Let not Judah offend - Israel was totally dissolute; Judah was not so. Here she is exhorted to maintain her integrity. If the former will go to what was once Beth-el, the house of God, now Beth-aven, the house of iniquity, because Jeroboam has set up his calves there, let not Judah imitate them. Gilgal was the place where the covenant of circumcision was renewed when the people passed over Jordan; but was rendered infamous by the worship of idols, after Jeroboam had set up his idolatry.
Let not Judah offend - The sentence of Israel had been pronounced; she had been declared incorrigible. The prophet turns from her now to Judah. Israel had abandoned God‘s worship, rejected or corrupted His priests, given herself to the worship of the calves; no marvel what further excess of riot she run into! But Judah, who had the law and the temple and the service of God, let not her, (he would say,) involve herself in Israel‘s sin. If Israel, in willful blindness, had plunged herself in ruin, let not Judah involve herself in her sin and her ruin. He turns (as elsewhere) incidentally to Judah.
Come ye not unto Gilgal - Gilgal lay between Jericho and the Jordan. There, ten furlongs from the Jordan, first in all the promised land, the people encamped; there Joshua placed the monument of the miraculous passage of the Jordan; there he renewed the circumcision of the people which had been intermitted in the wilderness, and the feast of the passover; there the people returned, after all the victories by which God gave them possession of the land of promise Joshua 4:19-20; Joshua 5:9-10; Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6-9, Joshua 10:43; Joshua 14:6. There Samuel habitually sacrificed, and there, “before the Lord,” i. e., in His special covenanted presence, he publicly made Saul king 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:14-15; 1 Samuel 13:4-9; 1 Samuel 15:21, 1 Samuel 15:33. It was part of the policy of Jeroboam to take hold of all these associations, as a sort of set-off against Jerusalem and the temple, from which he had separated his people. In opposition to this idolatry, Elisha for a time, established there one of the schools of the prophets 2 Kings 4:38.
Neither go ye up to Bethaven - “Bethaven,” literally, “house of vanity,” was a city East of “Bethel” Joshua 7:2, “the house of God.” But since Jeroboam had set up the worship of the calves at Bethel, Bethel had ceased to be “the house of God,” and had become “a house or temple of vanity;” and so the prophet gave it no more its own name which was associated with the history of the faith of the patriarchs, but called it what it had become. In Bethel God had twice appeared to Jacob, when he left the land of promise Genesis 28:10, Genesis 28:19 a to go to Laban, and when he returned Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:9. There also the ark of God was for a time in the days of the judges removed from Shiloh Judges 20:26-27, near to which on the south Judges 21:19 Bethel lay. It too Jeroboam profaned by setting up the calf there. To these places then, as being now places of the idolatry of Israel, Judah is forbidden to go, and then to “swear, the Lord liveth.” For to swear by the Lord in a place of idolatry would be to associate the living God with idols Zephaniah 1:5, which God expressly forbade.