7. The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.
7. Venerunt dies visitationis, venerunt dies retributionis; agnoscet Israel; stultus Propheta (vel, uno contextu, sicuti alii legunt, cognoscet Israel stultum Prophetam,) insanum virum spiritus, propter multitudinem iniquitatis tuae, et multum odium (vel, stultus Prophets, vaesanus vir spiritus propter multitudinem iniquitatis tuae et multum odium: et propter accentun melior est distinctio, quam secundo loco posui, cognoscet Israel, stultus est Propheta: et que sequuntur poterunt legi separatim, sed tamen ego utrunque exponam, ut libera deinde sit electio. 1)
The Prophet, by saying that the days of visitation had come, intended to shake off from hypocrites that supine torpor of which we have often spoken; for as they were agitated by their own lusts, and were in a state of continual fervour, so they hardened themselves against God's judgement, and, as it were, covered themselves over with hardness. It was then necessary to deal roughly with them in order to break down such stubbornness. This is the reason that the Prophet repeats so often and in so many forms what might be expressed in this one sentence -- That God would be a just avenger. Hence he cries out here, that the days of visitation had come. For when the Lord spared them, as sacred history relates, and as we said at the beginning, (and under the king Jeroboam the second, the son of Joash, their affairs were prosperous,) their pride and contempt of God the more increased. Since then they thought themselves to be now beyond the reach of harm, the Prophet declares that the days had come. And there is here an implied contrast in reference to the time during which the Lord had borne with them; for as the Lord had not immediately visited their sins, they thought that they had escaped. But the Prophet here distinguishes between time and time: "You have hitherto thought," he says, "that you are at peace with God; as if he, by conniving at the sins of men, denied himself, so as not to discharge any more the office of a judge: nay, there is another thing to be here considered, and that is, that God has certain days of visitation, which he has fixed for himself; and these days are now come."
And he again teaches the same thing, The days of retribution have come. He uses another word, that they might know that they could not go unpunished for having in so many ways provoked God. For as the Lord disappoints not the hope of his people, who honour him; so also there is a reward laid up for the ungodly, who regard as nothing his judgement. "God will then repay you what you have deserved, though for a time it may please him to suspend his judgement."
Then he says, Israel shall know. This is the wisdom of fools, as it is said even in an old proverb; and Homer has also said, paqwn de te nh>piov egnw, (Even the foolish knows when he suffers.) The foolish is not wise, except when he suffers. Hence the Prophet says, that Israel, when afflicted, would then perceive that instruction had been despised, and that all warnings had been trifled with, at least had not been regarded. Israel then shall know; that is, he shall at length, when too late, understand that he had to do with God, even when the time of repentance shall be no more. The meaning then is that as the ungodly reject the word of God, and obey not wise admonitions and counsels, they shall at length be taken to another school, where God teaches not by the mouth but by the hand. Whosoever then does not now willingly submit to his teaching, shall find God to be a judge, and shall not escape his hand.
They who join what follows elicit this meaning, Israel shall know the Prophet to be foolish, the man of the spirit to be mad; that is, Israel shall then understand that he was deluded by flatteries, when the false Prophets promised that all things would be prosperous. We indeed know that they catched at those prophecies which pleased their ears; for which Micah also reproves them; hence he calls those who gave hope of a better state of things, the Prophets of wine and oil and wheat, (Micah 2:11.) The world wishes to be ever thus deceived. Since then there were many in Israel, who by their impositions deceived the miserable, he says, Israel shall at last know that he has been deluded by his own teachers. If we receive this sense, there is then here a reproof to Israel for thinking that the vengeance of God was in some way restrained, when the false Prophets said that he was pacified, and that there was no danger to be feared. For do not men in this way stultify themselves? And how gross is their stupidity, when they think that God's hands are tied, when men are silent, or when they perfidiously turn the truth into a lie? And yet even at this day this disease prevails in the world, as it has prevailed almost in all ages. For what do the ungodly seek, but to be let alone in their sins? When mouths are closed, they think that they have gained much. This madness the Prophet derides, intimating that those profane men, who have such delicate ears, that they can bear no words of reproof, shall at last know what they had gained by hiring prophets to flatter them. We hence see, in short, that the adulations, by which the ungodly harden themselves against God, will be to them the occasion of a twofold destruction; for such fallacies dementate them, so that they much more boldly provoke against themselves the wrath of God.
