To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.—Jer. 6.10

Israel's Second Bondage:

Their Sins Procuring the Wrath of God,

And God's Mercy towards Penitent Sinners

Set forth in the History of Othniel their Redeemer;

With a Discussion of

God's Providence in the Sins of Men:

Being Excerpts from the Commentary of

Peter Martyr Vermigli

Upon the Book of Judges, the Third Chapter.

The Marginal Notes for this document have been moved to the foot of the page because your browser was not detected to provide sufficient CSS support. For proper placement of marginal notes please consider viewing the page with Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, or another standard browser providing modern CSS Support.

6. And they took the Daughters of them to be their wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons: and served their gods.

7. Wherefore the children of Israel did wickedly in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God, & served Baalim, & groves.

The Israelites sinned three times against God: First, because (as it is already1 showed) they dwelled peaceably and quietly among the Canaanites, and contrary to the commandment of God made those nations tributaries unto them. Secondly, because they contracted matrimonies with that people. And that had God prohibited to be done, as the law in many places witnesseth. Yea, and in the book of Ezra the last chapter, we read of a grievous complaint because the Jews in their captivity in Babylon had taken strangers to wives. And Ezra there decreed that such wives should be put away, & that those matrimonies should be counted void, which were contracted between persons prohibited2 by God. And why God would not have matrimonies so contracted, this reason is chiefly alleged, because by such unlike matrimonies the worshipping of God is wonderfully impaired. For godly husbands or wives are by the ungodly parties oftentimes alienated from the true God. Neither doth the Scripture only teach us this, but also experience doth in the old time, and also in our time testifieth it. Forasmuch as Solomon (as it is written in the first book of the kings, the 11th chapter) was both corrupted, and also builded Temples for Idols, by the enticement of strange women, whom he most inordinately loved, and more than was convenient. Wherefore he miserably incurred the wrath of God. The Jews also (as our history now declareth) had experience of the same. And we in our time see great hinderance to come unto the believers, because very many of them contract matrimony with Papists. The third sin3 of the Hebrews was, because they worshipped Idols: and that was most of all against the league which they had long before made with God, for they said: we will serve the LORD our God.

Further it is added: And they worshipped trees or groves. This word Aschera with the Hebrews is a tree, and being in the plural number Ascheroth as it is in this place, it signifieth trees, and of some it is translated groves. For it is a most common manner among the Idolaters, to worship their gods in groves. In Oaken groves they sacrificed unto Jupiter and the Oak of Dodom,4 was in the old time most famous, by reason of the answers which it gave. In woods of bay trees was Apollo worshipped. Daphne also is notable where the Temple of Apollo was built. Minerva also was wont to have a temple among Olive trees. And lastly, we may mark both in the Poets, and also in histories, that shadowy woods, most large rivers, & mountains of exceeding great height were counted of the men in the old time places most apt for sacrifices to be done unto Idols. Because such places drive into men no small admiration. Wherefore they thought that such notable places had the power of god present. Yea, and Abraham also, Isaac, and Jacob, and the old Fathers, offered sacrifices unto5 the true God upon the high mountains, which custom was till such time used as God by a law ordained that they should not do sacrifice everywhere, but in that place only which he himself had chosen.

8. Therefore the Lord was angry with Israel, and sold them into the hands of Chushan Rishathaim king of Aram-Naharaim: & the children of Israel served Chushan Rishathaim eight years.

Now is particularly mentioned the punishment wherewith God being angry punished the Hebrews. For when they so fell from him, that they forgot him, he delivered them to Chushan king of Mesopotamia. And this is the first bondage {77:V} that the children of Israel were in. And that which the Grecians call μεσοποταμια, the Hebrews name Aram-naharaim. Nahar signifieth with them a River. It is therefore put in the dual number, because that part of Syria or Aram is enclosed with two rivers, Euphrates (I say) and Tigris....

