1. Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.
1. Audite hoc sacerdotes, et attendite domus, et domus regis auscultate, quia vobis judicam (hoc est, judicium in vos dirigitur) nam laqueus fuistis (hoc est, tanquam laqueus, sabaudienda est k, nota similitudinis et addenda ad nomen phch, fuistis ergo tanquam laques) in Mizpah, et rete expansum super Tabor.
The Prophet here again preaches against the whole people: but he mainly directs his discourse to the priests and the rulers; for they were the source of the prevailing evils: the priests, intent on gain, neglected the worship of God; and the chief men, as we have seen, were become in every way corrupt. Hence the Prophet here especially inveighs against these orders, and at the same time, records some vices which then prevailed among the people, and that through the fault of the priests and rulers. But before I pursue farther the subject of the Prophets something must be said of the words.
When he says, To you is judgment, some explain it, |It is your duty to do judgment,| to maintain government, that every one may discharge his own office; for judgment is taken for rectitude; the word mspht, mesgepheth, means a right order of things. Hence they think that the priests and rulers are here condemned for discharging so badly their office, because they had no care for what was right. But this sense is too strained. The Prophet, therefore, I doubt not, summons here the priests and the king's counselors to God's tribunal, that they might give an answer there; for the contempt of God, we know, prevailed among the great; they were secure, as though exempt from judgment, as though released from laws and all order. To you, then is judgment; that is, God addresses you by name, and declares that he will be your avenger, though ye heedlessly despise his judgment.
Some again take mtsphh, metsephe, for a beacon, and thus translate, |Ye have been a snare instead of a beacon.| But this mistake is refuted by the second clause, for the Prophet adds immediately, a net expanded over Tabor: and it is well known that Mizpah and Tabor were high mountains, and for their height celebrated and renowned; we also know that hunting was common on these mountains. The Prophet, then, no doubt means here, that both the priests and the king's counselors were like snares and nets: |As fowlers and hunters were wont to spread their nets and snares on mount Mizpah and on Tabor; so the people also have been ensnared by you.| This is the plain meaning of the words. Some conjecture, that robbers were there located by the kings of Israel to intercept the Israelites, when they found any ascending into Jerusalem, as we now see everywhere persons lying in wait, that no one from the Papacy may come over to us. But this conjecture is too far fetched. I have already explained the Prophet's meaning: he makes use, as we have said, of a similitude.
Let us now return to what he teaches: Hear this, he says, ye Priests, and attend, ye house of Israel, and give ear, ye house of the king The Prophet, indeed, includes the whole people in the second clause, but turns his discourse expressly to the priests and the king's counselors; which ought to be specially noticed; for it is indeed, as we shall hereafter see, the general subject of this chapter. He did not without reason attack the princes, because the main fault was in them; nor the priests, because they were dumb dogs, and had also led away the people from God's pure worship into false superstitions; and so great was their avidity for filthy lucre that they perverted the law and every thing that was before pure among the people. It is no wonder then that the Prophet, while treating a general subject, suitable to all orders indiscriminately, should yet denounce judgment on the priests and the king's counselors. With regard to these counselors, they, in order to confirm the kingdom, had also approved of false and spurious forms of worship, as it has been before stated; and they had also followed other vices; for the Prophet, I doubt not, condemns here other corruptions besides superstitions, and those which we know everywhere prevailed among the people, and of which something has been already said.
And to show his earnestness, he uses three sentences: Ye priests, hear this; then, house of Israel, attend; and in the third place, house of the king, give ear; as though he said, |In vain do they seek subterfuges, for the Lord will execute on them the judgment he now declares:| and yet he gives them opportunity and time for repentance, inasmuch as he bids them to attend to this denunciation.
Now this passage teaches, that even kings are not exempted from the duty of learning what is commonly taught, if they wish to be counted members of the Church; for the Lord would have all, without exception, to be ruled by his word; and he takes this as a proof of men's obedience, their submission to his word. And as kings think themselves separated from the general class of men, the Prophet here shows that he was sent to the king and his counselors. The same reason holds good as to priests; for as the dignity of their order is the highest, so this impiety has prevailed in all ages, that the priests think themselves at liberty to do what they please. The Prophet therefore shows, that they are not raised up so much on high, but that the Lord shines eminently above their heads with his word. Let us know, lastly, that in the Church the word of God so possesses the highest rank, that neither priests, nor kings, nor their counselors, can claim a privilege to themselves, as though their conduct was not to be subject to God's word.
This then is a remarkable passage for establishing the word of God: and thus we see how abominable is the boast of the Papal clergy of this day; for they spread before us the mask of the priesthood, when the word of God is brought forward, as though they would outshine by the splendor of their dignity the whole Law, all the Prophets, and the very Gospel. But the Lord here upholds his word against all degrees of men, and shows that both kings and priests must be brought down from their eminence, that they may obey the word. Yea, we must bear in mind what I have before said, that though the whole people had sinned, yet kings and priests are here in a special manner reproved, because they deserved a heavier punishment, inasmuch as by their depraved examples they had corrupted the whole people.
When he compares them to snares and nets, I do not then confine this to one thing; but as the contagion among the whole people had proceeded from the priests and the king's counselors, and also from the king himself, the Prophet compares them, not without reason, to snares; not only because they were the authors of superstitions, but also because they perverted judgment and all equity. Let us go on --