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He follows the same subject. During times of tranquillity, when nothing but joyful voices were heard among the Jews, he bewails, as one in the greatest grief, the miseries of the people; and being not satisfied with this, he says, Who will set, or make, my head waters, and my eye a fountain of tears? He intimates by these words, that the ruin would be so dreadful that it could not be bewailed by a moderate or usual lamentation, inasmuch as God’s vengeance would exceed common bounds, and fill men with more dread than other calamities.
The meaning is, that the destruction of the people would be so monstrous that it could not be sufficiently bewailed. It hence appears how hardened the Jews had become; for doubtless the Prophet had no delight in such comparisons, as though he wished rhetorically to embellish his discourse; but as he saw that their hearts were inflexible, and that a common way of speaking would be despised, or would have no weight and authority, he was constrained to use such similitudes. And at this day, there is no less insensibility in those who despise God; for however Prophets may thunder, while God spares and indulges them, they promise to themselves perpetual quietness. Hence it is, that they ridicule and insult both God and his servants, as though they were too harshly treated. As then, the same impiety prevails now in the world as formerly, we may hence learn what vehemence they ought to use whom God calls to the same office of teaching. Plain teaching, then, will ever be deemed frigid in the world, except it, be accompanied with sharp goads, such as we find employed here by the Prophet (235) He adds —
(235) This verse is connected by some with the last chapter: and it seems to belong to it. It forms in all the Hebrew MSS. the 23d verse of the preceding chapter. The phrase,
Here the Prophet entertains another wish: He had before wished that his head were waters, that he might shed tears, and he had wished his eyes to be the fountains of tears; but now, after having duly considered the wickedness of the people, he puts off every feeling of humanity, and as one incensed, he desires to move elsewhere, and wholly to leave the people; for their impiety had so prevailed that he could no longer live among them. It is indeed certain that the Prophet had no common grief, when he perceived that God’s dreadful vengeance was not far distant: it is also certain that he was moved and constrained by their detestable conduct to desire to be removed elsewhere. But he speaks not only for his own sake; for he regards his own nation, and expresses his feelings, that he might more effectually touch their hearts. We must then understand, that so great was the sympathy of the Prophet, that he was not satisfied with shedding tears, but that he wished that his whole head would flow into fearn It appears, also, that he was so moved with idignation, that he wished wholly to leave his own people. But, as I have said, his object was to try whether he could restore them to the right way.
He then shews, in this verse, that the Jews had become so detestable, that all the true servants of God wished to be removed far away from them: Who then will set me in the desert? He seeks not for himself another country; he desires not to dwell in a pleasant situation, or that some commodious asylum should be offered to him? but he desires to be placed in the desert, or in the lodging of travelers. He speaks not of those lodgings or inns, which were in villages and towns; but of a lodging in the desert; according to what is the case, when a long and tedious journey is made through forests, some sheds are formed, that when a traveler is over — taken by the darkness of night, he might be protected by some covering, and not He down in the open air. It is of this kind of lodging that the Prophet speaks: then he no doubt means a shed; but as to the word, we may retain, as I have said, its proper meaning. What is meant is, that to dwell in the desert alllong wild beasts was better than to be among that abominable people. By expressing this wish he inflamed no doubt the fury of the whole people, or at least of most of them; but it was necessary thus forcibly to address them: as they submitted to no kind and wholesome warnings and counsels, they were to be forcibly stimulated and urged by such reproofs as these.
I will leave my people This had an emphatic, bearing; for delightful to every one is his native soil, and it is also delightful to dwell among one’s own people. As then the Prophet wished to be removed into the desert,, and to leave his own people, all his relatives and the nation from which he sprang, and to depart frora them, it follows that they nmst have come to extremities.
And the reason is added, For all are adulterers I take the word
(236) This verse may be rendered thus, —
O that I, had in the desert the lodging of travellers, Then I would go away from them; For all of them are adulterers, A company of hypocrites.
He preferred living in the temporary sheds of travellers, erected in the desert, rather than to live among his own people. How intolerably wicked they must have been! A company, or an assembly, a multitude: the word need not be deemed as retaining its primary idea. The meaning is, that the whole community, the whole people, were hypocrites; they pretended to worship and serve God, and at the same time were idolaters and treacherous and immoral in their conduct. The word for “hypocrites” is derived from one that means a garment, a cloak, a covering; and the verb means to act under a cover, to act deceitfully, or falsely, or hypocritically, or perfidiously. It is rendered “deceivers” by the Septuagint, “prevaricators” by the Vulgate, “liars” by the Syriac, “falsifiers” by the Targum, and “perfidious dealers” by Blayney. — Ed.
Jeremiah confirms what he had said of the near destruction of the people; for, as we have said, the Jews ridiculed threatenings while they thought themselves far from every danger. But the Prophet shews, from the nature of God himself, that they must necessarily perish in a short time; for since God is the judge of the world, and as they were continually advancing in impiety and wickedness, they could no longer be tolerated. This is the meaning.
He first says, that they stretched their tongues as a bow for falsehoods The verb
He then adds, that they were not strong for the truth Some read, “They have been strong, but not for the truth;” others, “They have been strong as to the truth,” or for the truth: but I think that the Prophet’s meaning is different, — that having checked the truth, they took more liberty for themselves, as though he had said that they triumphed when all faithfulness and rectitude were destroyed; for by the word,
An explanation follows, — that they proceeded from evil to evil; that is, they obstinately went on in their evil doings; for to go forth means the same as to pass. They then passed from evil to evil; that is, when they had done one evil, no repentance entered their hearts, so as to turn back; but they continued their wickedness, and aceunrelated evils on evils. We now then understand what the Prophet means; for he sets forth their pertinacity in evil deeds, and at the same time shews that there was no evidence of amendment, for they passed from one bad deed to another like it.
And me have they not known, saith Jehovah He shews here what is the source of all evils; they had cast aside every knowledge and every thought of God. We indeed know that when God is really known, his fear must necessarily influence our hearts; and the knowledge of God begets reverence and a regard for religion. It is indeed true, that God is somewhat known by even the ungodly and the wicked, and that they have some notions respecting him; but it is no more than an empty knowledge. When indeed we are fully persuaded that God is the judge of the world, and when we have also a knowledge of his goodness and paternal favor, we necessarily fear him and spontaneously and willingly worship and serve him. Ignorance of God, then, is a kind of madness which carries men headlong to every sort of impiety. On this account, God complains that he was not known by the people, for the fear of him was not in them. It follows —
(237) The ancient versions differ in rendering the first clauses of this verse: “They have bent their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has prevailed over the land,” Septuagint; — “And they have stretched their tongue like a bow of falsehood, and not of truth; they have become strong in the land,” Vulgate; — “Their tongue as with their own bow have they shot; by falsity and perfidiousness they have become great in the land,” Syriac; — “Their tongues for falselhood have they bent, as a bow; and prevailed has perfidy over the land,” Arabic. Blayney makes a conjectural emendation, and Houbigant and Horsley make another; but neither is necessary. The literal version is as follows, —
And they bend their tongue, their lying bow; And not for truth are they strong in the land.
“Their lying bow,” or “their bow of falsehood;” it was a bow by which they shot lies; they employed their tongues for this purpose. — Ed.
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
“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
Jeremiah goes on with the same subject. He says that fidelity had so disappeared among the Jews, that every one endeavored to deceive his neighbor. Hence it followed, that they were withhout any shame. Some sense of shame at least remains among men, when they have to do with their own friends; for though they may be wholly given to gain, and to indulge in falsehoods, yet when they transact business with friends, they retain some regard for equity, and shame checks their wickedness: but when there is no difference made between friends and strangers, it follows that their character is become altogether brutal. This is what the Prophet meant.
And he adds, that they spoke not the truth He now says that they were liars, not in this or that particular business; but that they were perfidious and deceitful in everything. This clause then is not to be limited to some special acts of fraud; but it is the same as though he had said, that they knew not what truth was, or what it was to act with good faith and to speak honestly to their neighhours; for they were wholly imbued with deceits, and no truth could come out of their mouth.