They served him eight years. Undoubtedly a very long time, which I suppose was so much the painfuller unto them, because from their coming out of6 Egypt hitherto, they had served none. But under what pretence this king subdued unto him the Hebrews it is not declared. Peradventure he thought that the Jews were a part of his people sent abroad to inhabit. For Abraham was called out of Chaldea, and came first into Mesopotamia; From whence by the commandment of God he went into the land of Canaan. Furthermore in that place Jacob's children were born, which were the Princes of the twelve Tribes. This peradventure were the titles, whereby the Chaldeans and Syrians endeavoured themselves oftentimes to be Lords over the Hebrews, which thing yet they did unjustly; for there were no people sent from the Chaldeans or from the Syrians by the common will and consent of the Princes and Magistrates, which should go and inhabit in some place of the land of Canaan. Wherefore they did wrongfully oppress the Jews and were stirred up thereunto by covetousness and ambition to enlarge their dominions. This is also uncertain whether this Chushan did together with the Jews oppress [also] the Canaanites. And it may be, that he was not troublesome to the Canaanites as to his friends, but only afflicted the Hebrews. Neither were it absurd to think, that this king was called by the Canaanites to oppress the Hebrews their common enemies.

9. And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: and the Lord stirred up a Saviour to the children of Israel, and saved them, one Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother.

10. And the spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel, and he went out to war, and the Lord delivered Chushan Rishathaim king of Aram into his hand: and his hand prevailed against Chushan Rishathaim.

11. And the land had rest .40. years: And Othniel the Son of Kenaz died.

Israel cried unto the Lord, because they were evil vexed, and most grievously oppressed of the Syrians. They acknowledged now after their great hurt that strange gods profited them nothing, yea rather they brought upon them the {78:R} miseries wherewith they were urged. When they understood that man's help was on every side cut off, they converting themselves unto the true God, called upon him. This is the fruit of miseries as touching the elect, or rather the fruit of the goodness of God, which by troubles calleth again unto him, those which are his. Of Othniel we have spoken enough before [in chapter 1]. Now he is called a Saviour, because he brought health unto the Israelites as the other Judges did, which7 were also called Saviours, [as] he was a shadow of Christ. But the Chaldee paraphrast calleth him Porken, that is, a Redeemer. Which surname also rightly agreeth with Othniel: because before it is said that God sold the Israelites: and when bondmen are sold, they have need of one to redeem them.

Forasmuch as before it was said that God raised up Judges, now is declared8 the manner & form how he raised them up. For it is written: And the spirit of the Lord was upon him. For by the Holy Ghost were not only given unto him strength, political wisdom and warlike arts, but also he was made the more certain of his calling. The Chaldee paraphrast understandeth by the Spirit of God the power of prophecy. But David Kimshi interpreteth it of the gift of force & strength. But I think that either interpretation is to be allowed. For besides the strength and power which was given the Judges, they had also the judgement and feeling of the will of God, which pertained unto prophecy.

He judged Israel. That is, he set them at liberty, and was their Governour as touching civil things, and restored the pure worshipping of God. In that it is above written that God sold Israel to the king of Mesopotamia, and now again it is declared that he delivered the same king unto Othniel, we may gather that victories are given at the pleasure of God, which also we have often noted before.

... This place teacheth that men must call upon9 God, though they have sinned: which I therefore thought good to note, because sins use much to fear [often scare] away men from the invocation of the name of God, for this is the nature of sins, to alienate us from God, unto whom we yet by prayers come again. Wherefore seeing these things are contrary, namely to be alienated from God, and to come unto him, it is wonder how they can be applied to one, and the selfsame man. And this maketh with it also which is written in the gospel: God heareth not sinners. Although Augustine write of that sentence, that it is found indeed in the Holy Scriptures, but it was spoken by him which was born blind, when his heart was not yet illustrate [enlightened]. Wherefore he judgeth that that sentence is not to be taken as a firm and certain rule. But I would rather make a distinction between sinners: for there are some, which when they10 cry unto the Lord, do repent, and from their hearts are sorry, for the evils which they have committed. But there are others which continue still in their mind and purpose to sin, and have a very great delight therein. Farther, I am not afraid to affirm, that God heareth those sinners which being repentant cry unto him with faith: whereas those are repulsed which being hardened in their sins and wanting faith do call upon God. Wherefore it appeareth that those sinners which come to God, and those that depart from God are not sinners of one sort, because they which after they have sinned call upon God by faith, & repent them of their sins, are divided from those which stubbornly without repentance persevere in their sins. For they, although by words they cry unto God, yet in heart and mind they are far from him, so far are they for to be joined unto him, or to come unto him by faith and prayers.

