Archive for the ‘Matthew Henry’ Category

Matthew Henry on the Second Commandment

August 19, 2010

The following are selections from Matthew Henry’s “A Scripture Catechism in the Method of the Assembly’s” (Q49)(Q50)(Q51)(Q52)

Q. 49.What is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath; or that is in the water under the earth: thou shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

1. Does the second commandment concern the ordinances of God’s worship, as the first object of it? Yes: Therefore ye shall keep mine ordinances, Lev. 18:10. Was it requisite there should be a law concerning them? Yes: Lest ye say, How did these nations serve their gods? so will I do likewise, Deut. 12:30. Is this binding to us now? Dearly beloved, flee from idolatry, 1 Cor. 10:14. Are we Christians forbidden to worship images? Yes: That they should not worship idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, Rev. 9:20.

2. Does this commandment forbid the making of images for a religious use? Yes: Cursed be the man that maketh any graven image, Deut. 27:15. Does it forbid the making an image of what is in heaven above? Yes: Lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, shouldst be driven to worship them, Deut. 4:19. Or on earth, beneath? Yes: As they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox, Ps. 106:20. Or in the waters under the earth? Yes: As they made the likeness of creeping things, Rom. 1:23.

3. Does it forbid us to bow down to them? Yes: Shall I bow down to the stock of a tree? Isa. 44:19. Or to worship them? Yes: Thou shall worship no other God, Exod. 34:14. Or to show any respect to them? I will take away the names of Baalim out of their mouth, Hos. 2:17. Was it requisite this commandment should be thus enlarged? Yes: Precept must be upon precept, and line upon line, Isa. 28:10. And that it should be backed with many reasons? Yes: for they are mad upon their idols, Jer. 50:38.


Q. 50. What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his word.

1. Is it our duty solemnly to worship God? Yes: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, Matt 4:10. Do we thereby honour him? Yes: we give unto him the glory due unto his name, Ps. 29:2. Does the light of nature teach us to worship God? Yes: they cried every man unto his god, Jonah 1:5. But does it teach us sufficiently how to worship him? No: Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Acts 17:23. Has God in his word appointed us in what way to worship him? Yes: for this was ordained in Joseph for a testimony, Ps. 81:5. And must we worship him in the appointed way? Yes: See thou make all things according to the pattern showed thee, Heb. 8:5.

2. Are we to receive such ordinances as God has appointed? Yes: The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey, Josh. 24:24. Should we labour to understand them? Yes: What mean ye by this service? Exod. 12:26. And are we to observe them? Yes: Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, Matt. 28:20. And to observe them duly? Yes: as the duty of every day requires, Ezra 3:4.

3. Are we to keep God’s ordinances? Yes: That good thing which was committed to thee, keep, 2 Tim. 1:14. Are we to keep them carefully? Yes: Keep them as the apple of thine eye, Prov. 7:2. Must we keep them pure without corruption? Yes: Add thou not to his words, Prov. 30:6. And entire, without diminution? Yes: We must walk in all the ordinances of the Lord, Luke 1:6. May we neither add nor diminish? No: Thou shalt neither add thereto nor diminish from it, Deut. 12:32.

4. Must we worship God in the spirit? Yes: We are the circumcision that worship God in the spirit, Phil. 3:3. Must we be inward with God in every service? Yes: for bodily exercise profiteth little, 1 Tim 4:8. Is ignorance the mother of devotion? No: for if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? Mal. 1:8. Is it the mother of destruction? Yes: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, Hos. 4:6.

5. Ought we to have an eye to the word of God in our religious worship? Yes: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 1:23. And to glorify God in it? Yes; I will be sanctified in them that come nigh unto me, Lev. 10:3. And ought we to shun all idolatrous worship? Yes: For I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils, 1 Cor 10:20.


Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

1. Is it a sin to worship the true God by images? Yes: for it changes the truth of God into a lie, Rom.1:25. Are not images laymen’s books? No: for an image is a teacher of lies, Hab. 2:18. Is it possible to make an image of God? No: we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device, Acts 17:29. Do we know what to represent God by? No: To whom then will ye liken God? Isa. 40:18. Do they that pretend to it put a great affront upon him? Yes: for they change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, Rom. 1:28.

2. May we worship Christ by an image? No: For though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more, 2 Cor. 5:16. Is it idolatry to worship the consecrated host? Yes: for it is bread which we break, 1 Cor. 10:16. Is it idolatry to pray to saints and angels? Yes: See thou do it not, but worship God, Rev. 19:10. and 22:9.

3. Must we be careful to avoid all appearances of idolatry? Yes: Take ye therefore good heed to yourselves, lest ye corrupt yourselves, Deut. 4:15. Should we choose to die rather than worship images? Yes: But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up, Dan. 3:18.

4. Is it a sin to worship God in any way not appointed in his word? Yes: In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men Matt. 15:9. May we ourselves invent ordinances of worship? No: They went a whoring with their own inventions, Ps. 106:39. Is it not enough if what we invent is not forbidden? No: They offered a strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not, Lev. 10:1. Is it a sin to despise any of God’s ordinances? Yes: Ye said also Behold what a weariness is it! Mal. 1:13. Or to be careless in our attendance upon them? Yes: Cursed be the deceiver that hath in his flock a male, and vows and sacrifices to the Lord a corrupt thing, Mal. 1:14. Are they spiritual idolaters who make images of’ God in their fancy? Yes: they are vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart is darkened, Rom. 1:21.


Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, are God’s sovereignty over us, his property in us, and the zeal he has to his own worship.

1. Is there good reason why we should take heed of idolatry? Yes: Turn ye not to idols, neither make to yourselves molten gods, I am the Lord your God, Lev. 19:4. Has God a sovereignty over us? Yes: for he is a great God, and a great King above all gods, Ps. 95:3. Ought we therefore to worship him, as he has appointed us? Yes: O come let us worship, and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker, Ps. 95:6. And not to worship idols? Yes: for they can do neither good nor evil, Isa. 41:23.

2. Has God a property in us? Yes: for we are the people of his pasture, Ps. 95:7. Ought we therefore to worship him? Yes: He is thy Lord, and worship thou him, Ps. 45:11. And not to worship other gods? Yes: for hath a nation changed their gods? Jer. 2:11.

