15. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
15. Quia ipse inter fratres fructum faciet (vel, augescet; vel, Quanvis ipse inter fratres suos augescat: alii putant 'chym positum esse pro 'chvym, inter germina: sed nimis coacta est interpretatio. Legamus igitur simpliciter ut verba sonant, Ipse inter fratres augescet;) veniet ventus orientalis, ventus Jehovae a deserto ascendens, et arefaciet venam ejus, et siccabitur fons ejus: ipse diripiet thesaurum omnis vasis desiderabilis.
God again confirms what had been said that Israel in vain trusted in their strength and fortresses and that certain destruction was nigh them on account of their sins which they followed without any limits or restraint. But the Prophet begins with these words, He among brethren will increase He alludes, I doubt not, (as other interpreters have also noticed,) to the blessing of the tribe of Ephraim, which is mentioned in Genesis 48; for we know that though Ephraim was the younger, he was yet placed first by Jacob, so that he was preferred in honour to his brother, who was the firstborn: and further, the prophecy, we know, which Jacob then announced, was really fulfilled; for the tribe of Ephraim excelled, both in number and in other respects, all the rest, except only the tribe of Judah. Ephraim had evidently gained high eminence among the whole people. But when he ought to have ascribed all this to the gratuitous goodness of God, he became inflated with pride. This ingratitude the Prophet now reproves, He, he says, among his brethren will increase: but whence this increase? Whence was this so great a dignity, except that he was preferred to Manasseh, who by right of nature was the first? Now it was not enough for this wretched people to forget so great a favour of God, without at the same time abusing their wealth in fostering pride, and without hardening themselves in contempt of God. For whence came so great an audacity in their rebellion, whence so great stupidity and so great a madness as to despise the judgement of God, except from this -- that they had increased among their brethren?
Though, then, he increases among his brethren, yet there shall come an east wind, the wind of Jehovah, which shall dry his spring, and his fountain shall be dried up Here God declares what had been before mentioned, that it was in his power to take away from the people of Israel what he had gratuitously bestowed, as he could dry up the fountains whenever he wished. And he applies a most suitable similitude. As the east wind, he says, dries and burns up, and if it long prevails, the fountains will be dried up; so will I, he says, dry up all the springs of Ephraim. Whether or not he thinks that he possesses more vigour than fountains, which have an exhaustless source, it is certain that fountains dry up whenever it so pleases me. I will then dry up the springs and fountains of Ephraim: though he thinks that he draws from a deep fountain, yet the wind, when it shall rise, will dry up his whole vigour and moisture. We now understand what the Prophet means.
Now as to the words, some render qdym, kodim, improperly, the south wind; for it means the east wind: and then others incorrectly explain the wind of Jehovah, as meaning a strong wind. I indeed allow that what is unusual is often said to be divine; but in this place the Prophet intended to express, that God has winds ever ready, by which he can dry up whatever vigour there may be or seem to be in men. Hence the name of Jehovah is set in opposition to natural causes or means. It shall not then be a fortuitous wind that shall dry up the springs of Ephraim, but one raised up by the counsel and certain purpose of God; as though he said, |This wind will be the scourge of God.|
We are then taught here, that when God for a time blesses us, we must beware lest we abuse his favour and entertain a false confidence, as we see that Ephraim had done: for he flourished among his brethren, and then raised up his head; and thus he obliterated God's favour through his pride and haughtiness. We ought then, when prosperous, ever to fear, lest something like this should happen to us. The more kindly then God deals with us, the more constantly ought we to be roused up to pray to him, that he may be pleased to carry on his work to the end, lest we slumber in our enjoyments while God is indulgent to us. This, in the first place, we ought to bear in mind. Then we must also notice the warning of the prophet, that God can suddenly, and, as it were, in a moment, upset the prosperity of men, that there is nothing in this world which cannot be immediately changed whenever God withdraws from us his favour. This comparison then ought often to occur to us; when the air is tranquil, when the season is quiet, a wind will in a moment rise up, which will dry the earth, which will also make dry the fountains; and yet the vigour of fountains seems to be perpetual; what then may not happen to us? Cannot the Lord at any moment make us dry, since we have in ourselves no source of strength? He might indeed have said in this place what we find in the 40^th chapter of Isaiah that man is like the flower that soon fadeth; but he intended to express something more profound; for this people, being deeply fixed in their own strength, thought that they were supplied by exhaustless fountains, and that their vigour could not be dried up: hence he says, |Though thou hast fountains and springs, yet God will dry thee up; for he will find a wind that has power, as experience proves, to dry up springs and fountains.|
But it follows, It will rob the treasure of every desirable vessel This may seem to be improperly applied to wind; but yet the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently clear, even this, that nothing shall remain untouched in the tribe of Ephraim, when the Lord shall raise up his wind. |However hidden,| he seems to say, |your treasures may be, yet this wind shall penetrate into the inmost recesses, so that nothing shall be safe from its violence.| In short, the Prophet means, that the force of God's vengeance would be so violent, that Ephraim could not be secure in any of his fortresses; for the wind of God would penetrate unto the very inmost springs of the earth. This is the meaning. It follows --