In this chapter the prophet, in God's name, shows the people of God
their transgressions, even the house of Jacob their sins, and the
judgments which were likely to be brought upon them for their sins,
I. By a parable, under the similitude of an unfruitful vineyard,
representing the great favours God had bestowed upon them, their
disappointing his expectations from them, and the ruin they had thereby
II. By an enumeration of the sins that did abound among them, with a
threatening of punishments that should answer to the sins.
1. Covetousness, and greediness of worldly wealth, which shall be
punished with famine,
2. Rioting, revelling, and drunkenness
which shall be punished with captivity and all the miseries that attend
3. Presumption in sin, and defying the justice of God,
ver. 18, 19.
4. Confounding the distinctions between virtue and vice, and so
undermining the principles of religion,
6. Perverting justice, for which, and the other instances of reigning
wickedness among them, a great and general desolation in threatened,
which should lay all waste
and which should be effected by a foreign invasion
referring perhaps to the havoc made not long after by Sennacherib's
|Israel Compared to a Vineyard.
||B. C. 758.|
1 Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved
touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very
2 And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and
planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst
of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it
should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge,
I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.
4 What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have
not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring
forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?
5 And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard:
I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up;
and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged;
but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command
the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of
Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked
for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but
behold a cry.
See what variety of methods the great God takes to awaken sinners to
repentance by convincing them of sin, and showing them their misery and
danger by reason of it. To this purport he speaks sometimes in plain
terms and sometimes in parables, sometimes in prose and sometimes in
verse, as here. "We have tried to reason with you
now let us put your case into a poem, inscribed to the honour of my
well beloved." God the Father dictates it to the honour of Christ his
well beloved Son, whom he has constituted Lord of the vineyard. The
prophet sings it to the honour of Christ too, for he is his well
beloved. The Old-Testament prophets were friends of the bridegroom.
Christ is God's beloved Son and our beloved Saviour. Whatever is said
or sung of the church must be intended to his praise, even that which
(like this) tends to our shame. This parable was put into a song that
it might be the more moving and affecting, might be the more easily
learned and exactly remembered, and the better transmitted to
posterity; and it is an exposition of he song of Moses
showing that what he then foretold was now fulfilled. Jerome says,
Christ the well-beloved did in effect sing this mournful song when he
beheld Jerusalem and wept over it
and had reference to it in the parable of the vineyard
&c.), only here the fault was in the vines, there in the husbandmen.
Here we have,
I. The great things which God had done for the Jewish church and
nation. When all the rest of the world lay in common, not cultivated by
divine revelation, that was his vineyard, they were his peculiar
people. He acknowledged them as his own, set them apart for himself.
The soil they were planted in was extraordinary; it was a very
fruitful hill, the horn of the son of oil; so it is in the margin.
There was plenty, a cornucopia; and there was dainty: they did there
eat the fat and drink the sweet, and so were furnished with abundance
of good things to honour God with in sacrifices and free-will
offerings. The advantages of our situation will be brought into the
account another day. Observe further what God did for this vineyard.
1. He fenced it, took it under his special protection, kept it night
and day under his own eye, lest any should hurt it,
If they had not themselves thrown down their fence, no inroad could
have been made upon them,
2. He gathered the stones out of it, that, as nothing from without
might damage it, so nothing within might obstruct its fruitfulness. He
proffered his grace to take away the stony heart.
3. He planted it with the choicest vine, set up a pure religion among
them, gave them a most excellent law, instituted ordinances very proper
for the keeping up of their acquaintance with God,
4. He built a tower in the midst of it, either for defence against
violence or for the dressers of the vineyard to lodge in; or rather it
was for the owner of the vineyard to sit in, to take a view of the
(Song of Solomon 7:12)--
a summer-house. The temple was this tower, about which the priests
lodged, and where God promised to meet his people, and gave them the
tokens of his presence among them and pleasure in them.
5. He made a wine-press therein, set up his altar, to which the
sacrifices, as the fruits of the vineyard, should be brought.