3. Is God jealous in the matters of his worship Yes: The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, Exod. 34:14. Is he much displeased with those who corrupt it? Yes: They provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities, 1 Kings 16:13. Do those who do so hate him? Yes: Idolaters are haters of God, Rom. 1:25, 30. Will he visit their iniquity? Yes: In the day m when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them, Exod. 32:34. Will he visit it upon the children? Yes: Our fathers sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities, Lam. 5:7. And is it just with him to do so? Yes: for they are the children of whoredoms, Hos. 2:4. But will he visit it for ever? No: but to the third and fourth generation, Exod. 34:7.

4. Will those who love God keep his commandments? Yes: If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, John 15:10. Will he show mercy to such? Yes: for he hath said, I love them that love me, Prov. 8:17. Will he show mercy to thousands of such ? Yes: for the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, Ps. 103:17.

-TurretinFan

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Misquoting Matthew 23:37 or Luke 13:34

November 12, 2009

The following texts get misquoted amazingly often. First, here are the texts.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Notice how in both cases, the text states: “would I have gathered thy children together,” not “gathered thee” or “gathered you.” But it gets misquoted many many times.

I have collected some examples. I leave Spurgeon at the top of the list, not just because he is so famous and yet so prolific in making this error, but because people routinely don’t believe me when I say he is one of the folks who misquote this passage. Some of the other examples, will be less surprising, Wesley, Arminius, and Finney all have an axe to grind. Matthew Henry misquotes it too, very briefly and obliquely. That leaves Tillotson, who many readers will not recognize, but who was a noted Anglican preacher and Archbishop of Cantebury toward the end of the 17th Century.

1)

We have no eyes now like the eyes of the Saviour, which could weep over Jerusalem; we have few voices like that earnest impassioned voice which seemed perpetually to cry, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest.” “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not.” If ministers of the gospel were more hearty in their work of preaching; if, instead of giving lectures and devoting a large part of their time to literary and political pursuits, they would preach the Word of God, and preach it as if they were pleading for their own lives, ah! then, my brethren, we might expect great success; but we cannot expect it while we go about our work in a half-hearted way, and have not that zeal, that earnestness, that deep purpose which characterized those men of old.

(Spurgeon, Sermon 76)

2)

And now, dropping the similitude while the clock shall tick but a few times more, let us put the matter thus—Sinner, thou art as yet without God and without Christ; thou art liable to death every hour. Thou canst not tell but that thou mayest be in the flames of hell before the clock shall strike ONE to-day. Thou art to-day “condemned already,” because thou believest not in the Son of God. And Jesus Christ saith to thee this day, “Oh, that thou wouldest consider thy latter end!” He cries to thee this morning, “How often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not.” I entreat you, consider your ways. If it be worth while to make your bed in hell do it. If the pleasures of this world are worth being damned to all eternity for enjoying them, if heaven be a cheat and hell a delusion, go on in your sins. But, if there be hell for sinners and heaven for repenting ones, and if thou must dwell a whole eternity in one place or the other, without similitude, I put a plain question to thee—Art thou wise in living as thou dost, without thought,—careless, and godless? Wouldest thou ask now the way of salvation? It is simply this—“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” He died; he rose again; thou art to believe him to be thine. Thou art to believe that he is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him. But, more than that, believing that to be a fact, thou art to cast thy soul upon that fact and trust to him, sink or swim. Spirit of God! help us each to do this and by similitude, or by providence, or by thy prophets, bring us each to thyself and save us eternally, and unto thee shall be the glory.

(Spurgeon, Sermon 206)

3)

Secondly,—We have further proof of human depravity from the aversion of sinners to come to Christ. They are invited to come, persuaded to come, and are assured that they shall find pardon, acceptance, and salvation. But they cannot be induced to come to him; and why will they not come? Is it because he is not willing to receive them, or because there is anything in him to prevent them? No, but it is because of the deep-rooted depravity in their hearts. The heart is averse to all that is good, and therefore rejects the Saviour and turns away from him. Hence he complained when in our world, “How often would I have gathered you, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” What more needed to be added? Man turns away in proud disdain from all the blessings of the gospel, and the glories of heaven brought before him, and rushes on with steady purpose to damnation. “Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” Oh, to how many in this land may it be said, “They hate knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of his counsel, they despised all his reproof.”

(Evan Probert, among Spurgeon’s Sermons, Sermon 386)

4)

But, now, I am sorry to be so brief, but I must conclude by speaking, of THE IMPORTANCE THAT FAITH SHOULD COME TO US BY HEARING. I will let my words drop rapidly without any ornament, and remind you, dear friend, that if you have been a hearer and faith has not come to you, you are, this moment, in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. You believe not in Christ, and you make God a liar, because ye have not believed in his only-begotten Son. The wrath of God abideth on you. You are dead while you live. Without God, without Christ, and strangers to the covenant of promise. My soul pities you—will you not pity yourselves? Hearers only; faithless, graceless, Christless! Christ died, but you have no part in his death. His blood cleanses from sin, but your sin remains upon you. Christ has risen, and he pleads before the throne,—you have no part in that intercession. He is preparing a place for his people, but that place is not for you. Oh, unhappy soul! oh, wretched soul! out of favor with God, at enmity with eternal love, destitute of eternal life! Truly, if Jesus were here he would weep over you, as he did over Jerusalem, and say, “How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”

(Spurgeon, Sermon 1031)

5)

We may observe likewise, hence, how great a sin they are guilty of who persecute the righteous, and how terrible a vengeance from God waits on them. Particular examples of this have been in all ages: but as the guilt of this sin never went higher than at this time foretold by our Saviour, when God sent to the Jews such “prophets, and wise men, and scribes,” and such a number of them as never upon any occasion were sent into the world, and they used them in that bloody and barbarous manner; no wonder, if the vengeance that came upon them was such as never had been before; and if, after they had filled up the measure of their sins, by crucifying the Lord Jesus, and persecuting his apostles, and stoning and killing all the prophets that were sent unto them, “the wrath of God came upon them to the utmost,” and such a terrible destruction from the Lord, as never befel any people; insomuch that our Saviour, upon the foresight and mention of it, forty years before it happened, could not but weep over them, and express himself in those compassion ate words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem: thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thee as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings; but ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”

(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 80)

6)

