How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? [how] shall I deliver thee,
&c.] That is, as usually interpreted, into the hand of the enemy, or unto wrath, ruin, and destruction; for, notwithstanding all the sins of this people before observed, and the punishment threatened to be inflicted on them, the Lord is pleased here, and in the following verses, to give some intimations of his goodness, grace, and mercy to them; not to the whole body of them, for they as such were given and delivered up to the enemy, and carried captive, and dispersed among the nations, and were never recovered to this day; but to a remnant among them, according to the election of grace, that should spring from them, for the sake of which they were not all cut off by the sword; but were reserved as a seed for later times, the times of the Messiah, which the prophecy in this and the following words has respect unto; not only the first times of the Gospel, when some of the dispersed of Israel were met with by it, and converted under it; but the last times of it; times yet to come, when all Israel shall be saved; and may be applied to the elect of God, in all ages, and of all nations, The words are generally understood as a debate in the divine mind, struggling within itself between justice and mercy; justice requiring the delivery of these persons unto it, and mercy being reluctant thereunto, pleading on their behalf; and which at last gets the victory, and rejoices against judgment. There is a truth in all this; justice seems to demand that sinners, as such, who have injured and affronted him, be given up to, him, and suffer the curse of the law, according to their deserts, and be delivered unto death, even eternal death, as well as to temporal punishments; and which might be expected would be the case, by the instances and examples of the angels that sinned, and of the men of the old world, and of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah; but mercy cannot bear it, pleads against; it, and asks how can it be done, since these are my children, my dear child, on, pleasant ones, as Ephraim was, my chosen and my covenant ones, and, besides, for whom provision is made in Christ for the satisfactions of justice? But the sense is rather this, "how might" or "could I give thee up; Ephraim? how might" or "could I deliver thee, Israel" F5? that is, with what severity might I deal with thee? and how justly and righteously could I do it? since thy sins are so many, and so great; how shall I make thee as Admah? [how] shall I set thee as Zeboim?
two cities that were utterly destroyed by fire from heaven, along with Sodom and Gomorrah, ( Deuteronomy 29:23 ) ; how justly could I have made thee, and put thee in, the same condition and circumstances, as those two cities, and the inhabitants of them, who were so severely punished for their sins, and were never restored again? signifying, that inasmuch as they were guilty of the same or like heinous sins, was he utterly to destroy them, and cut them off from the face of the earth, he should not exceed the due bounds of justice. To this sense Schmidt interprets the words. The design of which is to show the greatness of Ephraim's sins, as deserving the uttermost wrath and vengeance of God, and to magnify the riches of God's grace in their salvation, as next expressed; and it is true of all God's elect, who, considered as sinners in Adam, and by their own transgressions, both before and after conversion, deserved to be treated according to the rigour of justice; but God is merciful to them, according to his choice of them, covenant with them, and provision he has made in Christ, and upon the foot of his satisfaction; mine heart is turned within me;
not changed; for there is no shadow of turning with the Lord, neither in his mind and purposes, which he never turns from, nor can be turned back; nor in his affections for them; as his heart is never turned from love to hatred, so neither from hatred to love; or his love would not be from everlasting, as it is, and he rest in it as he does; but this expresses the strong motion of mercy in him towards his people, springing from his sovereign will and pleasure, and what is elsewhere signified by the troubling, soundings, and yearnings of his bowels towards them; see ( Jeremiah 31:20 ) ( Isaiah 63:15 ) ; with which compare ( Lamentations 1:20 ) ; my repentings are kindled together;
not that repentance properly belongs to God, who is neither man, nor the Son of Man, that he should repent of anything, ( Numbers 23:19 ) ( 1 Samuel 15:29 ) ; he repents not of his love to his people, nor of his choice of them, nor of his covenant with them, nor of his special gifts and grace bestowed on them; but he sometimes does what men do when they repent, he changes his outward conduct and behaviour in the dispensations of his providence, and acts the reverse of what he had done, or seemed to be about to do; as, with respect to the old world, the making of Saul king, and the case of the Ninevites, ( Genesis 6:6 ) ( 1 Samuel 15:11 ) ( Jonah 3:4 Jonah 3:10 ) ; so here, though he could, and seemed as if he would, go forth in a way of strict justice, yet changes his course, and steers another way, without any change of his will. The phrase expresses the warmth and ardour of his affections to his people; how his heart burned with love to them, his bowels and inward parts were inflamed with it; from whence proceeded what is called repentance among men, as in the case of Jeremiah, ( Jeremiah 20:9 ) . The Targum is,
``the word of my covenant met me; my mercies (or bowels of mercies) were rolled together.''