9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
9. Perdidit te Israel; quia in me auxilium tuum.
10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
10 Ero: Rex tuus ubi, ut servet te in cunctis urbibus tuis, et judices tui, de quibus dixisti, Da mihi regem et principes?
11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
11 Dabo tibi (hoc est), Dedi tibi regem in ira mea, et sustuli in furore meo.
In the first place, God upbraids the Israelites for having in their perverseness rejected whatever was offered for their safety: but he proceeds farther and says, that they were past hope, and that there was a hidden cause which prevented God from helping them, and bringing them aid when they laboured under extreme necessity. He has destroyed thee, Israel, he says. Some consider the word, calf, to be understood, |The calf has destroyed thee:| but this is strained. Others think that there is a change of person: and I am inclined to adopt this opinion, as this mode of speaking we know, is very common: Destroyed thee has Israel; thou art the cause of thine own destruction, or, |Israel has destroyed himself.| Though then there is here a verb of the third person, and there is afterwards added an affixed pronoun at the second person, we may yet thus render the passage, |Israel has destroyed himself.| At the same time, when I weigh more fully every particular, this passage, I think, would be better and more fitly explained by being taken indefinitely: |Something has destroyed thee, Israel:| as though he said, |Inquire now who has destroyed thee.| God then does not here name Israel as the author, nor does he point out any as the author of their ruin; but yet he shows that Israel was lost, and that the cause of their destruction was to be sought in some one else, and not in him. This is the meaning. Then it is, Something has destroyed thee, Israel; for in me was thy help God shows and proves that Israel, who had been hitherto preserved, is now destroyed through their own fault; for God had once adopted the people, and for this end, that he might continue to show his favour towards them. If then the wickedness and ingratitude of the people had not hindered, God would have been doubtless always like himself, and his goodness towards that people would have flowed in a continuous and uniform stream.
This is what he means in the second clause, when he says, In me was thine help; by which he seems to say, |How comes it, and what is the reason, that I do not now help thee according to my usual manner? Thou hast indeed found me hitherto to be thy deliverer: though thou hast often struggled with great and grievous dangers, I was yet never wanting to thee; thou hast ever found from me a prompt assistance. How comes it now that I have cast thee away, that thou criest in vain, and that no one brings thee any help? How comes it, that thou art thus forsaken, and receives no relief whatever from my hand, as thou hast been wont to do? And doubtless I should never be wanting to thee, if thou wouldest allow me; but thou closest the door against me, and by thy wickedness spurnest my favour, so that it cannot come to thee. It then follows, that thou art now destroyed through thy own fault: Something then has destroyed thee He speaks here indefinitely; but this suspended way of expression is more emphatical when he shows that Israel was without reason astonished, and had also without reason expostulated with God. |There is then no ground for contending with God, as if he had frustrated thy expectation, and despised thy desires and crying; God indeed is consistent with himself, for he is not changeable;| as though he said, |Their perdition is from another cause, and they ought to know that there is some hindrance, why God should not extend his hand to help them, as he has hitherto usually done.|
We now perceive the mind of the Prophet: he in the first place records what God had been hitherto to the people; and then he takes for granted that he does not change, but that he possesses a uniform and unwearied goodness. But since he had hitherto helped his people, he concludes, that Israel was destroyed through some other cause, inasmuch as God brought him no aid; for unless Israel had intercepted God's goodness, it would have certainly flowed as usual. It then appears that its course was impeded by the wickedness of the people; for they put as it were an obstacle in its way.
And this passage teaches us, that men in vain clamour against God in their miseries: for he would be always ready to help them, were they not to spurn the favour offered to them. Whenever then God does not help us in our necessity, and suffers us to languish, and as it were to pine away in our afflictions, it is doubtless so, because we are not disposed to receive his favour, but, on the contrary, we obstruct its way; as it is said by Isaiah,
|Shortened is not the Lord's hand, that it cannot save, nor is my ear heavy, that it does not hear. Your sins, he says, have set up a mound between you and me,|
(Isaiah 59:1, 2.)
