3. They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
3. In malitia sua exhilarant regem, et in mendaciis suis principes.
The Prophet now arraigns all the citizens of Samaria, and in their persons the whole people, because they rendered obedience to the king by flattery, and to the princes in wicked things, respecting which their own conscience convicted them. He had already in the fifth chapter mentioned the defection of the people in this respect, that they had obeyed the royal edict. It might indeed have appeared a matter worthy of praise, that the people had quietly embraced what the king commanded. This is the case with many at this day, who bring forward a pretext of this kind. Under the papacy they dare not withdraw themselves from their impious superstitions, and they adduce this excuse, that they ought to obey their princes. But, as I have already said, the Prophet has before condemned this sort of obedience, and now he shows that the defection which then reigned through all Israel, ought not to be ascribed to the king or to few men, but that it was a common evil, which involved all in one and the same guilt, without exception. How so? By their wickedness, he says, they have exhilarated the king, and by their lies the princes; that is, If they wish to cast the blame on their governors, it will be done in vain; for whence came then such a promptitude? As soon as Jeroboam formed the calves, as soon as he built temples, religion instantly collapsed, and whatever was before pure, degenerated; how was the change so sudden? Even because the people had inwardly concocted their wickedness, which, when an occasion was offered, showed itself; for hypocrisy did lie hid in all, and was then discovered. We now perceive what the Prophet had in view.
And this place ought to be carefully noticed: for it often happens that some vice creeps in, which proceeds from one man or from a few; but when all readily embrace what a few introduce, it is quite evident that they have no living root of piety or of the fear of God. They then who are so prone to adopt vices were before hypocrites; and we daily find this to be the case. When pious men have the government of a city, and act prudently, then the whole people will give some hope that they will fear the Lord; and when any king, influenced by a desire of advancing the glory of God, endeavors to preserve all his subjects in the pure worship of God, then the same feeling of piety will be seen in all: but when an ungodly king succeeds him, the greater part will immediately fall back again; and when a magistrate neglects his duty, the greater portion of the people will break out into open impiety. I wish there were no proofs of these things; but throughout the world the Lord has designed that there should exist examples of them.
This purpose of God ought therefore to be noticed; for he accuses the people of having made themselves too obsequious and pliant. When king Jeroboam set up vicious worship, the people immediately offered themselves as ready to obey: hence impiety became quite open. They then delighted the king by their wickedness, and the princes by their lies; as though he said, |They cannot transfer the blame to the king and princes. Why? Because they delighted them by their wickedness; that is, they haltered the king by their wickedness and delighted the princes by their lies.| It follows --