37. And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
37. Et transire faciam vos sub virga, et adducam vos in vinculo foederis.
He follows up the same kind of instruction, that the people were not permitted to perish because they belonged to him, as if he had said that they should be always his, whether they liked it or not. And yet he seems to promise here what was very agreeable, that he would always esteem them as his flock. This is the meaning of to pass under the rod; for svt, shebet, does not mean a scepter here, nor a staff by which a delinquent is struck, but it means a shepherd's crook. It is, then, a simile taken from a shepherd who numbers and marks his flock; and this phrase often recurs. It means, because God has once acquired the people as his own, he cannot be rightly deprived of them. The exiles, indeed, had imagined themselves free if they could blot out of their minds and memories the name of the true God, and pollute themselves with the defilement's of the Gentiles. But God, on the other hand, pronounces, that as a shepherd notices his sheep, and counts their number, and makes them pass under his staff, like a king reviewing his army, so he would reckon up his people, and not suffer any one to snatch them from him, since he claims authority over them all without exception. Now, therefore, we understand the sense of the words: whence we gather again, that abandoned men gain nothing by their obstinacy, but God's really showing that the dominion which he has once assumed cannot by any means be snatched away from him. So this passage teaches us the kind of reward which awaits all apostates who think themselves emancipated when they brutally indulge in impiety, because God at length will make them pass under the rod, that is, he will call and compel them to render an account, as if their profession of faith was like a brand burnt in to their hearts.
He says, in the bonds of a covenant, but in a different sense from what Hosea denominates a bond of affection. (Hosea 11:4.) He is there treating of reconciliation; but in this passage God pronounces that he will no longer be en-treated by the Israelites. Hence, the bond of the covenant means the constancy of his covenant, as far as he is concerned: and the, simile is suitable, because God had bound his people to himself, on the condition that they should be always surrounded with these bonds. Hence, when they petulantly wandered like untamed beasts, yet God had hidden bonds of his covenant: that is, he persevered in his own covenant, so that he collected them all again to himself, not to rule over them as a father, but to punish their revolt more severely. Here is a tacit comparison between the Israelites and the Gentiles; for the Gentiles, through their never approaching nearer to God, wandered away in their licentiousness without restraint. But the state of the elect people was different, since the end of their covenant was this, that God held them bound to him, even if the whole world should escape from him. It follows --