And it is, likewise, contrary to the constant tenor of the Bible, which supposeth that men do very frequently resist the grace and Holy Spirit of God. It is said of the pharisees, by our Saviour, (Luke vii. 30.) that “they rejected the counsel of God against themselves;” that is, the merciful design of God for their salvation. And of the Jews, (Acts vii. 51.) that “they always resisted the Holy Ghost. So that some operations of God’s grace and Holy Spirit 374are resistible, and such as, if men did not resist them, would be effectual to bring them to faith and repentance, else why are the pharisees said to reject “the counsel of God against themselves,” that is, to their own ruin? implying, that if they had not rejected it, they might have been saved; and if they had, it had been without irresistible grace; for that which was offered to them, was actually resisted by them. Other texts plainly shew, that the reason of men’s impenitency and unbelief is not any thing wanting on God’s part, but on theirs; as those known texts, wherein our Saviour laments the case of Jerusalem, because they obstinately brought destruction upon themselves: (Luke xix. 42.) “Jf thou hadst known in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace:” intimating, that they might have known them, so as to have prevented that desolation which was coming upon them, and was a forerunner of their eternal ruin: “but now they are hid from thine eyes;” intimating, that then God gave them up to their own blindness and obstinacy; but the time was, when they might have “known the things of their peace;” which cannot be upon the supposition of the necessity of an irresistible act of God’s grace to their conversion and repentance; because then without that they could not have repented, and if that had been afforded to them, they had infallibly repented. So likewise, in that other text, (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and you would not.” And, in John, v. 40. “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” He “would have gathered them,” and they “would not;” he would have given them life, but they would not come to him. Are these serious and compassionate expostulations and declarations of our Saviour’s gracious intention towards them, any ways consistent with an impossibility of their repentance? which yet must be said, if irresistible grace be necessary thereto; for then repentance is impossible without it, and that it was not afforded to them is plain, because they did not repent. The same may be said of that solemn declaration of God, (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” Can it be said that God hath no pleasure in the death of sinners, and yet be true, that he denies, to the greatest part of them, that grace which is necessary to their repentance? Upon this supposition, how can it be true, that, “if the mighty works that were done in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented,” (Matt. xi. 21.) since irresistible grace did not accompany those miracles? for if it had, Chorazin and Bethsaida had repented, and without it Tyre and Sidon could not repent.

(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 106)

7)

Consider that the patience of God will have an end. Though God suffers long, he will not suffer always; we may provoke God so long, until he can forbear no longer without injury and dishonour to his wisdom, and justice, and holiness; and God will not suffer one attribute to wrong the rest: his wisdom will determine the length of his patience; and when his patience is to no purpose, when there is no hopes of our amendment, his wisdom will then put a period to it; then the patience of his mercy will determine. “How often would I have gathered you, and you would not? therefore your house is left unto you desolate.” And the patience of God’s judgments will then determine. “Why should they be smitten any more? they will revolt more and more.” Yea, patience itself, after a long and fruitless expectation, will expire. A sinner may continue so long impenitent, till the patience of God, as I may say, grows impenitent, and then our ruin will make haste, and destruction “will come upon us in a moment.” If men will not come to repentance, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night,” as it follows in the next verse after the text; the judgment of God will suddenly surprise those who will not be gained by his patience.

(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 149)

8)

That God doth really and heartily desire the happiness of men, and to prevent their misery and ruin. To express this to us, God doth put on the vehemency of a human passion: “Oh that they were wise!” &c. The laws of God are a clear evidence of this; because the observance of them tends to our happiness. There is no good prince makes laws with any other design, than to promote the public welfare and happiness of his people: and with much more reason may we imagine, that the infinite good God does by all his laws design the happiness of his creatures. And the exhortations of Scripture, by which he enforceth his laws, are yet a greater evidence how earnestly he desires the happiness of his creatures. For it shews that he is concerned for us, when he useth so many arguments to persuade us to our duty, and when he expostulates so vehemently with us for our neglect of it, saying to sinners, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die, O house of Israel?” “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life,” says our blessed Saviour, with great trouble to see men so obstinately set against their own happiness; and again, “How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” and to satisfy us yet further, that it is his real desire, by our obedience to his laws, to prevent our ruin, God doth frequently in Scripture put on the passions of men, and use all sorts of vehement expressions to this purpose: (Deut. v. 29.) “Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” And, (Psal. lxxxi. 13.) “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.” (Jer. xiii. 27.) “O Israel! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?” And, to name but one text more, when our blessed .Saviour wept over Jerusalem, how passionately does he wish that “she had known in that her day the things that belonged to her peace!”

And if, after all this, we can doubt whether the faithful God means as he says, he hath for our farther assurance, and to put the matter out of all doubt, confirmed his word by an oath: (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” So that if words can be any declaration of a hearty and sincere desire, we have no reason to doubt, but that God does really desire the happiness of men, and would gladly prevent their ruin and destruction.

If any now ask, Why then are not all men happy? Why do they not escape ruin and destruction? And particularly, why the people of Israel, for whom God here makes this wish, did not escape those judgments which were threatened? the prophet shall answer for me, (Hos. xiii. 9.) “O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself,” And David, (Psal. lxxxi. 11.) “My people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would none of me.” And our blessed Saviour, (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “How often would I have gathered thee, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” and, (John v. 40.) “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” You see what account the Scripture plainly gives of this matter; it rests upon the wills of men, and God hath not thought fit to force happiness upon men, and to make them wise and good whether they will or no. He presents men with such motives, and offers such arguments to their consideration, as are fit to prevail with reasonable men, and is ready to afford them all necessary assistance, if they be not wanting to themselves; but if they will not be wise and consider, if they will stand out against all the arguments that God can offer, if they will “receive the grace of God in vain, and resist his blessed Spirit, and reject the counsel of God against themselves,” God hath not, in this case, engaged himself to provide any remedy against the obstinacy and perverseness of men, but “their destruction is of themselves,” and “their blood shall be upon their own heads.” And there is no nicety and intricacy in this matter; but if men will consider Scripture and reason impartially, they will find this to be the plain resolution of the case.

(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 171)

9)

Our Saviour’s general prediction of the siege of Jerusalem, and of the total destruction of the city. This our Saviour foretells, (Luke xix. 41-44.) “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side; and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee: and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” So Josephus tells, lib. vi. that Titus raised a wall round about Jerusalem, and kept them in on every side; so that none could come out, though many thousands were famished with hunger; which was so sad and dismal a calamity, that our Saviour, though he knew how just a cause there was for it, yet, out of very humanity and tenderness of nature, he could not but, upon the foresight of so sad a destruction, weep over it. He, indeed, expresseth his vehement desire that this might have been prevented; (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thee, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Therefore, having brought this ruin wilfully upon themselves, he pronounceth the sentence of their desolation, (verse 38.) “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate!” And at the beginning of the next chapter, when the disciples were shewing him the beautiful structure of the temple, he foretells, that “there should not one stone be left upon another, which should not be thrown down.”

