BWV 89 Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?

Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity.

Poet unknown.

1. Hos. 11:8; 6. Johann Heermann, verse 7 of "Wo soll ich fliehen hin," 1630 (Fischer-Tümpel, I, #322).

24 October 1723, Leipzig.

BG 20, 1; NBA I/26.


1. Aria [Dictum] (B)

What shall I make of thee now, Ephraim(1)? Shall I protect thee, Israel? Shall I not simply an Admah(2) make out of thee now, and like a Zeboim(3) transform thee? But this my heart is other-minded, and my compassion's love is too ardent.

2. Recit. (A)

Yea, surely oweth God
To speak his word of judgment
And for his name's disdain
Against his foes take vengeance.
Past counting is the sum of thy transgressions,
And even though God should forbear,
Rejecteth yet the ill-will of thy spirit
The offer of his kindness
And to thy neighbor shifts the guilt;
For this his vengeance must be kindled.

3. Aria (A)

An unforgiving word of judgment
Will over thee most surely come.

    For vengeance will with those begin
    Who have not mercy exercised,(4)
    Reducing them like Sodom to mere nothing.

4. Recit. (S)

Well, then, my heart will lay wrath, rage, and strife aside;
It is prepared my neighbor to forgive now.
But yet, what terror doth my sinful life afford me,
That I 'fore God in debt must stand!
But Jesus' blood
Doth my account make good,
If I to him, who is the law's foundation,(5)
In faith take refuge.

5. Aria (S)

O righteous God, ah, judgest thou?
I shall then for my soul's salvation
The drops of Jesus' blood be counting.
Ah! Put the sum to my account!
Yea, since no one can ever tell them,
They cover now my debt and failings.

6. Chorale (S, A, T, B)

My failings are so great,
But all that I would have
Is fully in my favor
By thine own blood accomplished,
So that I shall now conquer
Death, devil, hell, and error.


1. Ephraim was the most powerful tribe of Israel.

2. For Admah 'red lands' cf. Gen. 10:19; 14:2 and 8; Dt. 29:33. It was overthrown in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

3. Zeboim 'hyena' was one of the five Cities of the Plain. Cf. Gen. 10:19 and Dt. 29:23.

4. Cf. Jas. 2:13.

5. Cf. Rom. 10:4.


© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose


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