COMMENTARIES

ON THE

BOOK OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH

BY JOHN CALVIN.

TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN, AND EDITED

BY THE REV. JOHN OWEN,

VICAR OF THRUSSINGTON, LEICESTERSHIRE.

 


CHAPTER 17

<241701>Jeremiah 17:1

1. The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars.

1. Peccatum (vel scelus) Jehudah scripture est in stylo ferri (ferreo) et in ungue adamantino, exaratum super tabulam cordis eorum et ad cornua altarium vestrorum.

 

The Prophet teaches us here in other words what we have often already seen, — that the Jews in vain sought refuges, for their sin had so much accumulated that it was very apparent. It indeed often happens, that men fall; but God, who is ever inclined to mercy, forgives them; and they are also often led astray through levity, and thus their sins are not engraven on their hearts. But Jeremiah says, that nothing remained for that nation but to be entirely swept away, because their iniquity was past recovery. Had they been lightly besprinkled with vices, there might have been still a remedy for them; but when their iniquities were engraven on their hearts, on their marrow and bones, what more remained for them? He had said before,

“Can the Ethiop change his skin?” (<241323>Jeremiah 13:23)

though the Ethiop may change his skin, and also the panther, yet thou art still like thyself. They had so completely imbibed a contempt for God, and also perverseness, that they could not by any means be restored to a right mind. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet in this passage.

He says that the sin of Judah was written with an iron pen, with the point of adamant; as though he had said, “They are not only slightly imbued with iniquity, for then there might be some healing; but iniquity is engraven on their inmost feelings, as though one had graven it with adamant or with an iron pen.” It hence appears, that they were wholly unworthy of pardon, as they were in no way capable of receiving mercy, how much soever God might have been inclined to receive them into favor; for their obstinacy had closed the way of salvation; nor could they apply to themselves the promises, for they require repentance in sinners.

He then adds, It is graven on the table of their heart; as though he had said, that they were so addicted to iniquity, that all their inward parts bore the impressions of it. It hence follows that the Jews were so proved to be guilty, that they in vain contrived evasions, for their own conscience condemned them. At the same time, I consider the Prophet as speaking not only of guilt, but also of sin itself, and of their propensity to evil. He means then that the Jews had not only sinned and transgressed God’s law in a way not common, but that they were also so given up to wickedness as to delight in the iniquity that was graven on their hearts. He calls by a metaphor the affections or feelings the tables of the heart: For he compares the heart to tables; as writing appears when cut in stone or brass, so when a sinful impression is made on the hearts of men, iniquity itself may be said to be graven on the tables of the heart.

He afterwards adds, And on the horns of your altars. He had spoken of the heart, he now proceeds farther, — that there appeared openly an evidence of hidden iniquity. Had he spoken only of their hearts, the Jews might have objected and said, “How canst thou penetrate into our hearts? Art thou God, to examine and try our inward emotions?” But the Prophet adds, that their iniquity was sufficiently known by their altars. He at the same time intimates, that they in vain alleged the name of religion; for under that pretense they especially sinned against God; for they had vitiated his pure worship. And to confirm this very thing he adds —

<241702>Jeremiah 17:2

2. Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.

2. Secundum recordari filios ipsorum (hoc est, cum memores erunt filii ipsorum) altarium ipsorum et lucorum ipsorum super arborem frondosam, super colles excelsos.

 

Interpreters seem not to me to have perceived the design of the Prophet here, at least they have not clearly explained the subject. He proceeds, as I think, with what he said at the end of the last verse, — that the iniquity of Judah was graven on the altars, or on the horns of the altars: how was this? even because they transmitted to posterity whatever they devised as to their ungodly forms of worship. How then was iniquity graven on the horns of the altars? even because it was not a temporary wickedness only, when the Jews cast aside the Law and followed their corrupt superstitions; but, on the contrary, their iniquity flowed down, as it were, by a hereditary right, to their posterity. Justly then does Jeremiah accuse them, that they were not only led away into evil through the whole course of their own lives, but that they also corrupted their children, for they left to them memorials of their own superstitions.

Some give this explanation, “As they remember their children, so also their altars;” as though the Prophet had said, that idolaters burnt with such ardor, that they held the altars dedicated to their idols as dear to them as their own children. But this view seems too forcEd. I then have no doubt but that the Prophet here amplifies their wickedness, when he says, that it was graven on the horns of the altars; for their posterity remembered the superstitions, which they had received from their fathers. He mentions also their groves; fD1 for on or near every shady tree they built altars; and also on all high hills. It follows —

<241703>Jeremiah 17:3

3. O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.

3. Montane, in agro substantiam tuam (opes tuas,) omnes thesauros tuos in praedam dabo propter excelsa tua, propter peccatum tuum in omnibus finibus tuis.

 

The Prophet again repeats, that punishment was nigh the Jews, and that it availed them nothing to seek for themselves recesses and lurking-places, for God would draw them forth from the mountains and expose them as a prey to their enemies.

Some render yrrh, erri, “O my mountain,” etc.; and at the first view this meaning seems appropriate; but as the context requires this to be understood of the Israelites and the Jews, who always resorted to their recesses, when any fear of enemies assailed them, I prefer another rendering. Since then at times of distress they betook themselves to their hiding-places, the Prophet says, that they would in vain attempt to escape, for the mountains would be like the fields: I will expose, he says, as in the field, or the plain, your riches and treasures, that they may become a prey to your enemies. The meaning is, that the Prophet denounces vengeance on the Jews, and at the same time shakes off their foolish confidence, which rendered them secure, so as to despise all the threatenings of God: “Ye think,” he says, “that there will be a safe refuge for you on the mountains; but God will draw forth from thence all your possessions, and expose them on the open field, so that they may become an easy prey.”

He again repeats what he had said, that God would inflict a just punishment on the Jews, because they had sinned very greatly on their high places. By high places he doubtless means all their ungodly and corrupt modes of worship. For God had chosen for himself a Temple on Mount Sion; he designed sacrifices to be offered there: but they, carried away by a foolish zeal, had built for thenlselves many altars, so that there was no hill where they had not set up some altar or another. By stating then a part for the whole, the Prophet here refers to every thing that was inconsistent with the law of God: and in order to amplify their sin, he says, In all thy borders; that is, their impiety was widely and extensively diffused, so that no part of the land was free from their corrupt superstition. Since then the land was throughout contaminated, justly does the Prophet say, “In all thy borders;” he declares that there would be no refuge for them, to preserve them and their treasures from becoming a prey to their enemies. It follows —

<241704>Jeremiah 17:4

4. And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.

4. Et derelinqueris et in te ab haereditate tua, quam dedi tibi, et servire to faciam inimicis tuis in terra quam non cognoscis: quia ignem succendistis in excandescentia mea (vel, in nare mea, vultu meo) in saeculum usque (id est, in perpetuum) ardebit.

 

Here, as it is a concise mode of speaking, there seems to be some obscurity; but as to the subject handled, the meaning of the Prophet is evident, that they would be dismissed from their inheritance, and as it were from their own bowels. Hence he says, You shall be dismissed from your inheritance; that is, though ye think yourselves to be beyond the reach of danger, because as yet the city remains safe, and ye continue in it; yet ye shall perish, as they say, living and seeing. There shall then be a dismissal from the inheritance even as to thee; that is, “Though the Lord should delay the time and suffer you to remain, yet ye shall be like the dead, for God will destroy you, though he may leave you a pining life.” It seems an emphatical expression when the Prophet says that there would be at length a dismissal even as to herself: he intimates, that though some of the people would remain alive, they would yet be given up to exile and dispersion. And it was a condition worse than death for the Jews to have their lives continued and to be scattered among their enemies.

And he says, From the inheritance which I gave to thee; and he says this that they might not expostulate with him, that their own was taken away from them. “How has the land,” he says, “become your inheritance? even because ye have obtained it through my bounty. And now, since ye are so ungrateful, why should I be blamed for taking away what I had given you? or what wrong is done to you? and what can ye object to me? for it has always been my heritage, though for a time I granted it to you. Had ye been thankful to me it would have been yours perpetually; but now when I deprive you of it, this you must ascribe to your own fault.”

For the same purpose he adds, I will make thee to serve thine enemies: and this was much more grievous than to serve their neighbors by whom they were not hated. But he shews here how dreadful would be their calamity, they being constrained to serve their enemies. He adds, In a land which thou knowest not. This is a repetition of what has been said before, and it requires no remark. He in the last place confirms what he had said of their wickedness; Burn, he says, shall fire in my nostril: but a, aph, may be taken for God’s countenance, though it often means anger. As however he says, “Ye have kindled a fire,” it seems better to render it here, In my face. Further, by the word I never, he intimates that God would be implacable to the Jews, for they had so deserved. fD2

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou kindly invitest us every day to repentance, and shewest thyself ready to be reconciled, — O grant that we may not through our perverseness reject so inestimable a favor, but submit ourselves to thee, and become so displeased with our vices as to be touched with a true and sincere concern for religion, and to labor through the whole course of our life for nothing else but to render ourselves and our duties approved by thee, and thus to glorify thy name, so that we may become at last partakers of that celestial and eternal glory which thine only-begotten Son has attained for us. — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Sixth

<241705>Jeremiah 17:5-6

5. Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord:

5. Sic dicit Jehova, Maledictus vir qui confidit in homine, et ponit carnem brachium suum, et a Jehova aversum est cor ejus:

6. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited.

6. Et erit quasi myrica (sic vertunt communiter) in deserto, et non videbit cum veniet bonum (id est, in foecunditas,) et habitabit in siccitatibus in deserto, in terra salsuginis, et quae non habitatur.

 

The Prophet, I doubt not, prefixed this sentence to many of his discourses, for it was neccssary often to repeat it, as the Jews were so refractory in their minds. We have already seen how sharply he inveighed against their false confidence: but it was necessary to lay down this truth. He then wrote once for all what he had often said. And this deserves to be especially observed, for we shall not sufficiently understand how needful this truth was, unless we consider the circumstances: the Prophet had often found that the promises as well as the threatenings of God were disregarded, that his doctrine was despised, and that he had to do with a proud people, who, relying on their own defences, not only esteemed as nothing what was brought before them under the authority of God, but also, as it were, avowedly rejected it. This then was the reason why the Prophet not only once, but often exhorted the people to repent, by setting before them this truth, that accursed are they who trust in men.

Flesh here is to be taken for man, as we may easily gather from the context. It was a common thing with the Hebrews to state the same thing twice: In the first clause man is mentioned, and in the second flesh: and arm means power or help. The meaning is, that all are accursed who trust in man. But the word flesh is no doubt added in the second line by way of contempt, according to what is done in <233103>Isaiah 31:3, where the Prophet says,

“The Egyptian is man and not God, flesh and not spirit.”

He calls the Egyptians flesh by way of contempt, as though he had said that there was nothing strong or firm in them, and that the aid which the Jews expected from them would be evanescent. So it is in this place, though the Prophet, according to the common usage, repeats in the second clause what he had said in the first, he yet expresses something more, that men are extremely sottish when they place their salvation in a thing of nought; for, as we have said, there is nothing solid or enduring in flesh. As men therefore quickly vanish away, what can be more foolish than to seek safety from them?

But it must be observed that the Prophet had spoken thus, because the Jews, in looking now to the Assyrians and then to the Egyptians, thought to gain sufficient defense against God himself, though they might not have expressly or avowedly despised God: but we shall hereafter see that God cannot be otherwise deemed than of no account, when safety is sought from mortal man. As then this false confidence was an hinderance to the Jews to rely on the favor of God, and to lead them to repentance, the Prophet said Accursed is the man who trusts in man.

It seems to be a sentence abruptly introduced; but as we have observed, the doctrine of the Prophet could not have been confirmed, had he not shaken off from his people the presumption through which they were blinded, for they thought the Egyptians would be to them like a thousand gods. We shall thus understand the design of the Prophet, if we bear in mind what was the condition of the Jews, and what were the difficulties the Prophet had to contend with, while he was daily threatening them and labouting to restore them to God. But no progress was made, and why? because all God’s promises were coldly received, for they thought themselves ever safe and secure, while the Egyptians were kind to them and promised them help: his threatenings also were coldly received, because they hesitated not to set up as their shield, and as the strongest fortress, the aid which they expected from the Egyptians. Hence the Prophet was constrained to cry out, not only once, or ten times, but a hundred times, accursed is he who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm. fD3

This is however a general truth. We also, at this day, advance general truths, which we apply to individual cases. The spirit then declares here generally, that all are accursed who trust in men. We indeed know that men are in various ways deceived while they trust in men: they begin with themselves, and seek in this and in that thing a ground of security; for every one is inflated with vain and false confidence, either in his own prudence or dexterity or power. There is then no one who does not trust in himself before he trusts in others: I speak even of the most wretched. It is indeed what men ought to be ashamed of; but there is no one so contemptible but that he swells with some secret pride, so that he esteems something in himself, and even ascribes to himself some high dignity. Then they who seem prudent in their own eyes take aids to themselves from every quarter, and in these they acquiesce. But when men look behind and before, they gather help to themselves from all parts of the world: however their goings around are useless, and not only so, but they turn out to their own destruction, for God not only derides in this place the folly of them who trust in flesh, but declares that they are accursed This curse of God ought to strike us with terror; for we hence learn that God is highly displeased with all those who seek their own salvation in the world and in creatures.

It is added, And from Jehovah turned away is his heart. Hypocrites draw this to their own advantage; for there is no one who will not object and say, that he does not so trust in man as to take away or diminish anything from the glory of God. Were all asked, from the least to the greatest, every one would boldly say that he leaves God’s honor entire, and never wishes to take anything from it: this would be the common saying. But yet, when confidence is reposed in the flesh, God is deprived of his own honor. These two things are no less contrary, the one to the other, than light is to darkness. Hence the Prophet intended here to shew that these two things cannot be connected together — to put confidence in the flesh and in God at the same time. When water is blended with fire, both perish; so, when one seeks in part to trust in God and in part to trust in men, it is the same as though he wished to mix heaven and earth together, and to throw all things into confusion. It is, then, to confound the order of nature, when men imagine that they have two objects of trust, and ascribe half of their salvation to God, and the other half to themselves or to other men. This is the meaning of the Prophet.

Let us then know that all those who place the least portion of their hope in men do in part depart from God, and therefore turn aside from him. In short, the Holy Spirit declares, briefly indeed, but very solemnly, that all are apostates and deserters from God who turn to men and fix their hope in them. But if this declaration be true as to the present life, when we treat of eternal life, it is doubtless a twofold madness if we ascribe it, even in the smallest degree, either to our own righteousness or to any other virtues. He who looks for aid from men is pronounced accursed by God, even when he expects from them what belongs to this frail life, which soon vanishes; but when we hope for eternal life and the inheritance of heaven from ourselves or from other creatures, how much more detestable it is? Let us then observe this inference, so that the truth taught here by the Prophet may keep us dependent on God only.

But here a question may be raised, — Are we not to hope for help from those men whom God may employ to assist us, and who are not only the instruments of his favor and aid, but who are also as it were his hands? for whenever men assist us, it is the same as though God stretched forth his hands from heaven. Why, them, should we not look for aid from men whom God has appointed as ministers of his favor to us? But there is great emlphasis in the word trust; for it is indeed lawful to look to men for what is given to them; but we ought to trust in God alone, and to hope for all things from him, as well as to pray for them: and this will hereafter appear more clearly. But we must now only briefly observe, that when we seek from men what is given them by God, we detract nothing from his power, who chooses his ministers as he pleases. But this is a rare thing; for when anything is done to us by men, we forget God, and our thoughts are drawn downwards to men, so that God loses a part of his honor; and when anything, even the least, is taken away from him, he condemns us, as we deserve. We ought especially to observe what he declares here, that turned away from him is the heart of man whenever he places his hope in the flesh.

He adds a similitude for the purpose of confirming his doctrine, He shall be like a tamarisk, or a juniper, as some render it. The word r[r[, oror, means a copse. But the Jews themselves are not agreed; some think it to be the juniper, and others the tamarisk; but we may hold it as certain that it was a useless shrub, not fruit-bearing for those Jews are mistaken, in my judgment, who consider it to be the juniper, for some fruit grows on branches of that. It was a shrub or a tree, as I think, unknown to us now. fD4

Then he says that they were like shrubs which grow in the desert, which see not fruitfulness, but dwell in droughts, in a land of brine. The Hebrews call barren land the land of brine or of salt: and he enlarges on the subject by saying, Which is not inhabited: for where nothing grows there are no inhabitants. The object of the Prophet, then, was merely to shew, that their hopes who look to men would be vain; for God would frustrate thenl, so that they could never succeed.

But we must notice also the other part of the simile; for the Prophet does not compare the unbelieving to dry branches, but to shrubs, which have roots, and bear the appearance of having some life. Such are the unbelieving, while success, as they say, smiles on them; they think themselves happy, and so they become hardened in their own false counsels, and reject every instruction, and, as though they were freed from the authority of God, they rejected all his prophets. Hence the Prophet, conceding something to them, says, that they were like shrubs, which indeed have roots and leaves, but no fruit, and which also dry up when heat comes. As then the heal; of the sun consumes whatever moisture, beauty, and life, may appear in shrubs, so also God would scorch and dry up the hopes of the unbelieving, though they may think that they have roots to preserve them and their life. A similar declaration is found in <19C906>Psalm 129:6, where it is said that the unbelieving are like the grass which grows on the housetops; for such grass appears conspicuous in a high place, while the wheat grows in the low fields, and is even trodden under foot; but that grass, the more elevated it is, the sooner it dries up and perishes without bringing forth any fruit; so also are the unbelieving, who for a time glory and exult over God’s children, and look down on then from their high place, because they are simple and lowly; but as from the corn comes food to us, and that very corn is blessed, so also the elect bring forth fruit in their low and despised condition, while the unfaithful, who occupy elevated stations, vanish away without producing any fruit. It is the same thing that the Prophet means here. These two parts of the comparison ought therefore to be particularly noticed. It follows —

<241707>Jeremiah 17:7-8

7. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is:

7. Benedictus vir qui confidit in Jehova, et cujus est Jehova fiducia (ad verbum, et erit Jehova fiducia ejus:)

8. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall et not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

8. Et erit tanquam arbor plantata prope aquas, et prope rivum emittet (hoc est, quae emittit) radices suas, et non videbit cum veniet aestus, et erit folium ejus viride, et anno prohibitionis non timebit, et non desinet a faciendo fructu (hoc est, a proferendo fructu.)

 

Observed ought to be the order which the Prophet keeps; for he could not have profitably spoken of this second part had he not first taken away that false confidence to which the Jews had long cleaved; for when any one casts seed on an uncultivated soil, what fruit can there be to his labor? As then it is necessary to make use of the plough before the seed is sown, so also, when we seek to teach profitably, it is necessary to pull up the vices which have their roots in the hearts of men; and this especially must be the case when we treat of faith in God alone, and of sincere calling on his name. And the Prophet had a particular reason for what he did, because the Jews had long hardened themselves in false confidences, so that they disregarded God in two respects, — they despised his threatenings, and also made no account of his gracious promises. The Prophet then couht have effected nothing had he not pursued this method, — that is, to correct the evil by which they had been long tainted; for noxious weeds must be first taken away before there can be any room for the corn to grow.

But had he spoken only negatively, that is, had he only condemned their false confidence, it would not have been sufficient. The Jews indeed might have said, that they had been deceived in placing their hopes in the Egyptians; but this might have happened through some bad men: and by looking for aid elsewhere, when disappointed, they would indeed have condemned their own counsels, but would yet have remained in suspense and anxious, without seeking God. Hence we see how suitably the Prophet began by condemning the Jews for placing confidence in men, and then how wisely he added this second part; for, as I have said, it was not enough to speak as it were negatively, without inviting them to return to God. But this is often the case in the present day; for we see that many laugh at those superstitions which have hitherto prevailed under the Papacy; but yet no religion appears in them. It is enough for them to ridicule these mummeries; but it would have been better for them to be retained in the fear of God, even by some superstition, than thus to expose evil, and yet to have no reverence for God. It is the same absurdity as to pull down a bad house and to leave man under the open air; for what end can such a thing be done? for he who is compelled to leave his house had something to cover him for a time. Hence it is not sufficient to destroy what is bad, except a good building succeeds.

This is the method and order which the Prophet observed: After having said, that all they are accursed who confide in men, he now adds, Blessed is the man who trusts in Jehovah; as though he had said, that men are wholly inexcusable in relying on themselves or on others, when God willingly offers himself to them. What then in it that prevents men from having their safety secured? Their own sin in rejecting the grace of God, which is freely offered to them; but they prefer to deceive themselves, and to ascribe to themselves and to others what justly belongs to God alone.

We see then that the ingratitude of the whole world is here condemned by the Prophet when he says, that all who trust in Jehovah are blessed: for had God concealed himself there would have been some covering for ignorance; and also a defense of this kind might have been made, — “What else could we do? We sought the aid which was within our reach: had God called us to himself or allowed us to come to him, we would have been very willing; but as he has forsaken us, it was indeed the last refuge of despair to consider what was to be done, and to seek from every quarter aids for ourselves.” Hence the Prophet here shews that all such defences were frivolous, for God had freely invited them to himself; for to no purpose would he have said, that they are blessed who trust in Jehovah, had not God set himself forth as their confidence.

But we must notice what farther confirms this sentence, which is in itself very clear, And whose confidence Jehovah is. No additional light seems to be given to the preceding truth; and then what ambiguity does it contain which requires an explanation? Blessed is the man who trusts in Jehovah; even children can understand this: the words, then, of the Prophet are either superfluous, or there is some reason why he repeats what is so clear. Doubtless the unbelief, which every one of us finds in himself, is the best teacher; for even they who seem to have real confidence in God, yet falter when some trial assails them. Since then it is a common thing with us to look around to various quarters when any danger is near, we may hence, easily know that we do not hope in God. What then seems to us so easy, we find in reality to be very difficult: and hence the Prophet, after having said, that they are blessed who trust in God, has mentioned this in the second place, And whose hope is God; as though he had said, “The world knows not what it is to trust in God: though every one boldly testifies this, and even boastingly declares that he trusts in God, yet not one in a thousand finds that he understands this, or has ever known what it is from the heart to hope in God.” We now see that this repetition is not superfluous or unmeaning.

He then adds a comparison, answerable to that in the former clause, He shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which sends its roots upon, or nigh the river, which shall not see when heat comes. Here the Prophet points out the difference between the true servants of God, who trust in him, and those who are inflated with their own false imaginations, so that they seek safety either from themselves or from others: he had said of the unbelieving, that they are like tamarisks, which flourish for a time, but never bring forth any fruit, and are also soon dried up by the heat; but he says now as to the faithful, that they are like trees planted by the waters, and send their roots to the river. The tamarisks have the appearance of life, but there is no moisture in a dry soil; so their roots quickly dry up; but the servants of God, they are planted, as it were, in a moist soil, irrigated continually by streams of water. Hence the Prophet adds, that this tree shall not see the heat when it comes.

He indirectly intimates that God’s children are not exempt from adversities; for they feel the heat of the sun, like trees, who are exposed to it; but moisture is supplied, and the juice diffuses itself through all the branches: hence the Prophet says, that the leaf was green, even by means of the moisture which the earth supplied, being itself watered. The Prophet then intimates, that though God’s children feel great heats, as well as the unbelieving; for this is common to both, they shall yet be kept safe; for though the sun dries up by its great heat, there is yet a remedy; for the root has moisture, derived from the irrigation of water.

We now then see how suitable is every part of the comparison. He says farther, that it shall not be careful. The verb gad, dag, means to fear and to be careful; it means also sometimes to grieve, and so some render it here, “It will not grieve” but the other meaning seems better to me, — that the tree planted nigh streams of waters is not afraid of heat; and then he adds, nor shall it cease from producing fruit. fD5

Nearly the same similitude is found in <190103>Psalm 1:3, only that the fear of God and meditation on his law are mentioned, and not hope:

“Blessed is the man, etc., who meditates on the law of God;”

but Jeremiah speaks here expressly of the hope which ought to be put in God alone. Yet the two Prophets well agree together as to this truth, — that all their hopes are accursed, by which men inebriate themselves, while they seek salvation in themselves or in the world, and make more account of their own counsels, virtues, power, or the aids they expect from others, than of God himself and of his promises: for he who really meditates on the law of God day and night, well knows thereby, where to put his trust for salvation, both temporal and eternal. It follows —

<241709>Jeremiah 17:9-10

9. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

9. Insidiosum cor prae omnibus (super omnia) et perversum (vertunt quidam; alii, durum; alii, eagrotum; possumus vertere, vitiosum, vel, morbidum;) quis cognoscet illud?

10. I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

10. Ego Jehova exquirens (vel, explorans) cor, examinans renes, ad dandum (id est, ut dem, ut reddam) cuique secundum vias ejus, secundum fructum operum ejus.

 

What is taught here depends on what is gone before; and therefore they ought to be read together. Many lay hold on these words and mutilate them without understanding the design of the Prophet. This is very absurd: for we ought first to see what the prophets had in view, and by what necessity or cause they were led to speak, what was their condition, and then the general doctrine that may be gafilered from their words. If we wist to read the prophets with benefit, we must first consider the reason why a thing is spoken, and then elicit a general doctrine. Thus we shall be able rightly to apply this passage to a common use, if we first understand why the Prophet said, that the heart of man was insidious. He wished, no doubt, to be more earnest with the Jews; for he saw that they had so much wantonness and obstinacy, that a simple and plain doctrine would not have penetrated into their hearts. The declaration, that they are accursed who trust in men, and that no blessedness can be expected except we rely on God, ought to have been sufficient to move them; but when he saw that there was no sufficient power in such a declaration, he added, “I see how it is, the heart is wicked and vicious; so ye think that you have so much craftiness, that ye can with impunity deride God and his ministers: I, says Jehovah, I will inquire and search; for it belongs to me to examine the hearts of men.”

We hence see that there is an implied reproof, when he says, that the heart is insidious and wicked; fD6 as though he had said, “Ye think yourselves in this instance wise; is not God also wise?” Isaiah says ironically the same,

“Woe to them who go down to Egypt and make secret covenants, and who trust in horses, as though they could deceive me: ye are wise, I also have a portion of wisdom.” (<233101>Isaiah 31:1)

Notice especially the expression, “Ye are wise, etc.;” that is, “Ye are not alone wise; leave to me some portions of wisdom, so that I may be wise like yourselves.” So also in this place, “Ye are deceitful and insidious, and think that I can be deceived:” for astute men are ever pleased with their own counsels, and seek to deceive God with mere trumperies. “Ye are,” he says, “very cunning; but I, Jehovah, will search both your hearts and your reins.” I cannot finish the whole to-day.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are wholly nothing and less than nothing, we may know our nothingness, and having cast away all confidence in the world as well as in ourselves, we may learn to flee to thee as suppliants, and so put our trust in thee for our present life and for eternal salvation, that thou alone mayest be glorified: and may we be devoted to thee through the whole course of our life, and so persevere in humility and in calling on thy name, that thou mayest not only for once bring us help, but that we may know that thou art always present with those who truly and from the heart call upon thee, until we shall at length be filled with the fullness of all those blessings, which are laid up for us in heaven by Christ our Lord — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Seventh

We began yesterday to explain that passage where the Prophet says, that the heart is insidious, or fallacious and wicked, so that no one can penetrate into those deceits which are concealed withill it. We referred to the Prophet’s object in saying this, — -that the Jews might know that their cunning was in vain, while they hid their thoughts as it were under the earth, that is, while they thought that by their false pretences they could deceive God as well as men.

He says then what he takes as granted, “I know that you have a fallacious heart.” This indeed they did not allow; for they made a specious pretext and boasted of their wisdom, and not of deceit and guile. But the Prophet speaks plainly and expresses the fact as it was, “There is in you,” he says, “a fallacious and a wicked heart: hence is the confidence, which inebriates you; for ye think that your deceits cannot be discovered.” Then in astonishment he asks, Who can search it? but the answer immediately follows, I — I Jehovah; that is, “It belongs to one to search the heart and the reins, and so nothing can escape me.” fD7 The meaning then is, that when men try to deceive God, they gain nothing, for God knows how to take the wise in their own craftiness, and to discover all their guiles and deceits. Then he adds for what end is this done, That I may render to every one according to his ways, according to the fruit of his works.

By these words he means that they, after having for a long time made many evasions, would yet be brought to judgment, willing or unwilling; for they could not possibly deprive God of his right, that he should not be the judge of the world, and thus render to each the reward of his own works: for the Prophet does not speak of merits or of virtues, but only shews that how much soever the ungodly might hide themselves, they could not yet escape the tribunal of God, but that they must at last render an account to him.

We may further gather from this passage a general truth, — that the recesses of the heart are so hidden, that no judgment can be formed of man by any human being. We indeed know that there are appearances of virtue in many; but it belongs to God alone to search the hearts of men and to try the reins. Rashly then do many form an estimate of man’s character according to their own apprehensions or the measure of their own knowledge; for the heart of man is ever false and deceitful. If any one objects and says, that Jeremiah speaks of the Jews then living, there is an answer given by Paul,

“Whatsoever things are written in the Law pertain to all.” (<451504>Romans 15:4.)

Described then is here the character of all mankind, until God regenerates his elect. As then there is no purity except from the Spirit of God, as long as mencontinue in their own nature, their hearts are full of deceits and frauds. So the fairest splendor is nothing but hypocrisy, which is abominable in the sight of God. Let us proceed —

<241711>Jeremiah 17:11

11.As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

11. Perdix quae congregat et non parit, qui facit (hoc est, acquirit, vel, comparat) divitias, idque non in judicio (id est, non recte) in medio dierum suorum relinquet illas, et in exitu suo erit nihili.

 

The Prophet no doubt intended only to shew that those who enriched themselves by unlawful means, or heaped together great wealth, would yet be subject to the curse of God, so that whatever they may have got through much toil and labor would vanish away from them; for God would empty them of all they possessed. There is therefore no ambiguity in the meaning of the Prophet, or in the subject itself. But as to the words, interpreters do not agree: the greater part, however, incline to this view, — That as the partridge gathers the eggs of others, which she does not hatch, so also he who accumulates wealth, shall at length have nothing, for God will deprive him. But the passage seems to me to be plainly this, — Whosoever makes, or procures or acquires, riches, and that not by right, that is, not rightly nor honestly, but by wicked and artful means, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at last shall be of no account, or shall be a mockery: for lbn nabal, means a thing of nought; some render it fool, and rightly, for so it often means.

But there is a similitude employed, As the partridge gathers eggs and produces not. To produce may be here explained in two ways; it may be applied to the pullets or to the eggs. Some consider the word, arq kora, to be masculine: then it is, The partridge, that is, the male, gathers, or lays on eggs which he has not produced, or did not lay. But to produce may also mean to hatch. fD8

It may be now asked, how can this similitude be applied to the subject in hand? The Rabbins, according to their practice, have devised fables; for they imagine that the partridge steals all the eggs of other birds which she can find, and gathers them into one heap; and then that the pullets, when hatched, fly away, as by a certain hidden instinct, they understand that it is not their mother. But neither Aristotle nor Pliny say any such thing of partridges. They indeed say that the bird is full of cunning, and mention several instances; but they refer to no such thing as that the partridge collects thus stealthily its eggs. These things then are fables, which it would be very absurd to believe. But it is said of partridges with one consent, by Aristotle and Pliny, as well as by others, that it is a very lustful bird. So great is their lust, that the males seek after the eggs, and lest the females should lay on them, they break them with their beaks or scatter them with their feet. There is also, as they say, great lust in the females, but a greater concern for their brood: they therefore hide their eggs, except when lust at times compels them to return to the males; and then they lay their eggs in their presence; and the male, when it finds an egg, breaks it with his feet. Hence great is the difficulty to protect the brood; for before the female hatches the eggs, they are often forced out by the male. I doubt not therefore but that the real meaning of the Prophet is this, — that while partridges so burn with love to their brood, they are at the same time led away by their own lust, and that while they conceal their eggs, the male cunningly steals them, so that their labor proves useless. Now the Prophet says, “that all those who accumulate riches in an unjust manner are like partridges; for they are compelled to leave riches unlawfully got in the midst of their days.” fD8A The purport of the whole is, that whosoever seeks to become rich by means of injustice and wrong, will be exposed to the curse of God, so that at last he will not enjoy his ill-gotten wealth.

If any one will object and say, that many who are avaricious, perfidious and rapacious, do enioy their riches: I answer, that there is no true enjoyment, when there is no use made of them and no security for them. If we duly consider how the avaricious possess what they have plundered, we shall find that they always gape for more plunder and are like the partridges; for they lay clogs as it were, and yet no fruit appears. Before any fruit is brought forth, or at least before it comes to them, they become destitute in the midst of their days. And though God permits them to hold hidden riches, yet they derive, as it is well known, no benefit from them: nay, their cupidity, as it is insatiable, is a dropsy; for they are always thirsty; and the very mass of wealth so inflames their avarice, that the richest of them has less than he who is contented with a moderate and even with a small fortune. It is then certain, that those who, even to death, possess ill-gotten wealth, do not yet really enjoy it; for they always lay on their eggs, and yet, as I have said, they derive no benefit. And then the more remarkable judgment of God may be noticed; for in a moment the richest are reduced to the extremes of poverty; and though they think to make their children happy by leaving them a large patrimony, they yet leave them nothing but what proves to be snares to them all their life, and turns to their ruin. However this may be, experience sufficiently proves the truth of the old proverb, “What is in-got is in-spent.” And this is what the Prophet means, when he compares to partridges those who accumulate riches, not by right, as he says.

An exception is to be here noticed; for a just man may become rich, as God made Abraham rich; but he became not rich by frauds and plunder and cruelty: the blessing of God made him rich. But they who by wrong and injustice accumulate wealth must necessarily at length be destroyed by God.

He says first, In the midst of his days shall he leave them; that is, even while he has money shut up in his chest, while he has his granaries and his cellars full, even then his wealth shall vanish away. We see that where there is the greatest abundance, the master himself is hungry and famishing; he cannot cat so as to satisfy his hunger, while he could feed hundreds. Thus then his wealth disappears and vanishes in his hands, he afterwards adds, at his end he will be nothing, or he will be a mockery, or he will be a fool. The world indeed esteems those alone wise, who are provident, who are attentive to their own gain, and who plunder on every side, and tenaciously hold what has once come to their hands; but the Lord here condemns them all for their folly and vanity. I think, at the same time, that the slaves of money are here called men of nought and contemptible. It follows: —

<241712>Jeremiah 17:12

12. A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.

12. Soilum gloriae excelsum (vel, celsitudo; wrm enim tam adjective capitur, quam substantive) ab initio locus sanctuarii nostri.

 

No doubt the Prophet refers to the singular favor which God granted the Jews, when he chose for himself an habitation among them. It was an incomparable honor when God was pleased to dwell in the midst of that people. Hence,the Prophet exclaims, that the throne of glory and of loftiness was the place of his sanctuary, which God had chosen in that land. But we must understand the design of the Prophet; for the Holy Spirit sometimes commemorates the blessings of God, to raise the minds of men to confidence, or to rouse them to make sacrifices of praise. Here is then a twofold object, when the Scripture sets before us the blessings of God; it is first, that we may be fully persuaded, that he will be always a father to us, for he who begins is wont to bring his work to an end, according to what is said in <19D808>Psalm 138:8,

“The work of thine hands thou wilt not forsake.”

And then, the Scripture sometimes encourages us to render thanks to God, when it shews how bountifully he has dealt with us. But here is a reproof when the Prophet says, that the glorious throne of God was among the Jews, as though God appeared there openly and in a visible form; for Judea, so to speak, was as it were a terrestrial heaven; for God had consecrated to himself mount Sion, that he might dwell there.

We now then understand why the Prophet here extols the dignity to which God had raised the Jews, when he had commanded a temple for himself to be built on mount Sion. Some will have a particle of comparison to be understood, “As a throne of glory;” that is, as heaven itself in height, so is the place of our sanctuary; but we may take the words simply as they are. We must at the same time repudiate the Rabbinical comment, — that God before the creation of the world had built the temple, as he had appointed the Messiah and other things. But these are foolish trifles. Yet this passage has afforded the Jews an occasion for labling; for it is said from the beginning, ˆwarm merashun. If the throne of God, that is, the sanctuary, [they say] was from the beginning, it then follows that it was created before heaven and earth. But this is disproved by this single consideration, — that he speaks not here of time but of the order of things, and that that order is; not according to the essence of things, but according to the providence of God. From the beginning, then was the throne of God glorious in Judea, even because God in his eternal counsel had determined to choose the race of Abraham, and then to raise up in that nation the throne of David, and from thence to extend salvation to the whole world. fD9 Predestination therefore is the antiquity of the throne of which the Prophet now speaks. Hence the most suitable view is this, — that God had honored the Jews with a singular privilege, because he had purposed to dwell among them, not otherwise than in heaven, so that their condition became more excellent than all human glory. It now follows, —

<241713>Jeremiah 17:13

13. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters.

13. Spes (vel, expectatio)lsrael Jehova, ,quicunque abs te discedunt (vel, qui te derelinquunt, ˚wbz[; hoc verbo nuper fuerat usus de perdicibus loquens) pudefient; qui deficiunt a me in terra scribentur; quia dereliquerunt (idem est verbum) fontem aquarum viventium Jehovam.

 

It appears more clear from this verse why the Prophet had commended before the excellency of his own nation, even that by the comparison their impiety might appear less excusable; for the more bountiful God had dealt with them, the more atrocious was their sin of ingratitude. As then the Jews had been raised high, so that their elevation appeared eminent through the whole world, the more detestable became their contumacy against God, and also their ingratitude in rejecting and despising a favor so remarkable, when they forsook him and followed idols, vain hopes, and their own false counsels. It is the same as though the Prophet had said, — “What does it avail you, that God dwells among you, and that the Temple is as it were his earthly habitation, where he converses familiarly with you? what benefit is this to you? for no one accepts of this favor; nay, we wilfully, and as it were designedly cast away from us this kindness which is freely offered to us.”

We hence see that all this ought to be read together, — that the throne of God was in Judea, but that the people in the meantime malignantly and wickedly rejected the favor offered them.

But the Prophet turns to God, that he might rouse the Jews, for such was their perverseness that he in vain taught them. And he says, Jehovah, the expectation of Israel! whosoever forsake thee shall be made ashamed; as though he had said, — “The ungodly multitude which accepts not the dignity by which our race excels all other nations, receives no benefit. God indeed dwells in the midst of us, but hardly one in a hundred cleaves to him; nay, almost all treacherously forsake him; but notwithstanding all their glory, they shall be made ashamed who thus reject the kindness of God.” The Prophet, in short, reminds the Jews how vainly and presumptuously they gloried, because God had adopted their race; for a reciprocity was required, so that they were to respond to God and receive his benefits. But when they perversely his favor, what could have remained for them?

Hence he says, Ashamed shall all they be made who forsake thee. By the word forsake, he intimates that the Jews had been favored by God; for this could not have been said in the same sense, and in an equal degree of the heafilens, as the heathens had never been gathered by God into one body; but the Jews alone had enjoyed this favor. When therefore he had manifested himself to them, and testified that he would be their Father, he was forsaken by them. This defection, of which the Jews alone were guilty, is noticed, because God had sought them for himself; he had also come to them, and made with them a covenant. As then they were thus brought nigh to God, this defection was the more execrable. This is what the Prophet means.

He now adds, And they who depart shall be written in the earth. Literally it is, “Who depart from me;” but the y, iod, at the end, as many think, is a servile letter. And some think that the word is a verb, and that the y, iod, at the beginning denotes the future tense, and they regard the y, iod, at the end to be for w, vau, wdwsy isuru, “Who depart.” Others suppose it to be a noun, and read yrwsy isuri, for yrwsw vasurim. fD10 As to the meaning, it is evident that the Prophet designed here to shake off from the Jews the vain glory with which they were inflated, when they boasted that they were the people of God, the holy race of Abraham, the royal priesthood; all these things he ridicules as vain, as though he had said, — “Away with all these boastings, which are all false; ye are apostates, therefore your name shall be written in the earth.” No doubt, the earth here is set in opposition to heaven; and Scripture sometimes says, that the name of the wicked shall be a reproach on earth. But as they often acquire a celebrated and honorable name on earth, the Prophet makes a concession and says, “Be it so; let the world regard you as the holy race of Abraham, the blessed seed and the chosen people; let, in short, every one of you claim for himself whatever he pleases, but your name shall be on earth, and shall be blotted out from heaven; there will be no inheritance above for you, no portion in the kingdom of God.” He in short intimates, that the Jews would have no place before God and his angels, for they were unworthy that God shouhi regard them as his children, since they had wickedly denied him. He then grants them a name on earth; but it is the, same as though he had said, that they wickedly lied in boasting that they were a chosen people, since they themselves, as far as they could, obliterated the election of God.

He afterwards adds, Because they have forsaken Jehovah, the fountain of living waters. The Prophet confirms what he had said, lest the Jews should think that they were too severely rebuked, when he said that their name was blotted out from heaven: Ye have forsaken, he says, the fountain of living waters. “What does this mean? God (according to what is said in Jeremiah 2) manifested himself to you; is there not in him a full and sufficient happiness for you? What more can be sought for by a mortal man than to enjoy his God, in whom there is the fullness of all blessings? God has offered himself to you, and his bounty has ever been extended to you, as though he were a fountain from which you might draw enough to satisfy you; but ye have forsaken this fountain. You must therefore perish through thirst, and justly so, for your ingratitude has been so great as to despise these remarkable and invaluable favors of God.” It now follows —

<241714>Jeremiah 17:14

14. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.

14. Sana me Jehova, et sanabor; serva me, et salvus ero; quia laus mea tu es.

 

Here the Prophet, as though terrified, hides himself under the wings of God, for he saw that apostasy and every kind of wickedness prevailed everywhere throughout the land; he saw that the principal men of his nation were wicked despisers of God, and that they vainly boasted of their own descent, while yet destitute of all care for justice and uprightness. When therefore he saw that the land was thus infected, in order that fainting might not overcome him, he presents himself to God, as though he had said, “What shall become of me, Lord? for I am here surrounded with wickedness; wherever I turn I find nothing but what allures and leads me away from true religion and the sincere worship of thy name. What then will be the case if thou forsakest me? I shall be immediately seized, and it will be all over with me, for there is no safety in the whole land, and no healing, it is as though pestilence prevailed, so that no one can go forth lest he should meet with some contagion.” Thus the Prophet in this passage, on seeing the whole land so polluted with crimes that there was not a corner free from them, flees to God for help, and says, “O Lord, I cannot be safe except thou keep me; I cannot be pure except my purity comes from time.” We now understand the design of the Prophet, and how this verse is connected with the preceding verses.

He says first, Heal me, and I shall be healed; as though he had said that he was now diseased, having contracted a taint from corrupt practices. He therefore seeks healing from God alone, and through his gracious help. And for the same reason he adds that then only he should be safe when saved by God.

We are taught by these words, that whenever stumbling-blocks come in our way, we ought to call on God with increasing ardor and earnestness. For every one of us must well know his own infirmity; even when we have not to fight, our own weakness does not suffer us to stand uncorrupted; how then will it be with us, when Satan assails our faith with his most cunning devices? While therefore we now see all things in the world in a corrupted state, so that we are allured by a thousand things from the true worship of God, let us learn by the example of the Prophet to hide ourselves under the wings of God, and to pray that he may heal us, for we shall not only be apparently vicious, but many corruptions will immediately devour us, except God himself bring us help. Hence the worse the world is, and the greater the licentiousness of sin, the more necessity there is for praying God to keep us by his wonderful power, as it were in the very regions of hell.

A general truth may be also gathered from this passage, that it is not in man to stand or to keep himself safe, so as to be preserved, but that this is the peculiar kindness of God; for if man had any power to preserve himself, so as to continue pure and unpolluted in the midst of corruptions, no doubt, Jeremiah would have been endued with such a gift; but he confesses that there is no hope of healing and of salvation, except through the special favor of God. For what else is healing but purity of life? as though he had said, “O Lord, it is not in me to preserve that integrity which thou requirest:” and hence he says, Heal me, and I shall be healed. And then, when he speaks of salvation, he no doubt intended to testify, that it is not enough for the Lord to help us once or for a short time, except he continues to help us to the end. Therefore the beginning, as well as the whole progress of salvation, is here ascribed by him to God. It hence follows that all that the sophists vainly talk about free-will is reduced to nothing. They indeed confess that it is not in man’s power to stave himself; but they afterwards pull down and subvert what they seem to confess, for they say that the grace of the Spirit concurs with free-will, and that man saves himself while God is co-operating with him. But all this is mere trifling; for the Prophet here not only implores help, and prays God to succor his infirmity, but he confesses that it is God’s work alone to heal and to save him.

And this he further confirms by saying, Thou art my praise; fD11 for he thus declares that he effected nothing, but that all the praise for his salvation was due alone to God; for how can God be said to be our Praise, except when we glory in him alone? according to what is said in the ninth chapter. If men claim even the least thing for themselves, they cannot call God their praise. The Prophet then acknowledges here that he contributed nothing towards the preservation of his purity, but that this was wholly the work of God. And then he confirms his own hope, as he doubted not but he would be heard by God, for he asks of him whatever was necessary for his salvation.

We have then this general rule, that if we desire to obtain from him the beginning and the end of our salvation, his praise must be given to him, so that we may glory in him alone. If then we own ourselves destitute of all power, and flee to God under the consciousness of such a want, we shall doubtless obtain whatever is needful for us; but if we are inflated with the conceit of our own power, or of our own righteousness, the door is closed against us. We now then see the benefit of this confirmation; it assures the faithful that they shall find in God whatever they may want, for they do not obscure the glory of God by transferring to themselves what peculiarly belongs to him, but confess that in him dwells what they cannot find in themselves. The rest I defer till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we may learn, whether in want or in abundance, so to submit ourselves to thee, that it may be our only and perfect felicity to depend on thee and to rest in that salvation, the experience of which thou hast already given us, until we shall reach that eternal rest, where we shall enjoy it in all its fullness, when made partakers of that glory, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son.--Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Eighth

<241715>Jeremiah 17:15

15. Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? let it come now.

15. Ecce ipsi dicunt mihi, Ubi est sermo Jehovae? veniat nunc.

 

Here Jeremiah complains of the obstinate contempt of the people; he found them not only uncourteous but even petulant towards God, so that they hesitated not to discredit all prophecies, to despise the promises, and boldly to reject all threatenings. The Prophet had often threatened them; and when God delayed the time, they made a wrong use of his forbearance, as it is commonly the case with the reprobate. Nor did they deem it enough even to add sins to sins, but they openly and petulantly provoked God, “Where is the word? many years have now elapsed since thou hast continually spoken of war, of famine, and of pestilence; but we still remain quiet, and God spares us; where then is the word of Jehovah, which thou hast announced?”

We now then see how great was the wilfulness of this people, for the teaching of Jeremiah became not only useless but was treated with ridicule. They had however heard much before from the mouth of Isaiah,

“Alas! when the Lord calls you to ashes and sackcloth, ye say, “Let us eat and drink, to-morrow we shall die.” “As I live, saith the Lord, not forgiven to you shall be this iniquity.”
(<232212>Isaiah 22:12-14.)

God then had sworn by his own glory that their sin would be inexpiable, because they continued obstinately in their vices, and were in no degree terrified by the threatenings of the prophets. We however see that they ever became worse and worse. Isaiah was dead when they thus spoke in contempt and mockery, Where is the word of Jehovah? let it now come, as though they designedly provoked God, like one who despises his enemy, and says, “Oh! thou art indeed to be dreaded, if thou art to be believed; let us now see thy power, shew to us what thou canst do.” Thus contemptibly did they utter their scoffs, when God by his servants made known to them the approaching ruin which they deserved. We see, in short, that the Prophet shews here that they had come to a hopeless state. fD12 It follows —

<241716>Jeremiah 17:16

16. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.

16. Ego autem non festinavi, ut essem pastor post te, et diem doloris non concupivi, tu nosti: quod egressum est e labiis meis, coram facie tua fuit.

 

The Prophet here implores God as his defender, having found his own nation so refractory, that they could in no way be brought to a right mind. There is yet no doubt but he intended to double their fear in thus testifying that he brought nothing of his own, but faithfully executed the command of God, that he did not presumptuously undertake the office of a teacher, but obeyed the call of God, as though he had said, that they (as we shall find in another place) did not resist a mortal man, but God himself. He therefore refers the matter to God, as though he had said, “Contend with God; for what have I to do with you, or you with me? For I do not plead my own cause, nor came I forth through any desire of my own; but as God has committed to me this office, it was necessary for me to obey. As then I am only the instrument of God, what will you at last gain after having quarrelled ever so much? No doubt God will shew that he is an adversary to you, and can ye conquer him?” We now understand the object of the Prophet.

But we have said elsewhere that the Prophet fled to God when he found no equity or rectitude in the world; yea, when all were deaf and so blinded that there was no hope of obtaining notice. When therefore men are thus perverted in their minds, we must necessarily have recourse to God. So the Prophet does now, as he had done before, leaving men he addresses his words to God; and this kind of apostrophe has more force than if he had charged them with perverseness.

But I, he says, I have not hastened. Here interpreters differ; for ≈wa, auts, means sometimes to hasten, and sometimes to be slow, two contrary things. It signifies also to be careful and to abominate or to dislike; and so some render it here, “I have not disliked, so as not to become a pastor;” for ˆm men, in Hebrew is often taken as a negative. Others give this version, “I have not been careful,” or anxious, “I have not cared to become a pastor.” But a meaning more suitable to the context may be given to the words, that the Prophet hastened not, for it follows, and I have not coveted. These two expressions, ytxa al la atsati, hastened,” and, ytywath al la ethaviti, correspond the one with the other, I have not hastened,” and “I have not coveted;” and both is a denial of his temerity. Many indeed thrust themselves, as we shall see in the twenty-third chapter, without being called by God; they run of themselves, and are led astray by foolish imaginations.

The Prophet says first, that he had not hastened to be a pastor after God, literally; for many are ruled by ambition, which leads them to undertake more than what is right for them, and they do not regard what may please God. Hence the Prophet says in the first place, that he had not hastened, and then that he had not coveted, which is not different in meaning, but is a confirmation of the same thing. But let us first bear in mind that he thus proves the impiety of the people, for they fought against God himself the author of his call. How so? had he hastened, that is, had he through foolish zeal obtruded himself, the Jews might have justly contended with him, and might have done so with impunity; but as he had waited for the call of God, they had no ground to contend with him, and by opposing the servant of God, they discovered their own impiety. fD13

Jeremiah prescribes here a law for all prophets and teachers, and that is, that they are not to aspire to this office as many do, who, as we have already said, are guided by ambition. He then alone is to be deemed a lawful minister and prophet of God and a teacher in his church who is not led by the impulse of his own flesh, nor by inconsiderate zeal, but to whom God extends his hand, and who being called obeys. The beginning then is obedience, if we wish to become lawful teachers. This is one thing.

In the second place he shews, that those who are called to the office of teaching are not endued with a sovereign power, so that they can announce whatever pleases them, but that they are pastors for God. God indeed would have his prophets to take the lead, so as to point out the way to the rest of the people, and he thus honors them with no common dignity. He would have them to be heads or leaders, or ensign-bearers, but still he himself retains his own peculiar honor; hence no one ever so presides over God’s Church as to be the chief pastor, for God takes away nothing from himself by transferring the office of teaching to his ministers, but on the contrary he remains complete in his own authority. In short, he does not resign, as they say, his own right, but substitutcs those who teach in his own place, and in such a way as still to retain what peculiarly belongs to him. Hence these words ought to be carefully noticed, I have not hastened to become a pastor after thee, that is, that he might follow God. Whosoever then takes so much liberty as not to follow God, but is carried away by his own spirit, is to be repudiated, and deserves not to be reckoned among lawful pastors.

But this passage seems to militate against what is declared by Paul when he says, that he who desires the episcopate seeks an excellent work. (<540301>1 Timothy 3:1.) Paul does not there condemn, it is said, the desire, he only reminds us how difficult and arduous is the office of a bishop. To this we may readily answer, that Paul there does not speak of that foolish ardor by which many are inflamed, while they do not consider their own abilities, or rather their own weakness; but he says, that if any offers himself to God for the office of teaching, he is to think and duly to consider that it is no common work. He ought then rather to restrain himself, while bearing in mind how difficult it is to fulfill all the duties of a good bishop. But Jeremiah here refers to what we have seen in the first chapter, for he even dreaded the prophetic office, and confessed that he was not able to speak. As then he alleged his own stammering, he was very far from having any corrupt desire. There is then nothing inconsistent in the words, that Jeremiah did not desire the office of a pastor, and that whosoever desires the episcopate desires an excellent, work.

He now adds a confirmation, The day of grief, he says, have I not desired. Some think the verb to be passive, but I have rendered it with others as an active verb, yet some read, “And the day of affliction, or of sorrow, has not been wished for by me.” But there is, in reality, no difference. He confirms what he had said, for he saw clearly, when God chose him a Prophet, that he would be drawn into hard contests; “Why, he says, should I covet the prophetic office? It would have been an insane ambition.” He found out from the very beginning the consequence of undertaking the office, that he had to contend with the whole people, yea, with every one of them, “I knew how great would be their stubbornness, and how great also would be their cruelty; how then could I have wished of mine own accord to run into danger, and to throw mysdf into so many troubles and so many sorrows?” Jeremiah then shews from what he had apprehended as to the issue, that he had not, been led by any hasty desire.

If one objects and says, that many are notwithstanding led away by a foolish ambition to undergo dangers and troubles which they cannot but foresee. To this I answer, that the Prophet assumes the fact as it was, that not only known to him from the beginning was whatever he after-wards experienced, for he had well considered what the people were, but that he had been also constrained by God’s command to renounce his own will. Many hasten because they consider not the difficulties of the office, hardly one in a hundred at this day duly considers how difficult and arduous it is rightly to discharge the pastoral office. Hence many are led to undertake it as an easy duty, and of no great importance. Afterwards experience too late teaches them, that they have foolishly desired what was unknown to them. Some think that they possess great skill and activity, and also promise themselves great things on account of their own capacities, learning, and judgment; but they afterwards very soon find how scanty is a furniture, as they say, of this kind, for aptness for the work fails them at the very outset, and not in the middle of their course. Some also, while seeing that they are to have many and grievous contests, dread nothing and put on an iron front, as though they were born to fight. Others there are who, in desiring the office of teachers, are mercenaries. We indeed know that all God’s servants are miserable as to this world, and according to the perceptions of men, for they must carry on war against the prevailing dispositions of all, and thus displease men that they may please God; but mercenaries, who have no religion and adulterate God’s word, desire the office, and why? because they see that they can deal in a pleasing manner with men, for they will carefully avoid everything that may offend, But this was not the case with the Prophet; hence he assumes, as I have said, this fact, that he sincerely engaged in his office of teaching, and was not induced by any other motive than that of promoting the well-being of the people.

He say’s that he hastened not; how so? “I should have been,” he says, “altogether insane had I been led by an inconsiderate zeal, for I know that I should have to contend, and to contend not with one man only, but with the whole people, yea, with every one of them.” Hence he calls the warfare which awaits all true pastors, the day of sorrow, for if they please men they cannot be the servants of God. And of this fact he makes God a witness, Thou knowest. Men of wind profess boldly enough that they have nothing in view but to serve God, that they do not rashly enter on their course; but the Prophet here sets himself in God’s presence, and is not anxious to secure the approbation of men, being content with that of God alone. fD14

And then he adds, Before thy face has been whatever has proceeded from my lips. By these words he intimates, that he had not vainly spoken whatever came to his mind, but what he had received from God himself, and that before God was everything which had proceeded from his mouth. We hence learn, that it is not enough for one to have been once called, except he faithfully delivers what he has received from God himself, It now follows —

<241717>Jeremiah 17:17-18

17. Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.

17. Ne sis mihi in terrorem; protectio mea tu in die mali.

18. Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be me, confounded; let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.

18. Pudefiant qui persequuntur me, et non pudetiam ego; terreantur illi, et non terrear ego; inducas super eos diem mali, et duplici contritione contere eos.

 

Now the Prophet, having appealed to God as a witness to his integrity, prays him to show himself as his patron and defender. Thus he again implores God’s aid, Be not thou, he says, a terror to me, that is, “Suffer me not while pleading thy cause to be terrified.” Thy the word, terror, he means such a dread as stupifies all the feelings. It would have indeed been wholly unreasonable for the Prophets to fail in constancy and firmness, for it belonged to God to rule them by his Spirit, and to support them by his grace, from the time he committed to them their office. Since then no one is of himself fit to discharge the duties of a faithful teacher, God must: necessarily succor and aid those whom he calls and sends to the work. This is now what the Prophet speaks of when he says, Be not to me a terror, that is, “Be not to me a cause of dread by depriving me of constancy and firmness, so as to render me an object of ridicule to all;” and why? because thou art my protection, or my hope, for the word means both.

Thou art then my protection (of this meaning I mostly approve) in the day of evil, that is, “I have chosen thee as my protector, as though thou were a shield to me; as then I have promised myself the favor of having thee as my help, see that I be not left destitute, since I have to right for thee and under thy banner.” Hence he adds, Ashamed let them be who persecute me, and let not me be ashamed; terrified let them be, and let not me be terrified.

The Prophet, as we have seen, had a hard contest, not only with one man or with a few, but with the whole people, and then it is probable that there were many sects, for when he cried against the avaricious, there was a commotion instantly made by all those who lived on plunder, when he spoke against the indulgence of lust, there was a second conspiracy against him; when he condemned drunkenness and intemperance, there was a new combination formed to oppose him. We hence see how all the ungodly in all parts and for various reasons assailed the Prophet, he was therefore constrained to pray, as he now does, Ashamed let them be who persecute me, even because they now testified that they were evidently the enemies of God, for he had no private concern with them, but faithfully obeyed the command of God. As then he knew them to be God’s avowed enemies, he hesitated not to ask God himself to oppose them. fD15

We must yet notice what we have said in other places, that the Prophet was not only influenced by a holy and pious zeal, but was also governed by the wisdom of the Spirit. This I again repeat, for there are many foolish imitators, who always appeal to the vehemence which the Prophets shewed, while they themselves are carried away by a violent rather than by a vehement impulse. But we must first see whether the Holy Spirit guides us, lest we should utter imprecations against the very elect; and then we must beware of being influenced by the feelings of our flesh, and intemperate zeal is ever to be feared, for it is a rare gift so to burn with zeal as to join with it the moderation that is required. As then there is always something turbulent in our zeal, we must remember that the Prophets never uttered a word but as the Spirit guided their tongues, and then that they had no regard to themselves, and, thirdly, that they were so calm and composed in their ardor that they were not, guilty of excess.

The Prophet no doubt fully knew that all those were reprobate on whom he imprecated God’s vengeance, but as it does not belong to us to distinguish between the elect and the reprobate, let us learn to suspend and check our zeal, so that it may not be too fervid, for we may often mistake, if we follow generally what the Prophet says here, Bring on them the day of evil, and with a double breach break them. Were we thus to speak indiscriminately of all, our zeal would often hit the very children of God. We must therefore bear in mind, that before the Prophet uttered this imprecation he was taught by the Spirit of God that he had to do with reprobate and irreclaimable men. Now a new discourse follows —

<241719>Jeremiah 17:19-21

19. Thus said the Lord unto me, Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;

19. Sic dixit mihi Jehova, Vade et sta in porta filiorum populi; per quam ingrediuntur reges Jehudah, et per quam egrediuntur, (ad verbum, e qua egrediuntur in ipsa; sed wb est supervacuum,) et onmibus portis Jerusalem:

20. And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:

20. Et dic illis, Audite sermonem Jehovae, reges Jehudah, et totus Jehudah, et omnes incolae Jerusalem, qui ingredimini per has portas

21. Thus saith the Lord, Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath-day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.

21. Sic dicit Jehova, Custodite vos, (vel, cavete vobis,) in animabus vestris, ne inferatis onus die sabbathi, (ne tollatis,)et inferatis per portas Jerusalem.

