Nor should I think it needful to discuss whether God pursues a worthy course in forbidding His own name and honour to be given over to a lie, or does so in not consenting that such as He has plucked from the maze of false religion should return again to Egypt, or does so in not suffering to depart from Him them whom He has chosen for Himself. Thus that, too, will not require to be treated by us, whether He has wished to be kept the rule which He has chosen to appoint, and whether He justly avenges the abandonment of the rule which He has wished to be kept; since He would have appointed it to no purpose if He had not wished it kept, and would have to no purpose wished it kept if He had been unwilling to uphold it. My next step, indeed, is to put to the test these appointments of God in opposition to false religions, the completely vanquished as well as also the punished, since on these will depend the entire argument for martyrdoms. Moses was apart with God on the mountain, when the people, not brooking his absence, which was so needful, seek to make gods for themselves, which, for his own part, he will prefer to destroy. 8246 Aaron is importuned, and commands that the earrings of their women be brought together, that they may be thrown into the fire. For the people were about to lose, as a judgment upon themselves, the true ornaments for the ears, the words of God. The wise fire makes for them the molten likeness of a calf, reproaching them with having the heart where they have their treasure also,—in Egypt, to wit, which clothed with sacredness, among the other animals, a certain ox likewise. Therefore the slaughter of three thousand by their nearest relatives, because they had displeased their so very near relative God, solemnly marked both the commencement and the deserts of the trespass. Israel having, as we are told in Numbers, 8247 turned aside at Sethim, the people go to the daughters of Moab to gratify their lust: they are allured to the idols, so that they committed whoredom with the spirit also: finally, they eat of their defiled sacrifices; then they both worship the gods of the nation, and are admitted to the rites of Beelphegor. For this lapse, too, into idolatry, sister to adultery, it took the slaughter of twenty-three thousand by the swords of their countrymen to appease the divine anger. After the death of Joshua the son of Nave they forsake the God of their fathers, and serve idols, Baalim and Ashtaroth; 8248 and the Lord in anger delivered them up to the hands of spoilers, and they continued to be spoiled by them, and to be sold to their adversaries, and could not at all stand before their enemies. Whithersoever they went forth, His hand was upon them for evil, and they were greatly distressed. And after this God sets judges (critas), the same as our censors, over them. But not even these did they continue steadfastly to obey. So soon as one of the judges died, they proceeded to transgress more than their fathers had done by going after the gods of others, and serving and worshipping them. Therefore the Lord was angry. “Since, indeed,” He says, “this nation have transgressed my covenant which I established with their fathers, and have not hearkened to my voice, I also will give no heed to remove from before them a man of the nations which Joshua left at his death.” 8249 And thus, throughout almost all the annals of the judges and of the kings who succeeded them, while the strength of the surrounding nations was preserved, He meted wrath out to Israel by war and captivity and a foreign yoke, as often as they turned aside from Him, especially to idolatry.
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