§ Whether God be the cause of sin.

But in these things which are said, there ariseth a question which is not to be left unspoken of. For it is written that God sold the Israelites to the king {78:V} of Mesopotamia. Wherefore it seemeth that he helped a wicked man, & aided him to satisfy his tyranny and ambition. For he had neither a just cause, nor yet an honest title, to claim unto him the dominnion of the Hebrews. What shall we say therefore? Shall we affirm that God is the cause of this sin? There happeneth in this book and in other places of the holy Scripture such kind of speech, and that oftentimes very plain, and therefore it seemeth good to be expounded once for all.

Some, yea and that with no evil mind, labour to excuse God, and say that he doth not these evil things, but only permitteth them. And they think that11 in doubtful places, that interpretation is to be applied, which altogether wanteth fault and danger of ungodliness. Undoubtedly this their saying were to be praised, if that we could see their exposition to be allowed in the Scriptures. But there it is far otherwise said, namely that God doth stir up wicked men to12 their wicked acts, that he seduceth, delivereth, commandeth, hardeneth, and deceiveth them, and bringeth to pass those sins which are grievous. Such kinds of speech do manifestly teach us, that God after a sort worketh evil things, not only in permitting, but also in doing in us. Without doubt all we are said both to have our being, and also our moving in him [Acts 17.28]: For he is in such sort the first cause of all things, that without him we can do nothing. For how should we move ourselves, unless by his power we were both moved and also driven? Farther, how far his government extendeth, we may read in the 11th chapter of Matthew: for two Sparrows (saith the Lord) are sold for a farthing, and yet one of them falleth not to the ground without the will of the Father. And that was as much to say as without the counsel of God nothing be it never so small is done in the world. Moreover that permission whereby certain go about to make plain this question, at the length is called again to the will. For whosoever can let and prohibit anything that is evil, and doth it not, it is manifest that after a sort he is willing thereunto. Besides that, he permitteth it not against his will, but willingly. Wherefore a will, without doubt, is contained in that permission.

But now must we shew, that God, when sins are committed, doth not idly look on, yea he worketh somewhat there. For Isaiah in the 5th chapter saith,13 that God would give a token, and with his hissing call a nation from the utmost parts of the earth, which should overthrow the kingdom of the Hebrews, as their sins had deserved. By which it manifestly appeareth, that God stirreth up Tyrants and outward nations to these unjust wars. Also, in the 10th chapter the same Prophet pronounceth that king to be wicked, which in that expedition was in the hand of God, as a saw, a staff, and an axe. There is no man ignorant but that all these things do so work and move, that they be first moved. Yea, and that proud king is therefore reprehended, because he so exalted himself as though he were God, who had by him brought such and so great things to pass. Joseph also in the book of Genesis [chap.45.] said unto his brethren which had by a wicked conspiracy sold him: It was not you but God that sent me into Egypt. In the first book of the kings also, and the 22nd chapter: Satan, who was ready to deceive Ahab, was commanded by God to do it, & to prevail. Which words declare that God himself commandeth and also stirreth up to deceive. Further it is written in the Proverbs, the 21st chapter, The heart of the king is in the hand of God, he shall incline it whithersoever he will. The scripture saith also of Pharaoh, kings seem free from human laws, but God boweth them wither he will, (which place Paul allegeth) [Exod. 9,10,11; Rom. 9,] that his heart was hardened by God. Neither maketh this anything against it, if thou shalt say that it is written in the 8th chapter of Exodus that Pharaoh hardened himself, forasmuch as both14 sayings are true. For God doth no violence to the will of man, seeing that nothing is more contrary unto it than to make it to do anything unwillingly, {79:R} or by compulsion. Howbeit it is changed and bowed of God so softly and pleasantly, that it willingly & without violence inclineth to whatsoever pleaseth God. And it oftentimes happeneth (as Augustine in divers places hath taught) that God punisheth former sins by latter sins. And the holy Scriptures before Augustine's time testified the same, & especially Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans the first chapter. Wherefore God hath in his hand the affections of our heart, which he looseth or restraineth as shall seem good to his most wise providence, & turneth them whithersoever it shall please him. And so great is his power, that we must believe that he worketh much more, than may be expressed by the word of15 permission. For Paul feared not thus to write unto the Thessalonians: because they have not received the love of the truth, therefore shall God send on them an error, so that they shall believe lies, & all they shall be judged which have not believed the truth, but allowed unrighteousness. These words manifestly testify, that God did cast error upon them, to punish their former sin, namely upon those which despised the truth offered them. David also seemeth to tend to this, when in the 2nd book of Samuel the 16th chapter, he said of Shimei: Suffer him, for God hath commanded him to curse me. Also in the same book, the 12th chapter, God by Nathan the Prophet saith of David which had grievously fallen: behold I will stir up evil against thee, & will take thy wives, & give them unto thy neighbour, who shall sleep with them: this didst thou secretly, but I will do this thing openly, in the eyes of the Sun and of all Israel.