 

This discourse is no doubt to be separated from the preceding one, and whosoever divided the chapters was deficient in judgment as to many other places as well as here. Now the meaning is, that so great and so gross was the contempt of the law, that they neglected even the observance of the Sabbath; and yet we know that hypocrites are in this respect very careful, nay, Isaiah upbraided the men of his day that they made so much of their sanctity to consist in the outward observance of days. (<230113>Isaiah 1:13.) But, as I have already said, the Jews were so audacious in the time of Jeremiah that they openly violated the Sabbath, men were become so lost, as we commonly say, as not to pretend any religion. The licentiousness of the people was so great that they had no shame; nay, they all openly shewed that they had wholly cast away the yoke of God and of his law. When this was the case at Jerusalem, wlmt can we think was done in obscure villages where so much religion did not exist? for if there was any right teaching, if there was any appearance of religion, it must have been at Jerusalem.

We now then see that the Prophet was sent by God to charge the people with this gross and base contempt of the law; as though he had said, “Go to now, and pretend that you retain at least some religion: yet even in this small matter, the observance of the Sabbath, ye are deficient, for ye bring burdens, that is, ye carry on business on the Sabbath as on other days. As then there is not among you even an external sanctity as to the Sabbath, why do you go on with your evasions? for your impiety is sufficiently proved.” We now see what the Prophet means, and what the import of this discourse is which we are now to explain.

He says first, that he was sent, go, to bring this message. He had been indeed chosen before a prophet; but he speaks here of a special thing which he was commissioned to do: and he says that he was sent to the chief gate of the city, through which the kings entered in and went out and the whole people. fD16 and then that he was sent to all the gates. By these words he means, that it was not God’s will that the profanation of the Sabbath should be partially made known, but be everywhere proclaimed, in order that he might shame not only the king but also the whole people. The prophets usually spoke first in the Temple, and then they went to the gates, where there was a larger concourse of people. But Jeremiah had here something unusual; for God intended most clearly to condemn the Jews for their base and inexcusable contempt of the Sabbath.

He then adds, Thou shalt say to them, Hear the word of Jehovah, ye kings of Judah, and let all the people hear, and let all the citizens of Jerusalem hear, who enter in at these gates. The Prophet was commanded to begin with the king himself, who ought to have repressed so great a licentiousness. It was therefore an intolerable indifference in the king silently to bear this contempt of religion, especially in a matter so easy and so evident; for he could not have pretended that he was unacquainted with it: it was indeed the same as though the Jews intended to triumph against God, and to shew that his law was deemed of no value. Hence the profanation of the Sabbath was a proof of their shamelessness, as they thereby shewed that they cared nothing either for God or for his law. We shall hereafter see how great that wickedness was; but; I shall defer the subject, as I cannot now discuss it at large, and a more convenient opportunity will offer itself.

He bids them to attend, or to beware in their souls. Some render the words, “As your souls are precious to you.” But I take souls, not for their lives, but for the affections of their hearts; as though he had said, “Take heed carefully of yourselves, that this may be laid up in your inmost heart.” The word pn nuphesh, means often the heart, the seat of the affections. It is said in <050415>Deuteronomy 4:15,

“Take heed to yourselves, kytwpnl lanupheshuticam,
to your souls.”

here it is, kytwpnb, benupheshuticam, “in your souls;” but there, “to” or “for your souls,” as also in <062311>Joshua 23:11. But the same thing is meant, and that is, that they were to take great heed, to take every care, to exert every effort, and, in short, every faculty of their souls. Take heed then carefully, fD17 he says, take heed with every thought and faculty of your soul, that ye carry no burden on the Sabbath-day, and that ye bring it not through the gates of Jerusalem. It was a thing not difficult to be observed; and further, it was a most shameless transgression of the law; for, as I have said, by this slight matter they shewed that they despised the law of God, while yet the observance of the Sabbath was a thing of great importance: it was important in itself, but to observe it was easy. Hence appeared the twofold impiety of the people, — because they despised God’s singular favor, of which the seventh day was an evidence; and, because they were unwilling to take rest on that day, and in so easy a matter, they hesitated not, as it were, to insult God, as it has been before said.

Hence we ought to notice also what he says in these words, Carry no burden, and bring it not through the gatesof Jerusalem: and this was emphatically added; for it was not lawful even in the fields or in desert places to do anything on the Sabbath; but it was extremely shameful to carry a burden through the gates of Jerusalem; it was as though they wished publicly to reproach and despise God. Jerusalem was a public place; and it was as though one was not content privately to do dishonor to his neighbor or his brother, but must shew his ill-nature openly and in the light of day. Thus the Jews were not only reproachful towards God, but also dared to shew their impiety in his own renowned city, and, in short, in his very sanctuary. The rest we must defer.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only in former times sent thy prophets, but makest the testimony of thy will to be declared to us daily, — O grant, that we may learn to render ourselves teachable and submissive to thee, and so willingly bear thy yoke, that thy holy word may gain among us that reverence which it deserves: and may we so submit ourselves to thee, while thou speakest to us by men, that we may at length enjoy a view of thy glory, in which will consist our perfect felicity; and that we may not only contemplate thy glory face to face, but also hear thee thyself speaking, and so speaking, that we shall delight in that sweetness, which is laid up for us in hope, through Christ, our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Sixty-Ninth

<241722>Jeremiah 17:22

22. Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath-day, neither do ye any work; but hallow ye the Sabbath-day, as I commanded your fathers.

22. Et ne efferatis onus e domibus vestris die Sabbathi, et omne opus ne faciatis (nullum opus faciatis,)et sanctificetis diem Sabbathi, quemadmodum praecepi patribus vestris.

 

We stated in our last lecture why the Prophet so severely reproved the Jews for neglecting an external rite. It seems indeed a thing in itself of small moment to rest on one day; and God by Isaiah clearly declares, (<230113>Isaiah 1:13,) that he cares not for that external worship, for hypocrites think they have done all their duty when they rest on the seventh day; but God denies that he approved of such a service, it being like a childish play. We know what Paul says, that the exercises of the body do not profit much. (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8.) This was not written when Jeremiah spoke, but it must have been written in the hearts of the godly. It might then, at the first view, appear a strange thing, that the Prophet insisted so much or a thing of no great moment: but the reason I have briefly explained, and that was, — because the gross impiety of the people was thereby plainly detected, for they despised God in a matter that could easily be done. Men often excuse themselves on the ground of difficulty, — “I could wish to do it, but it is too onerous for me.” They could not have alleged this as to the sanctification of the Sabbath; for what can be easier than to rest for one day? Now, when they carried their burdens and did their work on the Sabbath as on other common days, it was, as it were, designedly to shake off the yoke, and to shew openly that they wholly disregarded the authority of the law.

Another reason must also be noticed, which I have not yet, stated: God did not regard the external rite only, but rather the end, of which he speaks in <023113>Exodus 31:13, and in <262012>Ezekiel 20:12. In both places he reminds us of the reason why he commanded the Jews to keep holy the seventh day, and that was, that it might be to them a symbol of sanctification.

“I have given my Sabbaths,” he says, “to you, that ye might know that I am your God who sanctifies you.”

If then we consider the end designed by the Sabbath-day, we cannot say that it was an unimportant rite: for what could have been of more importance to that ancient people than to acknowledge that they had been separated by God from other nations, to be a holy and a peculiar people to him, nay, to be his inheritance?

And it appears from other places that this command was typical. We learn especially from Paul that the Sabbath-day was enjoined in order that the people might look to Christ; for well known is the passage in <510216>Colossians 2:16, where he says that the Sabbath as well as other rites were types of Christ to come, and that he was the substance of them. And the Apostle also, in the Epistle to the <580409>Hebrews 4:9, shews that we are to understand spiritually what God had formerly commanded respecting the seventh day, that is, that men should rest from their works, as God rested from his works after he had finished the creation of the world: and Isaiah, in <235801>Isaiah 58, teaches us with sufficient clearness what the design of the Sabbath is, even that the people should cease from their own pleasure; for it was to be a day of rest, in which they were truly to worship God, and to leave off pursuing any of the lusts of their own flesh. And God did not simply forbid them to do some things; but he says,

“Thou shalt rest from all thy work.”
(
<022010>Exodus 20:10; <050514>Deuteronomy 5:14)

To come to the Temple, to offer sacrifices, and to circumcise infants, were indeed works; but we cannot say that it was a human work to circumcise infants, for they obeyed God’s command in thus presenting to him their offspring; and it was the same when they came to sing God’s praises and to offer sacrifices.

We now then perceive that the design as to the ancient people was, that they might know that they were to rest from all the works of the flesh; and God, that he might more easily bend them to obedience, set before them his own example; for there is nothing more to be desired than a mutual agreement between us and God. For this reason God says,

“I rested the seventh day from all my works: therefore, rest ye also now from your works.” (<022011>Exodus 20:11)

God had no doubt chosen the seventh day, that men might devote themselves wholly to the consideration of his works. However this may be, we see that the principal thing on the seventh day was the worship of God. And even heathen writers, whenever they speak of the Sabbath, mention it as the difference between the Jews and the rest of the world. It was, in short, a general profession of God’s worship, when they rested on the seventh day. When they now regarded it as nothing, by carrying their burdens and violating their sacred rest, it was doubtless nothing less than wantonly to cast away the yoke of God, as though they openly boasted that they despised whatever he had commanded. There was then in the violation of the Sabbath a public defection from the law. As then the Jews had become apostates, Jeremiah with severity justly condemns them; and hence he says that their extreme impiety was sufficiently proved, because they thus disregarded the seventh day.

He says further, Carry not a burden from your houses. Under one thing he includes every worldly business, by which they violated the Sabbath, though he afterwards adds also what is general, And do no work, but sanctify the Sabbath, as I commanded your fathers. To sanctify the Sabbath-day is to make it different from the other days; for sanctification is the same as separation: they ought not then to have done their own concerns on that day as on other days; for it was a day consecrated to God. He then adds, that it was a day which he commanded their fathers to keep holy. He doubtless claims here authority for the law on the ground of time; as though he had said, that he did not introduce the law on that day or on the day before, but that from the time he gathered the people for himself, the precept concerning the observance of the Sabbath had been given, as it was evident; for God at the beginning thus spoke by Moses,

“Remember the seventh day,” etc. (<022008>Exodus 20:8.)

As then the whole law of God and the whole of religion fell to the ground through the violation of the Sabbath, the Prophet rightly reminded them here that this day was commanded to be observed by their fathers. We may add further, that they were not ignorant of the memorable punishment by which God had sanctioned the observance of the Sabbath, when by his command he who gathered wood on that day was stoned to death. It now follows —

<241723>Jeremiah 17:23

23. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.

23. Et non audierunt, et non inclinarunt aurem suam, et obduraverunt cervicem suam non audiendo et non recipiendo disciplinam.

 

Here the Prophet exaggerates their crime, — that the Jews had not now begun for the first time to violate this precept of the Law; for he reminds them that the Sabbath had been before violated by their fathers. We have said elsewhere that men are less excusable when the children follow the bad examples of their fathers. This is indeed what the world does not commonly think; for we see at this day, that most men boast of the examples of their fathers, when they wish to reject both the Law and the Prophets and the gospel: they think themselves to be defended by a strong shield, when they can object to us and say that the fathers had done otherwise. But we have seen from many passages how frivolous is such a defense; and Jeremiah here confirms the same thing, by saying that the crime of the people was the more atrocious, because their fathers had many ages before begun to despise this command of God.

But they heard not, fD18 he says, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck. By these words he shews most clearly that their fathers had not sinned through inadvertence or ignorance, but because they had hardened themselves in the contempt of God. It often happens that men, rightly taught, go astray through ignorance, as their want of knowledge may prevent them to understand what they hear: but when men incline not their ear, but harden their neck, their obstinacy becomes manifest, for they knowingly and wilfully reject God. Such perverseness then does Jeremiah here set forth by the various expressions he employs, as we have seen done in other places.

As to the hardening of the neck, it is a metaphor, as stated elsewhere, taken from untameable oxen. God compares his law to a yoke, and for the best reason; for as the oxen are tamed that they may labor and are trained to obey when the yoke is laid on them; so also God proves our obedience, when he rules us by his law, for we otherwise wander after our lusts. As therefore God corrects and checks in us by his law, all the unruly passions of the flesh, he is said to lay his yoke on us. Now, if we are intractable and do not submit to the authority of God, we are said to harden our neck. Jeremiah speaks afterwards without a metaphor, and says, That they heard not, nor received instruction, or correction. fD19 The word rswm musar, means teaching or correction. The import of the whole is, that the Jews were not only unteachable when the will of God was plainly made known to them, but that they were also refractory and perverse in their spirit: for when to teaching were added exhortations the more to stimulate them, and when to these were added threatenings, yet God could not by any means subdue their wantonness. It now follows--

<241724>Jeremiah 17:24-25

24. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath-day, but hallow the sabbath-day, to do no work therein;

24. Et erit, si audiendo audieritis me, dicit Jehova, ne efferatis onus per portas urbis hujus die Sabbathi, et ad sanctificandum diem (hoc est, si sanctificatis diem,) non agendo in eo quicquam operis;

25. Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain for ever.

25. Tunc (copula enim hic accipitur pro adverbio temporis) ingredientur per portas urbis hujus Reges et principes, sedentes super solium Davidis, vecti curru et equis, ipsi et proceres eorum, vir Jehudah, et incolae Jerusalem, et habitabitur urbs haec in perpetuum.

 

Jeremiah introduced, as I have said, a condemnation as to the fathers, that he might make the Jews of his age ashamed of themselves, lest they shouhl imitate the example of those whom they saw to have been disobedient to God. He yet shews, that God would be reconciled to them, provided they from the heart repented; as though he had said, — “Your fathers indeed provoked, for many years, and even for ages, the vengeance of God; but as he is ever inclined to mercy, he is ready to forgive you, if only you cease to follow your fathers and return to him.” In short, he promises them pardon for the time past, if they turned to God.

If by hearing ye will hear, he says, so as to carry no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath-day, and to sanctify (this is connected with “hear”) the sabbath-day, so that ye do no work on it; then shall enter through the gates of this city kings and princes, etc. He first promises them a perpetuity as to the kingdom; and it was the chief happiness of the people to have a king from the posterity of David; for thus they saw as it were with their eyes the favor of God present, with them, inasmuch as David and his posterity were visible pledges of God’s favor. And we must remember also, that that kingdom was a type of a better kingdom, which had not yet been plainly discovered. Hence in the posterity of David the Jews beheld Christ, until he was manifested. For this reason I said, that they were miserable without a king, and that the perpetuity of the kingdom was a main part, of their happiness. This is the reason why Jeremiah now sets before them, as a singular benefit, the continuance of David’s kingdom among them, provided they observed the sabbath-day: and thus God did not only strictly demand what he had a ritht to do, but also allured them by the sweetness of his promise, according to his usual manner. He may indeed in one word command what he pleases; but when he invites us by promises, he has a regard to our infirmity.

But it may be here asked, Was the rest on the seventh day of such a moment, that God should on that account promise to them the perpetuity of the kingdom? The answer has been already given, that is, that the end, which was spiritual, was connected with the outward rite; for God commanded the people to keep holy this day, that they might have a manifest symbol:, as it has been said, of their own sanctification. When therefore the Prophet thus speaks, If ye carry no burden through the gates of this city, that is, If ye observe the sabbath-day, the perpetuity of the kingdom shall be secured to you, — when he thus speaks, he had doubtless, as I have said, a regard to a true observance of the day, which consists not in the naked rite, but included something greater and more excellent, even that they might learn by self-denial to render themselves up to God to be ruled by him; for God will not work in us, unless we first renounce our own reason and the thoughts and feelings of our flesh. In the observance of the Sabbath, therefore, is briefly included the whole of religion: hence he says, Enter in shall kings and princes, sitting on the throne of David.

Noticed also ought to be the state of things at that time: It was a time when the country was nearly in ruins and the kingdom greatly weakened, so that the kings and the whole people were daily exposed to danger. When therefore there were hardly any means to defend the city and to support the kingdom, Jeremiah promised it, as a special favor from God, that the kings and the Princes would be rendered secure. From the family of David, as it is well known, were descended the royal counsellors; and hence he says of the counsellors as well as of the king, that they would sit on the throne of David: and he further says, They shall ride in a chariot and on horses, they the kings and their princes; and he adds, the men of Judah, etc. He extends the promise to the whole body of the people; after having spoken of the chief men, he then adds, that the whole community would be partakers of this blessing and favor of God; for the kingdom was formed, that the whole people might know that they were under God’s care and protection. It was not then without reason that Jeremiah states here that this blessing would be conferred in common on the whole people.

And inhabited, he says, shall be the city perpetually. For the same reason he also adds this; for Jerusalem was then in great danger; nay, there were new terrors daily, and there was a horrible desolation in every part, for the whole country had been visited with many calamities. Jeremiah therefore promised now what in a manner seemed incredible, that is, that the city would be made safe, if they truly and faithfully worshipped God, and testified that by observing the Sabbath. The meaning is, that it would be their own fault, if they found not the aid of God sufficient for them, that even if they were besieged by enemies, yet God would be a sure protector of their safety, provided they became his true and faithful servants. He afterwards adds —

<241726>Jeremiah 17:26

26. And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt-offerings, and sacrifices, and meat-offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the Lord.

26. Et venient ex urbibus Jehudah, et ex circuitibus (hoc est, ex toto circuitu) Jerusalem, et ex terra Benjamin, et ex planitie, et ex monte (hoc est, ex montibus, vel, regionibus montanis,) et a meridie, afferentes holocaustum, sacrificium, et oblationem hjnm et thus, et afferentes confessionem (vel, laudem,) in domum Jehovae.

 

Here he mentions the second part of the blessing; for the whole people would be preserved safe in the possession of their kingdom and priesthood, as in both the favor of God appeared; for both the king and the priest were types of Christ. For as by the priesthood they knew that God was propitious to them, they being reconciled to him by sacrifices, and as by the kingdom they knew that God was the protector and guardian of their safety, so these two things constituted a real and complete happiness. Hence the Prophet, having mentioned one of these things, now proceeds to the other, —

They shall come from the cities of Judah ad from the whole circuit of Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from other places, to offer sacrifices in the Temple. Sacrifices of themselves could not indeed serve the people; but Jeremiah assumed this principle, — that reconciliation was not in vain promised to the people by the sacrifices; for sins were really atoned, and Godas it were came forth to gather a people for himself. It was the same as though God said, that he would by all means be gracious to them, if only they observed the Sabbath, that is, if they with a pure heart devoted themselves to his service. The country, as I have said, was in a great measure laid waste; but the Prophet, after having spoken of the city, now adds, that all Judea would become inhabited, for from thence they would ascend to the Temple to offer sacrifices. After having mentioned the whole circuit, he names the land of Benjamin, the half tribe of whom, as it is well known, had continued in the faith, and had not separated from the family of David; indeed a part of the city was in the tribe of Benjamin.

He afterwards adds, the plain and the mountains, as though he had said, God’s worshippers would come from all the neighboring region to celebrate the feasts and to offer sacrifices as usual.

At last he mentions burnt-offering, sacrifice, and oblation, hjnm, meneche; the three principal offerings. But Jeremiah wished to shew briefiy that God would cause religion to flourish and prevail among them as before. But after having spoken of the external worship, he then refers to the end, They shall bring, he says, confession, or praise, hdwt, tude, into the Temple. fD20 Here by one word Jeremiah includes the chief thing in sacrifices, as we may learn from <190101>Psalm 1:14, 23; where it is said,

“sacrifice praise unto God.”

God there rejects the sacrifices which were offered by the Jews without a right motive: he then shews what he required, commanding them to sacrifice praise. So now Jeremiah teaches us that the design of all sacrifices was to celebrate the name of God, that is, that the Jews might profess that they owed all things to him, that they received their life and their safcty freely from him. in short, they were thereby to testify their gratitude before God. So at this day this truth remains the same, though the types have been abolished: we do not offer calves or oxen or rams, but the sacrifice of praise, by confessing and proclaiming his benefits and blessings, according to what the Apostle says in <581315>Hebrews 13:15. But what ought to prevail among us apart from types, was formerly accompanied with types; and yet this truth was observed by the Jews in common with us, — that while they offered their sacrifices under the Law, they were to testify their gratitude by visible symbols. Let us proceed —

<241727>Jeremiah 17:27

27. But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath-day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath-day; then will I kindle a firein the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

27. Quod si non audietis me ad sanctificandum diem sabbathi, et non tollendo onus, et ingrediendo per portas Jerusalem die sabbathi; tunc accendam ignem in portis ejus, et vorabit palatia Jerusalem, et non extinguetur.

 

Now, on the other hand, the Prophet terrifies them, if they hearkened not to the promises of God. God first kindly allures us; but when he sees us to be refractory, he deals with us according to the hardness of our hearts. He therefore now adds threatenings to promises. He had said, that the Jews would be happy, if they worshipped and served God faithfully; for their priesthood and their kingdom would be continued to them.

But he now adds, If ye will not obey, so as to sanctify the sabbath-day, and not to carry a burden on it, and not to enter through the gates of Jerusalem, that is, for the purpose of doing business (for it was lawful for them, as it is well known, to go out of the city, but by entering he means the transaction of business) — If then ye will not hearken to me in this respect, then, he says, I will kindle a fire in the gates of this city. We see the design of the Prophet, — that he would have the Jews to entertain a sure hope of their safety, provided they repented, and provided the pure and uncorrupted worship of God prevailed among them; but that, on the other hand, he wished to fill them with terror, if they went on in their obstinacy.

No doubt this commination greatly offended them; for we know how self-confident they were, and how foolishly they boasted that the city, in which God had his habitation, could not be demolished; and yet the Prophet declares here that the destruction of the holy city was nigh at hand, if they violated the sabbath-day as they had been accustomed to do. But that this punishment might not seem to be too severe, he shews that the people were inexcusable, if they rejected these plain warnings: he says, If ye will not hearken to me; for they might have otherwise objected and said, that they had been deceived, as they did not think that there was so great a sin in violating the Sabbath. Jeremiah now excludes all such evasions, for he says in effect, “Behold I am present with you by God’s authority; if ye will violate the Sabbath as hitherto, what excuse can you make? Have you not been proved guilty of open impiety? for God has spoken; and how is it that ye reject his teaching?” We thus see that this, If ye will not hearken to me so as to sanctify the Sabbath, was said to anticipate an objection.

He then adds, Devour shall the fire the gates of the city, and shall not be extinguished, that is, shall not be extinguished until it shall consume the whole city and its gates. We indeed know that assemblies were then held at the gates, and that they were therefore places of great importance. As to the fire it is to be taken metaphorically for destruction; and yet we know that even fire was kindled by the Chaldeans; for they deemed it not enough to demolish the city, but proceeded still farther: hence the Temple was burnt, and the houses were consumed by fire. We ought however to explain the word of the Prophet as meaning simply this — that God’s vengeance would be like fire, destroying and consuming all things, so that not even the gates would remain. Something usually remains when cities are demolished to the foundations; but God threatens the Jews with something more grievous — that the city would not be in a common way destroyed, but be so wholly consumed that nothing would remain. We shall proceed to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou dost not now prescribe to us one day on which we are to testify that we are sanctified by thee, but commandest us to observe a sacred rest through our whole life, so as to renounce ourselves and the world, — O grant, that we may really contemplate this rest, and so crucify the old man, that being effectually united to thine only-begotten Son, we may become also partakers of that resurrection in which he has led the way, and be gathered into that celestial kingdom which he has procured for us by his death and resurrection, after having so fought in this world, under thy banner, that thou mayest ever reign in us and rule and govern us by thy Spirit, so that nothing throughout life may be our own doing, but that we suffer ourselves to be governed by thee, until thou at length become to us all in all. — Amen.


CHAPTER 18

Lecture Seventieth

<241801>Jeremiah 18:1-6

1. The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

1. Sermo qui fait ad Jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,

2. Arise, and go down to the potter’s house; and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

2. Surge, et descende in domum figuli, et faciam audire fD21 te verba mea.

3. Then I went down to the potter’s house; and behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

3. Et descendi in domum figuli, et ecce ipse faciens opus super lapide (super typo; alii vertunt, super rotam:)

4. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed god to the potter to make it.

4. Et corruptum fuit vas, quod ipse faciebat ex luto (lutum, ad verbum) in manu figuli; et reversus est, et fecit vas aliud sicut rectum fuit in oculis figuli ut faceret:

5. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

5. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

6. Annon sicut figulus hic potero vobis facere, domus Israel? dicit Jehova: ecce sicut lutum in manu figuli, ita vos in manu mea, domus Israel.

 

The sum of what is here taught is, that as the Jews gloried in God’s singular favor, which yet had been conferred on them for a different purpose, even that they might be his sacred heritage, it was necessary to take from them a confidence of this kind; for they at the same time heedlessly despised God and the whole of his law. We indeed know that in God’s covenant there was a mutual stipulation — that the race of Abraham were faithfully to serve God, as God was prepared to perform whatever he had promised; for it was the perpetual law of the covenant.,

“Walk before me and be perfect,”

which was once for all imposed on Abraham, and extended to all his posterity. (<011701>Genesis 17:1.) As then the Jews thought that God was by an inviolable compact bound to them, while they yet proudly rejected all his prophets, and polluted, and even as far as they could, abolished, his true favorship, it was necessary to deprive them of that foolish boasting by which they deluded themselves. Hence the Prophet was commanded to go down to the potter’s house, that he might relate to the people what he saw there, even that the potter, according to his own will and pleasure, made and re-made vessels.

It seems indeed at the first view a homely mode of speaking; but if we examine ourselves we shall all find, that pride, which is innate in us, cannot be corrected except the Lord draws us as it were by force to see clearly what it is, and except he shews us plainly what we are. The Prophet might have attended to God speaking to him at his own house, but he was commanded to go down to the house of the potter — not indeed for his own sake, for he was willing to be taught — but that he might teach the people, by adding this sign as a confirmation to his doctrine.

He then relates what had been enjoined him, that he descended into the potter’s house; and then he relates what he saw there — that when the potter formed a vessel it was marred, and that he then made another vessel from the same clay, and, as it seems, one of a different form; for there is a peculiar emphasis in these words, as it seemed right in his eyes. The application is afterwards added — cannot I, as the potter, change you, O house of Israel? Doubtless, ye are in my hand as the clay in the hand of the potter; that is, I have no less power over you than the potter over his work and his earthen vessels. fD22

We now see what this doctrine contains — that men are very foolish when they are proud of their present prosperous condition, and think that they are as it were fixed in a state of safety; for in a single moment God can cast down those whom he has raised up, and also raise up on high those whom he has before brought down to the ground. This is even well known by heathens, for moderation is commended by them, which they describe thus — “That no one ought to be inflated in prosperity, nor succumb in adversity.” But no one is really influenced by this thought, except he who acknowledges that we are ruled by the hand of God: for they who dream that fortune rules in the world set up their own wisdom, their own wealth, and their own strongholds. It must then necessarily be, that they always delude themselves with some vain hope or another. Until then men are brought to know that they are so subject to God’s power that their condition can in a single moment be changed, according to his will, they will never be humble as they ought to be. This doctrine therefore was entitled to special notice, especially when we consider how foolishly the Jews had abused the privilege with which God had favored Abraham and all his posterity; it was therefore an admonition altogether necessary. Besides, if we come to ourselves, we shall find that it requires a great effort to learn to humble ourselves, as Peter reminds us, under the mighty hand of God. (<600506>1 Peter 5:6.)

With regard to the words we must observe that ynbah eabenim, is a word in the dual number. The Prophet no doubt meant the moulds, des moules; for they who render it “wheel” seem not to understand the subject. fD23 The Prophet evidently refers to the moulds, made either of stone, or of wood, or of white clay; and this the number sufficiently proves. He then saw the potter with his moulds, avec ses moules, so that when he had formed one vessel it was marred; then he took the same clay and formed another vessel, and that according to his own will. I have already stated why it was necessary for the Prophet to go down to the potter’s house: he did so that he might afterwards lead the Jews to see their own case in a more vivid manner; for we know what a powerful effect a representation of this kind produces, when a scene like this is set before our eyes. Naked doctrine would have been frigid to slothful and careless men; but when a symbol was added, it had much greater effect. This then was the reason why God ordered the Prophet to see what the potter was doing.

Now, in the application, we must notice how things correspond: As the clay is at the will and under the power of the potter, so men are at the will of God: God then is compared to the potter. There is indeed no comparison between things which are equal, but the Prophet argues from the less to the greater. Then God, with respect to men, is said to be the potter, for we are the clay before him. We must also notice the variety in what was formed: from the same clay one vessel is made, then another different from the first. These three things that are compared ought to be specially observed. It is then said, cannot I, as the potter, do with you, O house of Israel? God includes here two of these comparisons, he compares himself to the potter, and he compares the people to clay. We know that God has much greater power over men than a mortal man over the clay; for however he may form it into vessels he is yet not the creator of the clay. Then much greater authority has God over men than the potter over the clay. But the comparison, as I have said, is of the greater with the less, as though he had said, “The potter can form the clay at his will; am I inferior to him? or, is not my power at least, equal to the power of the artificer, who is a mortal and of an abject condition?” Then he adds, with you, or to you, O house of Israel? as though he had said, “Trust ye in your own excellency as you please, yet ye are not better than the clay, when ye consider what I am and what I can do to you.”

We have now seen two of the comparisons; the third follows--that God can turn us here and there, and change us at his will. Then how foolishly do men trust in their present good fortune; for in a single moment their condition can be altered, as there is nothing certain on the earth.

But we must bear in mind what I have already stated — that vain was the confidence by which the Jews deluded themselves; for they thought that God was bound to them, and so they promised themselves a state of perpetuity, and, as though they could with impunity despise the whole law, they ever boasted that the covenant, by which God had adopted the seed of Abraham, was hereditary. Now the Prophet shews that the covenant was in such a way hereditary, that yet the Jews ought to have regarded it as it were an adventitious benefit, as though he had said, “What God gave you he can take away at any time; there is then nothing certain to you, except so far as God will be propitious to you.” In short, he reminds them that the whole of their safety depended on God’s gratuitous layout, as though he had said, “Ye have nothing as your own, but what God has conferred on you is at his will and pleasure; he can to-day take away even what he had yesterday given you. What meaneth then this foolish boasting, when ye say that ye are exempted from the common lot of men?”

The Jews might indeed have rightly disregarded all the dangers of the world, for God had gathered them under his own protection; they would indeed have been safe under his guardianship, had they observed mutual faithfulness, so as to be really his people as he had promised to be their God; but as they esteemed as nothing his whole law, and made void the covenant in which they foolishly gloried, the Prophet, as we see, did not without reason shake off that confidence by which they deceived themselves.

We may hence gather a useful doctrine: With regard to the whole race of man there is nothing certain or permanent in this life; for God can change our condition at any time, so as to cast down the rich and the eminent from their elevation, and also to raise up the most despised of men, according to what is said in <19B307>Psalm 113:7. And we know this to be true, not only as to individuals, but also as to nations and kingdoms. Many kings have so increased their power as to think themselves beyond the reach of harm; and yet we have seen that God laid them prostrate as by a sudden whirlwind: so also it has happened to powerful nations. With regard then to the condition of mankind, God shews here as in a mirror, or by a vivid spectacle, that sudden changes are often in the world: which ought to awaken us from our torpor, so that no one of us may dare to promise himself another day, or even another hour, or another moment. This is one thing; but this doctrine has a peculiar application to us; for as God has by a peculiar favor separated us from the rest of the world, so he would have us to depend wholly on his mere good will. Faith indeed ought to be tranquil, nay, it ought to disregard whatever may bring on us any terror or anxiety; but faith, where has it its seat? In heaven. Then courage is required in all the children of God, so that they may with a quiet mind disregard all the changes of the world. But we must see that the tranquillity of faith be well founded, that is, in humility. For as we cast our anchor in heaven, so also, with regard to ourselves, we ought always to he low and be humble. Whosoever then flies in vain confidence boasts in vain of faith, and falsely pretends that he trusts in God. Let it then ever come to our minds, and constantly recur to us, that our condition is not through ourselves safe and secure, but through the gratuitous goodness of God. We now see the application of this doctrine. The Prophet proceeds, —

<241807>Jeremiah 18:7-10

7. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;

7. Subito loquar contra gentem et contra regnum, ad evellendum et eradicandum (alii vertunt, ad frangendum, vel, conterendum) et ad perdendum.

8. If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

8. Et conversa fuit gens illa a malo suo (hoc est, a malitia sua,) de qua (vel, pro qua) locutus sum adversus illam; et (potius, tunc; copula valet hic adverbium temporis) poenitebit me super malo, quod cogitaveram ut facerem ei.

9. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant it;

9. Et repente loquar super gentem et super regnum, ad aedificandum et ad plantandum;

10. If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them.

10. Quod si fecerit malum coram oculis meis, ut non audiat vocem meam, tunc poenitebit me super bono, quod locutus fueram ut benefacerem ei.

 

This is a fuller application of the Prophet’s doctrine; for he had said generally before, that the people were in God’s hand as the clay is in the hand of the potter; but he adds here what is more popular or comprehensive, — that all men are in the hand of God, so that he now favors one nation with his blessing, and then deprives them of it, and that he raises up those whom he had previously brought low.

I have said that this part of the doctrine is more popular or comprehensive, for he refers to repentance. When Paul adduced this similitude, — that we are in the power of God as the clay is in the hand of the potter, he spoke not in so popular a manner: for he did not speak of repentance, but ascended higher and said, that before the world was created, it was in God’s power to determine what he pleased respecting every individual, and that we are now formed according to his will, so that he chooses one and rejects the other. Paul then did not refer to faithfulness nor to repentance, but spoke of the hidden purpose of God, by which he has predestinated some to salvation and some to destruction. (<450921>Romans 9:21.) Isaiah also seems to have had the same thing in view; for he says only,

“Woe to them who rise up against their Maker.”
(<234509>Isaiah 45:9.)

Cannot I determine, saith God, with regard to men, as the potter, who forms the clay as he pleases? We must then maintain this principle, — that men are thus formed according to God’s will, so that all must become mute;. for uselessly do the reprobate make a clamor, object and say, “Why hast thou formed us thus?” Has not the potter, says Paul, power, etc.? This is what must be said of God’s hidden predestination.

But Jeremiah here accommodates his doctrine to the people, that he might shew, that God had by a gratuitous covenant cliosen and adopted the seed of Abraham in such a way, that he could still repudiate the unworthy, even all those who despised so great a favor.

We now see the various applications of this doctrine; God determined, before the creation of the world, what he pleased respecting each individual; but his counsel is hid, and to us incomprehensible. There is here a more familiar application made, — that, God at one time takes away his blessings, and that at another he raises men as it were from death, that he might set them on high, according as he pities those who truly and from the heart turn to him, or is offended with the ingratitude of such as reject his offered favors.

Hence he says, Suddenly will I speak against a nation and against a kingdom, to pull down, to root up, or to extirpate, and to destroy. By saying suddenly, he reminds the Jews of their origin; for what was their condition when the Lord stretched out his hand to them, and brought them from that wretched bondage in which they lived? as though he had said, “Consider from whence God raised you, and then acknowledge that he raised you in a wonderful manner and beyond human expectation; for in the same day ye were of all the most miserable, and of all the most happy; one night not only brought you from death into life, but carried you from the deepest abyss above all earthly happiness, as though ye rode on the clouds.” God then suddenly spoke. fD24

But he refers also to punishment; God speaks of a nation and of a kingdom, to do it good; and he speaks again, in order to pull down, to destroy a nation and a kingdom. How then comes it, that they who seem for a time to flourish and to be most happy, suddenly perish? Because God punishes men for their ingratitude. And how comes it, that they, who were trodden under foot by all, suddenly rise? Because the Lord pities them.

But the Prophet speaks first of punishment; Suddenly, he says, will I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, to pull down, to extirpate and to destroy; that is, even they who seem far from all danger shall find that they are exposed to my judgment. But if a nation, he says, turns from its wickedness, against whom I have spoken, then I will repent of the evil, etc. The Prophet no doubt intended to shut up the mouths of the Jews, who, as we have before seen, continually contended with God; for he could not convince them that the punishments were just which God inflicted on them for their sins. As then they were thus perverse in their wickedness, and hypocrisy also had hardened them the more, the Prophet says here in God’s name, “When I speak against a nation and threaten final ruin, if it repents, I shall be immediately reconciled to it; there is therefore no ground for the Jews to expostulate with me, as though I dealt with them too severely; for they shall find me reconcilable if they repent from the heart.” It follows then, that their obstinacy was the cause why God proceeded in his judgments, for the repentance of God means no other thing than what Scripture says elsewhere, that he is merciful, slow to wrath, and ready to forgive. (<041418>Numbers 14:18; <19A308>Psalm 103:8.) He then here testifies, that nothing hindered the Jews from being in a better state but their own perverseness.

On the other hand, he affirms, that the lost are restored, when the Lord speaks suddenly, of a nation and of a kingdom, to build and to plant; as though it was said, — “I will not only forgive, but I am ready to bestow blessings on those whom I had previously rejected as mine enemies.” Then God amplifies his goodness when he says, that he will not only forgive the sins of men, so as freely to pardon them, but that he is ready to bestow on them all kinds of blessings, if they seek to be reconciled to him.

Now follows the opposite clause, But if it will do evil before mine eyes, so as not to hear my voice; that is, when a nation has been planted through my kindness, (for this is required by the context,) then I will repent, etc. By this denunciation is meant, that God would tread in the dust those whom he had favored with singular benefits, on account of the abuse made of them; although he had said, “When I promise bountifully and freely to a nation or a kingdom everything that can be wished, except my favor and goodness be rightly received, then I repent of the good done to it.” The meaning is, that the way of pardon is always open, when a sinner turns to God, and that it is in vain for men to boast of God’s promises, except, they in fear and obedience submit themselves to him.

Both these things were necessary; that is, that the Jews should know that God would be entreated if they repented, and that his promises could not be extended to those who were guilty of such gross abuse as a total disregard of his law and his prophets. Then the Prophet mentions here the ordinary course, — that as soon as men repented, they might safely and fully expect good things from God, for he is inclined to mercy; and then, that no nation, however it may excel in gifts, ought to indulge a foolish confidence and to use its present glory as means to despise its giver, for God can take away what he has given. The real import of the whole then is, that we cannot expect to enjoy the benefits which God bestows on us, except we persevere in faithfulness and in the fear of him. It is indeed cmtain that God’s blessings do not depend on worthiness in man; but still he will not have his bounty to be despised, as was the case with the Jews, and at this day it is a common thing in the world. It now follows,--

<241811>Jeremiah 18:11-12

11. Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.

11. Et nunc (agedum) dic ad virum Jehudah (hoc est, ad unumquemque,) et incolas Jerusalem, dicendo (alloquere omnes Judaeos et incolas Jerusalem,)sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego fingo super vos malum, et cogito super vos eogitationem; revertimini igitur quisque a via sua mala, et rectas facite vias vestras et studia vestra.

12. And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.

12. Et dixerunt, Actum est; quia post cogitationes nostras ambulabimus, et quisque pravitatem cordis sui mali faciemus.

 

The Prophet is now bidden to turn his discourse to the Jews, that he might apply the doctrine of repentance, to which he had referred; for a doctrine generally stated, as it is well known, is less efflcient. He then contends here, as it were, in full force with his own nation: Say then to the Jews and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who indeed ought to have shewn the way to others, but were themselves the worst of all, return ye, he says, every one from his evil way. Here God shews, that what he had before stated generally, applied peculiarly to the Jews, — that he is reconcilable when a sinner returns to him, and that they who disregard and despise his goodness cannot possibly escape unpunished.

Return ye, he says, every one from his evil way, and make right your ways; why so? For behold I frame for you an evil, and I think for you a thought; that is, “Vengeance is now prepared and is suspended over your heads, except ye turn in due time; but if ye truly and from the heart repent, I am ready to receive you.” We see how God includes the two things before referred to: He had previously said, “If I speak against a nation, and it turns from its sins, I immediately repent; but when I promise to be a father to a nation or a kingdom, I do not allow myself and my bounty to be despised, which men do when they reject what I offer.” But he now says, Behold, I think, fD25 etc.; this refers to the former clause, the threatenings; and then when he adds, Return ye, he promises pardon; for as it has been said elsewhere and often, there can be no exhortation to repentance without a hope of favor, as God cannot be feared, except there be propitiation with him, according to what is said in <19D004>Psalm 130:4.

God then shews in this verse, that he was ready to receive the Jews if they repented; but that if they continued perverse as they were wont to be, he would not suffer them to go unpunished, for he thought of evil for them. But this thought included the effect, the execution, as he was the potter, in whose hand and power they were.

Then the Prophet adds what shews how hopeless was the impiety of the people, for all his labor was in vain. It was indeed a monstrous stupidity, when they could not be terrified by God’s threatenings not allured by his kind promises. But the Prophet meant also to shew, that God tried all means to restore the people from ruin to life and salvation, but that all means were tried in vain, owing to the irreclaimable character of the people. I cannot finish the subject to-day; I must therefore defer it till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we stand or fall at thy will, we may be conscious of our weakness and frailty, and constantly remember that not only our life is a shadow, but that we are wholly nothing, and thus learn to trust in thee alone, and to depend on thee alone and on thy good pleasure; and as it is thine to begin and to complete whatever belongs to our salvation, may we in real fear and trembling submit ourselves to thee, and proceed in the course of our calling, ever calling on thee, and casting all our cares into thy bosom, until being at length freed from all dangers, we shall be gathered into that eternal and blessed rest which has been obtained for us by’ the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-First

The Prophet, having related that he had denounced on the Jews the vengeance of God, adds now, how proudly they despised his threatenings. And their sin was on this account enhanced, because a hope of pardon remained for them, provided they returned to God. But the Prophet says, that they expressly refused to do so. They said, awn nuash, which we render, “It is all over,” though interpreters in general render it, “It is past hope.” We have spoken of this word in chapter second, and the Prophet now repeats the same thing, — that the Jews were obstinately given to superstitions, and also to perverted counsels, thinking that they could well provide for their own safety and drive away all dangers by connecting themselves, at one time with the Assyrians, and at another with the Egyptians. But as the verb ay iash, may be taken as signifying, to be weary, as we learn from the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes; it may perhaps be not unsuitably rendered here, “We are become weary;” that is, we are unwilling to consume so much labor in vain; for the ungodly took this as a reason for their obstinacy, that they had labored long and much in something or another; and pride hardened them, and they said, :’Have we not hitherto labored in vain?” Now this meaning, “We have become wearied,” Does not appear in-suitable, by which they implied, “Thou oughtest to have called us back at the beginning; but now we have nearly finished the whole journey and are not far distant from the goal; it cannot then be that we shall return to the starting place, for it would be absurd for us to spend so much labor in vain and to no purpose.” Nor is this meaning disapproved of by those who regard the word as a noun, “It is weariness,” that is, “It is now too late to reprove us, for we have now followed this way for many years.” fD26

With regard to the main subject, there is but little difference. But the meaning would be clearer were we thus to paraphrase it, “Labor more than enough has been already spent; thou comest then not in due time.”

Isaiah in <235710>Isaiah 57:10, seems to have reproved the Jews for what was praiseworthy, if this declaration of Jeremiah be right; for he spoke thus,

“For ye have wearied yourselves in your ways,”

and no one has said awn, nuash; and Jeremiah reproves them here for having said awn, nuash. These two places theft seem inconsistent. But when Isaiah spoke thus, he reproved the insensibility of the Jews, for even experience, which is said to be the teacher of fools, had not made them weary; for when they had so often found by their own calamities that they had been at one time deceived by the Assyrians, and at another by the Egyptians, it was an instance of palpable madness not to learn at length by long experience, and to confess, “We have surely labored in vain.” We thus see in what sense Isaiah blamed them for not saying, “ It is weariness;” that is, because they did not consider that their labor had been in vain. But our Prophet here has another thing in view, — that the Jews were unwilling to lose their toil, but went on in their course obstinately, for they had hardened themselves so as to persist in their corrupt habit of sinning.

It follows, For after our thoughts we shall go, and every one will do the wickedness of his evil heart? fD27 Doubtless they did not thus speak openly, for they did not avowedly boast that they were ungodly and despisers of God: but the Prophet did not regard what they said, but what their conduct proved, for the Jews were wont to set up their own devices and the fallacies of Satan against the word of God. No wonder then that the Prophet charges them with these impious and sacrilegious words, that they resolved to follow their own thoughts, and the wickedness of their own hearts, rather than to submit to God and to obey his word.

We hence see that hypocrites gain nothing by obtruding their vain mummeries, for God cannot be dealt with sophistically or cunningly. Condemnation then awaits all the ungodly, however they may by disguises cover their wickedness; for whatever is contrary to sound doctrine, is a sinful device, a fallacy of Satan, and, in a word, the impiety of a corrupt heart. Whosoever indeed turns aside from the plain teaching of the prophets, and from the teaching of the law, follow their own thoughts, or the figments of their own hearts. It hence follows that they try evasions in vain, for when they reject pure doctrine they set up their own inventions. In the same sense we are to take the words “his own evil heart,” [rh wbl labu ero; they never confessed that, their heart was evil or wicked, and yet the Prophet charged them with having uttered the words here stated, for he considered, as I have said, what their conduct proved, and not the evasions by which hypocrites usually attempt to deceive God. It now follows —

<241813>Jeremiah 18:13

13. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things? the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.

13. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Interrogate agedum inter gentes, quis audierit secundum hoc (quis unquam audierit aliquid simile?) foeditatem (vel, portentum) patravit valde virgo Israel.

 

God shews here that the Jews were become wholly irreclaimable, for they arrived at the highest pitch of impiety, when they were so daring as to reject the salvation offered to them; for what had the Prophet in view but, to extricate them from ruin? God himself by his Prophet wished to secure their safety. How great then was their ingratitude to reject God’s paternal care, and not to give ear to the Prophet who was to be a minister of salvation to them? Now as they were extremely deaf and stupid: God turns to the Gentiles.

Enquire, or ask, he says, among the Gentiles, Has any one heard such a thing? as though he had said, “I will no more contend with those brute animals, for there is no reason in them; but the Gentiles, destitute of the light of knowledge, can be made witnesses of so gross an impiety.” And he says the same thing in <240210>Jeremiah 2:10,

“Go, pass through the isles and survey the whole world, has any nation forsaken its own gods, and yet they are no gods?”

As though he had said, “Religion so much prevails among wretched idolaters, that they continue steadfast in their superstitions; as they consider it a dreadful thing to change their god, they therefore shun it as a monstrous thing. Hence it is, that they are devoted to their superstitions, for the god whom they have once received, they think it the highest impiety to forsake, while yet they are no gods; but my people have forsaken me, who am the fountain of living water.” Jeremiah repeats now the same thing in other words, that such an example could not be found among heathens.

He then adds, A base thing has the virgin of Israel done. Some indeed render trr[, shorret, “a monstrous thing,” and it may be thus taken metaphorically, for the verb r[ shor, means to count, to think; and this meaning may be adopted here; but as in many places it signifies baseness, I will not depart from that common meaning. fD28 He says then, that it was an extremely base thing for the people to forsake him. He does not call the people the virgin of Israel by way of honor, but to augment their reproach. For God, as we have before seen, had espoused the people to himself; and so it was their duty to observe conjugal fidelity, as a virgin espoused by a husband, who ought not to regard any other, for she is not to look for any other after she has pledged her faith. But the people of Israel, who ought to have been as it were the bride of God, sinned most basely, yea, most disgracefully and infamously, when they prostituted themselves to wicked counsels as well as to superstitions. He now adds comparisons, by whichlte more fully exposes their wickedness, —

<241814>Jeremiah 18:14-15

14. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?

14. Ar relinquet e rupe agri nivem Libani? an relinquentur aquae alienae et frigidae fluentes?

15. Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burnt incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up.

15. Quia oblitus est mei populus meus, frustra suffitum faciunt (vel, adolent,) dum corruere eos fecerunt (copula enim explicitive accipitur, vel causaliter) in viis suis (vel, ipsorum,) semitis saeculi, ut ambularent per semitas viam non calcatam (quamquam lk significat etiam impingere, vel, offendere, ideo verti posset, et eos impingere fecerunt in viis suis.)

 

As I have just said, God here enhances the sin of the people by a twofold comparison; for when one can draw water in his own field, and find there a spring, what folly will it be for him to run to a distance to seek water? And then, when water does not spring up near, but flows from a distance in a pure and cold stream, who will not be satisfied with such water? and if he seeks to find the spring, will not all laugh at such madness? Now God was like a living fountain, and at Jerusalem was the spring where the Jews might drink to their full; and God’s blessings flowed also to them as it were through various channels, so that nothing was wanting to them. We then see that here is condemned a twofold madness in the people, that they despised God’s kindness which was near at hand, as though one close to Mount Libanus refused its cold waters, or as though one would not draw water from a river without going to the spring-head. Since then God offered himself to them in every way, and presented his bounty to them, it was a madness extremely base and inexcusable to reject flowing waters and the fountain itself.

We now perceive the meaning of this passage. It is doubtless natural for all to be satisfied with present blessings, especially when nothing better can anywhere else be found. When one has a fountain in his own field, why should he go elsewhere to drink? This would be monstrous. Dost thou want water? God supplies thee with it; take it from thine own fountain. If one objects and says, “That fountain I dislike; I wish to know whether better waters can be found at a distance.” This we see is a proof of brutal stupidity; for if the water which flows he cold and pure, and he dislikes it, because he wishes to go to the spring, he shews his own folly, whoever he may be. If, for instance, any one at this day would not drink the waters of the Rhone, which flows by here, and would not taste of the springs, but would run to the fountain and spring-head of the Rhone, would he not deserve to perish through thirst? God then shews that the Jews were so void of all sense and reason, that they ought to have been deemed detestable by all; and therefore in the application, when he says, My people have forgotten me, both clauses ought to be repeated. This indeed by itself would have been obscure, or at least not sufficiently explicit; but God here in substance repeats what he had said before, that he is the fountain of living water which was offered to the Jews; and also that his bounty flowed through various channels like living and cold waters. As then the people forgat God they were doubly ungrateful, for they refused to drink of the fountain itself, and disdained the cold and flowing waters, which were not hot to occasion a nausea; they were also pure and liquid, having no impure mixture in them. fD29

He again calls them his people, but for the sake of reproaching them; for the less excusable was their perverseness, when God in an especial manner offered himself to them, and they refused his offered bounty. Had this been done by heathens it would have been no small sin, though God had not favored them with any remarkable privilege, but when the Jews had been chosen in preference to all others, it was as it were a monstrous thing that they forgot God, even him whom they had known. He was unknown to heathens, but he had made himself known to the Jews; hence this forgetfulness, with which the Prophet charged them, could not have proceeded from ignorance, but from determined perverseness.

He afterwards adds, In vain fD30 they burn incense to me, since to stumble, etc., (the copulative is to be rendered as a causal particle.) When he says, in vain they burn incense, it is to anticipate an objection. For we know that the Jews trusted in their ceremonial rites, so when they were reproved by the Prophets they had ever ready this answer, “We are the worshippers of God, for we constantly go up to the Temple, and he has promised that the incense which we offer shall be to him a sweet odor.” He at the same time includes under this word all the sacrifices, for it is said generally of them all, “A sweet odor shall ascend before the Lord.” Then by mentioning one thing he denotes all that external worship in which the Jews were sufficiently assiduous. But as the whole was nothing but hypocrisy, when the integrity of the heart was absent, the Prophet here dissipates this vain objection, and says, “In vain do they set forth their ceremonial rites, that they attend very regularly to their sacrifices, and that they do not neglect anything in the external worship of God: it is all in vain,” he says.

This truth is often referred to by the Prophets, and ought to be well known by the godly; yet we see how difficult it is to bring the world to believe it. Hypocrisy ever prevails, and men think that they perform all that is required of them when some kind of religion appears among them. But God, as we have before seen, has regard to the heart itself or integrity; yet this is what the world cannot comprehend. Therefore the Prophets do not without reason so often inculcate the truth, that inward piety, connected with integrity of heart, alone pleases God.

He afterwards mentions the cause — that they made them to stumble in their ways. He means here no doubt the false teachers, who allured the people from the true and simple worship of God, and corrupted wholesome doctrine by their many fictions. And it is a common thing in Hebrew to leave a word, as we have said elsewhere, to be understood: they then made them to stumble, or to fall. The meaning is, that the sacrifices of the people could not be approved by God, because the whole of religion was corrupted. And the crime the Prophet names was, that the people were drawn aside from the right way, that is, from the law, which is alone the rule of piety and uprightness.

But we hence learn how frivolous is the excuse of those who say, that they follow what they have learnt from the fathers, and what has been delivered to them from the ancients, and received by universal consent; for God here declares, that the destruction of the people would follow, because they suffered themselves to be deceived by false prophets.

As to the words in their ways, or in their own ways, interpreters differ, and many apply the pronoun h, em, to the false Prophets; but I prefer the other view, that they made them to stumble in their right ways, for by errors they led them away from the right course. When therefore he says, in their ways, the words are to be taken in a good sense; for God had pointed out the right way to the people. He then calls the doctrine of the law the ways to which the people had been accustomed. Then follows the expression, the paths of ages, which is to be taken in the same sense. But we must notice the contrast between those paths, and the way not trodden. fD31

This brevity may be deemed obscure; I will therefore give a more explicit explanation. The Prophet calls those the ways of the people in which they had been fully taught; and this took away every color of defense; for the people could not object and say that they had been deceived, as though they had not known what was right; for they had not only been taught, but had also been led as it were by the hand, so that the way of the law ought to have been well known by them. Then he adds, the paths of ages; for as the law had not been introduced a short time before, but for many ages, this antiquity ought to have strengthened their faith in God’s law. We now see how these two things bear on what is said, that the Jews, being deceived by false teachers, fell or stumbled in those ways to which they had been accustomed; and then in the paths of ages, that is, in the doctrine long before received, and whose authority had been for many ages established. On the other hand, he says that the Jews had been drawn to paths and to a way not trodden, that is, had been led from the right way into error. And he farther aggravates their sin by saying, that they preferred to go astray rather than to keep the way which had been trodden by their fathers.

But it may be here asked, whether this change in itself ought to be condemned, since we despise antiquity, or rather regard what is right? To this the easy reply is, that the Prophet speaks here in the name of God’ therefore this principle ought to be maintained, that there is no right way but what God himself has pointed out. Had any one else come and boasted antiquity, the Prophet would have laughed to scorn such boasting, and why? for what antiquity can be in men who vanish away? and when we count many ages, there is nothing constant and sure among men. It ought then to be noticed, that God. was the author of that way which the Prophet complains had been forsaken by the people, how the things which follow harmonize together, that the people had strayed from the way which they had long kept; for the Jews, as it has been said, had not followed any men, but God himself, who had been pleased to stretch forth his hand to them and to shew them the sure way of salvation; and we must also observe what sort of people were the fathers, even such as had followed God, and when they had such examples, they ought to have been more and more stimulated to imitate them.

It was therefore an inexcusable wickedness to forsake a way found good by long experience, the way of ages, which had been approved for a long time, and to depart into paths not trodden, for by no example, of the saints who were alone the true fathers, had they been led to devise for themselves new and fictitious modes of worship, and also to depart from the plain doctrine of the law. Had any one answered, that these ways had been long trodden, because they had both the Assyrians and the Egyptians as associates in their superstitions, such an exception could not be admitted, for the Prophet, as I have said, does not speak indiscriminately of any kind of examples, but of the examples of the fathers, who had been ruled and led by the Lord. It follows —

<241816>Jeremiah 18:16

16. To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing: terrain every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.

16. Ad ponendum terram eorum in vastitatem, (hoc est, ut ponam terram eorum in vastitatem.) in sibila perpetua; quisquis transibit per eam obstupescet et movebit caput.

 

The Prophet again denounces the punishment which they deserved, that desolation awaited the land. It would be, he says, their reward to have the land reduced to a solitude, and also to perpetual hissings. The word lw[ oulam, which the Prophet had just used, is here also used, but in a different sense, for when he said, the paths of ages, he referred to past time, but now to a future time. As then the Jews had alienated themselves from the ways of ages, that is, from the eternal verity of God, so now he says, that their land would be for the hissings of ages, for the dreadful calamity now at hand would not be for a few years but to the end of the world.

And in the second clause he expresses more clearly what he meant by eternal hissings, that every one passing through it would be astonished and move or shake his head, fD32 as one does either in amazement, or in contempt, or in abhorrence; this kind of speaking often occurs in the Prophets. The land of Canaan, after having been given to the Jews, became as it were an extraordinary country, in which all kinds of opulence appeared, for God poured upon it the invaluable treasures of his bounty, so that the very sight of it filled all with admiration; on the other hand, it became the scene of horror and an object of hissing when God cursed it. A confirmation then follows —

<241817>Jeremiah 18:17

17. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.

17. In vento orientali, (vel, per ventum orientalem; quidam legunt k loco b, et dicunt, tanquam ventus orientalis; sed quod ad mentem Prophetoe spectat nulla est ambiguitas, per ventum ergo orientalem,) dispergam eos coram facie inimici; cervicem, non faciem ostendam ipsis (videre ipsos faciam) in die calamitatis ipsorum, (vel, interitus, ut alii vertunt.)

 

Though no word of comparison is expressed, if we read b, beth, and not k, caph, yet the Prophet employs a comparison, for God did not drive away the Jews by an eastern wind, but as the force of that wind is violent in Judea, the eastern wind often means a storm or a whirlwind, as though he had said, “As by a whirlwind or a storm will I cast them out.” fD33 I will disperse or dissipate them, he says, before the face of the enemy. He means that enemies would come to exterminate the Jews from the land; and he adds another thing, that these enemies would be full of terror, for God would give them the force of a whirlwind or a storm to disperse and scatter the Jews, for being terrified by God they would not dare to withstand.

Then follows a commination, that God would turn to them the neck, or the back, and not the face in the day of calamity. It sometimes happens that we are severely chastised by God, he thus often tries his faithful people when he subjects them to the will of the ungodly; but yet all remedy is not taken away from them, as they find consolation in God’s mercy, for as he casts down so he raises up, as he puts to death so he gives life, according to what is said in <090206>1 Samuel 2:6. But God here denounces a punishment without any prospect of pardon or alleviation, I will scatter them, he says, as by an east wind before their enemies. Then he adds, “In vain shall they flee to me and seek my mercy, though otherwise it is offered to all, yet then they shall implore it in vain, for it is decreed not to pardon them. I will shew to them my back, (or neck, for r[, oreph, is the hinder part of the head, but here it means the back,) they shall then find that I am turned away from them, so that they shall not be set before my eyes.” For it is an invaluable consolation when God is pleased to look on our miseries, but he deprives the Jews of this hope, for he would turn to them his back in the day of slaughter. I cannot proceed farther now.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we may in due time anticipate thy wrath, and never so kindle it by our perverseness as to preclude every remedy; and then also when thou for a time chastisest us, do not wholly cast us away, but let this resort ever remain to us, to seek thee in the day of calamity and to find thee accessible, so that being reunited to thee we may find that thou rememberest mercy even in wrath, until we shall enjoy a full and real participation of thy favor and paternal love in thy celestial kingdom, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Second

<241818>Jeremiah 18:18

18. Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet: and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.

18. Et dixerunt, Venite, et cogitemus contra Jeremiam cogitationes, quia non peribit Lex a sacerdote, et consilium a sapiente, et sermo a Propheta: venite, et percutiamus eum lingua, neque attendamus ad cunctos sermones, ejus.

 

Here Jeremiah relates how great was the fury which seized the minds of those on whom he had denounced the vengeance of God. It was no doubt a dreadthl thing to hear, that when they should be in a state of despair, no aid from God could be expected: for this is the import of what we have observed, — “In the day of their calamity I will shew them my back and not my face;” that is, “They shall see my back and not my face.” As then there was no hope of pardon remaining for them, was it not a monstrous stupidity not to be moved and humbled, when they saw that God was thus angry with them? But the Prophet shews, that his denunciation was heedlessly despised by them; nay, that there was such obstinacy in their wickedness, that they then more stoutly prepared themselves for battle. For he says that they avowedly conspired against him, after he had warned them of God’s dreadful judgment.

And he introduces them as encouraging one another, Come, and let us think thoughts against Jeremiah. We may observe what it was that they set up against God’s judgment, even their own counsels and purposes: this was in a word to transfer authority from God to themselves. They thus deprived God of his right, and sought to occupy his throne, as though they were the judges and could subject to their own will whatever the Prophet had declared. It is indeed probable, that they did not avowedly or designedly carry on war with God; for hypocrites raise up for themselves mists and clouds, by which they wilfully bring darkness on themselves. In the meantime a diabolical fury possesses them, so that they make no account of God; for were they really to consider the truth brought to them, they might easily understand it. Whence then is this violent fury and madness, that when they seek to contend with man, they really fight with God? Even because their impiety and pride, as I have said, so blinds them, that they hesitate not to rob God of his honor, and thus they put themselves in his place.

