I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness
Not Jacob or Israel personally, with the few souls that went down with him into Egypt; for these died in Egypt, and never returned from thence, or came into the wilderness to be found; nor Israel in a spiritual sense, the objects of electing, redeeming, and calling grace; though it may be accommodated to them, who in their nature state are as in a wilderness, in a forlorn, hopeless, helpless, and uncomfortable condition; in which the Lord finds them, seeking them by his Son in redemption, and by his Spirit in the effectual calling; when they are like grapes, not in themselves, being destitute of all good, and having nothing but sin and wickedness in them; for, whatever good thing is in them at conversion, it is not found, but put there; but the simile may serve to express the great and unmerited love of God to his people, who are as agreeable to him as grapes in the wilderness to a thirsty traveller; and in whom he takes great delight and complacency, notwithstanding all their sinfulness and unworthiness; and bestows abundance of grace upon them, and makes them like clusters of grapes indeed; and such were many of the Jewish fathers, and who are here intended, even the people of Israel brought out of Egypt into the wilderness of Arabia, through which they travelled to Canaan: here the Lord found them, took notice and care of them, provided for them, and protected them, and gave them, many tokens of his love and affection; see ( Deuteronomy 32:10 ) ; and they were as acceptable to him, and he took as much delight and pleasure in them, as one travelling through the deserts of Arabia, or any other desert, would rejoice at finding a vine laden with clusters of grapes. The design of this metaphor is not to compare Israel with grapes, because of any goodness in them, and as a reason of the Lord's delight in them; for neither for quantity nor quality were they like them, being few, and very obstinate and rebellious; but to set forth the great love of God to them, and his delight and complacency in them; which arose and sprung, not from any excellency in them, but from his own sovereign good will and pleasure; see ( Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ) ( Deuteronomy 9:5 Deuteronomy 9:6 ) ( 10:15 ) ; I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time;
the Lord looked upon their ancestors when they were settled as a people, in their civil and church state, upon their being brought out of Egypt, with as much pleasure as a man beholds the first ripe fig his fig tree produces after planting it, or the first it produces in the season, the fig tree bearing twice in a year; but the first is commonly most desired, as being most rare and valuable; and such were the Israelites to the Lord at first, ( Micah 7:1 ) ( Jeremiah 2:2 ) . This is observed, to aggravate their ingratitude to the Lord, which soon discovered itself; and to suggest that their posterity were like them, who, though they had received many favours from the Lord, as tokens of his affection to them, and delight in them; yet behaved in a most shocking and shameful manner to him: [but] they went to Baalpeor:
or "went into Baalpeor" F1; committed whoredom with that idol, even in the wilderness where the Lord found them and showed so much regard to them; this refers to the history in ( Numbers 25:1-18 ) . Baalpeor is by some interpreted "the lord" or "god of opening": and was so called, either from his opening his mouth in prophecy, as Ainsworth F2 thinks, as Nebo, a god of Babylon, had his name from prophesying; or from his open mouth, with which this idol was figured, as a Jewish writer F3 observes; whose worshipper took him to be inspired, and opened their mouths to receive the divine afflatus from him: others interpret it "the lord" or "god of nakedness"; because his worshippers exposed to him their posteriors in a shameful manner, and even those parts which ought to be covered; and this is the sense of most of the Jewish writers. So, in the Jerusalem Talmud F4, the worship of Peor is represented in like manner, and as most filthy and obscene, as it is by Jarchi F5, who seems to have taken his account from thence; and even Maimonides F6 says it was a known thing that the worship of Peor was by uncovering of the nakedness; and this he makes to be the reason why God commanded the priests to make themselves breeches to cover their nakedness in the time of service, and why they might not go up to the altar by steps, that their nakedness might not be discovered; in short, they took this Peor to be no other than a Priapus; and in this they are followed by many Christians, particularly by Jerom on this place, who observes that Baalpeor is the god of the Moabites, whom we may call Priapus; and so Isidore F7 says, there was an idol in Moab called Baal, on Mount Fegor, whom the this call Priapus, the god of gardens; but Mr. Selden F8 rejects this notion, and contends that Peor is either the name of a mountain, of which Isidore, just now mentioned, speaks; see ( Numbers 23:28 ) ; where Baal was worshipped, and so was called from thence Baalpeor; as Jupiter Olympius, Capitolinus is so called from the mountains of Olympus, Capitolinus where divine honours are paid him; or else the name of a man, of some great person in high esteem, who was deified by the Moabites, and worshipped by them after his death; and so Baalpeor may be the same as "Lord Peor"; and it seems most likely that Peor is the name of a man, at least of an idol, since we read of Bethpeor, or the temple of Peor, in ( Deuteronomy 34:6 ) ; and separated themselves unto [that] shame;
they separated themselves from God and his worship, and joined themselves to that shameful idol, and worshipped it, thought by many, as before observed, to be the Priapus of the Gentiles, in whose worship the greatest of obscenities were used, not fit to be named: so that this epithet of shame is with great propriety given it, and aggravates the sin of Israel, that such a people should be guilty of such filthy practices; though Baal, without supposing him to he a Priapus, may be called "that shame", for Baal and Bosheth, which signifies shame, are some times put for each other; so Jerubbaal, namely Gideon, is called Jerubbesheth, ( Judges 8:35 ) ( 2 Samuel 11:21 ) ; and Eshbaal appears plainly to be the same son of Saul, whose name was Ishbosheth, ( 1 Chronicles 8:33 ) ( 2 Samuel 2:10 ) ; and Meribbaal is clearly the same with Mephibosheth ( 1 Chronicles 8:34 ) ( 2 Samuel 9:6 ) ; yea, it may be observed that the prophets of Baal are called, in the Septuagint version of ( 1 Kings 18:25 ) ; (profhtav thv aiscunhv) , "the prophets of that shame"; every idol, and all idolatry being shameful, and the cause of shame, sooner or later, to their worshippers; especially when things obscene were done in their religious rites, as were in many of the Heathens in which the Jews followed them; see ( Jeremiah 3:24 Jeremiah 3:25 ) ( 11:13 ) ; and [their] abominations were according as they loved:
or, "as they loved them", the daughters of Moab; for it was through their impure love of them that they were drawn into these abominations, or to worship idols, which are often called abominations; or, as Joseph Kimchi reads the words, and gives the sense of them, "and they were abominations as I loved them"; that is, according to the measure of the love wherewith I loved them, so they were abominations in mine eyes; they were as detestable now as they were loved before.
F1 (wab hmh) "ingressi sunt", Pagninus, Montanus, Calvin, Drusius.
F2 Annotations on Numb. xxv. 3.
F3 Racenatensis in Capito, apud Drusium in loc.
F4 T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 28. 4.
F5 Perush in Numb. xxv. 3.
F6 Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 45. p. 477.
F7 Origin. l. 8. c. 11. p. 70.
F8 De Dis Syris, Syntagma 1. c. 5. p. 162, 163. See Cumberland's Sanchoniatho, p. 73