And for the same purpose he says, that they had taught their tongues to speak falsehood. The expression in this clause is stronger; for he means that they were wholly given to deceit, as by long use they had formed their tongues for this work. The tongue ought to be the representative of the mind, according to the old saying; for why was the tongue formed, but in order that men may communicate with one another? For the thoughts are hidden, and they come forth when we speak with each other. But the Prophet says that the order of nature was by them inverted, for they had taught their tongues to lie We also hence learn that they had no fidelity whatever; for their very tongues had been taught to deceive: as when one by practice has learnt anything, it is what he does readily; so when the tongues are formed by continual use and inured to lying, they can do nothing else.
He says at last, that they wearied themselves with evil deeds. This is indeed an hyperbolical language; but yet the Prophet very fitly sets forth the deplorable state of the people, — that they practiced the doing of evil even to weariness. As when any one is seized with some foolish lust, he spares no labor and does himself much harm, but feels not his wearied state as long as he is engaged, for his ardor dementares him: so he says now, that they were wearied in doing evil. When a hunter pursues the game, he undergoes much more labor than any common workman, or any husbandman. We see that even kings and courtiers, while hunting, are so blinded, that they see no danger nor feel any weariness. So we find that men given to pleasure, when lust draws them here and there, feel no concern for the greatest weariness. According to this sense then the Prophet says, that they were wearied in doing evil, as though he had said, that they were so devoted to wickedness, that the pleasure of doing evil wholly blinded them and made them mad. (238)
We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning: He confirms, as I have said, what he had stated before. He had threatened the people with utter ruin; they were secure and heedless, and despised all his denuncitations. He now shews, from God’s nature and office, that ruin was nigh them, though they feared it not and thought themselves abundantly safe. But if God be the judge of the world, as it will be hereafter proved, how is it possible for him to connive perpetually at so great wickedness? And to shew this he also adds —
(238) The whole verse may he thus rendered, —
And they deceive, every one his neighbor, And the truth they speak not; They have taught their tongue the word of falsehood; With perverting have they wearied themselves.
The verb for “deceive” means to mock, to trifle with, to play the fool with. Their object was to befool their neighbors by cheating and deceiving them. “The word,” or the matter, “of falsehood,” is falsehood itself, or sheer falsehood. The Vulgate and the Syriac’s version is, “They have taught their tongue to speak falsehood.” To teach the tongue false-hood, was to habituate it to tell lies. The last line is differently rendered. The Septuagint deviates far from the original. The version of the Vulgate is, “They have labored to act unjustly;” and this comes near the meaning; only “to act unjustly” is rather to act pervertingly: they wrested and turned everything from its right course and meaning; and they labored in perverting things, until they wearied themselves. Falsehood requires more labor than truth. — Ed.
The Prophet here introduces God as the speaker, that the Jews might know that they had not to do with mortal man. For they might, according to their usual perverseness, have raised this objection, “Thou indeed severely condemnest us, and treatest us reproachfully; but who has made thee our judge?” Lest then they should think that the words which he had hitherto declared, were the words of man, he interposes the authority of God, Thou, he says, dwellest in the midst of a deceitful people
But we must observe that this admonition to the Prophet was necessary for two reasons. For when God searches the minds and hearts of men by his word, ministers of the word are necessary to exercise this jurisdiction, men endued with wisdom, understanding, and prudence. The word, says the apostle, is like a two — edged sword, or it is one that cuts on both sides, for it penetrates into the hearts and thoughts of man and into their very marrow. (Hebrews 4:12.) We also know what Paul says,
“When an unbeliever comes into your assembly, his conscience is searched; so that he will be constrained to fall down and to give glory to God.” (1 Corinthians 14:24.)
To the same purpose is this saying of Christ,
“When the Spirit is come, He will judge the world,”
for by the Spirit He means the preaching of the Gospel. It is then necessary that the ministers of the word, in order that they may faithfully and profitably perform their office, should be taught to understand the deceits and subterfuges by which men are wont to deceive. As then there are many hidden things in the hearts of men, he who would effectually teach must know that the innermost recesses of the heart must be probed and searched. The Prophet had heard from God that the people, over whom He was appointed, were fallacious and filled with guiles and frauds: Thou, He says, dwellest in the midst of a deceitful people; as though he had said, “Thou hast to do with dishonest men, who not only openly betray their wickedness, but also deceive when they pretend any repentance or profess obedience to God: that they may not therefore weaken or cajole thy resolution by their deceptions, settle it in thy mind that thou wilt have to contend with their wiles.” This is one reason.
There is another reason; for as God’s servants ought to know their wiles, which they are bidden to reprove, so there is need of courage and perseverance, lest hypocrisy should dishearten them: for such a thought as this may occur to the minds of God’s servants, “What shall I do? for hidden to me are the thoughts of men: now the truth ought to penetrate into the whole soul; but I know not what lies hid within in any one.” Thus pious teachers might be weakened in their efforts and disheartened, or wholly discouraged, unless God supported them. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah was expressly told, that He had to do with a deceitful and false people. (239)
He afterwards adds, Through guile they refuse to know me God had before complained, that he was not known by the people; but he now exaggerates their crime by saying, that they craftily evaded every light, as though he had said, that they could not plead ignorance or any levity; for through guile, says God, they refuse to know me. As they wholly flattered themselves with deceptions, they designedly extinguished, as far as they could, the light. By guile then he means that obstinate craftiness by which the people cast aside every instruction. It afterwards follows —
(239) Houbigant, Horsley, and Venema have suggested emendations as to this verse, derived in some measure from the Septuagint. A part of the first word,
Burst forth does robbery upon robbery, deceit, on deceit;
They refuse to know me, saith Jehovah.
Burst forth, or boil —
Return does guile for guile, deceit for deceit.
The first word is rendered “usury —
Our version agrees with the Vulgate and the Syriac, and is adopted by Blayney: and he concludes from the end of this verse, that the speaker from the 2d verse is not the Prophet, but God; who, adopting the language of man, intimates his wish to leave a people so wicked. But this conclusion is not necessary; for the prophets often introduce sentences of this kind. — Ed.
Jeremiah, speaking in God’s name, concludes that the chastisement, of which he had spoken, was necessary; And what I have already said appears more clearly from this verse, — that he brings to light their sins, that they might know that they could not escape God’s hand, who is a just avenger of wickedness; for they had extremely provoked him by their petulance and obstinacy.
I will try or melt them, he says, and I will prove them As they put on a false color, he says that there was a trial needful, as when any one shews copper or any other metal for gold, he is disproved by trial. Any impostor might otherwise sell dross for silver: the spurious metal, that is passed as gold or silver, must be proved; it must be cast into the fire and melted. As then the Jews thought that they had honest pretences to cover their baseness, God gives this answer, that he had yet a way to discover their deceitfulness, and as it were tells them, “The goldsmith, when any one brings dross for silver, or copper for gold, has a furnace, and he tries it; so will I try and melt you; for you think that you can dazzle ray eyes by false pretences: this will avail you nothing.” In short, God intimates that he had means ready at hand to discover their deceitfulness, and that thus their hypocrisy would be of no advantage to them, as his judgments would be like a furnace. As then stubble or wood, cast into the furnace, is immediately burnt, so hypocrites cannot endure God’s judgment. They indeed at first exhibit some brightness, until God tries them; but their deceits must eventually be discovered; and they themselves will be consumed when they come to be really proved. This is the meaning.
And the reason is added, For how should I do with the daughter of my people? This may be applied to Jeremiah himself; but it would be a strained meaning. He then continues, I have no doubt, to speak in God’s name; How then should I do, or act, with the daughter of my people? God speaks here as one deliberating; and thus he more fully proves the Jews guilty; for since he admits them as judges or counsellors, they could give no other reply. We hence see that this question is very emphatic; for the Prophet intimates, that except the Jews were beyond measure stupid, they could no longer flatter themselves in their sins, so as to demand to be otherwise treated by God, as they had in so many ways and with s.uch perversity procured vengeance for themselves. (240)
But we hence learn that it is right that judgment should begin at the house of God, as it is elsewhere said. (1 Peter 4:17.) God indeed will not pass by anytliing without punishing it: hence the heathens must at last stand before his tribunal. But as he is nearer to his Church, their impiety, who profess themselves to be as it were his domestics, is less tolerable, as though he had said, “I have chosen you to be my peculiar people, and have taken you under my care and protection; when ye become intractable, what remains for me to do, but to try you, as ye act so unfaithfully towards me.” It follows —
(240) All the ancient versions (except the Vulgate) and the Targum read, as though
Therefore thus saith Jehovah of hosts, — Behold I will melt them that I may try them;
For thus will I do because of the wickedness of my people.