II. The disappointment of his just expectations from them: He looked
that it should bring forth grapes, and a great deal of reason he
had for that expectation. Note, God expects vineyard-fruit from those
that enjoy vineyard-privileges, not leaves only, as
A bare profession, though ever so green, will not serve: there must be
more than buds and blossoms. Good purposes and good beginnings are good
things, but not enough; there must be fruit, a good heart and a good
life, vineyard fruit, thoughts and affections, words and actions,
agreeable to the Spirit, which is the fatness of the vineyard
answerable to the ordinances, which are the dressings of the
vineyard, acceptable to God, the Lord of the vineyard, and fruit
according to the season. Such fruit as this God expects from us,
grapes, the fruit of the vine, with which they honour God and man
and his expectations are neither high nor hard, but righteous and very
reasonable. Yet see how his expectations are frustrated: It brought
forth wild grapes; not only no fruit at all, but bad fruit, worse
than none, grapes of Sodom,
1. Wild grapes are the fruits of the corrupt nature, fruit according to
the crabstock, not according to the engrafted branch, from the root of
Where grace does not work corruption will.
2. Wild grapes are hypocritical performances in religion, that look
like grapes, but are sour or bitter, and are so far from being pleasing
to God that they are provoking, as theirs mentioned in
Counterfeit graces are wild grapes.
III. An appeal to themselves whether upon the whole matter God must not
be justified and they condemned,
And now the case is plainly stated: O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and
men of Judah! judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. This
implies that God was blamed about them. There was a controversy between
them and him; but the equity was so plain on his side that he could
venture to put the decision of the controversy to their own
consciences. "Let any inhabitant of Jerusalem, any man of Judah, that
has but the use of his reason and a common sense of equity and justice,
speak his mind impartially in this matter." Here is a challenge to any
man to show,
1. Any instance wherein God had been wanting to them: What could
have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? He
speaks of the external means of fruitfulness, and such as might be
expected from the dresser of a vineyard, from whom it is not required
that he should change the nature of the vine. What ought to have
been done more? so it may be read. They had everything requisite
for instruction and direction in their duty, for quickening them to it
and putting them in mind of it. No inducements were wanting to persuade
them to it, but all arguments were used that were proper to work either
upon hope or fear; and they had all the opportunities they could desire
for the performance of their duty, the new moons, and the sabbaths, and
solemn feasts; They had the scriptures, the lively oracles, a standing
ministry in the priests and Levites, besides what was extraordinary in
the prophets. No nation had statutes and judgments so righteous.
2. Nor could any tolerable excuse be offered for their walking thus
contrary to God. "Wherefore, what reason can be given why it should
bring forth wild grapes, when I looked for grapes?" Note, The
wickedness of those that profess religion, and enjoy the means of
grace, is the most unreasonable unaccountable thing in the world, and
the whole blame of it must lie upon the sinners themselves. "If thou
scornest, thou alone shalt bear it, and shalt not have a word to
say for thyself in the judgment of the great day." God will prove his
own ways equal and the sinner's ways unequal.
IV. Their doom read, and a righteous sentence passed upon them for
their bad conduct towards God
"And now go to, since nothing can be offered in excuse of the
crime or arrest of the judgement, I will tell you what I am now
determined to do to my vineyard. I will be vexed and troubled with
it no more; since it will be good for nothing, it shall be good
for nothing; in short, it shall cease to be a vineyard, and be turned
into a wilderness: the church of the Jews shall be unchurched; their
charter shall be taken away, and they shall become lo-ammi--not my
1. "They shall no longer be distinguished as a peculiar people, but be
laid in common: I will take away the hedge thereof, and then it
will soon be eaten up and become as bare as other ground." They mingled
with the nations and therefore were justly scattered among them.
2. "They shall no longer be protected as God's people, but left
exposed. God will not only suffer the wall to go to decay, but he will
break it down, will remove all their defences from them, and then they
will become an easy prey to their enemies, who have long waited for an
opportunity to do them a mischief, and will now tread them down and
trample upon them."
3. "They shall no longer have the face of a vineyard, and the form and
shape of a church and commonwealth, but shall be levelled and laid
waste." This was fulfilled when Jerusalem for their sakes was
ploughed as a field,
4. "No more pains shall be taken with them by magistrates or ministers,
the dressers and keepers of their vineyard; it shall not be pruned nor
digged, but every thing shall run wild, and nothing shall come up but
briers and thorns, the products of sin and the curse,"
When errors and corruptions, vice and immorality, go without check or
control, no testimony borne against them, no rebuke given them or
restraint put upon them, the vineyard is unpruned, is not dressed, or
ridded; and then it will soon be like the vineyard of the man void of
understanding, all grown over with thorns.