But if we read the two clauses apart, the rendering will be this, "The Prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad." And as to the matter itself, there is not much difference. I will not then dwell on the subject; for when we are agreed as to the design of the Prophet and the truth remains the same, it is vain, at least it is of no benefit, to labour very anxiously about the form of the sentence. If then we begin a sentence with these words, aybnh lywa, avil enebia, the sense will be this, "I know that the Prophets promise impunity to you; but they who thus hide your sins, and cover them over as with plasters, are insane men, yea, they are wholly infatuated. There is then no reason why their flatteries should delight you; for the event will show that they are mere absurdities and idle ravings." We now see that there is no great difference in the sense: for this remains still unaltered, that there were many flatterers among the people, who made it their business to lie, that they might thus procure the favour of the people; and this ambition has prevailed in all ages: and sometimes also cupidity or avarice takes such hold on men, that they use a meretricious tongue, and excuse all vices however grievous, and elude all threatening. This is what the Prophet shows in the first place; and then he shows, that men without any advantage indulge their vices, when there is no one severely to reprove them, or boldly to exhort them to repent; and that though all the Prophets should give them hope of safety they should yet perish: for men cannot by their silence restrain God from executing at last his judgement. Nay, we must remember this, that God spares men when he does not spare them; that is, when he chastises them, when he reproves their sins, and when he constrains them by terror, he then would spare them. And again, when God spares, he does not spare; that is, when he connives at their sins, and leaves men to their own will, to grow wanton at their pleasure, without any yoke or bridle, he then by no means spares them, for he destines them for destruction.
"The man of the spirit," some render "the man of the wind;" and some "the fanatical man;" but they are in my judgement mistaken; for the Prophet, I doubt not, uses a respectful term, but yet by way of concession. He then calls those the men of the spirit who were by their office prophets, but who abused that title, as those who at this day call themselves pastors when they are really rapacious wolves. The Prophets, as we know, always declared that they did not speak from their own minds but what the Spirit of God dictated to them. Hence they were men of the Spirit, that is, spiritual men: for the genitive case, we know, was used by the Hebrews to express what we designate by an adjective. The Prophets then were the men of the Spirit. He concedes this name, in itself illustrious and honourable, to impostors; but in the same sense as when I speak generally of teachers; I then include the false as well as the true. This then is the real meaning of the expression, as we may gather from the context: for he says the same thing twice, aybnh lywa, avil enebia, Fool is the Prophet, and then, xwrh sya egsm, moshigo aish eruch, Mad is the man of the spirit. As he spoke of a Prophet, so he now mentions the same by calling him a man of the spirit, or a spiritual man.
At the end of the verse he adds, For the multitude of thine iniquity, for great hatred, or, much hatred; for it may be rendered in these two ways. Here the Prophet shows, that though the false Prophets stultified by their fallacies the people, yet this could by no means avail for an excuse or for extenuating the fault of the people. How so? Because they suffered the punishment of their own impiety. For whence comes it, that the Lord takes away his light from us, that after having once shown to us the way of salvation, he turns suddenly his back on us, and suffers us to go astray to our perdition? How does this happen? Doubtless, because we are unworthy of that light, which was a witness to us of God's favour. For as much then as men through their own fault procure such a judgement to themselves, the Lord neither blinds them nor gives to Satan the power of deluding them, except when they deserve such a treatment. Hence the Prophet says, For the multitude of thine iniquity, and for thy crimes, by which thou hast excited against thyself the wrath and hatred of God. We hence see how frivolous are the pretences by which men clear themselves, when they object and say that they have been deceived and that if their teachers had been faithful and honest, they would have willingly obeyed God. When therefore men make these objections, the ready answer is this, that they had been deprived of true and faithful teachers, because they had refused the favour offered to them, and extinguished the light, and as Paul says, preferred a lie to the truth; and that they had been deceived by false Prophets, because they willingly hastened to ruin when the Lord called them to salvation. We now then understand the import of what is here taught.
The Prophet says, in the first place, that the day of vengeance was now at hand, because the Lord by forbearance could prevail nothing with the obstinate. He then adds, that as all threatenings were despised by the people, and as they were deaf to every instruction, they would at length know that God had not spoken in vain but would perceive that their were justly treated; for the Lord would not now teach them by his word, but by scourges. He adds, in the third place, that the Prophet was foolish and delirious, and also, that they who boasted themselves to be the men of the spirit were mad: by which expressions he meant that the flatteries, by which the people were lulled asleep were foolish; for God would not fail at last, when the time came, to execute his office. And, lastly he reminds them that this would happen through the fault of the people, that there was no reason for them to trace or to ascribe the cause of the evil to any thing else; for this blindness was their just punishment. The Lord would have never permitted Satan thus to prevail in his own inheritance, had not the people, by the immense filth of their sins, provoked God for a long time, and as it were with a determined purpose. It now follows --
'The days of visitation have come,
The days of retribution have come;
Israel shall know him a fool, the Prophet,
And mad, the man of the spirit:
For the greatness of thine iniquity,
Great also has been the abomination.'
The 'abomination,' or detestation, was the false Prophet, who had been a fool and a madman. The following verse confirms this view, where the Prophet is represented as 'an abomination in the house of his God;' for it is the same word. And this is the view substantially taken in this comment. It is singular that interpreters have overlooked the postfix, w, 'him,' to the verb, 'know' -- wedy. -- Ed.