The rendering of the last line, according; to the received text, might be this, which is nearly the Vulgate, —
For how should I deal otherwise with the daughter of my people?
The passage runs better in this way, than according to the proposed emendation. — Ed.
The Prophet again complains of the deceitfulness of their tongues; and he compares them to deadly, or drawn out arrows. Gold is said to be drawn out, when refined by repeated meltings; so also arrows, when sharpened, are more piercing. The Prophet then says, that their tongues were like deadly or sharpened arrows: how so? because they ever spoke guile, by either slandering or circumventing others. But the expression is general; and the Prophet no doubt meant to include all modes of deceiving.
For it afterwards follows, With the mouth they speak peace; that is, every one professed friendship, and his words were honey; and yet within he did set up, or concealed intrigues. Here in other words he sets forth their perfidy; for the tongue and the heart differed. They shewed by the tongue what was different from the sentiment of the heart. Hence he says, that they set up treacheries in the midst of them, or in their hearts, while they spoke peace with the mouth, that is, pretended brotherly kindness. (241) At last he repeats again what he had said before, (Jeremiah 5:9) —
(241) The word,
A killing arrow is their tongue; Deceit it speaks; With his mouth does one speak peace to his neighbor, But in his heart he sets an ambush for him.
Literally, “his ambush,” that is, the ambush of which he is the object. This form of speech is often in Hebrew. See Job 28:10. “
But inwardly will he resolve to fall upon him by surprise.
The future tense here, as in many other instances, is used as a present tense, and designed to shew the habitual practice of the people. The same is done in the Welsh language: the future tense is continually used to express a present action. — Ed.
We have already met with this verse; it will therefore be enough briefly to refer to what it contains. God shews here, that except he denied himself he must necessarily punish the Jews. How so? He takes it as granted that he is the judge of the world: he had said that the Jews were not only become wicked in one thing, but were so given up to all kinds of wickedness, that they wearied themselves; what then was to be done? God would not have acted in a manner worthy of himself, nor preserved consistency, had he not punished such men; for he must have changed his nature, had he not hated such a perverse nation. But he speaks after the manner of men when he mentions vengeance; for we know that no passions belong to God, as it has been often stated: but as he hates wickedness, so he is said to execute vengeance, when he appears as a judge and chastises those by whom he has been provoked to wrath.
The Prophet had exhorted others to lament and to bewail. He now comes forth as though none had ears to attend to his admonition. As then he himself undertakes to mourn and to lament, he no doubt indirectly condemns the insensibility of the whole people. He saw by the spirit of prophecy, that all the rest thought what he said incredible and therefore fabulous. For though the kingdom of Judah was at that time much wasted, and the kingdom of Israel wholly fallen, they yet continued secure and heedless when they ought to have expected God’s vengeance every day, and even every hour. Since then there was such insensibility in the people, the Prophet here prepares himself for lamentation and mourning.
I will take up, he says, mourning and lamentation for the mountains The words may be explained, “I will take up mourning, which shall ascend as far as the mountains;” but the cause of mourning seems rather to be intended; for it immediately follows, and weeping for the pastures of the desert Had not this clause been added, the former meaning might be taken, that is, that mourning would be so loud as to penetrate into the mountains or ascend into the highest parts. But as Jeremiah connects the two clauses, for the mountains, and for the pastures of the desert, the other meaning is much more appropriate, — that the confidence of the people was very absurd, as they thougilt themselves beyond danger, dwelling as they did on the plains; for the enemies, he says, shall leave nothing untouched; they shall come to the mountains and to the pastures of the desert. It hence follows, that they were foolish who promised themselves quietness on the plains, where the enemy could easily come.
We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning: he sets here his own fear and solicitude in contrast with the stupor of the whole people. I will raise, he says, weeping and lamentation for the mountains: but others remained secure and thoughtless in their pleasures. He then shews, that while they were blind, his eyes were open, and he saw the coming ruin which was now at hand. And he sets the mountains and pastures of the desert in opposition to the level country. For when a country is laid waste, we know that still a retreat is sought on mountains; for enemies dread ambushes there, and access is not easy where the roads are narrow. Then the Prophet says, that even the mountains would not be beyond the reach of danger, for the enemies would march there: he says the same of the pastures of the desert. We hence learn how absurd was their confidence who thought themselves safe because they inhabited the plain country, which was the most accessible.
As to the word
“He makes me to lie down,” he says, “in pleasant places.”
But the Prophet no doubt means pastures here. And he calls them the pastures of the desert. The word
Because they are laid waste, He says. This word may be taken in another sense, “burnt up;” but it is not suitable here. He says then that these places arelaid waste, so that no one passed through. He means that mountains would not only be without inhabitants, but would be so deserted and solitary that there would be none passing over them. There would then be none to frequent them. It hence follows, that there would be no inhabitants, He then adds, that no voice of cattle was heard; as though he had said, that their enemies would take away as their spoil whatever should be found there: for the wealth of mountains consists in cattle; for there is neither sowing nor reaping there; but inhabitants of mountains get their living and whatever is necessary to support life, from flesh and skin and milk and cheese. When therefore the Prophet declares that there would be no voice of cattle, it is the same as though he had said, that the mountains would become altogether uninhabited, for their enemies would take away all the cattle found there.
He then adds, From the bird of the heavens to the earthly beast they shall migrate and depart (243) Here he seems again indirectly to reprove the insensibility of the people, as though he had said, that the birds would feel it to be the judgment of God, while yet men were wholly insensible; and that there would be a similar feeling in brute animals; as though he had said, that there would be more understanding in birds and animals than in the Jews, who had not only been created in the image of God, but had also been enlightened as to the truth of salvation; for shine among them did the truth of God in the law. Hence the Prophet shews that this stupidity was most shameful; for they were as stupid as if they had no thought and no understanding, while yet birds acknowledged the vengeance of God, and brute animals were terrified by it. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. It follows —
(242) It is not from this root, but from
(243) The whole verse is as follows, —
10.For the mountains will I raise weeping and wailing, And for the pleasant places of the desert, a lamentation; For they are desolate, without any one passing through, And they hear not the voice of cattle; From the bird of heaven even to the beast, They have migrated, they have gone away.
The “pleasant places” were “desolate;” and “in the mountains” no “voice of cattle” was heard. No one “passing through” explains the desolation. The word is improperly rendered, “burnt up,” in our version and by Blayney. It was used before in the sense of desolation, Jeremiah 4:7; and it ought to be so rendered in Jeremiah 2:15. In the last line, the migration refers to birds, and the going away to the beasts. In none of the ancient versions is this distinction intimated. — Ed.
The Prophet comes now toJerusalem and the neighhouring cities. He said before, that ruin would reach the mountains and the farthest recesses; but he says now, I will turn Jerusalem into heaps This seemed incredible, for it was a well fortified city, and also full of inhabitants to defend it: we know besides that the Jews were in confederacy with the kingdom of Egypt. This denunciation then was extremely unwelcome to the Jews. But though they thought themselves hitherto safe, yet the Prophet set before their eyes their final destruction. They indeed regarded it as a fable; but they found too late, that the despisers of God gain no advantage in hardening· themselves against his threatenings. We shall meet with this verse again; I shall therefore now pass over it lightly.
He says, that it would be hereafter a place for dragons; as though he had said, that it would be no longer inhabited. He declares the same respecting the cities of Judah, — that they would all be a waste. We hence see how courageous and persevering a mind was Jeremiah endued with, that he dared to preach thus in the midst of the city, and to set himself in opposition to the king and his counsellors, and to the whole people, who wished to be soothed with flatteries, and who had been thus treated by the false prophets. As then Jeremiah was thus bold, as a celestial herald, to denounce on them this dreadful calamity, we hence learn that he was endued with the power of God, and that he did not speak as one commissioned by men; for had he not been sustained by God’s power, he must have been a hundred times disheartened, nor would he have dared to speak a word. This invincible courage seals his doctrine; ibr we hence with certainty learn, that it proceeded from God, because the wonderful power of the ttoly Spirit was evident. He afterwards adds —
Here the Prophet reproves more sharply the insensibility of the people, because none attended to the judgments of God; for though they were apparent, no one considered them. The question arose from astonishment; for it was like something dreadfully monstrous, that so few among the people knew that God would be the punisher of crimes so apparent to all. Had they a particle of understanding, they must have known that a dreadful calamity was nigh at hand, since they continued in so many ways to provoke God. And now that the labor of the Prophet, after having said what ought to have roused them all, had been all in vain; was not this doubly monstrous? For he had spent a long time, and had never ceased to cry; and yet all were deaf, nay, his teaching was treated with contempt.