5. "That which completes its woe is that the dews of heaven shall be
withheld; he that has the key of the clouds will command them that they
rain no rain upon it, and that alone is sufficient to run it into a
desert." Note, God in a way of righteous judgment, denies his grace to
those that have long received it in vain. The sum of all is that those
who would not bring forth good fruit should bring forth none. The curse
of barrenness is the punishment of the sin of barrenness, as
This had its partial accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem by
the Chaldeans, its full accomplishment in the final rejection of the
Jews, and has its frequent accomplishment in the departure of God's
Spirit from those persons who have long resisted him and striven
against him, and the removal of his gospel from those places that have
been long a reproach to it, while it has been an honour to them. It is
no loss to God to lay his vineyard waste; for he can, when he please,
turn a wilderness into a fruitful field; and when he does thus
dismantle a vineyard, it is but as he did by the garden of Eden, which,
when man had by sin forfeited his place in it, was soon levelled with
V. The explanation of this parable, or a key to it
where we are told,
1. What is meant by the vineyard (it is the house of Israel, the
body of the people, incorporated in one church and commonwealth), and
what by the vines, the pleasant plants, the plants of God's pleasure,
which he had been pleased in and delighted in doing good to; they are
the men of Judah; these he had dealt graciously with, and from
them he expected suitable returns.
2. What is meant by the grapes that were expected and the wild grapes
that were produces: He looked for judgment and righteousness,
that the people should be honest in all their dealings and the
magistrates should strictly administer justice. This might reasonably
be expected among a people that had such excellent laws and rules of
justice given them
but the fact was quite otherwise; instead of judgment there was the
cruelty of the oppressors, and instead of righteousness the cry of the
oppressed. Every thing was carried by clamour and noise, and not by
equity and according to the merits of the cause. It is sad with a
people when wickedness has usurped the place of judgment,
It is very sad with a soul when instead of the grapes of humility,
meekness, patience, love, and contempt of the world, which God looks
for, there are the wild grapes of pride, passion, discontent, malice,
and contempt of God--instead of the grapes of praying and praising, the
wild grapes of cursing and swearing, which are a great offence to God.
Some of the ancients apply this to the Jews in Christ's time, among
whom God looked for righteousness (that is, that they should receive
and embrace Christ), but behold a cry, that cry, Crucify him,
|Worldly-Mindedness Reproved; The Punishment of the Sensual.
||B. C. 758.|
8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to
field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in
the midst of the earth!
9 In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses
shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the
seed of a homer shall yield an ephah.
11 Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they
may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine
12 And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine,
are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD,
neither consider the operation of his hands.
13 Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they
have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and
their multitude dried up with thirst.
14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth
without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their
pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man
shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:
16 But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God
that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
17 Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste
places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.
The world and the flesh are the two great enemies that we are in danger
of being overpowered by; yet we are in no danger if we do not ourselves
yield to them. Eagerness of the world, and indulgence of the flesh, are
the two sins against which the prophet, in God's name, here denounces
woes. These were sins which then abounded among the men of Judah, some
of the wild grapes they brought forth
and for which God threatens to bring ruin upon them. They are sins
which we have all need to stand upon our guard against and dread the
I. Here is a woe to those who set their hearts upon the wealth of the
world, and place their happiness in that, and increase it to themselves
by indirect and unlawful means
who join house to house and lay field to field, till there be no
place, no room for anybody to live by them. If they could succeed,
they would be placed alone in the midst of the earth, would monopolize
possessions and preferments, and engross all profits and employments to
themselves. Not that it is a sin for those who have a house and a
field, of they have wherewithal, to purchase another; but
1. Their fault is,
(1.) That they are inordinate in their desires to enrich themselves,
and make it their whole care and business to raise an estate, as if
they had nothing to mind, nothing to seek, nothing to do, in this
world, but that. They never know when they have enough, but the more
they have the more they would have; and, like the daughters of the
horseleech, they cry, Give, give. They cannot enjoy what
they have, nor do good with it, but are constantly contriving and
studying to make it more. They must have variety of houses, a
winter-house, and a summer-house, and if another man's house or field
lie convenient to theirs, as Naboth's vineyard to Ahab's, they must
have that too, or they cannot be easy.