(Dr. John Tillotson, Sermon 287)

10)

This is an exclamation of disappointment; of thwarted love. The good which He purposed has been missed by man’s fault, and He regards the faulty Israel with sorrow and pity as a would-be benefactor balked of a kind intention might do. O Jerusalem! ‘how often would I have gathered thee.’ ‘If thou hadst known . . . the things that belong unto thy peace!’

(Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Isaiah and Jeremiah, at Isaiah 48:18)

11)

37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, &c.—How ineffably grand and melting is this apostrophe! It is the very heart of God pouring itself forth through human flesh and speech. It is this incarnation of the innermost life and love of Deity, pleading with men, bleeding for them, and ascending only to open His arms to them and win them back by the power of this story of matchless love, that has conquered the world, that will yet “draw all men unto Him,” and beautify and ennoble Humanity itself! “Jerusalem” here does not mean the mere city or its inhabitants; nor is it to be viewed merely as the metropolis of the nation, but as the center of their religious life—”the city of their solemnities, whither the tribes went up, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord”; and at this moment it was full of them. It is the whole family of God, then, which is here apostrophized by a name dear to every Jew, recalling to him all that was distinctive and precious in his religion. The intense feeling that sought vent in this utterance comes out first in the redoubling of the opening word—”Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” but, next, in the picture of it which He draws—”that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee!”—not content with spurning God’s messages of mercy, that canst not suffer even the messengers to live! When He adds, “How often would I have gathered thee!” He refers surely to something beyond the six or seven times that He visited and taught in Jerusalem while on earth. No doubt it points to “the prophets,” whom they “killed,” to “them that were sent unto her,” whom they “stoned.” But whom would He have gathered so often? “Thee,” truth-hating, mercy-spurning, prophet-killing Jerusalem—how often would I have gathered thee! Compare with this that affecting clause in the great ministerial commission, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem!” (Lu 24:47). What encouragement to the heartbroken at their own long-continued and obstinate rebellion! But we have not yet got at the whole heart of this outburst. I would have gathered thee, He says, “even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” Was ever imagery so homely invested with such grace and such sublimity as this, at our Lord’s touch? And yet how exquisite the figure itself—of protection, rest, warmth, and all manner of conscious well-being in those poor, defenseless, dependent little creatures, as they creep under and feel themselves overshadowed by the capacious and kindly wing of the mother bird! If, wandering beyond hearing of her peculiar call, they are overtaken by a storm or attacked by an enemy, what can they do but in the one case droop and die, and in the other submit to be torn in pieces? But if they can reach in time their place of safety, under the mother’s wing, in vain will any enemy try to drag them thence. For rising into strength, kindling into fury, and forgetting herself entirely in her young, she will let the last drop of her blood be shed out and perish in defense of her precious charge, rather than yield them to an enemy’s talons. How significant all this of what Jesus is and does for men! Under His great Mediatorial wing would He have “gathered” Israel. For the figure, see De 32:10-12; Ru 2:12; Ps 17:8; 36:7; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Isa 31:5; Mal 4:2. The ancient rabbins had a beautiful expression for proselytes from the heathen—that they had “come under the wings of the Shekinah.” For this last word, see on Mt 23:38. But what was the result of all this tender and mighty love? The answer is, “And ye would not.” O mysterious word! mysterious the resistance of such patient Love—mysterious the liberty of self-undoing! The awful dignity of the will, as here expressed, might make the ears to tingle.

(Jamieson, Brown, and Fausset, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, at Matthew 23:37)

12)

Sixthly, you say that the foundation being destroyed, the edifice falls. But the foundation of that opinion in reference to the antecedent will, which desires the salvation of all men and of each, is the passage in 1 Timothy ch. 2, which has been already discussed by us, and that is incorrectly understood by Damascenus. I reply, first; — Not only that passage, but many others, most clearly sustain that distinction of the will into antecedent and consequent. “How often would I have gathered you together,” is an example of antecedent, and “your house is left unto you desolate” of consequent will (Matt. xxiii. 37-38). “And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding,” is a case of antecedent will, “they which were bidden were not worthy” and were destroyed, of consequent will. He, also, was invited, according to antecedent will, who, being afterwards found, not having on a wedding garment, was cast out, according to consequent will (Matt. xxii. 3, 7, 8, 12 and 13). According to antecedent will, the lord commanded his servants to reckon their talents, and to use them for gain for their master; by consequent will, the talent, which he had received, was taken from the wicked and slothful servant (Matt. 25). By antecedent will, the word of God was first offered to the Jews; by consequent will, the same word was taken from them and sent to others (Acts 13). The same distinction is proved by a consideration of the attributes of God; for since God is good and just, He can not will eternal death to His own creature, made in His image, without reference to sin; He can not but will eternal salvation to His creature. The immutability of God necessarily requires the same thing. For since His providence has given to all His creatures means, necessary and sufficient, by which they can attain their designed end, but the designed end of man, made in the image of God, is eternal life, it hence follows that all men are loved by God unto eternal life by antecedent will; nor can God, without a change of His own arrangement, deny eternal life unto men, without reference to sin; which denial, being consequent on the act of man, pertains to consequent will.

(Arminius, Works, Volume 3, Allegation 4)

13)

If you ask, “Why then are not all men saved?” the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, As I live, saith the Lord God,” I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” (Ezek. 18:3, 32.) Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” (2 Pet. 3:9; ) “He willeth that all men should be saved.” And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, “Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.” (John 5:40.) “The power of the Lord is present to heal” them, but they will not be healed. “They reject the counsel,” the merciful counsel, “of God against themselves,” as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37.)

(John Wesley, Sermon 128)

14)

What will you say? I’ll go on still in my sins? Again all we can say is that the bowels of divine love are deeply moved for you—that God has done all to save you that He wisely can do. God’s people have felt a deep and agonizing interest in you and are ready now to cry, How can we give them up? But what more can we do—what more can even God do? With bleeding heart and quivering lip has Mercy followed you. Jesus Himself said, “How often would I have gathered you— O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often I would have saved you, but ye would not!” Shall Jesus behold and weep over you, and say, “O that thou hadst known, even thou in this thy day—but now it is hidden from thine eyes?” What, O dying sinner, will you say? Shall not your response be, “It is enough—I have dashed away salvation’s cup long and wickedly enough; you need not say another word, O that bleeding hand! those weeping eyes! Is it possible that I have withstood a Saviour’s love so long? I am ready to beg for mercy now; and I rejoice to hear that our God has a father’s heart.”

