2. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
2. Contentio Jehovae cum Jehudah, et ad visitandum super Jacob: secundum vias ejus, secundum opera ejus rependet ei.
It may seem strange that the Prophet should now say, that God had a controversy with Judah; for he had before said, that Judah stood faithful with the saints. It seems indeed inconsistent, that God should litigate with the Jews, and yet declare them to be upright and separate them from the perfidious and ungodly. What then does this mean? The Prophet, as we have said, spake comparatively of the tribe of Judah, when he said that they remained faithful with the saints: for he did not intend wholly to exculpate the Jews, who were also full of grievous evils; but he intended to praise the worship which as yet prevailed at Jerusalem, that the impiety of the ten tribes might appear less excusable, who of their own accord had departed from the rule which God had given.
When any one at this day reproves the Papists, they say, that another mode of worship is unknown to them, and that they have been thus taught by their forefathers, and that the worship which they observe has so continued from antiquity, that they dare not either to change it or to deviate from it. Such might have been the excuse made by the Israelites. But the prophet charges them with voluntary defection, for the temple which God had chosen for himself stood in their sight; there the face of God was in a manner to be seen; for all things were arranged according to the heavenly pattern which had been shown to Moses in the mount. Since then pure religion was before their eyes, was not their sin proved by this very fact, that having neglected the word of God, they gave themselves up to new and fictitious modes of worship? The Prophet then had before praised the worship, but not the manners, of the tribe of Judah; and he now comes to their manners, and says, that there were many things in Judah which God would chastise.
The Lord then hath a controversy with Judah; and he will begin with that tribe, and will then come down to the house of Jacob. The Prophet, however, speaks here only in passing of the house of Judah, and touches but lightly on the controversy he had with that portion of the people. How was this? Because be was not a teacher, as it has been said already, set over the kingdom of Judah, but only over the Israelites. He now refers only to that kingdom for the purpose of striking terror into his own people: as though he said "Think ye that the forbearance of God is to be forever, because he has hitherto borne with you? Nay, God will begin to contend with the tribe of Judah. I have said, indeed, that they are innocent compared with you; but yet they shall not escape punishment; for in a short time God will summon them to judgement. If he will not spare the Jews, how can your great crimes go unpunished? For certainly you deserve hundred deaths in comparison with the Jews, among whom at least some integrity and uprightness exist; for they have made no change in the worship of God. Their life is corrupt; but yet the law of God and religion are not despised by them as they are by you. If then God will not spare them, much less will he spare you."
We now understand for what purpose the Prophet says that God had a controversy with Judah; for it was not his design to terrify the Jews themselves, or to exhort them to repentance, except it may be by the way; but his object was to present an example to the Israelites, that they might fear; for they ought to have thought within themselves, "If this shall be done in the green, what shall become of the dry tree? (Luke 23:31.) If God will exercise with so much severity his vengeance against our brethren the Jews, among whom pure religion as yet exists, what sort of end and how dreadful is that which awaits us, who have departed from the law, the worship, the teaching, and the obedience of God, who are become truce-breakers, and degenerate, and in every way profane?"
Hence he immediately adds, And will punish Jacob. "God will indeed begin with the tribe of Judah; this will be the prelude, and he will treat the Jews more mildly than you; but against you he will thunder in full force. It will not then be a remonstrance to draw you to repentance, but a punishment such as ye deserve; for he has already contended with you more than enough."
According to his ways. according to his doings, will he recompense him. He sets down here ways and doings, with no superfluous repetition, but to show that the repentance of this people had been already more than sufficiently looked for; for they had not ceased for a long time to pursue their own wickedness. The Prophet then, no doubt, condemns here the Jews for their perverse wickedness, that they never left off their sins, though they had now for a long time been admonished, and had been often reproved by the Prophets. It now follows --