(2.) That they are herein careless of others, nay, and injurious to
them. They would live so as to let nobody live but themselves. So that
their insatiable covetings may be gratified, they care not what becomes
of all about them, what encroachments they make upon their neighbours'
rights, what hardships they put upon those that they have power over or
advantage against, nor what base and wicked arts they use to heap up
treasure to themselves. They would swell so big as to fill all space,
and yet are still unsatisfied
as Alexander, who, when he fancied he had conquered the world, wept
because he had not another world to conquer. Deficiente
terrâ, non impletur avaritia--If the whole earth were
monopolized, avarice would thirst for more. What! will you be
placed alone in the midst of the earth? (so some read it); will you
be so foolish as to desire it, when we have so much need of the service
of others and so much comfort in their society? Will you be so foolish
as to expect that the earth shall be forsaken for us
when it is by multitudes that the earth is to be replenished? An
propter vos solos tanta terra creata est?--Was the wide world created
merely for you? Lyra.
2. That which is threatened as the punishment of this sin is that
neither the houses nor the fields they were thus greedy of should turn
to any account,
God whispered it to the prophet in his ear, as he speaks in a like case
It was revealed in my ears by the Lord of hosts (as God told
Samuel a thing in his ear,
1 Samuel 9:15);
he thought he heard it still sounding in his ears; but he proclaimed
it, as he ought, upon the house-tops,
(1.) That the houses they were so fond of should be untenanted, should
stand long empty, and should yield them no rent, and go out of repair:
Many houses shall be desolate, the people that should dwell in
them, being cut off by sword, famine, or pestilence, or carried into
captivity; or trade being dead, and poverty coming upon the country
like an armed man, those that had been housekeepers were forced to
become lodgers, or shift for themselves elsewhere. Even great and fair
houses, that would invite tenants, and (there being a scarcity of
tenants) might be taken at low rates, shall stand empty without
inhabitants. God created not the earth in vain; he formed it to be
But men's projects are often frustrated, and what they frame answers
not the intention. We have a saying, That fools build houses for wise
men to live in; but sometimes, as the event proves, they are built for
no man to live in. God has many ways to empty the most populous cities.
(2.) That the fields they were so fond of should be unfruitful
Ten acres of vineyard shall yield only such a quantity of grapes
as will make but one bath of wine (which was about eight
gallons), and the seed of a homer, a bushel's sowing of ground,
shall yield but an ephah, which was the tenth part of a homer; so that
through the barrenness of the ground, or the unreasonableness of the
weather, they should not have more than a tenth part of their seed
again. Note, Those that set their hearts upon the world will justly be
disappointed in their expectations from it.
II. Here is a woe to those that dote upon the pleasures and delights of
Sensuality ruins men as certainly as worldliness and oppression. As
Christ pronounces a woe against those that are rich, so also against
those that laugh now and are full
and fare sumptuously,
1. Who the sinners are against whom this woe is denounced.
(1.) They are such as are given to drink; they make their drinking
their business, have their hearts upon it, and overcharge themselves
with it. They rise early to follow strong drink, as husbandmen and
tradesmen do to follow their employments; as if they were afraid of
losing time from that which is the greatest misspending of time.
Whereas commonly those that are drunken are drunken in the night, when
they have despatched the business of the day, these neglect business,
abandon it, and give up themselves to the service of the flesh; for
they sit at their cups all day, and continue till night, till wine
inflame them--inflame their lusts (chambering and wantonness follow
upon rioting and drunkenness)--inflame their passions; for who but such
have contentions and wounds without cause?
They make a perfect trade of drinking; nor do they seek the shelter of
the night for this work of darkness, as men ashamed of it, but count
it a pleasure to riot in the day-time. See
2 Peter 2:13.
(2.) They are such as are given to mirth. They have their feasts, and
they are so merrily disposed that they cannot dine or sup without
music, musical instruments of all sorts, like David
the harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe, must accompany the
wine, that every sense may be gratified to a nicety; they take the
timbrel and harp,
The use of music is lawful in itself; but when it is excessive, when we
set our hearts upon it, misspend time in it, so that it crowds our
spiritual and divine pleasures and draws away the heart from God, then
it turns into sin for us.
(3.) They are such as never give their mind to any thing that is
serious: They regard not the work of the Lord; they observe not
his power, wisdom, and goodness, in those creatures which they abuse
and subject to vanity, nor the bounty of his providence in giving them
those good things which they make the food and fuel of their lusts.
God's judgments have already seized them, and they are under the tokens
of his displeasure, but they regard not; they consider not the hand of
God in all these things; his hand is lifted up, but they will not see,
because they will not disturb themselves in their pleasures nor think
what God is doing with them.
