An Elegy over Israel's Fall.

ISRAEL’S ONLY SAFETY IN SEEKING THE LORD. — V. 1. Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel, an elegy, dirge, or mournful song sung over the downfall of Israel. V. 2. The virgin of Israel, the people called thus because they were to be the Lord's congregation, His chaste bride, is fallen; she shall no more rise, not return to her former powerful and prosperous state; she is forsaken upon her land, stretched out upon her soil, by a violent overthrow; there is none to raise her up. V. 3. For thus saith the Lord God, The city that went out by a thousand, sending so many soldiers into war, shall leave an hundred, the rest being destroyed by war and pestilence, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel, all the rest being devoured by the punishment of the Lord. V. 4. For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, in a last attempt to save its people from themselves, Seek ye Me, in sincere worship of the one true God, and ye shall live; v. 5. but seek not Bethel, where idolatry was so openly and blasphemously practiced, nor enter into Gilgal, another center of idol-worship, and pass not to Beersheba, in the extreme southern part of Canaan, where evidently another altar had been erected to idols; for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, its idols unable to save it, and Bethel shall come to naught, its heathenish worship unable to save it. V. 6. Seek the Lord, to serve and worship the God of the covenant only, and ye shall live, lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, a name for Ephraim, the son of Joseph and the ancestor of the mightiest tribe of the northern kingdom, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel, even their mightiest idols being powerless before the might of Jehovah. V. 7. Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, by perverting justice into a bitter wrong, and leave off righteousness in the earth, casting it down, trampling it under foot, v. 8. (seek Him) that maketh the seven stars, one of the constellation of the sky, and Orion, cp. Job 9, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, the darkest hour being just before dawn, and maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea and poureth them out upon the face of the earth, in fearful tidal waves and floods: the Lord is His name, the one true God; v. 9, that strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, literally, "who makes desolation to flash upon the strong," as the catastrophes caused by Him suddenly take hold of men, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress, rather, "and desolation comes upon the fortress," for none can withstand the power of the Almighty. V. 10. They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, him who raises his voice against the universal unrighteousness, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly, for the very fact that some one is honest and true is a rebuke to the hypocrisy of the wicked. V. 11. Forasmuch, therefore, as your treading is upon the poor, in the oppression which was then so generally practiced, and ye take from him. burdens of wheat, exacting such gifts by methods of violence: ye have built houses of hewn stone, costly dwellings, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, with their unlawful gains, but ye shall not drink wine of them. V. 12. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins, outstanding even in the midst of a nation steeped in wickedness; they afflict the just, making life a burden for him, they take a bribe, causing such bribe money to be paid, in order that men might buy their freedom from the oppression of these same rulers, and they turn aside the poor in the gate, where the courts of justice were held, from their right. Thus the poor were without champions of their right and were obliged to bow to the mighty, a condition which still prevails almost universally.

WOE UPON FOOLS AND HYPOCRITES. — V. 13. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time, for it is an evil time, and when things have reached such extremities as here pictured, all admonitions are futile. Still the love of the prophet for his people and his desire to further their welfare in every possible way causes him to address them once more. V. 14. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live, for there lies the way to true life; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you as ye have spoken, that is, by following His will and not by a mere external membership in the Church of Israel. V. 15. Hate the evil and love the good, cp. Rom. 12, 9, and establish judgment in the gate, so that justice would truly be administered in all cases brought to trial; it may be that the Lord God of hosts, in that event, will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph, to the few of the northern nation who would be left after the punishment now impending. V. 16. Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, the one and only true God, saith thus, Wailing shall be in all streets, mourning on account of the chastisement which has come upon them for ignoring the appeal of the prophet; and they shall say in all the highways, expressing their grief in open lamentations, Alas! Alas! And they shall call the husbandman to mourning, to join in the death-wail over some relative, and such as are skilful of lamentation, the professional wailing women, to wailing, so that the entire country would resound with cries of grief. V. 17. And in all vineyards shall be wailing, instead of the shouts of joy formerly heard there; for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord, with His visitation of wrath. V. 18. Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! believing that their external communion with the Lord's people would save them from the judgment which was to strike the heathen. To what end is it for you? What result would it have for them? What good would it bring them? The day of the Lord is darkness and not light; it would bring to willful sinners destruction and not deliverance. V. 19. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him, so it would be with those who desired the day of the Lord's judgment, or went into the house and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Hoping to escape the one calamity, the wicked Israelites would be overtaken by another. V. 20. Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness and not light? full of tribulation and misery; the day of the Lord is darkness and not light; it would bring no deliverance to those who trample justice and right beneath their feet; even very dark, and no brightness in it? not a ray for the willful transgressors. Therefore even the feasts of the people would avail them nothing under the circumstances as here presented. V. 21. I hate, I despise, your feast-days, as the Lord calls out to them, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies, by taking pleasure in the odor of the offerings brought by them. V. 22. Though ye offer Me burnt offerings and your meat-offerings, as they still continued to do in their effort to have the Lord accept their outward worship, I will not accept them; neither will I accept the peace-offerings, or thank-offerings, of your fat beasts, since their entire service was hypocrisy. V. 23. Take thou away from Me the noise of thy songs, as He contemptuously calls their congregational singing; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols, of the harps and other instrumental music used in public services. V. 24. But let judgment, the just punishment of the Lord, run down as waters, in a great and consuming flood, and righteousness, namely, that of the divine justice, as a mighty stream. V. 25. Have ye offered unto Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness, during the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, forty years, O house of Israel? Even at that time the people were guilty of idolatry, and since then they added to their guilt. V. 26. But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch, the war-god of the Moabites and Ammonites, and. Chiun, a star-divinity, your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Even in the wilderness the children of Israel, as Ezekiel also shows, did not quite discard their idolatry, but carried their idol-pictures along with them and thus provoked the Lord, V.27. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, in the power of a mighty Eastern nation, saith the Lord, whose name is The God of hosts. The last words were employed by Stephen in his powerful rebuke of the Jews after his arrest, Acts 7, 43, in order to show that idolatry had ever been in vogue among the people in spite of all the efforts of the Lord to stamp it out. The modern idolatry in high places is just as persistent and apparently cares as little for the admonitions and rebukes of the Bible.