If the matter be so (thou wilt say) they which sin shall easily be excused: for16 they may soon say, that they were by God moved, & stirred up to sin. Not so. For men are not so delivered by God unto sins, as though they were themselves pure & innocent. For they which are so stirred up to naughtiness, have worthily deserved the same. And the same men are not driven against their will, but they wonderfully delight themselves in those transgressions and sins. Wherefore their excuse is foolish, or rather none.

But this seemeth to be against the things before said, because in the Psalms17 it is written that God is such a one, as willeth no iniquity, and hateth sins. And undoubtedly he is so indeed: For unless he hated sins, why should he punish them? for things that are allowed, are not wont to be punished. Farther, he hath most severely prohibited them by his laws. But as touching this, thus18 must we decree of the will of God, that it is in nature and very deed one, which yet may be divided for divers and sundry respects. For as it is set forth in the scriptures & the law, he condemneth sins, he prohibiteth them, and threateneth most grievous punishments unto them. Howbeit because he directeth the same sins whithersoever he will, & useth them to his counsels and decrees, neither when he may, letteth them, it is therefore said that after a sort he willeth them. Neither is it meet to deny that such sundry respects are in the will of God. For God would before all beginnings, have his Son sacrificed unto him for a most sweet sacrifice: who yet himself said in the law: Thou shalt not kill, & thou shalt not shed innocent blood. [Acts 2.23; Exod. 20.13.] God also forbad, that any should be deceived, who for all that would have Ahab to be deceived of Satan, as we have a little before mentioned. And lest any man should doubt that Christ was put to death by the19 will of God, we may see in the Acts of the Apostles that it is most manifestly said that the Jews did those things which God by his counsel had before ordained. [Acts 4.27,28.]

What then? Shall we say that God is the cause of sin? Not so, for if we will speak properly, and that it may the more manifestly appear, we must mark, that one self act as it is derived from us, is very sin: but in respect that it commeth from God, it is both good, just, and holy. For punishment is by God imposed to wicked men. And to punish sins, no man is ignorant but that it pertaineth to justice. Wherefore God in withdrawing his grace from the ungodly, and ministering some occasions, which might move to good things, if they {79:V} happened to right & just minds, and which he knoweth the wicked will turn to evil, may after a sort, although not properly, be said to be the cause of sin. And undoubtedly that act, in that it passeth through us, is sin; but not as it cometh from God. For in that it cometh from God, it is most perfect justice. It happeneth sometimes, that the selfsame wine being poured into a corrupt vessel, is lost, and made palde: which wine as it was brought by the husbandman & put into the vessel is both sweet and good. Neither is it hard to understand how one & the selfsame act may as touching one, be vicious: & in respect of another, just. For when a murderer & a hangman do kill a man, the act as touching the matter or subject, without doubt is as one, namely the death of a man. And yet the murderer doth it most unjustly, & the hangman by law and justice. Job also did well understand that when he said: The Lord gave, & the Lord hath taken away as it hath pleased him, so is it done. [Job 1.21.] He did not by those words praise the Chaldeans, Sabeans, & the Devil, which were vessels of iniquity, & most vicious: but he with great godliness allowed those evils, as they were governed & ruled by the providence of God, namely for this cause, because they pleased God. It is also written in the 2nd book of Samuel, the 24th chapter, of David, who unadvisedly would have the people numbered, & how God was angry with Israel, & therefore he stirred up David to do that. And in the book of Chronicles [1 Chron. 21,] it is written that Satan was the doer of it. For God doth those things which he will have done by Angels, as well good as evil. Wherefore that numbering of the people as it proceeded of David or the Devil, was indeed vicious; but in that it came from God, who intended to punish the Israelites, it pertained exceedingly to the setting forth of his justice.

