4. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
4. In funibus hominum traham eos (hoc est, traxi eos) in vinculis amoris: et fui illis sicuti qui attollunt jugum super maxillas: et attuli super eos cibum (vel, feci eos comedere) quiete. (Dicemus postea de utroque sensu.)
The Prophet states, first, that this people had not been severely dealt with, as either slaves, or oxen, or asses, are wont to be treated. He had said before, that the people of Israel were like a heifer, which shakes off the yoke, and in wantonness loves only the treading of corn. But though the perverseness of the people was so great, yet God shows here that he had not used extreme rigour: I have drawn him, he says, with human cords and lovely bands. By the cords of man, he means humane government. "I have not," he says, "treated you as slaves, but dealt with you as with children; and I have not regarded you as cattle, I have not driven you into a stall; but I have only drawn you with lovely bands." The sum of the whole is, that the government which God had laid on the people was a certain and singular token of his paternal favour, so that the people could not complain of too much rigour, as if God had considered their disposition, and had used a hard wedge (as the common proverb is) for a hard knot; for if God had dealt thus with the people, they could have objected, and said, that they had not been kindly drawn by him, and that it was no wonder if they did not obey, since they had been so roughly treated. "But there is no ground for them," the Lord says, "to allege that I have used severity: for I could not have dealt more kindly with them, I have drawn them with human cords; I have not otherwise governed them than as a father his own children; I have been bountiful towards them. I indeed wished to do them good, and, as it was right, required obedience from them. I have at the same time laid on them a yoke, not servile, nor such as is wont to be laid on brute animals; but I was content with paternal discipline." Since then such kindness had no influence over them, is it not right to conclude that their wickedness is irreclaimable and extreme?
He then adds I have been to them like those who raise up the yoke upon the cheeks 1. "I have not laden you," he says, "with too heavy burdens, as oxen and other beasts are wont to be burdened; but I have raised up the yoke upon the cheeks. I have chosen rather to bear the yoke myself, and to ease these ungodly and wicked men of their burden." And God does not in vain allege this, for we know that when he uses his power, and vindicates his authority, he does this not to burden the people, as earthly kings are wont to do; but he bears the burden which he lays on men. It is no wonder then that he says now, that he had lifted the yoke upon the cheeks of his people, like one who wishes not to burden his ox, but bears up the yoke himself with his own hands, lest the ox should faint through weariness.
He afterwards adds, And I have made them to eat in quietness, or, "I have brought meat to them." Some think the verb lykwa, aukil to be in the future tense, and that lykwa, aukil is put for lykaa, aakil; that is, I will cause them to eat; and that the future is to be resolved into the past: and it is certain that the word ja, ath, means tranquil sometimes. Then it will be, "I have caused them quietly to eat." But another exposition is more commonly received; as the word ja, ath, is derived from hjn, nathe, to raise, it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that meat had been brought to them.
God then does here in various ways enhance the ingratitude and wickedness of the people, because they had not acknowledged his paternal kindness, when he had himself so kindly set forth his favour before their eyes; I have, he says, extended meat to them; that is, "I have not thrown it on the ground, nor placed it too high for them; they have not toiled in getting it; but I have, as it were, brought it with mine own hand and set it before them, that they might eat without any trouble." In short, God declares that he had tried in every way to find out, whether there was any meekness or docility in the people of Israel, and that he had ill bestowed all his blessings; for this people were blind to favours so kind, to such as clearly proved, that God had in every way showed himself to be a Father. It follows --