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dens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them; your injustice will bring 12 a curse upon all you have. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate [from 13 their right.] Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it [is] an evil time; it is in vain, yea unsafe, 14 to reprove you. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken; as you have boasted of your relation to him and 15 his presence with you. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate : it may be that the Lord GOD of hosts, will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph, who hath been already plundered. Nevertheless, since I foresee that 16 you will not repent, Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD saith thus; Wailing [shall be] in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! their lamentations shall not be confined to houses, but shall be heard every where ; and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, because he is plundered, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing; those whose business it is to play mournful tunes and sing sorrowful ditties at funerals, to make the lamentation more solemn. 17 And in all vineyards where there used to be joy, [shall be]
wailing for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD, like an invading enemy; or, as I passed through Egypt and left terri18 ble traces of vengeance behind me. Wo unto you that desire the day of the LORD; who mock the prophets, and say, we shall be glad to see the day you threatened us with to what end [is] it for you? the day of the LORD [is] darkness, and 19 not light; it will be very different from what you expect. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house to escape a storm, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him; you may hope for relief by a change of circumstances; but every change will be from one ca20 lamity to another. [Shall] not the day of the LORD [be] darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? that is, unmixed and continued distress.
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell the incense that attends your sacrifices in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings,
and thus imitate the temple services, I will not accept [them :] neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will
not hear the melody of thy viols; all these are abominable while 24 you continue wicked. But let judgment run down as waters,
and righteousness as a mighty stream; let there be a general reformation let the meanest have the benefit of justice, and then
25 your devotions will be pleasing. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? Israel did not continue free from idolatry even the first 26 forty years after they came out of Egypt. But you have improved upon the idolatry of your forefathers, ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, carried about with you a shrine, with the images of the sun and saturn in it, the star of your god, an Egyptian king, called Ramphan, (80 Stephen called him from the LXX.) which ye made to 27 yourselves.* Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name [is] The God of hosts; they shall go beyond the Syrians, who were carried from Damascus, that is, farther from home. Stephen says, beyond Babylon, (Acts vii. 43.) thither the Syrians were carried ; but the ten tribes shall go beyond them,
is a sign that the ruin of a people is approaching, when they oppose all methods of reformation: when they are not only unjust, oppressive, and luxurious, but hate magistrates, who punish vice, and ministers, who reprove them for it: yea, hate every one that speaketh uprightly, and will not run to their excesses. This is a proof that they have lost all shame, and are determined to go on in their wickedness; and it is a melancholy instance of our own degeneracy, as a nation, that wicked men and corrupters are countenanced and encouraged, while reprovers and magistrates are become hateful.
2. It is sometimes prudent to keep silence, and not even attempt to reform others. When men are so determined on their evil courses, that they will be only provoked by the most friendly attempts to check them, and perhaps be made worse by such attempts, it may be prudent to let them alone, and not cast our pearls before swine; who will not only trample them under their feet, but turn again, and rend us. We ought never to omit attempting to do good, when it seems likely to succeed; but wisdom is profitable to direct.
3. We here see the importance of seeking to God, especially in times of danger. It is often urged upon Israel, to inquire into his will, and to pray to him and it is certainly the only way to live, to be secure and happy. Let us consider his vast power over all nature, over the stars, the morning, and the waves of the sea; and were it only a may be that God will be gracious, as in v. 15. it is worth while to make the trial. But, to our seeking
They had idolatrous tabernacles, and processions with the images of their gods; perhaps a star was carried about, as the Egyptians thought some of their kings were changed into stars, or had each the direction of some particular star,
God we must add, seeking all that is good; otherwise we shall not succeed. This leads us to observe,
4. The folly of external services, without reformation. With what contempt does God here (as often in the prophecies) speak of sacrifices, solemn assemblies, incense, songs, &c. while justice and charity are neglected. They are all abominabie both to God and man. If men do not leave off oppression and injustice, and building houses with the gains of violence and fraud, they do but mock and affront God by their devotions. The end of prayer is reformation and holiness; and if a man regards iniquity in his heart, the Lord will not hear him.
5. Sinners will find the day of the Lord very different from what they expect. These infidels and scorners bantered the prophet: You threaten us with the day of the Lord; we should be glad to see it.' Thus testifying their disbelief or contempt of it. This, it is to be feared, is the case of many in the present day, who make light of God's threatenings. It is evidently the case of those profane wretches who call upon God to damn them. They will find damnation infinitely more dreadful than they think. They will know the day of the Lord to be indeed a dismal and a fearful day. Wicked men, when under pains and afflictions, wish for death; but, should it come, their case would be as in v. 19. as if a man should flee to his house for shelter from a storm, and there be bitten by a serpent. All this shows the wisdom and necessity of being truly religious: that the day of the Lord may be light to us, and we may be received to the inheritance of the saints in light.