Howbeit James saith [1.13,14], that God tempteth none to evil, but every one of us is allured by our own concupiscences. Augustine writing of this thing in his book de consensu Evangelistarum saith that there are two kings of temptation, the one of trial, the other of deceit. And indeed, as touching trial he denieth not but that God tempteth, for that the scriptures do confess it. But with that kind of temptation which deceiveth, whereof James wrote, he saith that God tempteth no man. But the scriptures teach not so, as we have declared a little before of David, and before him of Ahab. Yea, and in Ezekiel the 14th chapter, God saith that he had deceived the Prophet. And the same Augustine writeth not after the same manner in other places, as it manifestly appeareth in his books de Prædest. Sanctorum de Cerrept. & Gratia ad Valent. and in his 5th book and 3rd chapter contra Julianum. Wherefore the true interpretation of this place is, that every man is therefore tempted of his own concupiscence, because all men have their natural disease, which is corruption, and vicious lusts, which are together born with them, & do also grow and increase in them. Wherefore God instilleth no malice of his, for we have enough at home. Therefore he cannot be accused, forasmuch as the beginning of ungodliness & wickedness cometh not from him, but lieth hid in us. He ought not therefore to be counted to give the cause and fault, who yet when it semeth good unto him, will for just causes have our lusts & wickedness brought to light, and rule & govern our wicked acts, thereby more and more to illustrate his justice and glory, & to advance the salvation of the godly. Wherefore his singular goodness and providence is very much to be praised, which can so justly and wisely use so wicked means.

But if a man will ask, how it happeneth, that some are more prone to sins than others, if (as it is said) malice & wickedness are rooted into us all from our20 birth, neither is it needful that any new or latter malice should be instilled in us from God. And seeing that we are all brought forth of one & the selfsame lump, and that lump likewise is altogether viciated, it should seem that all also ought to be of a like disposition and inclination to wickedness. But this is diligently to be weighed, that besides this disposition there happen natural malices, {80:R} manners, customs, wicked qualities, fellowships, temperatures of bodies, sundry parents, divers countries, and manifold causes, whereby some are made more or less prone unto sins, which proneness of ours God according to his justice, goodness, and wisdom useth and stirreth it up, governeth and ruleth it. And this is not to be forgotten, that none of us have so in ourselves the beginnings of good acts, which truly please God, as we even from the very birth have within us the beginnings of sins. For they [good acts] are inspired in us by the Holy Ghost, and we continually receive them of God, neither burst they forth out of the corrupt beginnings of our nature.

Now resteth [remains] to see from whence after the sin of Adam, that frowardness and corruption came, and whether it were derived from God to punish the wicked21 act which was committed. I answer, that we may not so think: for man was for the fault which he had committed alienated from God, wherefore he justly withdrew from him his gifts, favour, and grace. And our nature being left unto itself, falleth and declineth to worse and worse, yea it cometh to nothing, from whence it was brought forth at the beginning. Wherefore by that withdrawing22 of gifts and grace, and departure from God, which is the fountain of all good things, nature is by itself thrown headlong into vice and corruption.