17. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.
17. Et dixit mihi, Vidisti-ne fili hominis? an leve est domui Iehudah, ut faciat abominationes istas quas feterunt illic? quia repleverant terrain violentia: et conversi sunt ad me provocandum: et ecce ipsi emittunt ramum ad nasum suum.
God complains as formerly of the wickedness of the people, especially of their perfidious and wicked revolt, because they so defiled the temple which ought to be sacred to God alone. He adds besides another complaint, that they were not content in their wickedness, which tended to violate human society and common rights, and the pursuit of mutual equity, unless even religion should be weakened by them. For under the word chms, chemes, is comprehended whatever is contrary to the second table of the law. There is, therefore, a use of the figure a part for the whole, in this word chms, chemes, violence, as if he had said, they were addicted to frauds, rapine, slaughter, cruelty, perjuries, spoliations. Since, therefore, they abstained from no injustice, says God, they manifestly provoke me also: as if he had said, after being unjust towards men, they now dare to erect their horns against me. We know that God's law was comprehended in the two tables. As to the former table, it prescribes what the true and pure worship of God is. The Jews had violated the second table, since they neglected all the duties of charity, and neither equity nor uprightness flourished among them. After they had filled the land with iniquity; this was their intolerable ungodliness, that after despising men they attacked God himself. We see now the reason of the context, Is this a light thing? says he. Thereafter he had spoken of the wickedness simply and by itself, as they say, he now amplifies by comparison when he says, before this they had filled the earth with violence, but now they have turned themselves to provoke me -- behold these, he says, etc. The adverb of place must be noticed here, as I have before advised. For their impiety is the more detestable, since they broke into the temple to defile themselves with their idols. That place at least ought to remain pure and unpolluted, though the whole land had been infected with many defilements; but when not even the temple is spared, this is a sign of desperate and almost furious audacity. He, therefore, repeats the adverb which he had used before, and in the same sense.
As to the latter part of the verse, some, as I have said, take hzmvrh, hez-moreh, for foulness: I know not why, for I am not aware that this noun is used elsewhere in this sense. But because nothing better occurred to them, they think it probable, and some have invented a foolish fable that they broke wind in honor of the sun, as if the noise of the belly was a grateful offering to the idol, since by this means they openly despised God. But these are conjectures. Others think more correctly who suppose this to be used metaphorically: for they were accustomed to burn incense to their idols; and so, according to them, God alludes to a pleasing and sweet odor when he names it a foul smell, as if he had said, even if the Jews pleased themselves in their superstitions, yet the incense sent forth a foetid odor and they should perceive it: for if he speaks of the nostrils it ought to be considered as a punishment. Some suppose that the relative of the third person is put for that of the first, as if God would say, to my nose or to my wrath: and they fabricate an insipid comment, that this place was changed by the Rabbins through reverence for God, as if forsooth there were not numberless passages where God pronounces in clearer words that he was disgracefully despised. But first, because this noun properly signifies a branch, and is taken in that sense in many places; then since the noun 'ph, aph, may be explained as well passively as actively, the context will flow best if we say, they put forth a branch to their wrath -- that is, to their destruction, because they provoked God. For what is the meaning of putting forth a branch, but that they heaped evil upon evil. They had violated, as I have said, the second table of the law, they were thieves, robbers, perjurers, and violent. Now at length their rage was directed against the former table of the law, so as to overthrow the whole worship of God. So therefore it will make good sense to say, that boughs were put forth -- for the singular number is taken for the plural, as often happens. Since, therefore, they so put forth boughs or budded, God says, that this should be for their destruction, because at length when he had spared them a long time, after a fit time for their punishment arrived, he would consume them. Now, therefore, we understand what the Prophet means. But if any other conjecture pleases, every one may form his own opinion; I do not contest the point, but I show what I think most probable. It follows --