(Finney, Sermon 8, Remarks)

15)

Here, I. God sends Moses the second time to Pharaoh (v. 11) upon the same errand as before, to command him, at his peril, that he let the children of Israel go. Note, God repeats his precepts before he begins his punishments. Those that have often been called in vain to leave their sins must yet be called again and again, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, Ezek. iii. 11. God is said to hew sinners by his prophets (Hos. vi. 5), which denotes the repetition of the strokes. How often would I have gathered you?

(Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, at Exodus 6:10-13)

Response to Buracker on Israeli Idols

September 2, 2009

BJ Buracker aka StupidScholar has posted a response (link to response) to an earlier post of mine on the Israeli idols of Elohim (link to my post).

BJB writes:

1. The use of Elohim (God or “gods”) is inconclusive. It may refer to Yahweh, but does not have to. Something else would have to suggest that before we make that conclusion. TF seems to recognize this in the post, but he holds that the use of Elohim suggests that the reference is YHWH.

I answer:

Agreed.

BJB writes:

2. The link between the calves and the Exodus event is, likewise, inconclusive. It certainly fits a Yahwistic interpretation, but it fits others, as well. If the Israelites did not intend for the calf in Exod/Deut to be YHWH, surely they would claim that this new god had been the real deliverer. This is (or could be) an instance of attributing to a false god the attributes of YHWH. For instance, if they had said, “This is the elohim that created us from nothing,” then they would simply be attributing YHWH’s creative ability/acts to the idol, not necessarily claiming that the idol was (or represented) YHWH.

I answer:

This argument is problematic because another god with the name “Elohim” is not one of the options at (1). This argument is also problematic because it is unclear why anyone would think that other gods than Jehovah were deliverers. Saying “surely they would” isn’t very persuasive for me. If the Israelites are going to embrace polytheism, why attribute the acts of one god to another?

BJB writes:

Hence, I don’t find the Israelites’ reference to the Exodus to be convincing proof that they intended the calf to be YHWH. Given that the Exodus was so significant and recent and that the calf would be used as their national god, it only makes sense that the new national god would be “given” credit for that deliverance.

I answer:

I’m not sure what would be “convincing proof,” but perhaps that’s irrelevant. The temporal proximity of the Exodus is a double-edged sword: while it would be significant, it was also still fresh in their memory as to who did it. To transfer the credit would seem odd, to say the least.

BJB writes:

3. There is ample evidence that calves were symbols/idols of other national gods at the time, particularly of Canaan and Phoenecia. In fact, other Jewish literature (e.g. Tobit 1:5) links the calf with the idol Baal explicitly. It seems possible, if not probable, that the Israelites were adopting the gods of other nations.

I answer:

a) No, Tobit does not link the calf with Baal. It links a calf with Baal.

Tobit 1:5 Now all the tribes which together revolted, and the house of my father Nephthali, sacrificed unto the heifer Baal.

b) Baal seems to have been a generic name for false gods, not a specific god. Thus, Scripture sometimes speaks of Baalim (the plural form of Baal). But since Scripture frequently uses the appellation Baal for Baal and Baal worship, it is unclear why Scripture would not use that description if a false god was being worshiped here.

c) It also does not fit well with the Nehemiah account.

BJB writes:

Matthew Henry (see his note on Exod 32:3, 4) actually believes that the calf was an Egyptian god rather than a Canaanite or Phoenecian god, although calves were important religious symbols there too. He supports this with reference to Ezek. 20:8; 23:8, where the prophet says that they had not forsaken their Egyptian ways. This also makes sense of Stephen’s statement in Acts 7:39, 40 that the Israelites had turned back to Egypt in heart (though not in location).

I answer:

As far as the weight of Matthew Henry’s opinion, I agree that it is mighty. Nevertheless I think the counter-arguments are significant. As far as the calf being taken from the surrounding nations, I agree. I would tend to think the best guess is Egypt, as Poole suggests. Yet, while that is the ante-type, they don’t name an Egyptian deity here (nor any other deity), and the deliverer is the one who delivered from Egypt.

BJB writes:

4. The fact that one idol was taken to Dan and another to Bethel does not prove that they signified YHWH. It at most indicates that the calves were to signify the same god. As with point #1, further evidence would have to be used to show that this one god was, in fact, YHWH.

I answer:

The point of the argument regarding Dan and Bethel was to note that “Elohim” in that instance should not be thought to be referring to more than one deity, since the two calves were not supposed to be two different gods. That’s an underminer for the argument that the use of the plural form “elohim” is indicative of a god other than Jehovah.

We find additional confirmation of the matter from 1 Kings 14:7-10

1 Kings 14:7-10
Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; but hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

As Poole explains:

Other gods, and molten images, or other gods, to wit, (for so and oft signifies among the Hebrews, as hath been formerly noted,) molten images, namely, the golden calves; which he calls others gods, not as if the Israelites esteemed the calves made of their own gold to be gods indeed, which it is incredible should find belief with any man in his wits, especially with the whole body of the Israelites, who knew that the ark and cherubims, though made by God’s special direction, were not gods, but only pledges of God’s presence, &c.; nor as if they thought them to be other gods in a strict and proper sense; for it is apparent that they still pretended to worship the God of their fathers, as the Jews at Jerusalem did, though in a differing manner: but only because God rejected their whole worship; and howsoever they called or accounted it, he reckoned it a manifest defection from him, and a betaking of themselves to other gods, or devils, as they are called, 2 Chronicles 11:15, by whose instigation they were led to such idolatrous practices, and whom alone they served and worshipped therein, whatsoever pretences they had to the contrary.

Likewise, Matthew Henry (whom you found to be persuasive with regard to the Exodus account):

3. He charges him with his impiety and apostasy, and his idolatry particularly: Thou hast done evil above all that were before thee, 1 Kings 14:9. Saul, that was rejected, never worshipped idols; Solomon did it but occasionally, in his dotage, and never made Israel to sin. Jeroboam’s calves, though pretended to be set up in honour of the God of Israel, that brought them up out of Egypt, yet are here called other gods, or strange gods, because in them he worshipped God as the heathen worshipped their strange gods, because by them he changed the truth of God into a lie and represented him as altogether different from what he is, and because many of the ignorant worshippers terminated their devotion in the image, and did not at all regard the God of Israel. Though they were calves of gold, the richness of the metal was so far from making them acceptable to God that they provoked him to anger, designedly affronted him, under colour of pleasing him. In doing this, (1.) He had not set David before him (1 Kings 14:8): Thou hast not been as my servant David, who, though he had his faults and some bad ones, yet never forsook the worship of God nor grew loose nor cold to that; his faithful adherence to that gained him this honourable character, that he followed God with all his heart, and herein he was proposed for an example to all his successors. Those did not do well that did not do like David. (2.) He had not set God before him, but (1 Kings 14:9), “Thou hast cast me behind thy back, my law, my fear; thou hast neglected me, forgotten me, and preferred thy policies before my precepts.