2. What the judgments are which are denounced against them, and in part
executed. It is here foretold,
(1.) that they should be dislodged; the land should spue out these
My people (so they call themselves, and were proud of it) have
therefore gone into captivity, are as sure to go as if they were
gone already, because they have no knowledge; how should they
have knowledge when by their excessive drinking they make sots and
fools of themselves? They set up for wits; but because they regard not
God's controversy with them, nor take any care to make their peace with
him, they may truly be said to have no knowledge; and the reason is
because they will have none; they are inconsiderate and wilful, and are
therefore destroyed for lack of knowledge.
(2.) That they should be impoverished, and come to want that which they
had wasted and abused to excess: Even their glory are men of
famine, subject to it and slain by it; and their multitude are
dried up with thirst. Both the great men and the common people are
ready to perish for want of bread and water. This is the effect of the
failure of the corn
for the king himself is served of the field,
And when the vintage fails the drunkards are called upon to weep,
because the new wine is cut off from their mouth
and not so much because now they want it as because when they had it
they abused it. It is just with God to make men want that for necessity
which they have abused to excess.
(3.) What multitudes should be cut off by famine and sword
Therefore hell has enlarged herself. Tophet, the common
burying-place, proves too little; so many are there to be buried that
they shall be forced to enlarge it. The grave has opened her mouth
without measure, never saying, It is enough,
It may be understood of the place of the damned; luxury and sensuality
fill these regions of darkness and horror; there those are tormented
who made a god of their belly,
(4.) That they should be humbled and abased, and all their honours laid
in the dust. This will be done effectually by death and the grave:
Their glory shall descend, not only to the earth, but into it;
it shall not descend after them
to stand them in any stead on the other side death, but it shall die
and be buried with them--poor glory, which will thus wither! Did they
glory in their numbers? Their multitude shall go down to the pit,
Did they glory in the figure they made? Their pomp shall be at an end;
their shouts with which they triumphed, and were attended. Did they
glory in their mirth? Death will turn it into mourning; he that
rejoices and revels, and never knows what it is to be serious, shall go
thither where there are weeping and wailing. Thus the mean man and the
mighty man meet together in the grave and under mortifying judgments.
Let a man be ever so high, death will bring him low--ever so mean,
death will bring him lower, in the prospect of which the eyes of the
lofty should now be humbled,
It becomes those to look low that must shortly be laid low.
3. What the fruit of these judgments shall be.
(1.) God shall be glorified,
He that is the Lord of hosts, and the holy God, shall be exalted and
sanctified in the judgment and righteousness of these dispensations.
His justice must be owned in bringing those low what exalted
themselves; and herein he is glorified,
[1.] As a God is irresistible power. He will herein be exalted as the
Lord of hosts, that is able to break the strongest, humble the
proudest, and tame the most unruly. Power is not exalted but in
judgment. It is the honour of God that, though he has a mighty arm, yet
judgment and justice are always the habitation of his
[2.] As a God of unspotted purity. He that is holy, infinitely holy,
shall be sanctified (that is, shall be owned and declared to be holy)
in the righteous punishment of proud men. Note, When proud men are
humbled the great God is honoured, and ought to be honoured by us.
(2.) Good people shall be relieved and succoured
Then shall the lambs feed after their manner; the meek ones of
the earth, who followed the Lamb, who were persecuted, and put into
fear by those proud oppressors, shall feed quietly, feed in the green
pastures, and there shall be none to make them afraid. See
When the enemies of the church are cut off then have the churches rest.
They shall feed at their pleasure; so some read it. Blessed
are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, and delight
themselves in abundant peace. They shall feed according to their
order or capacity (so others read it), as they are able to hear the
word, that bread of life.
(3.) The country shall be laid waste, and become a prey to the
neighbours: The waste places of the fats ones, the possessions
of those rich men that lived at their ease, shall be eaten by strangers
that were nothing akin to them. In the captivity the poor of the land
were left for vine-dressers and husbandmen
(2 Kings 25:12);
these were the lambs that fed in the pastures of the fats ones, which
were laid in common for strangers to eat. When the church of the Jews,
those fat ones, was laid waste, their privileges were transferred to
the Gentiles, who had been long strangers, and the lambs of Christ's
flock were welcome to them.
|Denunciations against Sin.
||B. C. 758.|
18 Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and
sin as it were with a cart rope:
19 That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we
may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw
nigh and come, that we may know it!