The same thing is to be seen now under the whole Papacy: for when they conspire among themselves to oppose plain truths, they do not ask at the mouth of God, nor regard anything taught in the Scriptures, but are satisfied with trumpeting forth their rotten decrees, or rather dreams, in which there is nothing, however futile, which they do not regard as an oracle: and when they bring forth their bulls, they think themselves sufficiently fortified, as though God were deprived of his own right. But this will appear more fully from the context.

They said, For perish shall not the law from the priest. fD34 This reason, which they added, shews whence that security arose, through which they hesitated not to reject the words of the Prophet: there were priests and prophets who occupied a place in the Church, and who boasted of their titles, though they were nothing but mere masks, having no care to possess what their calling required. Thus the vizarded priests were satisfied with an honorable vocation, and cared nothing for the account that was to be rendered to God: and thus in all ages hypocrites have abused the gifts of God. This is seen most clearly under the Papacy. For doubtless when all things are well examined, we find that the Pope and all his party mainly rely on these weapons; for when they are a hundred times conquered by proofs from Scripture, they still strenuously defend themselves with this one shield, — That the Church cannot err, that the Church is represented by the Pope, the bishops, and the whole clergy, and also that those whom they call prelates are successors of the Apostles: and so they boastingly thunder out a continual succession from Peter. They at length conclude, that the Church of Rome is the mother of all the faithful, and also that the Holy Spirit dwells there; for whosoever succeeds in the place of Peter and occupies his chair, is endued with the same spirit and the same authority. We hence see, that the Papists at this day contend with us with no other weapons than those with which all the ungodly reprobates assailed Jeremiah.

They said first, that it would be enough if they had their own thoughts, that is, if they resolved among themselves what was necessary to be done; for under the word thoughts, they included decrees as well as deliberations; as though they had said, — “We possess an ordinary jurisdiction; for God has set us over his Church: whatever then proceeds from us, ought to be deemed inviolable. The reason is, because the law cannot perish from the priest, and counsel cannot perish from the wise, nor the word from the Prophets.” These three things were very speciously brought against Jeremiah; nor could it have been denied, but that there were legitimate priests as to their vocation, that there was also a church, and that the elders, who were connected with the priests, justly boasted of their dignity; and lastly, that the people ever had their prophets. We hence see that they could have alleged very specious offenses against God’s Prophet, by which they might have easily deceived the simple. If a cornparison be made, doubtless the whole Papal system, cannot justly have any such pretensions; but they are far inferior to those of the Jews. For when they say that they represent the Church, that is disputed; and they are at length constrained to come to this point — to define what the Church is: and when it is settled what the Church is, we are then to inquire whether the bishops or prelates are legitimate. Now their calling is not founded on the word of God; for they are all schismatics; and this appears from their own canons, as there is among them, at this day, no canonical election. It then follows that their calling, of which they are so foolishly and arrogantly proud, comes to nothing. But let us allow them to be lawful ministers, and their calling to be approved according to God’s word, it does not yet hence follow that they are true ministers of God, that is, because they hold an ordinary station and jurisdiction in the Church. For we find that in all ages the Church of God has been subject to the evil of having wolves occupying the place of pastors, of having impious and perfidious men daring to oppose God in his own name.

As it thus happened formerly, neither the Pope nor all his masked bishops can shew any difference in the present day, why we ought not to dread wolves: how so?

“There were formerly,” says the Apostle, “false prophets, so also there will be false teachers among you.” (<610201>2 Peter 2:1)

He shews that at this time no less than formerly we ought to beware of false bishops, of false prophets, and of false teachers, however high their titles may be. When therefore the Papists vainly boast that the Church cannot err, they are justly objects of ridicule; for we see who those are whom they follow: as formerly the manifest enemies of God contended with Jeremiah, even so now they openly oppose God by this vain pretense only — they are priests, they are prophets, they are elders or presbyters, that is, they hold an ordinary jurisdiction. But this passage is sufficient to confute their folly; for they bring words instead of proof, and rely only on this argument — “The Church cannot err:” and what the Prophet relates further, “The law cannot perish from the priest,” means the same thing. But we find elsewhere what God threatened, even that a dreadful judgment was at hand, when the wise would become blind, when the priests and prophets would become foolish and fatuitous. (<280907>Hosea 9:7; <232914>Isaiah 29:14.) But we may hence learn on what condition and for what purpose God everywhere honors the ministers and pastors of the Church with high eulogies: it is not certainly that they may be proud through a false pretense, but that they may faithfully execute their office.

However this may be, we see that it is a false confidence, when pastors allege that the law and the word or the truth, cannot depart from them, because they are, and are called priests.

They added, Come and let us smite him with the tongue. They again magnify their own authority, as the Papists do at this day, who, standing as it were on high, look down on us with contempt, and say, “We must not dispute with heretics, for things formerly settled, and which the Church has once decreed, must not be called in question.” For it seems very strange to them, and even unbecoming, when we ask a hearing and wish the controversies, by which the world is now disturbed, to be decided and removed, by the law, and the prophets, and the gospel. “What! are then the Church’s decrees to be reduced to nothing? The Scripture is a nose of wax; it has nothing sure or certain; it can be twisted to favor any party, and hypocrites always pervert the word of God; and therefore it follows that there is nothing certain or clear in the Scripture.” This is to smite with the tongue, as we see to have been done to Jeremiah, — “Why should we dispute with that man, who so daringly threatens us, as though he was superior to others? but he is only one of the people; what need then of long disputation; for we have authority, and it will be enough by one word to determine, that whatever he brings is to be rejected. There is then no reason why we should weary ourselves by a long contest; for our tongue, as they say, decisively settles what is right.”

We see how the ungodly dared to set forward their own decrees, by which they tried to overwhelm the prophetic word and to take away the authority of Jeremiah. Whenever then men thus elevate themselves, so as to seek to smite God’s servants with the tongue, and to suppress his word when spoken by them, we understand how to regard them, and what weight belongs to all their decrees or dceterminations. fD35

But the end of this verse shews more clearly how wantonly they despised every truth; for it is a proof of hopeless contumacy when no attention is paid to the prophetic word: Let us not attend, they said; that is, “Let us not care for what he says, and let us boldly despise whatever he may speak.” The Prophet, as I have said, meant by this expression to shew, that they were so blinded by a diabolical impulse, that they hesitated not to reject whatever proceeded from God, to close their ears and designedly to neglect it, as is usual with the wholly wicked. No less contempt is now to be seen under the Papacy; for were they calmly to hear us, were they to consider with tranquil minds and meek hearts what we allege, doubtless the matter would soon be settled between us. But their only resolution is, not to hear; for they are content with this fallacious prejudice, — that as they represent the Church, it is in their power to condemn whatever we say, and that when they have condemned us, there is no need of any disputation.

But we are hence reminded, that when men are guilty of many vices, there is yet some hope of salvation remaining, provided they are not unteachable, and do not with resolute confidence reject what is proposed to them from the law, and the prophets, and the gospel. For as there are many diseases, and those grievous and dangerous, which yet may be healed, so also we ought to conclude that men are healable, as long as they bear to be taught, to be admonished and reproved; but when with closed ears they pass by every truth, when they despise all counsels, when they esteem as nothing God’s threatenings and reproofs, then their salvation is hopeless. It follows —

<241819>Jeremiah 18:19

19. Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.

19. Attende, Jehova, ad me, et audi vocem litigatorum meorum (hoc est, rixantium mecum.)

 

As the Prophet saw that his labor as to men was useless, he turned to God, as we find he had done often before. This way of speaking, no doubt, had more force than if he had continued to address the people. He might indeed have said, “Miserable men! where are you rushing headlong? what means this madness? what at last do ye think will be the end, since ye are resisting God, being obstinate against his Spirit? for ye cannot extinguish the light by your perverseness or by your effrontery.” The Prophet might have thus reproved them; but it betokens more vehemence, when he leaves men and addresses God, himself. This apostrophe then ought to be carefully noticed, for we hence gather that the madness of the Jews was reprobated, inasmuch as the Prophet did not deign to contend with them. But he notwithstanding said, “As they do not attend, attend thou, Jehovah, to me.” He saw that he was despised by God’s enemies, and by this prayer he intimates, that his doctrine was in force before God, and retained its own importance and could not fail. Hence he says, Jehovah, regard me, and hear the voice of those who contend with me.

Here Jeremiah asks two things, — that God would undertake his cause, and that he would take vengeance on the wantonness of his enemies. And this passage deserves especial notice, for it is a support which can never fail us, when we know that our service is approved by God, and that as he prescribes to us what to say, so what proceeds from him shall ever possess its own weight, and that it cannot be effected by the ingratitude of the world, that any portion of the authority of celestial truth should be destroyed or diminished. Whenever then the ungodly deride us, and elude or neglect the truth, let us follow the example of the Prophet, let us ask God to look on us; but this cannot be done, except we strive with a sincere heart to execute what he has committed to us. Then a pure conscience will open a door for us, so that we may be able confidently to call on God as our guardian and defender, whenever our labor is despised by men.

He asks, in the second place, that God would hear the voice of those who contended with him. fD36 We hence conclude, that the wicked gain nothing by their pride, for they provoke God more and more, when they thus oppose his pure doctrine and contend against his prophets and faithful teachers. Since then we see that the ungodly effect nothing, except that they kindle God’s wrath the more, we ought to go on more courageously in the discharge of our office; for even when for a time they suppress by their great clamours the truth of God, he will yet check them, and so check them, that the doctrine, which is now subverted by unjust calumnies, may shine forth more fully. He afterwards adds —

<241820>Jeremiah 18:20

20. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.

20. An reddetur pro bono malum? quia foderunt foveam animae meae; recordare quod steterim coram facie tua ad loquendum proipsis in bonum, ad avertendam iracundiam tuam ab ipsis.

 

The Prophet in this verse exaggerates the sin of his enemies, for they not only were ferocious against God, but also forgot everything humane, and wickedly assailed the Prophet himself. Impiety is indeed more detestable than inhumanity, inasmuch as God is far above all mortals; but inhumanity has in it more basenes, for it is, so to speak, more gross and more evident. The ungodly often hide their perfidy; but when they come to act towards men, then it appears immediately what they are. Hence the Prophet, having made known the impiety of his enemies, now adds, that they, when tried by the judgment of men, were found to be wholly intolerable, for they rendered a shameful reward to an innocent man who was sedulous in securing their salvation. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.

Though it often happens that evil is rendered for good, and ingratitude is a common vice, yet nature itself detests ingratitude: hence it has been said that there is no law against the ungrateful, because ingratitude seems a monstrous thing. As then nature dictates that merit deserves a reward, and this ought to be a fixed principle in the hearts of all, the Prophet reasons according to the common sense and judgment of all mankind.

Shall evil, he says, be rendered for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul? fD37 and yet I prayed for them, and endeavored to turn away the wrath of God. Since I have set myself humbly to pray for their salvation, how great is their savageness and inhumanity in persecuting me? But as he saw that it was vain to speak to the deaf, he again appeals to God as a witness to his integrity; Remember, he says, that I stood before thy face to speak for them; as though he had said, “Even if malignity prevent men to own what I am, and how I have conducted myself towards them, God will be to me a sufficient witness, and I shall be satisfied with his judgment.” It then follows —

<241821>Jeremiah 18:21

21. Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; their young men be slain by the sword in battle.

21. Propterea pone filios eorum ad famem (hoc est, projice, vel, prostitue ad famem,) et diffunde (vel, diffluere fac) eos ad manus gladii, et sint mulieres eorum orbae et viduae, et viri eorum sint percussi ad mortem (lethaliter,) juvenes eorum sint percussi gladio in praelio.

 

The Prophet seems here to have been driven through indignation to utter imprecations which are not consistent with a right feeling; for even if Christ had not said with his own mouth, that we are to pray for those who curse us, the very law of God, ever known to the holy fathers, was sufficient. Jeremiah then ought not to have uttered these curses, and to have imprecated final destruction on his enemies, thouglt they fully deserved it. But it must be observed, that he was moved not otherwise than by the Holy Spirit, to become thus indignant against his enemies; for he could not have been excused on the ground that indignation often transgresses the bounds of patience, for the children of God ought to bear all injuries to the utmost; but, as I have said, the Prophet here has announced nothing rashly, nor did he allow himself to wish anything as of himself, but obediently proclaimed what the Holy Spirit dictated, as his faithful instrument.

We have said elsewhere, that the first thing to be noticed is, that when we pray for any evil on the wicked, we ought not to act on private grounds; for he who has a regard to himself, will ever be led away by too strong an impulse; and even when our prayers are calmly and rightly formed, we are yet ever wrong, when we consult our private advantages or redress our own injuries. That is one thing. And secondly, we ought to have that wisdom which distinguishes between the elect and the reprobate. But as God bids us to suspend our judgment, inasmuch as we cannot surely know what will take place to-morrow, we ought not to imitate indiscriminately the Prophet in praying God to destroy and scatter ungodly men of whom we despair; for, as it has been stated, we are not certain what has been decreed in heaven. In short, whosoever is disposed, after the example of Jeremiah, to pray for a curse on his enemies, must be ruled by the same spirit, according to what Christ said to his disciples; for as God destroyed the wicked at the request of Elijah, the Apostles wished Christ to do the same by fire from heaven; but he said,

“Ye know not by what spirit ye are, ruled.” (<420955>Luke 9:55)

They were unlike Elijah, and yet; wished like apes to imitate what he did.

But, as I have said, let first all regard to our own benefit or loss be dismissed, when we would shew ourselves indignant against the wicked; and secondly, let us have the spirit of wisdom and discretion; and lastly, let all the turbulent feelings of the flesh be checked, for as soon as anything human be mixed with our prayers, some confusion will ever be found. There was nothing turbulent in this imprecation of Jeremiah, for the Spirit of God ruled his heart and his tongue, and then he forgot himself; and lastly, he knew that they were reprobate and already doomed to final ruin. He therefore hesitated not, through the prophetic spirit, to imprecate on them what we here read. And there is no doubt but that he was ever solicitous for the remnant, for he knew that there were some faithful; and though they were unknown, he yet prayed God for them. But he fulminates here against the reprobate who were already given up to ruin. This is the reason why he hesitated not to pray that they might be delivered up to famine and given to the sword, fD38 so that their women might be bereaved and become widows, and their men put to death, fD39 and their youth smitten by the sword. It now follows —

<241822>Jeremiah 18:22

22. Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them; for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet.

22. Audiatur clamor ex aedibus eorum cum induxeris super eos exercitum repente; quia foderunt foveam ad capiendum me, laqueos occultarunt pedibus meis.

 

He proceeds with his imprecation, he then wishes that a cry should he heard from the houses, as though he had said, “Let there be no refuge for them when their calamity shall happen:” For his own house is to every one his place of safetyin a disordered state of things. The Prophet then wished them to be slain by their enemies even when concealed in their houses; for it appears from the preceding verse that he meant slaughter. For why should a cry be, except on account of enemies breaking in and raging against them, while they, being not able to defend their life, were driven to lamentations and howlings? Let a cry then be heard from their houses, when thou bringest an army upon them suddenly; and he adds: For they have digged a pit to take me.

The Prophet indeed seems here to be the defender of his own cause: but there is no doubt, but that apart from anything personal, he hated the impiety of those of whom he speaks, because they insidiously assailed him, when yet he was doing the work of God. For the Prophet neither sowed nor reaped for himself, but only labored to obey God. When therefore they artfully assailed and circumvented him, what was it but openly to carry on war with God? Let us then remember, that the Prophet does not here complain of troubles which he underwent, or of injuries, but that he only pleads a public cause; for these ungodly men treated him perfidiously, while he was doing nothing else but spending his labor for God, and indeed for their salvation. At last he adds —

<241823>Jeremiah 18:23

23. Yet, Lord, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.

23. Et tu Jehovah nosti omnia consilia eorum super me in mortem; ne propitius sis (vel, placabilis) super iniquitate eorum, et peccatum eorum (vel, scelus eorum) a facie tua ne deleas (quidam existimant yjmt esse in kal, et y pont loco h,) et sint impingentes coram facie tua, in die excandescentiae tuae fac cum ipsis.

 

I shall not be able to explain this verse to-day.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou exhortest us daily, and even constantly to repent, by the doctrine of thy Gospel, and shewest thyself to us reconcilable, — O grant, that we may not disregard so incomparable a benefit, but with resigned minds devote ourselves wholly to thee, and that we may not so far provoke thy wrath as to be altogether reiected by thee, and to find at last that there is no mercy for us; but may we anticipate extreme judgment, while the time of thy good-will continues, and thus embrace the benefit of reconciliation which thou offerest to us, so that being thankful to thee and accepted in thine only-begotten Son, we may proceed in the course of our vocation, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Third

The words of the last verse of the eighteenth chapter we gave yesterday. Let us now see what the Prophet means by them, and what fruit we ought to gather from them. He says, that God was a witness of the wickedness of his enemies — that all their counsels had in view his destruction. There is, moreover, to be understood a contrast, — that the Prophet, as we have before seen, cared faithfully for their salvation. It was then a most base ingratitude in them to plot the death of the holy Prophet, who was not only innocent, but highly deserved their thanks for laboring for their salvation. We hence conclude that they deserved no mercy. Thou knowest, he says, their counsel, that what they consult among themselves tends to bring death on me: be not thou then propitious to their iniquity, and blot not out their sin.

We said in our last lecture that this vehemence, as it was dictated by the Holy Spirit, is not to be condemned, nor ought it to be made an example of, for it was peculiar to the Prophet to know that they were reprobates: and we also shewed why no common law is to be made from particular examples: for Jeremiah was endued with the spirit of wisdom and judgment, and zeal also for God’s glory so ruled in his heart, that the feelings of the flesh were wholly subdued, or at least brought under subjection; and farther, he pleaded not a private cause. We said in the first place, that it was oracular; for God designed to make it known, that they who thus obstinately resisted true doctrine were reprobate and irreclaimable. As all these things fall not to our lot, we ought not indiscriminately to imitate Jeremiah in this prayer: for that would then apply to us which Christ said to his disciples,

“Ye know not what spirit, governs you.” (<420955>Luke 9:55.)

And doubtless it ought to fill us with dread when we hear, Be not propitious to them, nor blot out their sin. God testifies in many plaices that he is gracious and inclined to mercy, and that when he is angry it is only for a moment. (<041418>Numbers 14:18; <19A308>Psalm 103:8; <193005>Psalm 30:5) There seems then a great difference between the words of the Prophet and these testimonies, by which God makes known his own nature. But we have said already that the destruction of the people, against whom the Prophet thus prayed, had been made evident to him: and we must also bear in mind what we have stated, that he did not include the people without exception; for he knew that there was a seed remaining among them. He then confined his imprecation to the reprobate and irreclaimable, as he knew that they were already doomed to ruin, even by the eternal purpose of God’ and as they had over and over again destroyed themselves, he boldly declares that God would never be propitious to them.

To the same purpose is what follows, Let them ever stumble before thy face. He mentions face here for manifest judgment; for the wicked exult as long as he spares them. The Prophet then would have God to sit on his throne, that he might appear as a Judge, and thus check the wantonness of those who despised his judgment, being constrained to know that they could not escape. There is also a contrast to be understood here between the presence and the absence of God. For hypocrites think that God is absent as long as he is indulgent to them and does not take vengeance hence they grow wanton, as though they had a permission to deceive him: but when God constrains them to acknowledge what they are unwilling to do, they are said to stand in his presence; for they are pressed too near to render it possible for them to evade, and willing or unwilling they are held fast, as the Lord proves that he is their Judge. We hence see the meaning of the expression when the Prophet says, Let them stumble before thy face.

He in the last place adds, In the time of thy wrath deal thus with them. The manner of his presence is set forth. There is, however, no doubt but that the Prophet here checks both himself and all the godly, that they may not be hasty, for we are often too precipitant in our wishes; for we would that God would fulminate every moment from heaven. This hastiness ought to be moderated; and the Prophet here prescribes to us the rule of moderation, by saying, In the time of thy wrath; as though he had said, “Even though thou deferrest and seemest now to connive at these great crimes, yet the time will eventually come in which thou wilt take vengeance on the reprobate.”

Whenever then the Scripture speaks of the time of God’s wrath, let us know that under this form of speaking there is an exhortation to patience, so that excessive ardor may not lead us beyond the limits of moderation, but that we may wait with resigned minds until the due time of judgment comes. This is one thing; but at the same time the Prophet expresses also something more: for he would have the reprobate of whom he speaks, to be so involved in endless judgment as never to be able to extricate themselves. It is said in <19A604>Psalm 106:4,

“Remember me, O Lord, with the favor of thy people,”

that is, “O Lord, this only I ask, to be joined to thy people; for even when thy Church is afflicted and deemed miserable, it will still be enough for me to be of the number of those whom thou honorest with thy paternal favor.” The favor then of God’s people is that paternal regard which he entertains for his Church. So, on the other hand, the time of wrath is that judgment by which God devotes the reprobate to eternal perdition, so that there is no hope of salvation remaining for them. Deal thou with them, but when? even in the time of thy wrath; that is, deal with them as thou art wont to deal with thine irreclaimable enemies, to whom thou wilt never be reconcilable. fD21 This is the meaning. Now another discourse follows.


CHAPTER 19

<241901>Jeremiah 19:1-3

1. Thus saith the Lord, Go and get a potter’s earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;

1. Sic dicit Jehova, Vade et acquire (alii vertunt, posside; et hnq significat utrunque, sed hic non convenit verbum possidendi; acquire tibi) lagenam figuli testaceam, et quidem cum senioribus populi, et cum senioribus sacerdotum:

2. And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee:

2. Et egredere ad vallem filii Hinnom, quae est in introitu portae orientalis, (alii vertunt, fictilis,) et clama illic (hoc est, alta voce pronuntia)sermones quos loquutus fuero ad te;

3. And say, Hear ye the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.

3. Et dices, Audite sermonem Jehovae, reges Jehudah et incolae Jerusalem, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce adduco malum super locum hunc, de quo quisque audierit, tinnient aures ejus.

 

We see that the Prophet was sent by God to shew the people that there was no firmness in that state of which hypocrites boasted; for God, who had favored the people of Israel with singular benefits, did no less retain them in his own possession than the potter. The Prophet had before shewn to the Jews that the potter formed his vessels as he pleased, and also, that when he had taken the clay and the vessel did not please him, he formed another. This prophecy has a similar import, yet it is different, as we shall presently see. The Prophet is here bidden to buy an earthen vessel of the potter, and at the meeting of the people to break it, that all might understand that they were like earthen vessels, and that being thus admonished of their fragility, they might no longer be proud, as though they possessed a firm and perpetual state of happiness.

The main object of the two visions is, however, the same: for the Jews thought that they were not subject to the common lot of men, because they had been chosen as a peculiar people; nor would they have gloried in vain with regard to that inestimable privilege, had there been a mutual agreement between God and them; but as they were covenant-breakers, their glorying was vain and foolish, in thinking that God was bound to them. For what right had they to claim this privilege? God indeed had adopted the whole race of Abraham, but there was a condition introduced,

“Walk before me and be perfect.” (<011702>Genesis 17:2)

When they all had become apostates, the covenant, as to them, was abolished. Then God could not have been called, as it were, to an account, as though he had violated his covenant with them, for he owed them nothing. They had become aliens; for through their wickedness and perfidy they had departed from him. God then designed to show how vain and how false was their confidence, when they said, “We are a holy race, we are God’s heritage;” because they had wholly departed from the covenant which God had made with their fathers.

But in the form adopted, as I have said, there is some difference. The Prophet had before introduced the potter to shew that there was no less power in God than in a mortal man, because we are before him as the clay, so that he can form and destroy his vessels as he pleases: but here the Prophet shews, that though the Jews had been formed for a time, and so formed as to have been like an excellent and a beautiful vessel, yet it was not a perpetual condition. And it is probable that when they had heard that God could, like the potter, form and re-form them, they had devised an evasion, according to what men usually do who deal sophistically with God, — “O, be it so, the potter can from the same clay form both a precious and a worthless vessel; but we are the precious vessel, and God has given us that form; for when he made a covenant with Abraham, he adorned him with this singular distinction: he afterwards brought our fathers out of Egypt, and then there was a better form added; and since at length he raised a kingdom among us with this promise, that the throne of David would be perpetual, it cannot possibly be otherwise than that we are to continue in our state.” Hence the Prophet expresses here more than in the former prophecy, that not only God had the power of a potter in forming his vessels, but that when the vessel is already formed and possesses great splendor, it can again be broken: he stated this lest the Jews should object by saying, that the state in which they were under David and his posterity would be perpetual. He says, “This is nothing: for the earthen vessel, though splendid and elegant in its form, can yet be broken in the third or fourth year no less than at the time when it is formed, and can be broken for ever,” according to what is afterwards implied by the similitude.

We shall proceed now to the words: he says, Go and get for thee an earthen vessel. The Rabbins think the name given to the vessel to be factitious, as the grammarians say, that is, made from its sound; for it appears to have been a flagon or a bottle; and as the bottle has a narrow mouth, it makes this sound, qbqb bakbuk, when we drink from it; and hence they think the name is derived. There is, however, no ambiguity as to the thing itself, that the word means a bottle, not only made of earth, but also either of glass or of wood. By adding the word rj cheresh, he specifies what but qbqb, bekbek, is a general word. He then adds what is literally, From the elders, and interpreters think that the words “bring with thee” are to be understood; and as to the sense I agree with them, for we shall hereafter see, that in the presence of those who went with him he broke the vessel: it then follows that the elders here spoken of were taken by Jeremiah as his companions; but as m mem, sometimes means “with,” as in the fifty-seventh chapter of Isaiah, (<235708>Isaiah 57:8)

“and made thee a covenant with them, hm

I take it to be of the same meaning here; and this is doubtless suitable here, for he was to go with the elders of the people and with the elders of the priests. fD41

And he adds, Enter into the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is at the entrance of the east gate, rendered by some “of the earthen gate,” for which I see no reason; but I leave this to be examined by those who are more versed in the language. It is indeed thought that , shin, is changed here into s, samech; but if we take the word as it is, it means “solar,” for srj cheras, from which tysrj cherasit, is derived, signifies the sun; and it seems to have been called the solar gate by way of excellency, because it looked toward the rising sun. fD42 I do not yet oppose the idea of those who think that the Prophet alludes to rj, cheresh, of which he had spoken, and that he calls it the east gate, though it was as it were an earthen gate; for the two letters , shin, and s samech, as it is well known, are closely allied. Cry there, he says, the words which I shall speak to thee.

I come now to the subject: God bids his Prophet to get from the potter an earthen vessel, and to do so in the presence of the elders; for it was necessary to have witnesses in a matter so important; and as the public safety of the people was concerned, it was God’s purpose, lest the prophecy should be despised, that there should be present the gravest witnesses, suitable, and, as they say, authorized, or approved; and he calls them the elders of the people and of the priests; and no doubt they were chosen from a great number, even from among the priests who were chief. There were also Levites of the sons of Aaron; but there were then chief priests a large number; but, as they say, it was a turbulent rabble. They were chosen from those first orders who ruled the Church, and Jeremiah calls them the elders of the priests. There were also others chosen from the people who presided over the Church. And we know that there were two public functionaries, or, as they say, a twofold government: the priests were the rulers of the Church with regard to the law, so that their government was spiritual; there were also the elders of the people who managed civil affairs; but there were some things in which they ruled in common. We now then see what the Prophet meant by saying that he was bidden to call witnesses to see what is afterwards stated, and that they were taken partly from the priests and partly from the people.

He says; Enter into the valley of the son of Hinnom. This valley was in the suburbs, and was called tpt Tophet, as we shall hereafter see. It is thought that this name is derived from drums, because they did beat drums when infants were killed, lest their cry should excite any feeling of humanity. But, we shall again say something on the etymology of this word. In this valley they were accustomed to sacrifice and offer their children by casting them into the fire. Many indeed performed this in a different way, by purifying their children and carrying them round the fire, so that they felt only the flame and escaped unhurt. But there were those who wished to shew their zeal above others, whose ambition drove them farther, and they killed their children and then burnt them. But of this matter I have spoken elsewhere, and I shall now only briefly notice it. This opinion is not, what is commonly received; but it seems to me that it may be gathered from many parts of Scripture, that many killed their children, and that some only purified them. However this may have been, God justly abominated the sacrifice; for his will was that sacrifices should be offered only in one place. When any one offered a calf or a lamb in any other place than at Jerusalem, it was a spurious sacrifice; and the Jews ought to have followed what God had prescribed, and not to have done anything presumptuously, for obedience is ever better than any sacrifices.

But here there was a double crime; they left the Temple and sought to obtrude on God sacrifices against his expressed will; and then there was another crime still more atrocious, for they devoted their children to Baalim or to Baal, and not to the only true God. (I pass by now their slaughter and burning.) This then was the reason why the Prophet was commanded to go to this place. How detestable that service was to God appears dear from this, that the prophets give the name of hell to the valley of Hinnom, nh ayg gia-enom. And we know that at the time of Christ it was the common name for hell; and whenever Christ speaks of Gehenna, he uses the word according to its common acceptation at that time. The word has indeed been corrupted by the Greeks, for it is properly nh ayg gia-enom. But what does the word mean in the gospel? Hell itself; and whence was its origin? We indeed know how great and how incurable was the madness of those who gave themselves up to their own superstitions; for though the prophets strongly condemned the place, yet the people proceeded in their usual idolatry; it was therefore necessary to give the place a disgraceful name in order to render it more abominable.

It is now added, that the place was by the entrance of the east gate. As it was especially a celebrated gate, and as the sun, rising there, reminded them to behold the light which God had kindled for them in his law, it was a monstrous stupidity proudly to tread, as it were, under foot. the law of God in so renowned a place, and to profane his worship, as though they openly wished to shew that they esteemed as nothing what God had commanded. If any still think that there is an allusion to the word rj cheresh, before used, I offer no opposition; that is, though this gate was indeed oriental, it was yet as it were an earthen gate.

He says, Cry there, or, proclaim with a clear voice, the words which I shall speak to thee. The Prophet no doubt said this expressly, in order to add more weight to his prophecy. He indeed did nothing but by God’s command; but as his authority was not acknowledged by the Jews, he here testifies for their sakes that he would say nothing but what God himself would command. This preface then confirmed the authority of his prophecy, so that the Jews might not reject what he might say, as though it came from Jeremiah himself.

But a general doctrine may be hence gathered, — that ministers are to bring forward nothing but what they have learnt from God himself. For though Jeremiah was a great man and endued with excellent gifts, yet he was not to bring one word or a syllable as from himself: how great then must be the presumption of those who seek to be superior to him by bringing their inventions, and at the same time demand to be deemed oracles? This passage confirms the doctrine of Peter, who says,

“He who speaks, let him speak the words of God.”
(<600411>1 Peter 4:11)

He now adds, Hear ye the word of Jehovah. This is a confirmation of the former sentence. We hence see why it was said, Cry, or, with a clear voice proclaim, what I shall say to thee; it was, that they might know that he spake not according to his own ideas as a man, but that he was a celestial herald to proclaim what God commanded. Hear, he says, ye kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. We see how the Prophet did not spare even kings, according to what God had before commanded him, that he should act boldly and shew no respect of persons, (<240108>Jeremiah 1:8.) He then faithfully performed his office, as he did not flatter kings, and was not terrified by their dignity and power. But he addressed them first, and then the people, because they who had most grievously sinned, were made rightly to bear the first reproof. We hence see what the next passage means,

“Reprove mountains and chide hills,” (<330601>Micah 6:1)

and also this passage,

“I have set thee over nations and kingdoms,”
(<240110>Jeremiah 1:10)

for heavenly truth ought to bring under subjection, as Paul says, everything high in the world, so that all the pride of man may be subdued. (<471005>2 Corinthians 10:5.) Kings indeed do very ill bear to be thus boldly treated; for they wish to be exempt from every law and to be free from every yoke. But if they now acknowledge not their subjection to God’s word, they must at last come before his tribunal; and then they shall find how perversely they have abused their power. As to teachers, they ought, small and great, to teach after the example of Jeremiah; they ought to reprove and to rebuke, when necessary, without shewing any respect of persons.

Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, and the God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing an evil on this place, of which whosoever shall hear, tingle shall his ears. The prophetic word had more power when the Jews were brought to the very place where the event was exhibited, he might have said the same thing in the Temple or in the gate or in the palace of the king but his prophecy would not have been so effectual. We indeed know how much tardiness there is in men in general; but so great was then the obstinacy of the Jews, that however forcibly the truth might have been set forth, yet it was received with so much indifference, that it was neglected. God then intended to shew to them, as it were, the event itself. He says, Jehovah of hosts and the God of Israel; and he used these words, that they might know, as we have stated elsewhere, that they had to do with God, whose power is dreaded even by angels. And in order to shake off their foolish boasting, that they were the children of Abraham, — “God,” he says, “has sufficient power to chastise you, and the same is the God of Israel, whose name ye falsely and absurdly pretend to profess.” These subjects I only in a brief manner handle, because I have explained them more fully elsewhere.

He says that such a calamity was nigh that place as would make the ears to tingle: when there is a violent noise, our ears are stunned, and there is at the same time a certain tingling or ringing. When a man is killed, or when ten or twelve men are slain, there is a dreadful cry; but in a great tumult occasioned by men perishing, such is the noise that it stuns in a manner the ears, like that which proceeds from cataracts; for the violent noise of the Nile, they say, causes some degree of deafness. So also the Prophet says here, I am bringing, says God, a calamity on this place, which shall not only terrify those who will hear of it, but also render them quite astonished, so that their ears shall tingle, as is the case when there is a violent and dreadful noise. The cause follows —

<241904>Jeremiah 19:4-5

4. Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burnt incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;

4.Propterea quod reliquerunt me et alienarunt locum hunc, et suffitum fecerunt in eo diis extraneis, quos non noverunt ipsi neque patres ipsorum, neque reges Jehudah; et implerunt locum hunc sanguine innocentium;

5. They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt-offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.

5. Et extruxerunt excelsa (aedificarunt excelsa) ipsi Baal, ad comburendum filios suos igne in holocaustum ipsi Baal; quod non mandavi et non loquutus sum, et non ascendit super cor meum (vel, in cot meum.).

 

The reason is given why God would so severely deal with that place. We indeed know that hypocrites are ever ready with their answer; as soon as God threatens them, they bark and bring forward their evasions. The Prophet then shews that the judgment announced would be just, lest the Jews should pretend that it was extreme.

God first complains that he had been forsaken by them, because they had changed the worship which had been prescribed in his Law. And this is what ought to be carefully considered; for no one would have willingly confessed what Jeremiah charged upon them all; they would have said, — “We have not forsaken God, for we are the children of Abraham; but what we wish to do is to add to his worship; and why should it be deemed a reproach to us, if we are not content with our own simple form of worship, and add various other forms? and we worship God not only in the Temple, but also in this place; and further, we do not spare our own children.” But God shews by one expression that these were frivolous evasions; for he is not acknowledged except what he orders and commands is obediently received. Let us know, that God is forsaken as soon as men turn aside from his pure word, and that all are apostates who turn here and there, and do not follow what God approves.

Then he says that they had alienated the place. God had consecrated to himself the whole of Judea: he would not indeed have sacrifices offered to him in every place; but when the Jews worshipped him, as they were taught by Moses and the prophets, the whole land was as it were an altar and a temple to him. Then God complains that his authority in that part of the suburbs was taken away; as though he had said, — “The whole of Judea is my right and my jurisdiction, and Jerusalem is the royal palace in which I dwell; but ye, deluded beings, do by force take away my right and transfer it to another, as though one gave to a robber a place nigh a royal residence.” Thus God justly complains that they had alienated that place. fD43

But we must remember the reason, which immediately follows, because they had burned incense to Baal. They pretended, no doubt, the name of God; but yet it was a most preposterous superstition, when they worshipped inferior gods, as the Papists do at this day. The word Baal is sometimes used in the singular number by the prophets, and sometimes in the plural: but what is Baal? a patron. They were not content with one patron, but every one desired a patron for himself: hence under the words Baal and Baalim, the prophets characterized all fictition is modes of worship: when they worshipped God’s name, they blended the worship of patrons, who had not been made known to them; hence he adds, They have made incense in it to foreign gods. He afterwards says, that these foreign gods were such as neither they nor their fathers nor their kings knew. By saying that they were gods unknown to their fathers as well as to themselves and to their kings, he no doubt calls their attention to the doctrine of the law, and to the many certain proofs by which they had found that he was the only true God.

The Jews might have raised such an objection as the Papists do at this day, — that their modes of worship were not devised in their time, but that they had derived them from their ancestors. But God regarded as nothing those kings and the fathers, who had long before degenerated from true and genuine religion. It must be here observed, that true knowledge is connected with verity: for they who had first contrived new forms of worship, doubtless followed their own foolish imaginations; as when any one in the present day asks the Papists, why they weary themselves so much with their superstitions, good intention is ever their shield, — “O, we think that this is pleasing to God.” Therefore rightly does God here repudiate their inventions as wholly vain, for they possess nothing solid or permanent. At the same time, he by implication condemns the Jews for rejecting his law, whose authority had been established among them, so that they ought not to have entertained any doubt: for it would have been the greatest ingratitude to say, “We know not who introduced the Law!” God had indeed sanctioned the law by so many miracles, that it could not have been disputed; and they had also found by many evidences and proofs that he was the only brue God. tie had then been known by their fathers as well as by their kings, even by David and by all his godly successors. Hence their crime was exaggerated, by seeking for themselves foreign gods.

Now we also see how foolishly the Papists lay hold on this passage and similar passages, in order to commend their abominations by the pretext of antiquity, for vain are their disguises when they say, “O, we have been thus taught by our ancestors, and we have the authority of kings.” But the Prophet here does not speak of fathers indiscriminately; but by fathers he means those who had embraced the true and pure worship of God, as they had been taught by the law; and those kings were alone worthy of imitation, who had faithfully worshipped God according to the doctrine of the law: and thus he excludes all those fathers and kings who had degenerated from the law of Moses.

He at last adds, that that place was filled with the blood of innocents; for there they killed their children. And by this circumstance Jeremiah again amplifies the wickedness of the people; for they had not only despised God and his law, but also cruelly destroyed their innocent infants; and thus he proved them guilty not only of impiety and profaneness in vitiating the worship of God, but also of brutal and barbarous savageness in not sparing innocent blood.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to shew to us the way in which we cannot err, provided we obey thee, — O grant, that we may render ourselves really teachable and ready to obey, and never undertake anything but what we know is approved by thee, nor turn aside on the right hand or on the left; but continue in that form of worship which thou hast prescribed to us in thy word, so that we may be able to bear witness, not only before the world, but before thee and the holy angels, that we obediently follow thee; and may we never blend anything of our own, but with submissive minds worship thee alone, and strive to render ourselves wholly subject to thee, until having at length rendered to thee due service through the whole course of our life, we shall reach that blessed rest which thy Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Fourth

<241906>Jeremiah 19:6

6. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.

6. Propterea ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et non (hoc est, quibus non) vocabitur locus hic ampliusThopheth et vallis filii Hinnon, sed vallis interfectionis.

 

We saw in the last Lecture that the Prophet was sent by God’s bidding to the house of the potter, that he might there take an earthen bottle, carry it to Topher, and there explain the judgment of God, which was nigh at hand on account of his worship being violated. And he shewed why the Jews deserved reproof, even because they made incense to Baal, built groves and high places for themselves, and committed their sons and daughters to the fire: they were not only profane towards God, but also cruel towards innocent souls. Now, lest they pretended an excuse, he also added, that such a thing never came to God’s mind; and this is worthy of notice, because God by this one expression fulminates against all those inventions with which men delight themselves. As then there is no command, it follows that whatever is thus attempted is frivolous and useless.

He now denounces punishment, The days are coming, or shall come, in which this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter. This seemed incredible to the Jews; for they had chosen that place for themselves to perform their superstitions: they thought therefore that a great part of their safety depended on their false worship.

As to the word Tophet, some think that it is to be taken simply for hell, or for eternal death; but this cannot by any means be admitted. More probable is their opinion who derive it from t, teph, which means a drum; for they think that they did beat drums when infants were killed, that their cries might not be heard. But as this is only a conjecture, I know not whether another reason may be given. Some derive the word from hpy iphe, which signifies to be decorous or beautiful; and this etymology has something apparently in its favor. And perhaps it ought to be so taken in <181706>Job 17:6, where the holy man complains that he was become a proverb, and that he had been tpt Tophet, in the presence of all. There are indeed some who explain the word there as signifying something monstrous, and thus take it in a bad sense. But it seems rather to have been put in contrast with the former clause, — he had been a pleasant spectacle, but he was now become detestable. But they who take the word there as meaning hell, do so entirely without any reason, for that Job perished, seeing and knowing his perdition, as they say, is a forced view. I doubt not then but that he said, that he had been tpt Tophet; that is, an object of joy and of praise, but that he was then a sad and mournful spectacle. And it is certain that his name, tpt, Tophet, was given to the valley of Hinnom, because of the hilarity and joy which thence arose to the people; for they thought that God was propitious to them, when they so sedulously offered there their sacrifices, and yet they provoked his wrath. Then Tophet is to be taken in a good sense, when we regard the origin of the word. It is indeed true that in <233033>Isaiah 30:33, Tophet is to be taken for Gehenna; but it may be that the prophets had now begun so to execrate the place as to call hell indiscriminately Gehennon and Tophet; for the word Gehenna, as we have stated elsewhere, had its origin from the same place; it is indeed corrupted, but its origin is not doubtful. Now, the reason why the prophets and other faithful men called the place hell, was plainly this, — because the devil reigned in that place, when God’s worship became vitiated, and the whole of true religion was subverted; and especially, because superstition became so deeply fixed in the hearts of the people, that it could not be rooted up except by an extraordinary force and power.

However this may have been, we may conclude from this passage, as well as from other passages, that this name was given on account of the joy experienced there, even because they thought themselves altogether happy, as God was pacified towards them. But what does Jeremiah say? This place shall be no more called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter. This seemed, as I have said, incredible to the Jews. But it however behoved the Prophet boldly to declare what was to be. It afterwards follows, —

<241907>Jeremiah 19:7

7. And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives; and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.

7. Et exinaniam consilium Jehudah et Jerusalem in loco hoc, et prosternam eos in gladio coram inimicis ipsorum, et in manu quaerentium animam eorum, et ponam (dabo) cadaver eorum in cibum volucri coeli (hoc est, avibus coeli, est enallage) et bestiae (hoc est, bestiis) terrae.

 

This amplification further exasperated the minds of the people, — that they in vain trusted that this place would be to them a fortress. For, as we have already stated, they had persuaded themselves that it was abundantly sufficient to reconcile them with God, when they spared not their own children, and so zealously performed tlheir acts of worship. And hypocrites are commonly inflated with this presumption, for they prefer what pleases them to what pleases God; they regard not what the law bids, what God approves, but they adore their own inventions. Since then almost all the superstitious are filled with such a presumption, God here rightly declares, that he would make void their counsels. fD44

It is indeed certain that there is neither wisdom nor counsel in deluded men, while they thus devise new and frivolous modes of worship, for these are sheer mummeries. But we ought to observe what Paul says in <510223>Colossians 2:23, that all the fictions which men devise for themselves have in them some appearance of wisdom; for we know that wherever our imagination may carry us, we think ourselves wise, and that whatever God prescribes becomes insipid to us. Then the Prophet concedes “counsel,” though improperly, to frivolous and vain inventions, but not without reason, for experience teaches us sufficiently, that men ever take great delight in their superstitions, for they wish to subject God as it were to their own will. He then says, by way of concession, that the counsels of the whole people, especially of the city Jerusalem, would be made void, which was above others the teacher of errors, while yet the doctrine of the law ought especially to have prevailed there. And it may be also that there is an allusion to that word qbqb bekbek, which we have before seen, and which the Prophet will repeat again, for it means to make void or empty, though some think it to be a factitious word, because the sound, bekbek, is produced while the bottle is emptied. However this may be, the allusion is still sufficiently striking.

He afterwards adds, And I will lay them prostrate by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. In this second part, the Prophet intimates that the hatred entertained by their enemies towards the Jews would not be common. Wars are carried on sometimes in such a way, that the conquerors are satisfied with the spoils; but the Prophet intimates, that the cruelty of their enemies would be such, that they would seek the life of the whole people, and delight in slaughter; as though he had said, that they would be deadly enemies and altogether implacable. He will again repeat these words, and in the same sense.

He then adds, I will give your carcase to be meat to the birds of heaven, and to the beasts of the field. fD45 We have said elsewhere that it is deemed a punishment inflicted by heaven when the carcases of the dead remain unburied; for it is the last office of humanity to bury the dead. And this is a distinction which God would have to be between men and brute animals, for animals have not the honor of a burial. It has also been ever granted as a singular privilege to men to be buried, in order to set forth the hope of resurrection. When, therefore, a burial is denied, it is a proof of extreme dishonor. It has indeed often happened that the saints have been without a burial; but temporal punishment is ever turned to salvation to God’s children. As to the reprobate it must be deemed a judgment from God, when he casts away their carcases, as then there is no difference between them and animals. But I have treated this subject more fully elsewhere, and I shall not proceed with it now. It follows —

<241908>Jeremiah 19:8

8. And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss, because of all the plagues thereof.

8. Et ponam urbem hanc in stuporem et sibilum; quisquis transibit per eam stupebit et sibilabit super omnen plugam ejus.

 

Jeremiah proceeds with his denunciation, and it was necessary for him to add this amplification, that he might penetrate into their hard and perverse hearts; for had he employed only a single sentence, or a common mode of speaking, in describing their calamity and the ruin of the city, they would not have been at all moved. Hence he enlarges on the subject, and advances with greater vehemence, and always speaks in the person of God, that his denunciation might have greater weight.

I will set, etc. Here is to be noticed a second reason; for it was not enough that a calamity should be denounced on the Jews, without adding this, that it was inflicted by God’s hand, and that thus the punishment of their wickedness was just. Then he says, I will set this city for an astonishment; for so in this place the word hm sheme ought to be rendered, inasmuch as the reason afterwards follows, astonished shall be whosoever shall pass through it. fD46 He adds also, for a hissing, which is rather a mark of detestation than of scorn; yet the desolation of the whole land, and also the ruin of the holy city in which God had chosen an habitation for himself, might have filled all with terror, and ought justly to have done so. Whosoever, he says, shall pass through shall be astonished, and shall hiss on account of all her stroke; fD47 for it was not to be a common calamity, but one in which might be seen God’s dreadful judgment. It follows —

<241909>Jeremiah 19:9

9. And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons, and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend, in the siege and straitness wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.

9. Et pascam eos carne filiorum suorum et carne filiarum suarum, et vir carnem proximi sui comedent (hoc est, singuli comedent carnem proximi sui) in afflictione et angustia, qua angent (vel, constringent) eos hostes ipsorum, et qui quaerent animam ipsorum.

 

Here the Prophet goes farther — that so atrocious would be the calamity, that even fathers and mothers would not abstain from their children, but would devour their flesh. This was indeed monstrous. It has sometimes happened that husbands, in a state of extreme despondency, have killed their wives and children, (anxious to exempt them from the lust of enemies,) or have kindled a fire in the midst of the forum, to cast their children and wives on the pile, and afterwards to die themselves; but it was more barbarous and brutal for a father to eat the flesh of his son. The Prophet then describes an unusual vengeance of God, which could not be classed among the calamities which usually happen to mankind.

We know that this was also done in the last siege of that city; for Josephus shews at large that mothers in a brutal manner slew their children, and that they so lay in wait for one another that they snatched at anything to eat. This was also an evidence of God’s dreadful vengeance.

But it was no wonder that God visited in such an awful manner the sins of those who had in such various ways, and for so long a time, provoked him; for if we compare the Jews with other nations, we shall find that their impiety, and ingratitude, and perverseness, exceeded the crimes of all nations. Then justly did God inflict such a punishment, which even at this day cannot be referred to without horror. The whole indeed is to be ascribed to his judgment; for it was he who fed fD8 the fathers with the flesh of their children; for as they had sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, as before stated, so it was necessary that the vengeance of God should be openly pointed out as by the finger. This was done when God imprinted marks on the bodies of children, which even the blind could not but perceive.

He adds, In the tribulation, fD49 and straightness with which their enemies shall straiten them. We have said that those who had been long besieged, and were not able to resist, have been often reduced to the necessity to freeing their wives, or their children, or themselves, from dishonor; but to protract life in the manner here mentioned was altogether brutal. It follows —

<241910>Jeremiah 19:10

10. Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee.

10. Et conteras lagenam in oculis virorum qui proficiscentur (vel, qui profecti fuerint) tecum.

 

Jeremiah summoned witnesses, that the confirmation of the prophecy might be more fully attested to the people. With regard to the history of this transaction we may add, that he was first sent to the house of the potter, from whence he procured the bottle; he then went to Tophet, and there spoke against their impious and corrupt superstitions; and at last, to seal the prophecy, he broke the bottle in the presence of the witnesses whom he had brought with him. And we have said that it was necessary thus to deal with a people, not only ignorant and stupid, but, which is worse, perverse and obstinate. There was not only importance in the sign, that they might thence learn the doom of the city and of the whole land, but it was also a solemn sealing of the prophecy; and on this account he was commanded to break the vessel, even that he might show, by a visible act, the near approach of God’s vengeance, of which the Jews had no apprehension. It follows —

<241911>Jeremiah 19:11

11. And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Even so will I break this people, and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury.

11. Et dices ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ita confringam populum hunc et urbem hanc, sicut quis confringit vas figuli, (hoc est, vas testaceum; vel, vas fragile, figulinum,) quod non poterit reparari amplius: et in Thopheth sepelientur; quia non erit locus ad sepeliendum (ad verbum, a non loco ad sepeliendum.)

 

The Prophet again confirms what he had shewn by the external symbol, and he does this by a new coremtrod from God. We know that signs are wholly useless when the word of God does not shine forth, as we see that superstitious men always practice many ceremonies, but they are only histrionic acts. But God never commanded his prophets to shew any sign without adding doctrine to it. This is what we see was done on this occasion; for Jeremiah spoke against impious superstitions, and as a celestial herald denounced punishment; he then sealed the prophecy by breaking the bottle, and a repetition of the doctrine follows again, Thus shalt thou say to them. This is not said of the Prophet’s companions, the pronoun is without an antecedent, but the whole reople are the persons referred to.

Thus saith Jehovah, I will so break this people and this city. He mentions the city, in which they thought they had an impregnable fortress, because the temple of God was there. But as they had profaned the temple and polluted the city with their crimes, Jeremiah reminded them that no confidence or hope was to be placed in the city. Then he says, As one breaks a vessel which cannot be repaired, etc. Here again he shows that they were wholly to perish, so as no more to rise again. We indeed know that sometimes those who are most grievously afflicted retain some remnants of strength, and are at length restored to their former vigor; but the Prophet shews that the approaching calamity would be wholly irremediable. It is no objection to say, that God a. fterwards restored the people, and that the city and the temple were rebuilt, for all this was nothing to the ungodly men of that age, as their memory wholly perished. A curse and God’s vengeance remained on the heads of those who thus continued obstinate in their wickedness; and hence those who returned from exile are said in <19A219>Psalm 102:19, to have been a people created again, as though they rose up as new men,

“A people, who shall be created, shall praise the Lord.”

He then says, Buried shall they be, in Tophet, for there will be no place elsewhere. fD50 They had chosen that place at a time when they thought that they had some evidence of God’s favor, and a cause for joy; but he declares that that place would be filled with dead bodies, for they would flee in great numbers into the city, which afterwards would become so full of dead bodies that no room for burial could be found except in Topher. It follows —

<241912>Jeremiah 19:12

12. Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet.

12. Sic faciam loco huic, dicit Jehova, et incolis ejus; et ad ponendum (et ponam) urbem hanc sicut Thopheth.

 

As he had said before that the valley would be the place of slaughter, that thence it might take its name, so now he declares the same as to the city; “As then Tophet shall be the valley of slaughter, so shall Jerusalem be.” fD51 They were no doubt kindled into rage (as we shall see in the next chapter) on hearing this prophecy; but yet God purposed, however irreclaimable and refractory they were, to let them know what was approaching, and though they did not believe the words of the Prophet, God touched and even deeply wounded their consciences, so that before the event came they were miserable. For the same purpose he adds —

<241913>Jeremiah 19:13

13. And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burnt incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink-offerings unto other gods.

13. Et erunt domus Hierusalem et domus regum Jehudah, sicut locus Thopheth immundae; ad omnes domos in quibus suffitum fecerunt super tecta eorum universae militiae coelorum, et libarunt libamen diis alienis.

 

He describes, as I have said, more at large what he had briefly expressed, for he had spoken of the city; but as the belief of that was difficult, he now enumerates particulars, as though he had said, that Jerusalem was a wide city and splendidly built, for there were there many large and elegant houses, and the royal palaces, yet he says, that all these things would not prevent God to demolish the whole city. And this deserves particular notice, for we know that Satan dazzles our eyes whenever he suggests anything that gives a hope of defense, but what God threatens we think is vain, and as it were fabulous, or at least produces no effect on us. Since then so gross an hypocrisy prevailed in the hearts of the people, the Prophet rightly tried to shake off from them whatever might deceive them.

Hence he says, The houses of Jerusalem, etc. — these were many and splendid — and the houses of the kings of Judah, their palaces either within or without the city shall be as the place of Tophet; that is, no house shall be exempt from slaughter, and no palace shall protect its inhabitants. They shall be unclean, he says, that is, on account of dead bodies, for men slain would be found everywhere; and this is, as it is well known, often mentioned in Scripture as a pollution or defilement. With regard to all the houses; some read, “On account of all the houses,” and l lamed, is often a causal preposition. But it seems rather to be taken here as explanation; and hence I render the words, With regard to all the houses, so that the Prophet speaks of all the houses in, which they made incense. fD52 As then there was no house free from sacrilege, he says that God’s vengeance would penetrate into all houses without any exception.

He says also, On the roofs, with the view of condemning them for their effrontery; for they raised their baseness as a standard, that it might be seen at a distance. They indeed thought that God was delighted with such a service; but how came they to entertain such a foolish persuasion, except through their neglect and contempt of the law, and also through a mad presumption in giving more credit to their own fictions than to certain truth. The Prophet then justly condemns them, for they had cast off all shame, and went up to the roofs of their houses, that their doings might be more open. Then he mentions the whole host of heaven; and says further, that they had poured a libation to foreign gods. We see that many kinds of superstitions prevailed among the people; for he spoke of Baal in the singular number, he mentioned also Baalim, patrons, and he now adds, the whole host of heaven; that is, the sun, the moon, and all the stars.

We hence see that the Jews kept no limits as to their sacrileges, which is usually the case with all the ungodly; for as soon as men begin to turn aside from the pure and genuine worship of God, they sink into the lowest depths. It is then this wantonness that the Prophet now refers to, when he intimates that their various forms of worship were so increased, that they had devised as many gods as there are stars in heaven; which is similar to what is said elsewhere,

“According to the number of thy cities, O Judah, are thy gods,” (<240228>Jeremiah 2:28; <241113>Jeremiah 11:13.)

<241914>Jeremiah 19:14-15

14. Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whether the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord’s house, and said to all the people,

14. Et venit (reversus est) Jeremias e Thopheth, quo miserat eum Jehova ad prophetandum; et stetit in atrio domus Jehovae, et dixit ad totum populum,

15. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring upon this city, and upon all her towns, all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words,

15. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego adduco super urbem hanc et super omnes urbes ejus omne malum quod loquutus sum super eam, quia obduraverunt cervicem suam, ut non audirent sermones meos.

 

Jeremiah had been led to the very place, when he foretold the punishment, which was nigh at hand, on account of the superstitions of Tophet or of the valley of Hinnom. That his doctrine might be more efficacious, God intended that he should preach before the very altar and in the very valley, then well known for ungodly and false modes of worship. He says now that he went to the Temple and delivered there the same message. We hence learn how great must have been the stupidity and indifference of the people, for the repetition of the prophecy was not unnecessary. For as God knew that the Jews were extremely tardy and slow, he caused them to be warned twice by his servant, and in two different places.

Jeremiah, it is said, returned from Tophet, where God had sent him to prophesy; which last words were added, that we may not suppose that he without reason preached in the valley of Hinnom. God then commanded Jeremiah to denounce there, as it were in the very place, on the Jews their own destruction. And he stood, it is added, in the court of Jehovah’s house. As it was not lawful for the people to enter into the Temple, they usually assembled in the court, which was a part of the Temple. Then Jeremiah stood there; for he had to speak, not to a few, or in a corner, but to the whole people, and to make them witnesses of his prophecy. But we read here nothing new; for, as it has been stated, he was bidden to declare twice the same thing — the approaching calamity; and he was so bidden, because the Jews were so hardened, that they could not easily be moved. That he connects other cities with Jerusalem is not to be wondered at; he thereby intimates, that the whole land was guilty before God, and that therefore desolation was near at hand, as to all the towns and cities; as though he had said, “God will not spare Jerusalem, though it has been hitherto his sanctuary; but as lesser cities are not innocent, they shall also feel the hand of God together with Jerusalem.”

The reason is subjoined, Because they have hardened their neck. He again confirms what we have before observed, — that they had fallen, not through ignorance, but through perverseness; for they had learned with sufficient clearness from the law what was right, and they had also been often warned by the prophets. Hence then their wickedness appeared and their untameable spirit, for they had heard thesound doctrine of the law, and had many to warn them.

Now this passage teaches us that there is no pardon left for us, when we, as it were, avowedly reject the yoke of God. And this ought to be carefully noticed, for we see how difficult it is to subdue men, even when they confess that the word of God is what they hear. Since then there is in all mankind an innate perverseness, that hardly one in a hundred allows himself to be ruled by God’s word, it behoves us seriously to consider what is here said, — that they are unworthy of mercy who harden their neck. Hence it is said in <199508>Psalm 95:8,

“Harden not your hearts like your fathers.”

And a clearer definition follows, That they might not hear my words. Though there be hardness in all mortals, yet when the doctrine of salvation is made known and not received, then a greater impiety and pride shew themselves; for in that case, men hear God speaking, and yet rob him of his authority. It then follows, that the more clearly God makes known his truth, the less ground of excuse there is; for then especially comes to light the impiety of men, and their disdain seems incapable of being subdued.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to prescribe a rule for us, by which we may truly and purely worship thee, — O grant, that we may follow this plain rule, and never indulge our own imaginations, nor trifle with thee through our own fancies or through the foolish wisdom of our flesh, but continue in thy law, and in the doctrine which thine only-begotten Son, our Lord, has delivered to us, so that we may advance more and more in the knowledge of that glory, the foretaste of which thou givest us now, until we shall at length fully and perfectly enjoy it, when we shall be gathered into that celestial kingdom, which thy Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Fifth

CHAPTER 20

<242001>Jeremiah 20:1-2

1. Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.

1. Et audivit Phassur filius Immer sacerdos et ipse praefeetus erat (dux) in Templo (in aede) Jehovae, Jeremiam vaticinantem (prophetantem) hos sermones:

2. Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord.

2. Et percussit Phassur Jeremiam Prophetam, et posuit eum in cippum (vel, in carcerem; sed mihi magis placet nomen carceris) qui erat in porta Benjamin superiore, quae spectabat ad aedem Jehovae.

 

Jeremiah relates here what sort of reward he had received for his prophecy, — that he had been smitten and cast into prison, not by the king or by his courtiers, but by a priest who had the care of the Temple. It was a grievous and bitter trial when God’s servant found that he was thus cruelly treated by one of the sacred order, who was of the same tribe, and his colleague; for the priests who were then in office had not been without right appointed, for God had chosen them. As, then, their authority was founded on the Law and on God’s inviolable decree, Jeremiah might well have been much terrified; for this thought might have occurred to him, — “What can be the purpose of God? for he has set priests of the tribe of Levi over his Temple and over his whole people. Why, then, does he not rule them by his Spirit? Why does he not render them fit for their office?

