted, but because those remaining in their own country thought themselves free from further calamity, and gave themselves up to their idolatries more and more, it was on this account necessary that final destruction should be denounced against them. Since, then, words moved them but little, God adds a sign, according to his custom in obstinate cases. He orders the Prophet, by clapping of hands, and by extending his legs and feet, to show that the land was cursed. Divide, therefore, thy feet; for thus men are accustomed to do when they denounce anything gravely, or burn with indignation: they extend their legs in opposite directions; so I have rendered it verbally separate thy feet: the clapping of the hands has the same object. God wishes by this gesture that his word should be confirmed, not for the Prophets sake, but for the sake of the obstinacy of those who were deaf to all words, as we have said. Hence we truly comprehend how great was the stupidity of men, who, when God was thundering from heaven, yet remain secure, and do not cease to follow after their own desires: even when God inspires terror, they do nothing but laugh -- this is monstrous. And yet we see it was an old disease, and I wish we of this day were free from what Ezekiel experienced.
Lastly, it is just as if he had been commanded to bring the Israelites into his presence. When, therefore, he was commanded to cry alas! or, oh! upon all the abominations of the house of Israel, there is no doubt that his gesture as well as his exclamation ought to be efficacious. The reason also is added -- that all shall perish by sword, pestilence, and famine. We have said that these three kinds of punishment are always proposed, not because God strikes the despisers of his law with pestilence, the sword, and famine only, but because this method is more known and more common. God has innumerable hidden methods of punishing transgressors; but since, as I have said, this scourge is more used, hence the Prophets more frequently mention it.
The result is, that destruction to the kingdom of Israel was at hand, which they had never thought of; because God avenges the wickedness of his people not only by war, but by pestilence and famine. Sometimes by the figure, a part for the whole, it comprehends other punishments. And we know with how many miseries war is replete; for when once men begin to take up arms, the gate is opened to robberies and rapines, burnings, slaughters, debaucheries, and all violence; and in war all humanity and equity is buried. Then as to famine, we know that it usually renders men ravenous. But in pestilence the husband will desert the wife, every family is invaded by death, orphanhood afflicts one, and widowhood another. Since, therefore, these scourges of God draw with them infinite miseries, it is not to be wondered at if the Prophets use war, pestilence, and famine, for shortness, when they signify that those who provoke God too long shall perish. Now follows a clearer explanation --
1 That is, "clap thy hands." -- Calvin.
2 Or, "extend ;" verbally, "extend in thy foot." -- Calvin.
3 Or, "heus, alas!" -- Calvin.
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