In this verse the Prophet describes the extreme wickedness of the people. For though sometimes thefts, robberies, frauds, slaughters, perjuries, sorceries prevail, yet some regard for near relations remains; but it is monstrous when all relative affections are destroyed. As then, even in the most wicked, there remain some natural affections, called storgoe by philosophers, it follows, that men depart wholly from nature and become wild beasts, when these no longer exist. This is the import of what is here said.
There is a similar passage in Micah 7:5. The idea is there indeed more fully expanded; for the Prophet adds,
“From her who sleeps in thy bosom guard the doors of thy mouth; for the son lies in wait for his father, and the daughter delivers up her mother to death; and the chief enemies of man are his own domestics.”
The prophets then mainly agree in shewing, that there was no humanity left among flmm; for the son, forgetful of his duty, rose up against his father, and every one was perfidious towards his own friend, and a brother spared not his own brother.
Let a man then guard himself This is not an admonition, as though the Prophet exhorted men to be wary; but he only shews that there was no fidelity; for every one was perfidious and unfaithful towards his own friend, and even a brother acted unjustly towards his own brother. It hence follows, that the Jews are charged with being natural monsters; for they were deservedly objects of detestation, when they cast aside every care for their own blood, and as far as they could, destroyed everything like humanity. He says that brothers by supplanting supplanted, that is, craftily deceived and circumvented their own brothers. The verb עקב okob, is to be taken mttaphorically; it is derived from the heel of the foot, and means to oppress the simple by secret arts. He says also, that all friends acted fraudulently. Of this kind of speaking we have spoken on Jeremiah 6:28; for we found there the same complaint; and the Prophet then said the Jews were like iron and brass, because they had hardened themselves so as to be capable of any cruelty. This sort of speaking often occurs, when the word רכיל, rekil, is connected with the verb הלך elak; and they who are the most learned in the language say, that this word is never found in Scripture but in connection with the verb to go or to walk. They hence conclude that some particular person is meant, that is, one who goes about veiled or deceitfully, and rambles and runs here and there, that he may find some opportunity of deceiving and cheating. It cannot be taken here for slandering, as we have also stated on chapter the sixth: it is too unmeaning. It is found indeed in this sense in Leviticus 19:16,
“Go not about a slanderer among thy people;”
where some render it a whisperer. But the Prophet no doubt condemns here the frauds and deceitful crafts, by which they deceived and cheated one another: for רכל, recal signifies a merchant; and as it is often the case that traders act cunningly and practice crafty artifices, the Hebrews call that man רכיל racal, fraudulent and wickedly crafty, whose object is to deceive and cheat. And we see that this is the meaning in this place, as it designates those who circumvented one another: for the Prophet says, that they were foolish who trusted in brothers or friends; and he gives the reason, because brothers supplanted one another, and friends went about fraudulently. It follows —