To the same purpose are the words of the Prophet here when he says, that we ought to inquire what the cause of our destruction is, when the Lord does not immediately deliver us: for as he has once given us a taste of his goodness so he will continue to do the same to the end; for he is not wearied in his kindness, nor can his bounty be exhausted. The fault then belongs to us. We hence see how remarkable is this passage, and what useful instruction it contains.
He afterwards more fully confirms the same by saying, I will be; and then he says, Thy king, where is he? By saying, I will be,' God retreats what he had before declared, that he would always be the same; for, as James says
No overshadowing happens to him,' (James 1:17.)
Hence I will be;' that is, |Though the Israelites rail against me, that I do not pursue my usual course of kindness, it is yet most false; for I remain ever the same, and am always ready to show kindness to men; for I do not, as I have elsewhere declared, forsake the works of my hands, (Psalm 138:8.) Seeing then that I thus continue my favour towards men, it must be that the way to my favour is closed up by their wickedness. Let them therefore examine themselves, when they cry and I answer not. When in their evils they in a manner pine away, and find no relief, let them acknowledge it to be their own fault; for I would have made myself the same as ever I have been, and they would have found me a deliverer, had not a change taken place in them.| We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet in the ninth verse, and as to the expression, 'hy, aei, I will be, in the verse which follows.
He then says, Where is thy king? God again reproaches the Israelites for having reposed their confidence in their king and other earthly helps, by which they thought themselves to have been well fortified. Where is thy king? he says. He derides the Israelites; for they saw that their king was now stripped of every power to help, and that all their princes were destitute both of prudence and of all other means. Since then there was no protection from men, the Prophet shows now that Israel had but a vain trust, when they thought themselves safe under the shadow of their king, when they considered themselves secure as long as they were governed by prudent men. All these things, he says, are vain. But we must ever bear in mind what he had said before I will be; for had not this shield been set up, hypocrites would have ever said in return, |Where now is God? What is his purpose? Why does he delay?| Hence God mentioned before that he was ready to help them, but that they by their wickedness had closed up the way.
But he further derides them for having in vain placed their hope and their help in their king and princes. Where is thy king, he says, that he may save thee in all thy cities? It is not without reason that the Prophet mentions cities, because the Israelites despised all threatening, while their cities were on every side unassailable and strong to keep out enemies. Hence when God threatened them by his Prophets, they regarded what was said to them as fables, and thus defended themselves, |How can enemies assail us? Though there were hundred wars nigh at hand, have we not cities which can resist the onsets of enemies? We shall therefore dwell in safety, and enjoy our pleasures, though God should shake heaven and earth.| Since then they were so inebriated with this false confidence, the Prophet now says, |I know that you excel in having great and many cities; but as you deem them as your protection, God will show that this hope is vain and deceptive. Where then is thy king, that he may save thee in thy cities? And though thy king be well furnished with an army and with defences, it will yet avail thee nothing, when God shall once rise up against thee.|
But he subjoins, And thy judges of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes? Here the Prophet ascends higher; for he shows that the people of Israel had not only sinned in this respect, that they had placed their hope in their king, and in other helps; but that they had also chosen for themselves a king, whom God had not approved. For David, we know, was anointed for this end, that he might unite together the whole body of the people; and God intended that his Church and chosen people should remain under one head, that they might be safe. It was therefore an impious separations when the ten tribes wished for themselves a new king. How so? Because a defection from the kingdom of David was as it were a denial of God. For if it was said to Samuel,
Thee have they not rejected, but me,
that I should not reign over them,' (1 Samuel 8:7,)
it was certainly more fully verified as to David. We now then see what the Prophet meant: after having inveighed against the false confidence of the people for thinking that they were safe through the power of their king, he now adds, |I will advance to another source: for thou didst not then begin to sin, when thou didst transfer the glory of God to the king, but when thou didst wish to have a kingdom of thine own, being not content with that kingdom which he had instituted in the person of David.| The Prophet does now then accuse the people of defection, when a new king, that is, Jeroboam, was elected by them. For though it was done according to the certain purpose of God, as we have elsewhere observed, yet this availed nothing to alleviate the fault of the people; for they, as far as they could, renounced God. As the foot, if cut off from the body, is not only a mutilated and useless member, but immediately putrefies; so also was Israel, being like a half part of a torn and mutilated body; and they must have become putrified, had they not been miraculously preserved. But at the same time God here justly condemns that defection, that Israel, by desiring a new king, had broken asunder the sacred unity of the Church and introduced an impious separation.
