8. Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate, a land not inhabited.
8. Erudire Jerusalem, ne discedat (vel, avellatur) anima mea abs to; ne ponam to desertum (vel, solitudinem) et terram inhabitabilem (hoc est, quae non habitatur.)
Though the Prophet had spoken as though there was no remedy for the evils of Jerusalem, he yet exhorts it to seek peace with God, and addresses men past remedy in his name. It is then the same as though God was stopping in the middle course of his wrath, and saying, |What is to be done? Shall I destroy the city which I have chosen?| He then attributes here to God a paternal feeling, as we also find in several other places: God appeared as unwilling to proceed to extreme rigor in punishing his people.
|Alas! I will now take vengeance on mine enemies,|
he says by Isaiah. (Isaiah 1:24)
He called them enemies, and justly too; for as it was said before, they ceased not to carry on war against him; but he spoke with grief: |Alas! must I take vengeance on mine enemies; I would, however, willingly spare them, were it possible.| God is not indeed subject to grief or to repentance; but his ineffable goodness cannot be otherwise expressed to us but by such mode of speaking. So also, in this place, we see that God as it were restrains himself; for he had previously commanded the enemies to ascend quickly the walls, to overturn the towers, and to destroy the whole city; but now, as though he had repented, he says, Be instructed, Jerusalem; that is, |Can we not yet be reconciled?| It is like the conduct of an offended father, who intends to punish his son, and yet desires to moderate his displeasure, and to blend some indulgence with rigor. Be then instructed; that is, |There is yet room for reconciliation, if thou wishest; provided thou shewest thyself willing to relinquish that perverseness by which thou hast hitherto provoked me, I will in return prove myself to be a father.|
There is no doubt but the object of the threatenings of the prophets was to lead the people to know their sins, and suppliantly to seek pardon; for why were the unbelieving threatened, except that God thereby proved whether they were healable? It is indeed true that the reprobate are known by God, and that God does not try or seek to find what is in their hearts, as though he did not know their obstinacy; but as I have already said, God speaks here after the manner of men: and he also shews what is the end of teaching, which is to lead men to repentance; and this cannot be done without giving them the hope of pardon and reconciliation. The Prophet thus briefly shews here for what purpose he had hitherto so dreadfully threatened the Jews, even to lead them at length to repentance.
Lest torn shall be my soul from thee Here God more clearly shews that he was as yet restrained by love. He alludes no doubt to a similitude which we have observed in another place; for God sustains the character of a spouse to his Church; and hence he shews, that he had not yet divested himself of that love which a husband has towards his wife. For a husband, when grievously offended at his wife, cannot immediately throw aside his conjugal affection; some feeling of this kind will ever remain. And we have seen in the fourth chapter, that God surpasses all husbands in kindness; for he says there, |When a repudiated wife has found another husband, will the former receive her again? Return to me, thou harlot, return to me, thou strumpet and adulteress, and I am ready to pardon thee.| It is the same course that God pursues here, |Be instructed, Jerusalem, lest my soul wholly depart from thee;| as though he had said, |Even though I am now angry, and have resolved severely to punish thy perfidy and rebellion, I shall yet be reconciled to thee, provided thou returnest.| And it is added, Lest I make thee a desolate land, a land uninhabited
The Prophet in short shews in this verse, that however grievously offended God was with his people, there was yet a hope of pardon; for he would be propitious to the people, if they turned and humbly confessed their sins, and sought to return into favor with him. It follows --