1. When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
1. Quia puer Israel, et dilexi eum (hoc est, Quando adhuc puer erat Israel; ky non accipitur hic causaliter, sed adverbium est temporis: Quum ergo puer erat Israel, tunc dilexi eum;) et ex Egypto vocavi filium meum (ad verbum est, clamavi ad filium meum.)
God here expostulates with the people of Israel for their ingratitude. The obligation of the people was twofold; for God had embraced them from the very first beginning, and when there was no merit or worthiness in them. What else, indeed, was the condition of the people when emancipated from their servile works in Egypt? They doubtless seemed then like a man half-dead or a putrid carcass; for they had no vigour remaining in them. The Lord then stretched forth his hand to the people when in so hopeless a state, drew them out, as it were, from the grave, and restored them from death into life. But the people did not acknowledge this so wonderful a favour of God, but soon after petulantly turned their back on him. What baseness was this, and how shameful the wickedness, to make such a return to the author of their life and salvation? The Prophet therefore enhances the sin and baseness of the people by this circumstance, that the Lord had loved them even from childhood; when yet, he says, Israel was a child, I loved him The nativity of the people was their coming out of Egypt. The Lord had indeed made his covenant with Abraham four hundred years before; and, as we know, the patriarchs were also regarded by him as his children: but God wished his Church to be, as it were, extinguished, when he redeemed it. Hence the Scripture, when it speaks of the liberation of the people, often refers to that favour of God in the same way as of one born into the world. It is not therefore without reason that the Prophet here reminds the people that they had been loved when in childhood. The proof of this love was, that they had been brought out of Egypt. Love had preceded, as the cause is always before the effect.
But the Prophet enlarges on the subject: I loved Israel, even while he was yet a child; I called him out of Egypt; that is, |I not only loved him when a child, but before he was born I began to love him; for the liberation from Egypt was the nativity, and my love preceded that. It then appears, that the people had been loved by me, before they came forth to the light; for Egypt was like a grave without any spark of life; and the condition this miserable people was in was worse than thousand deaths. Then by calling my people from Egypt, I sufficiently proved that my love was gratuitous before they were born.| The people were hence less excusable when they returned such an unworthy recompense to God, since he had previously bestowed his free favour upon them. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.
But here arises a difficult question; for Matthew, accommodates this passage to the person of Christ. They who have not been well versed in Scripture have confidently applied to Christ this place; yet the context is opposed to this. Hence it has happened, that scoffers have attempted to disturb the whole religion of Christ, as though the Evangelist had misapplied the declaration of the Prophet. They give a more suitable answer, who say that there is in this case only a comparison: as when a passage from Jeremiah is quoted in another place, when the cruelty of Herod is mentioned, who raged against all the infants of his dominion, who were under two years of age,
Rachel, bewailing her children, would not receive consolation, because they were not,' (Jeremiah 31:15.)
The Evangelist says that this prophecy was fulfilled, (Matthew 2:18.) But it is certain that the object of Jeremiah was another; but nothing prevents that declaration should not be applied to what Matthew relates. So they understand this place. But I think that Matthew had more deeply considered the purpose of God in having Christ led into Egypt, and in his return afterwards into Judea. In the first place, it must be remembered that Christ cannot be separated from his Church, as the body will be mutilated and imperfect without a head. Whatever then happened formerly in the Church, ought at length to be fulfilled by the head. This is one thing. Then also there is no doubt, but that God in his wonderful providence intended that his Son should come forth from Egypt, that he might be a redeemer to the faithful; and thus he shows that a true, real, and perfect deliverance was at length effected, when the promised Redeemer appeared. It was then the full nativity of the Church, when Christ came forth from Egypt to redeem his Church. So in my view that comment is too frigid, which embraces the idea, that Matthew made only a comparison. For it behaves us to consider this, that God, when he formerly redeemed his people from Egypt, only showed by a certain prelude the redemption which he deferred till the coming of Christ. Hence, as the body was then brought forth from Egypt into Judea, so at length the head also came forth from Egypt: and then God fully showed him to be the true deliverer of his people. This then is the meaning. Matthew therefore most fitly accommodates this passage to Christ, that God loved his Son from his first childhood and called him from Egypt. We know at the same time that Christ is called the Son of God in a respect different from the people of Israel; for adoption made the children of Abraham the children of God, but Christ is by nature the only-begotten Son of God. But his own dignity must remain to the head, that the body may continue in its inferior state. There is then in this nothing inconsistent. But as to the charge of ingratitude, that so great a favour of God was not acknowledged, this cannot apply to the person of Christ, as we well know; nor is it necessary in this respect to refer to him; for we see from other places that every thing does not apply to Christ, which is said of David, or of the high priest, or of the posterity of David; though they were types of Christ. But there is ever a great difference between the reality and its symbols. Let us now proceed --