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19

Verse 19

The Prophet here again makes known the manner in which God would receive into favor his people. As though the people had not violated the marriage vow, God promises to be to them like a bridegroom, who marries a virgin, young and pure. We have before spoken of the people’s defection; but as God had repudiated them, it was no common favor for the people to be received again by God, and received with pardon. When a woman returns to her husband, it is a great thing in the husband to forgive her, and not to upbraid her with her former base conduct: but God goes farther than this; for he espouses to himself a people infamous through many disgraceful acts; and having abolished their sins, he contracts, as it were, a new marriage, and joins them again to himself. Hence he says, I will espouse thee to me. We now perceive the import of the word, espouse: for God thereby means, that he would not remember the unfaithfulness for which he had before cast away his people, but would blot out all their infamy. It was indeed an honorable reception into favor, when God offered a new marriage, as though the people had not been like an adulterous woman.

And he says, I will espouse thee to me for ever. There is here an implied contrast between the marriage of which the Prophet had hitherto spoken, and this which God now contracts. For God, having redeemed the people, had before entered, as we have said, into marriage with them: but the people had departed from their vow; hence followed alienation and divorce. That marriage was then not only temporary, but also weak and soon broken; for the people did not continue long in obedience: but of this new marriage the Prophet declares, that it will continue fast and for ever; and thus he sets its durable state in contrast with the falling away which had soon alienated the people from God. Hence he says, I will espouse thee to me for ever.

He then declares by what means he would do this, even in righteousness and judgment, and then in kindness and mercies, and thirdly, in faithfulness. God had indeed from the beginning covenanted with the Israelites in righteousness and judgment; there was nothing disguised or false in his covenant: as then God had in sincerity adopted the people, to what vices does he oppose righteousness and judgment? I answer, These words must be applied to both the contracting parties: then, by righteousness God means not only his own, but that also which is, as they say, mutual and reciprocal; and by righteousness and judgment is meant rectitude, in which nothing is wanting. We now then perceive what the Prophet had in view.

But he adds, secondly, In kindness and mercies: by which words he intimates, that though the people were unworthy, yet, this would be no impediment in their way, to prevent them to return into favor with God; for in this reconciliation God would regard his own goodness, rather than the merits of his people.

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