Likewise Gill:

for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger; the two calves of gold; for however he might colour things over, and pretend he did not look upon these as gods, but as representations of God, and that he did not worship them, but God by them, yet the Lord considered it as idolatry, than which nothing is more provoking to him:

We see the same implicit understanding in the so-called “Apostolic Constitutions” (which are plainly forgeries):

For you know undoubtedly that those that are by us named bishops, and presbyters, and deacons, were made by prayer, and by the laying on of hands; and that by the difference of their names is showed the difference of their employments. For not every one that will is ordained, as the case was in that spurious and counterfeit priesthood of the calves under Jeroboam; [1 Kings 13:33] but he only who is called of God.

– [Pseudo-]Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, Section 5, Paragraph 46

The same implicit commentary is in Athanasius:

For when the lawful Bishops, men of advanced age, had some of them been banished, and others forced to fly, heathens and catechumens, those who hold the first places in the senate and men who are notorious for their wealth, were straightway commissioned by the Arians to preach the holy faith instead of Christians. And enquiry was no longer made, as the Apostle enjoined, ‘if any be blameless [Titus 1:8]:’ but according to the practice of the impious Jeroboam, he who could give most money was named Bishop; and it made no difference to them, even if the man happened to be a heathen, so long as he furnished them with money.

– Athanasius, Apology to Constantius, Section 28

Sulpitius Severus (lived about A.D. 363 – 420) is somewhat more ambiguous, though he seems to have the same implicit commentary:

But, since Roboam held Jerusalem, where the people had been accustomed to offer sacrifice to God in the temple built by Solomon, Jeroboam, fearing lest their religious feelings might alienate the people from him, resolved to fill their minds with superstition. Accordingly, he set up one golden calf at Bethel, and another at Dan, to which the people might offer sacrifice; and, passing by the tribe of Levi, he appointed priests from among the people. But censure followed this guilt so hateful to God.

– Sacred History, Book 1, Chapter 41

Tertullian’s comments are a bit ambiguous – he could reasonably be seen as either agreeing or disagreeing with the thesis above:

For, withal, according to the memorial records of the divine Scriptures, the people of the Jews— that is, the more ancient— quite forsook God, and did degrading service to idols, and, abandoning the Divinity, was surrendered to images; while “the people” said to Aaron, “Make us gods to go before us.” And when the gold out of the necklaces of the women and the rings of the men had been wholly smelted by fire, and there had come forth a calf-like head, to this figment Israel with one consent (abandoning God) gave honour, saying, “These are the gods who brought us from the land of Egypt.” For thus, in the later times in which kings were governing them, did they again, in conjunction with Jeroboam, worship golden cattle, and groves, and enslave themselves to Baal. Whence is proved that they have ever been depicted, out of the volume of the divine Scriptures, as guilty of the crime of idolatry; whereas our “less”— that is, posterior— people, quitting the idols which formerly it used slavishly to serve, has been converted to the same God from whom Israel, as we have above related, had departed. [1 Thessalonians 1:9-10]

– Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, Chapter 1

Ambrose’s comments are quite interesting. It’s unclear whether he simply remembers the story wrong or whether he considers the altar at Bethel to be a temple of God (despite being unauthorized). I’d be hesitant to draw overly strong conclusions from Ambrose’s comments, particularly when he refers to Jeroboam’s “father” which would be no one of any particular significance. It’s quite possible that he has conflated Rehoboam and Jeroboam:

But when in the temple of our God, that wicked king Jeroboam took away the gifts which his father had laid up, and offered to idols upon the holy altar, did not his right hand, which he stretched out, wither, and his idols, which he called upon, were not able to help him? Then, turning to the Lord, he asked for pardon, and at once his hand which had withered by sacrilege was healed by true religion. So complete an example was there set forth in one person, both of divine mercy and wrath when he who was sacrificing suddenly lost his right hand, but when penitent received forgiveness.

– Ambrose, Concerning Virginity, Book 2, Chapter 5, Section 38

What’s more, Scripture makes it clear that the golden calves of Jeroboam were not Baal (or baalim), since Jehu eliminated Baal-worship but sinned with Jeroboam:

2 Kings 10:25-29
And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, that Jehu said to the guard and to the captains, Go in, and slay them; let none come forth. And they smote them with the edge of the sword; and the guard and the captains cast them out, and went to the city of the house of Baal. And they brought forth the images out of the house of Baal, and burned them. And they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day. Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel. Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

BJB writes:

5. Not one of those passages clearly identifies the idol with YHWH. The closest is the reference to the feast for YHWH, but notice that YHWH is still not associated directly with the calf, only with the feast.

I answer:

Now this is a truly curious counter-hypothesis. Israel ascribes the great deliverance to some other god or gods and then goes on to celebrate a feast for Jehovah? This seems improbable, to say the least.

BJB writes:

Now, I must admit that these passages also do not identify the calves with any other deity either. However, there does not seem to be enough in the passages to demand that the calves were representations of YHWH, as I hope I have shown.

I answer:

There seem to be a lot of evidences in favor of the calf-worship being Israel violating the second commandment as reiterated in the prologue of the Decalogue:

Exodus 20:22-26
And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods (elohim) of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods (elohim) of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

God is talking about the way in which He is to be worshiped, and excluding human artifice beyond a simple dirt or uncut stone altar (setting aside, for the moment, the tabernacle worship).

There’s a much more expanded version in Deuteronomy 4, where Moses explains (I’ve included only a portion of the relevant discussion):

Deuteronomy 4:15-19
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

We also see in that same context this practice of referring to the idols themselves as “gods”:

Deuteronomy 4:28 And there ye shall serve gods (elohim), the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

BJB writes:

In fact, those Israelites that turn to these calves do not seem to have any desire to worship YHWH at all. Rather, the people turn away from Moses and (presumably) what he represented, that is YHWH (Exodus 32); Jeroboam makes the 2 calves to rival YHWH worship in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12); and Hosea 8:1-4 indicates that the people were in direct rebellion against YHWH by setting up their own kings, princes, and (probably) calves.

