9. Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.
9. Ephraim in vastitatem erit in die correctionis: in tribibus Israel docui veritatem (intelligere feci, ad verbum.)
Here the Prophet asserts, without any figure, that their chastisement would not be slight or paternal, but that God would punish the Israelites as they deserved, that he would reduce them to nothing. God, we know, sometimes spares the ungodly, while he chastises them: signs of his wrath daily appear through the whole world; but at the same time they are moderate punishments which God inflicts on men; and he in a manner invites them to repentance, when he thus mercifully chastises their sins. But the Prophet says here, that God would no longer act in this manner; for he would destroy and wholly blot out the whole kingdom of Israel. They had been already often warned, not only in words, but also in deeds and had often felt the wrath of God; but they still persisted in their course. And now, as God saw that they were wholly stupid, he says, No
But this is a remarkable passage; for men are always slow and dilatory; even when God pricks them, as it were, with goads, they remain slothful in their sins. God adds corrections, one after the other; and when he sees men continuing as it were out of their senses, he then testifies that it is no time for reproof, but that final destruction is at hand. We hence see that every hope is here cut off from the Israelites, that they might not think that they would be punished in the usual way for their sins; for as soon as the Lord would begin to reprehend them, he would destroy and blot out their names:
He then adds,
That this may be better understood, the mode of speaking in familiar use among all the Prophets is to be noticed: they often threaten, and then give hope of pardon, and promise salvation, so that they seem to exhibit some sort of contradiction: for after having fulminated against the people, they come at once to preach grace, they offer salvation, they testify that God will be propitious. At first sight the Prophets seem not to be consistent with themselves. But the solution is easy, for they threatened vengeance to men under condition; afterwards, when they saw some fruit, they then set forth the mercy of God, and began to be heralds of peace, to reconcile men to God, and make an agreement between them. Thus our Prophet often threatened the Israelites; and had they repented, the hope of salvation would not have been cut off from them. But after he had found them to be so obstinate that they would not receive any instruction, he then said,
And Jeremiah also speaks in the same manner: his book is full of various threatenings; and yet they are conditional threatening. But after God had taken the matter in hand, he began to act in a different way: "I now call you no more to repentance, I contend not with you, I do not now set forth God as a judge, that ye may flee to him for mercy; all these things are come to an end; what remains now", he says, "is the last command, to show that you are now past hope." This is the true and real meaning of the Prophet here; and whosoever will consider the whole context, will easily perceive that this was the Prophet's intention. He had said before, "Ephraim shall be for desolation in the day of correction," that is, "The Lord will no longer reprove Ephraim as heretofore, but will entirely destroy him:" then he adds,
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are already by nature the children of wrath, and yet thou hast deigned to receive us into favour, and hast set before us a sacred pledge of thy favor in thine only-begotten Son, and that as we have not yet ceased often to provoke thy wrath against us, and also to fall away by shameful perfidy from the covenant thou hast made with us, -- O grant, that being at least touched by thy admonitions, we may not harden our hearts in wickedness, but be pliant and teachable, and thus endeavor to return unto favor with thee, that through the interceding sacrifice of thy Son, we may find thee a propitious Father, and be for the future so wholly devoted to thee, that those who shall follow and survive us may be confirmed in the worship of thy majesty, and in true religion, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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