Why does he suffer his Temple, and the sacred office which he so highly commends to us in his Law, to be thus profaned? or why, at least, does he not stretch forth his hand to defend me, who am also a priest, and sincerely engaged in my calling?” For we know that God commands in his Law, as a proof that the priests had supreme power, that whosoever disobeyed them should be put to death.

(<051712>Deuteronomy 17:12.) “Since, then, it was God’s will to endue the priests with so much authority and power, why therefore did he not guide them by his grace, that they might faithfully execute the office committed to them?”

Nor was Jeremiah alone moved and shaken by this trial, but all who then truly worshipped God. Small, indeed, was the number of the godly; but there was surely no one who was not astonished at such a spectacle as this.

Pashur was not the chief priest, though he was of the first order of priests; and it is probable that Immer, his father, was the high priest, and that he was his vicar, acting in his stead as the ruler of the Temple. fE1 However this may have been, he was no doubt superior, not only to the Levites, but also to the other priests of his order. Now this person, being of the same order and family, rose up against Jeremiah, and not only condemned in words a fellow-priest, but treated him outrageously, for he smote the Prophet. This was unworthy of his station, and contrary to the rights of sacred fellowship; for if the cause of Jeremiah was bad, yet a priest ought to have pursued a milder course; he might have cast him into prison, that if found guilty, he might afterwards be condemned. But to smite him was not the act of a priest, but of a tyrant, of a ruffian, or of a furious man.

We may hence learn in what a disorder things were at that time; for in a well-ordered community the judge does not leap from his tribunal in order to strike a man, though he might deserve a hundred deaths, as regard ought to be had to what is lawful. Now, if a judge, whom God has armed with the sword, ought not thus to give vent to his wrath and without discretion use the sword, it is surely a thing wholly inconsistent with the office of a priest. Then the state of things must have been then in very great disorder, when a priest thus disgraced himself. And from his precipitant rage we may also gather that good men were then very few. He had been chosen to preside over the Temple; he must then have excelled others not only as to his station, but also in public esteem and in the possession of some kind of virtues. But we see how he was led away by the evil spirit.

These things we ought carefully to consider, for it happens sometimes that great commotions arise in the Church of God, and those who ought to be moderators are often carried away by a blind and, as it were, a furious zeal. We may then stumble, and our faith may wholly fail us, except such an example as this affords us aid, which shews clearly that the faithful were formerly tried and had their faith exercised by similar contests. It is not then uselessly said that Pashur smote Jeremiah. Had he struck one of the common people, it would have been more endurable, though in that case it would have been an act wholly unworthy of his office; but when he treated insolently the servant of God, and one who had for a long time discharged the prophetic office, it was far less excusable. This circumstance, then, ought to be noticed by us, that the priest dared to strike the Prophet of God.

It then follows that Jeremiah was cast by him into prison. But we must notice this, that he had heard the words of Jeremiah before he became infuriated against him. He ought, doubtless, to have been moved by such a prophecy; but he became mad and so audacious as to smite God’s Prophet. It hence appears how great is the stupidity of those who have once become so hardened as to despise God; for even the worst of men are terrified when God’s judgment is announced. But Pashur heard Jeremiah proclaiming the evil that was near at hand; and yet the denunciation had no other effect on him but to render him worse. As, then, he thus violently assailed God’s Prophet, after having heard his words, it is evident that he was blinded by a rage wholly diabolical. We also see that the despisers of God blend light with darkness, for Pashur covered his impiety with a cloak, and hence cast Jeremiah into prison; for in this way he shewed that he wished to know the state of the case, as he brought him out of prison the following day. Thus the ungodly ever try to make coverings for their impiety; but they never succeed. The hypocrisy of Pashur was very gross when he cast Jeremiah into prison, in order that he might afterwards call him to defend his cause, for he had already smitten him. This great insolence, then, took away every pretense for justice. It was therefore extremely frivolous for Pashur to have recourse afterwards to some form of trial for deciding the case.

The word tkphm, mephicat, is rendered by some, fetter; and by others, stocks; and they think it to be a piece of wood, with one hole to confine the neck, and another the feet. But I know not whether this is suitable here, for Jeremiah says that it was in the higher gate of Benjamin. This certainly could not be properly said of fetters, or of chains, or of stocks. It then follows that it was a prison. fE2 He mentions the gate of Benjamin, as it belonged to that tribe; for we know that a part of Jerusalem was inhabited by the Benjamites. They had two gates, and this was the higher gate towards the east. He says that it was opposite the house of Jehovah; for besides the court there were many small courts, as it is well known, around the Temple. It follows: —

<242003>Jeremiah 20:3

3. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magor-missabib.

3. Et accidit postridie (die crastino) ut educeret Phassur Jeremiam e carcere; et dixit ei Jeremias, Non Phassur vocavit Jehova nomen tuum, sed potius terrorem undique.

 

No doubt Pashur called other priests to examine the case. It was, indeed, a specious pretense, for he seemed as though he did not wish to condemn the holy Prophet hastily, or without hearing his defense. But Jeremiah only says briefly that he was brought out of prison: we at the same time gather that he was not dismissed, for he was summoned before Pashur to give a reason for his prophecy.

But here the Prophet shews that he was not cast down or disheartened, though he had been most contemptuously treated; he bore patiently the buffetings and stripes he had received, and also his incarceration. We know that such outrages are so bitter to ingenuous minds, that they can hardly sustain them. But Jeremiah teaches us, by his own example, that our constancy and firmness ought not to be weakened though the whole world loaded or almost overwhelmed us with reproaches. We ought, then, to understand that courage of mind ought not to fail or be weakened in God’s servants, however wickedly and contumeliously they may be treated by the world. For Jeremiah, when he came out of prison, spoke more boldly than before; nor was he beyond the reach of danger. Courage increases when one obtains the victory, and he can then safely and securely insult his enemies; but Jeremiah was yet a captive, though he had been brought out of prison, and he might have been afterwards cast there again and treated more cruelly than before. But neither the wrong he had received, nor the fear of new contumely, deterred him from denouncing God’s judgment on the ungodly priest. Such magnanimity becomes all God’s servants, so that they ought not to feel shame, nor grow soft, nor be disheartened, when the world treats them with indignity and reproach; nor ought they to fear any dangers, but advance courageously in the discharge of their office.

It must in the second place be noticed, — that God’s Prophet here closes his eyes to the splendor of the priestly office, which otherwise might have hindered him to denounce God’s judgment,. And this ought to be carefully observed; for we know the ungodly he hid under masks, as the case is in the present day with the Pope and all his filthy clergy: for what do they allege but the name of Catholic Church and perpetual priesthood and apostolical dignity? Doubtless, Pashur was of the priestly order; but what the Papacy is, the Scripture neither mentions nor teaches, except that it condemns it as altogether filthy and abominable. And the Levitical priesthood, as I have said, was founded on God’s Law; and yet Jeremiah, guided by the command of God, hesitated not severely to reprove the priest and to treat him as he deserved. It is, therefore, then only that we tightly and faithfully discharge the prophetic office, when we shew no respect of persons, and disregard those external masks by which the ungodly deceive the simple, and are haughty towards God while they falsely pretend his name. fE3

Now he says, Jehovah has called thy name not Pashur, but terror on every side. Some render the words, “Because there will be terror to thee on every side;but incorrectly, for in the next verse a reason is given which explains what the Prophet means. Jeremiah no doubt had a regard to the meaning of the word Pashur, otherwise it would have been unmeaning and even foolish to say, “Thy name shall be called not Pashur, but terror on every side.” Interpreters have expounded the word Pashur as meaning an increasing prince, or one who extends power, deriving it from hp, peshe, to increase, and transitively, to extend; and they add to it the word r, sher, which means a prince; and so they render it, a prince extending power, or a prince who increases. But as there is some doubt as to the points, I know not whether this etymology can be maintained. I am more inclined to derive the word from jp, peshech, to cut or break. It is indeed but once found in this sense in Scripture, but often in the Chaldee language. However this may be, it is taken in this sense once by Jeremiah in the third Chapter of Lamentations. fE4 And hence by a metaphor it means to open; and a, aleph, may be deemed quiescent in the second word, so that it means one who breaks or opens the light. The words which follow — “terror on every side” — induce and compel me to give this interpretation. He does not say that he would be a terror on every side; but that terrors surrounded him, bybsm, mesabib, so that there was no escape. As then the name of Pashur was honorable, signifying to open light, he mentions this, (it is indeed a metaphor, by which breaking means opening:) as then he had this name, which means to bring forth light, Jeremiah says, “Thou shalt be called a terror on every side;” that is, a terror that so surrounds all that no escape is possible. fE5 We see that the contrast is most suitable between the opening of light and that terror which spread on every side, so that there is no opening and no escape; and the explanation follows:

<242004>Jeremiah 20:4

4. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends; and they fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword.

4. Quia sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego pono to in terrorem tibi et omnibus amicis tuis; et cadent per gladium hostium tuorum, oculi tui videntes, (id est, oculis tuis videntibus,) et totum Jehudah tradam in manum regis Babylonis, et transferet eos (vel, traducet) Babylonem, et percutiet eos gladio.

 

Here Jeremiah explains more at large why he said that Pashur would be terror on every side, even because he and his friends would be in fear; for he would find himself overwhelmed by God’s vengeance, and would become a spectacle to all others. In short, Jeremiah means, that such would be God’s vengeance as would fill Pashur and all others with fear; for Pashur himself would be constrained to acknowledge God’s hand without being able to escape, and all others would also perceive the same. He then became a spectacle to himself and to others, because he could not, however hardened he might have been, do otherwise than feel God’s vengeance; and this became also apparent to all others.

Behold, he says, I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends; and fall shall they by the sword of their enemies, thine eyes seeing it; and all Judah will I deliver into the hand, etc. He repeats what he had said; for Pashur wished to be deemed the patron of the whole land, and especially of the city Jerusalem. As, then, he had undertaken the cause of the people, as though he was the patron and defender of them all, Jeremiah says, that all the Jews would be taken captives, and not only so, but that something more grievous was nigh at hand, for when the king of Babylon led them into exile, he would also smite them with the sword, not indeed all; but we know that he severely punished the king, his children, and the chief men, so that the lower orders on account of their obscurity alone escaped; and those of this class who did escape, because they were not noble nor renowned, were indebted to their own humble condition. It follows, —

<242005>Jeremiah 20:5

5. Moreover, I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labors thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon.

5. Et ponam totam fortitudinem urbis hujus, et omnem laborem ejus, et omnem pretiousum ejus, (vel, omnem gloriam,) et omnes thesauros regum Jehudah ponam in manum inimicorum ipsorum, et spoliabunt ipsos et tollent eos et abducent eos Babylonem.

 

He goes on with the same subject, but amplifies what he had said in order to confirm it. At the same time there is no doubt but that Pashur was more exasperated when he heard these grievous threatenings; but it was right thus to inflame more and more the fury of all the ungodly. Though, then, they may a hundred times raise a clamor, we must not desist from freely and boldly declaring the truth. This is the reason why the Prophet now more fully describes the future calamity of the city.

I will give up, he says, the whole strength of this city, etc. This word “strength” is sometimes taken metaphorically for riches or wealth. Then the whole strength, or substance, of this city and all its labor will I give up, etc. This second clause is still more grievous, for what had been acquired with great labor was to be given to plunder; for when any one becomes rich without labor, that is, when riches come to one by inheritance, without any trouble or toil, he is not so distressed when he happens to be deprived of his wealth; but he who has through a whole life of labor obtained what he expects would be for the support of life, this person grieves much more and becomes really distressed with anguish, when enemies come and deprive and plunder him of all he possesses. There is therefore no doubt but that “labor” is here mentioned, as in other parts of Scripture, in order to amplify the evil. He then adds, all its precious things and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I deliver into the hand of their enemies; who will carry away, not only riches, labor, and treasures, but also the men themselves, and bring them to Babylon. fE6 The rest to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we may not by our perverseness increasingly provoke thy wrath, but that whenever thou threatenest us, we may immediately fear and tremble at thy word, and also obey thee in the true spirit of meekness, and so dread thy threatenings as to anticipate thy judgment by true repentance, and thus strive to glorify thy name, that thou mayest become our strength and glory, and that we may be able not only before the world, but before thee and thy angels, really to glory, that we are that peculiar people whom thou hast favored with thy adoption, that thou mayest to the end carry on in us the work of thy grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Six

<242006>Jeremiah 20:6

6. And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house, shall go, into captivity: and thou shalt come into Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.

6. Et tu Phashur et omnes habitatores domus tuae (hoc est omnes domestici tui) venietis captivitatem; tu venies Babylonem, et illic morieris, et illic sepeheris, et omnes amici tui, quibus vaticinatus es in mendacio.

 

Now Jeremiah declares that Pashur himself would be a proof, that he had truly foretold the destruction of the city and the desolation of the whole land. He had indeed before exposed his vanity; but he now brings the man himself before the public; for it was necessary to exhibit a remarkable instance, that all might know that God’s judgment ought to have been dreaded.

Though that impostor flattered the people, yet Jeremiah says, that he and all his domestics would be led into captivity; that is, that the whole family would be as it were a spectacle, so that all the Jews might see that Pashur would be brought to nothing. “Let all the Jews then know,” he seems to have said, “that he is a false prophet.”

But what follows might have raised a question; for Jeremiah declares as a punishment, that Pashur dying in Babylon would be buried there; but he had said before, “I will give their carcasses for meat to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth;” and now it is not consistent in the Prophet to represent that as a punishment which is reckoned as one of God’s favors. In answer to this, let it be especially noticed, that God does not always punish the ungodly alike, or in the same way. He would have some to be cast away unburied, as they were unworthy of that common lot of humanity; but he would have others buried, but for a different, purpose; for there is weight in the particle there, for Babylon is put in contrast with the holy land. Whosoever were buried in the land of Canaan, had even in their death a pledge of the eternal inheritance; for as it is well known, God wished them while they lived so to enjoy the land, that they might look forward to heaven. Hence burial in the land of Canaan was as it were a visible mark or symbol of God’s adoption, as though all the children of Abraham were gathered into his bosom until they arose into a blessed and immortal life. Hence Pashur, by being buried in Babylon, became an outcast from God’s Church; for it was in a manner a repudiation, as though God would thus openly put on him a mark of infamy.

If it be objected and said, that the same thing happened to Daniel, and to some of the best servants of God, and that Jeremiah himself was buried in Egypt, which was far worse; the answer we give is this, — that temporal punishments which happen to the elect and God’s children for their good do in a manner change their nature as to them; though, indeed, it must be held, that all punishments are evidences of the wrath and curse of God. Whatever evils then happen to us in this life ought to be regarded as the fruits of sin, as though God thereby shewed himself openly to be displeased with us. This is one thing. Then, when poverty, famine, diseases, and exile, and even death itself, are viewed in themselves, we must always say that they are the curses of God, that is, when they are regarded, as I have said, in their own nature. But God consecrates these punishments as to his own children, so they turn to their benefit, and thereby cease to be curses. Whenever then God declares, “Thou shalt be unburied,” it is no wonder that this dishonor should be deemed an evidence of his wrath and a proof of his curse. And farther, whenever he formerly said thus, “Thou shalt be buried out of the holy land,” it was also an evidence of his curse, that is, with regard to the reprobate. At the same time God turned to good whatever might otherwise be a curse to his elect; and hence Paul says, that all things turn out for good and benefit to the faithful, who love God. (<450828>Romans 8:28.)

Now, then, we understand why the Prophet says, that Pashur would be buried in Babylon; nor is there a doubt but that there was more disgrace in that burial, than if his body was cast out and devoured by wild beasts; for God intended to render him conspicuous, that all might for a long time turn their eyes to him, according to what is said in <195912>Psalm 59:12,

“Slay them not, O God, for thy people may forget them.”

God then intended that the life and death of Pashur should be a memorial, in order that the minds of the people might be more impressed. At the same time, were the word burial taken in a wider sense, there would be nothing wrong, as though it was said, “There shall his carcass lie until it becomes putrified.”

Then Jeremiah adds, Thou and thy friends to whom thou hast prophesied falsely. fE7 This passage teaches us that a just reward is rendered to the ungodly who wish to be deceived, when they sustain a twofold judgment from God. Behold, then, what all the wicked who seek flatterers that promise them wonderful things, gain for themselves! they thus earn for themselves a heavier vengeance. The more they strive to put afar off God’s judgment, the more, no doubt, they increase and inflame it. This is the reason why the Prophet denounces a special judgment on the friends of Pashur, to whom he had prophesied; they had wilfully laid hold on those false promises by which he had flattered them, so that they boldly despised God. Since, then, they wished of their own accord to be thus deceived, it was right that these deceptions through which they slandered the prophetic threatenings, and which they usually set up as a shield against them, should bring on them a heavier punishment. It then follows —

<242007>Jeremiah 20:7

7. O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.

7. Decepisti me, Jehova, et deceptus sum; vim intulisti mihi, itfuisti superior; fui in ludibrium toto die, (vel, quotidie, hoc est, assidue;) omnes subsannant me.

 

Some think that these words were not spoken through the prophetic Spirit, but that Jeremiah had uttered them inconsiderately through the influence of a hasty impulse; as even the most eminent are sometimes carried away by a hasty temper. They then suppose the Prophet, being overcome by a temptation of this kind, made this complaint, to God, “What! Lord, I have followed thee as a leader; but thou hast promised to me what I do not find: I seem, then, to myself to be deceived.” Others give even a harsher explanation, — that the Prophet had been deceived, according to what is said elsewhere,

“I the Lord have deceived that Prophet.” (<261409>Ezekiel 14:9.)

But there is no doubt but that his language is ironical, when he says that he was deceived. He assumes the character of his enemies, who boasted that he presumptuously prophesied of the calamity and ruin of the city, as no such thing would take place. The Prophet here declares that God was the author of his doctrine, and that nothing could be alleged against him which would not be against God himself; as though he had said that the Jews contended in vain, under the notion that they contended with a mortal man; for they openly carried on war with God, and like the giants furiously assailed heaven itself. He then says that he was deceived, not that he thought so; for he was fully satisfied as to himself; nor had he only the Spirit of God as a witness to his calling, but also possessed in his heart a firm conviction of the truth he delivered. But as I have already said, he relates the words of those who, by opposing his teaching, denied that he was God’s servant, and gave him no credit as though he was only an impostor.

But this mode of speaking is much more striking than if he had said in plain terms, “Lord, I am not deceived, for I have only obeyed thy command, and have received from thee whatever I have made public; nor have I presumptuously obtruded myself, nor adulterated the truth of which thou hast made me the herald: I have, then, faithfully discharged my office.” If the Prophet had thus spoken, there would have been much less force in his words than by exposing in the manner he does here the blasphemies of those who dared to accuse God, and make him guilty by arraigning his servant as a false prophet.

We now, then, understand why he spoke ironically, and freely expostulated with God, because he had been deceived by him; it was that the Jews might know that they vomited forth reproaches, not against a mortal man, but against God himself, who would become the avenger of so great an insult.

Were any one to ask whether it became the Prophet to make God thus his associate, the answer would be this, — that his cause was so connected with God’s cause, that the union was inseparable; for Jeremiah speaks not here as a private individual, much less as one of the common people; but as he knew that his calling was approved by God, he hesitated not to connect God with himself, so that the reproach might belong to both. God, indeed, could not be separated from his own truth; for nothing would be left to him, were he regarded as apart from his word. Hence a mere fiction is every idea which men form of God in their minds, when they neglect that mirror in which he has made himself known, Nay more, we ought to know that whatever power, majesty, and glory there is in God, so shines forth in his word, that he does not appear as God, except his word remains safe and uncorrupted. As, then, the Prophet had been furnished with a sure commission, it is no wonder that he so boldly derides his enemies and says, that God was a deceiver, if he had been deceived. To the same purpose is what Paul says,

“If an angel come down from heaven and teach you another Gospel, let him be accursed.” (<480108>Galatians 1:8)

Certainly Paul was inferior to the angels, and we know that he was not so presumptuous as to draw down angels from heaven, and to make them subservient to himself; no, by no means; but he did not regard what they might be; but as he had the truth of the Gospel, of which he was the herald, sealed in his heart, he hesitated not to raise that word above all angels. So now Jeremiah says, that God was a deceiver, if he was deceived: how so? because God would deny himself, if he destroyed the truth of his word.

We now, then, perceive that the Prophet did not exceed what was right, when he dared to elevate himself, so as to become in a manner the associate of God, that is, as to the truth of which God was the author and he the minister.

But from this passage a useful doctrine may be gathered. All who go forth to teach ought to be so sure of their calling, as not to hesitate to appeal to God’s tribunal whenever any dispute happens. It is indeed true, that even the best servants of God may in some things be mistaken, or be doubtful in their judgment; but as to their calling and doctrine there ought to be that certainty which Jeremiah exhibits to us here by his own example.

He afterwards adds, Thou hast constrained me. By saying that he had been deceived, he meant this, — “O God, if I am an impostor, thou hast made me so; if I have deceived, thou hast led me; for I have derived from thee all that I have; it hence follows, that thou art in fault, and less excusable than I am, if there be anything wrong in me.” Afterwards, as I have said, he enlarges on this, — that God constrained him; for he had not coveted the prophetic office, but being constrained, undertook it; for he could not have rejected or cast off the burden laid on him. He then expresses two things, — that he had brought no fancies of his own, nor invented anything of what he had said, but had been the instrument of God’s Spirit, and delivered what he had received as from hand to hand: this is one thing. And then he adds, — that had he his free choice, he would not have undertaken the prophetic office; for he had been drawn as it were by constraint to obey God in this respect. We now then perceive the meaning of Jeremiah.

Were any to ask, whether it could be deemed commendable in the Prophet thus constrainedly to undertake his office; to this the plain answer is, — that a general rule is not here laid down, as though it were necessary for all to be thus unwillingly drawn. But though Jeremiah might not have been faultless in this respect., yet he might have justly testified this before men. And we have seen at the beginning, that when God appointed him a teacher to his Church, he refused as far as he could the honor,

“Ah! Lord,” he said, “I know not how to speak.”
(<240106>Jeremiah 1:6)

Though then he was constrained by God’s authority, and as it were, led by force, and though he may have shewed in this respect that he was not free from fault or weakness; yet he might have rightly pleaded this against his enemies.

He then says, that he was a scorn continually, and was derided by all. The Prophet no doubt tried here to find out whether any portion of the people was still reclaimable; for to hear that God was charged with falsehood, that the Prophet’s office was rendered void by the wilfulness and audacity of men, was much calculated to rouse their minds. When, therefore, they heard this, they must surely have been terrified, if they had a particle of true religion or of right knowledge. Hence the Prophet wished to make the trial, whether there were any remaining who were capable of being reclaimed. But his object also was to shew, that their wickedness was inexpiable, if they continued wickedly and proudly to oppose his doctrine. fE8

And we ought carefully to notice this; for this passage has not only been written, that we may be instructed in the fear of God; but the Holy Spirit continually proclaims against all despisers, and openly accuses them, that they offer to God the atrocious insult of charging him with falsehood and deception. Let us then know that a dreadful judgment is here denounced on all those profane men who despise God’s word and treat it with derision; for the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Jeremiah openly proclaims, as I have said, before God’s tribunal, that God is made by them a liar. It afterwards follows, —

<242008>Jeremiah 20:8-9

8. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.

8. Quia ex quo locuutus sum, vociferor violentiam et vastationem clamo; quia fuit sermo Jehovae mihi in opprobrium et in contumeliam toto die (vel, quotidie, assidu, ut dictum est.)

9. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name: but his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.

9. Et dixi (itaque dixi, copula enim illativam valet) non recordabor et non loquar amplius in nomine ejus; et fuit in corde meo quasi ignis ardens, clausus in ossibus meis, et fatigatus sum ferendo et non potui.

 

The Prophet says here that he found no fruit from his labors, but on the contrary, he saw that all his efforts and endeavors had an opposite effect; for they exasperated all the Jews, inflamed their rage, and drove them into a greater licentiousness in sinning. Hence he says, that he purposed to give up the office assigned to him, but that by a secret impulse he was constrained to persevere, and that thus he was not at liberty to desist from the course which he had begun.

But the verse is variously explained; From the time I spoke, I cried violence aloud and proclaimed devastation. Thus some take the words, as though Jeremiah said, that since he began to teach he uttered complaints; for he saw that he was violently assailed and was exposed to all kinds of wrongs: but this view appears to me too frigid. Others come nearer to the truth who consider him as saying, that he had not ceased to cry against outrages and plunders, when he saw that all kinds of wickedness prevailed among the people; as though he had said, “I could not mildly and peaceably teach them, for their disposition and temper prevented me, but their wickedness compelled me to treat them with severity, as all God’s servants ought wisely to consider what the state of the Church requires.” If indeed we should in tranquil times cry aloud, it would be mad affectation; and this is what is done by many, who without thought and without any reason always make a great cry; but when we see Satan reigning, we ought not then to withhold nor to act as in a truce; but as it is an open war it is necessary to cry aloud. They who take this view, then, understand that Jeremiah cried aloud, because he saw that the people were refractory, and also saw that things were so bad that they could not be restored to a right state without the greatest sharpness and vehemence.

But I rather think that the Prophet had another kind of trial, — that he brought down a greater vengeance of God by his cries, as though he had said, “To what purpose should I furnish God with weapons by my preaching? since I do nothing but increase his wrath, which will at length fulminate and consume the whole land together with the people.” He then says, that he cried violence and devastation aloud, for impiety itself is a sort of hostile violence by which God is provoked. The meaning is, that the Prophet saw no other fruit to his labor, but that men were rendered more insolent, and from being thieves became robbers, and from being disdainful became ruffians, so that they increasingly kindled God’s wrath, and more fully abandoned themselves. This was indeed a most severe and dangerous trial; it is therefore no wonder that the Prophet says, that it came to his mind to turn aside from his office as a teacher.

Now this passage is especially worthy of being observed; for not only teachers are influenced by this feeling, but all the godly without exception. For when we see that men are, as it were, made worse through God’s word, we begin to doubt whether it be expedient to bury every remembrance of God and to extinguish his word, rather than to increase the licentiousness of men, they being already inclined enough to commit sin. We indeed see at this day that the doctrine of the Gospel does not restore all to obedience; but many give themselves a more unbridled license, as though the yoke of discipline was wholly removed. There was some fear under the Papacy, there was some sort of obedience and subjection; and now the liberty of the Gospel, what is it to many but brute license, so that they sin with impunity and blend heaven and earth together. There are also others who, on observing so many controversies, do, under that pretext, throw aside every concern for religion, and every attention to it. There are some fanatics who allow themselves to doubt and even to deny the existence of God. As then we see that the effect of the truth is not such as might be wished, those who are otherwise firm must needs be shaken or made to totter. Therefore, this passage ought the more to be noticed; for Jeremiah confesses that he was sore troubled when he saw that the word of God was a derision, and hence he wished to withdraw from the course of his calling. Let us know that whenever such a thing comes into our minds we ought manfully to resist it; and, therefore, the two things here mentioned ought to be connected, for when he said, I will no more mention him, nor speak in his name, he added, but the word of God was like a burning fire.

We hence see how God restrained his servant, lest he should fall headlong, or succumb under his temptation; for he would have been suddenly drawn in as it were into a deep gulf, had he not been preserved by God. Therefore, whenever temptations of this kind present themselves to us, let us pray God to restrain and to support us; or if we have already fallen, let us pray him to raise us up and to strengthen us by his Spirit.

But the way is shewn by which God aided his servant: The word of God became as a burning fire in his heart; and it was also closed up in his bones, so that he was led by an ardent zeal, and could not be himself without going onward in the course of his office. He concludes by saying, that he was wearied, or could hardly bear himself, with forbearing; as though he had said, that it was not in his power either to abstain from teaching or to do what God commanded; for a burning ardor forced him to go on; and yet he had no doubt in his view those despisers with whom he had to do. It is the same then as though he had said, that he had found out what it was to have the whole world against him, but that God prevailed. Now this was said, because profane men take occasion to be secure and indifferent, when they imagine that Prophets and teachers are unfeeling men, — “O, what do we care for fanatics, who do not possess common feelings? and it is no wonder, since they are stupid and insensible, that they are thus angry and violent, disregard all others, and feel nothing that is human.” As, then, they imagine that men are sticks, when they speak of God’s servants as being without discretion, the Prophet seems to say, “Surely ye are deceived, for I am not so much an iron, but that I am influenced by strong and many feelings; nay, I have learnt and I know how great is my weakness, nor do I dissemble but that I am subject to fear, to sorrow, and to other passions; but God has prevailed. There is then no reason for you to think that I speak so boldly, because I feel nothing human; but I have done so after a hard struggle, after all those things came into my mind, which are calculated to weaken the courage of my heart; yet God stretched forth his hand to me, and not only so, but I was constrained, lest I should arrogate anything to myself, or boast of my heroic courage. I did not prevail, he says, but when I submitted myself to God and desired to give up my calling, I was constrained, and God dealt powerfully with me, for his word became as a burning fire in my heart, so that at length, through the strong influence of the Spirit, I was constrained to proceed in the discharge of my office.”

Therefore I said, I will mention him no more, nor speak in his name; not that the Prophet wished himself or others to forget God, but because he thought that he lost all his labor, and that he in vain made a stir, since he cried aloud without any benefit, and not only so, but he more and more exasperated the wicked; as an ulcer, the more it is pressed, the more putrid matter it emits; so the impiety of the people was more and more discovered, when the Prophet reproved sins which were before hid. fE9

Let us now then learn by the example of the Prophet, that whenever Satan or our flesh raises an objection and says, that we ought to desist from preaching celestial truth because it produces not its proper and legitimate fruits, it is nevertheless a good odor before God, though fatal to the ungodly. Though then the truth of the Gospel proves the savor of death to many, yet our labor is not on that account of no value before God; for we know that we offer to God an acceptable sacrifice; and though our labor be useless as to men, it is yet fruitful as to the glory of God; and while we are the odor of death unto death to those who perish, yet to God, even in this respect, our labor is acceptable. (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16)

Let us also beware lest we withdraw ourselves from God; but even when many things happen to impede our course, let us overcome them by the power of the Spirit. At the same time let us fear, lest through our sloth we bury our ardor of which the Prophet speaks. We see what happened to Jonah; he had so far fallen as to forsake entirely his office, by extinguishing, as much as he could, the judgment of God; and when he became a fugitive, he thought himself beyond danger, as though he was removed from God’s presence. (<320103>Jonah 1:3.) God indeed saw him, but yet his word was not in him as a burning fire. As then so great a man through his own sloth extinguished, as far as he could, the light of the Holy Spirit, how much more ought we to fear, lest the same thing should happen to us? Let us then rouse the sparks of this fervor, until it inflame us, so that we may faithfully devote ourselves altogether to the service of God; and if at any time we become slothful, let us stimulate ourselves, and may the power of the Holy Spirit be so revived, that we may to the end pursue the course of our office and never stand still, but assail even the whole world, knowing that God commands us and requires from us what others disapprove and condemn.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as at this day a greater and viler impiety breaks forth than at any age, and thy sacred truth is treated with derision by many of Satan’s drudges, — O grant, that we may nevertheless constantly persevere in it, nor hesitate to oppose the fury of all the ungodly, and relying on the power of thy Spirit, contend with them until that truth, which thou didst once proclaim by thy Prophets, and at length by thine only-begotten Son, and which was sealed by his blood, may attain its full authority, that as it proves to many the savor of eternal death, so it may also be a pledge to us of eternal salvation, until we shall be gathered into thy kingdom at the coming of the same thy Son Jesus Christ. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Seventh

<242010>Jeremiah 20:10

10. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.

10. Quia audivi contumeliam multorum, terrorem undique, Nuntiate et nuntiabimus: omnis vir (id est, omnes homines, homo pacis, ad verbum, wna omnes homines) pacis meae (id est, familiares mei, qui debuerant colere mecum amicitiam), observant latus meum (vel, claudicationem, metaphorice et melius,) si forte erret, et praevaleamus ei, et sumamus ultionem nostram ex eo.

 

Jeremiah proceeds with the same subject, and before God accuses his enemies, — that they disgracefully contended with him, though he deserved no such treatment, for he had endeavored to secure as far as he could their safety. He then says, that he had heard the slander of many, or as it may be rendered, of the great; but the former rendering is more suitable, for it immediately follows, that there was terror on every side, as though all with one consent assailed him. He then says, that he was surrounded with terror on every side, because he saw that the whole mass was opposed and hostile to him, and that he stood alone. He says, also, that his enemies laid in wait for him, and sought occasions to destroy him.

Report ye, and we will report to him. Here he assumes their person and relates what they consulted to do. He, no doubt, introduces here the chief men and the priests as the speakers, who were contriving means to form an accusation against the holy man; for we know what is commonly done in conspiracies of this kind; worthless men run here and there and hunt for every little thing; then they bring their report, and from this the accusation is formed. As, then, it did not comport with the dignity of the chief men and of the priests, to run here and there and to inquire of such as they might meet with what Jeremiah had said, they sat still and sent others, and said, “Go and report to us, and we shall then report to the king.” For the word “king” must be here understood, as the pronoun is put without an antecedent; come then and report, and we will report to him. We now perceive what Jeremiah complained of, even that he had not only many enemies who calumniated him, but that he had also those who wished insidiously to entrap him.

And he adds what was still worse, — that he was thus unjustly treated, not only by strangers or those who were openly his enemies, but by his own friends or relations; for the Hebrews called domestics and those connected by relationship, men of peace;

“the man of my peace, in whom I trusted,”

is an expression used in <194109>Psalm 41:9; but it is a phrase which often occurs. In short, Jeremiah means, that he was not only in a manner overwhelmed by a vast number of enemies, but that he was also without any friends, for they treacherously betrayed him. He says that they watched his side, or halting. Some render it “breaking;” but halting or debility is the most suitable; and the metaphor is most appropriate; it is taken from the side, and they who halt or through weakness totter, incline now on this side, then on that side. So Jeremiah says, that they watched him; if by chance he go astray, he again speaks in their name, “Let us then watch whether he will halt or go astray from the road; and then we shall prevail against him.”

We may, in short, gather from these words, that this holy servant of God was not only harassed openly by professed enemies, but that he was also insidiously watched, and perfidiously, too, by men who pretended to be his friends, while yet they were his worst enemies. If, then, deceitful men at this time assail us by secret means, and others oppose us openly, let us know that nothing new has happened to us; for in these two ways God tried Jeremiah. We also see that it was a common thing with the ungodly to lay hold on some pretext for calumny; for as soon as the Prophets opened their mouth, they could have said nothing but what was immediately misrepresented; and hence Micah complained that he was assailed by a similar artifice, for when the spoke with severity, they all cried out that he raised a tumult among the people, and sought nothing but new things, so that by disturbing the state of the city and kingdom, he would bring all things to ruin. (<330206>Micah 2:6.) If, then, God suffers us to be tried by such intrigues, let us bear such indignity with resigned and calm minds; for no Prophet has been exempt from this kind of trouble and annoyance.

They said further, Let us take our revenge on him, as though, indeed, they had a cause for revenge! for what had Jeremiah done? In what had he offended them? Though, then, they had suffered no wrong, they yet would take revenge! But it is no wonder that the ungodly and the despisers of God spoke thus; for we know that they thought themselves grievously injured whenever their wounds were touched; for they considered reproofs, however just and necessary, to be reproaches. Hence then it was, that their rage kindled in them a desire for revenge, though yet no wrong had been done to them. fE10 He afterwards adds, —

<242011>Jeremiah 20:11

11. But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one; therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten,

11. Atqui Jehova mecum tanquam gigas fortis (aut, terribilis;) propterea persecutores mei ruent, et non praevalebunt; pudefient valde, quia non prudenter agunt, (vel, non prospere succedet illis;) opprobrium seculi (id est, perpetuum, subaudiendum est, quod) non oblivioni tradetur.

 

Here the Prophet sets up God’s aid against all the plottings formed against him. However, then, might perfidious friends on one hand try privately to entrap him, and open enemies might on the other hand publicly oppose him, he yet doubted not but that God would be a sufficient protection to him. And we ought to act exactly in the same manner, whenever Satan rouses the wicked against us to oppose us either by secret artifices or by open cruelty; God alone must be, as they say, our brazen wall. But we must first know that he stands on our side; for the power of God can avail nothing to animate us, except we be firmly persuaded of this truth, that he is on our side. And how this confidence can be obtained, we shall presently see.

He says, that his persecutors would fall, so that they would not prevail, but be ashamed. We see how many persecuted the holy man, and also with what arms they were furnished; for they possessed great power, and were also endued with guiles and intrigues. But the Prophet was satisfied with the help of God alone, and boldly concluded, that they would fall; for it could not be but that God would prove victorious. Whenever, then, we fight with the world and the devil and his slaves, this ought in the first place to come to our minds, that God stands on our side to defend our cause and to protect our safety. This being settled, we may then boldly defy both the artifices and the violence of all enemies; for it cannot be but that God will scatter, lay prostrate, overwhelm, and reduce to nothing all those who fight against him.

He further says that their reproach would be perpetual, and would never come to oblivion. We have seen already that the Prophet was loaded with many reproaches; but whenever God suffers his servants to be exposed to the curses of the wicked, he in due time aids them; and therefore we ought fully to expect that he will shortly dissipate, as mists, such calumnies. As then God, according to what is said in <193706>Psalm 37:6, brings forth the innocency of the godly like the dawn, which in a moment appears while the earth seems buried in darkness, so the Prophet now says that on the other hand the reproach with which God will cover all the wicked will be perpetual. fE11 It now follows, —

<242012>Jeremiah 20:12

12. But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.

12. Et (vel, tu autem) Jehova exercituum, probans justum, videns renes et cor, videbo ultionem tuam ex ipsis, quia tibi patefeci litem meam (vel, jus meam, causam meam.)

 

The Prophet shews here briefly how he dared to allege God’s name and help against his enemies; for hypocrites often boast that God is their helper, but they falsely pretend his name. The proof, then, by which the Prophet shews that he did not falsely or presumptuously pretend what he had stated, — that God was to him like a strong giant, who could easily lay prostrate all the wicked, ought to be well weighed; and it was this — that he dared to make God the witness and judge of his integrity. Hence if we desire to have God’s name to plead for the purpose of repelling all those artifices which are contrived against us by the devil, we must learn to offer ourselves to be tried by him, so that he may really examine our thoughts and feelings.

Now, in the first place, let us bear in mind what the Prophet teaches, — that nothing is hid from God; for hypocrites will not hesitate to go so far as to offer themselves to be tried by God; but they do not yet duly consider what is said here, that nothing is hid from him. There are many recesses in the heart of man, and we know that all things there have many wrappings and coverings; but God in the meantime is a heart-discerner, (kardiognw>sthv,) who proves the heart and reins. Under the word reins, the Hebrews include all the hidden thoughts and feelings. We must then remember this as the first thing, that the Prophet acknowledges that there can be no disguise as to God, and that men gain nothing by acting fallaciously, for he penetrates into the inmost thoughts and discerns between the thoughts and the feelings.

He adds that the righteous are tried by God. There is to be understood here a contrast, because men’s judgment is commonly superficial; for when there is an appearance of integrity, there is an immediate acquittal, though the heart may be deceitful and full of all perfidy. The Prophet then means, that when we come to God’s tribunal no one is there acquitted but he who brings a pure heart and real integrity. He then rises to a higher confidence, and says, that he should see the vengeance of God.

We now see whence the Prophet derived his confidence, even because he had thoroughly examined himself, and that before God; he had not appealed to earthly witnesses only, nor had he, as it were, ascended a public theater to solicit the favor of the people; but he knew that he was approved by God, because he was sincere and honest.

And then he justly adds, at the same time, that he had made known his cause or his complaint to God. There is to be understood here again a contrast; for they who are carried away by the popular breath do not acquiesce in God’s judgment. Ambition, like a violent wind, always carries men along so that they cannot stop themselves; hence it is that neither the testimony of conscience nor the judgment of God has much weight with them. But the Prophet says, that he had made known his cause to God.

If any one objects and says, that hypocrites do the same, to this I answer, that though some imitation may appear in them, there is nothing real or genuine; for though they may boast that God is their witness, and that he approves of their cause, it is only what they speak vainly before men; for there is not one of them who deals thus privately with God. As long, then, as they are given to ostentation, they do not make known their cause to God, however they may appeal to him, refer to his tribunal, and declare that they have no other end in view but to promote his glory. They, then, who boastingly sound forth these things before the world for their own advantage, do not yet make known their cause to God, but by frivolous and vain boasting pretend his name.

What, then, is it to make known our cause to God? It is to do this when no one is witness, and when God alone appears before us. When we dare in our prayers to address God thus, — “O Lord, thou knowest my integrity, thou knowest that there is nothing hid which I do now lay before thee,” then it is that we truly make known our cause to God; for in this case there is no regard had for men, but we are satisfied with the judgment of God alone. This was the case with the Prophet when he said, that he had made known his cause to God; and it must have been so, for we have seen that all ranks of men were opposed to him. As then he was under the necessity of fleeing to the only true God, he justly says, that he had referred his cause to him.

By saying that he should see the vengeance of God, he alludes to that wished-for revenge before mentioned, for his enemies had said, “Let us take our revenge on him.” The Prophet says, I shall see thy vengeance, O Lord.” By saying that he should see it, he speaks as though he had his hands tied; for thus the faithful, of their own accord, restrain themselves, because they know that they are forbidden by God’s command to revenge themselves on their enemies. As, then, there is a difference between doing and seeing, the Prophet here makes a distinction between himself and the audaciously wicked; for he would not himself take vengeance according to the violence of his wrath, but that he should only see it; and then he calls it the vengeance of God, for men rob God of his right whenever they revenge themselves according to their own will. Paul says,

“Give place to wrath.” (<451219>Romans 12:19)

While exhorting the faithful to forbearance, he uses this reason, that otherwise no place is given to God’s judgment; for whenever we take revenge, we anticipate God, as though every one of us ascended God’s tribunal, and arrogated to ourselves his office. We now, then, perceive what this mode of speaking means. fE12

But we must at the same time notice, that God’s vengeance is not to be imprecated, except on the reprobate and irreclaimable. For the Prophet no doubt pitied his enemies, and wished, if they were reclaimable, that God would be propitious and merciful to them, according to what we have before seen. What, then, the revenge intimates of which he speaks is, that he knew by the prophetic spirit that they were wholly irreclaimable; and as his mind was under the influence of right zeal, he could imprecate on them the vengeance of God. If any one now, after the example of the Prophet, should wish all his enemies destroyed, and would have God armed against them, he would act very presumptuously, for it does not belong to us to determine before the time who the reprobate and the irreclaimable are; until this be found out by us, we ought to pray for all without exception, and every one ought also to consider by what zeal he is influenced, lest we should be under the power of turbulent feelings, as is commonly the case, and lest also our zeal be hasty and inconsiderate. In short, except it be certain to us that our zeal is guided by the spirit of uprightness and wisdom, we should never pray for vengeance on our enemies. He afterwards adds, —

<242013>Jeremiah 20:13

13. Sing unto the Lord praise ye the Lord; for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evil-doers.

13. Canite Jehovae, celebrate Jehovam, quia eripuit animam miseri (vel, afflicti) e manu scleratorum.

 

Here the Prophet breaks out into an open expression of joy, and not only gives thanks himself to God, that he had been freed from the intrigues and violence of the wicked, but he also summons others, and encourages them to sing praises to God; as though he had said, that his deliverance was such a favor, that not only he should be thankful to God for it, but that all should join to celebrate it, according to what is said by Paul in <470111>2 Corinthians 1:11, that thanks might be given by many to God. The Prophet no doubt had experienced God’s help, yea, that help which he had before so highly extolled. As, then, he had really found that God was victorious, and that his safety had been defended against all the ungodly by God’s invincible power, he in full confidence expressed his thanks, and wished all God’s servants to join with him. fE13

Whenever, then, we are reduced into straits, and seem to be, as it were, rejected by God himself, let us still wait patiently until he may be pleased to free us from the hand of the wicked; without misery and distress preceding, we should never sufficiently acknowledge the power of God in preserving us. Thus Jeremiah confesses that he was for a time miserable and oppressed, but that he was at length delivered, even when the ungodly and wicked thought themselves victorious. Now follows an outcry, which seems to be of a very different character, —

<242014>Jeremiah 20:14-16

14. Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.

14. Maledietus dies, quo natus sum (in eo, sed abundat; ) dies quo peperit me mater mea, non sit benedictus:

15. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man-child is born unto thee, making him very glad.

15. Maledictus vir, qui nuntiavit patri meo, dicendo, Natus est tibi filius masculus; quoniam (vel, quando) laetificavit eum (hoc est, cum vellet exhilarare patrem meum.)

16. And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noon-tide.

16. Et sit vir ille quasi urbes quas perdidit Jehova, et non poenituit, et audiat clamorem mane, et tumultum tempore meridiano, (hoc est, in meridie ipsa.)

 

It seems, as I have said, that the Prophet was inconsistent with himself; from joy and thanksgiving he immediately passed into curses and execrations; what could have been less appropriate? If we say that he was tried by a new temptation, yet this seems by no means satisfactory, though it is in this way that interpreters commonly untie the knot. But it seems to me a levity unworthy of the holy man to pass suddenly from thanksgiving to God into imprecations, as though he had forgotten himself. I, therefore, doubt not but that the Prophet here relates how grievously he had been harassed by his own thoughts. The whole of this passage, then, is connected with thanksgiving, for he amplifies the deliverance which he has just mentioned, that is, that he had been brought back, as it were, from the lower regions. Thus he recites, in the latter passage, what had before happened to him, as though he had said, “When I now declare that I have been rescued by God from the hand of the wicked, I cannot sufficiently express the greatness of that favor, until I make it more clearly known to all the godly how great and how dreadful agonies I suffered, so that I cursed my birth-day, and abhorred everything that ought to have stimulated me to give praise to God.”

In short, the Prophet teaches us here that he was not only opposed by enemies, but also distressed inwardly in his mind, so that he was carried away contrary to reason and judgment, by turbulent emotions which even led him to give utterance to vile blasphemies. For what is here said cannot be extenuated; but the Prophet most grievously sinned when he became thus calumnious towards God; for a man must be in a state of despair when he curses the day in which he was born. Men are, indeed, wont to celebrate their birth-day; and it was a custom which formerly prevailed, to acknowledge yearly that they owed it to God’s invaluable goodness that they were brought forth into vital light. As then it is a reason for thanksgiving, it is evident that when we turn to a curse what ought to rouse us to praise God, we are no longer in a right mind, nor possessed of reason, but that we are seized as it were with a sacrilegious madness; and yet into this state had the Prophet fallen. fE14

We may then here learn with what care ought every one of us to watch himself, lest we be carried away by a violent feeling, so as to become intemperate and unruly.

At the same time I allow, and it is what we ought carefully to notice, that the origin of his zeal was right. For though the Prophet indirectly blamed God, we ought yet to consider the source of his complaint; he did not curse his birth-day because he was afflicted with diseases, or because he could not endure poverty and want, or because he suffered some private evils; no, nothing of this kind was the case with the Prophet; but the reason was, because he saw that all his labor was lost, which he spent for the purpose of securing the wellbeing of the people; and further, because he found the truth of God loaded with calumnies and reproaches. When, therefore, he saw the ungodly thus insolently resisting him, and that all religion was treated with ridicule, he felt deeply moved. Hence it was that the holy man was touched with so much anguish. And we hence clearly see, that. the source of his zeal was right.

But we are here reminded how much vigilance we ought to exercise over ourselves; for in most instances, when we become weary of life, and desire death, and hate the world, with the light and all the blessings of God, how is it that we are thus influenced, except that disdain reigns within us, or that we cannot with resignation bear reproaches, or that poverty is too grievous to us, or that some troubles press on us too heavily? It is not that we are influenced by a zeal for God. Since, then, the Prophet, who had no regard to himself nor had any private reason either of gain or of loss, became yet. thus exasperated and so very vehement, nay, seized with so violent a feeling, we ought surely to exercise the more care to restrain our feelings; and though many things may daily happen to us, which may produce weariness, or overwhelm us with so much disdain as to render all things hateful to us, we ought yet to contend against such feelings; and if we cannot, at the first effort, repress and subdue them, we ought, at least, according to the example of the Prophet, to learn to correct them by degrees, until God cheers and comforts us, so that we may rejoice and sing a song of thanksgiving.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as virulent tongues now surround us, and the devil has many mercenaries, who have nothing else in view but to prevent by clamors whatever is rightly derived from thee, and has proceeded from thy mouth, — O grant, that we may firmly oppose such intrigues, and also stand with resolute minds against all their violent artifices, and proceed in the course of thy holy calling, until we shall at length surely know that they who trust in thee, and faithfully devote themselves to thy service, are never left without thy help; and that, having at last finished our warfare, we may be gathered into that blessed rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Eight

We said yesterday that the Prophet’s confused state of mind is described in this passage; for he would have no doubt himself confessed, that he was carried away by an intemperate feeling, so as not to be himself; for it is to cast reproach on God when any one curses his own birth-day. And he goes farther than this, for he adds, Cursed be the man who declared to my father, that a male child was born. Here he not only fights against God, but is also ungrateful towards men; for what but thanks did he deserve who first told his father that he had a son born to him? It was then an ingratitude in no way excusable. And hence we also learn that the Prophet had no control over his feelings, but was wholly led away by a blind impulse, which made him to utter very inconsiderate words; for in this sentence there is no piety nor humanity; but as I have said, the Prophet was ungrateful to men as well as to God; and his hyperbolical language also more fully expresses how intemperate his feelings were, who declared to my father that a male child was born. He seems here, as though he avowedly despised God’s favor, for we know that males are preferred to females. But the Prophet mentions here the word male, as though he wished to complain of what he ought to have been thankful for.

And he adds, Who with joy made him joyful. We see, as it is commonly said, how he mingles heaven and earth; for had it been in his power, when this frenzy possessed his mind, he would have certainly disturbed all the elements. But more grievous and more inordinate is what follows, Let that man be like the cities which God destroyed without repentance. Why did he imprecate on an innocent man the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? and then he speaks not of temporal punishment, but devotes the man to endless perdition, for that is the import of the words, and he repented not; as though he had said, “May God be angry with him, without shewing any mercy, but manifest himself as wholly implacable, as he dealt with Sodom, which he at once destroyed without leaving it any hope.” Had he spoken of an inveterate enemy, he ought to have kept within those bounds prescribed to all God’s children; but he had nothing against the man who brought the news to his father. We hence see how he was led away as it were by an insane impulse. But let us hence learn to restrain, in due time, our feelings, which will pass over all bounds if we indulge them; for they will break out then as it were into fury, as the case was with the Prophet.

He also adds, Let him hear a cry in the morning, and a tumult at noon-tide. Here he devotes an innocent man to perpetual inquietude. And mention is made of the dawn, for we know that terrors occur during darkness in the night. If anything happens in the day-time, we inquire what it is, and we are not so frightened; but when there is any noise in the night, fear takes full possession of us. There is then something monstrous in what the Prophet expresses here. Hence, also, we more fully learn how very hot was his indignation, that he thus wished perpetual torments to an innocent man. In the morning, he says, let him hear a cry, and at noon a tumult. Had he said, “Let him hear a cry perpetually,” it would not have been so grievous. It now follows, —

<242017>Jeremiah 20:17-18

17. Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me.

17. Quare non occidisti me ab utero? et fuisset (hoc est, ut esset) mihi mater mea sepulchrum meum? et in utero ejus conceptus saeculi (id est, perpetuus, vel, uterus ejus fuisset in conceptu perpetuo; et hoec posterior expositio videtur reelins quadrare, ac si diceret, Fuisset uterus, matris meoe sterilis, ita ut non conciperet nisi post soeculum, id est, nunquam.)

18. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?

18. Quare ex utero egressus sum ad videndum molestiam et dolorem, ut consumantur in opprobrio dies mei?

 

After having denounced his imprecations on his birth-day, and on the messenger who had wished to convey joy to his father, Jeremiah now expostulates with God. It hence appears how great was his madness; for thus must we speak. But if Jeremiah spared not God, how should he spare a mortal man? There is then no doubt but that he raged furiously against God, for his expostulation is that of a man wholly desperate; he asks, why he was not slain from the womb, as though he did not regard it as a kindness that he came alive into light. But this life, though exposed to many sorrows, ought yet to be counted as an evidence of God’s inestimable favor. As the Prophet, then, not only despised this goodness of God, but contended with God himself, because he had been created a man and brought into light, how great was his ingratitude!

He then adds, My mother might have been my grave; fE15 that is, “This light and life I value not; why then did I not die in my mother’s womb? and why did she conceive me?” Then he says, Why came I forth from the womb that I might see trouble and sorrow, and that my days. might be consumed in, reproach? Here he gives a reason why he was wearied of life; but he could not have been cleared on this account, nor ought he to be so at this day; for what just cause can we have to contend with God? Jeremiah was created to sorrow and trouble: this is the condition of all; why, then, should God be blamed? his days were spent in reproach: there was nothing new in his case; for many who have received an honorable testimony from God had suffered many wrongs and reproaches. Why, then, did he not look to them as examples, that he might bear with patience and resignation what had happened to other holy men? but he seemed as though he wished to appear as it were in public, that he might proclaim his disgrace, not only to his own age, but to every age to the end of the world.

At the same time we must remember the object he had in view; for the Prophet, as we have said, was not seized with this intemperate spirit after he had given thanks to God, and exulted as a conqueror, but before; and in order to amplify the grace of God in delivering him as it were from hell itself, into which he had plunged himself, he mentioned what had passed through his mind. The drift of the whole description seems to be this, — “I was lost, and my mind could conceive nothing but what was bitter, and with a full mouth I vomited forth poison and blasphemies against God.” What the Prophet then had here in view, was to render more conspicuous the kindness of God in bringing him to light from so deep an abyss.

A similar mode of speaking is found in the third chapter of Job. But Job had not the reason which, as we have said, Jeremiah had; for Jeremiah was not influenced by any private grief when carried away by all insane impulse to speak against God. Whence, then, was his great grief? even because he saw he was despised by the people, and that the whole of religion was esteemed by them as nothing: in short, he saw that the state of things was quite hopeless. He was, then, inflamed with zeal for God’s glory; and he also was extremely grieved at the irreclaimable wickedness of the people; but Job had only a respect to his own sufferings. There was, therefore, a great difference between Job and Jeremiah; and yet we know that both were endowed, as it were, with angelic virtue, for Job is named as one of three just men, who seemed to have been elevated above all mankind; and Jeremiah, if a comparison be made, was in this instance more excusable than Job; and yet we see that they were both inflamed with so unreasonable a grief, that they spared neither God nor man.

Let us then learn to check our feelings, that they may not break out thus unreasonably. Let us at the same time know that God’s servants, though they may excel in firmness, are yet not wholly divested of their corruptions. And should it happen at any time to us to feel such emotions within us, let not such a temptation discourage us; but as far as we can and as God gives us grace, let us strive to resist it, until the firmness of our faith at length gains the ascendency, as we see was the case with Jeremiah. For when overwhelmed with such a confusion of mind as to lie down as it were dead in hell itself, he was yet restored, as we have seen, to such a soundness of mind, that he afterwards courageously executed his own office, and also gloried, according to what we observed yesterday, in the help of God. Let us proceed, —


CHAPTER 21

<242101>Jeremiah 21:1-4

1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah niam the priest, saying,

1. Sermo qui datus fuit Jeremiae (factus fuit ad Jeremiam) a Jehova, cum misisset ad eum rex Zedekias Phassur filium Malchiah et Zephaniam filiam Maassiah sacerdotem (vel, sacerdotis) dicendo,

2. Enquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us, (for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us,) if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.

2. Interroga (inquire) nunc pro nobis (aut, consule pro nobis) Jehovam; quia Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis praeliatur contra nos, si faciat Jehova nobiscum secundum omnia mirabilia sua, et ascendat a notis.

3. Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah;

3. Et dixit Jeremias illis, Sic dicetis Zedekiae,

4. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.

4. Sic dicit Jehovah Deus Israel, Ecce ego reduco (alii vertunt, convertam; quidam minus apte, congregabo; bene vertetur, contraham, vel, prohibebo) onmia vasa (id est, instrumenta) bellica (belli) quae sunt in manibus vestris, quibus yes praeliamini (in ipsis, sed abundat) adversus regem Babylonis et Chaldaeos, qui obsident vos ab extra murum (hoc est, foris extra murum,) et colligam ipsos in medium urbis hujus.

 

Jeremiah relates how he received the king’s messengers, who sought from him an answer, whether he could bring any comfort in a state of things so perplexed and almost hopeless, he then says, that two had been sent to him; one was Pashur, not the priest mentioned in the last chapter, for he was the son of Immer but this was the son of Melchiah; and the other was Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah. But he shews that the king and his counsellors were disappointed of their hope, for they expected a favor-able answer, as though God would be propitious to Jerusalem; but the Prophet answered as he was commanded by God, that it was all over with the city, the kingdom, and the whole nation.

We shall also see from other passages that Zedekiah was not one of the worst; though he did not really fear God and was led away by false counsels, there was yet in him some regard for religion, so that he did not avowedly despise God as Epicureans do. Many such are found even at this day in the world, who think it enough to cherish a half-buried fear of God, and to retain some little regard for religion; but it is very fading, and disappears on even the least occasion. So it was with Zedekiah; he was as it were neutral, for he neither seriously worshipped God nor yet despised him.

Hence it was, that he sent messengers to Jeremiah. He knew that while God was displeased with them no safety could be hoped for; but he did not understand the way of appeasing God, nor had he any real desire to be reconciled to him; as the case is with hypocrites, who, though they wish God to be kind to them, yet when God’s mercy is offered to them, either openly reject it, or are unwilling to embrace it, because they cannot bear to surrender themselves to God. Such was the state of mind in which Zedekiah was; and hence it was, that he asked the Prophet to consult God. But we must also observe that this was an honorable message; and it hence more fully appears that Zedekiah was not one of those furious tyrants, who like the giants seek to fight with God. For by sending two messengers to the Prophet, and employing him as an advocate to seek some favor from God, he proved that religion was not wholly suppressed and extinguished in him.

And hence also it may be seen how bold and courageous was the Prophet; for he was not softened by the honor paid to him, but gave such answer as was calculated to exasperate the king, and to drive him into great rage. But we ought especially to notice, that they did not flatter the Prophet so as to induce him to give a false answer, but wished God to be consulted. It hence appears that they were convinced of Jeremiah’s integrity, that he would say nothing rashly or from himself, but would be a faithful interpreter and herald of heavenly oracles. And yet we see, and shall hereafter see in several passages, that the king was very incensed against God’s Prophet. But hypocrites, though they are forced to reverence God, are yet carried here and there, and maintain no consistency, especially when they perceive that God is against them; for they are not turned by threatenings. They cannot, therefore, but make tumult, and strive like refractory horses to shake off their rider. Such an instance we find in Zedekiah; for he acknowledged Jeremiah as God’s faithful servant; for he did not say, “Tell a lie for us, or in our favor but, inquire of God for us.

He then adds, If Jehovah will deal with us according to all his wondrous works. fE16 We again see that Zedekiah had some sense of religion; but it was very evanescent; for he was not influenced by any real impression, being like hypocrites who wish, as it has been said, to have peace with God, provided it be on their own terms. But as they are unwilling wholly to surrender themselves to God, they take a circuituous course, and seek to allure God to themselves, at least they come not to him except through various windings, and not in a direct way. Hence Zedekiah refers here to God’s miraculous works which had been wrought in behalf of the Israelites in all ages; as though he had said, “God has hitherto dealt; in a wonderful manner with his chosen people, and whenever he brought help to our fathers, he manifested wonderful proofs of his power; will he not deal with us at this day in the same manner?” He assumes the principle, that God’s covenant remained inviolable; and this was quite true, but the application was false; for Zedekiah and the whole people ought to have kept faith with God. For if they wished God to be propitious to them, why did they not in return worship and serve him as their God? But as they were covenant-breakers, how foolishly and vainly did they allege God’s covenant, which they themselves had rendered void? But it is usual with hypocrites to apply to themselves every favor which God shews to his own children; for they falsely assume the name as a covering, and say, that they are members of the Church because God had adopted them. This was the reason why Zedekiah asked whether God would do according to his wonderful works, as though he had said, “Surely God is ever like himself, and we are his people; and as he has so often delivered his Church, and in such various ways, his power has always been wonderfully displayed; why, then, will he not deal with us in the same manner?”