Hence is his astonishment, when he says, Who is a wise man? he intimates that there was hardly one in a hundred whom the fear of God influenced. It must then be remembered, that the Prophet complains of the few number of those who perceived:, that it could not be but that God would shortly put forth his hand to punish the wickedness which then everywhere prevailed. But yet he exhorts all the faithful children of God to disregard the nmltitude, and to gather courage, and to make more account of God’s word than of the contumacy of them all. There are then two things in this sentence; for the question means, that few could be found among the people who were wise, and who applied their minds and thoughts to consider the miserable state of the people; but, on the other hand, he intimates that it is true wisdom in God’s faithful servants, not to despond, and not to follow the nmltitude. He then intimates that they are alone truly wise who consider God’s judgments before He openly executes them. There is a similar sentence in Psalms 107:0: 43; for the Prophet, after having spoken of God’s judgments, which are visible through the whole world, exclaims,
“Who is a wise man, that he may understand these things?”
as though he had said, that though the works of God, which evidence both his goodness and his judgment, might indeed be observed in every part of the world, yet that all were blind. The Prophet then by this exclamation reprobates the insensibility of men, who overlook God’s judgments, though they are apparent before their eyes. So also the same thing is meant in this place, Who is a wise man? But we must further notice the second thing, to which I have referred, namely, that all the faithful are here encouraged, as the Prophet teaches us, that this is the rule of wisdom, — to open our eyes to see God’s judgments, which are hid from the world: while others are drawn away by their lusts or sunk in their stupor, the Prophet teaches us, that we are wise, when we duly consider, as I have already said, what the Lord has made known to us in his word. Hence it follows, that all the wise men of this world are foolish, who so harden themselves, that they do not perceive in God’s word what is yet open to their eyes. Who then is a wise man, and he will understand these things?
He afterwards adds, To whom has the mouth of Jehovah spoken to declare this? He complains here that there were no prophets. He said, at the beginning of the verse, that there were none wise, because all heedlessly despised the threatenings and judgments of God: now in the second place he adds, there were none to arouse the careless people who were asleep in their sins. But by this sentence he claims authority for himself; for though he was without associates and assistants, he yet intimates that his teaching was not, on that account of less value: “Beit,” he says, (for he speaks by way of concession,) “beit, that there is no prophet to recall the people from their sins, to exhort them to repent, to terrify the ungodly: however this may be, yet the Lord has appointed me to teach and to exhort the people.” We hence see that the Prophet claims for himself full and complete authority, though he alone denounced God’s vengeance. Many indeed then boasted that they were prophets; but they were only false flatterers. When the Prophet saw that many abused the name, and did not perform the office faithfully and sincerely, he set himself in opposition to them all; as though he had said, “It is enough that the Lord has commanded me to do this; I therefore denounce on you this calamity, which ye heedlessly disregard, because false teachers deeeive you by their mischievous adulations.”
Who will declare, he says, why the land is to perish, and to be laid waste like the desert, so that there should be no inhabitant? We may apply this to two periods. For when Jeremiah spoke, the kingdom was yet standing, and, as I have said, the Jews were not so subdued as to humble themselves before God: they were therefore still indulging themselves in their sins. Now whence did this indulgence proceed, except from their prosperous condition? Yet the Prophet says that the land had perished, and justly so; but he says this, because he did not judge of the people’s state according to what it appeared then to be, but according to the judgment which he saw by the prophetic spirit was impending over them. And we may extend this farther; as though Jeremiah had said, “When God shall have so chastised this people, that there may be as it were a visible monument of celestial wrath; there shall yet be then no prophets to remind them whence these evils have proceeded.” This indeed we know was the case, when the city was partly burnt and partly demolished, and the temple pulled down: the contumacy of the people was so great, that their hearts were stone, and their minds iron. There was then a monstrous hardness in that calamity. They indeed cried for their evils; but no one perceived that God was executing what he had denounced for so many years. For Jeremiah, as we have said, exercised his office of teaching for a long time: but before he began, Isaiah had already been were out; and before Isaiah, Micah had prophesied. Though, however, threatenings had been renewed daily for a hundred years, and terrors had been announced, yet there was no one who attended. (244)
This passage, then, may be thus explained, — That when threatenings should appear by the effect not to have been announced in vain, yet the people would even then be insensible, for no one would attend to nor consider God’s judgment: they would all indeed feel their evils, but no one would regard the hand of him who smote them, as it is said in another place. (Isaiah 9:13.) Either meaning may be allowed; but, as I think, the Prophet here deplores the hardness and contumacy of the people at that time; as though he had said, that there were none who considered God’s judgments, and that there was no prophet to rouse those who were torpid. But yet, as it has been stated, he thus intimates, that he had sufficient authority, though he had no associate or assistant; for he had been chosen by God, and had been sent to carry this message. It follows —
(244) Somewhat a different view may be taken of this verse, as it will appear from the following version, —
Who is the man that is wise, And he will understand this, — And to whom the mouth of Jehovah has spoken, And he will declare it, — Even why destroyed is the land, Made waste like the desert, without a traveler.
The wise man is the same with him to whom God had spoken: and what he had to understand and to declare was the reason why the land was destroyed. Then in the next verse God himself, by the mouth of his prophet, makes this known. “Made waste” is rendered “burnt up” by theSeptuagint and the Vulgate, but desolated, or desolate, by the Targum, Syriac, and Arabic; and no doubt rightly, as “without a traveler,” or one passing through, explains what is meant: in like manner, “without an inhabitant,” in the preceding verse, is an explanation of “the cities of Judah” being made “desolate,” or rather, entirely desolate. — Ed.
Jeremiah now confirms what I have stated, and more fully explains it, — that though no teacher or a disciple was found in the land, yet there was sufficient power in God’s word alone, and that his judgment depended not on the will or the perceptions of men. After having then complained that all were foolish, and that there were no prophets to reprove their security and indifference, he adds, Thus saith Jehovah Here he sets God in opposition to all men, to the king and his courtiers, as well as to the common people. Who then is a wise man? as though He looked around him; and there was no man who considered. he was then in suspense; and afterwards he said, “There is no prophet to rouse them from their usual stupor.” He remained still in suspense; and then he turned to God and said, “But Jehovah has spoken;” that is, “Be it, that they are like brute beasts, though they arrogate to themselves great wisdom; nevertheless God speaks, and we ought to be satisfied. We ought then to be silent, and to make no stir; though no one approves, though no one attends to God speaking, there is yet sufficient authority and power in his voice alone.” We now then more fully understand the Prophet’s design: He had said that all men were stupid, and that there was no prophet; and now, on the other hand, he shews that God was not silent nor asleep.
Thus saith Jehovah, Because this people have forsaken my law, etc. He shews that the cause of all evils was a departure from God’s law. No one was willing to confess this, and all the prophets were silent; yet Jeremiah says here, that the cause was to be asked of God why he so grievously afflicted the people. But he takes as granted what was most true, that God was not without reason displeased with the chosen people. It hence then follows, that they were apost, ates, and had forsaken the law: God would not have otherwise so severely punished them. Though then no one perceived the cause of their evils, though no one shewed it, yet God himself ought to have been attended to, who said, that they had forsaken the law
He then adds, Which l have set before their face. Here he takes away every pretense for ignorance; for they might have objected and said, that the doctrine of the law was obscure, and that they were deceived through want of knowledge. The Prophet anticipates this objection by saying, that the law was set before them; that is, that they were abundantly taught what was right, what pleased God; so that they now in vain and even falsely pleaded ignorance; for they went astray wilfully by closing their eyes against clear light., For this is what he means by saying that the law was set before their face: and it is what Moses often repeats,
“Behold, I have set before thee,”
(Deuteronomy 11:32, and elsewhere:)
and this he said, that the people might not seek for themselves vain excuses for ignorance, as they were wont to do.
