3. And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.
3. Et ululabunt cantica templi die illo, dicit Dominus Jehova: multum cadaver (hoc est, multa cadavera) in omni loco prosternentur cum silentio.
4. Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,
4. Audite hoc qui absorbetis pauperem et exterminatis inopes terrae.
The Prophet touches the Israelites here, in an indirect way, for taking such delight in their superstitions as to sing in their prosperity, as though God was favorable to them; for the unbelieving are wont to misconstrue both the hatred and the favor of God by the present appearance of things. When the Turks enjoy prosperity, they boast that God is on their side: we see also that the Papists draw the same conclusion. It is the disposition of men not to look so much on themselves as on external circumstances. When, therefore, God indulges them for a time, though they be more than usually wicked, they yet doubt not but that God is favorable to them. So the Sodomites, to the very time in which they were overwhelmed by sudden destruction, thought that they had peace with heaven, (Genesis 19:14): this also is the reason why Isaiah says, that the ungodly had made, as it were, a covenant with hell and death, (Isaiah 28:15) and we know what Christ says of the time of Noah, that they then heedlessly feasted and built sumptuous houses, (Matthew 24:38) Such carnal security has prevailed almost in all ages. But a special vice is here noticed by the Prophet, namely, that the people of Israel sang songs in their temples, as though they meant designedly to mock God: for the voices of the Prophets resounded daily, and uttered grievous and terrible threatening; but the people in the meantime sang in their temples. In the same way the Papists act in the present day; while they bellow and chant, they think that God is twice or three times pacified; and they also congratulate themselves in their temples, when they have everything prosperous. This abuse, then, is what the Prophet refers to when he says, Howlings shall be the songs of the temple For melody he mentions howling, as though he said, |God will turn your songs to lamentations, though they be now full of joy.|
He afterwards adds, For many a carcass shall be cast down in every place: but I prefer to render the word passively, |Cast down everywhere with silence shall be many carcases| . By these words he intimates that there would be such a slaughter as would prevent them from burying the dead bodies. We have said in another place that the right of burial is commonly observed even by enemies; for it is more than hostility to rage against the dead: and all who wish not to be deemed wholly barbarous either bury their dead enemies, or permit them to be buried; and there is a sort of an understanding on this point among enemies, and the right of burial has been usually observed in all ages, and held sacred among all nations. When therefore dead bodies are thrown down in silence, it is an evidence of a most grievous calamity. We hence see why the Prophet distinctly expresses here, that many a dead body would be cast down in every place in silence, that is, that there would be no burying of the dead. But as we see men, though a hundred times proved guilty, yet quarreling with God, when he executes rather a grievous punishment, the Prophet now contends with the Israelites, and again repeats what we have before noticed, -- that God did not deal cruelly with them, and that though he should consume and obliterate the whole people, it would yet be for just reasons, inasmuch as they had reached the very extremities of wickedness.
And he assails by name the princes of the people, Hear this, he says, ye who tread upon or swallow up the poor The Prophets, as we have already stated, did not without reason direct their discourses to the chief men, though the common people were nearly as much involved in the same guilt. It is certain that the state of the people of Israel was then so corrupt, that all, from the highest to the lowest, were become degenerated and none were free from blame. But as more guilt belongs always to leaders, this is the reason why the Prophets treated them with more sharpness and severity: for many of the common people go astray through thoughtlessness or ignorances or are led on by others, but they who govern, pervert what is just and right, and then become the originators of all kinds of licentiousness. It is no wonder then that the Lord by his Prophets inveighed so sharply against them; and this is now the object of the Prophet in saying, Hear this: for there is an emphasis in the expression, when he bids them to hear; it was either because they did not sufficiently observe their sins, and were wholly deaf, or because they in vain contended with God; for hypocrites think that by evasion they can escape judgment. Hear, he says, ye who devour the miserable, and destroy the poor of the land. We see here some difference marked, and that the Prophet does not generally and indiscriminately summon the common people and the princes to God's tribunal; but turns his discourse to the princes only. It now follows --