These are the princes, of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes. I gave to thee in my wrath, and took away in my fury; that is |It was a cursed beginning, and it shall be a cursed end; for the election of Jeroboam was not lawful; but through an impious wilfulness, the people then rebelled against me, when they revolted from the family of David.| Nothing successful could then proceed from so inauspicious a beginning. For it is only then an auspicious token, when we obey God, when his Spirit presides over our counsels, when we ask at his mouth, and when we begin with prayer to him. But when we despise the word of God, and give loose reins to our own humour, and fix on whatever pleases us, it cannot be but that an unhappy and disastrous issue will follow. God therefore says, that he gave them a king in his wrath; as though he said, |Ye think that you have done nobly, when Jeroboam was raised to the throne, that he might become eminent: for the kingdom of Judah was then far inferior to that of Israel, which not only excelled in power, but also in the number of its subjects. Ye think that you were then happy, because Jeroboam ruled over you: but he was given you in the anger and wrath of God,| saith the Prophet. |But God commanded Jeroboam to be anointed.| True, it was so: but this, says God, I did in my wrath; and now I will take away in my fury; that is, |I will deprive you of that kingdom which I see is the cause of your blindness. For if that kingdom remains entire, I shall be nothing, the authority of my word will be of no weight among you. It is then necessary that this kingdom should be wholly subverted; for ye began to be unhappy as soon as ye sought a new king.|
We now understand what the Prophet means. At the same time, we learn from this passage, that God so executes his judgements, that whatever evil there is, it ought to be ascribed to men. For the raising of Jeroboam to the kingdom, we certainly allow to have been rash and unjust; for thereby was violated that celestial decree made known to David,
|My Son art thou, I have this day begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles,' etc., (Psalm 2:7,8.)
But who appointed Jeroboam to be king? The Lord himself. How could it be, that God raised Jeroboam to the throne, and that he yet by his decree set David, not only over the children of Abraham, but also over the Gentiles, with reference to Christ who was to come? God seems here to be inconsistent with himself. By no means; for when he set David over his chosen people, it was a lawful appointment: but when he raised Jeroboam to the throne, it was a singular judgement; so that in God there is no inconsistency. The people at the same time, who by their suffrages adopted Jeroboam and made him their king, acted impiously and perversely. |Yet God seems to have directed the whole by his providence.| True; for before the people knew any thing of the new king, God had already determined to elect him and resolved also to punish in this way the defection and ingratitude of Solomon. All these things are true, that is, that God by his secret counsel had directed the whole business, and yet that he had no participation in the sin of the people.
Thus let us learn wisely to admire the secret judgements of God, and not imitate those profane cavillers, who make a great noise, because they cannot understand how God thus makes use of wicked men, and how he directs for the best end what is done by men wickedly and foolishly. As they do not perceive this, they conclude that if the Lord governs all things, he must be the author of sin. But the Scripture, as we see, when it speaks of the wrath and fury of God, does at the same time set forth to us his rectitude in all his judgements, and distinguishes between God and men, even as the difference is great; for God does not turn the perverse designs of men to answer their own ends -- he is a just judge. And yet his purpose is not always apparent to us: it is, however, our duty reverently and with chastened minds to admire and adore those mysteries which surpass our comprehension. It follows --