Saint Ephrem’s Homily on Our Lord, section VI

Dominique Deming

Relevant to Deacon Sabatino’s series on “Swords and Serpents: A Bible Study of Salvation History”:

From St. Ephrem’s Homily on our Lord:

But Israel crucified our Lord, on the plea that verily He was seducing us from the One God. But they themselves used constantly to wander away from the One God through their many idols. While then they imagine they crucify Him Who seduces them from the One God, they are found to be led away by Him from all idols to the One God; to the end that because they did not voluntarily learn of Him that He is God, they might by compulsion learn of Him that He is God; when the good which had accrued to them through Him should accuse them concerning the evil which their hands had done.

Thus even though the tongue of the oppressors denied, yet the help with which they were helped convicted them.

For grace loaded them beyond their power, so that they should be ashamed, while laden with Your blessings, to deny Your person. And also You had mercy on those, whose lives had been made food for dead idols.

For the one calf which they made in the desert, (Exodus 32:4) pastured on their lives as on grass in the desert.

For that idolatry which they had stolen and brought out in their hearts from Egypt, when it was made manifest, slew openly those in whom it was dwelling secretly.

For it was like fire concealed in wood, which when it is gendered from within it, burns it.

For Moses ground to powder the calf and caused them to drink it in the water of ordeal; (Exodus 32:20) that by drinking of the calf all those who were living for its worship might die.

For the sons of Levi ran upon them, those who ran to [help] Moses and girded on their swords.

For the sons of Levi did not know whom they should slay, because those that worshipped were mingled with those that worshipped not.

But He, for Whom it was easy to distinguish, distinguished those who were defiled from those who were not defiled; so that the innocent might give thanks that their innocence had not passed [unseen by] the Just One; and the guilty might be convicted that their offense had not escaped [the eye of] the Judge. But the sons of Levi were the open avengers. Accordingly Moses set a mark upon the offenders, that it might be easy for the avengers to avenge.

For the draught of the calf entered those in whom the love of the calf was dwelling, and displayed in them a manifest sign, that the drawn sword might rush upon them. The congregation therefore which had committed fornication in [the worship of] the calf, he caused to drink of the water of ordeal, that the mark of adulteresses might appear in it.

From hence was derived that law about women, Numbers 5:17-27 that they should drink the water of ordeal, that by the mark that came on adulteresses, the congregation might be reminded of its fornication that was in the worship of the calf, and be on its guard with fear against another [fornication]; and remember the former [fornication] with penitence of soul; and that when they were judging their women, if they played the harlot against them, they might condemn themselves, who were playing the harlot against their God.

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