33. Why trimmest thou thy way to seek love? therefore hast thou also taught the wicked ones thy ways.
33. Cur bonificas (id est, paras, concinnas) vias tuas ad quaerendum amorem? itaque etiam pravitates docuisti in viis tuis.
This verse is differently explained: but the Prophet simply means; that the Jews were like lascivious women, who not only despise their husbands at home, but ramble here and there in all directions, and also paint their faces and seek for themselves all the charms of wantonness. He says that the Jews had acted in this way; and hence he says that they made beautiful their ways The verb in Hebrew has a wide meaning: it means to prepare, to conciliate favor. But its import here is, as though the Prophet had said, |Why dost thou disguise and paint thyself like strumpets, who use many artifices to allure young men and to inflame their lusts? why then dost thou undertake so much labor to gain a meretricious hire?| We shall hereafter see why he says this; for he upbraids them for applying to the Assyrians and the Egyptians.
It was a common thing with the Prophets to compare the people to lovers; for the Jews, while they ought to have been firmly attached to God, (like a chaste woman, who does not turn her eyes here and there, nor gad about, but has respect to her husband alone,) thought to seek safety now from the Assyrians, then from the Egyptians. This sinful disposition is then what the Prophet here condemns; and hence he speaks of them metaphorically as of an adulterous woman, who despises her husband and rambles after any she can find, and seeks wanton and silly young men in all places, and subjects herself to the gratification of all. We now then understand what the Prophet means.
The words must be noticed: he says, Why makest thou fine thy ways? But he refers here to the care which a wanton woman takes to adorn her person, as though he had said, |Why dost thou thus prepare thyself? and why dost thou seek for thyself what is splendid and elegant, that thy appearance may deceive the eyes of the simple?| For the Jews might have remained safe and secure under God's protection, and might have been so without any calamity. As a husband is content with the beauty of his wife, and seeks no adventitious and refined elegancies; so God required nothing from that people except fidelity, like a husband, who requires chastity in his wife. The meaning then is, -- |As a wife, really attached to her husband, has no need to undergo much labor, for she knows that her own native beauty pleases him, nor does she labor much to gain the heart of her husband, for the best recommendation is her chastity; so ye might have lived without any trouble by only serving me and keeping my law: but now what is your chastity? ye are like wanton women, who labor to gain the hearts of adulterers; for as they burn with lust, so there is no end nor limits to their attempts to seek embellishments; and they torment themselves, only that they might attach adulterers to themselves. Such then are ye (says God;) for ye spend much care and labor in seeking for yourselves strange lovers.|
He afterwards adds, Therefore thou hast also taught lewdnesses He alludes to the words he had before used, Thou hast made fine (or fair) thy ways: and now he says, thou hast also taught wickednesses by thy ways He declares that the Jews were worse than the Assyrians and the Egyptians, as a lascivious woman is far worse than all the adulterers whom she captivates as her paramours. For when a young man is not deceived, and the devil does not apply the fagot, he may continue chaste and pure; but when an impudent and wanton woman entices him, it is all over with him. The Prophet then says, that the Assyrians and the Egyptians were innocent when compared with his own nation. How so? |Because they have been led away,| he says, |by your allurements, like young men, who are destroyed by the fallacious ornaments of strumpets; for it is the same as though they had fallen into snares: the evil then has proceeded from you, and the fault lies with you.
We now understand the Prophet's meaning: for he condemns the Jews, because they afforded an occasion of evil both to the Assyrians and to the Egyptians, while they of their own accord sought their favor. It now follows --