11. Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
11. Et fuit Ephraim tanquam columba credula (vel, quae fallitur, vel, declinans, ut alii vertunt) sine corde (id est, sine intelligentia; cor enim saepe est Hebraeis voluntas, sed interdum mentem et intelligentiam significat;) clamant Aegyptum, proficiscuntur in Assyriam.
12. When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.
12. Ubi autem profecti fuerunt (vel, quocunque profecti fuerunt) extendam super eos rete meum: tanquam avem coeli dejiciam eos; corrigam eos (vel, ligabo,) secundum auditionem coetus ipsorum. 1
The Prophet here first blames Israel for foolish credulity, and compares them to a dove; for they had invited the Egyptians and sent to Assyria for help. Simplicity is indeed a commendable virtue, when joined to prudence. But as everything reasonable and judicious in men is turned into wickedness when there is no integrity; so when men are too credulous and void of all judgment and reason, it is then mere folly. But when he says that
Now this place teaches us that men are not to be excused by the pretext of simplicity; for the Prophet here condemns this very weakness in the Israelites. We ought then to attend to the rule of Christ, 'To be innocent as doves, and yet to be prudent as serpents.' But if we inconsiderately abandon ourselves, the excuse of ignorance will be frivolous; for the Lord shines upon us by his word and shows us the right way; and he has also in his power the spirit of prudence and judgment, which he never denies to those who ask. But when we despise the word, and neglect the Spirit of God, and follow our own vagrant imaginations, our sin is twofold; for we thus despise and quench the light of the word, and we also wilfully perish, when the Lord would save us.
But a denunciation of punishment afterwards follows,
This is a remarkable passage; for we hence learn, that the issue will always be unfortunate, if we attempt any thing contrary to the word of the Lord, and it we hold consultations over which his Spirit does not preside; as it is said by Isaiah 30, 31,
'Woe to them who weave a web, and draw not from my mouth! Woe to them who take counsel, and invoke not my Spirit!'
This passage wholly agrees with the words of Isaiah, though the form of speaking is different. It belongs then to God to bless our counsels, that they may have a prosperous and the desired success. But when God is not favorable, but even opposed to our designs, what end shall at last await us, but that whatever we may have attained shall at length be turned to our ruin? Let us then know, that whatever men do in this world is ruled by the hidden providence of God; and as God leads by his extended hand his own people, and gives his angels charge to guide them; so also he has his expanded net to catch all those who wander after their own erratic imaginations. Hence he says,
The Prophet seems to allude to the vain confidence, which he mentioned, when he said that Israel had bound wind in his wings. For when men presumptuously undertake any thing, they at the same time promise to themselves, that there will be nothing to prevent them from gaining their object. Inasmuch then as men, elated with this foolish confidence, gather more boldness, yea, at length furiously assail God, and seem as though they would break through the very clouds, the Prophet says,
And he afterwards adds,
As I have already said, interpreters nearly all agree in this view, except that they do not consider the design of the Prophet; they do not perceive that the Israelites were upbraided for their hardness; but they only speak of punishment, without any intimation of the end or object for which God had promulgated maledictions in his law, and renewed the recollection of them by his Prophets. Jerome brings forward another meaning, even this, that God would punish the people according to the report of their assembly; that is, that as they had with one consent violated the worship of God, and transgressed his laws, so he would punish them all. I will at the same time add this view, that God would chastise them according to the clamour of their assembly, so that the Prophet points out, not only a conspiracy among the people of Israel, but also their violence in eliciting one another to sin. As, then, they had thus tumultuously risen up against God, so the Prophet in his turn declares, that God would punish them; as though he said, "Your tumult will not prevent me from quelling your fury. Ye do indeed with great noise oppose me, and think that you will be safe, though addicted to your sins; but this your violence will be no hindrance, for I have in my power the means of chastising you."
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou sees us to be so prone to all the allurements of Satan and the world, and at the same time so void of judgment, and carried away by mere levity, -- O grant, that by thy Spirit leading us, we may proceed in the right course, on which we have already entered under thy guidance and directing hand, so that we may never go astray from thy word, nor by any means turn aside from pursuing towards the mark which thou hast set before us; and though Satan may attempt to draw us aside, may we yet continue steadfast in thy service, and thus proceed, until we arrive at that blessed rest which, after the warfare of the present life, thou hast promised to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
1 "As they hear it declared in their congregation." -- Bp. Horsley.
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