I answer:

a) Wait a second. A minute ago they were celebrating a feast to Jehovah, now they have no desire to worship Him?

b) The more natural explanation is that calf substituted for Moses, and the calves for the temple of Solomon.

c) There is no question that calf-worship was rebellion, just as making any image of God would be rebellion.

BJB writes:

In other words, in each of these cases, the (self-avowed) motivation appears to be rebellion against YHWH and/or fear of some other circumstance (e.g. Moses’ absence; rivalry between the northern and southern kingdoms), rather than a desire to worship and serve YHWH. I would suggest that, in fact, they weren’t trying to worship YHWH at all but rather establishing a substitute deity.

I answer:

Again, this contradicts the “feast to Jehovah” and the seeming reverence that Jeroboam has for Jehovah despite his idolatry. We agree that this sin, like every violation of the first table, is one that is ultimately of rebellion against God.

BJB writes:

Since this whole discussion arose in response to Catholic apologetics, I feel it is important to note that the Israelites motivation is shown to be radically different than those posed by modern Catholics (and Orthodox) in their use of statues and icons.

I answer:

I would not agree, but that is neither here nor there as far as this particular discussion is concerned.

BJB writes:

Therefore (finally!), I don’t find these texts showing YHWH worship through the use of symbols/idols or even YHWH worship at all. YHWH worship is possible but not explicit, and I would argue that it is also not probable. Indeed, I believe that it looks more like the Israelites are worshiping something/someone other than YHWH when they use these golden calves.

I answer:

For the reasons given above and in the original post, I’d respectfully disagree.

-TurretinFan

Christ the Unbreakable Pothook

August 1, 2008

I have posted a new blog article at the Team Apologian blog, responding to a post by Steve Ray on Isaiah 22. (link)

Since both Steve Ray and I mention Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage, I reproduce his commentary below:

***

Isa 22:15-25 (Commentary by Matthew Henry)

We have here a prophecy concerning the displacing of Shebna, a great officer at court, and the preferring of Eliakim to the post of honour and trust that he was in. Such changes are common in the courts of princes; it is therefore strange that so much notice should be taken of it by the prophet here; but by the accomplishment of what was foretold concerning these particular persons God designed to confirm his word in the mouth of Isaiah concerning other and greater events; and it is likewise to show that, as God has burdens in store for those nations and kingdoms abroad that are open enemies to his church and people, so he has for those particular persons at home that are false friends to them and betray them. It is likewise a confirmation in general of the hand of divine Providence in all events of this kind, which to us seem contingent and to depend upon the wills and fancies of princes. Promotion comes not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south; but God is the Judge, Psalm 25:6, Psalm 25:7. It is probable that this prophecy was delivered at the same time with that in the former part of the chapter, and began to be fulfilled before Sennacherib’s invasion; for now Shebna was over the house, but then Eliakim was (Isaiah 36:3); and Shebna, coming down gradually, was only scribe. Here is,

I. The prophecy of Shebna’s disgrace.
He is called this treasurer, being entrusted with the management of the revenue; and he is likewise said to be over the house, for such was his boundless ambition and covetousness that less than two places, and those two of the greatest importance at court, would not satisfy him. It is common for self-seeking men thus to grasp at more than they can manage, and so the business of their places is neglected, while the pomp and profit of them wholly engage the mind. It does not appear what were the particular instances of Shebna’s mal-administration, for which Isaiah is here sent to prophesy against him; but the Jews say, “He kept up a traitorous correspondence with the king of Assyria, and was in treaty with him to deliver the city into his hands.” However this was, it should seem that he was a foreigner (for we never read of the name of his father) and that he was an enemy to the true interests of Judah and Jerusalem: it is probable that he was first preferred by Ahaz. Hezekiah was himself an excellent prince; but the best masters cannot always be sure of good servants. We have need to pray for princes, that they may be wise and happy in the choice of those they trust. These were times of reformation, yet Shebna, a bad man, complied so far as to keep his places at court; and it is probable that many others did like him, for which reason Sennacherib is said to have been sent against a hypocritical nation, Isaiah 10:6. In this message to Shebna we have,

1. A reproof of his pride, vanity, and security (Isaiah 22:16): “What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here? What a mighty noise and bustle dost thou make! What estate has thou here, that thou was born to? Whom hast thou here, what relations, that thou art allied to? Art thou not of mean and obscure original, filius populi – a mere plebeian, that comest we know not whence? What is the meaning of this then, that thou hast built thyself a fine house, hast graved thyself a habitation?” So very nice and curious was it that it seemed rather to be the work of an engraver than of a mason or carpenter; and it seemed engraven in a rock, so firmly was it founded and so impregnable was it. “Nay, thou hast hewed thee out a sepulchre,” as if he designed that his pomp should survive his funeral. Though Jerusalem was not the place of his father’s sepulchres (as Nehemiah called it with a great deal of tenderness, Nehemiah 2:3), he designed it should be the place of his own, and therefore set up a monument for himself in his life-time, set it up on high. Those that make stately monuments for their pride forget that, how beautiful soever they appear outwardly, within they are full of dead men’s bones. But it is a pity that the grave-stone should forget the grave.