He at last, adds, that he may ascend from us, fE17 that is, that the King Nebuchadnezzar may raise the siege and leave us free.

Now follows the answer of Jeremiah, say ye to Zedekiah, etc.; he did not go to the king himself, but by way of contempt delivered the message to be borne by the messengers. The Prophet no doubt did this designedly, and through the impulse of the Holy Spirit. He did not, indeed, proudly despise his king; but it was necessary for him by his magnanimity to cast down the pride of the king, so that he might know that he had to do with the living God, whom he had very insolently treated. Say ye to Zedekiah, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, etc. He adds the words, the God of Israel, that Zedekiah might know that the wonderful works, in reliance on which he still thought that their condition was safe, did not belong to him and the people; as though the Prophet had said, “Though God did not help thee and thy people, he would not yet be inconsistent with himself, or depart from his covenant; but he would remain ever the God of Israel, though he destroyed thee and all thy people.”

He says, Behold I, etc.; it was said before, Nebuchadnezzar is come to make war with us: now he says, “I am God;” as though he had said, “Nebuchadnezzar may be conquered, he may change his counsel, he may leave you through weariness; but know ye that Nebuchadnezzar fights under my authority.” Behold, he says, I prohibit (for so ought ksm to be rendered) all the warlike instruments which are in your hands, and with which ye fight against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans; as though he had said, “However furnished ye may be with weapons and forces, and whatever may be necessary to defend the city, I forbid the use of these weapons, that is, I will cause that they will avail you nothing.” Some, as I have said, render the word, “I will turn them against you.” But the meaning seems more suitable to the etymology of the word, when we say, that the weapons which the Jews had would avail them nothing, because God would prevent them from producing any effect. fE18

He afterwards adds, the Chaldeans, who fight without the wall against you. He described their state at that time, for the city was besieged by the Chaldeans; there was a wall between them, and the Jews thought that they could repel the attacks of their enemies. But God says, “the Chaldeans are this day shut out by the wall, but I will gather them, he says, into the middle of this city; that is, I will make a breach, so that the wall may not be a hinderance to prevent, the Chaldeans from occupying the very bosom of the city.” It follows, —

<242105>Jeremiah 21:5

5. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand, and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

5. Et praeliabor ego contra vos in manu extenta et brachio robusto, et in ira et furore et excandescentia magna.

 

He proceeds with the subject; and though he afterwards is more diffuse, he yet confirms here what we have just seen, — even that God was the leader of the war, and that the Chaldeans were, as it were, his hired soldiers, whom he guided by his own hand, and to whom he would give the signal to fight.

I, myself he says, will fight against you. He put this in opposition to the wonderful works which Zedekiah had mentioned. God, indeed, had formerly been in a wonderful way present with his Church, not only once, but a thousand times; but he says now, “whatever power I have, it shall be exercised now against you; expect, therefore, no aid from me, but know that I am armed, and shall wholly destroy you.” He adds, with an extended hand and a strong arm; as though he had said, “your fathers found wonderful works done for their safety; but you shall by experience learn how great is my power to destroy you.” In short, he means that all God’s power would be a cause of terror to the Jews, and that therefore they could not escape, as there is nothing more dreadful than to have God’s hand opposed to us. To the same purpose is what follows, in wrath, and in fury, and in great indignation. fE19 God intimates in these words that he would be implacable, and that hence Zedekiah was mistaken when he thought that the end of their evils was nigh at hand.

He might indeed have said briefly, “I will fight with an extended hand and with wrath;” but he mentioned wrath three times in various words. Hence what I have said appears evident, that Zedekiah was deprived of every hope, lest he should deceive himself, as though he would somehow propitiate God, who had already given up the city to final destruction. But we shall see that the Prophet had not ceased from the discharge of his office, and that he had allowed some room for repentance. But he made expressly this answer, for the king could not have been otherwise awakened. We shall see how he explained himself; but this beginning was as it were a thunderclap to lay prostrate the pride of the king and of the people. They had become first torpid in their evils, and then such was their contumacy that they sought to subject God to themselves. As then their stupidity and their obstinacy were so great, the Prophet could not, with any hope of success, have exhorted them to repent and offered them the mercy of God; it was therefore necessary for them to be so smitten as to perceive that they were wholly lost, and that God was so angry with them that they could not be saved by any human means. But we must defer the rest till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not to provoke thy wrath, and are also so slow to repent, — O grant, that we may at least so profit under thy threatenings and the manifestations of thy judgment, that we may give up ourselves wholly to thee, and hope, also for thy favor which has been for a time hidden from us, until with resigned minds we shall be able confidently to call on thee, and so prove our constancy, that thy name may be glorified in us, so that we may also be glorified in thee through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Seventy-Ninth

<242106>Jeremiah 21:6-7

6. And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.

6. Et percutiam habitatores urbis hujus, tam hominem quam bestliam; peste magna morientur.

7. And afterward, saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.

7. Et post sic (postea)dicit Jehova, Tradam Zedekiam, regem Jehudah, et servos ejus, et populum, et qui residui erunt in urbe hae a peste, a gladio, et a fame, in manum Nebuehadrezer, regis Babylonis, et in manum inimieorum ipsorum, et in manum quaerentium animam ipsorum; et percuitet eos ore gladii; non parcet illis, neque ignoscet, neque miserabitur.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same discourse, even that God had resolved to destroy Jerusalem and the people, at least for a time. But he points out here what he intended to do, even that he would consume them by pestilence and famine, as long as they continued in the city; as though he had said, “Though these Chaldeans may not immediately take the city by means of a siege, yet its destruction shall be worse, for famine shall rage within and consume them.” We now perceive the design of the Prophet.

But we must keep in mind what I reminded you of yesterday, — that God assumes to himself what might have been ascribed to the Chaldeans, for he makes himself the author of all these calamities; I will smite, he says, the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; by a great pestilence shall they die. This was the first kind of punishment; before the enemy rushed into the city the pestilence had consumed many of the people. Now there is a circumstance mentioned which shews how dreadful would be their state, for not only men would perish, but even brute animals. It was no wonder that God’s vengeance extended to horses, and oxen, and asses; for we know that all these were created for the use of man. Hence when God manifested his wrath as to these animals, His object was to fill men with greater terrors; for they thus saw oxen and asses, though innocent, involved in the same punishment with themselves. For how can we suppose that horses and asses deserved to perish by diseases, or through want of daily food? But God sets forth such a spectacle as this, that he may more effectually touch men; for they thus see that the whole world is exposed to a curse through their sins. They are indeed constrained to know how great their sinfulness is; for on this account it is that the earth becomes dry and barren, that the elements above and below perform not their offices, so that the sterility of the ground deprives animals of their food, and the infection of the air kills them. But on this subject we have spoken elsewhere.

He then adds, And afterwards, that is, when the pestilence had in a great measure consumed them; I will give, or deliver, he says, Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his servants, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzer. He intimates that though they might suffer with courage their wants, it, would be of no avail to them. It often happens that a siege is raised, when the obstinacy of the besieged is so great, that they overcome famine and thirst, and struggle against extreme want; for they who besiege them are led to think that they contend with furious wild beasts, and so depart from them. But God declares here that the event would be different as to the Jews, for after having been nearly consumed, they would still be delivered up into the power of their enemies. Thus he shows that, their endurance would be useless. It is indeed, a most deplorable thing, that when we have endured many grievous and distressing evils, the enemy should at length gain the ascendency, and possess over us the power of life and death. But God shows here that such a calamity awaited the Jews; I will deliver, he says, Zedekiah the king of Judah, etc. He doubtless intended to show how foolish their confidence was, when they thought that they were safe under the shadow of their king: “The king himself,” he says, “shall not exempt himself from danger; what then will it avail you to have a king?” And the king is expressly mentioned, that the Jews might not deceive themselves with the foolish notion, that they had a sufficient safeguard in their king.

He then adds, And his servants, that is, his counsellors or courtiers; for servants were those called who were the chief men and ministers of the king, “and his ministers.” There was a great deal of pride in these courtiers, and they were very hostile to the Prophets; for being blinded by their own foolish wisdom, they despised what the Prophets taught and all their warnings. For this reason the Prophet says that they would be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.

It is further said, And the people. The last copulative is to be taken exegetically, even, yranhAtaw, veat enesharim, “even the residue;” for he refers to none but the people, but intimates what the people would be, even a small number, a remnant. Then the words are to be thus rendered, “even those who shall remain in the city.” But Jerusalem, when this discourse was delivered, was in a flourishing state, and had a large number of inhabitants, he therefore shews, that after God diminished and reduced the people to a small number, there would not yet be an end to their evils, but that a worse thing would still happen to them, for their life would be put in the power of their enemies; he therefore says, even those who shall remain in the city; and he alludes to the last verse, for he had said that many would perish through want; nor does he refer only to famine, but, also to the sword and to the pestilence, for he says, even those who shall remain from the pestilence, and from the sword, and from the famine. The famine, as it is usual, produced pestilence; and then when their enemies attacked the city with their warlike instruments, many must have been killed, as they could not repulse their enemies from the walls without a conflict. Then God shows that the Jews would have to contend with want, pestilence, and the sword, until they were overcome, and the city taken by the Chaldeans.

It is afterwards added, into the hands of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their life. This repetition is not superfluous, for God intimates what is more fully and clearly expressed by Isaiah, — that the Chaldeans would not be satisfied with plunder, that they would make no account of silver and gold, for they would burn with rage, and their object would be to shed blood. (<231317>Isaiah 13:17.) So the meaning is here, when he mentions those who would seek their life; for they would be led by deadly hatred, so that their anger and cruelty would not be appeased until they destroyed them. Thus he shows that it would be a bloody victory, for the Jews would not only be led captives, because their conquerors would not think it worth their while to drag them away as worthless slaves, but their object would be wholly to destroy them.

Hence he says, He will smite them. There is a change of number, and the reference is made to the king, and yet the whole army is included, he will smite them with the mouth of the sword, he will not spare, he will not forgive, (the words are synonymous,) and will shew no mercy. fE20 God thus transferred his own inexorable wrath to the Chaldeans, who were his ministers, as though he had said, “Your enemies will be implacable, they will not be turned to mercy; for I have so commanded, and I will rouse them to execute my judgment.” Nor can this be deemed strange, because God had resolved in his implacable wrath to reduce the people to nothing. For we know how great was their perverseness in their sins.

Since then they had so often rejected the mercy of God, they had in a manner closed up the door of pardon. Hence it was that God resolved that the Chaldeans should thus rage against them without any feeling of humanity. It afterwards follows, —

<242108>Jeremiah 21:8-9

8. And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

8. Et ad populum hunc dices, sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego propono coram vobis (coram faciebus vestris) viam vitae (vitarum, ad verbum) et viam mortis:

9. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

9. Qui habitabit in urbe hac morietur gladio et fame et peste; qui autem egressus fuerit et habitaverit (vertunt quidam, qui ceciderit; sed dicemus de hoc verbo postea) apud Chaldeos, qui obsident vos, vivet et anima illi erit in spolium.

 

God here declares that he proposed to the people the way of life and the way of death, in order that they might surely know that all who remained in the city would soon meet with death, and that those who willingly surrendered to their enemies would have their life spared. Moses says in another sense that he set before them the way of life and the way of death; he spoke of the Law, which contains promises of God’s favor, and threatenings to transgressors. But the Prophet means here another thing, that is, that there was no hope of safety except the Jews submitted their neck to the yoke, and surrendered of themselves to their enemies; for if they pertinaciously defended themselves, God would be their enemy, for he had led the Chaldeans to assail them, and directed their counsels and their forces. He indeed confirms what he had said before, but at the same time he more particularly describes what was to be, that the Jews might lay aside their perverseness, and acknowledge that they could not escape the correction which they deserved.

The import of what is said is, that as the Chaldeans fought under the authority of God, they would be victorious; it was then in vain for the Jews to resist, as they could not escape, unless they overcame God himself, which was impossible. He leaves then but one hope to them, that is, humbly to acknowledge God’s just judgment by submitting of themselves to a temporal punishment, and by enduring exile with a resigned mind. This then is the meaning, and it is not different discourse, but the Prophet confirms what he had said before, and at the same time applies God’s threatenings to the state of the people, so that they might humble themselves, and not think it of any use to resist God in their obstinacy, as they would at length be constrained to succumb.

Thou shalt say to this people, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death. Which was the way of death? Whosoever, he says, abides in this city, shall die by the sword, or by famine, or by pestilence. This was incredible to the Jews, and they were no doubt inflamed with rage when they heard that they were to perish in the holy city which God protected; for there he had his sanctuary, and there his rest was. But the Prophet had already dissipated all these delusions; he could, therefore, boldly threaten them, though they still alleged their vain pretences: he had shewed reasons enough why they could hope for nothing less than exile from God, for they had so many times, and so obstinately, and in such various ways provoked him. This, then, he says, is the way of death, it is by remaining in the city. And he mentions several kinds of evils, and shews that God was armed not only with a hostile sword, but would also employ famine and pestilence, so that he would kill some with the sword, consume some with famine, and destroy some with pestilence. Hence he shews that they would be so assailed on every side, that it would be in vain to attempt to escape; for when they shunned the sword, pestilence would meet them; and when they were preserved from the pestilence, the famine would consume them.

He then adds, But he who went out to the Chaldeans, who besieged the city, etc., that is, who willingly surrendered himself; for it was a sign of obedience when the Jews with a resigned mind received correction; and it was also an evidence of repentance, for they thus confessed that they were worthy of the heaviest punishment. This is the reason why the Prophet represents it as the way of life to go out willingly, and to make a surrender of themselves of their own accord to their enemies. And by saying, who besiege you, kyl[ yrxh, etserim olicam, he wished to anticipate objections which any one of the people might have alleged, — “How can I dare thus to expose myself? for the Chaldeans besiege us, and it will be all over with me as to my life if I go forth as a suppliant to them.” By no means, says the Prophet, for though they carry on a deadly war with the city, yet every one who of his own accord goes forth to them shall be safe, and shall find them ready to shew mercy. God would not have promised this had he not the Chaldeans in his own power, so that he could turn their minds as he pleased.

As to the verb lpn, nuphel, it means strictly to fall; but I consider that it signifies here to dwell, as in <012527>Genesis 25:27, where it is said that Ishmael dwelt in the sight of, or over against his brethren. They who render it “died” touch neither heaven nor earth. Some read, “his lot fell among his brethren;” but this is an unnatural rendering. There is, then, no doubt but that the verb means often to lie down, and hence to dwell; and yet I allow that the Prophet alludes to subjection; for we must remember what must have been their condition when they went over to the Chaldeans; they must have been subjected to great reproach. It was then no small humiliation; but yet we may properly render the verb to dwell. He, then, who went out to the Chaldeans and dwelt with them, fE21 that is, who suffered himself to be led into exile, or who migrated according to their will from his own country to a foreign land — he, he says, shall live, and his life shall be for a prey, that is, he shall save his life, as when any one finds a prey and takes it as his own by stealth; for prey is to be taken here as an accidental gain. Whosoever, then, he says, shall not deem it too grievous a thing to submit to the Chaldeans, shall at least save his life.

In short, God intimates that the wickedness of the people had advanced so far, that it was not right to forgive them. What, then, was to be done by them? to submit with resignation and humility to a temporal punishment, and thus to cease to shut up the door of God’s mercy. He, however, teaches them at the same time that no salvation could be hoped for by them until they were chastised. And hence we may learn a useful doctrine, and that is, that whenever we provoke God’s wrath by our perverseness, we cannot be exempt from all punishment; and that we ought not to be impatient, especially when he punishes us moderately; and that provided we obtain eternal mercy, we ought submissively to bear paternal corrections. It follows, —

<242110>Jeremiah 21:10

10. For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord; it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.

10. Quia faciem meam contra urbem hanc in malum, et non in bonum, dicit Jehova; in manum regis Babylonis tradetur et exuret eam igni.

 

He again confirms what he had said, that it would be the way of death if the Jews remained fixed in the city, for this would be to struggle against God; for God is said to set his face for evil, since he had fully determined to punish that nation. To set the face is the same as to be resolute. Then God says that what he had resolved respecting the destruction of Jerusalem could not be changed. Now, what must at length be the issue when any one thinks that he can, against the will of God, escape death? As they who violently stumble against a stone break their legs, and arms, and head, too; so they who furiously stumble against God attain for themselves final ruin. fE22

We hence see why the Prophet added this verse: it was, that the Jews might not in their usual manner foster vain hopes; for to hope for any good was to contend with God himself. Delivered, he says, shall be this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. He intimates that Nebuchadnezzar would not only conquer the people and triumph over a taken city, but that the city itself was doomed to destruction. It is, indeed, a most grievous thing when a city is wholly demolished: cities are often taken, and the conqueror removes the inhabitants here and there, while it remains still a habitable place; but God declares here that he would act more severely towards the city of Jerusalem, for it was to perish by fire. It follows, —

<242111>Jeremiah 21:11-12

11. And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the Lord;

11. Et ad domum (vel, palatium) regis Jehudah, Audite sermonem Jehovae:

12. O house of David, thus saith the Lord, Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

12. Domus David, sic dicit Jehova, judicate mane judicium (sunt quidemt duo verba, sed utrunque significat judicare; sensus antem est, judicare mature, et proferre rectum et oequum judicium; postea adjungit speciem unam,) liberate spoliatum e manu oppressoris, ne exeat, tamquam ignis, indignatio mea, et ardeat, et non sit extinguens, a facie malitiae studiorum ipsorum (hoc est, propter malitiam scelerum ipsorum).

 

Now the Prophet tells us that he was sent to the king and his counsellors. Hitherto he has been addressing the king and the whole people indiscriminately; but here a special message is committed to him to be delivered at the palace of the king; and he was to say that judgment was nigh him and his counsellors. But he is not now threatened as before, for there is a condition interposed: he exhorts them to repent, and indirectly promises them pardon, for in vain would he have spoken to them of repentance had he not given them some hopes of pardon and deliverance. He is not yet inconsistent with himself, for though the king was to be driven into exile, he might yet obtain some favor, after having submitted to a paternal correction. Though, then, the Prophet here exhorts the king and his counsellors to repent, he does yet shew that they were not to be wholly free from punishment, and yet he promises some mitigation. fE23

And this passage reminds us that we ought not to rush headlong into despair when some great evil is suspended over us, and when God shews that we cannot wholly escape punishment. For there is nothing more unreasonable than that the fear by which God restores us to himself should be the cause of despair, so that we repent not; for though God’s wrath be not wholly removed, yet it is a great thing that it is mitigated, which is an alleviation accompanying the evil itself.

In short, the Prophet intimates that God’s wrath might be alleviated, though not wholly pacified, provided the king and his counsellors began to act rightly and justly. But he mentions the house of David, not for honor’s sake, but, on the contrary, by way of reproach; nor does he refer to David, as some unmeaningly assert, because he ruled justly and was a most excellent and upright king; but the Prophet had regard to God’s covenant. For we know that they deceived themselves when they thought that they were to be exempt from trouble through a peculiar privilege, because God had chosen that family, and promised that the kingdom would be perpetual. Thus hypocrites appropriate to their own advantage whatever God has promised; and at the same time they boast, though without faith and repentance, that God is bound to them. Such, then, was the presumption of the king and his counsellors; for they who were David’s descendants doubted not but that they were exempt from the common lot of men, and that they were, as they say, sacred beings. Hence the Prophet says, in contempt, The house of David! that is, “let these vain boastings now cease, for God will not spare you, though you may a hundred times boast that you are the descendants of David.” And at the same time he upbraids them with having become wholly degenerate, for God had made a covenant with David on the condition that he served him faithfully; but his posterity were become perfidious and apostates. Therefore the Prophet brought before them the name of David, in order that he might the more reproach them, because they were become wholly unlike their father, having departed from his piety.

Thus saith Jehovah, he adds, Judge ye judgment. There was no doubt a great liberty taken by the king and his courtiers in committing plunder, for the Prophet would not have here recommended justice to them had they not wholly neglected what was just and right. As, then, there was no care to administer justice, the Prophet bade them to recognize what was due to God and to his people. But it was a most grievous trial to all the godly to see that the sacred house, in which the living image of God ought to have shone forth brightly, was become a house of spoils, where robbers dwelt, who with impunity plundered all around them. When, therefore, the state of things is in such a disorder that the very judges, whom God has set over his Church, are like robbers, let us know that such a thing happened formerly; nor is there a doubt but that God thus took vengeance on the impiety and wickedness of the people, for he would have never suffered that house to be so contaminated and so filled with so many crimes, had not the people been unworthy of a good and faithful king and of upright counsellors. Let us, then, know that the Prophet exhorted the king and his counsellors to execute justice, because they had forgotten their office, and were become like rapacious wolves. fE24

He specifies one act, Free ye the spoiled from the hand of his oppressor. Some read, “from the hand of the fraudulent,” as though q[, oshek, should mean to oppress by calumny and malice, or by fraudulent means; but it is to be taken otherwise here. Some distinguish between the two words q[, oshek, and lzg, gesal, and say that the first means to retain a deposit or wages, or anything that belongs to another, and that the latter signifies to take a thing by force, to plunder. But this difference, as it appears, is not observed by the Prophet, for he says, “Free ye the plundered or the spoiled.” From whose hand? from “the hand of the oppressor.” As, then, these two words correspond, I doubt not but that lzg, gesal, means both to take by force and to plunder; and that though q[, oshek, means often fraudulently to oppress, yet not always. However this may be, God intimates that neither the king nor his counsellors had any care for the poor, so as to repress violence, and robbery, and plunder. Then the very judges themselves were the associates of robbers, for they allowed them with impunity to rob and plunder without affording any aid to helpless men when they were thus wickedly harassed. There is, however, no doubt but that God would have them to perform their duties towards all, both rich and poor, without exception; but as injustice in this particular was especially seen, this is the reason why by stating a part for the whole he specified only one thing. fE25

He then adds, Lest my indignation go forth like fire, and burn, and there be none to extinguish it. Here the Prophet intimates, that except the king and his courtiers repented, it was all over with them. There is then a contrast to be understood here between that paternal correction of which he had spoken, and the destruction of which the Prophet now speaks. God’s indignation had been already kindled, nor could it be immediately extinguished; and though they had to suffer, yet the issue would have been happy and according to their wishes: but he here declares that there would be an irreconcilable war with God, except they labored to return to his favor. He adds, On account of the wickedness of their doings. There is here a change of person, except we read k, cam, “you;” but this sort of change often occurs in Scripture. The Prophet, after having addressed them, says now, “on account of the wickedness of their doings,” as though having finished his discourse, he spoke of them as being absent, or as though God, after having given orders to his Prophet, then added, “I denounce this on them, because they have so deserved.”

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not, by new crimes, daily to kindle thy wrath, we may not proceed to obstinacy or contempt; and since it is good for us to be chastised by thine hand, grant that we may resignedly submit to thy scourges, and allow thee to act the part of a Father towards us, in restoring us to the right way, and never cease to hope in thee, even when thou seemest to be angry with us; but may our hope regard that issue which thou promisest, even that evils themselves shall be an aid to our salvation, until having gone through all the miseries of the present life, we shall come into that blessed rest which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us. — Amen.


Lecture Eightieth

<242113>Jeremiah 21:13-14

13. Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of in the plain, saith the Lord; which say, Who shall come down us? or who shall enter into our habitations?

13. Ecce ego contra to, quae habitas in valle, petra in planitie (vel, patrae planitiei, alii vertunt) dicit Jehova; qui dicitis, Quis descendet contra nos? et quis ingrediatur habitacula nostra?

l4. But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord; and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.

14. Et visitabo super vos secundum fructum studiorum vestrorum, dicit Jehova; et accendam ignem in sylva ejus, et consumet quiequid est in circuitu ejus.

 

Though the whole nation was corrupt in the time of the Prophet, yet Jerusalem was the head and seat of all evils, especially as there was there more licentiousness; and then they thought that the Prophets had no liberty there, as though the citizens were, by a peculiar privilege, exempt from all reproof; and, lastly, the very situation of the city gave them courage, for when they regarded the height of their walls, their towers, and fortresses, they thought themselves beyond the reach of danger. Hence was the security which the Prophet now condemns; and, therefore, he calls it the inhabitant of the valley.

Jerusalem, we know, was situated on small hills: the Mount Sion had two tops; and then there were hills contiguous, especially towards Lebanon; there was, however, a plain on every side. And then if we except Mount Sion, Jerusalem was in a valley; for it was surrounded, we know, by mountains. There were mountains around it, as it is said in <19C502>Psalm 125:2. Now, its very situation gave confidence to the citizens, as access to it was difficult. They, therefore, thought that enemies could not come into that valley, which kept them inclosed, as in a fortified place. This is the reason why the Prophet called not the city by its own name, but said that it dwelt in the valley; and afterwards he called it a rock in the plain; for ry, isher, is straight, and hence rwym, mishur, means a level ground. The whole region was then a continued plain as far as the mountains. Jerusalem itself had also, as we have said, its small hills; it was therefore, as it were, a rock in a Plain. fE26

We now see for what purpose the Prophet used this circumlocution, even because the Jews gloried in the position of their city, as though it was impregnable; and also, because the vicinity of the mountains, as well as the plain, gave them great advantages. And we know how disposed men are to take to a false security when there is apparently no danger; but on the contrary, they think of various defences and aids from which they expect to derive help. It is, therefore, this false boasting that the Prophet condemns, when he calls Jerusalem the inhabitant of the valley, and then says, that it was a rock in the plain.

What follows makes this more clear, Who say, Who shall come down against us? and, Who shall enter into our habitations? The verb tjy, ichet, some take in the sense of tearing, “Who shall make a breach on us?” They derive the word from ttj, chetat; but it is rather from tjn, nechat, to descend; for the first meaning would be too strained. The Prophet speaks according to the opinion of the people, who thought themselves sufficiently fortified against all the attacks of their enemies. It may have been, indeed, that they did not speak thus openly; but the Prophet had regard to the hidden thoughts of their hearts, when he ascribed to them this boasting, — that they dwelt in an impregnable place, as the access to it was formidable; for they spoke boldly, “Who shall descend to us? fE27 who will enter our houses?” as though they had their nest in the clouds. They intimated that their state would be safe, because their enemies would not dare to come nigh them, or would be disgracefully repelled if they dared, as it would be enough for them to close their gates.

But God, on the contrary, says, Behold I will come to thee, or against thee, and will visit thee. There is, indeed, a change of number; for he says, I will visit you, for he had begun by saying, “Ye who say,” yrmah, eamrim. I will visit upon you, he says, the fruit of your doings; that is,

“I will deal with you according to what you have done, as your works deserve.” Merit is to be taken for reward. Then God threatens that he would render to the Jews what they merited, because they had not ceased to provoke his wrath.

He adds, lastly, I will kindle a fire in its forest. Some take “forest” metaphorically for the neighboring towns; but this seems foreign to the Prophet’s meaning. I do not, indeed, deny but that there is a metaphor in the words; but then the word forest is not to be applied to towns and villages, but to the buildings of the city itself, according to a mode of speaking elsewhere used by the Prophets. As their houses were built of a large quantity of wood, of tall and most choice trees, the Prophet compares this mass of wood to a forest. We may, however, give a simpler explanation, and I know not whether it be more suitable that the Prophet points out Lebanon. He then means by the forest of the city the trees of Lebanon, which we know were particularly fine, for their loftiness were everywhere known; and we know also that they were very large. As, then, a part of their false glory was Mount Lebanon, the Prophet distinctly intimates that it would serve as a help to burn the city itself; for when God burned Jerusalem, he would take from the vicinity materials for the purpose. fE28

Now, as we understand the meaning of the Prophet, let us learn how to apply this passage. We have said elsewhere that nothing is more hateful to God than false confidence; when men, relying on their own resources, promise to themselves a happy and a safe condition, they become torpid in their own security. Thus it comes, that they despise God, and never flee to him; they scorn his judgments, and at length are carried away by a mad impulse to every kind of insolence. This is the reason why the Prophets so often and so sharply reprove secure men, for they become presumptuous towards God when they are touched by no regard for him, and with no fear of him. They then not only dishonor God by transferring the hope of their safety to mere means or such helps as they foolishly depend on, but they also think that they are not under the authority of God. Hence it is, that they promise themselves impunity, and thus become wholly hardened in their sins. Now follows —


CHAPTER 22

<242201>Jeremiah 22:1-3

1. Thus saith the Lord, Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,

1. Sic dicit Jehova, Descende in domum regis Jehudah, et loquere illic ser-monem hunc,

2. And say, Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates;

2. Et dices, Audi sermonem Jehova, rex Jehudah, qui sedes super solium Davidis, tu et servi tui, et populus tuus qui ingredimini per portas has:

3. Thus saith the Lord, Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

3. Sic dicit Jehova, Facite judicium et justitiam, et eripite spoliatum e manu oppressoris; peregrinum, pupilum, et viduam ne fraudetis (Hieronymus hoc verbum ubique vertit, contristari, vel, tristitia afficere; significat autem potius inferre violentiam, aut fraudulenter nocere;) ne violentiam exerceatis (alii vertunt, rsmjt la, et sanguinem innocentem ne fundatis in loco isto.

 

The Prophet is again bidden to reprove the king and his counsellors; but the exhortation is at the same time extended to the whole people. It was necessary to begin with the head, that the common people might know that it was not a matter to be trifled with, as God would not spare, no, not even the king himself, and his courtiers; for a greater terror seized the lower orders, when they saw the highest laid prostrate. That what is here taught might then penetrate more effectually into the hearts of all, the Prophet is bid to address the king himself and his courtiers: he is afterwards bidden to include also the whole body of the people. And hence it appears, that there was some hope of favor yet remaining, provided the king and the whole people received the admonitions of the Prophet; provided their repentance and conversion were sincere, God was still ready to forgive them.

We must at the same time observe, as I have already said, that they could not escape the calamity that was at hand; but exile would have been much milder, and also their return would have been more certain, and they would have found in various ways that they had not been rejected by God, though for a time chastised. As then we now say, that a hope of pardon was set before them, this is not to be so understood as that they could avert the destruction of the city; for it had once for all been determined by God to drive the people into a temporary exile, and also to put all end for a time to their sacrifices; for this dreadful desolation was to be a proof that the people had been extremely ungrateful to God, and especially that their obstinacy could not be endured in having so long despised the Prophets and the commands of God. However the hope of mitigation as to their punishment was given them, provided they were touched by a right feeling, so as to endeavor to return into favor with God. But as Jeremiah effected nothing by so many admonitions, they were rendered more inexcusable.

We now see the design of what is here said, even that the Jews, having been so often proved guilty, might cease to complain that they suffered anything undeservedly; for they had been often admonished, yea, almost in numberless instances, and God had offered mercy, provided they were reclaimable. I come now to the words —

Thus saith Jehovah, Go down fE29 to the house of the king. We see that the Prophet was endued with so great a courage that the dignity of the king’s name did not daunt him, so as to prevent him to perform what was commanded him. We have seen elsewhere similar instances; but whenever such cases occur, they deserve to be noticed. First, the servants of God ought boldly to discharge their office, and not to flatter the great and the rich, nor remit anything of their own authority when they meet with dignity and greatness. Secondly, let those who seem to be more eminent than others learn, that whatever eminence they may possess cannot avail them, but that they ought to submit to prophetic instruction. We have before seen that the Prophet was sent to reprove and rebuke even the highest, and to shew no respect of persons. (<240110>Jeremiah 1:10.) So now, here he shews that he had, as it were, the whole world under his feet, for in executing his office, he reproved the king himself and all his princes.

But he speaks of the king as sitting on the throne of David; but not, as I have already said, for the sake of honor, but for the purpose of enhancing his guilt; for he occupied a sacred throne, of which he was wholly unworthy. For though God is said to sit in the midst of the gods, because by him kings rule, we yet know that the throne of David was more eminent than any other; for it was a priestly kingdom and a type of that celestial kingdom which was afterwards fully revealed in Christ. As, then, the kings of Judah, the descendants of David, were types of Christ, less tolerable was their impiety, when, unmindful of their vocation, they had departed from the piety of their father David and became wholly degenerated. So the Prophet, by mentioning the house of Israel and the house of Jacob, no doubt condemned the Jews, because they had become unlike the holy patriarch. We now, then, understand the object of the Prophet when he says, “Hear the word of Jehovah, thou king of Judah, who sittest on the throne of David.”

But that his reproof might have its just weight, the Prophet carefully shews that he brought nothing but what had been committed to him from above; this is the reason why he repeats, thou shalt say, “Thus saith Jehovah, Go down, speak, and say.” From the king he comes to the courtiers, and from them to the whole people. Thou, he says, and thy servants; by the king’s servants the Scripture means, all those ministers who were his counsellors, who were appointed to administer justice and who exercised authority. But we must notice, that at last he addresses the whole people. We hence see that what he taught belonged in common to all, though he began with the king and his counsellors, that the common people might not think that they would be unpunished if they despised the doctrine to which even kings were to submit.

He says, first, Do judgment and justice. This belonged especially to the king and his judges and governors; for private individuals, we know, had no power to protect their property; for though every one ought to resist wrongs and evil doings, yet this was the special duty of the judges whom God had armed with the sword for this purpose. To do judgment, means to render to every one according to his right; but when the two words, judgment and justice, are connected together, by justice we are to understand equity, so that every one has his own right; and by judgment is to be understood the execution of due punishment; for it is not enough for the judge to decide what is right, except he restrains the wicked when they audaciously resist. To do judgment, then, is to defend the weak and the innocent, as it were, with an armed hand. fE30

He then adds, Rescue the spoiled from the hand of the oppressor. He repeats what we observed in the last chapter; and here under one thing he includes the duty of judges, even that they are ever to oppose what is wrong and to check the audacity of the wicked, for they can never be induced willingly to conduct themselves with moderation and quietness. As, then, they are to be restrained by force, he says, “Rescue the spoiled from the hand of the oppressor.” Of the word lwzg, gesul, we have spoken before; but by this form of speaking God intimates that it is not enough for the judge to abstain from tyranny and cruelty, and not to stimulate the wicked nor favor them, except he also acknowledges that he has been appointed by God for this end — to rescue the spoiled from the hand of the oppressor, and not to hesitate to face hatred and danger in the discharge of his office.

The Prophet now adds other things which he had not mentioned in the preceding chapter; defraud not, fE31 he says, the stranger and the orphan and the widow. It is what is often said in Scripture, that it is not right to defraud any one; for God would exempt all from wrong, and not only strangers, orphans, and widows; but as orphans have no knowledge or wisdom, they are exposed, as it were, to plunder; and also widows, because they are in themselves helpless; and strangers, because they have no friends to undertake their cause; hence God, in an especial mannel, requires a regard to be had to strangers, orphans, and widows. There is also another reason; for when their right is rendered to strangers, orphans, and widows, equity no doubt shines forth more conspicuously. When any one brings friends with him, and employs them in the defense of his cause, the judge is thereby influenced; and he who is a native will have his relations and neighbors to support his cause; and he who is rich and possessing power will also influence the judge, so that he dares not do anything notoriously wrong; but when the stranger, or the orphan, or the widow comes before the judge, he can with impunity oppress them all. Hence if he judges rightly, it is no doubt a conspicuous proof of his integrity and uprightness. This, then, is the reason why God everywhere enumerates these cases when he speaks of right and equitable judgments. He further adds, Exercise no violence, nor shed innocent blood in this place. These things also were matters belonging to the judges. But it was a horribly monstrous thing for the throne of David to have been so defiled as to have become, as it were, a den of robbers. Wherever there is any pretense to justice, there ought to be there some fear or shame; but as we have said, that tribunal was in a peculiar manner sacred to God. As, then, the king and his counsellors were become like robbers, and as they so occupied the throne of David that all impiety prevailed, and they hesitated not to plunder on every side, as though they lived in a house of plunder; this was, as I have said, a sad and shameful spectacle. fE32

But we ought the more carefully to notice this passage, that we may learn to strengthen ourselves against bad examples, lest the impiety of men should overturn our faith; when we see in God’s Church things in such a disorder, that those who glory in the name of God are become like robbers, we must beware lest we become, on this account, alienated from true religion. We must, indeed, detest such monsters, but we must take care lest God’s word, through men’s wickedness, should lose its value in our esteem. We ought, then, to remember the admonition of Christ, to hear the Scribes and Pharisees who sat in Moses’ seat. (<402302>Matthew 23:2.) Thus it behoved the Jews to venerate that royal throne, on which God had inscribed certain marks of his glory. Though they saw that it was polluted by the crimes and evil deeds of men, yet they ought to have retained some regard for it on account of that expression, “This is my rest for ever.”

But we yet see that the king was sharply and severely reproved, as he deserved. Hence most foolishly does the Pope at the present day seek to exempt himself from all reproof, because he occupies the apostolic throne. fE33 Were we to grant what is claimed, (though that is frivolous and childish,) that the Roman throne is apostolic, (which I think has never been occupied by Peter,) surely the throne of David was much more venerable than the chair of Peter? and yet the descendants of David who succeeded him, being types and representatives of Christ, were not on that account, as we here see, exempt from reproof.

It might, however, be asked, why the Prophet said that he was sent to the whole people, when his doctrine was addressed only to the king and the public judges? for it belonged not to the people or to private individuals. But I have said already that it was easy for the common people to gather how God’s judgment ought to have been dreaded, for they had heard that punishment was denounced even on the house of David, which was yet considered sacred. When, therefore, they saw that those were summoned before God’s tribunal who were, in a manner, not subject to laws, what were they to think but that every one of them ought to have thought of himself, and to examine his own life? for they must at length be called to give an account, since the king himself and his counsellors had been summoned to do so. It now follows, —

<242204>Jeremiah 22:4-5

4. For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.

4. Quid si faciendo feceritis (alii vertunt, quin potius faciendo faciatis) ser-monem hunc (hoc est, obediatis sermoni huic,) et ingrediemini per portas domus hujus, reges sedentes pro Davide (vel, Davidi) super solium ejus, insidentes currui et equis, ipse, rex, et servi ejus et populus ejus.

5. But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.

5. Quod si non obedieritis sermonibus istis, in me (hoc est, per me) juravi, dicit Jehova, quod in solitudinem (aut, vastitatem) erit domus haec.

 

The Prophet expresses more clearly what I have already stated, that if the Jews from the heart repented, there was yet a place for mercy; for he promises them that God would be reconcilable, if they sought to be reconciled to him; he allures them to repentance by words of kindness. We may, indeed, read ayk, kiam, as one word, and render it, “But rather;” but I follow others who give this version, For if by doing ye will do this word, then ye shall enter in, etc.; and thus they turn the copulative into an adverb of time, which is often the case. fE34 Still the other meaning is not unsuitable, when the future verb, w[t, toshu, is taken in a hortative sense; for we know that the future tense in Hebrew is often to be understood as an imperative. As to the general meaning, there is not much difference; for what the Prophet designed to shew was this, that God would be reconciled to the Jews, if they were not wholly disobedient. “Only,” he says, “obey my word, and your safety shall be secured.” Not that impunity was to be expected, as I have said before, but, as they would have found, their reconciliation to God would not have been in vain, for their punishment would have been mitigated; in that case their exile would have been rendered more endurable, for God would have doubtless made their adversaries kind to them; in short, mercy would have been shewn to them in many ways. Moreover, the Prophet shews that he called them not in vain to repent; for he sets before them God’s favor in mitigating their punishment.

And he adds, Ye shall enter through the gates of this house, both your kings and their counsellors; but the number is afterwards changed, he, that is, every king. fE35 The Prophet, seems, at the first view, to have retracted what he had said respecting exile; but the two things are to be connected together, that there was some hope remaining, if the Jews accepted the favor of God, and then that the punishment, once decreed, was to be borne by them. These two things do not disagree. For God had resolved to drive the Jews into exile; but all Judea would not doubtless have been reduced to solitude, as that happened through their irreclaimable obstinacy, according to what we read at the end of this Book; for they might have otherwise dwelt still in their own country. This is one thing; and then their condition after their exile would have been better and far more happy. But even at that time, the crown was trodden under foot, and all the dignity and power of the family of David were nearly abolished.

When, therefore, the Prophet says, “Enter shall kings in chariots and on horses,” and also “the people and he and his counsellors, through the gates of this city;” he does not mean that they would so escape as that God would not chastise them for their sins, as he had declared, but that there would still be some form of a kingdom, and that exile would be short, and also that there would be at length a restoration, so that the descendants of David would return to their former state, and that the city itself would be restored so as to abound in wealth as in all other blessings. Such is the promise. The Prophet further adds what would otherwise take place, If they will not hear, this place shall become a desolation. But this threatening shall be considered tomorrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to erect the throne of thy Son among us, we may suffer ourselves to be ruled by him, and not falsely boast that we are his people, but really prove that we truly and from the heart confess him as our King, that he may also so defend us through the whole course of life against all the assaults of our enemies, that we, ever relying on thine aid, and possessing our souls in patience, may at length be translated into that blessed glory and rest, which he has purchased for us by his own blood: — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-First

We explained yesterday the declaration of the Prophet, — that the kingdom would again be restored by the Lord, if the king and his servants and the whole people repented. He now introduces a commination, — that if they heard not, it was all over with the palace and the city. But the word house, or palace is often repeated; for though the defenses of the city gave courage to the people, yet what made them especially proud was the confidence they felt that the kingdom had been promised to be for ever. Hence, they thought, that the royal dignity could not possibly fall as long as the sun and moon continued in the heavens. (<198938>Psalm 89:38.) This false confidence is what the Prophet now meets, and he says, If ye will not hear these words, etc. He changes the number: he had said before this word, hzh rbdh ta, at edeber eze; but he now says these words, yrbdh ta, at edeberim. But the singular number includes the whole of his doctrine; yet he now uses the plural number, because he had exhorted them to change their life. fE36

And that they might not think that they were for no good reason terrified, he declares that God had sworn by himself. We indeed know that when God makes an oath, either when he promises anything, or when he denounces punishment on sinners, it is done on account of men’s sloth and dullness. For our hearts through unbelief will hardly receive a simple truth, unless God removes the impediments; and this is the design of making an oath, when God does not only speak, but in order to render us more certain of our salvation, he confirms his promise by introducing his own name as a pledge. The reason is similar as to threatenings; for so great is the false security of sinners, that they are deaf until God, as it were, with force penetrates into their hearts. Hence he says, that God made an oath by himself; for it seemed incredible to the Jews, that the family which had been set apart by God from the world, would ever perish. It now follows:

<242206>Jeremiah 22:6

6. For thus saith the Lord unto the king’s house of Judah, Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness and cities which are not inhabited.

6. Quoniam dicit Jehova super domum regis Jehudah, Guilead, tu mihi caput Libani, si non posuero to desertum, tanquam urbes quae non habitantur.

 

He confirms the preceding declaration, and explains more at large what had been stated sufficiently clear; for the false boasting of the Jews could hardly be restrained, as they still thought that the kingdom in the family of David would be permanent and exempt from any danger of a change.

But interpreters differ as to the meaning of the words. I will not repeat their views, nor is it necessary: I will only state what seems to me to be the real meaning. All others indeed give a different explanation; but the Prophet, I doubt not, means the same thing as we have observed in <240712>Jeremiah 7:12; where he says,

“Go to Shiloh, and see what is the state of that place, for the ark of the covenant had a long time dwelt there.”

Though, then, they thought that place sacred, yet it was reduced to desolation; and thus it must have become a dreadful spectacle to the whole people. For the same reason now, as it seems to me, the Prophet compares Lebanon to Mount Gilead; for what some say, that Gilead was the chief city of the ten tribes, has nothing in it. But we must remember the state of things at that time; the kingdom of Israel was wholly demolished when our Prophet spoke these words. Judea had indeed been much reduced by many calamities; but still some kind of a kingdom remained. Then by Mount Gilead the Prophet doubtless meant, by stating a part for the whole, the kingdom of Israel, but for a purpose different from that assigned by interpreters, even because the whole land of Israel was then laid waste; for all the inhabitants had been led into exile, and all the spoils had been removed, and nothing had escaped the rapacity and cruelty of their enemies.

Since, then, the land of Israel had been reduced unto desolation, God says now, that Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah would not be of greater value in his sight than the whole country of the ten tribes had been, which was doubtless larger in extent and in wealth. And this meaning may be easily gathered from the words of the passage; he does not say, “Thou art like Gilead the head of Lebanon;” but, Gilead to me art thou the head of Lebanon. And he calls Jerusalem Lebanon, because it was, as it were, the queen of that land; for by Mount Lebanon he designated whatever was precious in that country, for the reason we mentioned yesterday. As to Gilead, I do not consider that the Prophet refers especially to the city, but by stating a part for the whole, he includes the whole country, and for this reason, because Mount Gilead was full of many fruitful trees, and particularly of the balsam and the rosin tree, and of many odoriferous herbs and aromatics, which at this day are from thence brought to different parts of the world. And hence we found it asked in <240822>Jeremiah 8:22,

“Is there no rosin in Gilead?
is there no medicine found there to heal the Church?”

Why was mention made then of Mount Gilead? even because there grew the best aromatics, and especially the balsam tree, and also many odoriferous trees and most precious fruits.

The meaning then is, “What dost thou think thyself to be? or, for what reason dost thou trust so much in thyself? I did not spare Mount Gilead and that extensive country which was much superior to thee; what means then this foolish presumption, that thou persuadest thyself that all danger is far off? Thou shalt be to me as Gilead. Think of my judgment on Mount Gilead, and of the dreadful desolation of the land of Israel; the same which you may now see there shall happen to thee.” We now perceive in what sense the Prophet says, that before God the head of Lebanon, that is, Jerusalem itself, which ruled over Lebanon, would become like Gilead. fE37

He then adds, If I make thee not a desert. God again makes an oath; for it is, we know, an elliptical mode of expression, when the particle a, am, is only used, for an imprecation is to be understood, — “Let me not be thought a God;” or, “Let my power be deemed nothing;” or, “Let me not be hereafter counted true and faithful.” However this may be, God makes an oath, that the city would become a desert, as those cities which are not inhabited. Thus the whole context appears consistent, — that Jerusalem would be at length like the land of Israel, for he would no more spare Lebanon than Mount Gilead. It afterwards follows:

<242207>Jeremiah 22:7

7. And I will prepare destroyers against thee, every one with his weapons; and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire.

7. Et praeparabo (vertunt alii, sanctificabo, ut etiam dq hoc significat, praeparabo igitur) adversum to perditores, (aut, vastatores; tj significat perdere, et redigere in nihilum, et corrumpere, unde nomen ytjm, quod hic ponitur,) virum et arma ejus (aut, instrumenta bellica, vasa transferunt,) et exscindent electionem cedrorum tuarum (hoc est, electissimas quasque cedros tuas,) et conjicient in ignem.

 

He expresses the manner, for he had only said before, that the ruin of the city Jerusalem was nigh at hand; he adds, that destroyers would come and those well armed with warlike instruments, who would cut down all the choicest cedars and cast them into the fire. But he reminds them, that those destroyers would not come of themselves or through an impulse of their own, but through the secret operation of God; for if the Jews had thought that they had to do only with the Chaldeans, there would have been nothing to call forth the exercise of a religious principle; but the Prophet distinctly declares, that the Chaldeans would be the ministers of God, for they would be roused and led by him, according to what is often taught by the Prophets.

In short, these two things ought to be noticed, — first, that God had in readiness many ways by which he could punish the Jews. For the contempt of the ungodly arises, because they dream that God is unarmed and has not always the execution, as they say, ready at hand. Hence the Prophet shews that the Chaldeans would be ready as soon as God hissed for them, or gave them a sign. This is one thing. Secondly, it ought to be observed, that he reminds them that the Chaldeans would be the scourge of God, that the Jews might not think that they contended with mortals, but might know that they were summoned to render an account of their life, because they had too long been rebellious against God and his Prophets. This is what we must understand by the word prepare. fE38

Now as to the choice cedars, the Prophet again alludes to Mount Lebanon and to the forest of Jerusalem, which was mentioned yesterday. The word forest may, however, be applied to the buildings; for the Jews built their chambers for the most part of cedar wood, as it is well known; we may then apply this to their splendid and sumptuous houses; but we may also take it without a figure and apply it to the trees of Mount Lebanon. But the chief ornament of the country were the noble trees on that Mount; hence, by cedars, the Prophet no doubt designated whatever was splendid at Jerusalem and in the country around it. It follows, —

<242208>Jeremiah 22:8-9

8. And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city?

8. Et transibunt gentes multae per urbem hanc, et dicent quisque socio suo (vir ad socium suum, ad verbum,) cur fecit Jehova in hunc modum urbi huic magnae?

9. Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.

9. Et dicent, Quia dereliquierunt foedus Jehovae Dei sui, et sese inclinarunt coram diis alienis, et coluerunt eos.

 

The Prophet shews in these words how blind the Jews were as to their own ruin, in disregarding in so refractory a manner the judgment of God. The words no doubt embrace two contrasts; he compares mortal men with God, and those many nations with him alone. The Jews could not bear God as their judge, and were still refractory and strove by their perverseness to overcome him. Then the Prophet says, that as they would not endure to be judged by God, judges would come who would pronounce on them a free impartial sentence; and who were they to be? the heathens. And then, as the Jews would not obey the one true God, the Prophet sets many nations in contrast with the one true God.

We hence see the full import of these words, Pass shall many nations through this city; fE39 that is, God has hitherto adorned this city with many privileges, so that it became like a miracle to foreigners, for so conspicuous was the dignity of this city, that it attracted the notice of all, and its fame was known far and wide. Now, he says, this city shall be deprived of all its ornaments, when God shall depart from it. Pass, then, he says, shall man. nations through this city, and they will inquire, every one of his friend, Why hath Jehovah done thus to this city? Jeremiah, no doubt, indirectly condemns, not only the sloth, but also the insensibility which had so demented the Jews, that they never duly reflected on God’s judgment, nor were ever touched by the curses of the Law. He then shews that there would be more understanding and wisdom in the Gentiles, for on seeing Jerusalem overthrown and wholly demolished, they would know that this had not happened by chance, but was an evidence of vengeance from heaven. We thus see that he upbraided the Jews with their own stupidity, as they did not consider the judgment of God; but he ascribed to the nations wisdom and the spirit of inquiry; for they would ask, “Why has Jehovah done thus to this city?”

“The nations,” he says, “will understand what ye do not comprehend, even that this city will exhibit an example of dreadful vengeance, and this will be the subject of their inquiry; but while God now of his own free will foretell this to you, ye close your ears; surely there would be no need of much inquiry in a matter so clear, were you not deaf and blind, and indeed obstinate, for God of his own accord warns you beforehand. What, then, can this be, that God forewarns you and ye refuse to hear him, except that the devil bewitches you?”

And he says, this great city; for its ruin was more remarkable on account of its greatness. When a small town is destroyed, hardly any account is made of the event; but when a city falls, which was everywhere celebrated for its largeness, and also for the extraordinary benefits conferred on it by God, it excites the wonder of all, as though it had fallen from the clouds.

He afterwards adds, that there would be not only a spirit of inquiry among the nations, but that every one would become spontaneously a judge of the whole people: they shall answer, he says, because they have forsaken the covenant of Jehovah their God. Now, when Jeremiah declares that all the nations would become the judges of the people, he no doubt intended to condemn the false confidence in which they proudly indulged. At the same time, he says, “they have forsaken the covenant of Jehovah their God,” in order that he might take away the plea of ignorance. For they had not only deprived the eternal God of his own right and authority, but they had become doubly wicked, because God had made himself familiarly known to them. As, then, true religion had been fully revealed to them in the Law, hence their perverseness and wicked and base ingratitude appeared, for they had rejected God thus made known to them, and they bowed down before foreign gods and served them. I only touch here on these points, for they have been elsewhere explained. It follows, —

<242210>Jeremiah 22:10

10. Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him; but sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.

10. Ne fleatis (vel, ne lugeatis) super mortuum, et ne condoleatis ei; flete flendo super eum qui migrat, qui non revertetur amplius, et videbit (hoc est, ut videt) terram nativitatis suae.

 

They explain this verse of Jehoiakim and Jeconiah, but I consider it rather a general declaration, for the Prophet wished briefly to shew how miserable would be the condition of the people, as it would be better and more desirable at once to die than to protract life in continual languor. Of the kings he wilt afterwards speak, but reason compels us to extend these words to the whole people.

When a people flee away, being not able to resist their enemies, they may look for a restoration. In that case all dread death more than exile and all other calamities which are endured in this life, for they who remain alive may somehow emerge from their ills and troubles, or at least they may have them alleviated; but death cuts off all hopes. But the Prophet says here that death would be better than exile; and why? Because it would have been better at once to die than to protract a life of misery, weariness, and reproach, and at last to be destroyed. By saying, then, Weep ye not for the dead, nor bewail him, fE40 it is the same as though he had said, “If the destruction of this city be lamented, much more ought they to be lamented who shall remain alive than those who shall die, for death will be as it were a rest, it will be a harbor to end all evils; but life will be nothing else than a continual succession of miseries.” We hence conclude that this ought not to be confined to the two kings, but viewed as declared generally of the whole people. fE41

It follows, For he shall return no more, that he may see the land of his nativity. He shews that exile would be a sort of infection that would gradually consume the miserable Jews. Thus death would have been far better for them than to be in this manner long tormented and to have no relaxation. He then takes away the hope of a return, that he might shew that their exile would be as it were a dying languor, corroding them as a worm, so that to die a hundred times would have been more desirable than to remain in such a hard and miserable bondage. It now follows:

<242211>Jeremiah 22:11-12

11. For thus saith the Lord touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place. He shall not return thither any more:

11. Quia sic dicit Jehova ad Sallum (vel, super Sallum) filium Josliae, regis Jehudah, qui regnat pro Josia patre suo, quando (ra, est quidem relativum, sed non dubito quin, sumatur hic pro adverbio temporis; et ideo obscuerant sensum interpretes, dum vertunt, qui egressus est, et coguntur deinde mutare sensum verbi; sed hoc optime fluit et soepe occipitur pro quando) egressus fuerit ex hoc loco, non revertetur amplius:

12. But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.

12. Quoniam in loco ad quem transtulerint ipsum, illic morietur, et terram hanc non videbit amplius.

 

What he had before said generally he now applies distinctly and especially to the person of the king, that the people in general might know that they could not escape that punishment from which even the king would not be exempt. They, no doubt, when they heard that such a hard and bitter lot would happen to a king, regarded it as a thing incredible; but Jeremiah intended to shew in his person that what we have just seen was nigh them all, that is, that it would be better for them at once to die than to pine away for a long time.

We must at the same time notice, that what these two verses contain respecting the king is not said as though it applied to him alone, but rather that every one might apply it to himself what the Prophet said of the king alone.

As to the word Shallum, it is thought that Jehoiakim was so called, who had also the name of Jeconiah, and who had of his own accord given up the kingdom and died in exile. But as he is called the son of Josiah, a doubt has arisen. But if we duly consider what sacred history relates, the probable conjecture is, that he was not his son but his grandson, for the chosen successor of his father was Jehoiakim, called also Eliakim. Yet Matthew calls him the son of Josiah, and that he was born to him together with his brethren. (<400111>Matthew 1:11.) But we know that it was a common thing with the Hebrews to call descendants sons, especially when the family of David was spoken of; that the order of succession might be preserved, those who next followed their predecessors were called sons. Thus, according to this custom, Elialdm might have been deemed his son, who was really his brother. As, then, he was the successor of Josiah, he is called his son. fE42

There is yet no doubt but that God shews here that a pious king would not be a patronizer either to his own son, or to his grandson, or to others; for hypocrites are wont to form a defense for themselves from the holiness of their fathers. And as king Josiah had faithfully served God, his sons thought that God was in a manner bound to themselves, as though all this had not proceeded from the mere bounty of God, that Josiah had been so sincerely religious. But hypocrites, as I have just said, seek ever to render God bound to them. Hence the Prophet checks this false confidence, and declares that though Josiah was approved of God, yet his memory would not be of such an account as to shield his posterity from punishment. God, indeed, promises in his Law to be merciful to the thousandth generation, even to them who love him, (<022006>Exodus 20:6) but the ungodly very absurdly lay hold on this, as though they held God bound to them; for they thus imagine that they can deprive him of his power, and judgment, and authority over the world. The meaning then is, that Shallum in vain promised safety to himself because he had descended from the holy king Josiah, who had been a patron of eminent piety, for this could not be the means of lessening his punishment, inasmuch as he had degenerated from his father, whom he ought to have imitated, knowing that he was approved by God. And this also was the reason for the repetition, for he not only calls him the son of Josiah, but also adds, that he reigned instead of his father Josiah. Though, then, he succeeded so pious a king, he yet became degenerated and departed from the example of his father.

When he shall have gone forth from this place, he shall not return here any more. fE43 As, then, the king was precluded from returning, what would become of the common people and the dregs of society? Could their condition be better? How then could the Jews dare flatter themselves when they perceived so dreadful an evidence of God’s wrath in the king himself, on whom depended their safety? A confirmation follows, For he shall die in the place to which they shall have led him away. He intimates that he was to be by force carried away; he doubtless did not surrender himself until he saw that he was under the necessity of yielding. Then the Prophet in effect says that he would be a miserable exile, driven into banishment against his own will. It is then added, that he would see no more the land of his nativity, so that his lot would be nothing better than that of any one of the common people. It follows, —

<242213>Jeremiah 22:13

13. Woe unto him that buildeth his by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.

13. Ileus qui aedificat domum suam in non justitia, (hoc est, injuste,) et coenacula sua in non judicio (hoc est, sine rectitudine et aequitate;) proximum suum servire facit gratis, et opus ejus non reddit ei (vel, quod ille operatus fuerit non reddit ei; (vel, quod ille operatus fuerit non reddit ei; quidam enim volunt esse verbum, alii nomen, sed idem manebit sensus).

 

The Prophet begins here to shew that it could not be otherwise but that the king’s palace as well as Jerusalem must be destroyed, for their wickedness had arrived to the highest pitch; but he now, as it will appear presently, reprehends the father of Jeconiah.

He then says that the city was full of robberies, and especially the palace of the king. Yet I do not think that the Prophet speaks only of the king, but also of the courtiers and chief men. We must also bear in mind what I said yesterday, that the common people were not absolved while the king was condemned. But as dignity and honor among the people belonged both to the king and the princes, the Prophet exposes them publicly, that, it might be made evident how deplorable the state of things was throughout the whole community. We must at the same time add, that the chief among them were first summoned to judgment, not only because every one had privately offended, but because they had by their bad examples corrupted the whole body of the people; and also, because they had taken more liberty, as they feared nothing. We indeed know that the rich exercise tyranny, because they deem themselves exempt from all laws. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet here denounces, in a special manner, a curse on the king and the chief men.

He says, that they built unjustly; his words are, with no justice and with no judgment, by which he designates cruelty, frauds, and robberies; he, in short, includes under these words all kinds of iniquity. The way in which these things were done is stated; they wronged their neighbors, by demanding and extorting labors without rewarding them. Here, indeed, the Prophet only refers to one kind of injustice; but it may hence be easily concluded, how unjustly and wickedly they ruled who were then in authority; for they employed their neighbors, as though they were slaves, in building houses and palaces, for they denied them their wages. But nothing can be more cruel than to deprive the poor of the fruit of their labor, who from their labor derive their daily support. It is, indeed, commanded in the Law, that the wages of the laborer should not sleep with us, (<031913>Leviticus 19:13) for that would be the same as to kill him. fE44 There is also another indignity; when a robber kills a man, his object is the spoil; but he who extorts labor from a poor man, and sucks, so to speak, his blood, afterwards sends him away naked and needy; this is more atrocious than by violence to kill him. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. But as he continues the same subject, I shall defer any further remarks till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou continuest both by chastising us, and by kindly alluring us to thyself, to deal with us in such a way as to find out whether we are healable, — O grant, that we may not he hardened either against thy threatenings or thy promises, but follow in a teachable spirit what thou shewest is pleasing to thee, and make progress in holy living, and become daily more watchful and diligent, until we shall at length reach the goal which is set before us, and receive the reward of our faith in thy celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Second

In the last Lecture we began to explain the reproof given by the Prophet to King Jehoiakim for his cruelty and oppression; for in building his splendid palaces, he constrained the people to labor for nothing. This was the crime which the Prophet pointed out when he said, He! he builds unjustly, and his chambers by iniquity; literally, “not in judgement.”