This is a prophecy both against Judah and Israel.
O to them [that are] at ease, or, secure in Zion, who think themselves safe on account of its holinese or strength, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, [which are] named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came! these cities were the capitals of the two nations, to which they re2 sorted for traffick and judgment. Pass ye unto Calneh, an ancient city built by Nimrod, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great; to Antioch, conquered by Sennacherib: then go down to Gath of the Philistines, which was taken by Uzziah: [be they] better than these kingdoms ? or their border greater than your border? are Judah and Israel better and stronger than these? so likewise shall they be destroyed. 3 Ye that put far away the evil day, who think it will not come at all, or is at a great distance, and cause the seat of violence to come near, are therefore guilty of injustice and oppression ;
4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall, who live in splendor, idle5 ness, and luxury; That chant to the sound of the viol, [and] invent to themselves instruments of music, like David, who had the finest bands and instruments of music, which therefore became proverbial; or, it may mean, who have indulged themselves in pleasures too expensive for any but the greatest mon6 archs; That drink wine in bowls, in large quantities and superb vessels, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments, the most fragrant and costly: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph: an allusion to the cruelty of Joseph's brethren; intimating, that they are insensible of the calamities of their country.
Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed; these rich and great men shall suffer first, 8 and all their luxury be at an end. The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD, the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces, what they value themselves upon therefore will I deliver up the city with all that 9 is therein; first Samaria, and then Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house of those that escape the enemy, that they shall die by pestilence, or some 10 other stroke of God's hand. And a man's uncle, or kinsman, (to whom it belonged to attend the funeral) shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, who burns the body in the time of the plague, to prevent the infection from spreading, and shall say unto him that [is] by the sides of the house, to the person who brought out the corpse, [Is there] yet [any] with thee? Is this the last of the family? and he shall say, No. Then shall he, the uncle, say, Hold thy tongue : for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD; though it is common and natural to say in such a case, Lord help us, have mercy upon us ; the person without shall break in upon him before he can do it, and forbid him to mention the name of the Lord, saying, it is in vain, for the Lord hath entirely 11 given us up. For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts; palaces and cottages shall both fall.
Shall horses run upon the rock? will [one] plough [there] with oxen? and it signifies as little to reprove and exhort you any more; for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock: ye are like a polluted fountain, 13 or poisonous plant, and have lost all sense of justice: Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength? referring to some victory they had gained, probably over Judah, which had elated them, and led
them to conclude that God would still prosper them, or that they 14 were able to do without him. But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, that is, the Assyrians, Q house of Israel, saith the LORD, the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness; from the north to the south, through the whole land.
ET us reflect on the sad state of those, who, when sick. ness or death come into their families, are not affected thereby. How monstrous was the behaviour of these people in times of pestilence, when whole families were swept away, to forbid the mention of the name of the Lord. This was the effect either of impiety, or despair and is much the case of many now; who talk of the particulars of the sickness and death of their relatives and friends, the circumstances of the funeral, and their affairs, but forget the hand of God, and mention not his name. This shows a very stupid and insensible spirit, in creatures who are equally liable to sickness and death. It is our wisdom and duty to hear the rod, and him that hath appointed it; to mention his name, and acknowledge the hand of his providence, and be led, by such afflictive' scenes, to apply our hearts more diligently to wisdom, and a preparation for our latter end.
2. See the fatal influence which prosperity often hath upon the human mind, What a melancholy description of the temper and character of the Israelites is here given! and how exact a description is it of multitudes among us! When their riches increase, they grow proud, and secure; treat others with insolence and contempt; indulge themselves in luxury, and all delicacies; regard nothing but gratifying their senses; and support their grandeur and elegance by injustice and oppression. This excludes all serious consideration from their minds, and they put death far from them, as an evil day. Wealth, luxury, riot, and diversions, steel their hearts against every generous impression; their spirits grow narrow and selfish; the concerns of the poor and the needy, the afflictions of the church of God and of their country, are nothing to them. There are too many sad instances of this in our day. The world thinks it is well with such persons, and envies their grandeur and finery; they think it well with themselves, because they are at ease; but the Lord says, Wo unto them. Let those who are in plentiful circumstances be very watchful against such a temper and conduct as this; and let it reconcile others to narrow circumstances, and even to pov. erty, that they are happily freed from such strong temptations. Happy is the man who, amidst his affluence, maintains a humble, tender, generous spirit, and honours the Lord with his substance.