This chapter, which also forms a distinct prophecy, foretells the dreadful destruction of the land of Israel, or Judah, (for after the captivity of the ten tribes these terms are often used indiscriminately for the Jews in general,) on account of the heinous sins of its inhabitants, 1-15; and the great distress of the small remnant that should escape, 16-19. The temple itself, which they had polluted with idolatry, is devoted to destruction, 20-22; and the prophet is directed to make a chain, as a type of that captivity, in which both king and people should be led in bonds to Babylon, 23-27. The whole chapter abounds in bold and beautiful figures, flowing in an easy and forcible language.
2Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land.
2 Verse 2. An end, the end is come] Instead of kets ba hakkets, one MS. of Kennicott's, one of De Rossi's, and one of my own, read kets ba, ba hakkets, "The end cometh, come is the end." This reading is supported by all the ancient Versions, and is undoubtedly genuine. The end COMETH: the termination of the Jewish state is coming, and while I am speaking, it is come. The destruction is at the door. The later hand, who put the vowel points to the ancient MS. that has the above reading, did not put the points to the flrst ba, but struck his pen gently across it, and by a mark in the margin intimated that it should be blotted out. All my ancient MSS. were without the points originally; but they have been added by modern hands, with a different ink; and they have in multitudes of instances corrected, or rather changed, important readings, to make them quadrate with the masora. But the original reading, in almost every case, is discernible.
The end is come upon the four corners of the land.] This is not a partial calamity; it shall cover and sweep the whole land. The cup of your iniquity is full, and my forbearing is at an end. This whole chapter is poetical.
5Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come.
5 Verse 5. An evil, an only evil] The great, the sovereign, the last exterminating evil, is come: the sword, the pestilence, the famine, and the captivity. Many MSS. read achar, after. So evil cometh after evil; one instantly succeeds another.
6An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come.b
6 Verse 6. An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee] This is similar to the second verse; but there is a paronomasia, or play upon letters and words, which is worthy of note. kets ba, ba hakkets, hekits elayich. katsah signifies to make an end or extremity, by cutting off something, and yakats signifies to awake from sleep: hence kits, the summer, as the earth and its productions seem then to awake from the sleep of winter. The end or final destruction is here personified; and represented as an executioner who has arisen early from his sleep, and is waiting for his orders to execute judgment upon these offenders. Hence it is said-
7The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains.c
7 Verse 7. The morning is come unto thee] Every note of time is used in order to show the certainty of the thing. The morning that the executioner has watched for is come; the time of that morning, in which it should take place, and the day to which that time, precise hour of that morning, belongs in which judgment shall be executed. All, all is come.
And not the sounding again of the mountains.] The hostile troops are advancing! Ye hear a sound, a tumultuous noise; do not suppose that this proceeds from festivals upon the mountains; from the joy of harvestmen, or the treaders of the wine-press. It is the noise of those by whom ye and your country are to fall. veto hed harim, and not the reverberation of sound, or reflected sound, or re-echoing from the mountains. "Now will I shortly pour out," . Here they come!
9And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth.d
10Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded.
10 Verse 10. Behold the day] The same words are repeated, sometimes varied, and pressed on the attention with new figures and new circumstances, in order to alarm this infatuated people. Look at the day! It is come!
The morning is gone forth] It will wait no longer. The rod that is to chastise you hath blossomed; it is quite ready.
Pride hath budded.] Your insolence, obstinacy, and daring opposition to God have brought forth their proper fruits.
11Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them.e
11 Verse 11. Violence is risen, up into a rod of wickedness] The prophet continues his metaphor: "Pride has budded."-And what has it brought forth? Violence and iniquity. To meet these, the rod of God cometh. There is such a vast rapidity of succession in the ideas of the prophet that he cannot wait to find language to clothe each. Hence we have broken sentences; and, consequently, obscurity. Something must be supplied to get the sense, and most critics alter words in the text. Houbigant, who rarely acknowledges himself to be puzzled, appears here completely nonplussed. He has given a meaning; it is this: "Violence hath burst forth from the rod; salvation shall not proceed from them, nor from their riches, nor from their turbulence: there shall be no respite for them." Calmet has given no less than five interpretations to this verse. The simple meaning seems to be, that such and so great is their wickedness that it must be punished; and from this punishment, neither their multitude nor struggles shall set them free. They may strive to evade the threatened stroke; but they shall not succeed, nor shall they have any respite. Our Version is to be understood as saying,-None of the people shall be left; all shall be slain, or carried into captivity: nor shall any of theirs, their princes, priests, wives, or children, escape. And so deserved shall their desolation appear, that none shall lament them. This may be as good a sense as any, and it is nearest to the letter.
12The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.
12 Verse 12. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn] Such is now the state of public affairs, that he who through want has been obliged to sell his inheritance, need not mourn on the account; as of this the enemy would soon have deprived him. And he who has bought it need not rejoice in his bargain, as he shall soon be stripped of his purchase, and either fall by the sword, or be glad to flee for his life.
13For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life.f, g, h
13 Verse 13. For the seller shall not return] In the sale of all heritages among the Jews, it was always understood that the heritage must return to the family on the year of jubilee, which was every fiftieth year; but in this case the seller should not return to possess it, as it was not likely that he should be alive when the next jubilee should come, and if he were even to live till that time, he could not possess it, as he would then be in captivity. And the reason is particularly given; for the vision-the prophetic declaration of a seventy years' captivity, regards the whole multitude of the people; and it shall not return, i.e., it will be found to be strictly true, without any abatement.
15The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within: he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.
15 Verse 15. The sword is without] War through all the country, and pestilence and famine within the city, shall destroy the whole, except a small remnant. He who endeavours to flee from the one shall fall by the other.
17All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water.i
17 Verse 17. All knees shall be weak as water.] Calmet understands this curiously: La frayeur dont on sera saisi, fera qu'on ne pourra retenir son urine. D'autres l'expliquent d'une autre souillure plus honteuse. I believe him to be nearly about right. St. Jerome is exactly the same: Pavoris magnitudine, urina polluet genua, nec valebit profluentes aquas vesica prohibere. This and other malretentions are often the natural effect of extreme fear or terror.
19They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.j, k
19 Verse 19. They shall cast their silver in the streets] Their riches can be of no use; as in a time of famine there is no necessary of life to be purchased, and gold and silver cannot fill their bowels.
It is the stumbling-block of their iniquity.] They loved riches, and placed in the possession of them their supreme happiness. Now they find a pound of gold not worth an ounce of bread.
20 ¶ As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made the images of their abominations and of their detestable things therein: therefore have I set it far from them.l
20 Verse 20. As for the beauty of his ornament] Their beautiful temple was their highest ornament, and God made it majestic by his presence. But they have even taken its riches to make their idols, which they have brought into the very courts of the Lord's house; and therefore God hath set it-the temple, from him-given it up to pillage. Some say it means, "They took their ornaments, which were their pride, and made them into images to worship."
25Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.o
25 Verse 25. They shall seek peace] They see now that their ceasing to pay the tribute to the king of Babylon has brought the Chaldeans against them; and now they sue for peace in vain. He will not hear: he is resolved on their destruction.
26Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.
26 Verse 26. Then shall they seek a vision] Vision shall perish from the prophet, the law from the priest, and counsel from the ancients. Previously to great national judgments, God restrains the influences of his Spirit. His word is not accompanied with the usual unction; and the wise men of the land, the senators and celebrated statesmen, devise foolish schemes; and thus, in endeavouring to avert it, they hasten on the national ruin. How true is the saying, Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat. "Those whom God designs to destroy, he first infatuates."
27The king shall mourn, and the prince shall be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the people of the land shall be troubled: I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.p