As Jehoiakim might have objected and said, that this was lawful for him, for kings think that the whole world has been created for their sake, the Prophet called his attention to the common rights of men, for all the Israelites were his relations; as though he had said, “Though thou excellest in dignity, yet thou art one of the race of Abraham, and taken from the midst of thy brethren; there is, therefore, no reason for thee to take so much liberty as though they were to be thy vassals.” We hence see the design of the Prophet, when he condemned the cruelty of King Jehoiakim, who in building magnificent palaces treated the people arbitrarily and unjustly, and extorted more labor than what was right. It now follows, —

<242214>Jeremiah 22:14

14. That saith, I will build me a wide house, and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion!

14. Qui dicit, AEdificabo mihi domum amplam (mensuram, ad verbum, subaudiunt quidam Interpretes, magnarum; sed illud frigidum est, simpliciter enim domus mensurarum tantundem valet ac domus spatiosa,) et coenacula dilatationum (ad verbum, vel, respirationum, aut perflationum, nam hwr significat tam respirare quam dilatare; unde deducitur hwr quod significat spiritum et ventum,) et perforat sibi fenestras, et tecta (vel, cooperta) est domus cedro et uncta minio.

 

Some render the last words, “and painted with red;but vermilion is a kind of red. They, indeed, mention three kinds of red, — deep red, brownish, and the third mixed with various colors; but vermilion is a brighter color. As to the main point there is no difficulty; the Prophet reproves the ambition and pride of King Jehoiakim, that he was not content with the moderation of his fathers, but indulged in extravagant display, and built for himself a palace as it were in the clouds, as though he did not wish to have a dwelling on the earth. Splendor in houses cannot in itself be condemned; but, as it can hardly be, nay, as it seldom happens, but that such insatiable ambition proceeds from pride, hence the Prophets vehemently denounced sumptuous houses; and they pronounced a curse on such displays, because they had a regard to the motive and the end. Such was the design of the Prophet in this passage.

He therefore thus introduces King Jehoiakim, who says, I will build for myself a large house and chambers of respirations. That he said this proved the foolish ambition with which Jehoiakim had been inebriated, so that he regarded as nothing whatever was splendid before in Jerusalem. There were palaces, we know, very sumptuous there; and we also know that the king of Judah lived in great splendor. For though the palaces of Solomon were not then standing in their original grandeur, yet what remained was abundantly sufficient to satisfy a man who was not filled with pride. It hence appears that a fondness for excess prevailed in Jehoiakim, for he despised the royal palace, and whatever remained after the death of Solomon. For God, we know, had blessed with prosperity Hezekiah, and Josiah, and other kings; but they had continued within proper bounds. Since, then, such haughtiness had crept into the heart of Jehoiakim, it is evident, that he was filled with vain pride, nay, was drunk with folly. This was the reason why the Prophet severely reproved him for saying, “I will build for myself a large house and chambers of respirations,” or of perflations. fE44

He then adds, and he perforates for himself windows fE45 It was a proof of luxury, when men began to indulge in superfluities. In old times the windows were small; for use only was regarded by frugal men; but afterwards a sort of madness possessed the minds of many, so that they sought to be suspended as it were in the air. And hence they began to have wider windows. The thing in itself, as I have said, is not what God condemns; but we must ever remember, as I have reminded you, that men never go to excesses in external things, except when their hearts are infected with pride, so that they do not regard what is useful, what is becoming, but are carried away by fondness for excess.

It is then added, and it is covered with cedar, that is, the house is covered with cedar boards. For in my judgment the Prophet means here the wainscotting, when he says that the house was covered with cedar; as though he had said, that King Jehoiakim esteemed the squared and polished stones as nothing, unless a covering was added of cedar boards to ornament the walls. fE46 And for the same purpose was the painting with vermilion; for justly might paintings be deemed excessive superfluities. As, then, it was a part of luxury to adorn the walls with various paintings, as though men wished to change the simple nature of things, the Prophet here is indignant against King Jehoiakim. Nor is it to be doubted, but that God had regard also to the circumstances of the times; for God had already warned him and all the Jews respecting their future calamities. This, then, was in a manner to treat with mockery the threatenings of God. And we know how intolerable was this regarded by him; for he thus declares by Isaiah,

“Live do I, never shall this iniquity be blotted out,”
(<232214>Isaiah 22:14)

for when he had exhorted them to put on sackcloth and ashes, they said, “Let us eat and drink, tomorrow we shall die.” Similar, then, was the perverseness of King Jehoiakim; for he ought to have seen the coming calamity which was set as it were before his eyes; but he, like one infatuated, increased the royal splendor, so that the wealth of David and of Solomon appeared as nothing compared with what he had expended. It now follows, —

<242215>Jeremiah 22:15

15. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?

15. An regnabis, quia tu permisces se in cedro? (hoc est, quia to involvis cedro? pater tuus annon comedit et bibit et fecit (hoc est, cum faceret) judicium et justitiam? Tunc bene fuit ei.

 

The Prophet here derides the foolish confidence of King Jehoiakim, because he set up empty things against his enemies instead of strong defences. Kings are wont to indulge themselves when there is quietness and security; that is, when they fear nothing; when no danger appears, they then give way to their own gratifications; and this is commonly the case with all; for we see that kings especially indulge in excesses, when there is no war, when no one gives them trouble, and no one threatens them; but Jehoiakim, had he the least particle of wisdom, might have known that he had many dangers to dread. Now, when he applied all his thoughts to the painting of his walls, and to the splendor of his palace, to its wainscotting and other trifles, must he not have been insane, and not of a sound mind?

It is this madness that Jeremiah now condemns when he says, Shalt thou reign, because thou surroundest thyself with cedar board? fE47 that is, “Can this confirm thy kingdom to thee? or, shalt thou be more happy on this account, because thou art surrounded by cedars?” The meaning of the Prophet may be more fully learnt from the remaining part of the verse; for it immediately follows, Thy father, did he not eat and drink when he did judgment and justice?

Some so understand the passage, as though the Prophet meant to obviate an objection; for Jehoiakim might have referred to the example of his father Josiah, who had not been a sordid man, but had displayed some royal dignity and grandeur through the whole course of his life. Some interpreters, then, think that the Prophet answers here what Jehoiakim might, have objected: “What! did not my father also make a royal display?” Thus they explain the words, as though the Prophet made at first a concession, but that by adding a correction, he shewed that the excuse of Jehoiakim was frivolous: “I allow that thy father was royally adorned, but he executed judgment and justice; why dost thou not imitate thy father in his virtues? God forgave what was superfluous or excessive, for through his great indulgence he bears with many things in kings; but thou art far different from thy father, for thou extortest labor from thy poor subjects, and buildest thy palaces by means of extortion and plunder. There is, therefore, no reason for thee to seek for thyself a covering from thy father, for thou art wholly fallen away from his integrity.”

Others elicit an entirely different meaning, — that Josiah had prolonged his life, and conciliated the favor of God by ruling with justice. So, then, they connect the words thus: “Did not thy father eat and drink,” that is, did he not live happily, because God had blessed him? Inquire the cause, and you will find it to be this — he faithfully discharged his duties, for he executed judgment and justice. As, then, thou seest that the equity and moderation which thy father had practiced, was the cause of his happy life, why dost not thou also imitate him?”

But the Prophet seems to me to mean simply this, “Thy father doubtless lived happily, and nothing was wanting to him while he executed judgment and justice.” For thus appears better the contrast between the tyranny of Jehoiakim, and the uprightness of his father Josiah; as though he had said, “Thou deemest now thy state better than that of thy father, because thou surpassest him in luxury and splendor.

As then thou exultest in vain things, thou seemest to thyself to be happier than thy father: but thy father was contented with his lot; nay, if his condition be duly regarded, God honored him with every abundance and variety of blessings; he did eat and drink.”

By eating and drinking I understand nothing else, but that he lived cheerfully, enjoyed prosperity, spent a peaceable life. Thy father; he says, did eat and drink; that is, he had nothing to desire, and his condition was an evidence of God’s favor when he expected judgment and justice. And not unsuitable to this view is what follows, Then it was well with him. fE48

We hence see that the foolish ambition of Jehoiakim is here laughed to scorn; for he seemed not to think himself a king unless he conducted himself like a madman. Such is the case with kings at this day; they are ashamed to appear humane, and devise means only to exercise tyranny; and they also contrive how they may depart as far as possible from the common usage and practice of men. As then kings are so ingenious in their own follies, which seem to be like veils, lest anything humane should be perceived in them, the Prophet justly inveighs here against Jehoiakim; It was well,” he says, “with thy father; and yet he acted kindly and courteously towards his people; nor had he such haughtiness as to despise the common habits of men. Since then he was happy, if thou regardcst what belongs to real happiness, why dost thou please thyself so much? What hast thou that is better or more excellent than what he had!”

We now perceive what the object of the Prophet was to shew, that it is the only true glory and the chief honor of kings, when they discharge their duties, and that the image of God shines forth in them, when they execute judgment and justice; and that when they ambitiously seek through a blind zeal to be the slaves of pride, it is a vain attempt, and contributes nothing towards that happy life which they foolishly imagine. To the same purpose he adds, —

<242216>Jeremiah 22:16

16. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.

16. Judicium judicavit pauperis et egeni, tunc bene; an non cognoscere me, inquit Jehova?

 

He more fully expresses what he had said, that Josiah lived usefully, and was honored and esteemed, for royal majesty shone forth in him. He then repeats in other words what he had said, but he did this for the sake of explanation. fE49

He undertook, he says, the cause, or the quarrel, of the poor and needy. There is here a part stated for the whole; for when any one deals kindly with the poor, he may yet plunder the wealth of the rich, which cannot be deemed right; but as the case most commonly is, that those who rule neglect the poor and helpless, the Prophet includes under one thing the whole duty of rulers, and says that King Josiah was upright, just, and equitable, that he not only abstained from wrongs, but also assisted the innocent whom he saw oppressed, and of his own accord interposed to prevent any to molest them. He then under one thing comprehends everything that belongs to the office of a just and upright judge. For it is the first thing for judges to abstain from all rapacity and violence; and the second thing is to extend a hand to the poor, and to bring them aid, whenever they see them exposed to the wrongs of others. He then judged the judgment, or undertook the cause, of the poor and needy; and it is added, Then well; that is, as I have explained, “This was the happiness of thy father Josiah, so that he was not despised by the people, nor had he any desire for anything more.”

It then follows, Was not this to know me, saith Jehovah? fE50 The Prophet shews again whence proceeded the liberty which King Jehoiakim took in luxury and superfluous display, as well as in plunder, cruelty, and oppression, even because he had cast away every care and concern for religion; for where a real knowledge of God exists, men must necessarily have regard to uprightness and moderation. He then who thus acts cruelly towards his neighbors, clearly shews that every thought of religion and every care for it is rooted out of his heart. In short, the Prophet means that Jehoiakim was not only unjust towards men, but was also guilty of impiety; for except he had become a profane despiser of God, he would not have thus unjustly oppressed his neighbors.

But this passage deserves to be noticed, as it shews that piety leads men to all the duties of love. Where God then is known, kindness to man also appears. So also on the other hand we may conclude, that all regard for God is extinguished, and all fear of him is abolished, when men wilfully do wrong to one another, and when they seek to oppress or defraud one another. There is therefore no doubt but that gross impiety will be found where the offices of love are neglected. For when Jeremiah commended the piety of Josiah on this account, because he executed judgment and justice, he doubtless condemned Jehoiakim, as though he had said, that he was an abandoned and irreclaimable apostate; for had he retained a spark of religion, he would have acted more justly and humanely towards his people. It now follows, —

<242217>Jeremiah 22:17

17. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.

17. Quia non oculus tuus et cor tuum nisi ad cupidatatem tuam, et ad sanguinem innoxium fundendum, et ad rapacitatem, et ad oppressionem, ad faciendum (hoc est, ut exequaris.

 

Here the Prophet expresses more clearly how much Jehoiakim differed from Josiah his father. He indeed shews that he was wholly unlike him, because Josiah had endeavored to observe what was equitable, while he set all his thoughts on fraud, plunder, and cruelty; for by the eye and the heart he means all the faculties of his soul and body. One of the main senses of the body, as it is well known, is the sight. Hence the Prophet includes here whatever is external and internal in men, when he says, thine eye, that is, all thy bodily senses are set on covetousness, and also thine heart, that is, all thy thoughts, feelings, designs, meditations, and purposes are employed in the same way. He intimates, in short, that Jehoiakim was corrupt both in body and mind, so that having cast aside every fear of God, he abandoned himself to avarice as well as to plunder and all acts of oppression. Thine eye, he says, and thy heart is not, except on covetousness.

The verb [xb, betso, means to covet; hence the noun signifies not only avarice, but also any sinful lust. He adds cruelty, for it, cannot be but that all are bloody who give loose reins to their lusts. He mentions in the third place rapacity, or violent seizure; for q[, oshek, means to take by force what belongs to another; hence the noun signifies rapacity. What follows in the last place is oppression, or disquietude. As ≈wr, ruts, means to run, Jerome renders it “the course of thy work,” as though l, lamed, prefixed to tw[, oshut, were not one of the serviles, , l, k, b, beth, caph, lamed, mem, but this cannot be admitted. The clear meaning of the Prophet indeed is, that Jehoiakim was not only intent on taking possession on what belonged to others, but that he also oppressed and distressed all he could. It is lastly added, to do; the verb to do is to be applied to what has gone before, that Jehoiakim employed all his thoughts, and was wholly engaged in evil deeds, that he not only contrived acts of cruelty and of avariciousness in his mind, but also carried fully into execution what he had contrived. fE51 It follows, —

<242218>Jeremiah 22:18-19

18. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!

18. Propterea sic dicit Jehova ad Joakim (vel, de, la, capitur pro de, ergo de Joakim) filio Josiae regis Jehudah, Non lugebunt eum, Heus frater mi! et heus soror! non lugebunt eum, Heus domine! heus gloria ejus!

19. He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

19. Sepultura asini sepelietur, ad trahendum, et projiciendum ad extra ad portas (ad verbum hoc est, longe extra portas) Jerosolymae.

 

The Prophet having inveighed against Jehoiakim, now shews what kind of punishment from God awaited him; he would have otherwise despised the Prophet’s reproof; but when he heard that a reward was prepared for him, he must have been roused. Inasmuch then as he was seized with a foolish and even a sottish lust for glory, so that he cast aside every care for uprightness, the Prophet declares that disgrace was prepared for him; and hence he compares him after his death to an ass.

Therefore thus saith Jehovah to King Jehoiakim, or concerning King Jehoiakim, fE52 the son of Josiah the king, etc. He is not called the son of Josiah for honor’s sake, but for the purpose of touching him to the quick, because he had degenerated from the piety of his father. But as he hoped that the religion of Josiah would be to him a sort of covering, the Prophet derides and checks this vain confidence. “Thou gloriest in being the son of King Josiah, but thy holy father will avail thee nothing, for thou seemest avowedly to shew that thou art wholly different from him. Though then thou art, descended from Josiah, and though God has raised thee to the royal throne, yet there is no reason for thee to be confident as to thy safety; for these benefits of God will not preserve thee from that ignominious treatment which thou deservest.”

He says first, They shall not bewail him, Ah my brother! Ah sister! The Prophet mentions by way of imitation the words of the mourners. That people, we know, were very vehement in expressing their sorrow. And this ought to be borne in mind, because some being persuaded that nothing is related by the Prophets but what ought to be taken as an example, do therefore think that these modes of lamentation were approved by God. But we have before seen what the Prophet said in <242204>Jeremiah 22:4,

“Enter through these gates shall the kings
of Judah and their princes in chariots,”

yet we know that kings had been forbidden to make such ostentations; but God did not scrupulously refer to what was lawful or right in speaking of royal splendor; so also when he spoke of funeral rites. We ought not then to make a law of what the Prophet says, as though it were right and proper to bewail the dead with howling. There is indeed no doubt, but these excesses which the Prophet mentions were not only foolish, but also wholly condemnable; for we often vie with one another in our lamentations; and when men intemperately express their grief in funerals, they excite themselves into a sort of madness in crying and bewailing, and then when they compose themselves and simulate grief, they act a part as in a theater. But the Prophet here speaks only according to the common practice of the age, when he says, “They shall not bewail him,” etc.; that is, he states what was usually done, when one embraced another, when a sister said, “Ah, my brother!” and when a brother said, “Ah, my sister!” or, when the people said, “Ah, lord, O king, where is thy glory! where is thy honor! where thy crown! where thy scepter! where thy throne! “ Very foolish then were the lamentations which the Prophet mentions here. But as I have already said, it is enough for us to know, that he refers to these rites, then commonly practiced, without expressing his approbation of them.

They shall not, he says, bewail King Jehoiakim; they shall not say at his funeral, Ah, my brother! Ah, sister! And, Ah, lord! Ah, his glory! fE53 There shall be no such thing; and why? because he shall be buried with the burial of an ass. We have before said, that it was justly deemed one of God’s curses when a carcass was cast away unburied; for God would have burial a proof to distinguish us from brute animals even after death, as we in life excel them, and as our condition is much nobler than that of the brute creation. Burial is also a pledge as it were of immortality; for when man’s body is laid hid in the earth, it is, as it were, a mirror of a future life. Since then burial is an evidence of God’s grace and favor towards mankind, it is on the other hand a sign of a curse, when burial is denied.

But it has been elsewhere said, that temporal punishments ought not always to be viewed alike; for God has suffered sometimes his faithful servants to be unburied, according to what we read in <197902>Psalm 79:2, 3, that their bodies were cast forth in the fields, that they were exposed to be eaten by the beasts of the earth and by the birds of heaven. Those spoken of were the true and sincere worshippers of God. But we know that the good and the bad have temporal punishments in common; and this is true as to famine and nakedness, pestilence and war. The destruction of the city Jerusalem was a just punishment on the wicked; and yet Daniel and Jeremiah were driven into exile together with the wicked, and suffered great hardships; and, in short, they were so mixed with the ungodly, that their external condition was in nothing different. So, then, the state of things in the world is often in such disorder, that we cannot distinguish between the good and the bad by outward circumstances. But still it is right ever to hold this truth, that when burial is denied to a man, it is a sign of God’s curse.

Hence, the Prophet says now, He shall be buried with the burial of an ass. He mentions the ass because it is a mean animal; he might have named a horse or an ox, but as the ass is a meaner and more contemptible animal, it is the same thing as though he had said, “Jehoiakim shall be cast away with the dogs.” This prophecy no doubt grievously wounded not only the mind of the king himself, but also that of the whole people; for as yet his throne stood, and all highly regarded the family of David, and thought the kingdom sacred, as it was under the guardianship and protection of God. But the Prophet hesitated not to denounce what was afterwards confirmed by the event; for Jehoiakim was buried with the burial of an ass, as he was cast forth far beyond the gates of Jerusalem. Here the Prophet amplifies the disgrace by which the King Jehoiakim would be branded, for he might have been left dead in a journey; but he expresses what is more grievous than the casting forth; Drawn out, he says, and cast forth, etc.; that is, Jehoiakim shall not only be cast forth, but also drawn as an ass or a dog, lest his foetor should infect the city; as though he was unworthy not only of a grave, but also of being seen by men. fE54

And this is to be especially noticed, for we hence conclude how great his perverseness was in despising the threatenings of God, since the Prophet could not otherwise storm the mind of the king, and terrify the people, than by exaggerating the indignity that was to happen to him. For if there had been any teachable spirit in the king and the people, the Prophet would have been content with making a simple statement, “Jehoiakim shall not be buried;” that is, God will punish him even when dead; the curse of God will not only be upon him while living, but he will also take vengeance on him after his death. He was not content with this kind of statement; but he shall be buried, he says, as an ass, and shall be cast far off; and further still, his carcass shall be drawn or dragged; so that it was to be an eternal mark of infamy and disgrace.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as it has pleased thee to perpetuate the memory of the dreadful vengeance which thou hast executed on the descendants of David, so that we may learn by their evils carefully to walk before thee, — O grant, that the forgetfulness of this example may never possess us, but that we may assiduously meditate on what is set before us, in order that we may thus endeavor to advance and promote the glory of thy name through the whole course of our life, so that we may at length be made partakers of thy celestial glory, which thou hast prepared for us, and which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Third

<242220>Jeremiah 22:20

20. Go up to Lebanon, and cry; and lift up thy voice in Bashan, and cry from the passages: for all thy lovers are destroyed.

20. Ascende in Libanum, et clama, et in Basan ede vocem tuam, et clama a lateribus, quia contriti sunt omnes amatores tui.

 

Jeremiah triumphs over the Jews, and derides their presumption in thinking that they would be safe, though God was against them. He then shews that they were deceived in promising to themselves impunity; but he bids them to ascend Mount Lebanon, and to cry aloud on Mount Bashan, that they might know that there would be no aid for them when God’s judgment came. But the whole verse is ironical; for they would in vain cry and howl. Indeed, the Prophet thus treated them, because he saw that they were wholly irreclaimable. They were not worthy then that he should give them counsel, or faithfully warn them. He was therefore under the necessity ironically to deride their madness in promising safety to themselves, while they were continuing to provoke God’s vengeance against themselves.

But at the same time he accommodates what he says to their intentions; for there is no doubt but that they ever cast their eyes either on Egypt or on Assyria for any aid they might want. Hence he says, Ascend Mount Lebanon, and cry, and then cry on Mount Bashan, and cry all around, (for by sides he means all parts;) but thou shall gain nothing, he says, for consumed are all thy lovers. fE55 We learn from the end of the verse that the Prophet said, Ascend, and cry, by way of derision. By lovers he means the Egyptians and the Assyrians, and other neighboring nations; for the Jews, when they feared any danger, were wont to flee to their neighbors, and God was in the meantime neglected by them; and for this reason they were called lovers. God had espoused the people as his own, and hence he often called them his wife, and he speaks here in the feminine gender; and thus the people are compared to a wife, and God assumes the character of a husband. When, therefore, the people, according to their self-will and humor, wandered here and there, this levity was called adultery; for the simplicity of faith is our spiritual chastity; for as a wife who regards her husband alone, keeps conjugal fidelity and chaste conduct, so when we continue to cleave to God alone, we are, in a spiritual sense, chaste as he requires us to be; but when we seek our safety from this and that quarter, we violate the fidelity which we owe to God. As soon, then, as we cast our thoughts here and there, it is to act like a woman who seeks vagrant and unlawful connections.

We now see the reason why the Prophet compares the Egyptians and Assyrians to lovers, for he intimates that the people of Israel did in this manner commit adultery, as it has been stated in other places. It follows, —

<242221>Jeremiah 22:21

21. I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear: this hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyest not my voice.

21. Loquutus sum tecum in pace tua (vel, quiete, vel, foelicitate tua,) dixisti, Non audiam; haec via tua (id est, ratio, vel, consuetudo) a pueritia tua, quod non audieris vocem meam.

 

Here God shews that the people were worthy of the reward he had mentioned, even to mourn and to seek aid on every side without finding any. It, indeed, often happens that the excessive severity of a husband alienates his wife from his society; and when a husband, through want of thought, attends to other things and neglects his domestic affairs, and thus his wife goes astray; or when he connives at things when he sees his wife exposed to dangerous allurements and flatteries, the fault is in part to be ascribed to him. But God shews here that he had performed the duties of a good and faithful husband, and also that it was not his fault that the people did not perform their part.

I spoke to thee, he says; that is, thou canst not say that thou hast gone astray through ignorance; for they who are proved guilty are wont to flee to this kind of excuse, — “I did not think; had I been warned, I would have attended to good advice; but on slippery ground it is easy to fall, especially when no one stretches forth his hand to give any help.” But God takes away here every pretext of this kind, and says, that he had spoken; as though he had said, “I warned thee in time; thou hast not then sinned through ignorance or want of thought.” In short, God condemns here the perverseness of the people, that they knowingly and wilfully abandoned themselves to every kind of wickedness. Now this passage deserves special notice; for we see that it is a twofold crime, when God in due time speaks to us and calls us to the right way, and we refuse to hear; for our wickedness is inexcusable when we suffer not ourselves to be corrected by him.

I spoke to thee, he adds, in thy tranquillity. By this circumstance also their crime is aggravated; for God not only by his Prophets made known to his people what was right, but had also, by his blessing, conciliated them to himself. For when a husband counsels his wife, and is at the same time austere or peevish, his wife will disregard whatever she may hear, for her mind will be preoccupied with dislike; but when a husband treats his wife kindly, and proves by his benevolence the love he entertains for her, and at the same time shews prudence in his conduct towards her, she must necessarily be of a very bad disposition if she is not moved by such advice, kindness, and benevolence on the part of her husband. Now, God shews here that he had sent Prophets in order to keep his people in the faithful discharge of their duties, and that he had also been kind and bountiful to them, that thereby they might be sweetly drawn to obey him. Therefore, by the word “tranquillity,” the Prophet sets forth God’s kindness and bounty towards his people. fE56

It is, indeed, true what Moses says, that men are like mettlesome and wanton horses when they become fat. (<053215>Deuteronomy 32:15.) So fatness and tranquillity have such effect as to render us more refractory. Yet this cannot avail for an excuse when God kindly invites us, and connects with his doctrine kind and paternal benevolence, and confirms it by the effects when we are teachable and yield him willing obedience. Thus the Prophet closed the mouths of the Jews, for they would have sought probably to make this objection, — that vengeance was too vehemently denounced on them, and that God suddenly assailed them; but he shews that when in tranquillity and prosperity they might have acknowledged God’s paternal kindness, they had yet been rebellious and had abused the indulgence of God.

I spoke to thee, he says, in thy tranquillity, and thou didst say, I will not hear. It is not, indeed, probable that the Jews had spoken so insolently as to say openly and in such plain words, that they would not be obedient; but the Prophet regards their life and not their words. Though, then, the Jews did not express these words, — that they would not obey God; yet such language might have been clearly inferred from their conduct, for they were so perverse as not to render obedience to God and to his counsels.

He adds, in the third place, that it had been the custom of the people from their childhood not to hear the voice of God. It is the height of impiety when we are not only refractory for one day or a short time, but when we pursue wickedness continually. God in the meantime intimates that he had from the beginning been solicitous for the safety of his people, but in vain. It sometimes happens that he who has become hardened in his vices, begins to be taught after the thirtieth or fortieth: year, but he is not very pliable; for men become hard by long usage; we see that old men are less teachable than the young; and why? because age in a manner makes them sturdy, so that they cannot bear to be turned and ruled. But God shews here, that such was the wickedness of his people, that they had been rebellious from their childhood; as though he had said, “Thou canst not make this excuse, that thou hast been for a long time without a teacher that thou hast been without any wisdom and understanding, and that on this account thou hast become hardened in evils; no, because I have found thee wholly unteachable from thy very childhood; it was thy custom, or manner, not to hear my voice,” or, “This has been thy custom, that thou didst not hear my voice;literally, “because thou didst not hear my voice;but it ought to be rendered as above, for yk, is not here a connective, but all expletive or an exegetical particle. fE57 It follows, —

<242222>Jeremiah 22:22

22. The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity; surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.

22. Omnes pastores tuos depascet ventus, et amatores tui in exilium migrabunt; certe tunc pudefies et erubesces ab omni malitia tua (hoc est, propter cunctam malitiam tuam.)

 

As the main fault was in the chief men, therefore God shews, that there would be no defense found in their prudence and wealth, when things came to an extremity: and it was a usual thing for the common people, when reproved, to refer to their rulers as their shield: nor is there a doubt but that the Jews made this objection to God’s Prophets, — “What do you mean? that God has suffered us to be unhappily governed by bad princes? then he has exposed us as a prey to wolves: now if he punishes us, it seems an unjust thing for us to suffer for the fault of others.” At the same time, they who thus spoke were secure and despised God, because they thought that their safety was secured by their chief men.

Hence, the Prophet here shakes off from the Jews this vain confidence, Thy pastors, he says, the wind shall eat up. By pastors he understands the king and his counsellors, as well as the priests and the prophets. The word eat up, means that all would be consumed by the wind. Sometimes, indeed, men are said to feed on the wind, that is, when they entertain vain confidences. So the wind means in other places vain hopes, as they say; but it is in another sense that the Prophet speaks, when he says that pastors would be eaten up by the wind, that is, that they would vanish away like the smoke. Thus God shews that their presumption, and frauds, and false imaginations, were nothing but smoke and emptiness. fE58

He then speaks of their lovers, — that they would migrate into exile: for the Jews thought at first, that they would be impregnable as long as the throne of David stood; and then we know that the common people were easily deceived by external splendor, when they saw that the priests as well as the prophets and the king’s counsellors were endued with craftiness, and swelling with great pride; and hence they disregarded what the prophets threatened. Now, the second ground of confidence was their alliance with the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and other neighboring nations. Therefore God, after having said, that all their pastors would be destroyed, adds, that the Egyptians and others would be driven into captivity.

He afterwards says, Surely, thou shalt then be ashamed, and shalt blush for all thy wickedness; fE59 that is, “Thou shalt at length know that thou art justly punished for thy sins, when God shall denude thee of all aids, and make it evident that everything that now gives thee confidence is altogether empty and vain.” And he mentions all wickedness; for the Jews had not sinned only in one thing, but had added evils to evils, so that they had provoked God’s vengeance by an immense heap of wickedness. Their acknowledgment, however, would not be that which availed to repentance, but extorted; for the reprobate, willing or unwilling, are often constrained to acknowledge their shame. It follows —

<242223>Jeremiah 22:23

23. O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars, how gracious shalt thou be when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!

23. Sedisti (hoc est, sedem tibi posuisti) in Libano, nidulata es in cedris, quomodo gratiosa fuisti (alii, vertunt, precata es) in veniendo tibi dolores, dolorem quasi parturientis (ad verbum, sed sensus est, quomodo gratiosa eris, ubi venerint tibi dolores, dolor quasi foeminae parturientis.)

 

The Prophet confirms the same thing in other words; and hence it appears how difficult it is to shake off from men their false confidence, when they give themselves up to earthly things. As soon, then, as false confidence strikes its roots into the hearts of men, they cannot be moved either by any threatenings or by any dangers; even though death itself were hanging over them, they yet remain unconcerned: and hence Isaiah upbraids them and says, That they had made a covenant with death. (<232815>Isaiah 28:15.) This was the reason why the Prophet here multiplied words and used greater vehemence; it was for the purpose of correcting that perverseness which prevailed among the Jews; for they thought themselves beyond the reach of those darts which God’s hands would throw.

He therefore says, that they had set their seat on Lebanon, and made their nest among the cedars. Some interpreters understand this figuratively of the cedar houses in which they dwelt; that is, that they ornamented their houses or palaces, as we have seen, with boards of cedar. But I take the words more simply, — That they considered Lebanon as an impregnable stronghold, and that he compares them to birds which choose the highest cedars to make their nests in. The meaning is, that the Jews were so blinded by their pride, that they thought that they had Lebanon as a safe refuge, and also that they imagined that they had nests as it were in its cedars. But there is no doubt but that the Prophet, in mentioning this one particular, meant to include all those false and vain confidences with which the Jews were inebriated. But he speaks by way of concession, as though he had said, that the Jews were not terrified by God’s threatenings, because they cast their eyes on Lebanon and on its lofty cedars.

But how gracious, he says, wilt thou be; that is, what grace wilt thou find, when sorrows shall come upon thee, the pain as of one in travail. fE60 The Prophet expresses here what often occurs in Scripture, that when the ungodly say, “Peace and safety,” sudden ruin comes on them. (<520503>1 Thessalonians 5:3.) He then does not allow that the Jews gained anything by thinking that they would have a quiet station on Lebanon, and by having their nests in the cedars, for God would bring on them sudden pains like those of women, who, while laughing and full of mirth, are in a moment seized with the pangs of childbearing. Jeremiah now says, that a similar thing would happen to the Jews. I touch but lightly on this point, while yet it is worthy of long and careful meditation. Let us then know, that nothing is more intolerable to God than when we promise to ourselves a quiet rest while he proclaims war against us, and while we, as it were designedly, daily provoke him. It follows —

<242224>Jeremiah 22:24

24. As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence.

24. Vivo ego, dicit Jehova, quod si esset Coniahu filius Joakim regis Jehudah annulus signatorius super manum dexteram meam (hoc est, in many dextera mea,) ego inde to evallam (mutatio est personae.)

 

God here makes an oath that he had resolved to punish Jeconiah, who was also called Jehoiachim. And he says, That though he sat on the throne of David, he would yet be a miserable exile. We have, indeed, seen elsewhere, that the Jews were so fascinated as to think that, God was bound to them; and at the same time they allowed themselves every liberty in sinning, under the pretense that God had promised that the kingdom of David would remain as long as the sun and moon continued in the heavens, (<19D903>Psalm 139:37) but they did not consider that there was a mutual compact in God’s covenant; for he required them to be faithful on their part: nor did they consider that many were Abraham’s children according to the flesh, who were not his lawful children before God. As to the king himself, he never thought it possible that he should be driven into exile, because he was David’s successor and ordained by God.

This, then, is the reason why God now declares, Even though that Coniah were as a sealing ring on my finger, I would yet pluck it off thence. However exalted then was Jeconiah, God shews that his dignity would be only for a time, and would soon fade away; for he would be at length thrust from his throne, and his condition wholly changed. The word Coniah is, no doubt, in a mutilated form, instead of Jehoiachin. The Prophet then calls him Coniah by way of contempt, as though he did not think him worthy of the complete name, but expresses it in two instead of four syllables. So the Prophet, though Jeconiah was then the king, yet calls him Coniah. fE61

Now, this passage teaches us, that we ought not to be in such a way proud of God’s favors, as to forget what we are, but ever to remember that we are dependent on him, and that we ought diligently to pray to him at all times; for security breeds contempt; hence it is; that God strips us of the ornaments with which we have been clothed; and it is a just reward for our ingratitude. Let all, then, who excel others know, that what has been given may at any time be taken away, except good conscience be as it were the guard to preserve God’s gifts and benefits, so that they may not at any time fall away or be lost. It follows —

<242225>Jeremiah 22:25

25. And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans

25. Et ponam to (tradam to) in manum quierentium animam tuam, et in manum eorum a quorum facie formidas (metuis) et in manum Nebuchadrezzar regis Babylonii et in manum Cladaeorum.

 

This verse is connected with the last, and more fully explains what had been briefly said. The plucking off of the sealing ring from God’s finger took place when Jeconiah was deprived of his glory and his kingdom, and made subject; to the king of Babylon. fE62 Though the king spared his life, as sacred history testifies, (<122507>2 Kings 25:7; <143606>2 Chronicles 36:6; <245211>Jeremiah 52:11,) yet when he surrendered himself to him, he trembled as though he saw the sword ready to cut off his head; for he expected no mercy, and his fear made him to go out of the city, and to surrender himself to his inveterate enemy. The import of the whole is, that King Jeconiah would come to extremities, for he would be forced to give up himself helpless and unarmed into the hands of his cruel enemies.

But he repeats the commination, and enlarges on the subject; I will deliver thee, he says, into the hand of those who seek thy life, and then, into the hand of those whose face thou dreadest, and, in the third place, into the hand of Nebuchadnezer, (Nabuchadnezer, king of Babylon, is called here and in other places, Nebuchadrezer,) and lastly, into the hand of the Chaldeans. Thus the Prophet recounts, as it were in order, several kinds of death, that Jeconiah might know how dreadful God’s judgment would be. He adds —

<242226>Jeremiah 22:26

26. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.

26. Et projiciam to et matrem tuam quae genuit to in terram alienam, in qua non estis geniti, et illic moriemini.

 

Here, again, the Prophet confirms what he had said of the severe vengeance which God would take on Jeconiah. And though he was in his thirty-seventh year brought out of prison, and admitted unto the royal table, among other princes, he yet died in exile; and perhaps it would have been better for him to continue in prison till his death than to have been corrupted by allurements when he became one of the princes, for he thus defiled himself. However this may have been, he died in exile together with his mother Nehusta.

The Prophet then enhanced the grievousness of his punishment by saying, I will cause thee to migrate, or cast thee out,  fE63 and thy mother who bare thee. It is added, for the sake of indignity, that the mother of the king would be led captive with him; for the female sex is often spared, and she was also advanced in years. But God executed upon her his judgment, because she was his associate in impiety: “I will remove you,” he says, into foreign lands, in which ye were not born, and there ye shall die.”

<242227>Jeremiah 22:27

27. But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.

27. Et in terram ad quam ipsi levant animum suum, ut revertantur illuc, non revertentur illuc.

 

The Prophet again changes the person, and yet not inelegantly, for he speaks here as one indignant, and after having addressed a few words to King Jeconiah, he turns aside from him and declares what God would do. Thus, when we think one hardly worthy to be addressed, we change our discourse; and after having spoken a few words to him, we take another mode of speaking. In the same manner, the Prophet spoke very indignantly when he addressed Jehoiakim, and then he declared how God would deal with him: he passed by him as though he was deaf or unworthy of being noticed. We thus see the design of the Prophet in the change he makes in this passage.

Into the land, he says, to which they raise up their mind that they may return, there they shall not return. He had said before that both the king and his mother would die in a foreign land, and he now confirms the same thing; for the foolish notion, that the king of Babylon would be at length propitious to them, could not but with great difficulty be eradicated from their minds: nor is there a doubt but that such thoughts as these were entertained, — “When Nebuchadnezzar shall see us coming suppliantly to him, he will be turned to mercy, for what more does he require? He does not mean to fix here his royal palace; it; will satisfy him to have the people tributary to him; and when he shall find that I am a man of no courage, he will prefer having me a king, rather than to appoint a new one.” Such, then, was the reasoning which the king had with his courtiers. Hence this vain persuasion is what the Prophet now demolishes: They raise up their mind to the land, that is, they think of a free return at length into their own country; for to raise up the mind is to apply the mind or thought to any thing. They raise up, then, their mind to the land, that is, the land of Judah; but they shall never return thither, whatever they may promise to themselves.  fE64

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou promisest to us rest nowhere except in thy celestial kingdom, we may never suffer ourselves, while travelling on the earth, to be allured and driven here and there; but may we in the meantime call on thee with resigned minds, and thus carry on our warfare, that; how much soever thou mayest he pleased by various contests to try and prove us, we may still continue to be thy faithful soldiers, until we shall enjoy that rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Fourth

<242228>Jeremiah 22:28

28. Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?

28. An simulachrum contemptum, contritum, vir iste Coniah? an vas, in quo non est oblectatio? ut quid disjecti sunt ipse et semen ejus et projecti super terram quam non noverunt?

 

As the Prophet was hardly able to convince the Jews of what he had foretold, he confirms the same thing; but he speaks here as of what was incredible. He assumes the character of one greatly wondering, that others might cease to wonder. He then asks, whether it was possible that Jeconiah should be driven into exile and there miserably perish? We now see the design of the Prophet, that as the Jews thought that the kingdom would be perpetual, it was necessary to shake off such a notion, so that they might know that God had not in vain threatened what we have already noticed. But there is in these questions a kind of irony, for the Prophet might have made a positive assertion in plain words; but from regard to others, he hesitates through wonder, or seems to doubt as of a thing that was monstrous.

Is he a statue? he says; some translate “a vessel;” but it seems to be taken here, as in other places, in its proper sense, a statue. Is, then, this man Coniah a despised and a broken statue? for ≈wp, puts, is both to fail and to break.  fE65 We have said that a part of his name was left out by way of contempt; still, as the Jews were so blinded by the royal dignity that they could not believe the prophecy, he asks respecting it as of a thing incredible. Is he a vessel? etc., he adds. The Hebrew word ylk, cali, we know, is taken for any kind of vessel; for the ancients called all kinds of furniture vessels. He asks, then, Is he a contemptible vessel? Is he a vessel in which there is no delight? He had before said that he was a despised statue. Why are they cast forth, he and his seed, and thrown into a land which they have not known? that is, into a remote land? fE66 And we know that it is a hard lot when one is driven far away from his own country. There is, then, no doubt but that the Prophet enhances the grievousness of the evil when he speaks of an unknown country: for Zedekiah, who was put on the throne, was his uncle; and of his posterity the first was Salathiel, born in exile. It now follows —

<242229>Jeremiah 22:29-30

29. O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.

29. Terra, terra, terra, audi sermonem Jehovae,

30. Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.

30. Sic dicit Jehova, Scribite virum hunc orbum (vel, solitarium) virum, cui prospere non erit in diebus suis; quia prospere non habebit quisquam ex semine ejus sedens super solium Davidis et dominans adhuc in Jehudah.

 

The Prophet more fully confirms what I have lately referred to; and the repetition was not superfluous in exclaiming “earth” three times, for as the hardness of iron is overcome by the repeated strokes of the hammer, so the Prophet repeated the word “earth,” that he might subdue that perverseness in which the Jews had so hardened themselves that no threats of God moved them. He did not adopt this vehemence, as rhetoricians do who aim to appear eloquent; but it was necessity that constrained him thus to assail that refractory people, who would have otherwise turned a deaf ear to what we have observed and read. By this preface, then, the Prophet especially shews that he spoke of God’s dreadful judgment, and also reminded the Jews of the certainty of this prophecy, though they were persuaded that the kingdom would never fall. Hence in this repetition we see that there is an implied reproof, as though he had said that they were indeed deaf, but that it was to no purpose, for they would be constrained to see the fulfillment of what they did not then believe. Earth, earth, earth, hear, he says.  fE67

Then he adds, Thus saith Jehovah, Write ye this man solitary, or childless. Some think that these words were addressed to angels or to prophets; but I regard not such a notion as well founded: this mode of speaking seems rather to me to have been taken from common practice, for decrees which were to continue in force for a long time were usually written. When an edict was proclaimed, and was to be in force only for a few days, it was not commonly recorded in the public monuments; but when a law was enacted, which was to be binding on posterity, it was written in the public tablets. Then the Prophet intimates that this judgment of God could not be rendered void, nor would be momentary like decrees which in a few days are disregarded and soon forgotten, but that it would be certain and permanent. Write ye, then, this man childless. This bereavement is set in opposition to the promise of God, that there would be perpetual successors to David on his throne as long as the sun and moon were in the heavens. (<19D937>Psalm 139:37.) And the Prophet shews here that this promise as to Jeconiah would not be fulfilled. fE68

And he adds, Write ye this man as one who will not prosper in his days; nay, (for yk, seems to me to be emphatic here,) no one of his seed shall prosper; and then he adds an explanation, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.

Now, it is no wonder that the Jews regarded this judgment of God with abhorrence, as though it was something monstrous, for God seemed to them to be inconsistent with himself, for he had testified that his covenant would never be rendered void, and had appealed to the sun and moon as witnesses. Hence, when the posterity of David failed, at least when his throne was subverted, and no one appeared as his successor, the truth of the promise seemed to have failed, which was very strange. But it was possible for God, who doeth wonders, to execute such punishment on Jeconiah and on such as were like him, and yet in a secret and incomprehensible manner to bring things about, so that the covenant which he had made should not wholly fail. The grace of God, then, was hidden for a time, but never extinguished; for at length a rod did grow up from the stem of Jesse, as it is said by Isaiah.

However, the words seem to imply otherwise, for Jeconiah is said to be solitary, and then unprosperous; and lastly, the Prophet declares that no one of his seed would sit on the royal throne. But we must bear in mind that these words are to be confined to a temporary punishment, and extend only to the coming of Christ, though the posterity of David, as we shall hereafter see, did begin to arise in Zerubbabel, but this was only an obscure and a small prelude. We must, therefore, come to the time of Christ if we would reconcile these two things which seem repugnant, — that Jeconiah became childless, and that a successor from the seed of David never failed; it was so, because this childlessness was only for a time; and this interruption of God’s grace was something like death; but in course of time it appeared that God was mindful of his covenant, even at a time when he seemed to have forgotten it. And this prophecy, therefore, ought; to be connected with that of Ezekiel,

“Remove ye, remove, remove the crown until he
comes whose it is.” (<262126>Ezekiel 21:26, 27.)

There, also, Ezekiel repeats the word “remove” three times, as though he had said that there would be no kingdom of David, not only for a few months or years, but through a series of many ages.

There is no wonder, then, that the Prophet declares here that Jeconiah would be childless, for such a sad calamity for so many ages, as the throne of David trodden under foot with scorn and contempt, might have overwhelmed the faithful with despair. This, then, was the reason why he said that he would be childless, and also that his whole posterity would be under a curse. But we must bear in mind that exception, which is expressed by another Prophet,

“until he comes whose the crown is.” (<262127>Ezekiel 21:27)

For it was reserved for the head of Christ, though for a long time it had been exposed to dishonor and to the reproaches of all nations.

Now it is useful to know this, for we are taught that God is ever so consistent with himself, that his covenant, which he has made with Christ and with all his members, never fails, and that yet he punishes hypocrites even unto death. If any one, during a long period, had sought for the Church in the world, there was none in appearance; yet God shewed that he was faithful to his promises, for suddenly there arose a people regenerated by the Gospel, so that his covenant was not dead, but as it were for a time buried. The truth of God, then, was proved by the event; and yet he took a dreadful vengeance on the ingratitude of men when he thus blinded the whole world, now follows —


CHAPTER 23

<242301>Jeremiah 23:1-3

1. Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.

1. Vae Pastoribus qui perdunt et dissipant gregem pascuorum meorum! dicit Jehova.

2. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people, Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them; behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.

2. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, super Pastores pascentes populum meum, Vos dissipastis gregem meum et dispulistis, et non visitastis eos (vel, oves meas; ) Ecce ego visitans (hoc est, visitabo) super vos malitiam actionum vestrarum, dicit Jehova:

3. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.

3. Ego autem colligam residuum ovium mearum ex omnibus terris, ad quas expulero eas, et reverti faciam eas ad caulas suas, et fructificabunt et multiplicabuntur.

 

Here the Prophet promises the restoration of the Church; but he reminds hypocrites that there was no reason for them on that account to flatter themselves, especially the king, his councillors, and the priests. Then this prophecy is a mixture of promises and threatenings, for God promises that he would be propitious to the miserable Jews, after having chastised them, so that the seed of Abraham might not be entirely cut off: he yet deprives hypocrites of vain confidence, so that they might not falsely apply to themselves the hope of salvation, from which they had excluded themselves by their impiety. And this is what ought to be noticed, for as soon as God’s mercy is offered, hypocrites apply to themselves whatever God promises, and become more and more insolent, as though they held him bound to them; for impunity leads them to take more liberty to sin. Hence it is that they boast that they are safe, for they consider themselves to be the people of God. The Prophet, therefore, teaches here that whatever God promises belongs to his elect, that it does not appertain indiscriminately to all, nor ought to be extended to hypocrites who falsely pretend his name, but that it peculiarly belongs to the elect, though they may be small in number, and though they may be despised.

He says first, Wo to the pastors who destroy,  fE69 etc. Here are contrary things — a pastor and a destroyer! But he concedes to them the name which was honorable; and yet he derides their false boasting, for they thought that they could hide their crimes under this shade, falsely claimed. Though then he calls them pastors, he yet removes the mask, and thus shews that they in vain boasted while they assumed the name of pastors. “Ye are pastors,” he says, ““and ye are destroyers! who dissipate or scatter the flock of my pastures.” fE70

Here God shews the reason why he was so grievously displeased with these pastors; for by exercising tyranny over the people, they not only injured men, but also injured and dishonored God, who had received under his own protection his chosen people. It is indeed true that they deserved such a scattering; for we have already seen in many places, that the people could by no means be excused when they were deceived by wicked and unfaithful leaders; for in this way was rendered to them all their past reward for having provoked God’s wrath against themselves, from the least to the greatest. But the impiety of wicked pastors was not on this account excusable; for they ought to have considered for what purpose this burden was laid on them, and also by whom they had been appointed. God then intimates that great injury was done to him, when the people were thus so ignominiously scattered. He was himself the chief pastor; he had put as it were in his own place the king and his counsellors and also the priests. Justly then does he now condemn them, because they had destroyed the flock of God, according to what is said in another place,

“That they had destroyed his vineyard.”
(<241210>Jeremiah 12:10; <230503>Isaiah 5:3)

In short, when God calls the Jews the flock of his pastures, he does not regard what they deserved, or what they were, but he, on the contrary, sets forth the favor bestowed on the seed of Abraham. He has respect then here to his gratuitous adoption, though the Jews had rendered themselves unworthy of such a benefit.

He afterwards adds, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, to the pastors who feed my people. In the same sense he calls them now his people, as he had called them before the flock of his pastures. They had alienated themselves from God, and he had already by his own decree repudiated them; and God might in one respect have deemed them aliens; and yet in respect of the covenant he acknowledged them as his own; and hence he calls them his people. He now then confirms what we have already noticed, that these pastors were not only thieves and robbers, but also sacrilegious; for they not only had exercised cruelty towards the flock, but as far as they could injured and dishonored God himself, who had undertaken the care of that people.

But there is here a twofold concession, he calls them pastors, and they are said to feed the people. He had said before that they destroyed and scattered the flock, and now he says that they fed them; but in what sense we well know, for by this kind of irony he meant to reprove them; they boasted that they were pastors, and they thought that their crimes would by such a covering be buried in the sight of God, as in the sight of men. In a similar manner when we speak in the present day of the Pope and his mitred bishops and filthy clergy, we use expressions which are commonly employed. But Antichrist is everything but a father, and we know how far they are from being really bishops who assume the title; and as to the clergy, the name is sacred, but they are very far from being God’s heritage. We indeed make no account of these empty titles. But it is a great aggravation of their guilt, that they being devils, should assume angelic names, that they being wolves and robbers, and sacrilegious, should falsely pretend God’s name, and recommend themselves by spurious titles, as though they were pastors, bishops, abbots, and prelates, and what not.

So then our Prophet calls those whom he condemns, by way of taunt, pastors, and says that they fed, that is, were called for this end, to do this work. But he afterwards adds, My flock have ye scattered, and driven away, and not visited. fE71 Surely it was not to feed, to have no care for the sheep. To visit is to be extended here to every part of the duty of overseeing, as though he had said, that the flock had been by them neglected, betrayed, and deserted. We hence see that they had wholly neglected their pastoral office. But the other two things are still worse, for they had scattered and driven away the flock. Their sloth in neglecting the flock was not to be tolerated; but it was still more intolerable when they exercised so much cruelty as to scatter the flock as though they were deadly enemies; and yet these are the things for which Jeremiah condemns them. We hence see that there was an implied taunt, when he conceded to them the office of feeding.

He then denounces judgment on them, I will visit upon you the wickedness of your doings. Here God declares that he would punish the pastors, to whom was justly ascribed the scattering of the people. For though no one was exempt from blame, as it has been before stated; yet the main fault belonged to these pastors. This then is the reason why God declares that he would take vengeance; for he would not have his flock scattered with impunity.

It then follows, And I will gather my flock. As they had driven the people away, so God promises that it would be his care to gather them. And yet he ascribes to himself what he had imputed to them — that he had driven away his flock, but in a different sense; the pastors had scattered the flock, not only by their sloth, but also by their cruelty, for they became rapacious wolves; but God had punished the people, for they all had fully deserved such a scattering. We hence see that the ungodly execute God’s judgment; but they are not on this account excusable as though they were God’s ministers, for they have nothing less in view. Nor can God be involved in their sin, while he thus employs them to execute his purpose. In short, the scattering of the people was a just punishment from God, for they had all departed from the faith, they had broken the sacred bond of the covenant, by which God had bound them to himself. It was also the fault of the pastors, because they avariciously and cruelly tyrannized over them. The pastors, as I have said, were not only the priests, but also the king and his counsellors.

I will gather, he says, not the flock, but the remnant of the sheep. God intimates here that he would be so merciful as to receive unto favor, not all indiscriminately, but a small number, constituting the elect. And hence Paul carefully distinguished between the people and the remnant of grace, or the gratuitous remnant; for Christ appeared by his coming to have abolished the covenant by which God had adopted the children of Abraham, but Paul does not admit this. Now, if any one objects and says that the greater part of the people had been cut off, this he allows; but he says that the covenant remains valid in the remnant, and produces also examples, such as that of which we now speak. God then has ever been the preserver of his Church; and thus his gratuitous adoption, by which he had chosen the seed of Abraham, never fails. But this adoption is effectual only as to the remnant.

As to the word remnant, the fewness of those whom God had resolved to gather is not only intimated, but also the vengeance, which as to time had gone before; for God seemed to have destroyed the Jews when they were driven away into various lands, as they had no name remaining, the kingdom and the priesthood were abolished. It was therefore a certain kind of death, as I have before said; but God here declares that there would be some remnant, according to what is said in <231022>Isaiah 10:22, that God saved a few as it were from the consumption; for he refers there to the very few that remained alive, when they thought that all was over with the whole people, that there was no hope of restoration.

I will gather, he says, the residue of my sheep from all the lands to which I shall have driven them. He again confirms what I have stated, that there would be no place for mercy until he had cleansed his Church from its many filthy pollutions. The scattering then of the people into various lands was the purgation of the Church, according to what God says, that he would separate the refuse and the chaff from the wheat in chastising his people; for as the chaff and the refuse are blown here and there when the wheat is winnowed, and the wheat only remains and is afterwards laid up in the granary; so when God drove his people away into various lands, he then purged his Church. If any one objects and says, “Then the remnant were dealt with like the refuse;” it is true as to the individuals, but God refers here to himself, when he calls them his own, sheep, who were yet unworthy of such an honor.

He then adds, that he would bring them back to their folds, fE72 that they might be fruitful, that is, bring forth and increase, and be multiplied. By folds he no doubt means the land of Canaan; for there was then no wealth in the world which the Jews would have preferred to the inheritance promised to them; the whole world was to them an exile. For God had chosen that land in which they dwelt, and had consecrated it to himself, and he gave it to them as an earnest or a pledge of the eternal inheritance. Rightly then does he now call that land folds, for they lived there under his guardianship and protection. The temple was as it were the pastoral staff; they knew that God dwelt there, that being protected by his power they might continue in safety. Since then there was safety for them under God’s protection in the land of Canaan, he calls it their fold. Then he says, that they may be fruitful, and be multiplied; for among other blessings their increase was not the least. He afterwards adds, —

<242304>Jeremiah 23:4

4. And I will set up shepherds over them, which shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.

4. Et excitabo super eos pastores, et pascent eos (hoc est, qui pascant,) et non timebunt amplius, et non pavebunt, et non deficient, dicit Jehova.

 

He confirms the promise, for he would give them faithful and true pastors, who would perform their office as it behoved them; for it would not be enough that the sheep should be restored to their folds, except they were fed. We indeed know that a sheep is a silly animal, and therefore has need of a shepherd to rule and guide it. God then intimates by these words, that after he had collected his flock into the fold it would be the object of his constant care; for he would appoint pastors, who would discharge their office in a far different way from wolves and sacrilegious robbers. He then adds a promise as to their security, which we shall consider tomorrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou didst formerly take such heavy vengeance on the impiety of thine ancient people, that thou didst not spare even kings, who were representatives of Christ, nor their counsellors, — O grant, that we at this day may continue in obedience to thy word, and not so kindle thy vengeance against us by our ingratitude, as to provoke thee to punish us with that sad and dreadful desolation which thou formerly didst not in vain denounce on thy people; but may thy Church become more and more fruitful, so that we may know that thou art really gracious to us; and may we thus in quietness give thee thanks, and suffer ourselves to be ruled by thee, even by the hand of thine only-begotten Son, until we shall be gathered from our scattering in this world into that eternal rest which he has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Fifth

We said in our yesterday’s Lecture, that when the Lord promised to give pastors, he pointed out by this mode of speaking the continuance of his favor; as though he had said, that he would not only be the Redeemer of his people, but would also take care of the safety of those whom he delivered from exile. The two things are indeed necessary, for it would have profited them nothing to have the hand of God stretched forth once in their behalf, except he continued his favors to them to the end. The sum of the whole, then, is this, that the Jews, after being restored to their own country, would be under God’s protection, so that their safety would be secured, and be permanent and not momentary.

By adding, they shall not fear, nor dread, nor fail, fE73 or be lessened, he intimates that the Jews would be in a tranquil state under the pastors whom he would set over them. And we know that the duty of a true pastor consists of two parts; for it is not enough for him to rule and guide the sheep, except He also defends them against all violence, the incursions of robbers and wolves. Now, this tranquillity is set in contrast with the disquietude with which the Jews had been for a long time harassed; for we know that they had been tossed with great anxieties, owing to the continual incursions of their enemies. As, then, they were trembling continually when they heard rumors of war, God promises them here a better condition, as we shall hereafter see more clearly. It now follows, —

<242305>Jeremiah 23:5-6

5. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

5. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et suscitabo Davidi germen justum; et regnabit rex, et prudenter (vel, prospere) aget: faciet judicium et justitiam in terra.

6. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.

6. Diebus ejus servabitur Jehudah, et Israel habitabit in fiducia (hoc est, tranquille: et hoc nomen, quo vocabunt eum, Jehova justitia nostra.

The Prophet confirms what he had before said of the renewal of the Church; for it would not have been in itself sufficiently strong to say “I have promised pastors who shall faithfully perform their duty,” except the only true Pastor had been set before them, on whom God’s covenant was founded, and from whom was to be expected the accomplishment of the promises which were hoped for. And it was usual with all the prophets, whenever they gave the people the hope of salvation, to bring forward the coming of the Messiah, for in him have God’s promises always been, yea, and amen. (<470120>2 Corinthians 1:20.) This, indeed, appears now, under the Gospel, more clear than formerly; but the faith of the Fathers could not have been complete except they directed their thoughts to the Messiah. As, then, neither the love of God could have been made certain to the Fathers, nor the testimony of his kindness and paternal favor be confirmed without Christ, this is the reason why the prophets were wont to set Christ before their eyes whenever they sought to inspire the miserable with a good hope, who otherwise must have been overwhelmed with sorrow and driven into despair.

What, therefore, so often occurs in the prophets is deserving of special notice, so that we may know that God’s promises will become ineffectual to us, or be suspended, or even vanish away, except we raise all our thoughts to Christ, and seek in him what would not be otherwise certain and sure to us.

According to this principle the Prophet now says, that the days would come in which God would raise up to David a righteous branch. He had spoken generally of pastors; but the Jews might have still been in doubt, and hesitated to believe that any such thing could be hoped for; hence God calls here their attention to the Messiah; as though he had said, that no hope of salvation could be entertained except through the Mediator who had been promised to them, and that therefore they were not sufficiently wise except they turned their minds to him. Moreover, as the accomplishment of salvation was to be expected through the Mediator, God shews that the promise, that he would give them pastors, ought not to be doubted. Hence it appears that I rightly stated at the beginning, that the former doctrine is confirmed by this passage in which God promises the coming of the Mediator. And the demonstrative particle, behold, as we have elsewhere seen, is intended to shew certainty; and it was necessary for the Jews to be thus confirmed, because the time had not as yet arrived, and we know that their faith must have been grievously shaken by so many and so long trials, had they not some support. God, then, seems to point out the event as by the finger, though it was as yet very remote. He does not intimate a short time, but he thus speaks for the sake of making the thing certain, so that they might not faint through a long expectation. Come, then, he says, shall the days in which he will raise up to David a righteous branch.

Though the preposition l, lamed, is often redundant, yet in this place it seems to me that God has a reference to the covenant which he had made with David. And the Prophet did this designedly, because the Jews were unworthy of being at all regarded by God; but he here promises that he would be faithful to that covenant which he had once made with David, because David himself was also faithful and embraced with true faith the promise made to him. God then, as though he would have nothing to do with that perverse and irreclaimable people, but with his servant David, says, “I will raise up to David a righteous branch;” as though he had said, “Though ye were even a hundred times unworthy of having a Deliverer, yet the memory of David shall ever remain complete with me, as he was perfect and faithful in keeping my covenant.” Now, it cannot be doubted but that the Prophet speaks here of Christ.

The Jews, in order to obscure this prophecy, will have this to be applied to all the descendants of David; and thus they imagine an earthly kingdom, such as it was under Solomon and others. But such a thing cannot certainly be gathered from the words of the Prophet; for he does not speak here of many kings, but of one only. The word “branch,” I allow, may be taken in a collective sense; but what is afterwards said? A king shall reign. They may also pervert this, for the word “king” is often taken for successors in a kingdom. This is indeed true; but we ought to consider the whole context. It is said, in his days. Hence it appears evident that some particular king is intended, and that the words ought not to be applied to many. And the last clause is a further confirmation, This shall be his name, by which they shall call him, Jehovah our righteousness. Here also the Jews pervert the words, for they make God the nominative case to the verb, as though the words were, “Jehovah shall call him our righteousness;but this is contrary to all reason, for all must see that it is a forced and strained version. Thus these miserable men betray their own perverseness; for they pervert, without any shame, all the testimonies in favor of Christ; and they think it enough to elude whatever presses hard on them.