2. A prophecy of his fall and the sullying of his glory.
(1.) That he should not quickly be displaced and degraded (Isaiah 22:19): I will drive thee from thy station. High places are slippery places; and those are justly deprived of their honour that are proud of it and puffed up with it, and deprived of their power that do hurt with it. God will do it, who shows himself to be God by looking upon proud men and abasing them, Job 40:11, Job 40:12. To this Isaiah 22:25 refers. “The nail that is now fastened in the sure place (that is, Shebna, who thinks himself immovably fixed in his office) shall be removed, and cut down, and fall.” Those are mistaken who think any place in this world a sure place, or themselves as nails fastened in it; for there is nothing here but uncertainty. When the nail falls the burden that was upon it is cut off; when Shebna was disgraced all that had a dependence upon him fell into contempt too. Those that are in high places will have many hanging upon them as favourites whom they are proud of and trust to; but they are burdens upon them, and perhaps with their weight break the nail, and both fall together, and by deceiving ruin one another – the common fate of great men and their flatterers, who expect more from each other than either performs.
(2.) That after a while he should not only be driven from his station, but driven from his country: The Lord will carry thee away with the captivity of a mighty man, Isaiah 22:17, Isaiah 22:18. Some think the Assyrians seized him, and took him away, because he had promised to assist them and did not, but appeared against them: or perhaps Hezekiah, finding out his treachery, banished him, and forbade him ever to return; or he himself, finding that he had become obnoxious to the people, withdrew into some other country, and there spent the rest of his days in meanness and obscurity. Grotius thinks he was stricken with a leprosy, which was a disease commonly supposed to come from the immediate hand of God’s displeasure, particularly for the punishment of the proud, as in the case of Miriam and Uzziah; and by reason of this disease he was tossed like a ball out of Jerusalem. Those who, when they are in power, turn and toss others, will be justly turned and tossed themselves when their day shall come to fall. Many who have thought themselves fastened like a nail may come to be tossed like a ball; for here have we no continuing city. Shebna thought his place too strait for him, he had no room to thrive; God will therefore send him into a large country, where he shall have room to wander, but never find the way back again; for there he shall die, and lay his bones there, and not in the sepulchre he had hewn out for himself. And there the chariots which had been the chariots of his glory, in which he had rattled about the streets of Jerusalem, and which he took into banishment with him, should but serve to upbraid him with his former grandeur, to the shame of his lord’s house, of the court of Ahaz, who had advanced him.

II. The prophecy of Eliakim’s advancement, Isaiah 22:20, etc.
He is God’s servant, has approved himself faithfully so in other employments, and therefore God will call him to this high station. Those that are diligent in doing the duty of a low sphere stand fairest for preferment in God’s books. Eliakim does not undermine Shebna, nor make an interest against him, nor does he intrude into his office; but God calls him to it: and what God calls us to we may expect he will own us in. It is here foretold,

1. That Eliakim should be put into Shebna’s place of lord-chamberlain of the household, lord-treasurer, and prime-minister of state. The prophet must tell Shebna this, Isaiah 22:21. “He shall have thy robe, the badge of honour, and thy girdle, the badge of power; for he shall have thy government.” To hear of it would be a great mortification to Shebna, much more to see it. Great men, especially if proud men, cannot endure their successors. God undertakes the doing of it, not only because he would put it into the heart of Hezekiah to do it, and his hand must be acknowledged guiding the hearts of princes in placing and displacing men (Proverbs 21:1), but because the powers that are, subordinate as well as supreme, are ordained of God. It is God that clothes princes with their robes, and therefore we must submit ourselves to them for the Lord’s sake and with an eye to him, 1 Peter 2:13. And, since it is he that commits the government into their hand, they must administer it according to his will, for his glory; they must judge for him by whom they judge and decree justice, Proverbs 8:15. And they may depend upon him to furnish them for what he calls them to, according to this promise: I will clothe him; and then it follows, I will strengthen him. Those that are called to places of trust and power should seek unto God for grace to enable them to do the duty of their places; for that ought to be their chief care. Eliakim’s advancement is further described by the laying of the key of the house of David upon his shoulders, Isaiah 22:22. Probably he carried a golden key upon his shoulder as a badge of his office, or had one embroidered upon his cloak or robe, to which this alludes. Being over the house, and having the key delivered to him, as the seals are to the lord-keeper, he shall open and none shall shut, shut and none shall open. He had access to the house of the precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices; and to the house of the armour and the treasures (Isaiah 39:2), and disposed of the stores there as he thought fit for the public service. He put whom he pleased into the inferior offices and turned out whom he pleased. Our Lord Jesus describes his own power as Mediator by an allusion to this (Revelation 3:7), that he has the key of David, wherewith he opens and no man shuts, he shuts and no man opens. His power in the kingdom of heaven, and in the ordering of all the affairs of that kingdom, is absolute, irresistible, and uncontrollable.

2. That he should be fixed and confirmed in that office. he shall have it for life, and not durante bene placito – during pleasure (Isaiah 22:23): I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place, not to be removed or cut down. Thus lasting shall the honour be that comes from God to all those who use it for him. Our Lord Jesus is as a nail in a sure place: his kingdom cannot be shaken, and he himself is still the same.

3. That he should be a great blessing in his office; and it is this that crowns the favours here conferred upon him. God makes his name great, for he shall be a blessing, Genesis 12:2.
(1.) He shall be a blessing to his country (Isaiah 22:21): He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. he shall take care not only of the affairs of the king’s household, but of all the public interests in Jerusalem and Judah. Note, Rulers should be fathers to those that are under their government, to teach them with wisdom, rule them with love, and correct what is amiss with tenderness, to protect them and provide for them, and be solicitous about them as a man is for his own children and family. It is happy with a people when the court, the city, and the country, have no separate interests, but all centre in the same, so that the courtiers are true patriots, and whom the court blesses the country has reason to bless too; and when those who are fathers to Jerusalem, the royal city, are no less so to the house of Judah.
(2.) He shall be a blessing to his family (Isaiah 22:23, Isaiah 22:24): He shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. The consummate wisdom and virtue which recommended him to this great trust made him the honour of his family, which probably was very considerable before, but now became much more so. Children should aim to be a credit to their parents and relations. The honour men reflect upon their families by their piety and usefulness is more to be valued than that which they derive from their families by their names and titles. Eliakim being preferred, all the glory of his father’s house was hung upon him; they all made their court to him, and his brethren’s sheaves bowed to his. Observe, The glory of this world gives a man no intrinsic worth or excellency; it is but hung upon him as an appurtenance, and it will soon drop from him. Eliakim was compared to a nail in a sure place, in pursuance of which comparison all the relations of his family (which, it is likely, were numerous, and that was the glory of it) are said to have a dependence upon him, as in a house the vessels that have handles to them are hung up upon nails and pins. It intimates likewise that he shall generously take care of them all, and bear the weight of that care: All the vessels, not only the flagons, but the cups, the vessels of small quantity, the meanest that belong to his family, shall be provided for by him. See what a burden those bring upon themselves that undertake great trusts; they little think how many and how much will hand upon them if they resolve to be faithful in the discharge of their trust. Our Lord Jesus, having the key of the house of David, is as a nail in a sure place, and all the glory of his father’s house hangs upon him, is derived from him, and depends upon him; even the meanest that belong to his church are welcome to him, and he is able to bear the stress of them all. That soul cannot perish, nor that concern fall to the ground, though ever so weighty, that is by faith hung upon Christ.

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Amen,

-TurretinFan


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