20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put
darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for
sweet, and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent
in their own sight!
22 Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of
strength to mingle strong drink:
23 Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the
righteousness of the righteous from him!
24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame
consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and
their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away
the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy
One of Israel.
25 Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his
people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and
hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases
were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger
is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and
will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they
shall come with speed swiftly:
27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall
slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be
loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:
28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their
horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like
29 Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like
young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and
shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.
30 And in that day they shall roar against them like the
roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold
darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens
I. Sins described which will bring judgments upon a people: and this
perhaps is not only a charge drawn up against the men of Judah who
lived at that time, and the particular articles of that charge, though
it may relate primarily to them, but is rather intended for warning to
all people, in all ages, to take heed of these sins, as destructive
both to particular persons and to communities, and exposing men to
God's wrath and his righteous judgments. Those are here said to be in a
1. Who are eagerly set upon sin, and violent in their sinful pursuits
who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, who take as much pains
to sin as the cattle do that draw a team, who put themselves to the
stretch for the gratifying of their inordinate appetites, and, to
humour a base lust, offer violence to nature itself. They think
themselves as sure of compassing their wicked project as if they were
pulling it towards them with strong cart-ropes; but they will find
themselves disappointed, for they will prove cords of vanity, which
will break when they come to any stress. For the righteous Lord will
cut in sunder the cords of the wicked,
They are by long custom and confirmed habits so hardened in sin that
they cannot get clear of it. Those that sin through infirmity are
drawn away by sin; those that sin presumptuously draw iniquity to them,
in spite of the oppositions of Providence and the checks of conscience.
Some by sin understand the punishment of sin: they pull God's judgments
upon their own heads as it were, with cart-ropes.
2. Who set the justice of God at defiance, and challenge the Almighty
to do his worst
They say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work; this is the
same language with that of the scoffers of the last days, who say,
Where is the promise of his coming? and therefore it is that,
like them, they draw iniquity with cords of vanity, are violent
and daring in sin, and walk after their own lusts,
2 Peter 3:3,4.
(1.) They ridicule the prophets, and banter them. It is in scorn that
they call God the Holy One of Israel, because the prophets used
with great veneration to call him so.
(2.) They will not believe the revelation of God's wrath from heaven
against their ungodliness and unrighteousness; unless they see it
executed, they will not know it, as if the curse were brutum
fulmen--a mere flash, and all the threatenings of the word bugbears
to frighten fools and children.
(3.) If God should appear against them, as he has threatened, yet they
think themselves able to make their part good with him, and provoke him
to jealousy, as if they were stronger than he,
1 Corinthians 10:22.
"We have heard his word, but it is all talk; let him hasten his work,
we shall shift for ourselves well enough." Note, Those that wilfully
persist in sin consider not the power of God's anger.
3. Who confound and overthrow the distinctions between moral good and
evil, who call evil good and moral evil
who not only live in the omission of that which is good, but condemn
it, argue against it, and, because they will not practise it
themselves, run it down in others, and fasten invidious epithets upon
it--not only do that which is evil, but justify it, and applaud it, and
recommend it to others as safe and good. Note,
(1.) Virtue and piety are good, for they are light and sweet, they are
pleasant and right; but sin and wickedness are evil; they are darkness,
all the fruit of ignorance and mistake, and will be bitterness in the
(2.) Those do a great deal of wrong to God, and religion, and
conscience, to their own souls, and to the souls of others, who
misrepresent these, and put false colours upon them--who call
drunkenness good fellowship, and covetousness good husbandry, and, when
they persecute the people of God, think they do him good service--and,
on the other hand, who call seriousness ill-nature, and sober
singularity ill-breeding, who say all manner of evil falsely concerning
the ways of godliness, and do what they can to form in men's minds
prejudices against them, and this in defiance of evidence as plain and
convincing as that of sense, by which we distinguish, beyond
contradiction, between light and darkness, and between that which to
the taste is sweet and that which is bitter.
4. Who though they are guilty of such gross mistakes as these have a
great opinion of their own judgments, and value themselves mightily
upon their understanding
They are wise in their own eyes; they think themselves able to
disprove and baffle the reproofs and convictions of God's word, and to
evade and elude both the searches and the reaches of his judgments;
they think they can outwit Infinite Wisdom and countermine Providence
itself. Or it may be taken more generally: God resists the proud, those
particularly who are conceited of their own wisdom and lean to their
own understanding; such must become fools, that they may be truly wise,
or else, at their end they shall appear to be fools before all the
5. Who glory in it as a great accomplishment that they are able to bear
a great deal of strong liquor without being overcome by it
who are mighty to drink wine, and use their strength and vigour,
not in the service of their country, but in the service of their lusts.
