The angel then says, that it was the curse which went forth (55) over the face of the whole land. We must remember what I have just said, that God’s judgment is here set forth before the Jews, that they might know how justly both their fathers and themselves have been with so much severity chastised by God, inasmuch as they had procured for themselves such punishments by their sins. From the saying of the angel, that the roll went through the whole land, we learn, that not only a few were guilty, or that some corner of the land only had been polluted, but that the wrath of God raged everywhere, as no part of the land was pure or free from wickedness. As then Judea was full of pollutions, it was no wonder that the Lord poured forth his wrath and overwhelmed, as it were with a deluge, the whole land.
It afterwards follows, for every thief, or every one that steals, shall on this as on that side, be punished, or receive his own reward; and every one who swears, shall on this as on that side be punished. As to the words, interpreters differ with regard to the particles, מזה כמוה, mese camue; some take the meaning to be, “by this roll, as it is written;” others, “on this side of the roll, as on the other;” for they think that the roll was written on both sides, and that God denounced punishment on thieves as well as on perjurers. But I rather apply the words to the land, and doubt not but that this is the real meaning of the Prophet. As then there is no respect of persons with God, the Prophet, after having spoken of the whole land, says, that no one who had sinned could anywhere escape unpunished, for God would from one part to the other summon all to judgment without any exception. (56)
Now the Prophet says, that all perjurers, as well as thieves, shall be punished; and there is nothing strange in this, for God, who has forbidden to steal, has also forbidden to forswear. He is therefore the punisher of all transgressions. Those who think that this roll was disapproved, as though it contained false and degenerate doctrine, bring this reason to prove its injustice, that the thief is as grievously punished as the perjurer: but this is extremely frivolous. For, as I have said already, God shows here that he will be the defender of his law in whatever respect men may have transgressed it. We must therefore remember that saying of James,
“he who forbids to commit adultery, forbids also to steal: whosoever then offends in one thing is a transgressor of the whole law:” (James 2:11)
for we ought not simply to regard what God either commands or forbids, but we ought ever to fix our eyes on his majesty, as there is nothing so minute in the law which all ought not reverently to receive; for the laws themselves are not only to be regarded, but especially the lawgiver. As then the majesty of God is dishonored, when any one steals, and when any one transgresses in the least point, he clearly shows that the word of God is not much regarded by him. It is hence right that thieves and perjurers should be alike punished: yet the Scripture while it thus speaks, does not teach that sins are equal in enormity, as the Stoics in former times foolishly and falsely taught. But the equality of punishment is not what is here referred to; the angel means only, that neither thieves nor perjurers shall go unpunished, as they have transgressed the law of God.
We must also observe, that the mode of speaking adopted here is that of stating a part for the whole; for under the word theft is comprehended whatever is opposed to the duties of love; so that it is to be referred to the second table at the law. And the Prophet calls all those perjurers who profane the worship of God; and so perjury includes whatever is contrary to the first table of the law, and tends to pollute the service due to God. The meaning is, — that God, as I have said, will be the punisher of all kinds of wickedness, for he has not in vain given his law. Much deceived then are those who flatter themselves, as though by evasions they can elude the judgment of God, for both thieves and perjurers shall be brought before God’s tribunal, so that no one can escape, that is, no wickedness shall remain unpunished; for not in vain has he once declared by his own mouth, that cursed are all who fulfill not whatever has been written. (Deuteronomy 27:26.)
And the same thing the Prophet more clearly expresses in the following verse, where God himself declares what he would do, that he would cause the curse to go forth over the whole land; as though he had said, “I will really show, that I have not given the law that it may be despised; for what the law teaches shall be so efficacious, that every one who violates it shall find that he has to do, not with a mortal man, nor with sounds of words, but with the heavenly judge; I will bring forth the curse over the whole land. ”
I have said, that the Prophet was instructed in the import of this vision, that all the Jews might know that it was nothing strange that they had been so severely chastised, inasmuch as they had polluted the whole land by their sins, so that no part of the law was observed by them; for on the one hand they had corrupted the worship of God and departed from true religion; and on the other, they distressed one another by many wrongs, and oppressed them by frauds. As then no equity prevailed among the people, nor any true religion, God shows that he would punish them all, as none were guiltless.
On the previous words, “this is the curse,” Henderson makes the remark, that it is a similar phrase to “this is my body,” that is, signifies my body; which is a mode of speaking quite common in Scripture, and it is very strange that any should attach to the phrase any other meaning.—Ed.