14. For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.
14. Et oblitus est Israel factoris sui, et aedificavit altaris: Juda autem multiplicavit urbes munitas: ego vero ignem emittam (et emittam ignem, ad verbum) in urbes ejus, et comedet (qui comedet, aut, vorabit) palatia ejus.
Here the Prophet concludes his foregoing observations. It is indeed probable that he preached them at various times; but, as I have already said, the heads of the sermons which the Prophet delivered are collected in this book, so that we may know what his teaching was. He then discoursed daily on idolatry, on superstitions, and on the other corruptions which then prevailed among the people; he often repeated the same threatenings, but afterwards collected into certain chapters the things which he had spoken. The conclusion, then, of his former teaching was this, that Israel had forgotten his Maker, whilst for himself he had been building temples. He says, that he forgot his Maker by building temples because he followed not the directions of the law. We hence see that God will have himself to be known by his word. Israel might have objected and said, that no such thing was intended, when he built temples in Dan and Bethel, but that he wished by these to retain the remembrance of God. But the Prophet here shows that God is not truly known, and that men do not really remember him, except when they worship him according to what the law prescribes, except when they submit themselves wholly to his word, and undertake nothing,and attempt nothing, but what he has commanded. What then the superstitious say is remembrance, the Prophet here plainly testifies is forgetfullness. The case is the same at this day, when we blame the Papists for their idols; their excuse is this, that what they set forth is in pictures and statues the image of God, and that images, as they say, are the books of the illiterate. But what does the Prophet answer here? That Israel forgot his Maker. There was an altar in Bethel, and there Israel was wont to offer sacrifices, and they called this the worship of God; but the Prophet shows that each worship was accursed before God, and that it had no other effect than wholly to obliterate the holy name of God from the minds of men, so that the whole of religion perished.
Remarkable then is this passage; for the Prophet says, that the people forgot God their Maker, when they built temples for themselves. But what was in the temples so vicious, as to take away the remembrance of God from the world? Even because God would have but one temple and altar. If a reason was asked, a reason might indeed have been given; but the people ought to have acquiesced in the command of God. Though God may not show why he commands this or that, it is enough that we ought to obey his word. Now, then, it appears, that when Israel built for himself various temples, he departed from God, and for this reason, because he followed not the rule of the law, and kept not himself within the limits of the divine command. Hence it was to forget God. We now apprehend the object of the Prophet.
Though then they were wont to glory in their temples, and there to display their pomp and splendor, and proudly to delight in their superstitions, yet the Prophet says, that they had forgotten their Creator, and for this reason only, because they had not continued in his law. He says, that they had forgotten God their Maker; by the word Maker, the Prophet alludes not to God as the framer of the world and the creator of men, but he applies it to the condition of the people. For, as we well know, the favor of God had been peculiar towards that people; he had not only made them, as a part of the human race, but also formed them a people to himself. Since then God had thus intended them to be devoted to him, the Prophet here increases and enhances their sin, when he says, that they obeyed not his word, but followed their own devices and depraved imaginations.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we have already so often provoked thy wrath against us, and thou hast in thy paternal indulgence borne with us, or at least chastised us so gently as to spare us, -- O grant, that we may not become hardened in our wickedness, but seasonably repent, and that we may not be drawn away after the inventions of our flesh, nor seek ways to flee away from thee, but come straight forward to thy presence, and make a humble, sincere, and honest confession of our sins, that thou mayest receive us into favor, and that being reconciled to us, thou mayest bestow on us a larger measure of thy blessings, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It remains for us to consider the second part of the last verse of the eighth chapter, in which the Prophet blames the tribe of Judah for multiplying fenced cities. This was not in itself condemnable before God; but the Prophet saw that the confidence of the people was transferred to these cities as it usually happens. Rare indeed is the example, when any people are well fortified, that they become not implicated in this charge of misplaced confidence. But as this vice in the tribe of Judah was well known, the Prophet does not here complain without reason, that they reposed their hope on their fortified cities, and thus deprived God of his just praise. And then he denounces a punishment. I will send fire upon his cities, and it shall devour his palaces. The meaning is, that when men turn away their minds from God, and rely on perishable things, a fatal destruction will at last follow; for the Lord will frustrate the hope of those who thus deprive him of his honor. This then is the meaning. Now follows the ninth chapter.