But while we are not to overlook this circumstance, we may yet hence learn this general truth, — that the law of God is not so obscure but that we may learn from it what is right. When, therefore, Moses is quoted, and the prophets are added as interpreters, there is no ground for us to evade, or to make the excuse, that the truth is too hidden or profound; for the law is set before our face, that, the will of God may be made known to us. Whosoever then can read and hear what God has revealed once to the world by Moses and the prophets is inexcusable; for we are taught here, and in other places, that it is a mere perverseness in all who hear the law, when they do not obey: I have set the law, he says, before their face
And he adds, And they have not hearkened to my voice, and have not walked in it He defines what it is not to hearken to his voice: for even hypocrites pretend to hear, and nod with their ears like asses; but as they obey not God when he speaks, it is evident that they are deaf. Hence He says that they walked not in his voice, (245) that is, that they obeyed not his voice. He hence concludes that they were deaf; for their life ought to have testified that they had heard the voice of God speaking to them.
(245) “Voice” is for God’s word; and so the Targum renders it: they did not walk in, or according to, his word — Ed.
He then adds,And they have walked after the hardiness, or obstinacy, or imaginations, of their own heart (246) He opposes the imaginations, or hardness of the heart, to the voice of God, as we find in other places, where contrary things are stilted, that is, what men’s minds devise, and what God shews by his word to be right; for there is no less contrariety between the rule of right living and the imaginations of men, than there is between fire and water. Let us therefore know, that our life cannot be rightly formed except we renounce our own imaginations, and simply obey the voice of God: for as soon as we yield the least to our own imaginations, we necessarily turn aside from the right way, which God has made known to us in his word. This contrast, then, between the law of God and the imaginations or the obduracy of men ought to be carefully noticed.
He then more clearly explains how they had sinned, and after Baalim (247) The Prophet here adds nothing new; but by specifying one thing he shews how the Jews followed their own imaginations, by giving themselves up to profane superstitions. What indeed must happen to men, when they forsake God, and allow themselves to follow their own thoughts? what but error and superstition, yea, the abyss of all errors? In short, the Prophet in this clause intended to cut off every occasion for subterfuges; for the Jews, like hypocrites, who sophistically deal with God, might have made this evasion, and said, “Why dost thou object to us our imaginations? what are these imaginations?” Baalim, he says, “Ye have devised idols far yourselves in addition to the only true God; it is hence quite evident, that having forsaken God’s word, ye have followed your own imaginations.” He adds to Baalim, as their fathers have taught them: the relative
(246) See Note on Jeremiah 3:17.
(247) It is supposed that the Israelites made a difference between this word and God: they allowed but one God, but introduced Baalim, or inferior gods, and worshipped them. They tried to evade the charge of idolatry, by alleging that Baalim were mediators. But no excuse of this kind was admitted, as God everywhere imputed idolatry to them. Notwithstanding this example, and the distinct declaration of Scripture, that there is but one God and one Mediator, (1 Corinthians 8:5; 1 Timothy 2:5,) the error, the awful error of praying to saints, etc., as mediators, has prevailed in the Christian Church! — Ed.
(248) It makes no difference as to the meaning, but the true construction of this clause is as follows, —
Which their fathers have taught them.
The verb “to teach,” in Hebrew as well as in some other languages, admits of two objective cases. — Ed.
He at length concludes that God would take vengeance, but speaks in a figurativle language, I will feed them with bitterness The word
“Turned let their table be into an offense.”
David also complained, when describing the barbarous cruelty of his enemies, that they gave him gall to drink: and we shall hereafter see what Jeremiah says; for in speaking. of his enemies, he says that they had conspired to put him to death, and said,
“Let us set wood for his bread.” (Jeremiah 11:19)
By these words then Jeremiah intended to express the dreadful vengeance of God; for he would not onty deprive the Jews of his benefits, but also turn their bread into poison, and their water into bitterness.
We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning; and at the same time we must observe the expression, the God of Israel The foolish boasting, that they were the descendants of Abraham, and that they were a holy people, chosen by God, always deluded the Jews. In order then to check their glorying, the Prophet says, float the God who spoke to them was the God whose name they falsely professed, and that he was the God who had chosen the children of Abraham as his peculiar people. It follows —
(249) But the reason why this herb is mentioned is its bitterness, — and not its wholesome effects. It was hence chosen to designate what is afflictive and distressing. This appears from. Proverbs 5:4, “bitter as wormwood.” — Ed.
(250) See note on Jeremiah 8:14.
As he had said that the Jews were following what theyhad received from their fathers,so he says now that God would scatter them among nations, which had been unknown to them and to their fathers. He then alludes to their mischievous tradition; for the fathers had imbued their children with ungodly errors, and had withdrawn them from God, that their doctrine might become altogether familiar to them. There is then a contrast to be noticed between the knowledge with which the fathers had inebriated their children, and their ignorance of the language of the nations.
And then as he had said, that they were walking after the hardness of their own heart and after Baalim, he says, I will send a sword after them We hence see that the Prophet in both clauses alludes to the defection of which he had spoken. And he adds, Until I shall have consumed them; and this is added, that they might not promise themselves a temporary or a moderate chastisement. Jeremiah then declares, that as they had abused God’s forbearance, destruction was nigh them, and that God would contimle to consume them, until he had wholly destroyed them. It follows —
In this passage, as in many others, the Prophet endeavors by a striking representation really to touch the hearts of his people, for he saw that they were extremely refractory, insensible, and secure. Since then the threatenings of God were either wholly despised, or had not sufficiently moved the hearts of the people, it was necessary to set forth God’s judgments as present. Therefore the Prophet gives a striking description of what takes place in times of mourning. At the same time he seems to condemn indirectly the Jews for not knowing, through God’s word, that there was a calamity at hand: for God’s word ought indeed to be like a mirror, by which men ought to see God’s goodness in his promises and also his judgment in his threatenings. As then all prophecies were deemed as fables by the people, it was not without some degree of derision that he addressed them in this manner, —
Hearken ye, and call for mourners, that they may come An absurd and a foolish custom has prevailed almost in all ages to hire women as mourners, whom they called proeficoe; they were employed to mourn for others. Heirs no doubt hired these foolish women, in order to shew their reigned piety; they spoke in praise of the dead, and shewed how great a loss was their death. The Prophet does not commend this custom; and we ought to know that Scripture often takes similes from the vices of men, as from filth and dirt. If then any one concludes from these winds of Jeremiah, that lamentations at funerals are not to be condemned, this would be foolish and puerile. The Prophet, on the contrary, does here reprove the Jews, because they heedlessly disregarded all God’s threatenings, and were at the same time soft and tender at those foolish exhibitions, and all mourned at the sight of those women who were hired to lament; as the case is at this time, when a faithful teacher reprobates the prevailing folly of the Papists. For when the unprincipled men, who occupy the pulpits under the Papacy, speak with weeping, though they produce not a syllable from God’s word, but add some spectacle or phantom, by producing the image of the Cross or some like thing, they touch the feelings of the vulgar and cause weeping, according to what actors do on the stage. As then the Papists are seized as it were with an insane feeling, when their deceivers thus gesticulate, so a faithful teacher may say to them, “Let any one come and set before your eyes the image of a dead man, or say, that you must all shortly die and be like the earcase shewn to you, and ye will cry and weep; and yet ye will sot consider how dreadful God’s judgment is, which I declare to you: I shew to you faithfully from the law, from the prophets, and from the Gospel; how dreadful is God’s vengeance, and set before you what ye deserve; yet none of you are moved; but my doctrine is a mockery to you, and also my reproofs and threatenings: go then to your prophets, who shew you pictures and the like trumperies.” So the Prophet says now, “I see that I can do you no good; the Lord will therefore give you no teachers but women.” Of what sort? Even such, he says, as lament, or are hired to mourn.
We now then perceive why the Prophet speaks of hired women. Attend ye, he says; and why? They ought indeed to have been attentive to or to understand (for
Let them, he says, take up for us a wailing, and let our eyes come down to tears, and let our eyelids flow down into waters These are hyperbolical words, and yet they do not exceed the intensehess of the coming vengeance: for it was not in vain that he said at the begSnning of the chapter, “Who will make my head waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears?” As then the greatness of the calamity could be expressed by no words, the Prophet was constrained to adopt these hyperbolical expressions: Let them then take up for us a wailing, that our eyes may come down to tears: and this he said, because he saw that he was heard with dry eyes, and that the people disregarded what had been denounced:, when yet all ought to have been smitten with fear, from the least to the greatest. As then the Prophet saw that their contempt was so brutal, he says, that when lainenters came, there would then be the time for wailing, not indeed the seasonable time; but it is the same as though he had said, that the Jews would then find out how insensible they had been, in not having in due time considered the judgment of God. (251) It follows —
(251) I render the verses thus, —
17.Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, bethink yourselves; And call for mourning women, that they may come; Yea, for the skillful send, that they may come,
18.And hasten, and raise for us a wailing, That our eyes may pour forth tears, And our eyelids drop down waters.