Let drunkards know from this scripture that,
(1.) They ungratefully abuse their bodily strength, which God has given
them for good purposes, and by degrees cannot but weaken it.
(2.) It will not excuse them from the guilt of drunkenness that they
can drink hard and yet keep their feet.
(3.) Those who boast of their drinking down others glory in their
(4.) How light soever men make of their drunkenness, it is a sin
which will certainly lay them open to the wrath and curse of God.
6. Who, as judges, pervert justice, and go counter to all rules of
This follows upon the former; they drink and forget the law
and err through wine
and take bribes, that they may have wherewithal to maintain their
luxury. They justify the wicked for reward, and find some
pretence or other to clear him from his guilt and shelter him from
punishment; and they condemn the innocent, and take away their
righteousness from them, that is, overrule their pleas, deprive
them of the means of clearing up their innocency, and give judgment
against them. In causes between man and man, might and money would at
any time prevail against right and justice; and he who was ever so
plainly in the wrong would with a small bribe carry the cause and
recover the costs. In criminal causes, though the prisoner ever so
plainly appeared to be guilty, yet for a reward they would acquit him;
if he were innocent, yet if he did not fee them well, nay, if they were
feed by the malicious prosecutor, or if they themselves had spleen
against him, they would condemn him.
II. The judgments described, which these sins would bring upon them.
Let not those expect to live easily who live thus wickedly; for the
righteous God will take vengeance,
Here we may observe,
1. How complete this ruin will be, and how necessarily and unavoidably
it will follow upon their sins. He had compared this people to a vine
well fixed, and which, it was hoped, would be flourishing and fruitful;
but the grace of God towards it was received in vain, and then the root
became rottenness, being dried up from beneath, and the blossom would
of course blow off as dust, as a light and worthless thing,
Sin weakens the strength, the root, of a people, so that they are
easily rooted up; it defaces the beauty, the blossoms, of a people, and
takes away the hopes of fruit. The sin of unfruitfulness is punished
with the plague of unfruitfulness. Sinners make themselves as stubble
and chaff, combustible matter, proper fuel to the fire of God's wrath,
which then of course devours and consumes them, as the fire devours
the stubble, and nobody can hinder it, or cares to hinder it. Chaff
is consumed, unhelped and unpitied.
2. How just the ruin will be: Because they have cast away the law of
the Lord of hosts, and would not have him to reign over them; and,
as the law of Moses was rejected and thrown off, so the word of the
Holy One of Israel by his servants the prophets, putting them in
mind of his law and calling them to obedience, was despised and
disregarded. God does not reject men for every transgression of his law
and word; but, when his word is despised and his law cast away, what
can they expect but that God should utterly abandon them?
3. Whence this ruin should come
it is destruction from the Almighty.
(1.) The justice of God appoints it; for that is the anger of the
Lord which is kindled against his people, his necessary
vindication of the honour of his holiness and authority.
(2.) The power of God effects it: He has stretched forth his hand
against them. That hand which had many a time been stretched out
for them against their enemies is now stretched out against them at
full length and in its full vigour; and who knows the power of his
anger? Whether they are sensible of it or no, it is God that has
smitten them, has blasted their vine and made it wither.
4. The consequences and continuance of this ruin. When God comes forth
in wrath against a people the hills tremble, fear seizes even their
great men, who are strong and high, the earth shakes under men and is
ready to sink; and as this feels dreadful (what does more so than an
earthquake?) so what sight can be more frightful than the carcases of
men torn with dogs, or thrown as dung (so the margin reads it)
in the midst of the streets? This intimates that great
multitudes should be slain, not only soldiers in the field of battle,
but the inhabitants of their cities put to the sword in cold blood, and
that the survivors should neither have hands nor hearts to bury them.
This is very dreadful, and yet such is the merit of sin that, for
all this, God's anger is not turned away; that fire will burn as
long as there remains any of the stubble and chaff to be fuel for it;
and his hand, which he stretched forth against his people to
smite them, because they do not by prayer take hold of it, nor by
reformation submit themselves to it, is stretched out still.
