8. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.
8. Ephraim, quid mihi adhuc cum idolis? Ego respondi et respexi eum (vel, exaudivi:) Ego tanquam abies frondosa: a me fructus tuus inventus est.
The Prophet again introduces the Israelites speaking as before, that they would deplore their blindness and folly, and renounce in future their superstitions. The confession then which we have before noticed is here repeated; and it is a testimony of true repentance when men, being ashamed, are displeased with themselves on account of their sins, and apply their minds to God's service, and detest their whole former life. To this subject belongs what the Prophet now says. It is a concise discourse; but yet its brevity contains nothing obscure. Ephraim, he says, What have I to do with idols? There is indeed a verb understood, Ephraim |shall say|, What have I to do with idols?' But still it is evident enough what the Prophet means. There is then in these words, as I have said, a sincere confession; for the ten tribes express their detestation of their folly, that they had alienated themselves from the true God, and became entangled in false and abominable superstitions: hence they say, What have we to do with idols? and when they add, any more, they confess that their former life had been corrupt and vicious: at the same time they announce their own repentance, when they say that they would have nothing more to do with fictitious gods.
The reason follows, because God will hear and look on Israel, so as to become to him a shady tree. Some so explain this, as though God promised to be propitious to Israel after they had manifested their repentance. But they pervert the sense of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he says, that after the Israelites shall perceive, and find even by the effect, that God is propitious to them, they will then say, |How foolish and mad we were, while we followed idols? It is now then time that our souls should recumb on God.| Why? |Because we see that there is nothing better for us than to live under his safeguard and protection; for he hears us, he regards us, he is to us like a shady tree, so that he protects us under his shadow.| We now perceive how these two clauses are connected together; for God shows the reason why Ephraim will renounce his idols because he will perceive that he was miserably deceived as long as he wandered after his idols. How will he perceive this? Because he will see that he is now favoured by the Lord, and that he was before destitute of his help. When God then shall give such a proof to his people, he will at the same time produce this effect, that they will cast away all false confidences, and confess that they were miserable and wretched while they were attached to idols. He therefore says, I have heard and favoured him What is then later in the words of the Prophet goes before; it precedes in order of things this clause, Ephraim shall say, What have I to do with idols?
In saying, I will be as a shady fir-tree, and adding at the same time, From me is thy fruit found, the two similitudes seem not to accord; for, as it is well known, the fir-tree bears no fruit. Why then is fruit mentioned? The answer is that these two similitudes are not connected. For when God compares himself to a fir-tree, he speaks only of protection: and we know that when one seeks a cooling shade, he may find it under a fir-tree; besides, it is always green, as we all know, when leaves fall from other trees; and further, its height and thickness afford a good shadow. The reason, then, why God promises to be like a fir-tree to his people is this, because all who will fly under his shadow shall be preserved from the heat. But the meaning of the second similitude, that God would supply his people with fruit, is different. The Prophet had said before that the Israelites would be like a tree, which fixes its roots deep in the ground. He now transfers the name of a tree to God. Both these things are true; for when God makes us fruitful we are branches set in the best vine; and it is also true, that the whole fruit we have is from him; for all vigour would fail us, except God were to supply us with moisture, and even life itself. We now then see that there is no inconsistency in the words of the Prophet, as the object is different From me then is thy fruit found; as though God said, that the Israelites, if wise, would be content with his favour; for they who seek support from him will be satisfied; because they will find from him fruit sufficiently rich and abundant. We now then understand what is meant. But it follows --