2. And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.
2. Et jugulando declinantes profundaverunt: ego autem correctio illis omnibus.
The verb scht, shecheth, means, to kill, to sacrifice; and this place is usually explained of sacrifices; and this opinion I do not reject. But though the Prophet spake of sacrifices, he no doubt called sacrificing, in contempt, killing: as though one should call the temple, the shambles, and the killing of victims, slaughtering, so also the Prophet says, In sacrificing and killing, they, having turned aside, have become deeply fixed; that is, By turning aside to their own sacrificing, they have completely hardened their hearts, so that their depravity is incurable. For by saying that they had gone deep, the meaning is, that they were so addicted to their own superstitions, that they could not be restored to a sound mind, however often admonished by the Prophets. Yet this verb has another meaning in Scripture, even this, that men flatter themselves with their own counsels, and think that by twining together reasons of their own, they can deceive God: and this metaphor the Prophets employ with regard to profane despisers of God, whom they call ltsym, latism, mockers: for these, while they deceive men, think that they have nothing to do with God. The same we see at this day: courtiers and proud men of the same character, flatter themselves with their own deceptions, and complacently laugh at our simplicity; because they think that wisdom was born with them, and that it is enclosed as it were within their brains. But I know not whether this idea is suitable to this passage. That simpler meaning which I have already stated, I prefer, and that is, that the Israelites were so obstinate in their superstitions, that they perversely despised all counsels, all admonitions, yea, that they petulantly resisted every instruction.
But each word must be noticed: turning aside in sacrificing, he says, |they became deep|. By saying, that they had turned aside in sacrificing, he no doubt makes a distinction between false and strange forms of worship and the true worship of God, prescribed in the law. The frequency of sacrificing could not indeed have been condemned in itself either as to the Israelites or the Jews; but they turned aside, that is, departed from what the law prescribes. Hence the more zealously they engaged in sacrificing, and the more victims they offered to God, the more they provoked God's vengeance against themselves. We then see that the Prophet points out here as by the finger the sin he reproved in the people of Israel, and that was, -- they sacrificed not according to God's command and according to the ritual of the law, but turned aside and followed their own devices. Hence it is, that in contempt and in scorn he calls their sacrificing, killing, or cutting the throat: |they are,| he says |executioners,| or, |they are butchers. What is it to me, that they bring their victims with great pomp and show? That they use so many ceremonies? I repudiate,| the Lord says, |the whole of this; it is profane butchering; these slaughterings have nothing in common with the worship which I approve.|
That our sacrifices then may please God, they must be according to the rule of his word; for obedience,' as it has been said already, is better than all sacrifices,' (1 Samuel 15:22.) But when men retake themselves to false forms of worship or such as are invented, nothing then is holy or acceptable to God, but an abominable filth. And further, the Prophet, as I have said, not only accuses the people of having turned aside to perverted forms of worship, but also of having become obstinately fixed in them. They have become deep, he says, in their superstitions: as he said before, that they were fast joined to their idols, that they could not be torn away from them; so also he says now, that they were deeply rooted in their iniquity.
It follows, And I have been, or will be, a correction to them all Some think that the Prophet in the person of God threatens the Israelites, that God declares that he himself would become the avenger, because the people had so stubbornly followed wicked superstitions, -- |I sit as a judge in heaven, nor will I suffer you to fall away with impunity, since you are become so hardened in your wickedness.| But they are more correct who think that their sin was more increased by this circumstance, that God by his Prophets had not ceased to recall the Israelites to a sound mind, since they might not have been wholly irreclaimable: I have been to them a correction; that is, |They cannot excuse themselves and say, that they had fallen through error and ignorance; for there has been in them a wilful obstinacy, as I have not ceased to show them the right way by my Prophets. I have, then, been a correction to them; but I could not bend them, so indomitable has been that stubbornness, or rather madness, with which they were inflamed towards their idols.| It is now seen which of the two views I deem the most correct.
But I will adduce a third: God may be thought to be here complaining that he had been an object of dislike to the Israelites, as though he said, |When I sent my Prophets, they could not bear to be admonished, because my word was too bitter for them.| Reproofs are not easily endured by men. We indeed know, that those who are ill at ease with themselves, are yet not willing to hear any reproof: every one who deceives himself, wishes to be deceived by others. As then the ears of men are so tender and delicate, that they will patiently receive no reproof, this meaning seems not inappropriate, I have been to them all a correction, that is, |My doctrine has been by them rejected because it had in it too much asperity.| But the other explanation, which I have mentioned as the second, has been more approved: I was, however, unwilling to omit what seems to me to be no less suitable.
We may now choose or receive either of these two expositions, -- either that the Lord here takes away from the Israelites the excuse of error, because he had continued to reprove their vices by his Prophets, -- or that he expostulates with the Israelites for having rejected his word on the ground that it was too rigid and severe: yet this main thing will still remain the same, that the people of Israel were not only apostates, having fallen away from the lawful worship of God into their own superstitions but were also contumacious and refractory in their wickedness, so that they would receive no instruction, no salutary counsels. Let us proceed --