5. The instruments that should be employed in bringing this ruin upon
them: it should be done by the incursions of a foreign enemy, that
should lay all waste. No particular enemy is named, and therefore we
are to take it as a prediction of all the several judgments of this
kind which God brought upon the Jews, Sennacherib's invasion soon
after, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans first and at
last by the Romans; and I think it is to be looked upon also as a
threatening of the like desolation of those countries which harbour and
countenance those sins mentioned in the foregoing verses; it is an
exposition of those woes. When God designs the ruin of a provoking
(1.) He can send a great way off for instruments to be employed in
effecting it; he can raise forces from afar, and summon them from the
end of the earth to attend his service,
Those who know him not are made use of to fulfil his counsel, when, by
reason of their distance, they can scarcely be supposed to have any
ends of their own to serve. If God set up his standard, he can incline
men's hearts to enlist themselves under it, though perhaps they know
not why or wherefore. When the Lord of hosts is pleased to make a
general muster of the forces he has at his command, he has a great army
in an instant,
He needs not sound a trumpet, nor beat a drum, to give them notice or
to animate them; no, he does but hiss to them, or rather whistle to
them, and that is enough; they hear that, and that puts courage into
them. Note, God has all the creatures at his beck.
(2.) He can make them come into the service with incredible expedition:
Behold, they shall come with speed swiftly. Note,
[1.] Those who will do God's work must not loiter, must not linger, nor
shall they when his time has come.
[2.] Those who defy God's judgments will be ashamed of their insolence
when it is too late; they said scornfully
Let him make speed, let him hasten his work, and they shall
find, to their terror and confusion, that he will; in one hour has
the judgment come.
(3.) He can carry them on in the service with amazing forwardness and
fury. This is described here in very elegant and lofty expressions,
[1.] Though their marches be very long, yet none among them shall be
weary; so desirous they be to engage that they shall forget their
weariness, and make no complaints of it.
[2.] Though the way be rough, and perhaps embarrassed by the usual
policies of war, yet none among them shall stumble, but all the
difficulties in their way shall easily be got over.
[3.] Though they be forced to keep constant watch, yet none shall
slumber nor sleep, so intent shall they be upon their work, in
prospect of having the plunder of the city for their pains.
[4.] They shall not desire any rest of relaxation; they shall not put
off their clothes, nor loose the girdle of their loins, but
shall always have their belts on and swords by their sides.
[5.] They shall not meet with the least hindrance to retard their march
or oblige them to halt; not a latchet of their shoes shall be
broken which they must stay to mend, as
[6.] Their arms and ammunition shall all be fixed, and in good posture;
their arrows sharp, to wound deep, and all their bows
bent, none unstrung, for they expect to be soon in action.
[7.] Their horses and chariots of war shall all be fit for service;
their horses so strong, so hardy, that their hoofs shall be like
flint, far from being beaten, or made tender, by their long march;
and the wheels of their chariots not broken, or battered, or out of
repair, but swift like a whirlwind, turning round so strongly
upon their axle-trees.
[8.] All the soldiers shall be bold and daring
Their roaring, or shouting, before a battle, shall be like a
lion, who with his roaring animates himself, and terrifies all
about him. Those who would not hear the voice of God speaking to them
by his prophets, but stopped their ears against their charms, shall be
made to hear the voice of their enemies roaring against them and shall
not be able to turn a deaf ear to it. They shall roar like the
roaring of the sea in a storm; it roars and threatens to swallow
up, as the lion roars and threatens to tear in pieces.
[9.] There shall not be the least prospect of relief or succour. The
enemy shall come in like a flood, and there shall be none to lift up a
standard against him. He shall seize the prey, and none shall deliver
it, none shall be able to deliver it, nay, none shall so much as dare
to attempt the deliverance of it, but shall give it up for lost. Let
the distressed look which way they will, every thing appears dismal;
for, if God frowns upon us, how can any creature smile? First,
Look round to the earth, to the land, to that land that used to be the
land of light and the joy of the whole earth, and behold darkness
and sorrow, all frightful, all mournful, nothing hopeful.
Secondly, Look up to heaven, and there the light is darkened,
where one would expect to have found it. If the light is darkened in
the heavens, how great is that darkness! If God hide his face, no
marvel the heavens hide theirs and appear gloomy,
It is our wisdom, by keeping a good conscience, to keep all clear
between us and heaven, that we may have light from above even when
clouds and darkness are round about us.