4. Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus says the Lord God, Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling- block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols.
4. Propterea loquere ad ipsos, et dic illis: sic Dominator Iehovah, vir vir, domo Israel,1 ascendere fecerit idola sua super cor suum, et offendiculum iniquitatis suae posuerit coram facie sua: et venerit ad prophetam: ego Iehovah respondebo huic2 secundum multitudinem idolorum ejus.3
Here God seems to treat those hypocrites too indulgently who pretend to ask his advice and yet despise his counsel. But God here rather threatens what would be destructive to the wicked than promises anything which they ought to expect. It is indeed a singular testimony of God's grace when he answers us: for prophecy is an image of God's paternal anxiety towards us and our salvation. But sometimes prophecy only ends in destruction; and this is but an accident. Although, therefore, God's word by itself is naturally to be greatly desired, yet when God answers as a judge, and takes away all hope of pardon and pity, no taste of his favor can then be perceived. Thus this passage must be understood. God pronounces that he would answer, but whom? The reprobate, and those who tauntingly inquired of the Prophet what they should do. When he answers them, he only shows himself the avenger of their perfidy; and thus his answer contains nothing else but the fearful judgment which hangs over all the reprobate. For God does not here impose a perpetual law on himself; for he does not always act in the same way towards all the reprobate, but says that those impious ones should feel that they shall not profit by their cunning and artifices, since they shall find the difference between God and Satan: for they were accustomed to lies, and had itching ears; hence they wished to have some pleasing and flattering answer from the servant of God, since the false prophets gratified their inclinations. What then does God say? I will answer them, but far otherwise than they either wish or desire: for I will answer them according to the multitude of their idols: for they bring with them the material for their own condemnation: hence they shall take back nothing from me but the seal of that condemnation which is already placed upon their hearts, and appears on their hands. In fine, God here laughs at the foolish confidence of those who inquire about future events of his prophets; but meanwhile they have their heart bound up with superstitions, so as openly to show their gross impiety: hence he says, that he would answer them, not as they thought, but as they deserved.
1 That is, "any one of the house of Israel." -- Calvin.
2 "It is another word:
3 "Some think the letter
The Hebrew word to which Calvin here refers is,
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