We have said before, that when Jeremiah addressed the people in these words, they were still in a tolerably good condition, so that the king had confidence in his own resources; and his counsellors also thought that some aid would come to them from Egypt, and the people were likewise deceived. But the Prophet speaks of future events and points out as by the finger the evils which were as yet concealed from the view; for he could not otherwise teach with any authority, as he had to do with men of iron hearts. As then he saw that his teaching had no effect, and was wholly disregarded by men so slothful, he felt it necessary to form his style so as to touch their feelings.
On this account he says, that a voice was heard, a voice of wailing from Sion; where yet all exulted with joy. Then he adds, How have we been destroyed! and made greatly ashamed! The Jews thought this a fable, until they found by experience that they had been extremely hard and obstinate: but this really happened. Though they were then indulging in their pleasures, he yet proclaims lamentations to them, as though they were already destroyed: A voice, he says, has been heard, as though the Jews were bewailing the calamity, respecting which they thought the Prophet was fabling, for no danger was yet apparent.
But in order, as I have said, to condemn the hardness of their hearts, he represents them in another character, as bewailing their ruinous condition, and saying, We have left the land; in which however they thought their dwelling would be perpetual; for they boasted that they could never be excluded, as it had been declared,
“This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.”
As then God had testified that it would be a quiet habitation to his people, they thought that they were fortified by a triple wall and rampart, and that the city was altogether unassailable. But Jeremiah represents them as saying, that they had left their own land, that is, that they had been drawn and driven into exile. Then he adds, because they have cast us out This seems to refer to their enemies who had cast them out, that is, pulled down their dwellings. Some take dwellings to be the nominative case to the verb, “Our dwellings have cast us out. ” (252) But the first meaning reads better: I therefore consider the sense to be simply this, — that they were cast out and that their houses were destroyed by their enemies. It follows —
(252) The true version is that given by Blaney and approved by Horsley, —
Because they have thrown down our habitations.
The ancient versions differ, but none give the meaning of our version, which is that of Junius and Tremelius. The whole verse is in the past tense: things are represented as having already taken place: —
For the voice of wailing has been heard from Sion, -- “How have we been plundered! We have been put to great shame; For we have left the land, For they have thrown down our habitations.”
The people are set forth as assembled in Jerusalem, having been made to quit the land, their dwellings having been pulled down. — Ed.
He proceeds with the same subject, but adopts another figure. He then somewhat changes the comparison; for he had bidden them before to hire women to excite to mourning by fictitious tears, but he now addresses women in general; as though he had said, that such would be the mourning, that hired lamentations would not be sufficient, for the calamity would touch all hearts, and that mercenary wailing would not be real. Hear, he says, ye women
Why he addresses women may be accounted for in two ways: the softness of women more easily leads them to weep; there may be also here an indirect condemnation of the men, that they were deaf and so hardened that no threatenings terrified them. But the first seems to be the most suitable reason here, provided we still understand that real mourning is opposed to reigned mourning. Then Jeremiah passes from the particular to the general; that is, after having spoken of hired women, he now includes all women; for lamentation would prevail in every city, and also in every house: Hear then, ye women, the word of Jehovah
And he adds, and let your ears receive the word of his mouth He mentions on the one hand the mouth of God, and on the other the ears of women. It seems indeed a redundancy, but the repetition is not superfluous. Had he said only, “Let your ears hear the word of his mouth,” there would have been a redundancy; but he spoke before only of the word of God, and hear ye; now he adds, the mouth of God, and the ears of women. The Prophet no doubt intended to rebuke that hardness which we have often noticed. The word of God was deemed of no moment; hence he says, the mouth of God: as though he had said, “God speaks with you as it were from mouth to mouth: for though he employs my labor, I am yet but his instrument; so that you may easily find out that I declare nothing presumptuously, but faithfully deliver what I have received from him.” We hence see how emphatical is this repetition, which may seem at first sight to be superfluous. The same emphasis belongs to the ears of women; it is as though he had said, that they had been hitherto extremely indifferent, and that it was time for their ears to be attentive.
He adds, And teach your daughters; as though he had said, that such would be the wailing, that it would reach not only the old and the middle-aged, but even young girls, as yet rude and ignorant. And let every one, he says, teach her neighbor lamentation In short, the meaning is, that no women, old or young, would be exempt from this mourning, as all would be implicated in a common sorrow; for God’s judgment would reach every age, sex, and order of men, and would also penetrate into every house.
And by way of explanation he adds, For death has ascended into our windows There is here a kind of derision; for the Jews, as it has been said, had falsely promised to themselves a perpetual impunity; and therefore the Prophet adopts here a most suitable comparison. For as they sleep securely, who with closed doors seem to themselves to be beyond the reach of danger; so the Jews at that time despised God and all his judgments, as though the doors of their houses were closed. Hence the Prophet says, that death had entered in through the windows; and he thus derides their folly for thinking that they could escape the hand of God, because their gates were shut, as though. God’s power could not ascend above the clouds nor enter through their windows, when the doors were closed. In short, he intimates that the doors would not be opened by God; for though he might not be disposed to break them, he could yet immediately ascend into the windows. We now apprehend the Prophet’s design in saying, that death had entered through the windows.
And what he adds respecting palaces bears the same import; as though he had said, “Were our houses even fortified, and were they not. only commodious habitations, but made like citadels, yet God could not be excluded; for his power can penetrate through the highest and the thickest walls, so that a palace is to him like the weakest and frailest cottage.” We hence see that by this comparison he checks that foolisll confidence by which the Jews had deceived themselves, and by which they were as yet inebriated. Death then has ascended into our windows, etc.
He then adds,To cut off the young, or children, from the public ways, and the youths from the streets (253) By these words he sets forth the dreadfulness of the calamity; for the youths would not be able to defend themselves by their own strength; for by
(253) The objection, that there is an inconsisteney in saying that death entered through the windows to cut off children from the street, disappears, when we consider that the Jews thought themselves safe because their gates were closed and their city fortified. Be it so, says the Prophet, yet death will enter, if not through the gates, yet through the windows, and through our towers, and it will destroy the children who play in our streets, and our young men assembled in the squares and the wide places of our city. That those collected at Jerusalem are here meant, is evident from the nineteenth verse. Then, in the next verse, he refers to those who still continued in the country. And this accounts for the change made in the sentence, which has puzzled some expounders, and induced them to propose emendations. The verse may be thus rendered, —
For climbed has death through our windows, It has come through our towers,
To cut off the child from the street, The young men from the broad streets.
Though the gates were closed, yet death came in, not only through windows, or any openings there might have been, but also through strong towers. — Ed.
Though Jeremiah continues the same subject, he yet introduces a preface, — that he had been commanded to declare what he says here; for on account of the strangeness of the event, the prophecy seemed incredible. He might, indeed, have proceeded with the subject, and omitted the words, “Thus saith Jehovah,” and have begun thus: “Fall shall the carcase of man,” etc. But, as I have said, this prophecy seemed to the greatest part as worthless, as though it was a fable: it was therefore necessary to introduce these words, — that he came forth furnished with God’s command; and he at the same time shews that he introduced nothing of his own, but that God himself spoke. We now perceive why these few words were introduced. (254)
He afterwards says, that the carcases of men would be cast forth as dung He speaks by way of reproach, as though he had said, that all would without honor be laid prostrate by their enemies. And he adds a similitude, They shall fall, he says, on the face of the field, that is, everywhere through all the fields shall they fall as dung, which is cast forth, and which excites nausea by its sight and by its odor. Thus the Prophet here denotes foetor and a deformed sight by the comparison of dung: yet we know with what pride were they then filled. This threatening then was to them very disagreeable; but as they flattered themselves in their vices, it was the more necessary to treat them roughly; for thus ought hypocrites to be dealt with, who indulge their own delusions: the more boldly they rise up against God, the more violently ought they to be east down, so that they may at length humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.
