26. You has also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbors, great of flesh; and has increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.
26. Et scortata es cum fills AEgypti vicinis tuis magnis carne: et multiplicasti scortationes tuas ad irritandum me.
I Mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, that the Prophet blames the Jews not for one single kind of fornication, but for two different kinds. Interpreters do not observe this, but think that the Prophet is always discoursing of idols and superstitions. But if we prudently weigh all the circumstances, what I have said will not appear doubtful, namely, that the Jews were condemned not only for vitiating the worship of God by their perverse fictions, but for flying, now to the Egyptians, now to the Assyrians, and thus involving themselves in unlawful covenants. It is a very common method with the Prophets to call such covenants fornications: for as a wife ought to lie under the shadow of her husband, so God wished the Jews to be content under his protection. But as soon as any danger frightened them, they fled tremblingly to either Egypt, or Assyria, or Chaldea. We see, then, that they had in some sense renounced God's help, since they could not rest under his protection, but were hurried hither and thither by vague impulse. After the Prophet had inveighed against their superstitions, he now approaches another crime, namely, the Jews implicating themselves in forbidden treaties. He begins with Egypt. God had clearly forbidden the elect people to have any dealings with Egypt. Even if God had not made known the reason, yet they ought to have obeyed his command. But I have already explained the reason why God was unwilling that the Israelites should enter into any covenant with the Egyptians, because he wished to try their faith and patience, and if they would fly to his help when any danger pressed upon them, as the saying is, like a sacred anchor. There was also another reason, because from the time when God drew his people out from thence, he wished them separated from that nation which had raged so cruelly against their miserable guests. As far as the Chaldmans and Assyrians are concerned, the former reason prevailed thus far, that it was not lawful for them to distrust God's aid in their dangers.
Now, therefore, we understand the Prophet's meaning when he says, that the Jews had committed fornication with the sons of Egypt. He adds, they were gross in flesh. He means that they were foul and immodest, and were inflamed with disgraceful lust.1 He uses a grosser simile by and by, for the perfidy of this detestable people could not be sufficiently condemned. The Prophet here says reproachfully, you have committed fornication with the Egyptians, as a licentious woman acting most basely. He adds, you have multiplied thy fornications: he speaks to the people under the character of a woman, as we have formerly seen: to irritate me. Here the Prophet takes away all excuse for error from the impious people. He says, therefore, since they so wandered after these impure desires, that they had not fallen through ignorance, since they knew well enough what God had commanded in his law. And there is no doubt that they darkened their own minds, as the impious always dig hiding-places for themselves, and have specious pretexts, by which they not only hide their malice before men, but also deceive themselves. Hence it is probable that the Jews were not free from such pretenses. But, on the other hand, we must remark that they were abundantly instructed by God's law what was lawful and right. Since, therefore, through neglect of the law they were so ravenous in impious desires, the Prophet says that they had purposely and designedly entered into a contest with God. For if any one raises the question whether it is lawful to enter into an alliance with the impious, the answer is easy, that we must beware of all alliances which may couple us under the same yoke; for we are naturally enough inclined towards all vices: and when we invent fresh occasions for sin we tempt God. And when any one joins himself in too great familiarity with the impious, it is just like using a fan to inflame his corrupt affections, which, as I have said, were already sufficiently flagrant in his mind. We must take care, therefore, as far as we can, not to make agreements with the impious. But, if necessity compels us, this conduct cannot be thought wrong in itself, as we see that Abraham entered into an agreement with his neighbors, though their religion was different. (Genesis 21:27,32.) But because he could not otherwise obtain peace, that was a kind of agreement by which Abraham hoped to acquire peace for himself. (Genesis 14:13; Isaiah 51:2.) Nor did he hesitate to use the assistance of allies when he succored his nephew. But if we seek the principle and the cause which induced Abraham to enter into a treaty with his neighbors, we shall find his intention to be nothing else but to dwell at home in peace, and to be safe from all injury. He was solitary, as Isaiah calls him: he had, indeed, a numerous family, but no offspring; and hence he could not escape making treaties with his neighbors. But when the Lord placed the people in the land of Canaan on the condition of defending them there, of protecting them on all sides, and of opposing all their foes, we see them enclosed, as it were, by his protection, so as to render all treaties useless; since they could not treat with either the Egyptians or the Assyrians without at the same time withdrawing themselves from God's aid.
As far as we are concerned, I have said that we have more freedom, if we are only careful that the lusts of the flesh do not entice us to seek alliances which may entangle us in the sins of others; for it is difficult to retain the favor of those with whom we associate, unless we entirely agree with them. If they are impious, they will draw us into contempt of God and adulterous rites, and so it will happen that one evil will spring from another. Nothing, therefore, is better than to reef our sails, and to look to God alone, and to have our minds fixed on him, and not to allow any kind of alliance, unless necessity compels us. And though we must prudently take care that no condition be mingled with it which may draw us off from the pure and sincere worship of God, since the devil is always cleverly plotting against the sons of God, and draws them into hidden snares. When, therefore, we are about to contract an alliance, we should always take care lest our liberty be in any degree abridged, and lest we be drawn aside by stealthy and concealed arts from the simple worship of God. It now follows --
1 Calvin's Latin adds, "ut inhiarent longis et crassis mentulis." The Reformer dwells so minutely on the language of the Prophet, that the refined taste of modern days will not bear a literal translation of some clauses.
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