We must now, then, understand that this passage cannot be explained of any but of Christ only. The design of the Holy Spirit we have already explained; God had from the beginning introduced this pledge whenever he intended to confirm faith in his promises; for without Christ God cannot be a Father and a Savior to men; nor could he have been reconciled to the Jews, because they had departed from him. How, indeed, could they have been received into favor without expiation? and how could they have hoped that God would become a Father to them, except they were reconciled to him? Hence without Christ they could not rely on the promises of salvation. Rightly, then, have I said, that this passage ought to be confined to the person of Christ.

And we know of a certainty that he alone was a righteous branch; for though Hezekiah and Josiah were lawful successors, yet when we think of others, we must say, that they were monsters. Doubtless, with the exception of three or four, they were all spurious and covenant-breakers; yea, I say, spurious, for they had nothing in common with David, whom they ought to have taken as an example of piety. Since, then, they were wholly unlike their father David, they could not have been called righteous branches. They were, indeed, perfidious and apostates, for they had departed from God and his law. We hence see that there is here an implied contrast between Christ and all those spurious children who yet had descended from David, though wholly unworthy of such an honor on account of their impiety. Therefore as these kings had roused God’s wrath against the people, and had been the cause of their exile, the Prophet says now, that there would be at length a righteous branch; fE74 that is, that though those did all they could to subvert God’s covenant by their wicked deeds, there would come at length the true and the only Son, who is elsewhere called the first-born in the whole world, (<19D902>Psalm 139:27,) and that he would be a righteous branch.

And this ought to be carefully noticed; for neither Hezekiah nor Josiah, nor any like them, when viewed in themselves, were worthy of this sacred distinction,

“I will make him the first-born in the earth;” and further,
“My Son art thou.” (<190207>Psalm 2:7.)

This could not have been said of any mortal man, viewed in himself. And then it is said,

“I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son;”

and the Apostle tells us, that this cannot be applied even to angels. (<580105>Hebrews 1:5.) As, then, this dignity is higher than angels’ glory, it is certain that none of David’s successors were worthy of such an honor. Hence Christ is justly called a righteous Branch. At the same time, the Prophet, as I have already reminded you, seems to set the perfect integrity of Christ in opposition to the impiety of those who under a false pretense had exercised authority, as though they were of that sacred race of whom it had been said, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.”

It follows,And reign shall a king. This also has not been added without reason, shortly after Jeconiah had been driven into exile, and also the whole royal family had been exposed to every kind of reproach. The crown, indeed, was cast on the ground, as it has already appeared, and was trodden under feet. There was, therefore, no hope of a future kingdom when the seed of Abraham had become, as it were, extinct. This is the reason why God promises what we now hear of the restoration of the throne; and we may easily infer from what all the prophets have said, that the salvation of the people was dependent on the person of their king; and whenever God bade the people to entertain hope, he set a king before their eyes. A king was to be their head under God’s government. We now see the design of the Prophet in saying, that a king would reign.

Some think that a king is to be understood as in opposition to a tyrant, because many kings had departed from their duty, and committed robbery under that specious authority. I have no doubt but that the word king was expressed, lest the people should doubt the fulfillment of this prophecy; for if it had been only said, “I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign,” they might, indeed, have entertained some hope, but it would have been small, and not full and complete. We, indeed, know that Zerubbabel and others excelled in some things, and were highly regarded for David’s sake; but there was then no kingdom. God therefore intended here expressly to testify that there would be the high privilege of a kingdom, that there might be nothing wanting to the Jews, as the power of Christ would not be inferior to the power of David. Reign, then, shall a king; that is, he shall reign gloriously, so that there would not be merely some remnants of pristine dignity, but that a king would flourish, become strong, and attain perfection, such as it was under David and Solomon, and much more excellent. fE75

It follows, — And shall act prudently, and shall do judgment and justice in the land; or, “he shall prosper,” for lk, shecal, means both; yet the Prophet seems here to speak of right judgment rather than of success, for the two clauses ought to be read together, “he shall act prudently,” and “he shall do judgment and justice.” It seems then that he means this in short, — that Christ would be endued with the spirit of wisdom as well as of uprightness and equity, so that he would possess all the qualifications, and fulfill all the duties of a good and perfect king. fE76

And in the first place, wisdom or prudence is necessary; for probity alone would not be sufficient in a king. In private individuals indeed it is of no small value; but probity in a king, without wisdom, will avail but little, hence, the Prophet here commends Christ for his good discernment, and then mentions his zeal for equity and justice. It is indeed true that Christ’s excellences are not sufficiently set forth by expressions such as these; but the similitude is taken from men; for the first endowment of a king is wisdom, and then integrity in the second place. And we know that Christ is often compared to earthly kings, or set forth to us under the image of an earthly king, in which we may see him; for God accommodates himself to our ignorance. As, then, we cannot comprehend the unspeakable justice of Christ or his wisdom, hence God, that he may by degrees lead us to the knowledge of Christ, shadows him forth to us under these figures or types. Though, then, what is said here does not come up to the perfection of Christ, yet the comparison ought not to be deemed improper; for God speaks to us according to the measure of our capacities, and could not at once in a few words fully express what Christ is. But we must bear in mind that from earthly kings we must ascend to Christ; for though he is compared to them, yet there is no equality; after having contemplated in the type what our minds can comprehend, we ought to ascend farther and much higher.

Hence, the difference between the righteousness of Christ and the righteousness of kings ought to be here noticed. They who rule well can in no other way administer righteousness and judgment than by being careful to render to every one his own, and that by checking the audacity of the wicked, and by defending the good and the innocent; this only is what can be expected from earthly kings. But Christ is far different; for he is not only wise so as to know what is right and best, but he also endues his own people with wisdom and knowledge; he executes judgment and righteousness, not only because he defends the innocent, aids them who are oppressed, gives help to the miserable, and restrains the wicked; but he doeth righteousness, because he regenerates us by his Spirit, and he also doeth judgment, because he bridles, as it were, the devil. We now then understand the design of what I said, that we ought to mark the transcendency of Christ over earthly kings, and also the analogy; for there is some likeness and some difference: the difference between Christ and other kings is very great, and yet there is a likeness in some things; and earthly kings are set forth to us as figures and types of him.

It then follows, that Judah shall be saved in the days of this king. By days we are not to understand the life only of Christ, which he lived in this world, but that perpetuity of which Isaiah speaks, when in wonder he asks,

“His age who shall declare?” (<235308>Isaiah 53:8;)

for he died once, that he might live to God, according to what Paul says. (<450610>Romans 6:10.) It was then but a short beginning of life when Christ was manifested in the world, and held converse with men; but his life is to continue for ever. It is then the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that when Christ came and descended from the Father, the Church would be saved.

If it be now asked, “How long shall it be saved?” the answer is, “As long as the King himself shall continue; and there is no end to his kingdom.” It follows then that the salvation of the Church will be for ever. This is the import of the whole.

Now, though the Prophet speaks of the deliverance of the people, there is yet no doubt but that he especially sets forth what properly belongs to the kingdom of Christ. He is set over us as a king, that he might be our Savior; and his salvation, though it extends to our bodies, ought yet to be viewed as properly belonging to our souls; for the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and so is everything connected with it. Hence, when the Prophet says that saved would be Judah, it is the same thing as though he promised that the happiness of the Church would be real and solid under Christ.

He adds, Israel shall dwell in confidence; for in a happy life the first thing is, that we possess tranquil and quiet minds; for tranquillity has not been without reason commended by the ancients. When all things which men covet are heaped together, and what they think necessary for happiness, they yet cannot be otherwise than miserable if their minds are not in a right state. It is not then without cause that tranquillity is added, when mention is made of salvation. And experience itself teaches us, that we have no salvation, unless we, relying on Christ the Mediator, have peace with God, as Paul also mentions it as the fruit of faith, and shews that we cannot otherwise but be always miserable: we have peace, he says, with God. (<450501>Romans 5:1.) He hence also concludes that our very miseries are a help to our salvation; for afflictions prove patience, patience exercises hope, and hope never makes us ashamed; and the proof of this is added, because God thus really shews that he is present with us.

We hence see how fitly the Prophet connects tranquillity of mind with happiness. Moreover it is certain that we do not yet enjoy either salvation or peace, such as are here promised; but let us learn by faith what salvation is, and also what is rest even in the midst of the agitations to which we are continually exposed; for we recumb on God when we cast our anchor in heaven. Since, then, the Prophet says here that Judah would be saved and that Israel would be in a tranquil state, let us know that he includes the whole kingdom of Christ from the beginning to the end, and that therefore it is no wonder that he speaks of that perfect happiness, the first fruits of which now only appear.

He then adds, And this is the name by which they shall call him, Jehovah our Righteousness. By these words the Prophet shews more clearly that he speaks not generally of David’s posterity, however excellent they may have been, but of the Mediator, who had been promised, and on whom depended the salvation of the people; for he says that this would be his name, Jehovah our Righteousness. fE77

Those Jews, who seem more modest than others, and dare not, through a dogged pertinacity, to corrupt this passage, do yet elude the application of this title to Christ, though it be suitable to him; for they say that the name is given to him, because he is the minister of God’s justice, as though it was said, that whenever this king appeared all would acknowledge God’s justice as shining forth in him. And they adduce other similar passages, as when Moses calls the altar, “Jehovah my banner,” or my protection. (<021715>Exodus 17:15.) But there is no likeness whatever between an altar and Christ. For the same purpose they refer to another passage, where it is said,

“And this is the name by which they shall call Jerusalem,
Jehovah our peace.” (<264808>Ezekiel 48:85)

Now Moses meant nothing else than that the altar was a monument of God’s protection; and Ezekiel only teaches, that the Church would be as it were a mirror in which God’s mercy would be seen, as it would shine forth then, as it were, visibly. But this cannot for the same reason be applied to Christ; he is set forth here as a Redeemer, and a name is given to him, — what name? the name of God. But the Jews object and say, that he was God’s minister, and that it might therefore be in a sense applied to him, though he was no more than a man.

But all who without strife and prejudice judge of things, can easily see that this name is suitably applied to Christ, as he is God; and the Son of David belongs to him as he is man. The Son of David and Jehovah is one and the same Redeemer. Why is he called the Son of David? even because it was necessary that he should be born of that family. Why then is he called Jehovah? we hence conclude that there is something in him more excellent than what is human; and he is called Jehovah, because he is the only-begotten Son of God, of one and the same essence, glory, eternity, and divinity with the Father.

It hence appears evident to all who judge impartially and considerately, that Christ is set forth here in his twofold character, so that the Prophet brings before us both the glory of his divinity and the reality of his humanity. And we know how necessary it was that Christ should come forth as God and man; for salvation cannot be expected in any other way than from God; and Christ must confer salvation on us, and not only be its minister. And then, as he is God, he justifies us, regenerates us, illuminates us into a hope of eternal life; to conquer sin and death is doubtless what only can be effected by divine power. Hence Christ, except he was God, could not have performed what we had to expect from him. It was also necessary that he should become man, that he might unite us to himself; for we have no access to God, except we become the friends of Christ; and how can we be so made, except by a brotherly union? It was not then without the strongest reason, that the Prophet here sets Christ before us both as a true man and the Son of David, and also as God or Jehovah, for he is the only-begotten Son of God, and ever the same in wisdom and glory with the Father, as John testifies in <241705>Jeremiah 17:5, 11.

We now then perceive the simple and real meaning of this passage, even that God would restore his Church, because what he had promised respecting a Redeemer stood firm and inviolable. Then he adds what this Redeemer would be and what was to be expected from him; he declares that he would be the true God and yet the Son of David; and he also bids us to expect righteousness from him, and everything necessary to a full and perfect happiness.

But by saying, God our righteousness, the Prophet still more fully shews that righteousness is not in Christ as though it were only his own, but that we have it in common with him, for he has nothing separate from us. God, indeed, must ever be deemed just, though iniquity prevailed through the whole world; and men, were they all wicked, could do nothing to impugn or mar the righteousness of God. But yet God is not our righteousness as he is righteous in himself, or as having his own peculiar righteousness; and as he is our judge, his own righteousness is adverse to us. But Christ’s righteousness is of another kind: it is ours, because Christ is righteous not for himself, but possesses a righteousness which he communicates to us. We hence see that the true character of Christ is here set forth, not that he would come to manifest divine justice, but to bring righteousness, which would avail to the salvation of men, For if we regard God in himself, as I have said, he is indeed righteous, but is not our righteousness. If, then, we desire to have God as our righteousness, we must seek Christ; for this cannot be found except in him. The righteousness of God has been set forth to us in Christ; and all who turn away from him, though they may take many circuitous courses, can yet never find the righteousness of God. Hence Paul says that he has been given or made to us righteousness, — for what end? that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (<460130>1 Corinthians 1:30.) Since, then, Christ is made our righteousness, and we are counted the righteousness of God in him, we hence learn how properly and fitly it has been said that he would be Jehovah, not only that the power of his divinity might defend us, but also that we might become righteous in him, for he is not only righteous for himself, but he is our righteousness. fE78

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we, having been all slaves to sin and to iniquity, but regenerated by the Spirit of thy only-begotten Son, may truly and with sincere desire seek to serve and worship thee alone, and so consecrate ourselves to thee, that it may appear that we do not falsely profess the name of Christ, but that we are truly his members, being partakers of that new life which he brought us; and may we make such progress in it, that, having finished our course on earth, we may at length come to that fullness of life and happiness which has been procured for us by him, and which is laid up in heaven for us. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Sixth

<242307>Jeremiah 23:7-8

7. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

7. Propterea ecce dies veniunt, (venient,) dicit Jehova, quibus non dicetur (ad verbum, et non dicetur, — non dicent) amplius, Vivit Jehova, qui eduxit filios Israel e terra Egypti;

8. But, the Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

8. Quin potius, Vivit Jehova, qui eduxit et adduxit (ascendere fecit et introduxit, ad verbum) semen domus Israel e terra Aquilonis, et ex omnibus terris, ad quas expuleram eos illue; et habitabunt super terram suam.  fE79

 

The Prophet, after having spoken of the Redeemer who was to be sent, now sets forth in high terms that great favor of God, and says that it would be so remarkable and glorious, that the former redemption would be nothing to the greatness and excellency of this. When the children of Israel were brought up out of Egypt, God, we know, testified his power by many miracles, in order that this favor towards his people might appear the more illustrious; and rightly did the Prophets exhort and encourage the faithful to entertain good hope by calling to their minds what was then done. But our Prophet enhances the second redemption by this comparison, that hereafter the kindness of God, with which he favored his people when he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, would not be remembered, but that something more remarkable would be done, so that all would talk of it, and that all would proclaim the immense benefit, which God would confer on them in delivering them from their exile in Babylon. fE80

He then says that the days would come in which it would not be said, Live does Jehovah, who brought his people from Egypt, but who brought his people from the land of the North.  fE81 Yet he does not mean that the memory of God’s favor towards the Israelites, when he brought them from Egypt, was to be abolished; but he reasons here from the less to the greater, as though he had said that it was an evidence of God’s favor that could not be sufficiently praised, when he delivered his people from the land of Egypt, that if it were taken by itself, it was worthy of being for ever remembered; but that when compared with the second deliverance it would appear almost as nothing. The meaning is, that the second redemption would be so much more remarkable than the first, that it would obscure the remembrance of it, though it would not obliterate it.

And this passage deserves to be especially noticed, for we hence learn how much we ought to value that redemption which we have obtained through the only-begotten Son of God. And hence, also, it follows that we are more bound to God than the Fathers under the Law, as he has dealt far more bountifully with us, and has put forth his power more fully and effectually in our behalf. We further learn, that the Prophet does not in this prophecy include a few years only, but the whole kingdom of Christ and its whole progress. He indeed speaks of the return of the people to their own country, and this ought to be allowed, though Christians have been too rigid in this respect; for passing by the whole intermediate time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, they have too violently turned the prophecies to spiritual redemption. There is no doubt but that the Prophet makes a beginning with the free return of the people from captivity; but, as I have said, Christ’s redemption is not to be separated from this, otherwise the accomplishment of the promise would not appear to us, for a small portion only returned to their own land. We also know that they were harassed with many and continual troubles, so that their condition was always miserable, for nothing is worse than a state of disquietude. We know further, that they were spoiled, and that often, and were also reduced to a state of bondage. We know how cruelly they were treated at one time by the Egyptians, and at another by the kings of Syria. Then more was promised by Jeremiah than what God has really performed, except we include in this prophecy the kingdom of Christ. But as God so restored his Church by the hand of Cyrus, that it might be a kind of prelude to a future and perfect redemption, it is no wonder that the prophets, whenever they spoke of the people’s return and of the end of their exile, should look forward to Christ and to his spiritual kingdom.

We now, then, see the design of the Prophet, when he says that the days would come in which their first redemption would not be spoken of by the people, as a remarkable or as the chief evidence of God’s favor and power, as their second redemption would far exceed it.

As to the formula or manner of speaking, Live does Jehovah, we know that the ancients used such words in making a solemn oath, and whenever they sought to animate themselves with hope under adversities. Whenever, then, they found themselves so pressed down that they had no other escape from evil than through God’s favor, they usually said that the God who had formerly been the Redeemer of his people still lived, and that there was no diminution of his power, so that he could ten times, or a hundred times, or a thousand times, if necessary, bring help to his Church and to every member of it.

He says, from all the lands to which I shall have driven them, and he says this for two reasons, which we shall presently state. The change of person does not obscure the meaning: Live, he says, does Jehovah, who brought out and led his people from the land of the north, and from all the lands to which I had driven them; but there is no ambiguity in the sense.

As to the subject itself, it seems that God in the first place intended to remind the Jews of their sins, as this knowledge was to be the way to repentance, or a preparation for it. For except they were convinced that they were chastised for their sins by God’s hand, they would either have thought that their exile was by chance, or have given way to murmuring complaints as they often did. But God here declares that he was the author of their exile, in order that the Jews might know that God justly punished them for their many and grievous sins. But God, in the second place, shews that it was in his power, whenever he pleased, to restore those whom he had afflicted. It was the same as to raise from death those whom he had slain, according to what is said elsewhere,

“God is he who kills, and who brings to life.”
(<090206>1 Samuel 2:6.)

Many indeed can destroy, but they cannot heal the wound which they may have made. But with regard to God, he is both a righteous Judge and a merciful Savior. As, then, death is in his power whenever he punishes men for their wickedness, so also he has life in his hand and at his bidding, whenever he intends to shew mercy. We now, then, perceive what the Prophet had in view in saying that the Jews had been driven away by God.

He afterwards adds, They shall dwell in their own land. It was necessary that the Jews should have been sustained by this support until the coming of Christ, for they saw that they would be in that inheritance which had been promised to the fathers as a pledge of eternal life and of the heavenly kingdom. It now follows, —

<242309>Jeremiah 23:9

9. Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake: I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness.

9. Propter prophetas (alii, ad prophetas, et potest legi ita ad verbum) contritum est (vel, confractum est) cor meum in medio mei; commota sunt (vel, concussa) omnia ossa mea (proprie, luxata sunt, quia de ossibus agitur; quantum ad verbum spectat, significat agitari, et moveri; sed quoniam nunc loquitur de ossibus, sermo erit aptior, luxata esse ossa;) fui tanquam vir ebrius super quem transiit vinum (hoc est tanquam vir obrutus vino) a facie Jehovae, et a facie sermonum sanctitatis ejus.

 

The Prophet here again inveighs against the wickedness of the people; but as the prophets by their flatteries had then led astray the king and his princes, as well as the people, the Prophet directed his discourse to them, and says that his heart was troubled on account of the prophets. We know that men think themselves half absolved when no one severely reproves them. When, therefore, the prophets ceased from their work, there was so great a security among the whole people, that there was no fear of God in them. This is the reason why the Prophet now says that his heart was troubled on account of so much indifference; for the prophets were, as it is said elsewhere, like dumb dogs; they overlooked the most grievous and the most atrocious sins, they made no effort to restore the people to the right way. Troubled, then, he says, is my heart for the prophets; a heavier judgment awaited them, for they ought to have been the instruments of God’s Spirit, the heralds of his judgments; they ought to have undertaken his cause by using exhortations, reproofs, and threatenings.

There is yet no doubt but that what is said ought to be extended to the whole body of the people. But Jeremiah wished to begin with the prophets, as though he had said that it was monstrous that the prophets boasted that they were God’s ministers, and yet were dumb in the midst of so much wickedness. On account of the prophets, fE82 he says, broken is my heart. Then he says that his bones were disjointed. In the first chapter of Genesis, when Moses speaks of the Spirit as moving on the waters, he uses the same verb, but in a different conjugation. However this may be, it is most suitable to say that his bones were disjointed. fE83 And we know that the bones are tied together by sinews, that they may not be moved from their places; for the loosening of one bone renders the whole body almost useless. He meant, then, by this kind of speaking, to express the most painful perturbation of mind, as though he had said that what he had, as the firmost and strongest thing, was become weak and altogether feeble.

He afterwards compares himself to a drunken man; by which metaphor he understands that he was completely stunned, and that all his senses were taken from him. And he adds, over whom wine has passed. The verb rb[, ober, means to pass beyond; but to pass over is its meaning here. He who is overcome by immoderate drinking seems as though he was drowned; for when one falls under the water, he is no more sunk than he who drowns his brain with wine; for drunkenness is like a grave, inasmuch as it holds the whole man under its power. Yet the Prophet meant no other thing than that this monstrous thing rendered those astonied who were of a sane and sound mind, and that it also shook and disjointed all the members, and terrified and confounded minds otherwise quiet and tranquil. For, certainly, Jeremiah was a wise man, and was also endued with courage, so that he would not have quailed under every evil though great; nor could he have been easily overwhelmed with stupor like a drunken man. Hence by these comparisons he shows how dreadful and monstrous it was, that the prophets were so unconcerned as not to say a word, when they saw that impiety and contempt of God were so rampant, when they saw the whole land defiled with every kind of wickedness, as we shall presently see.

Then he says, On account of Jehovah, and on account of the words of his holiness. By saying, on account of Jehovah, he brings God before them as a judge and avenger; as though he had said, “If they believe that there is a God in heaven, it is a wonder that they are so brutish as to dare to boast of his name, and yet silently to allow heaven and earth to be mingled together. Where, then, is their reason, when they dare so heedlessly to profess a name so fearful and awful? for whenever God’s name is mentioned, there ought to come into their minds not only his goodness and mercy, but also his severity, and then his power, which is dreadful to all the wicked. As then these men dare thus to trifle with God, must not their stupidity be monstrous?” What, then, the Prophet means is this, — that it was a wonder that the prophets undertook their office, and yet had no concern for the glory of God.

And he adds, On account of the words of his holiness. Men would seek easiness were not God to rouse them by his word. But as the Law had been written for the Jews, as these false prophets knew that if they wished rightly to perform their work, they ought to have been the expounders of the Law — as these things were sufficiently known, the Prophet justly refers here to the word of God, as though he would put a bridle in their mouths, lest they should, after their usual manner, evade what a bare profession of God’s name implied. Since, then, God had testified in his Law how he would have his people ruled, how was it that these prophets were not terrified by God’s words? And as hypocrites not only despise God himself, and depreciate his glory, but also disregard the doctrine of his law, the Prophet adorns God’s words with a remarkable encomium, calling his words the words of his holiness. And he thus calls God’s words holy, and therefore inviolable, in order that the ungodly might know, that a dreadful vengeance was nigh them, because they disregarded both God and his holy words. It follows —

<242310>Jeremiah 23:10

10. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.

10. Quia adulteriis referta est terra, quia a facie jurisjurandi (vel, perfidae) luxit terra, aruerunt speciosa deserti (vel, caulae deserti; nam pluribus modis vertunt;) et fuit cursus eorum malus, et robur eorum non rectum.

 

Jeremiah now assigns the reason why he was so much horrified by the insensibility which he observed in the prophets. If things were in good order, or if, at least, they were tolerable, the prophets would have more calmly addressed the Jews; for what need is there to make a great ado when men willingly follow what God commands? When, therefore, we have to do with meek and modest men, vehemence is foolish; and they who thus bestir themselves, and seek, through great ambition, to shew very fervid zeal when there is no need, are nothing but apes; but when things are in disorder and confusion, then vehemence is wanted. Jeremiah now declares that things were so extremely out of order, that the prophets could not have been silent, except they were like logs of wood.

These two things, then, ought to be connected together, — that the prophets were dumb, — and that they were dumb when there was the greatest necessity for speaking; for they saw the land filled with adulteries. Though he names adulterers, he yet condemns the crime. As then the land was polluted by adulteries and perjuries, as they all gave themselves up to do evil, it was by no means to be tolerated that the prophets should not be indignant, as though things were well ordered and peaceable.

We hence see how much God abhors sloth in the ministers of his word, in those whom he appoints as teachers in his Church, while they connive at wickedness, and heedlessly pass by adulteries, and fornications, and perjuries, and frauds, and other kinds of wrongs; for if there were even the least particle of religion in their hearts, they would certainly have been moved, and could not have been for a moment silent. For if that zeal ought to be in all God’s children, which was in the Psalmist,

“The zeal of thine house has consumed me, and the reproaches of them who reproached thee have fallen upon me,”
(<196910>Psalm 69:10,)

how inexcusable must be the indifference of prophets, when they see God’s name exposed to mockery, and when they see every kind of wickedness prevailing? We now see not only what the Prophet teaches in this passage, but also the usefulness of his doctrine and how it ought to be applied. Let us then learn, that the more liberty men take in sinning, and the more audaciously their impiety and contempt of God break out, the more sharply ought prophets and faithful teachers to reprove and condemn them; and that it is the time of fighting, when the world thus presumptuously and furiously rise up against God.

The Prophet mentions some kinds of evil, and yet does not enumerate all kinds; but under adulteries and perjuries he includes also other crimes. As to the word hla, ale, it properly means swearing; but as cursing often accompanies it, some render it here “execration.” fE84 But I rather think that what is meant is perjury, and that swearing here is taken in a bad sense, signifying swearing falsely in the name of God.

Mourned, he says, has the land, and dried up have the pastures of the desert. Here the Prophet strikingly shews how shameful was that torpor of which he speaks, for the land itself cried out, and not only the land which was cultivated and had on it many men, but also the very mountains and their recesses. He says that the land was in mourning, because God shewed his judgments everywhere by rendering the fields barren, and by other means which he used as punishments. And it is a very striking mode of speaking, when the Prophet mentions the mourning of the land, as though it assumed the character of a mourner, when it saw God angry on account of the wickedness of men. It is, indeed, a kind of personification, though he does not introduce the land as speaking; but he describes mourning as it appeared in the sterility of the land, and also in hails and storms, in unseasonable rains, in droughts, and in other calamities.

Whenever then God raises his hand to punish men for their sins, if they themselves perceive it not, the very land, which is without sense and feeling, ought to fill them with shame for their madness; for mourning appears in the very land, as though it knew that God was displeased with it. When, therefore, men sleep in their sins, and thus disregard God’s vengeance, how monstrous must be their torpor! And if this be intolerable in the common people, what can be said of the prophets, who ought to proclaim such words as these, — “Cursed is he who has transgressed the precepts of this law” — “cursed is he who has corrupted the worship of God” — or, “who hath dealt unjustly with his neighbor,” — and whatever else the law contains? (<052726>Deuteronomy 27:26; <052847>Deuteronomy 28:47, 58.) We now then perceive how emphatical are the words when the Prophet says, Mourned has the land. And he amplifies the same thing by saying, Dried up have the beautiful places of the desert; as though he had said, that God’s judgments were seen in the remotest places, not only in the plains, where the greater number of men dwelt, did the land mourn; but if any one ascended the mountains, where shepherds only with their flocks were to be found, even there the wrath of God was visible; and the very mountains cried out that God was angry; and yet men still deluded themselves, who, at the same time were expounders of the law, who were the mouth of God, and to whom he had committed the office of reproving; but they were dumb! We now understand what these words contain, and what is to be learnt from them.

He adds, that their course was evil, fE85 and that their strength was not right. By course he no doubt means their doings and all their actions, and also the aid which they proposed to themselves; for our life is called a course, because God has not created us that we may lie down in one place, but he has set before us an end for which we are to live. Therefore, by course, the Scripture means all our doings, and the very end for which we are to live. He then says, that all their strength had been perverted; that is, that they had applied all their powers to do evil. It then hence appears that, except the prophets had been perfidious, they would have thought it full time to cry out, when men provoked God with so much audacity in their wicked courses. It follows —

<242311>Jeremiah 23:11

11. For both prophet and priest are profane: yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.

11. Quia tam propheta quam sacerdos impia egerunt; etiam in domo mea deprehendi (vel, reperi) malitiam ipsorum, dicit Jehova.

 

He adds here that it ought not to appear strange that the prophets were silent when they ought to have loudly cried out, because they were guilty themselves: and whence can freedom of speech come except from a good conscience? Hypocrites, who indulge themselves, are indeed often severe against others, and even more than necessary; but no one can dare honestly to cry out against wickedness, but he who is innocent. For he who condemns others seems to make a law for himself, according to what a heathen writer has said, (Cicero in Salustium.) Then the Prophet here shews to us why the prophets were not only idle, but were even like stocks and stones; for in speaking against wickedness, it was necessary for them in the first place to amend themselves; for their lives were wholly dissolute. As then they were of all the most wicked, they could not boldly cry out against others; and hence the Prophet condemns them, because their own impiety prevented them to perform their own duty.

It is, indeed, possible for one to live soberly, honestly, and justly, and yet to connive at the wickedness of others; but the Prophet here condemns the prophets and priests on two accounts, — for being mute, and for not undertaking God’s cause when they saw the land polluted with all kinds of defilements; and he then shews the fountain of this evil, that is, the cause why they were idle and wholly indifferent, and that was, because they dared not say a word against those crimes of which they were themselves guilty, yea, with which they were more loaded than even the common people. We now perceive the Prophet’s object in saying that both the priests and the prophets had acted impiously; fE86 it was to shew, that their contempt of God, for which they were notorious, and also their wickedness, had taken away from them all power and freedom in acting.

It is added, Even in my house have I found their wickedness. He enhances what he had said of their impiety; for they were not only infamous and wicked in common life, as to the duties of the Second Table; but they also corrupted the whole service of God, and the true Prophets were derided by them. For what was found to be the priests’ wickedness in the Temple, except that they practiced a sort of merchandise under the cover of the priesthood? and then the prophets vitiated and adulterated God’s worship; and what was religion to them but the means of filthy lucre or gain? When, therefore, the prophets thus trod under foot the service of God, corrupted and perverted the Law to make gain or to acquire power, their impiety was not only seen in the habits of daily life, but also in the very Temple of God, that is, with regard to the sacerdotal office.

Now, since this is true as to what took place under the Law, there is no wonder that such a base example is to be seen in the present day. And hence also is discovered the folly of the Papists, who think that they ingeniously evade every objection as to the crimes of the Pope and his filthy clergy, by saying that the Pope indeed may be wicked, as almost all of them have been, and that the same thing may be said of their mitred bishops; but that the Pope, as a Pope, cannot err, and that the bishops, as bishops, that is, in their government and office, are ruled by the Holy Spirit, because they represent the Church. But are they better than these ancient priests, whom God himself had expressly appointed, and to whom he commanded obedience to be rendered by the whole people? But the Prophet not only says here that they were wicked, that they acted impiously and wickedly towards their neighbors, that they committed plunders and robberies, that they were given to violence and rapacity, that they abandoned themselves to adultery and to every other crime; but he says also, that their wickedness was found in the very Temple, that is, in the very sacred office itself; for not only was their life wicked, but they also impiously and perfidiously corrupted the doctrine of God and subverted his worship.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to set before us an example of every perfection in thine only-begotten Son, we may study to form ourselves in imitation of him, and so to follow not only what he has prescribed, but also what he really performed, that we may prove ourselves to be really his members, and thus confirm our adoption; and may we so proceed in the whole course of our life, that we may at length be gathered into that blessed rest which the same, thine only-begotten Son, hath obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Seventh

<242312>Jeremiah 23:12

12. Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness; they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.

12. Propterea erit via eorum ipsis tanquam lubricitates, in caligine impingent, et cadent in ea; quia inducam super eos malum, annum visitationis eorum, dicit Jehova.

 

Here he declares to false prophets and unfaithful priests that the Lord’s judgment was nigh at hand, because they had deceived the people. But he speaks figuratively when he says, that their way would be to them as lubricities. By way he understands the means which they thought to be of the best kind, as elsewhere, nearly in the same sense, what is deemed delectable, or what conduces to sustain life, is called “the table” of the wicked. (<196922>Psalm 69:22.) The meaning then is, that when they thought all things prosperous, as if one made his way through a plain, they would find themselves on a slippery ground. Their way, then, would be to them as lubricities, fE87 that is, when they seemed to take a safe counsel and so prudently to set all things in order, as that nothing could happen amiss to them, their way would become slippery, and that in darkness. He doubles the evil; for one may stand on a slippery ground, and yet may take care of himself on seeing danger; but when darkness is added to the slippery ground, he who can neither stand nor move can hardly do otherwise than fall, either on this or that side: hence he says, they shall stumble and fall in it.

The reason follows, even because the Lord was displeased with them. They could not then escape ruin, for they had to do with God. But as the ungodly derive false confidence from God’s forbearance, so that they dare to glory in their wickedness, he adds, the year of their visitation. Though, then, God would not immediately put forth his hand to punish them, yet their time was to come; for the year of visitation means the suitable time which God has determined within himself. He indeed defers punishment; but when hypocrites and his despisers have long abused his forbearance, he then suddenly begins to thunder against them; and this is the year of visitation. It follows, —

<242313>Jeremiah 23:13-14

13. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.

13. In prophetis (Et in prophetis) Samariae vidi fatuitatem (vel, insulsum, aut, insulsitatem;) prophetant in Baal, et errare faciunt (vel, decipiunt) populum meum Israel.

14. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies; they strengthen also the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.

14. Et in prophetis Jerusalem vidi pravitatem, adulterando et ambulando in fallacia; et roborant manus improborum, ut non revertantur quisque a malitia sua; erunt mihi onmes tanquam Sodoma, et habitatores ejus tanquam Gomorrha.

 

These two verses are to be read together; for there is no doubt but that the Prophet here compares the false prophets, who had corrupted God’s worship in the kingdom of Israel, with those in Jerusalem who wished to appear more holy and more perfect. And he thus compares them that he might set forth those who sought to be deemed God’s faithful ministers, as being by far the worst; for he says, that he had found fatuity in the prophets of Samaria, but depravity in the prophets of Jerusalem. They are, therefore, mistaken in my judgment who take also, hlpt, tephle, as meaning depravity; for they do not consider that he here enhances by comparison their wickedness who thought themselves the best, as they say, without exception.

As to the prophets of Samaria, they had been long ago condemned; nor was there any at Jerusalem who dared openly to defend them; for they had departed from the worship of God, and had led away the people from the only true Temple and altar. They were then held at that time in the kingdom of Judah as apostates, perfidious, and unprincipled. But the kingdom of Judah still wished to be deemed pure and blameless; and the prophets, who were there, boasted that they were uncorrupt and free from every spot. The Prophet therefore says, that fatuity had been found in the prophets of Samaria, that is, in those who had corrupted the ten tribes, and vitiated there the pure worship of God; but that there was more wickedness in the prophets of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah, because they were not only foolish, but also designedly subverted all religion, and allowed liberty in all kinds of wickedness, so that they carried as it were a banner in approbation of every species of iniquity. We hence see that the object of Jeremiah was to shew, that the prophets of the kingdom of Judah surpassed in impiety those very prophets whom they proudly condemned; for they were not only fatuitous and foolish, but had designedly as it were conspired against God, and had become open enemies not only to religion but to all laws.

As to the words, that he found fatuity fE88 in the prophets of Samaria, he speaks in the person of God, who is the only fit judge. And he subjoins the cause of their senselessness, because they prophesied by Baal, and made the people of Israel to go astray. Had Jeremiah spoken only of these, he would no doubt have used stronger terms in describing their sin; but as he was contrasting them with those who were worse, he was satisfied with the word fatuity; as though he had said, “Were any one to consider them by themselves, they were indeed very wicked, and deserved the most severe punishment; but if they be compared with the prophets of Judah, then they must be deemed only fatuitous and sottish.” Then the copulative is to be rendered thus, “I have, indeed, seen fatuity in the prophets of Samaria;” and then differently in the following clause, “but in the prophets of Judah I have seen depravity.” It is to be read adversatively in this verse, and concessively in the former. Then in the prophets of Jerusalem have I seen depravity. fE89

It follows, They commit adultery, and walk in deception. Expositors think that there is a change of number; but what if these words be applied to the people? as though Jeremiah had said, “When any one is an adulterer, when any one walks in deception, that is, when any one is fraudulent, they strengthen, the hands of the wicked.” And, doubtless, this sense seems here to be the most correct. Then Jeremiah shews how they surpassed other prophets in impiety, even because they dissimulated when they saw on one hand adulteries prevailing, and on the other frauds, plunders, and perjuries; and not only so, but they undertook the patronizing of the wicked, and strengthened the hands of the ungodly, and added audacity to their madness. For as fear weakens the hands, so does shame; as, then, these prophets removed shame as well as fear from the wicked and ungodly, so they strengthened their hands; that is, they gave them more confidence, so that they rushed headlong into every evil more freely and with greater liberty.

That they might not return, he says, every one from his wickedness. This is added for the sake of explanation; for, as I have said, either the fear of God or shame from men might have checked their audacity; but when they were confirmed and countenanced, they broke out into all excesses, and hardened themselves in their obstinacy: That they might not return, every one from his wickedness.

In the last place he adds, They shall be to me all of them as Sodom, and its inhabitants as Gomorrah. We see that the last clause is confined to the citizens of Jerusalem. Then God says, that these prophets would be like the Sodomites, and the citizens of Jerusalem like the citizens of Gomorrah. This is not to be understood only as to crimes, but also as to punishment; as though he had said, that there was no more hope of pardon for them than for the Sodomites, for they had provoked to the utmost the wrath of God, so that he could not now spare them. It then follows, —

<242315>Jeremiah 23:15

15. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets, Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.

15. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum super (vel, ad) prophetas istos, Ecce ego cibabo eos amaritudine (aut, veneno; alii vertunt, absynthio, hn[l, sed nomen absynthii non videtur quadrare; ubicumque enim ponitur hoec vox, significat amaritudinem noxiam et virulentem et mortiferam,) et potabo eos aquis veneni (alii vertunt, fellis; diximus alibide hac voce, ar,) quoniam a prophetis Jerusalem egressa est impietas in totam terram.

 

This verse is addressed to the prophets of the kingdom of Judah, as we learn from its conclusion; and thus the exposition which I have given is confirmed, even this, that God extenuates the fault of other prophets, in speaking of the prophets of Jerusalem, who boasted of greater sanctity. But he declares that they would have poison for meat and gall for drink; as though he had said, “I will pursue them with every kind of punishment.” He expresses evidently the same thing I have before referred to, that their table would become a snare to them. (<196922>Psalm 69:22.) The ungodly, indeed, always think that they can by their arts escape; God on the other hand declares, that though they might have a table prepared, they yet would find nothing on it, but poison for meat, and gall for drink. For as to God’s children and faithful servants, evils are turned to their benefit; so as to the ungodly and his wicked despisers, all things must necessarily turn out for their ruin, even meat and drink, and their course of life, and in a word everything.

The cause follows, For gone forth is impiety fE90 through the whole land from the prophets of Jerusalem. By which words he declares that they were the authors of all evils, so that in comparison with them the prophets of Samaria might have been deemed in a manner righteous. But there is no doubt but that this declaration was considered too severe; yet we see by what necessity Jeremiah was constrained thus to speak; for the lamp of God as yet remained at Jerusalem, according to what is said in many passages, nor was the light of sound doctrine wholly put out. They professed that they continued to obey the Law; and at the same time they were much worse than others, for not only the worship of God in the Temple and in the city was corrupted, but adulteries, frauds, plunders, and all kinds of wickedness prevailed everywhere. He adds —

<242316>Jeremiah 23:16

16. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.

16. Sic dicit Jehovah exercituum, Ne audiatis verba prophetarum, qui prophetant vobis; evanescere faciunt ipsi vobis, visionem cordis sui loquuntur, non ex ore Jehovae.

 

What is here said must have appeared very severe, and must have grievously offended the people; for Jeremiah forbade them to hear the teaching of the prophets. He indeed concedes to them the name of prophets, which was a sacred name; but yet he discredits them, and deprives them of all dignity. he speaks not of magicians or impostors, who were aliens to God’s people; he speaks not of Egyptians, or Chaldeans, or any like them, nor does he speak of the prophets of Samaria, but of those who daily appeared in the Temple and boasted that they were divinely chosen, endued with the spirit of revelation, and that they brought nothing but what God had committed to them. As then Jeremiah forbade them to hear these, some great perplexity must have necessarily seized the minds of all, especially of the simple, — “What does this mean? why does God suffer these unprincipled men to occupy a place in the Temple, and to exercise there the prophetic office, while at the same time they are cheats, perjurers, and impostors?”

In the same manner we see that many at this day are perplexed on account of the discords by which the Church is harassed, and as it were torn to pieces. We are constrained to contend with those who arrogate to themselves the name of the Catholic Church, who boast that they are bishops, vicars of Christ, successors of the Apostles. When therefore the ignorant see such hostile conflicts in the very bosom of the Church, they must necessarily be terrified, and such stumbling-block shakes dreadfully their faith. Hence this passage ought to be especially noticed; for though at first ignorant people may be disturbed by such a prohibition as this, yet every one who really fears God will exercise his mind, so that he may distinguish between false and true prophets; and God will never leave his chosen people destitute of the spirit of judgment and discernment, when teachers contend on both sides, and tumults nearly overthrow the Church; even then, as I have said, God will preserve his own elect, provided we piously and humbly strive to submit to his word; he will also guide us by his hand, so that we may not be deceived. Since then God had commanded Jeremiah to forbid the people to hear the false prophets, let us not at this day wonder, that faithful teachers who desire to maintain true doctrine and genuine piety, feel themselves constrained to oppose these men of titles who shelter themselves under the masked names of pastors, and prelates, and bishops, that they may delude the unwary and the ignorant; Hear not, he says, the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.

He adds, They make you to be vain; that is, they infatuate you. fE91 But this would not have been sufficient, had he not added what more fully confirmed it. Hence Jeremiah says, that they brought forward the vision of their own hearts, and did not speak what came from God’s mouth. This is a mark which can never deceive us, except we willingly throw ourselves into the snares and intrigues of Satan, as many do who wilfully seek to be deceived, and even hunt for falsehoods; but whosoever applies his mind to the study of truth, can never be deceived, if by this mark, which is set before us, he distinguishes between prophets and prophets; for every one who speaks according to the mere suggestions of his own mind must be an impostor. No one then ought to be deemed a sound teacher, but he who speaks from God’s mouth.

But here a question may be raised, How can the common people understand that some speak from God’s mouth, and that others propound their own glosses? I answer, That the doctrine of the Law was then sufficient to guide the minds of the people, provided they closed not their eyes; and if the Law was sufficient at that time, God does now most surely give us a clearer light by his prophets, and especially by his Gospel. Since then God has once given us his testimony, every one ought to obey him as soon as he knows what is right, what he ought to follow, and what he ought to shun.

We now then see how useful this passage is; for there is nothing more miserable than for men to be tossed here and there, and to be led astray from the way of salvation. There is therefore nothing more desirable than to know this way with certainty, Now, God shews us the way here as by the finger; for he says that those who speak from his mouth can be heard with safety; but that others are to be rejected, how much soever they may boast of being prophets, and thus seek under the guise of authority to subject men’s minds captive to themselves. And this ought to suffice at this day to put an end to all controversies; for on this no doubt depends almost every question that is now agitated in the world. The Papists will have their own devices to be taken as oracles, and claim to be the Church; but we, on the other hand, say that perfect wisdom is alone to be found in the Law, in the Prophets, and in the Gospel. Were we then to attend to the mouth of God, it would be easy to settle all the disputes between us. It hence also follows, that the Papists are deceived because they deign not to ask at God’s mouth, but choose to become slaves to men and to their own falsehoods, rather than to inquire what pleases God; for he himself has spoken, and has not spoken hiddenly, neither doubtfully nor obscurely; for there is nothing more clear than his teaching, provided men do not become wilfully blind. He then adds, —

<242317>Jeremiah 23:17-18

17. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

17. Dicentes dicendo iis qui me contemnunt, Loquutus est Jehova, Pax erit vobis, et omnibus qui ambulant (cunctis ambulantibus; est quidem singularis numerus, ad verbum, cuique ambulanti) in pravitate cordis sui, dicunt, Non veniet super vos malum.

18. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?

18. Nam quis stetit in consilio Jehovae? et vidit et audivit sermonem ejus? Quis attendit ad sermonem ejus et audivit?

 

Jeremiah introduces another mark by which the false prophets might be known as different from the true prophets, — they flattered the ungodly and wicked despisers of God. He thus repeats what he had before said, that they strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that they became hardened in their impiety, and threw aside every care for repentance. Though he uses different words, yet the meaning is the same, that they promised peace, or prosperity, to the despisers of God, for the word wl, shalum, means to live well or happily.

They say, then, to those who despise or reject me; for ≈an, nats, means both. The doubling of the word for “saying,” is also emphatical, rwma yrma, amrim amur: fE92 for we know with how much haughtiness and confidence the false prophets dared to announce their dreams; for they were led by the spirit of pride, as they were the children of Satan. Hence then was their confidence, so that they made their declarations as though they had come down from heaven. They say, then, by saying; that is, they promise, and that with great effrontery, that peace would be to all the despisers of God; and not only so, but they pretended God’s name, Spoken, has Jehovah fE93 They wished to be deemed the instruments or agents of the Holy Spirit, while they were vainly announcing, as it has been said, their own imaginations. And hence Jeremiah applied to them, though improperly, the word vision, They speak the vision of their own heart. By using this word he makes a concession; for he might have said only, that they adduced nothing but trifles, even the falsehoods which they themselves had devised, but he mentions the word ˆwzj, chezun, which in itself ought to be deemed of high import. And yet he means that they were only apes as prophets, when they prattled of visions and confidently declared that they brought forward the revelations of the Spirit. He then concedes to them, though improperly, that they saw visions; but what did they see? even that Jehovah had spoken, Peace shall be to you.

Then he says, They promise to those who walk in the wickedness of their own heart, that all things shall turn out well to them, No evil shall come upon you; as though he had said, “They promise impunity to all the wicked.”

The verse which follows is usually thus explained, Jeremiah condemns the false teachers for their carelessness, because they attended not to the word of God, and regarded as nothing what the Law contained. But interpreters seem to me to have been certainly much mistaken in this view; for Jeremiah here shews throughout, he passage how insolently and arrogantly the false teachers conducted themselves in audaciously opposing the true and faithful servants of God, Who has stood in the counsel of Jehovah? They no doubt spoke thus tauntingly of the true prophets, “What! These announce to you pestilence, war, famine, as though they were angels sent by God from heaven; have they stood in the counsel of God?” Thus I connect this verse with the former, for I am fully persuaded that he refers here to the arrogance which the false teachers manifested towards the true teachers. fE94

Examples of this in our time give a plain exposition to this passage. For when the Papists feel themselves driven to an extremity, when they prevail nothing by clamor and falsehood, they run to this sort of evasion, “He! if we must determine everything in religion by the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, what certainty can be found? The Scripture is like a nose of wax, for it can be turned to anything, and no meaning can with certainty be elicited; thus all things will remain perplexed and doubtful, if authority belongs to the Scripture alone.” We then see that the enemies of truth at this day, when they cannot otherwise cover their filthiness, labor to throw all things into confusion, and to discredit God’s word, and to introduce such darkness, that white cannot be distinguished from black, that light becomes mixed with darkness.

Similar to this was the perverse wickedness of the false teachers. For Jeremiah and his associates, when they came forth, declared that God’s vengeance could no longer be deferred, for the people continued to provoke it; and they announced themselves as the heralds of God and witnesses to his hidden purpose; but these unprincipled men, that they might lull to sleep, yea, and stupify the consciences of men, said, “Eh! who has stood in the counsel of Jehovah? who has heard? who has attended? who has seen? all these things are uncertain; and though these severely threaten you with pestilence, war, and famine, yet there is no reason why ye ought to fear. Be then easy, and quietly and cheerfully enjoy yourselves, for they do not understand the purpose of God.” And this meaning we shall presently see confirmed by what is said in verse 22, ydwsb wdm[aw, veam omdu besudi, “And if they had stood in my counsel.” There is then no doubt but that he turns against them what they perversely boasted. But it now follows, —

<242319>Jeremiah 23:19

19. Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.

19. Ecce turbo (vel, tempestas) Jehovae cum furore (vel, cum iracundia) egreditur, et turbo impendens super caput impiorum cadet (vel, turbo cadens cadet; est participium llwjtm, et postea est simplex verbum, sed eadem est radix utriusque.)

 

I shall defer the consideration of this to the next Lecture. Tomorrow there will be no Lecture, for, as you know, the conferring of honors will engage us.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are ever inclined to be led away by ensnaring flatteries, and thus seek death and final ruin for ourselves, — O grant that we may learn to tremble at those denunciations announced by the prophets, by which thou shewest to us thy wrath, so that we may be roused to true repentance, and not harden ourselves through thy forbearance in what is evil, but pursue our heavenly course, until having at length put off all our vices, we shall be restored to that perfect form in which thy holy image fully shines forth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Eighth

The verse which I read at the end of my last Lecture must be now repeated to you, Behold, the tempest (or whirlwind) of Jehovah! it shall go forth with fury; even the impending whirlwind! on the head of the ungodly shall it abide, or fall; for lwjy, ichul, means both. The Prophet now assails with more vehemence the false teachers, for they were almost stupid. None, indeed, can betray so much audacity as to oppose God, except when wholly blinded by Satan. Hence our Prophet deals with the false teachers as with fanatics or those wholly stupified: he tells them that God would come like a whirlwind. Whether we render it a whirlwind or a storm, there is not much difference. fE95 And he adds, that they could not escape, for the wrath of God was impending over them, and would at length remain on them.

Now, it is usual in Scripture to deal very sharply with hypocrites, and especially with false teachers, because Satan rules in them to an awful extent. And doubtless, as I have already said, except a person be fascinated with illusions, he could not dare to oppose God. There is, then, no wonder that the Prophet fulminates against these ungodly teachers; for it was nothing but play and sport to them to pretend God’s sacred name that they might deceive the people. He afterwards adds, —

<242320>Jeremiah 23:20

20. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.

20. Non revertetur iracundia Jehovae usque dum fecerit, et usque dum stabilierit cogitationes cordis sui: in extremitate dierum intelligetis hoc intelligentia (hoc est, intelligetis hujus rei intelligentiam, ad verbum.)

 

He confirms what he had said, lest the hypocrites, with whom he had to do, should think that their punishment would be light and soon pass away. For though they may have seen that God’s hand was armed against them, yet they took comfort, because they expected that it would only be for a short time. Hence Jeremiah here reminds them that they were much deceived if they thought that they could dissipate as a cloud the vengeance that, was at hand; for God would not cease to punish them until he had destroyed them.

There was another security which deceived the ungodly: they were not terrified by threatenings of the Prophet, because they thought that God was in a manner dallying with them whenever he denounced ruin. And, doubtless, the wicked could not have so securely indulged themselves, had it not been that they did not believe that God’s word would be fulfilled. As, then, God’s threatenings did not strike hypocrites with terror, the Prophet here declares that there was no reason for them to harbor the vain hope that God only uttered words, and that there would be no execution of his vengeance.

Turn back, he says, shall not the anger of Jehovah until he has performed and confirmed the thoughts of his heart. Jeremiah shews that God had not spoken in vain by his servants, according to what is done by men, who often speak rashly, for their tongue frequently outruns their purpose. But he reminds them here that God is far different from men, for he ever speaks in earnest, and his prophetic word is a sure evidence of his hidden purpose, as it will again be presently declared. This is the reason why he mentions the thoughts of his heart.

We must not yet think that God is like us, as though he reflected on this thing and on that, and formed many purposes, while one thing or another comes into his mind; no, such a gross idea as this cannot be entertained, and cannot be consistent with the nature of God.

But Jeremiah calls, by a kind of metaphor, the counsel of God his thoughts, even that fixed and unchangeable counsel, which he declared by his prophets. Sometimes, indeed, God threatened, in order to restore men to repentance; but we must bear in mind that he neither varies himself nor changes his purpose. Whatever, then, the prophets announced in his name, flowed from his hidden purpose, and it was the same as though he had made known to us his own heart. And it is no small commendation to prophetic doctrine that God as it were connected his heart with his mouth. The mouth of God is the doctrine itself; and he says now that it had proceeded from the depth of his heart. It hence follows that there is nothing frustratory, (deceptive,) as they say, in God’s word; for he here declares that whatever he had committed to his servants were the thoughts of his heart. And to confirm, or establish, must be applied to the execution of his thoughts.

The sum of the whole is, that God now pronounces a sentence against the people, which could not be reversed; for he had once for all decreed to destroy the men who were obstinate in their sins.

But he seems to refer to the word lwjy, ichul, which means, as I have said, to fall, and also to abide or to lie upon. According to this meaning, he says now, that the anger of God would not return, so as to change its course, until it had completed what had already been decreed, even what God had resolved respecting the destruction of the people.

Then he adds, In the extremity of days ye shall understand the knowledge of this thing. So it is literally; but we may give a simpler version, “Ye shall perceive the knowledge of this matter,” or “Ye shall know what this means.” The Prophet, no doubt, exults over the insensibility of those who could not be moved by such awful warnings. We know how great is the hardness of the ungodly, especially when Satan possesses their minds and hearts. There is, indeed, no iron and no stone which has so much hardness as there is in the perversely wicked; and they in a manner assail God with the greatest obstinacy, as though they were victorious, for they despise all his warnings and threatenings. Hence the Prophet derides their insolence, or rather their madness, and. says, “Ye shall understand,” but too late; for by extremity of days, fE96 he means the time which God had appointed for his anger. But yet God had in due time warned them that they might repent before his judgment came. It was now then the same as though he left them in their own stupor, and said that they could not, however, escape the hand of God by their perverseness, according to what Paul says,

“Let him who is ignorant, be ignorant.”
(<461438>1 Corinthians 14:38.)

He no doubt checks the arrogance of those who rejected every sound doctrine and all right counsels.

So, then, the Prophet teaches us here that hypocrites gain nothing by setting up their own contumacy and arrogance in opposition to God, for they will find, though too late, that God has not spoken in vain. We then see that by extremity of days is to be understood that time when the door shall be closed, because they did not in due time respond to God when he invited them to himself, and set before them the hope of salvation.

There is also another truth taught us here, that we are to seek God while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. (<235506>Isaiah 55:6.) For if we abuse his forbearance and despise him who speaks to us today, we shall find out too late, and not without the most grievous sorrow, that we have been deceived by the devil, because we did not attend to God calling us. It follows, —

<242321>Jeremiah 23:21

21. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have spoken to them, yet they prophesied.

21. Non misi prophetas, et ipsi concurrerunt; non loquutus sum ad eos, et ipsi prophetarunt.

 

The Prophet again warns the Jews not to be perverted by the flatteries of false teachers, and not to disregard the threatenings of God. We have already said that the minds of the people were then lulled asleep by false teachers, who promised them impunity. And there is no evil worse than when false teachers, under the name of God, flatter us, and drive away every fear and concern for our souls. This evil prevailed among the ancient people, as it does also at this day. Indeed the greater part of the world have ever sought flatterers, and when God sees that men thus indulge themselves, and in a manner seek for themselves snares, he gives loose reins to Satan and his ministers, that they may deceive those miserable men who thus wilfully seek to be deceived. The object, then, of Jeremiah was to remind the people often, that all flatteries were nothing but the wiles of Satan, or some deadly poison which stupified all their senses. For when one gives a person poison, which extinguishes the senses of the body and the faculties of the mind, it is all over with the miserable being who has been thus drugged. We see a similar thing done by false teachers, who soothe miserable sinners and promise peace to them, as we saw in our last lecture. As, then, it was difficult to awaken men out of this stupor, which became, as it were, innate in them, and as Satan always employs the same intrigues, it was necessary for the holy Prophet to urge his doctrine more and more.

God now says that he did not send the Prophets, and yet they ran. For this objection might have appeared sufficient against Jeremiah, — that he was alone, and that the other prophets were many in number. It is, indeed, the dictate of common sense, that we ought to believe a hundred persons rather than one. Jeremiah, then, was alone, and there was a great number of false prophets; and the prophetic name was common to them all. It was therefore necessary to meet this objection, which was calculated to render God’s faithful servant contemptible. Hence he mentions the difference between the false teachers with whom he contended and himself, as though he had said, “I indeed am alone, but sent by God; and I am thoroughly convinced of my legitimate calling, and am also ready to prove that I bring no inventions of my own brain; let not, then, a false comparison of one man with a great multitude deceive you. For the question here is not of men or of their authority, but what we ought to inquire is, who sends them? If God be the author of my mission, then I, though alone, am superior to the whole world; and if they have not been called by God, though they were a hundredfold more than they are, yet all that they boast of means nothing, for in God alone we ought to believe.” We now see the design of the Prophet in saying that the prophets ran, but were not sent, that they prophesied, but had received no commands from God.

Now this passage especially teaches us that no one is worthy of being heard except he be a true minister of God. But there are two things necessary to prove a person to be such — a divine call, and faithfulness and integrity. Whosoever, then, thrusts in himself, however he may pretend a prophetic name, may be safely rejected, for God claims the right of being heard to himself alone. Yet a simple and naked call is not sufficient; but he who is called must also faithfully labor for his God; and both these things are intimated here, for he says that the prophets ran, though they were not sent, and that they prophesied, though they were without any command from God. I indeed allow that the same thing is here repeated, according to common usage, in Hebrew, in different words; yet the stronger expression is found in the second clause, for to send belongs properly to the call, and to command to the execution of the office. For God in the first place chose his prophets, and committed to them the office of teaching, and then he commanded them what to say, and dictated to them as it were his message, that they might not bring forward anything devised by themselves, but be only his heralds, as it has appeared elsewhere. fE97

We hence learn also that our ears ought not to be open to impostors, who boldly pretend the name of God, but that we ought to distinguish between true and false teachers; for Jeremiah does not here speak to a few men, but he addresses the whole people. And what he designed to shew was, that they in vain sought to escape under the pretense of ignorance, who were not attentive to sound doctrine; for except they designedly neglected God and his word, they might have known whom to believe. It hence follows that frivolous is the excuse which many consider at this day to be as it were their sacred asylum; for they plead in their own behalf they have been deceived by false teachers. But we ought to see and to inquire whether God has sent them, and whether they teach as coming from his school, and bring anything but what they have received from his mouth.

I shall not here speak at large of God’s call; but if any one wishes for a very short definition, let him take the following: There is a twofold call; one is internal and the other belongs to order, and may, therefore, be called external or ecclesiastical. But the external call is never legitimate, except it be preceded by the internal; for it does not belong to us to create prophets, or apostles, or pastors, as this is the special work of the Holy Spirit. Though then one be called and chosen by men a hundred times, he cannot yet be deemed a legitimate minister, except he has been called by God; for there are peculiar endowments required for the prophetic, the apostolic, and the pastoral office, which are not in the power or at the will of men. We hence see that the hidden call of God is ever necessary, in order that any one may become a prophet, or an apostle, or a pastor. But the second call belongs to order; for God will have all things carried on by us orderly and without confusion. (<461440>1 Corinthians 14:40.) Hence has arisen the custom of electing. But it often happens that the call of God is sufficient, especially for a time. For when there is no Church, there is no remedy for the evil, except God raises up extraordinary teachers. Then the ordinary call, of which we now speak, depends on a well-ordered state of things. Wherever there is a Church of God, it has its own laws, it has a certain rule of discipline: there no one should thrust in himself, so as to exercise the prophetic or the pastoral office, though he equaled all the angels in sanctity. But when there is no Church, God raises up teachers in an unusual way, who are not chosen by men; for such a thing cannot be done, where no Church is formed.