He adds another comparison, As a handful, etc. Jerome renders it “hay.” If
This is the meaning; and at the same time he expresses contempt; for when reapers do not collect the whole produce of the field, there are still the poor, who gather the ears of corn; but when they are trodden under foot, and when there is no one to gather them, it betokens contempt; and this is what the Prophet intended to express. It now follows —
(254) Blayney and some others connect
22.Speak, Thus saith Jehovah, Fall also shall the carcase of man, Like dung on the face of the field, Or like an handful of corn after the reaper, And without any to gather it.
This would be the fate of such as remained in the country, whilst the greatest part had fled into Jerusalem. It is by keeping this distinction in view that the whole passage, from verse the seventeenth, may be rightly understood. — Ed.
This is a remarkable passage, and often found in the mouth of men, as other notable sentences, which are known as proverbial sayings: but yet few rightly consider how these words are connected with the previous context. Hence there are many who are satisfied with a simple explanation, as though it were a subject abruptly introduced, and as though the Prophet commenced something new; and they confine themselves to those words: and thus they misrepresent the meaning of the Prophet, or at least diminish much of the force of what is taught.
The Prophet no doubt has a regard to what has gone before. He saw, as I have often said, that he addressed the deaf; for the Jews were so swollen with false confidence, that the word of God was regarded worthless by them. As then some were proud for their riches, and others thought themselves more prudent than that they could by any means be taken, and others thought themselves so fortified by wealth and power, that they could easily resist any evil, — as then the minds of all were possessed with so much pride, the Prophet, in order to confirm what he had said, declares here that men foolishly gloried, while they set up their riches, or their strength, or their wisdom, in opposition to God; for all these things would vanish away like smoke.
We now then perceive why the Prophet forbids here any to glory except in God alone, and how the passage ought not to be deemed as abrupt, but connected with what he said, when he denounced destruction on the Jews, which yet they dreaded not, because they were filled with this ungodly and foolish conceit, — that they had more than a sufficient protection in their own strength, or riches, or wisdom. The rest to-morrow.
Thus saith Jehovah, Let not the wise glory, etc (255) By way of concession he calls those wise who were without the fear of God, which yet we know is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:7.) But the Prophet speaks according to the common opinion; and the meaning may be thus given, “Let; not him who seenas wise to himself glory in his own wisdom:” and so the other words may be understood. It is then added, But let him who glories, glory in this, etc. It appears from the second verse, that men are not so stripped of all glory, that they may be down in disgrace; but that they may seek a better glory, for God detights not in the degradation of men. But as they arrogate to themselves more than what is right, and even inebriate themselves with delusions, he strips them naked, that after having known that all they think they have, either from nature, or from themselves, or from other creatures, is a mere phantom, they may seek true glory.
He afterwards adds, In understanding and knowing me Though by these two word the Prophet means the same thing, yet they are not used without a design; for as men despised the knowledge of God, it was necessary to remind them, that to know God is the chief part of perfect wisdom. He therefore intended to correct the mischievous error under which almost the whole world labors; for while all attend to wxrious pursuits, the knowledge of God is neglected. We see with what ardor every one pursues his own fancies, while hardly one in a hundred deigns to spend half an hour in the day in seeking the knowledge of God. And there is also another evil, a false opinion, which proceeds from pride, — that to know God is a common thing. We hence perceive why the Prophet has employed these two words to designate the same thing; it was to rouse more fully the attention of men; for he saw that almost all were torpid and indifferent on a subject which is justly entitled to the labor of a whole life; nay, were a hundred lives given us, this one thing would be sufficient to engage our attention. But, as it has been said, what ought to be preferred to all other things is despised and neglected.
He afterwards adds, That I am Jehovah, who doeth judgment. By calling himself Jehovah, he doubtless excludes all those devices which then engaged the attention of the Jews; for the whole land was corrupted by so many superstitions, that the name of the only true God was unknown. They all, indeed, professed to worship the God of Abraham, who had delivered to them his law by the hand of Moses; but as many errors were mingled with the true doctrine, God was deprived of his own honor. It was, then, God’s will that he should be so known as to appear alone supreme, and to be alone as it were kept in view. But the explanation which follows ought to be carefully observed; for had he said only, “Let every one who glories, glory in the knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah,” it would, indeed, have been a plain truth, but not sufficiently persplcuous or evident; for the minds of men might have been in suspense, and they might have said, “What does this mean? or, why is it, that God regards the knowledge of himself to be so important? They might also have supposed that it was quite enough to confess him to be the only true God. Hence God here reminds the Jews of his own divine perfections, that they might really know that he is God, and that they might not ascribe to him an empty name. It was for this reason that I have said, that these words, who doeth mercy and judgement and justice, ought to be carefully observed.
We see at this day, under the Papacy, that the name of God is presumptuously gloried in: there is no one who is not ready boldly to declare that he worships the one true God, and yet they profane his name; for they afterwards rob God, and bestow the spoils on the dead. This passage then teaches us, that the name of God of itself would be of no importance, if stripped of his power and perfections. Hence we have then only the true knowledge of God, when we not only acknowledge him to be the creator of the world, but when we also fully believe that the world is governed by him, and when we further understand the way in which he governs it, that is, by doing mercy and judgment and justice
Now, the first thing respecting God is, that we should acknowledge him to be beneficient and bountiful; for what would become of us without the mercy of God? Therefore the true and right knowledge of God begins here, that is, when we know him to be merciful towards us. For what would it avail us to know that God is just, except we had a previous knowledge of his mercy and gratuitous goodness? We cannot know God without knowing ourselves. These two things are connected. Now, if any examines himself, what will he find but what will make him to despair? Thus, whenever God is thought of, we feel a dread, and despair in a manner swallows us up. In short, all avoid God, except the sweetness of his grace allures them. Why? Because, as I have said, there is nothing but what brings misery to us, and a cause of dread. Hence Jeremiah, while bidding men to glory in the knowledge of God, has not in vain given the first and the highest place to his mercy.
He afterwards adds, Judgement and justice When these two words are joined together, they denote perfect government; that is, that God defends his faithful people, aids the miserable, and delivers them when unjustly oppressed; and also that he restrains the wicked, and suffers them not to injure the innocent at their pleasure. These then are the things which the Scripture everywhere means by the two words, judgment and justice. The justice of God is not to be taken according to what is commonly understood by it; and they speak incorrectly who represent God’s justice as in opposition to his mercy: hence the common proverb, “I appeal from justice to mercy.” The Scripture speaks otherwise; for justice is to be taken for that faithful protection of God, by which he defends and preserves his own people; and judgment, for the rigor which he exercises against the transgressors of his law.
But, as I have already said, judgment and justice, when found together, are to be taken for that legitimate government, by which God so regulates the affairs of the world, that there is nothing but what is just and right: and hence is confirmed more fully what I have already stated, that he not only speaks generally, but intends also to remove the evils which then stood in the way, and prevented the Jews from rightly receiving either promises or threatenings; for a false glory inebriated them all, inasmuch as one thought his riches to be like an invincible fortress; another, his wisdom; and the third, his strength. As then they were full of vain pride, and thus despised God and his heavenly truth, it was necessary to bring them to order, and even wholly to strip them, that they might know that they were not to glory in anything but in the knowledge of God.
Now, the knowledge mentioned here produces two fruits, even faith and fear; for if we are fully, persuaded that there is propitiation with God, as it is said in Psalms 130:4 we recumb on him, and hesitate not to flee to him, and to place our salvation in his hand. This is one thing. Then faith brings fear, as it is said in the psalm referred to,
“There is propitiation with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
But the Prophet here distinctly refers to these two things; for God, by expressing his will to be known as being merciful, doubtless encourages us to exercise faith, so that we may call on him witIx tranquil minds, and not doubt but he is propitious to us; for he looks not on what we are, in order to repay to us wlmt we deserve, but deals graciously with us according to his mercy: and by saying that he doeth judgment and justice, he intimates, that these two things ought to dispose and turn our hearts to fear and reverence. At the same time, when God declares that he doeth justice, He supplies us with a reason for confidence; for he thus promises to be the guardian of our salvation: for, as I have said, his justice is not to render to every one his just reward, but is to be extended further, and is to be taken for his faithfulness. As then God never forsakes his own people, but aids them in due time, and restrains the wicked, he is on this account called just: we hence can then more securely, and with quieter minds, recumb on him, when we know that his justice is such, that he will never leave us destitute of help whenever necessary.
