9. Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.
9. Ephraim in vastitatem erit in die correctionis: in tribibus Israel docui veritatem (intelligere feci, ad verbum.)
Here the Prophet asserts, without any figure, that their chastisement would not be slight or paternal, but that God would punish the Israelites as they deserved, that he would reduce them to nothing. God, we know, sometimes spares the ungodly, while he chastises them: signs of his wrath daily appear through the whole world; but at the same time they are moderate punishments which God inflicts on men; and he in a manner invites them to repentance, when he thus mercifully chastises their sins. But the Prophet says here, that God would no longer act in this manner; for he would destroy and wholly blot out the whole kingdom of Israel. They had been already often warned, not only in words, but also in deeds and had often felt the wrath of God; but they still persisted in their course. And now, as God saw that they were wholly stupid, he says, Now, in the day of correction, Ephraim shall be for desolation; as though he said, |I will not correct Israel as heretofore, for they have been before in various ways chastised, but have not repented; I will therefore now lay aside those paternal corrections which I have hitherto used, for I have in vain applied such remedies: I will then henceforth so correct Israel, that they shall be entirely destroyed.| We now comprehend the Prophet's meaning.
But this is a remarkable passage; for men are always slow and dilatory; even when God pricks them, as it were, with goads, they remain slothful in their sins. God adds corrections, one after the other; and when he sees men continuing as it were out of their senses, he then testifies that it is no time for reproof, but that final destruction is at hand. We hence see that every hope is here cut off from the Israelites, that they might not think that they would be punished in the usual way for their sins; for as soon as the Lord would begin to reprehend them, he would destroy and blot out their names: Israel then shall be for desolation in the day of correction
He then adds, through the tribes of Israel I have made known the truth. Some regard this sentence as spoken in the person of God, and refer it to the first covenant which God made with the whole people; and so consider this to be the sense, |I do not now of a sudden proceed to take vengeance on the Israelites; for I have begotten this people, nourished them, brought them up to manhood. Since this is the case, there is now no reason for them to complain, that I am too precipitant in taking vengeance.| This is one meaning: but I rather incline to their opinion, who regard this as spoken in the person of the Prophet; I do not yet follow altogether their opinion, for they suppose that the fault of the people in being unteachable is alone set forth: I have made known the truth through the tribes of Israel, as though the Prophet had said, |This people is unworthy that God should chastise them in a paternal manner, for they have hardened themselves in their wickedness; and though they have been more than sufficiently taught their duty, they have yet openly despised God, and have done this, not through ignorance, but through perverseness: since then the people of Israel have blinded and demented themselves, as it were, willfully, what now remains, but that God will bring them to desolation?| So they expound this place. But it seems to me that a protestation is what suits this passage: I have made known the truth through the tribes of Israel, as though he said, |This is fixed and ratified, which I now declare, and it shall certainly be; let then no one seek any escape for himself, for God threatens not now, as often before, for the purpose of recalling men to repentance, but declares what he will do.|
That this may be better understood, the mode of speaking in familiar use among all the Prophets is to be noticed: they often threaten, and then give hope of pardon, and promise salvation, so that they seem to exhibit some sort of contradiction: for after having fulminated against the people, they come at once to preach grace, they offer salvation, they testify that God will be propitious. At first sight the Prophets seem not to be consistent with themselves. But the solution is easy, for they threatened vengeance to men under condition; afterwards, when they saw some fruit, they then set forth the mercy of God, and began to be heralds of peace, to reconcile men to God, and make an agreement between them. Thus our Prophet often threatened the Israelites; and had they repented, the hope of salvation would not have been cut off from them. But after he had found them to be so obstinate that they would not receive any instruction, he then said, I have announced the truth through the tribes of Israel, that is, God does not now say, |Except ye repent, you are lost;| but he speaks positively; because he sees that the well known doctrine has been despised: this then is the truth. It is the same as if he said, |This is the last denunciation, which shall be fixed and unalterable.|
And Jeremiah also speaks in the same manner: his book is full of various threatenings; and yet they are conditional threatening. But after God had taken the matter in hand, he began to act in a different way: |I now call you no more to repentance, I contend not with you, I do not now set forth God as a judge, that ye may flee to him for mercy; all these things are come to an end; what remains now|, he says, |is the last command, to show that you are now past hope.| This is the true and real meaning of the Prophet here; and whosoever will consider the whole context, will easily perceive that this was the Prophet's intention. He had said before, |Ephraim shall be for desolation in the day of correction,| that is, |The Lord will no longer reprove Ephraim as heretofore, but will entirely destroy him:| then he adds, I have promulgated or published the truth through the tribes of Israel: |Now,| he says, |know ye that vengeance will come shortly, and that it is ratified before God; know also that I speak authoritatively, as if the hand of God were now stretched forth before your eyes.| Now follows --