19. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
19. Castigabit to malitia tua, et aversiones tuae, (vel, defectiones tuae) poenam de to exigent; et cognosces et scies, quod malum et amarum tuum derelinquere (ad verbum, hoc est, quod reliqueris) Jehovam Deum tuum, et quod timor meus super to non fuerit, dixit Dominus Jehova exeercitum.
Here again, the Prophet confirms what I have before stated, -- that the people would at length find, willing or unwilling, what it was to deport from God; as though he had said, |As thou hast not hitherto learnt by so many evidences, that thy perfidy is the cause of all thy evils, God will heap evils on evils, that thou mayest at length know, even against thy will, that thou receivest, a reward due to thy wickedness.| This is the sum of the whole.
But he says first, chastise thee shall thy wickedness, as though he had said, that though God ascended not his tribunal, nor put forth his hand to punish the people, yet judgment would be evident in their very sins. And this is much more powerful, and has greater weight in it than if the Prophet had said only, that God would inflict on the people a just punishment; thy wickedness, he says, shall chastise thee; and a similar mode of speaking is adopted by Isaiah;
|Stand;| he says, |against thee shall thy wickedness,| (Isaiah 3:9; Isaiah 59:12)
as though God had said, |If I were even to be silent and not to take upon me the office of a judge, and if there were no other accuser, and no one to plead the cause, yet stand against thee will thy wickedness, and fill thee with shame.| To the same purpose is what is said here, thy wickedness shall chastise thee
But we must consider the reason why the Prophet said this. There were then, we know, complaints in the mouths of many, -- that God was too rigid and severe. Since then they thus continually clamored against God; the Prophet repels such calumnies, and says that their wickedness was sufficient to account for the vengeance executed upon them. He says the same of their turnings aside; but what he had said generally before, he now expresses more particularly, -- that the people had withdrawn themselves from the worship of God and obedience to him. He therefore points out here the kind of wickedness of which they were guilty, as though he had said that there was no need of an accuser, of witnesses, or of a judge, but that the defections of the people alone would sufficiently avail to punish them.
He afterwards adds, Thou shalt know and see how wicked and bitter it is to forsake Jehovah thy God These are words hard in their construction; but we have already explained the meaning; |Thy forsaking,| or thy defection, means, |that thou hast forsaken thy God.| And my fear was not on, or, in thee Here, again, the Prophet points out as by the finger the sins of the people. He had before spoken of their turnings aside; but he now mentions their defection, -- that the people had plainly and openly departed from the true God. They, indeed, ever continued some kind of worship in the Temple: but as the whole of religion was corrupted by many superstitions, and as there was no fidelity, no sincerity; and as they mingled the worship of idols with that of the true God, they had dearly departed from God, who is jealous of his honor, according to what is in the law, and allows of no rivals. (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14) We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet.
He says, Thou shalt know that it is an evil and a bitter thing, etc. This must be applied to punishment; and he repeats what he had said before, -- that the evils which the people then suffered did not happen by chance, and that as they were overwhelmed with many bitter sorrows, the cause was not to be sought afar off, for their bitterness, and whatever calamities they endured, flowed from their impiety. Thou shalt then know by the reward itself; even experience will convince thee what it is to depart from God; and he says, from Jehovah thy God, or, to forsake Jehovah thy God. For, if God had not made known his grace to the Israelites, their perverseness would not have been so detestable; but since they had found God to be a Father to them, and since he had so bountifully treated them, having been pleased to enter into a covenant with them, their wickedness was inexcusable.
And afterwards the person is changed, And my fear was not in thee Here at length the Prophet intimates, that they were destitute of every sense of religion; for by the fear of God is meant reverence for his name. Men often fall, we know, through mistake, and are deceived by the craft of Satan; and when made thus miserable they are to be pitied. But the Prophet shews here that the people were wholly undeserving of pardon. How so? Because there was no fear of God in them. |You cannot,| he says, |object and say, that you have been deceived, or make any pretense by which you may cover your wickedness: it is evident that you have acted shamelessly and basely in forsaking thy God, for there was no fear of God in you. He subjoins at last, saith Jehovah of hosts: by which words the Prophet secures more authority to what he had announced; for what he had said must have been very bitter to the people: and many of them, no doubt, according to their usual manner, shook their heads; for we know how insolent were most of them. Hence the Prophet here openly declares, that he was not the author of what he had said, but only the proclaimer; that it proceeded from God, and that he had spoken nothing but what God himself had commanded.