He afterwards adds, For in these I delight, saith Jehovah This refers to men; as though God had said, that he hated all who pass by the knowledge of his mercy, judgment, and justice, and become ferocious and elated with a vain hope on account of riches, or of strength, or of wisdom, according to what is said in Psalms 147:10,
“The strength of a horse pleases not God, nor is he delighted with the legs of a man;”
as though he had said, that God hates that confidence by which men presumptuously extol themselves, while they think their life and their safety to be in their own hand. So also, in this passage, there is a contrast to be understood between the knowledge of God’s mercy, judgment, and justice, and the wisdom, strength, riches, and the foolish glorying, by which men are inflated, when they seek in these their happiness. (256)
We now also more clearly see what I have before said, — that not only condemned in these words is the boasting of human power, and the glowing in wisdom and in wealth, but that men are wholly stripped of all the confidence they place in themselves, or seek from the world, in order that the knowledge of God alone may be deemed enough for obtaining perfect happiness. For the Prophet shews, with sufficient clearness, that all men without God are miserable: it hence follows, that they are not otherwise happy but in him. Then the way and manner is to be added. How are we made happy in God? Even by knowing his mercy towards us, and then by delivering up ourselves to his defense and protection, and by suffering ourselves to be ruled by him, and by obeying also his law, because we fear his judgment. This passage might indeed be more fully handled; but it is enough for me, according to my custom, to point out the main things. It now follows —
(255) The next sentence is, “the valiant in his valor:” so the Vulate; but by the Septuagint “the strong (
(256) Blayney and Venema agree with Calvin in thinking that “these” refer to such men as knew God and trusted in him, and not to “these” things, the mercy, judgment, and justice before mentioned. The versions and the Targum are ambiguous, like the Hebrew, except the Vulgate, in which “these” is in the neuter gender, referring to things, and not to men. I would render the verse thus, —
But in this let him glory who glories, That he understands, and that he knows me, — That I am Jehovah, Who doeth mercy, judgment, and justice in the land; For in these have I delighted, saith Jehovah.
“Me” is left out in the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic. “That he knows me” is only a more clear enunciation of the previous words, “that he understands:” what he understands or knows is then stated, “That I am,” etc. “Judgment,” when connected with justice, seems to refer to what the law forbids; and “justice,” to what the law enjoins. See Isaiah 56:1, where the command is, to “keep” or observe “judgment,” and to “do” or execute “justice.” God doeth judgment in that he doeth nothing wrong, contrary to what is right and just; and he doeth justice in the defence of what is right and just, and in making good what he hath promised. Judgment regards the negative part of the law, and justice the active part. In Jeremiah 22:3, we find both words, “judgment and justice,” or righteousness. Then, as it is usual with the prophets, the last is described first, “delivered is the spoiled:” afterwards judgment is set forth, it does “no wrong,” etc. But it is only when the two words occur together that they have these specific meanings; for both, occurring separately, have a much wider import. They are used together more than twenty times. — Ed.
The Prophet, after having removed the obstacle which he saw hindered the Jews from reverently receiving the truth of God, now speaks more sharply, and performs the office of a herald in denouncing the vengeance which was at hand: Behold, he says, come shall the days, in which I will visit all the uncircumcised in uncircumcision
This passage admits of two meanings. Some interpreters take as distinct these two words,
However this may be, the Prophet here denounces ruin, not only on the Jews, but also on the Egyptians and on other neighboring nations; but he yet speaks to his own people, for his word was not destined for the Egyptians, nor for the Idumeans and the Moabites. But as the Jews were wont to have recourse to the Egyptians, when any danger arose from the Assyrians and Chaldeans, the Prophet here connects the Egyptians with the Jews, and for the same reason, the other nations. We indeed know that the Idumeans and the Moabites were most hostile enemies to the Jews; but as the state of things changed, they were at one time their enemies, at another their friends; and when they saw that the Chaldeans extended their power, they saw also that they were exposed to plunder, and hence it happened that they willingly helped the Jews. Since then the Hebrews hoped that their neighbors on every side would aid them, the Prophet says that a visitation was nigh them all: and hence is confirmed what I have already said; for he distinguishes not the Jews from the Egyptians and other nations; but, on the contrary, as they had made alliances with them, he intends to unite them in one body: I will visit, he says, the circumcised with the uncircumcision For the Jews did not bear in mind that God was the protector of their safety, and that they had been set apart by him from other nations. He names the circumcised together with the uncircumcision, because the Egyptians, the Idumeans, the Ammonites, and the Moabites, were deemed circumcised on account of the covenant they had made with the Jews; and the Jews were deemed uncircumcised, because they had forsaken God, and thus profarted themselves.
It is indeed true that the Idumeans were circumcised, for they were the descendants of Esau, and had no doubt retained this external symbol; but their circumcision was altogether a mockery, as Esau had departed from the Church of God. The circumcision of the elect people was in itself efficacious; but as they had alike fallen into superstitions, they were like the uncircumcised, according to what Paul says, — that the letter of the circumcision, that is, the external rite, was nothing. We hence see that there is no common propriety in the Prophet’s words, when he denounces vengeance on the Jews as well as on the Egyptians, and names the circumcised with the uneircumcision; for the latter had uncircumcision, the former circumcision, and thus they had blended profane and sacred things together, so that there was nothing pure or uncorrupted: and hence he mentions Egypt, Judah, Edom, the children of Ammon, and Moab We have before stated why he enumerated all these nations; he did so, because they expected help from one another, so that they all despised God.
He afterwards adds, And all the extreme ones in a corner The word
He then adds, For all the nations are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart By saying, that all nations were uncircumcised, he doubtless includes the Israelites, and thus by way of reproach he takes away from the chosen people their peculiar distinction; as though he had said, that Israel was so mixed with the nations, that they only made a part of them: the Jews would have otherwise denied, that they deserved to be classed with the Gentiles; but the Prophet deprives them of every excuse, and says that they were but one nation, having no difference: All these nations then are uncircumcised And so
But as some objection might still be alleged, he says, the Jews are uncircumcised in heart He had indeed already included them in the nations; but it was necessary to insist more on this point, for circumcision might have been pleaded by them. Hence the Prophet says, that though they had the visible symbol in the flesh, they were yet uncircumcised in heart, and ought therefore to be classed with the nations. We see how sharply he reproves them: though he separates them from other nations, he yet shews that they justly deserved to be numbered with them; for God cares not for the external symbol, but regards the chief thing, the circumcision of the heart.
It is a common thing with Moses and the Prophets to call an unrenewed heart, uncircumcision, and to say that the people are uncircumcised in heart: for circumcision, while an evidence of free salvation in Christ, at the same time initiated the Jews into the worship and service of God, and proved the necessity of a new life; it was in short a sign both of repentance and of faith. When, therefore, the Jews presented only the sign, they were justly derided by Moses and the prophets; for they seemed as though they sought to pacify God by a thing of nought, without regarding the end. The same is the case now when we boast of baptism alone, and are at the same time destitute of repentance and faith: our boasting is absurd and ridiculous. And hence Paul calls the external rite, when the sign is separated from its reality and substance, the letter of the circumcision; and on the other hand he calls that the true circumcision, which is in secret and in the spirit. We may also say the same of baptism, — that the literal baptism avails hypocrites nothing, for they receive only the naked sign: and therefore we must come to the spirit of baptism, to the thing itself; for the interior power is renovation, when our old man is crucified in us, and when we rise again with Christ into newness of life.
(257) The exposition of the phrase given in this section is inconsistent with all the ancient versions and the Targum: it is what has been given by modern rabbins. “The shaven around the face,” is the Septuagint; “the shaven as to the hair,” the Vulqate and the Targum; and to the same purpose is the Syriac and Arabic. The word
25.Behold the days are coming, saith Jehovah, That I will visit every one circumcised, Who is in uncircumcision, —
26.The Egyptians and Judah, Edom also and the children of Ammon and Moab, And all the shawn on the side of the head, Who dwell in the desert; For all these nations are uncircumcised; And all the house of Israel, — They are uncircumcised in heart.
It is justly remarked by Horsley that the nations here mentioned practiced circumcision. They were hence circumcised, and yet in uncircumcision; and the Jews were like them: and the last line explains this apparent contradiction: they had the outward but not the inward circumcision. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27