1. When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
1. Dum medeor Israel, tunc retecta fuit iniquitas Ephraim et malitiae Samariae, quia gesserunt se mendaciter (vel, fallaciter; ad verbum, fecerunt fellaciam;) et fur ingressus est, spoliavit praedo foris.
God, that he might show how corrupt was the state of all the people of Israel, compares himself here to a physician, who, while he wishes to try remedies, acknowledges that there are hid more grievous diseases; which is often the case. When a sick person sends for a physician, his disease will be soon discovered; but it may be that he has for many years labored under other hidden complaints, which do not immediately come to the knowledge of the physician. He may indeed think that the symptoms of the disease are those which proceed from a source more hidden; but on the third or fourth days after having tried some remedies he then knows that there is some hidden malady. God then says, that by applying remedies he had found out how corrupt Israel was, While I was healing my people, he says, then I knew what was the iniquity of Samaria and of all Ephraim.
By Samaria he means the principal part of the kingdom; for that city, as it is well known, was the capital and the chief seat of government. The Prophet therefore says, that the iniquities of Samaria were then discovered to be, not common, but inveterate diseases. This is the meaning. We now see what God had in view; for the people might deceive themselves, as it often happens, and say, |We are not indeed wholly free from every vice; but God ought not however to punish us so severely, for what nation is there under the sun which does not labour under the common diseases?| But the Prophet here answers, that the people of Israel were so corrupt, that light remedies would not do for them. God then here undertakes the office of a physician, and says, |I have hitherto wished to heal Israel, and this was my design, when I hewed them by my Prophets, and employed my word as a sword; and afterwards when I added chastisements; but now I have found that their wickedness is greater than can be corrected by such remedies.| The iniquity of Ephraim then has been discovered, he says, and then I perceived the vices of Samaria
Now this place teaches, that though the vices of men do not immediately appear, yet they who deceive themselves, and disguise themselves to others, gain nothing, nor are they made free before God, and their fault is not lessened, nor are they absolved from guilt; for at last their hidden vices will come to light: and this especially happens, when the Lord performs the office of a physician towards them; for we see that men then cast out their bitterness, when the Lord seeks to heal their corruptions. Under the papacy, even those who are the worst conceal their own vices. How so? Because God does not try them; there is no teaching that cauterizes or that draws blood. As then the Papists rest quietly in their own dregs, their perverseness does not appear. But in other places, where God puts forth the power of his word, and where he speaks effectually by his servants, there men show what great impiety was before hid in them; for in full rage they rise up against God, and they cannot bear any admonition. As soon then as God begins to do the office of a physician, men then discover their diseases. And this is the reason why the world so much shun the light of heavenly doctrine; for he who does evil hates the light, (John 3:20.) We may also observe the same as to chastisements. When God indulges the wicked, they then with the mouth at least bless him; but when he begins to punish their sins they clamour against him and are angry, and at length show how much fury was before hid in their hearts. We now see what the Prophet here lays to the charge of the people of Israel. It may also be observed at this day through the whole world, that the curing of diseases discovers evils which were before unknown.
But we have said, and this ought to be borne in mind, that Ephraim is here expressly named by the Prophet, and also the city, Samaria, because he wished to intimate that their diseases were inveterate, existing not only in the extreme members, but deeply fixed in the head and bowels, and occupying the vital parts. It then follows, Because they have acted mendaciously, or, done falsely. The Prophet signifies by this expression, that there was nothing sound in the whole people, because they were addicted to their own depravities. By the word sqr, shikor, he means every kind of falseness, that is, that men were thoroughly imbued with depraved lusts, and that there was now remaining in them nothing sound or whole. This then is the main point, that the wickedness of the people was discovered, and that it could not be cured by moderate severity, because it had penetrated into the very bowels and spread over the whole body.
What follows interpreters are wont to regard as the punishment which God had already inflicted. The Prophet says The thief has entered in, and the robber has plundered without. They therefore think that this is to be referred to the manner in which God had already begun by punishment to recall the people to a sound mind; as though he said, |You have been pillaged by thieves as well as harassed by robbers.| But I rather think that the Prophet here pursues the same subject, and shows that the people were inwardly and outwardly so infected with vices, that there was now no whole part; and that by mentioning a part for the whole, he here designates every kind of evil, for he specifies two kinds which may stand for all things in general. He therefore says, The thief has entered in, that is, stealthily, and does mischief insidiously, or even openly like robbers, who use open violence; which means, that impiety so prevailed, either by frauds or by open war, that they were in every way corrupt. But when he says, that the thief had entered in, he means, that many of the people were like foxes, who craftily do mischief; and when he says, that the robber had plundered abroad, he means that others, like lions, seized openly and without shame on what belonged to others, and thus by open force stripped and plundered the miserable and the poor.
We now apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. Having said that the Israelites and the citizens of Samaria had conducted themselves so deceitfully, he now, by specifying two things, shows how they had departed from all uprightness, and prostituted themselves to every kind of wickedness; because where violence reigned, there also frauds and all kinds of evil reigned. The thief then had entered in, and the robber plundered abroad; that is, they secretly circumvented their neighbors, and also went forth like robbers openly and without any shame. It then follows --