This subject deserves, indeed, to be much more diffusely treated; but as I am not wont to digress unto particular points, it is enough for me to state what the present passage requires, which seems to be this, — that none ought to be acknowledged as God’s servants and teachers in the Church, except those who have been sent by God, and to whom he has, as it were, stretched forth his hand and given them their commission. But as the internal call of God cannot be surely known by us, we ought to see and ascertain whether he who speaks is the organ or instrument of the Holy Spirit. For whosoever brings forward his own figments and devises, is unworthy of being attended to. Hence, let him who speaks shew really that he is God’s ambassador; but how can he shew this? By speaking from the mouth of God himself; that is, let him not bring anything of his own, but faithfully deliver, as from hand to hand, what he has received from God. But as there might be still some perplexity on the subject, it follows —

<242322>Jeremiah 23:22

22. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.

22. Quod si stetissent in concilio meo, certe (copula enim ita resolvi debet) udire fecissent verba mea populum meum (hoc est, docuissent populum meum sermones meos) et reduxissent eos a via sua mala, et a malitia studiorum ipsorum.

 

This verse is as it were an explanation of the former; for many might have been perplexed, if it had only been said to them, that there are none who are fit and legitimate teachers but those who had been sent and entrusted with what God had commanded. Hence the Prophet here calls our attention to the truth which is certain and manifest; for God had delivered the sum of all truth in his Law. As then the perfection of wisdom was found in the Law, from which the prophets drew whatever we read in their writings, no excuses, such as the following, could be admitted, — “How can we know that the prophets speak from God’s mouth, that they bring nothing devised by themselves, that they have the instructions which God approves?”

The Prophet then calls the attention of the Jews to the Law, as though He had said as Moses did,

“There is no need to ascend above the clouds, or to descend into the depths, or to run beyond the sea; for the Law and the word is nigh in thy mouth, that is, God has set before you whatever is necessary and useful to be known.” (<053012>Deuteronomy 30:12-14; <451006>Romans 10:6.)

This, then, is fully made known to you, nor will the knowledge of anything necessary be obscure, if ye attend to the Law. Hence the cause of error is not only your sloth, but also your perverseness; for ye wilfully neglect the Law, and remain doubtful and inquire, “Which is the way?”

“This is the way,” said Moses, “walk ye in it.” (<050533>Deuteronomy 5:33.)

We now then perceive what Jeremiah had in view: he had before said, that none were to be attended to, except they who were sent and spoke from the mouth of God; but he now explains what he meant, even that the Law contained the whole sum of wisdom. But as he had before introduced the false prophets, as boldly deriding the true and faithful servants of God, by objecting to them and saying, “Who had stood in the counsel of God? these imagine that they have fallen from the clouds, they terrify you with dreadful threatenings, as though they were angels from heaven,” — as then the false prophets were thus wont to speak disdainfully of God’s servants, and alleged that they did not stand in God’s counsel, Jeremiah now retorts upon them, and says, speaking in God’s name, If they had stood in my counsel, they would doubtless have spoken from my Law; as though he had said, “They believe not my servants, because they are men and not angels; they hence deny that they are of my counsel: thus they persuade the whole people to despise the doctrine of salvation. There are, however, some prophets whom I have sent: now, if they wish to be deemed sent, let them prove themselves to be so.” What is the true proof? If they had stood in my counsel, they would have doubtless made known my word to my people. What is that word? the definition follows, even the word of the Law, They would have turned the straying people from their evil way. fE98

The passage may seem obscure, but from the context itself we can gather that the real design of the Prophet was to convict the false teachers, that they might no longer boast of God’s name, and falsely pretend that they were endued with the prophetic office, and glory in that distinction. He says that it was an evident proof that they were not God’s prophets, because they did not faithfully teach what they ought to have derived from the Law.

It is indeed certain, that no one has been God’s counsellor, according to what Scripture says in many places, when the object is to check the arrogance of those who, in their curiosity, attempt to penetrate into the hidden judgments of God, (<234013>Isaiah 40:13; ) and Paul, while speaking of God’s eternal election, it being incomprehensible, exclaims, Who has been his counsellor? (Romans 11: 34.) He uses a similar language in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (<460216>1 Corinthians 2:16:) and why? that he might check the temerity of the human mind, which ventures farther than it is lawful. But afterwards Paul adds by way of correction, “But we have the mind of Christ:” how so? because he has made known his counsel to us. When, therefore, the false prophets denied that God’s servants were his counsellors, they might indeed have said so, viewing them only as mortal men; but their object was to discredit and to render void the word of God; so that they wished to put a restraint not only on men, but also on God himself. This was an intolerable insult to God.

Moreover the Prophet now turns as it were upon them, “There is then no Prophet of God in the world!” But fixed was that saying, that there would ever be some prophets; and none of the Jews could have dared to deny Moses to have been divinely inspired. This, then, being allowed, the Prophet now indirectly reproves them, “Where are the prophets of God?” and as they laid claim to this distinction, he says, “Doubtless ye stand not in God’s counsel. How so? because the counsel of God is included in his Law; and as ye have departed from the doctrine of true religion, as ye have no care to convey instruction, as your doctrine does not teach men the fear of God, nor leads to repentance, it follows that ye are not God’s counsellors nor his prophets.” But that this may appear more evident, we must bear in mind what Moses said, that God has his own secret things, but that whatever is taught in the Law belongs to us and to our children. (<052929>Deuteronomy 29:29.) There is then no reason why the inquiry should be difficult respecting the true prophets of God; for they, without controversy, deserve to be heard as the angels of God, who are faithful interpreters of his Law; but they who lead us away from the Law ought to be firmly and boldly rejected.

But we must also bear in mind the definition that is given when it is said, that they ought to have turned the people from their evil way, and from the wickedness of their doings.  fE99 We indeed know that the worst men insolently pretend to preach God’s word, as the Papists do at this day: though they have inebriated the whole world with their ungodly and delirious doctrines, they yet boast that they are the servants of God. Hence the Prophet, after having spoken generally of God’s word, adds a special distinction, — that the doctrine of God is that which edifies, which teaches and leads men to repentance and the fear of God, according to what Paul says, that the Scripture is useful for these purposes, (<550316>2 Timothy 3:16; ) for by so saying, he intended to condemn all false interpreters of Scripture, as there were many then who boasted that they were the best teachers, while yet they only pleased itching ears. As then there were many who regarded display and not edification, Paul says, that the Scripture is useful; and therefore he rejected with contempt all expositions in which there was nothing useful. So also in this place the Prophet shews that the right and legitimate use of Scripture was when it was employed to restore men from their evil way.

There is, indeed, here an instance of a part being stated for the whole: for if we only exhort men to repent, there will be no great fruit; and our teaching would be defective, for the doctrine of repentance would be inefficient without faith and without calling on the name of God. But the Prophet did not intend here to mention every part of a sound and useful doctrine; he deemed it enough to confute the false teachers who wished to be alone in repute, while yet they had no care to edify the people; for they saw all things in disorder, they saw crimes prevailing everywhere, they saw a dreadful contempt of God, but to these things they were wholly blind. It might then have been hence easily inferred that they neither faithfully labored for God nor manifested any care for the safety of the Church; for they thus betrayed miserable souls, whose ruin they saw was near at hand.

We now then see the whole design of the Prophet. But there is no doubt but that to the evil way he added the wickedness of their doings, in order that he might more fully expose the insensibility of those who under such an urgency were silent and remained inactive. There is sometimes the need of a moderate reproof; but when people allow themselves an extreme license in wickedness, when impunity is everywhere permitted, and when such corruptions prevail in common, that nothing remains untainted, if then the tongue of the teacher is silent and as it were tied, is he not rightly called an idle and a dumb dog? And thus the Prophet enhances the insensibility, for which he condemns the false teachers; they were silent, as though things were in a good order, while they had to witness not only common crimes, but even a vast accumulation of all kinds of crimes; for the people gave themselves up not only to one kind of wickedness, but to all kinds, and wholly despised God and his Law. It afterwards follows, —

<242323>Jeremiah 23:23-24

23. Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?

23. An Deus e propinquo, dicit Jehova? Et non Deus e longinquo?

24. Can any hide himself in secret saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.

24. An absonderit vir in latebris et ego non videbo eum, dicit Jehova? An non coelos et terram impleo, dicit Jehova?

 

Here he especially shakes off from hypocrites their self-delusions; for they were torpid in their vices, because they thought that they could in a manner blind the eyes of God. They did not indeed say so; but the heedless security of men would, never be so great as it is, were they to believe that nothing is hid from God, but that he penetrates into the inmost recesses of the heart, that he discerns between the thoughts and the feelings, and leaves not unobserved the very marrow. If, then, this truth were fixed in the hearts of all, they would certainly obey God with more reverence, and also dread his threatenings.

As, then, they are so heedlessly torpid, it follows, that they imagine God as not having a clear sight, who sees only things nigh him, like one who has a deficient vision, who can see what is near at hand, but not what is far off. Such is what hypocrites dream God to be, who after the manner of men either connives at things, or is blind, or at least does not clearly see but what is near at hand. We now understand the design of the Prophet in saying, that Jehovah is God afar off as well as near at hand.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing necessary to be known for salvation is wanting in thy holy and celestial oracles, we may carefully and diligently study them, and so labor to make progress in the fear of thy name, in reliance on that grace which is offered to us in Christ, that we may derive real fruit from the reading and hearing of thy word; and may we also learn to turn everything to edification, so that thy name may be really glorified in us, and that we may through the whole course of our life make progress in faith and repentance, until we shall at length attain to that perfect holiness, to which thou daily invitest us, when we shall be wholly divested of all the filth of our flesh, and become fully renewed after the image of thy Son, our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Eighty-Ninth

Am I a God at hand, saith Jehovah? and not a God afar off? Will a man hide himself in darkness, or in coverts, and I shall not see him, or that I could not see him, saith Jehovah? Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith Jehovah? Here the Prophet most sharply reproves the hypocrites, who thought that they had no concern with God, as is the case always with those who delude themselves in their sins. Though this truth is ever professed by them, that God is the judge of the world, and that an account must some time be rendered to him; yet they afterwards think that they can by some evasion escape, so that God will forgive them. In short, it is usual with hypocrites to trifle as it were childishly with God. On this account, God is grievously displeased with them, and declares that he is far different from what they imagine him to be. For while they thus set themselves up as arbitrators, so that they subject God to their own laws, they think him to be as it were full of apprehension, and that he sees nothing, or at least very little; he says, that he is not only a God near at hand but also afar off. fE100

Some apply this to time, as though he denied that he lately came into existence; and so they think that the only true and eternal God is compared with idols, which men form presumptuously for themselves. But the other meaning is far more suitable, — even that he is a God afar off; for as it is said elsewhere,

“Though he dwells on high, yet he sees everything
that is done on earth.” (<19A219>Psalm 102:19)

As, then, nothing escapes his sight, he is said to be a God afar off, while hypocrites thought him to be a God only near at hand, as we say in French, De courte veue, who sees only things near, as it were before the eyes. But a question has much more force than if it was said, that he was not merely a God near at hand; and this mode of speaking conveys reproof; for hypocrites greatly detract from his majesty, when they thus, according to their own notions, imagine that he can see no more than a mortal man. They would not indeed have dared to speak thus; but when any one examined all their counsels and their actions, he would have found that they could have never shewn so much audacity, had they not deceived themselves with the vain notion, that God could be deceived fE101 And, therefore, Jeremiah does not relate their words, but points out the wickedness which sufficiently manifested itself in their doings, though they professed otherwise with their tongues.

And that this is the meaning appears more clearly from the next verse, which ought to be read in connection with this; Will a man hide himself in coverts, that I should not see him?  fE102 This verse is added by way of explanation; there can therefore be no doubt respecting the words, far off and near, — that God is said to be a God afar off; because his eyes penetrate into the lowest depths, so that nothing can escape him.

It is a wonder that the Greek translators made so great a mistake; for they wholly changed the sense, — that God is God nigh at hand, but not afar off. In the first place, they did not consider the question, and then, as they did not see the drift of the passage, they contrived from their own brains what is wholly remote from the words of the Prophet. This sentiment, that God is nigh and not afar off, is indeed true; but what is meant here is quite another thing, — that God sees in a way very different from men, for he fully and perfectly sees what is farthest from him, according to the passage we have quoted from <19A219>Psalm 102:19; and there is another in <19D907>Psalm 139:7-12, where the Psalmist says,

“Where shall I flee from thy face? for if I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I lie down in hell, there thou stretchest forth thine hand; if I take the wings of the dawn and fly to the clouds, even thine hand will lay hold of me there; if I seek coverts, even the night itself is before thee as the light, and darkness shines as the light.”

If, then, we join together these two passages, there will appear nothing ambiguous in the words of Jeremiah, — even that God penetrates with his eyes into the lowest depths, so that nothing is hid from him.

But Jeremiah not only explains the meaning of the last verse, but also makes a practical use of it; Will any one, he says, hide himself in coverts that I should not see him? The seeing of God has a reference to his judgment. Then all frivolous speculations ought to be cast aside, since Scripture says that God sees all things; but we ought especially to consider for what purpose it is that he sees all things; which is evidently this, — that he may at last call to judgment whatever is done by men. There is then an application of the doctrine to our case; for we hence learn, that whatsoever we do, think, and speak, is known to God.

By coverts, or hiding-places, he means all the secret frauds which men think they can cover; but by such an attempt they gain nothing but a heavier judgment. By coverts then we are to understand all those vain thoughts which hypocrites entertain; for they think that they can so hide themselves that God cannot see their purposes. Hence God laughs them to scorn, and says in effect, “Let them enter into their coverts, let them hide themselves as much as they please, I yet do see them in their coverts no less clearly than if they were quite close to me.”

To confirm this he adds, Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith Jehovah? This must not be refinedly explained of the infinite essence of God. It is indeed true, that his essence extends through heaven and earth, as it is interminable. But Scripture will not have us to feed on frivolous and unprofitable notions; it teaches only what avails to promote true religion. What therefore God declares here, that he fills heaven and earth, ought to be applied to his providence and his power; as though he had said, that he is not so taken up with things in heaven that he neglects the concerns of earth, as profane men dream; but he is said to fill heaven and earth, because he governs all things, because all things are noticed by him, because he is, in short, the judge of the world.

We now perceive what the Prophet means; and this passage is entitled to particular notice, because this error of imagining a God like ourselves is inbred almost in us all. Hence it is, that men allow themselves so much liberty; for they consider it a light thing to discharge their duty towards God, because they reflect not what sort of being he is, but they think of him according to their own understanding and character. As, then, we are thus gross in our ideas, it becomes us carefully to reflect on this passage, where God declares, that he is not only a God near at hand, that is, that he is not like us, who have only a limited power of seeing, but that he sees in the thickest darkness as well as in the clearest light; and that therefore it avails those nothing to deceive themselves who dig for themselves caverns, as it is said in Isaiah, and hide themselves in deep labyrinths. (<230221>Isaiah 2:21.) He thus denies that they gain anything, and gives this as the reason,

“Because he fills heaven and earth;”

that is, his providence, his power, and his justice are so diffused everywhere, that wherever men betake themselves, it is impossible for them to be concealed from him. It follows, —

<242325>Jeremiah 23:25

25. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.

25. Audivi quod dicunt (vel, quid dicant,) prophetae prophetantes in nomine meo, dicendo, somniavi, somniavi.

 

Jeremiah returns again to those impostors who soothed the people with their blandishments. Whenever Jeremiah and those who were like him, who faithfully performed their office, treated the people with severity by reproving and threatening them for their sins, these unprincipled men rose up against, them, and under the name of prophets flattered the ungodly despisers of God. It was, as we have before said, a most grievous trial, when in the very Church itself the ministers of Satan thus falsely pretended the name of God. The Jews would have unhesitantly despised and laughed to scorn what the vain prophets of the Gentiles might have boasted; for they knew that these had no knowledge of God; but when the false prophets of whom he now speaks occupied a place in the Church, and in high terms boasted that they were God’s servants, this would have greatly disturbed the weak and shaken their faith, and even wholly upset it, had not God stretched forth his hand. It is therefore no wonder that Jeremiah dwells so much on this subject; for it was an evil that could not be easily cured; had he said only, that they were not to be esteemed, the weak would not have been satisfied. It was hence necessary for him often to repeat this truth, that they were all to know that there was need of discrimination and judgment, and that those who pretended God’s name were not to be indiscriminately allowed to be his prophets.

He then repeats what we have before observed, but in other words, — I have heard, says God, what the prophets say who prophesy in my name. fE103 An objection is anticipated, for it might have been said, “What can this mean? the prophets disagree! and what is to be done under these dissensions? they who differ dazzle our eyes with an illustrious title, and boldly affirm that they have been sent by God. As, then, there is such a conflict between the prophets, what are we to do?” God meets this objection, and declares that it was not unknown to him what the false prophets boasted of. He adds, that they prophesied in his name. It was an offense, which must have greatly distressed weak minds, to hear of this profanation of God’s name. For as it behoves us reverently to receive what proceeds from God, so it is no small danger when God’s name is falsely and mendaciously pretended. As, then, they might have been greatly disturbed by this false pretext of what was good, it is here expressly said, that they had used the name of God, but he adds, falsely.

We hence see the truth of what I have said, that those who affirm that they are prophets and ostentatiously pretend God’s name, ought not to be received indiscriminately, but that judgment ought to be exercised; for it has been God’s will in all ages to try the faith of his servants by permitting to Satan and his ministers the liberty of pretending falsely his holy name. And as we see that the Church has ever been exposed to this evil, there is no cause for us to be disturbed at this day, when the same thing happens, for it is nothing new. Let us, therefore, learn to harden ourselves against such trials; and whenever false prophets try our faith, let; us remain firm, holding this principle, — that we ought wisely to consider, whether God himself speaks, or whether men falsely boast themselves to be his servants.

To dream is to be taken here in a good sense; for, as we have seen elsewhere, God was wont to make himself known to his servants by dreams. It is not then every kind of dreams that is to be understood here, but, such dreams as were from above. The false prophets, indeed, stated what was not true by using this language; for it was the same as though they testified that they did not bring their own devices, but faithfully related what they had received from God. As the Pope at this day declares that he is the vicar of Christ and the successor of Peter, while he exercises tyranny over the Church; so also these, by a specious pretext, deceived the simple by saying that they brought nothing human, but were only witnesses as to God’s oracles. It follows, —

<242326>Jeremiah 23:26-27

26. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;

26. Quosque erit in corde prophetarum prophetantium mendacium, et prophetarum doli cordis sui?

27. Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.

27. Cogitantes ut faciant oblivisci populum meum nominis mei per somnia sua (vel, in somniis suis, ad verbum,) qua narrant quisque socio suo; quemadmodum obliti sunt patres eorum nominis mei in Baal.

 

Here God reproves the false prophets, and also promises to his people what was especially to be desired, — that he would cleanse his Church from such pollutions. He then shews that it was his purpose to take vengeance, because the false prophets had dared in such an impious and bold manner to abuse his sacred name. For it ever occurred to their minds, “How is it that God permits this? Is it because he cares not for the safety of his people? or does it give him any delight when he sees truth mingled with falsehood, and light with darkness?” Hence God here shews that he for a time bore with that sacrilegious audacity which the false prophets practiced, but that he did not so connive at it as not at length to punish them.

How long? he says, which is the same as though he had said, “It shall not be perpetual; though I may delay, yet they shall know that they have with extreme perverseness abused my forbearance.” And he also enhances their crime by saying, How long shall it be in the heart of the prophets to prophesy falsehood? By this way of speaking he intimates, that they erred not through ignorance, as many do, who through want of knowledge bring forth what they do not understand; but God here complains that these prophets, as it were designedly, rose up to suppress the truth. Then by heart is to be understood thought or purpose; as though he had said, that they designedly made a false pretense as to his name, that it was their settled purpose to deceive the people. fE104

He adds, that they were prophets of the deceit of their own heart. This deceit of the heart is put in opposition to true doctrine; and thus God intimates that whatever men bring forward from themselves is deceitful, for nothing can proceed from them but vanity. There is yet no doubt but that he condemns that foolish conceit, of which the false prophets proudly boasted, that they were alone wise, as the case is now under the Papacy; how arrogantly do unprincipled men prattle whenever they speak of their own figments? Nothing can be more silly, and yet they think that they surpass the angels in acuteness and in high speculations. Such was the arrogance displayed by the false prophets of old. But God declares that whatever men invent, and whatever they devise, which they have not received from his mouth, is only the deceit of the heart.

And this ought to be carefully noticed; for there are many plausible refinements, in which there is nothing solid, but they are mere trifles. If, then, at any time these vain thoughts seem pleasing to us, let us bear in mind what Jeremiah says here, that whatever proceeds not from God is the deceit of the heart; and further, that though the whole world applaud falsehoods and impostures, we ought yet to know that everything is a deceit which has not God himself as its author.

Then follows a clearer definition, that they made his people to forget his name by their dreams, as their fathers had forgotten it through Baal. fE105 We may infer from this verse, that those with whom Jeremiah contended were not openly the enemies of the Law; for they held many principles of true religion. They maintained in common with the true and sincere worshippers of God this truth, — that the only true God ought to be worshipped; and also this, — that there was only one legitimate altar on which sacrifices according to the Law were to be offered. On these points, then, there was no controversy. But yet they deceived the people by their flatteries; for they made gain of their prophetic office. Hence Jeremiah condemns them, because they made God’s name to be forgotten by their dreams, as their fathers had forgotten it through Baal; as though he had said, “These dreams are like the fictitious and spurious forms of worship, by which true religion was formerly subverted; for their fathers worshipped Baal and Baalim: they set up for themselves these false gods, and thus subverted the glory of God by their own devices.” The impiety of the false prophets, who lived in the time of Jeremiah, was not indeed so gross; and yet it was an indirect defection, for they brought forward their dreams, and falsely professed that. they were God’s servants, though he had not commissioned them.

We have said elsewhere (<242321>Jeremiah 23:21) that their crime was twofold; first, they ran when not called nor sent; and secondly, they brought forward their own fancies and not the word of God. And this passage ought to be carefully noticed; for we here learn, that not only open defection cannot be endured by God, but also indirect depravations, which stealthily withdraw us from the fear of God. Then these two evils must be carefully avoided in the Church, if we desire to continue entire in our obedience to God. One evil is sufficiently known, that is, when truth is openly turned into falsehood, when men are drawn away into idolatry and filthy superstitions, or when the ancient people, as Jeremiah says, forgat the name of God through Baal. But the other evil is more hidden, and therefore more dangerous, that is, when some appearance of true religion is retained, and men are yet insidiously drawn away from the fear of God and his true worship, and from pure doctrine, as we see to be the case at this day in the Churches, which profess to have separated from the Papacy that they might embrace the doctrine of the Gospel: there are many among them who insidiously corrupt the simple and genuine doctrine of the Gospel. We see how many curious men there are at this time, who disturb all things by their own inventions, and how absurdly many seek refinements, and how confidently also do many propound their own inventions as oracles! It behoves us then to be watchful, not only that we may shun open abominations, but that we may also retain the pure and true word of God, so as not to allow false workers insidiously to corrupt and vitiate anything. It follows, —

<242328>Jeremiah 23:28

28. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.

28. Propheta apud quem est somnium, narrabit somnium; et apud quem est sermo meus, narrabit sermonem meum veritatis: quid palae ad triticum, dicit Jehova?

 

We ought also to read this verse attentively, for doubtless it contains a doctrine especially useful. I have already said, that the faith of many might have failed at seeing a conflict in the Temple of God, not only among the common people, but also among the prophets of God. God did not appear from heaven, nor did he send his angels, but would have himself to be heard through men. They who came to the Temple expected the prophets to teach them. There the ministers of Satan appeared, who corrupted and perverted all things. There were a few, who sincerely declared the truth of God, and faithfully explained what God commanded. What could miserable men do in this case, who were willing to obey, and possessed a teachable spirit? Hence it was, that many threw aside every concern for religion, and gave themselves up to despair: “What means all this? why are there so many discords, so many disputes, so many contentions, so many invectives? Where can we now betake ourselves? It is better not to care for anything any more.” Thus many took occasion to indulge their indifference, choosing not to weary themselves any more, nor to seek what God was, what his will was, whether there was salvation for them, whether there was any hope, rather than to entangle themselves in troublesome and thorny disputes.

Such a temptation existed in the time of Jeremiah. He, therefore, applied in due time a suitable remedy and said, The Prophet, who has a dream, that is, with whom is a dream, he will relate a dream; and then, The Prophet with whom is my word, he will speak my word; fE106 as though God had said, that it was all extremely wicked thing to obstruct the way of truth by falsehood. But this is what usually happens, as I have already said; for where Satan has his agents, an obstacle seems to be in our way which prevents us to go on and proceed in the course of true religion. For when those who are right-minded, as we have said, see the prophets themselves contending, disputing, and quarrelling, they stand still, nay, they go backward. Now God shews that this is extremely unreasonable. Then the meaning is, as though he had said, “Let not the false prophets by Their fallacies impede the course of God’s servants, that they may not proceed, and that his word should not be reverently heard.”

Unless we attend to this which the Prophet had in view, the passage will appear unmeaning. It has been often quoted, but this circumstance has not certainly been observed. We ought, therefore, ever to consider, why is a thing said. This verse depends on what is gone before; and God here answers a question, which might have been raised, — “What then must we do, for falsehoods conflict with truth?” God answers, that his word ought not to be prejudiced by this circumstance; as though he had said, “Let nothing prevent my Prophets from teaching; I bid them to be heard.” We hence conclude, that those do wrong to God, who allege the controversies, by which religion is torn and as it were lacerated, and think that they thus obtain a license to indulge their impiety; for it is not a reason that can avail them, that Satan and his ministers labor to discredit the authority of God and of his servants. Though these false prophets insinuate themselves, though they may set up themselves against the true and faithful servants of God, yet let dreams, that is, prophetic revelations, retain their weight, and let him with whom is God’s word, speak the word of God, so that it may be heard. This clause refers to the hearers; they were not to desist from rendering obedience to the Law, how much soever Satan might strive to subvert their faith by attempting to destroy its unity.

It afterwards follows, What is the chaff to the wheat? This addition was also wholly necessary, for many might have again objected and said, that they had no sufficient judgment to distinguish between the true and false prophets. God here gives the answer, that the difference between true and false doctrine was nothing less to him who made a careful examination than between wheat and chaff And by this comparison he shews how foolishly and absurdly many detract from the authority of the Law on this pretense, that there are many who falsely interpret it. For when any one rejects the wheat because it is covered with chaff, does he not deserve to perish through hunger? and who will pity him who says that he has indeed wheat on his floor, but that it is mixed with chaff, and therefore not fit for food? Why, then, thou silly man, dost not thou separate the chaff from the wheat? But thou choosest to perish through want, rather than to cleanse the wheat that thou mayest have it for thy food. So also in the Temple the wheat is often mixed with the chaff, the pure truth of God is often defiled with many glosses and vain figments; and yet, except it be our own fault, we shall be able to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff. fE107 But if we be negligent, and think that it is a sufficient excuse for despising the word of God, because Satan brings in his fallacies, we shall perish in our sloth like him who neglects to cleanse his wheat that he might turn it to bread. But the time will not allow me to say more.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art graciously pleased daily to set before us thy sure and certain will, we may open our eyes and cars, and raise all our thoughts to that which not only reveals to us what is right, but also confirms us in a sound mind, so that we may go on in the course of true religion, and never turn aside, whatever Satan and his ministers may devise against us, but that we may stand firm and persevere, until having finished our warfare, we shall, at length come unto that blessed rest which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Ninetieth

We saw yesterday that though the false prophets corrupted the true doctrine, yet the prophetic office remained in its honor without any loss to its authority. Hence Jeremiah said that all their fallacies ought not to be an hinderance to the faithful, so as to prevent them to proceed in the course of their calling, and that no one should object and say, that in so confused a state of things he could not know what to avoid and what to follow; he said that the difference between wheat and chaff was easily perceived, provided men were not wilfully blind. He now adds, —

<242329>Jeremiah 23:29

29. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

29. An non ut sit sermo meus quasi ignis (hoc est, an non sermo meus tanquam ignis) dicit Jehova? Et tanquam malleus conterens saxum (vel, rupem.)

 

He confirms what he said of the chaff and the wheat, but in different words. It was a fit comparison when Jeremiah compared God’s word to wheat, and the figments of men to chaff. But as the Jews, through their ingratitude, rendered the word of God ineffectual, so it did not become to them a spiritual support, the Prophet says that it would become like a fire and like a hammer, fE108 as though he had said, that though the Jews were void of judgment, as they had become hardened in their wickedness, yet the word of God could not be rendered void, or at least its power could not be taken away; for as Paul says,

“If it is not the odor of life unto life, it is the odor of death unto death to those who perish,” (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16)

and so also the same Apostle says in another place, that God’s servants had vengeance in their power, for they bear the spiritual sword, in order to cast down every height that exalteth itself against Christ; but he adds,

“After the obedience” of the faithful “had been completed.”
(<471006>2 Corinthians 10:6)

The first and as it were the natural use of God’s word is to bring salvation to men; and hence it is called food; but it turns into poison to the reprobate: and this is the reason for so great a diversity.

He said, first, that God’s word was wheat, because souls are nourished by it unto a celestial life; and nothing can be more delightful than this comparison. But now he declares it to be fire and a hammer. There is in these terms some appearance of contradiction; but there is a distinction to be made as to the hearers, for they who reverently embrace the word of God, as it becomes them, and with genuine docility of faith, find it to be food to them; but the ungodly, as they are unworthy of such a benefit, find it to be far otherwise. For the word which is in itself life-giving, is changed into fire, which consumes and devours them; and also it becomes a hammer to break, to tear them in pieces, and to destroy them.

The import of the whole is, that God’s word ever retains its own dignity; for if it happens to be despised by men, it cannot yet be deprived of its vigor and efficacy; if it be not wholesome for food, it will be like fire or like a hammer. Then these two comparisons belong to the wicked, for God’s word has another sense when called fire with reference to the faithful, even because it dries up and consumes the lusts of the flesh, as silver and gold are purified by fire. Hence the word of God is properly and fitly called fire, even with regard to the faithful; but not a devouring but a refining fire. But when it comes to the reprobate, it must necessarily destroy them, for they receive not the grace that it offers to them. It may also be called a hammer, for it subdues the depraved affections of the flesh and such as are opposed to God even in the elect; but it does not break the elect, for they suffer themselves to be subdued by it.

But this hammer is said to break the stone or the rock because the reprobate will not hear to be corrected; they must, therefore, be necessarily broken and destroyed. For this reason Paul also, while speaking of the refractory, says,

“Let him who is ignorant be ignorant.”
(<461438>1 Corinthians 14:38)

For by these words he means that they will at last find how great is the hardness of that word with which they dare to contend through the perverseness of their heart. But that passage which I have before quoted well explains what is here said by Jeremiah, even that truth in itself is wholesome, but that it turns into an odor of death unto death to those who perish. (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16.) Paul, indeed, speaks of the Gospel, but this may be also applied to the Law. It now follows, —

<242330>Jeremiah 23:30-32

30. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor.

30. Propterea ecce ego ad (vel, super) prophetas, dicit Jehova, qui furantur sermones meos, quisque a socio suo:

31. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.

31. Ecce ego ad (vel, super, vel, contra) prophetas, dicit Jehova, qui mollificant (vel, tollunt) linguam suam, et dicunt, sermo (vel, dictio:)

32. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.

32. Ecce ego super (vel, ad, vel, contra) prophetantes somnia mendacii, dicit Jehova, et narrant illis et decipiunt populum meum in mendaciis suis et levitate sua; et ego (hoc est, quanquam ego) non miserim ipsos, neque mandaverim illis, et utilitate non proderunt (proficiendo non afferent utilitatem) populo huic, dicit Jehova.

 

Jeremiah returns again to the false teachers, who were the authors of all the evils; for they fascinated the people with their flatteries, so that every regard for sound and heavenly doctrine was almost extinguished. But while God declares that he is an avenger against them, he does not exempt the people from punishment. We indeed know that a just reward was rendered to the reprobate, when God let loose the reins to the ministers of Satan with impunity to deceive them. But as the people acquiesced in those false allurements, while Jeremiah so severely reproved the false teachers, he reminds the people how foolishly they betook themselves under the shadow of those men, thinking themselves to be safe.

He says, first, Behold, I am, against the prophets, who steal my words every one from his neighbor. Many explain this verse as though God condemned the false prophets, who borrowed something from the true prophets, so that they might be their rivals and as it were their apes; and no doubt the ungodly teachers had ever from the beginning made some assumptions, that they might be deemed God’s servants. But it seems, however, a forced view, that they stole words from the true prophets, for the words express what is different, that they stole every one from his friend. Jeremiah would not have called God’s faithful servants by this name. I rather think that their secret arts are here pointed out, that they secretly and designedly conspired among themselves, and then that they spread abroad their own figments according to their usual manner. For the ungodly and the perfidious, that they might obtain credit among the simple and unwary, consulted together and devised all their measures craftily, that they might not be immediately found out; and thus one took from the other what he afterwards announced and published. And this is what Jeremiah calls stealing, because they secretly consulted, and then declared to the people what they agreed upon among themselves; and they did this as though every one had derived his oracle from heaven. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Prophet condemns these hidden consultations when he says that every one stole from his neighhour. fE109

We indeed see the same thing now under the Papacy, for the monks and unprincipled men of the same character have their own false doctrines; and when they ascend the pulpit, every one speaks as though he was endued with some special gift; and yet they steal every one from his friend, for they are like the soothsayers or the magi, who concocted among themselves their own falsehoods, and only brought out what they deemed necessary to delude the common people. This, then, was one of the vices which the Prophet shews prevailed among the false teachers, — that no one attended to the voice of God, but that every one took furtively from his friend what he afterwards openly proclaimed.

He adds, secondly, Behold, I am against the prophets, who mollify their own tongue. Almost all interpreters take hql, lekech, as signifying to render sweet or soft; and they understand that the false prophets are condemned, because they flattered the wicked for the sake of gain; for had they offended or exasperated them, they could not have attached them to themselves. They then think that to mollify their tongue means here that they used their tongue in speaking smooth and flattering things. But others give another explanation, — that they mollified their tongue because they polished their words in imitation of God’s servants, so that their speech was sweeter than honey. But as hql, lekech, means to receive and to take, and sometimes to raise on high, and sometimes to carry, I see not why it should not be taken in its proper meaning. I certainly see no reason to turn its meaning to a metaphor, when it can be taken in its plain sense of raising their tongue; they elevated themselves, and in high terms boasted that the office of teaching had been committed to them, for we know how haughtily false teachers elevate themselves. Therefore the verse may be taken thus, that God would punish those impostors who raised their tongue, that is, who proudly boasted and boldly arrogated to themselves authority, as though they were messengers from heaven. fE110

It afterwards follows, And they say, an, nam, he saith. We know that it was a common thing for all the prophets to add, hwhy an, nam Jeve, the saying of Jehovah, or the word of Jehovah, in order to shew that they said nothing but what they had received from above. And if we read this verse as connected together, we shall find true what I have said — that the verb hql, lekech, does not mean the smoothness or adulation used, but, the lofty vaunting of the false teachers, who wished to be deemed the organs of the Holy Spirit, and assumed to themselves all the authority of God. For their elation was this, that they confidently boasted that God himself had spoken, and said that it was the word; and they did this, that whatever they prattled might appear indisputed, though it was sufficiently evident that they falsely pretended the name of God.

He adds, thirdly, Behold, I am against those who prophesy dreams of falsehood. It was indeed necessary to say here, that though the false teachers arrogated to themselves what alone belonged to the servants of God, they were yet mendacious. He afterwards adds, They narrate them, and cause my people to err by their falsehoods and their levity. The meaning is, that however proudly they might, have pretended the name of prophets, they were yet impostors, who deceived the people by narrating to them their false dreams. The word dream is taken here in a good sense, but the word added to it, shews that they boasted of dreams which were only their own; and this is again confirmed when Jeremiah says, that they deceived the people by their falsehoods; and he adds, by their levity, fE111 which some render “flattery.” I doubt not but that it means their inventions, which were vain, because they proceeded only from vain presumption.

He adds, Though I sent them not nor commanded them. This negation ought especially to be noticed; for God shews how we are to form a judgment, when a question is raised respecting true and false teachers. Whatever, therefore, is without God’s command is like the wind, and will of itself vanish away. There is, then, no solidity in anything but in God’s command. Hence it follows, that all those who speak according to their own fancies are mendacious, and that whatever they bring forward has no weight in it; for God sets these two things in opposition the one to the other; on the one side are falsehood and levity, and on the other, his command and his call. It hence follows, that no one, except he simply obeys God and faithfully declares what he has received from him, can be of any account; for his whole weight is lighter than a feather, and all his apparent wisdom is falsehood.

At last he says, that they would not profit his people. In which words he warns the people to shun them as the plague. But we see how the world indulges itself in this respect; for they who are drowsy seek to absolve themselves on the plea of ignorance, and throw the blame on their pastors, as though they were themselves beyond the reach of danger. But the Lord here reminded the people, that the teachers whom they received were pestilent; though for another reason he testified that they were useless, and that in order that he might shake off the vain confidence of the Jews, who were wont to set up this shield against all God’s threatenings, that their false teachers promised them wonderful things. It follows, —

<242333>Jeremiah 23:33

33. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the Lord.

33. Quod si interrogaverint to populus hic, vel Propheta, vel Sacerdos, dicendo. Quod onus Jehovae? Tunc dices illis, Quod onus? Derelinquam vos, inquit Jehova.

 

It appears sufficiently evident from this passage, — that the contumacy of the Jews was so great, that they sought from every quarter some excuse for their insensibility, as though they could with impunity despise God when they rejected his word. For the devil by his artifice fascinates the reprobate, when he renders God’s word either hateful or contemptible; and whenever he can exasperate their minds, so that they hear not God’s word except with disdain and bitterness, he gains fully his object. The Jews, then, were led into such a state of mind, that they regarded God’s word with hatred; and they were thus alienated from all docility and from every care for religion. In short, the prophets, as it is well known, everywhere employ the word am, mesha, which means a burden.

Now, a burden means a prophecy, which terrifies the despisers of God by threatening them with vengeance. As, then, their minds were exasperated, they called through hatred the word of God a burden, and used it as a proverbial saying, “It is a burden, a burden.” They ought to have been moved by God’s threatenings, and to have trembled on hearing that he was angry with them. The word burden, then, ought to have humbled them; but, on the contrary, they became exasperated, first, through haughtiness, then through an indomitable contumacy, and thirdly, they kindled into rage. We hence see how the expression arose, that the prophets called their prophecies burdens. God now severely condemns this fury, because they hesitated not thus openly to shew their insolence. It was surely a most shameful thing, that the word of God should be thus called in disdain and contempt, in the ways and streets; for they thus acted disdainfully and insolently against God; for it was the same as though they treated his word with open contempt. It was then no wonder that he reproved this fury with so much vehemence, by saying, But if this people ask thee, What is the burden of Jehovah?

This manner of asking was altogether derisive, when they said to Jeremiah and to other servants of God, “What is the burden?” that is, “What dost thou bring to us, what trouble is to come on us?” They thus not only spoke contemptuously of God’s word, but, as though this wickedness was not sufficient, they became, as I have said, irritated and exasperated. If, then, they ask thee, What is the burden? And he speaks not only of the common people, but of the very prophets and priests.

We hence learn how great a contempt for God then prevailed, so that there was no integrity either in the priestly or the prophetic order. It is indeed wonderful with what impudence they dared to boast themselves to be God’s servants, while they spoke with so much insolence! But the same thing happens in the world in our day; for we see that the ministers of Satan in no other way hold the world under their power, than by alluring the minds of the ungodly; and at the same time they cause God’s word to be hated, and say that it brings not only troubles, but also torments. Since, then, these unprincipled men, who thus lead with hatred and disdain the true doctrine, occupy pulpits, we need not wonder that the same evil prevailed in the ancient Church.

It follows: If a prophet or a priest ask thee, What is the burden of Jehovah? thou shalt say to them, What burden? I will forsake thee, saith Jehovah. This was a most grievous threatening, but it has not been well considered and rightly understood; for interpreters have overlooked the implied contrast between the presence and the absence of God. Nothing could have been more acceptable to the Jews than God’s silence. And yet in no other way does he more clearly show that he is a Father to us, caring for our salvation, than by familiarly addressing us. Whenever, then, the prophetic word is announced, we have a sure and a clear evidence of God’s presence, as though he wished to be connected with us. But when the ungodly not only reject so remarkable a benefit, but also furiously repel, as far as they can, such a favor, they desire and seek the absence of God. Therefore God says, “Ye cannot bear my word, by which symbol I shew that I am present with you; I will forsake you;” that is, “I will no longer endure this indignity, but I will depart from you; there shall be hereafter no prophecy.” fE112

At the first view this was not deemed grievous to the Jews; for as I have said, the ungodly desire nothing more than that God should be silent, and they thought that they had gained their greatest happiness, when with consciences lulled to sleep they indulged themselves in their filth. It was then their chief wish that God should depart from them. But yet there was nothing more to be dreaded. The Prophet then shews here that they were extremely infatuated and wholly fascinated by the devil, for they could desire nothing more dreadful than that God should depart from them; as though he had said, “My word is a weariness to you, and I in my turn will now avenge myself, for I am weary of forbearing you, when I see that you can by no means be healed; and as I have been hitherto assiduous in instructing you, and have found you unteachable, I will now in my turn leave you.” It follows, —

<242334>Jeremiah 23:34

34. And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the Lord, I will even punish that man and his house.

34. Et propheta et sacerdos et populus qui dixerit, Onus Jehovae, visitabo super virum illum (hoc est, quicunque fuerit, sive propheta, sive sacerdos, sive homo quispiam vulgaris, visitabo super virum illum,) et super domum ejus.

 

Prophecy might indeed have been called a burden, when anything sad was announced; but it might also have been so called, when men were aroused to fear God, or when they were exhorted to repent. But God has a reference here to that wicked impiety, when men dared in ridicule to call any prophecy a burden. And hence it appears, that they were all so given up to their sins, that the very name of God’s judgment was hated by them. We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning when he said, that God would punish all those who called his word a burden; for the Prophets themselves were wont to speak thus; and we find that Jeremiah in many places used this word. He does not then speak here generally, but points out, as by the finger, a vice which prevailed; for the Jews had so hardened themselves in hatred to sound doctrine, that they said, “He! these Prophets do nothing but terrify us by threatenings and by denouncing ruin on us; and what will be the end of all this?” God says, that he would take punishment on all who thus spoke and on all their families. It hence appears how much he abominated this blasphemy; and hence also we see how precious to God is the honor of his word; for it is not of every kind of sin that God speaks when he extends his vengeance to posterity. It is the same thing as though Jeremiah had said, “It is altogether intolerable, when men became irritated and exasperated against God’s word.” And yet this evil is not an evil of one age only. We see that the Israelites ever complained of God’s rigor; hence that saying,

“The ways of the Lord are not tortuous, but rather your ways, O house of Israel.” (<261825>Ezekiel 18:25.)

And here we must notice the wickedness of the human mind; for God, as it has been before stated, has nothing else in view by calling us to himself, but to make us partakers of eternal life and salvation. It is then God’s design to receive us for the purpose or saving us; this is the end intended by, all the prophets; and hence the Prophet called before the word of God wheat; but what is done by men? They despise this favor; and not only so, but turn food into poison and cease not to provoke God’s wrath. He was, therefore, constrained to threaten them. When he finds us teachable, he allures us to himself even with paternal kindness. But when we provoke him to wrath, we in a manner force him to put on another character, according to what he says, that he will be refractory towards the refractory. (<191826>Psalm 18:26.) Yet we complain when God deals rigidly with us. We cease not to carry on war with him; but when he restrains and checks our insolence, we immediately expostulate with him, as though he were too severe and his word offended us. Whence is this offense? even from our obstinate wickedness. Were men to put an end to their sinful course, the Lord would change his manner of dealing with them, and gently treat them and foster them as chickens under his wings; but this they suffer not; nay, they reject such a treatment as much as they can. Hence it is, that they abhor the name of God and his word. What then is the excuse for the complaint, when they say that God is too rigorous, as though his word were a burden? There is none; for they are themselves refractory against God, and thus his word becomes a hammer to break their heads, to shatter and destroy them. We now see the reason why God not only declares that he was angry with these ungodly despisers of his word, but also denounces the same vengeance on their posterity. fE113

<242335>Jeremiah 23:35

35. Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What hath the Lord answered? And, What hath the Lord spoken?

35. Sic dicetis quisque ad socium suum, et quisque ad fratrem suum, Quid respondit Jehova? Et quid loquutus est Jehova?

 

Here the Prophet explains himself more clearly; he shews why God would not have his word to be called a burden. Why so? because they in a manner closed the way, so that they derived no benefit from God’s word, while they regarded it with disdain and hatred; for the word burden was an obstacle, so that they gave no access to God, nor opened their ears to hear his word. God then bids them to come with empty and sincere hearts; for it is a real preparation for a teachable spirit, when we acknowledge that we ought to believe in God’s word, and also when we are not possessed by a perverse feeling which forms a prejudice and in a manner holds us bound, so that we are not free to form a right judgment.

The import of the passage then is this, that the Jews, renouncing their blasphemies, were to prepare themselves reverently to hear God’s word, for hearing is due to God; and then that this word was to be heard with sincere hearts, so that no weariness, nor pride, nor hatred, nor any depraved feeling, might hinder his word from being believed and reverently heard by all. This then is what the Prophet means when he says, “Ye shall hereafter change your impious expression, and shall say, What has Jehovah answered? what has Jehovah spoken?” That is, they shall not themselves close the door, but willingly come to the school of God, being meek and teachable, so that nothing would hinder them from rendering honor to God and from embracing his word, that they might be terrified by his threatenings, and that being allured by his promises they might devote themselves wholly to him.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing is better for us or more necessary for our chief happiness, than to depend on thy word, for that is a sure pledge of thy good will towards us, — O grant, that as thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit, which thou manifest to us daily, we may be attentive to hear thee and submit ourselves to thee in true fear, meekness, and humility, so that we may be prepared in the spirit of meekness to receive whatever proceeds from thee, and that thus thy word may not only be precious to us, but also sweet and delightful, until we shall enjoy the perfection of that life, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-First

<242336>Jeremiah 23:36

36. And the burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more; for every man’s word shall be his burden: for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God

36. Et oneris, Jehovae non recordabimini amplius, quia onus erit cuique sermo ejus; et pervertistis sermones Dei vivi, Jehovae exercituum, Dei nostri.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same subject, that every one ought calmly and meekly to hear God speaking, he said, as we saw yesterday, that the prophets were to be asked as to what God had spoken and what he had answered; he thereby intimated that there must be docility, in order that God’s word may obtain credit, authority, and favor among us. He again repeats, that the word burden could not be endured by God; for, as we explained yesterday, this word was used commonly by the Jews as expressive of hatred or disdain, being as they were unwilling to receive sound doctrine.

In forbidding them to mention the word burden, it was the same thing as though he had said, “Let not this form of speaking be any longer in use among you.” He then adds, For to every one his word shall be his burden. By these words he shews that what is bitter in prophecies is as it were accidental; for God has nothing else in view in addressing men, but to call them to salvation. The word of God then in itself ought to be deemed sweet and delightful. Whence then is this bitterness and hatred towards it? even from the wickedness of men alone. As when a sick person, eating the most wholesome food finds it turned into poison, the cause being in himself; so it is with us, it is our own fault that the word of God becomes a burden. It was, moreover, the Prophet’s design to shew that the Jews had no reason to complain that prophecies were grievous to them, and always announced some trouble; for God wishes to address men with lenity and kindness, but he is forced by their wickedness to deal sharply with them. The Prophet seems, however, to go still farther, as though he had said, “Though prophecies should cease, yet every one shall be a prophet to himself; for as they murmur against God, and cannot bear his judgment, however silent God’s ministers may be, they will yet afford a sufficient cause for condemnation, who dare thus to rise up against God.”

We now see the design of the Prophet in saying, Ye shall no more mention the burden of Jehovah; that is, “This shameful proverb, which brands God’s word with disgrace, shall no more be used by you; this wicked practice shall cease, for else to every one of you; his word shall be a burden;” so the causal particle yk, ki, is to be rendered. But if another sense be preferred, I feel no objection, that is, that they ought to have considered the reason why God did not deal more mildly with them; which was, because they were of a perverse disposition, and thus they refused the paternal kindness which he was prepared to shew, provided they received it. fE114

This passage is entitled to special notice, for we see how the greater part cannot bear threatenings and terrors when announced to them. Hence they entertain contempt and hatred towards heavenly doctrine; and yet none consider why God so often threatens and terrifies them in his word. For if men ceased to sin, God would cease to contend with them; but when they continually provoke him, is he to be silent? and further, are his prophets to suffer everything just to be violated, and God himself to be despised? Let us then know that the fault is in us when God seems to deal rigidly with us, for we do not allow him to use such a paternal language as he always would, were it not that we put a hinderance in the way.

The Prophet also adds, For ye have corrupted the words of the living God, of Jehovah of hosts our God. So ought the words to be rendered. Here he justly accuses them, that they perverted the words of God, and in two ways, because they constrained God by their wickedness to speak otherwise than he wished, and also, because they were preposterous interpreters of his dealings. For though God may severely chastise us, yet it is our duty to receive his reproofs with a meek spirit, as they are necessary for us; but when we murmur and become refractory, we pervert the word of God. We hence see that the word of God is not only perverted in one way, but when we furiously oppose him, we prevent him to deal gently and kindly with us; and we do the same when we submit not to his reproofs, but rage against him whenever he summons us to judgment. And as their wantonness was in this instance so great, the Prophet here sets up against them in express terms the power of God.

He says first, that he is the living God; and by this term he reminded them that the ungodly, who vomited thus their blasphemies against him, would not go unpunished; “See,” he says, “with whom ye have to do; for you contend with the living God; this audacity will rebound on your own heads; ye then carry on a fatal war.” He, secondly, adds, that he is Jehovah of hosts; by which expression he again shews his power. And, thirdly, he says, that he is the God of that people; as though he had said, that not only their impiety was madness in daring to contend with God, but that it was also connected with ingratitude; for God had adopted them as his people, and had promised to be their God.

We now then see the design of the Prophet; he first warned them not to entertain hatred in their hearts to prophetic doctrine; secondly, he shewed that the whole fault was in themselves, as they constrained God to deal severely with them; and further, that they perverted the word of God, being false interpreters of it, and closing the door against his kindness when he invited all the pious and the teachable; and lastly, he exalts God’s power and commends his goodness, that he might thus aggravate the sin of the people in daring to carry on war with God himself, and in despising the favor conferred on them. It follows, —

<242337>Jeremiah 23:37

37. Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the Lord answered thee? and, What hath the Lord spoken?

37. Sic dices Prophetae, Quid respondit tibi Jehova? Et quid loquutus est tibi Jehova?

 

He repeats what we noticed yesterday, and almost in the same words. The meaning is, that if we desire to profit in God’s school, we must beware lest our minds be preoccupied by any corrupt feeling. For whence is it that God’s word is not savored by us, or excites in us a bitter spirit? even because we are infected by some sinful lust or passion which wholly corrupts our judgment. God then would have us to come to him free from every vicious disposition, and to be so teachable as to inquire only what he teaches, what he may answer to us; for whosoever becomes thus disentangled and free, will doubtless find the prophetic doctrine to be for his benefit. There is then but one cause why God’s word does not profit us, but on the contrary is injurious and fatal to us, and that is, because we seek not what God speaks, that is, because we are not teachable, nor come to learn, but either sloth, or contempt, or ingratitude, or perverseness, or something of this kind, bears rule in us.

Now he says here, that the prophets ought to be asked as to what God speaks, or as to what he may answer. fE115 In these words he exculpates God’s faithful servants; for if a hearer is ready to obey, he will find from a faithful teacher what may justly please and do him good. In short he shews that there is nothing wrong in the prophets when their doctrine does not please us, but that this happens because we do not regard what Jeremiah here reminds us of, that we ought to hear God that we may learn, and that we may obey his voice. It follows, —

<242338>Jeremiah 23:38-39

38. But since ye say, The burden of the Lord; therefore thus saith the Lord, Because ye say this word, The burden of the Lord, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the Lord;

38. Quod si onus Jehovae dixeritis, propterea sic dicit Jehovah, Ne dicatis hoc verbum (hoc est, ne proferatis hunc sermonem) onus Jehovae; et misi ad vos (sed debet resolvi oratio, quum miserium ad vos,) et ne dicatis, onus Jehovae:

39. Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence.

39. Propterea ecce ego et tollam vos tollendo (vel, obliviscar vestri obliviscendo, ut alii vertunt; tertia est sententia, obliviscar vestri, ut tollam, vel, ad tollendum,) et evellam vos (vel, projiciam, melius; alii vertunt, relinquam, male,) et urbem hanc, quam dedi vobis et patribus vestris, a facie mea.

 

Here the Prophet confirms what he had said, for God might have seemed to be too indignant, having been so grievously offended at one short expression. The Jews had borrowed from the prophets themselves, when they called prophecies burdens, as we have already said, and as we find in many places. Now as the lubricity of language is great, though the Jews might have done wrong as to one word, it might yet have appeared an insufficient reason for the punishment which God threatened to inflict. But the Prophet here shews that God was justly angry with them, for he had sent to them, and often warned them not to use this form of speaking, which was a manifest evidence of their impiety. As then they had thus disregarded God and his warnings, was it an excusable mistake? In short, Jeremiah shews that they had not erred inconsiderately, as it often happens as to those who speak rashly and thoughtlessly, but that this perverted way of speaking proceeded from determined wickedness, from a wish to affix some mark of disgrace to God’s word; and thus they acted in disdain towards God himself. This then is the import of the words.

If ye shall say, even when I warn you not to speak in this manner; if then ye persevere in this obstinacy, Behold I, etc.; God here declares that he would take vengeance. As to this sentence, most interpreters derive the verb from hn, nushe, making h, he, the final letter; but I doubt the correctness of this; yet if this explanation be adopted, we must still hold that the Prophet alludes to the verb, to take away, which immediately follows. But I am disposed to take another view, that God would by removing remove them. It must be noticed that the word am, mesha, which has often been mentioned, comes from the same root; am, mesha, a burden, is derived from an, nusha, to remove or take away. As therefore this proverb was commonly used, that prophetic doctrine ever brought some burden and trouble, God answers, “I will take you away;” that is, “ye shall find by experience how grievous and burdensome your wickedness is to me, it shall rebound on your heads; ye have burdened and treated with indignity my word, and I will treat you with indignity,” but in what manner? I will take you away even by taking you away. If any one approves more of the sense of forgetting, let him follow his own judgment; but that explanation appears to me unmeaning, “I will forget you,” except an, nusha, be taken in the second place as signifying to take away. “I will forget you, that I may take you away.” fE116

He adds, And I will pluck you up; which some render, “I will forsake you,” but they seem not to understand what the Prophet intended; for he declares something more grievous and more dreadful than before, when he says, I will pluck you up; and yet this sense does not satisfy me. The verb fn, nuthash, means to extend, and metaphorically to cast far off; and casting off or away seems to suit the passage best. God then would not only remove or take away the Jews from their own place, but would also cast them far off into distant countries. He thus denounces on them an exile, by which they were to be driven as it were into another world. For had they dwelt in the neighborhood, it would have been more tolerable to them, but as they were to be driven away, as by a violent storm to the farthest and remotest regions, it was much more grievous.

He afterwards says, And the city also which I gave to you and to your fathers. The verbs, to cast away and to pluck up, do not well suit stones; but as to the sense, it may rightly be said that God would take away the city with its inhabitants, as though they were driven away by the wind. And this was added designedly, for the Jews relying on this promise, “This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell,” thought it impossible that the sanctuary of God would ever be destroyed. As then this vain confidence deceived them, that the city which God had chosen as his habitation would stand always, the Prophet expressly adds that the city itself would perish.

And it is also added, that it was given to them and their fathers. He anticipates all objections, and shakes off from the Jews the vain hope by which they were inebriated, even that the city was given perpetually to them, and that God resided there to defend them; “This donation,” he says, “will not keep you nor the city itself from destruction.” He adds, From my presence; for it was customary for them to pretend God’s name, when they sought to harden their hearts against the threatenings of the prophets; but God here answers them and says, from my presence; as though he had said, “In vain do ye harbor the thought respecting the perpetuity of the city and the Temple; for this depends on my will and good pleasure. As ye then stand or fall as it seems right to me, I now declare that ye shall be ejected and wholly removed from my presence.” It follows, —

<242340>Jeremiah 23:40

40. And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.

40. Et ponam super vos opprobrium aeternum, et opprobria (est quidem aliud verbum, dedecora) aeterna, quod oblivioni non tradetur (potest referri ad utrunque membrum: nam in plurali numero ponit twmlk, fE117 et postea addit verbum singulare, oblivioni non tradetur; sed potest, quemadmodum dixi, hoc extendi ad totum complexum.

 

What is here contained is, that though the Jews justly gloried for a time in being the peculiar people of God, yet this would avail them nothing, as they had divested themselves of that honor in which they had excelled, by the abnegation of true religion. Here then the Prophet strips the Jews of that foolish boasting with which they were inflated when they said that they were the people of God, and threatens that God having taken away their glory would make them lie under perpetual shame.

We at the same time know, that such threatenings are to be restricted as to time, they extend only to the coming of Christ; for the Church of God could not have been doomed to eternal reproach. But as to hypocrites, as there was no repentance, so they never obtained pardon; but God delivered his own from eternal reproach when Christ the Redeemer appeared; yet these words are to be understood as rightly addressed to the ungodly despisers of God. Now follows, —


CHAPTER 24

<242401>Jeremiah 24:1-2

1. The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jcconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.

1. Videre me fecit (ostendit mihi visionem) Jehova, et ecce duo calathi ficuum positi coram Templo Jehovae, postquam transtulerat Nebuchadne-zer, rex Babylonis, Jechoniam, filium Joakim, regem Jehudah, et principes Jehudah, et artificem et inclusorem (vel, sculptorem)  fE118 e Jerusalem, et ab-duxerat eos Babylonem:

2. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.

2. Calathus unus ficuum bonarum valde, sicuti sunt ficus praecoces; et alter calathus ficuum malarum valde, quae non comederentur propter malitiam (hoc est, adeo malae erant.)

 

The meaning of this vision is, that there was no reason for the ungodly to flatter themselves if they continued in their wickedness, though God did bear with them for a time. The King Jeconiah had been then carried away into exile, together with the chief men and artisans. The condition of the king and of the rest appeared indeed much worse than that of the people who remained in the country, for they still retained a hope that the royal dignity would again be restored, and that the city would flourish again and enjoy abundance of every blessing, though it was then nearly emptied; for everything precious had become a prey to the conqueror; and we indeed know how great was the avarice and rapacity of Nebuchadnezzar. The city then was at that time almost empty, and desolate in comparison with its former splendor. They however who remained might indeed have hoped for a better state of things, but those who had gone into exile were become like dead bodies. Hence miserable Jeconiah, who was banished and deprived of his kingdom, was apparently undergoing a most grievous punishment, together with his companions, who had been led away with him; and the Jews who remained at Jerusalem no doubt flattered themselves, as though God had dealt more kindly with them. Had they really repented, they would indeed have given thanks to God for having spared them; but as they had abused his forbearance, it was necessary to set before them what this chapter contains, even that they foolishly reasoned when they concluded, that God had been more propitious to them than to the rest.

But this is shewn by a vision: the Prophet saw two baskets or flaskets; and he saw them full of figs, and that before the temple of God; but the figs in one were sweet and savory; and the figs in the other were bitter, so that they could not be eaten. By the sweet figs God intended to represent Jeconiah and the other exiles, who had left their country: and he compares them to the ripe figs; for ripe figs have a sweet taste, while the other figs are rejected on account of their bitterness. In like manner, Jeconiah and the rest had as it were been consumed; but there were figs still remaining; and he says that the lot of those was better whom God had in due time punished, than of the others who remained, as they were accumulating a heavier judgment by their obstinacy. For since the time that Nebuchadnezzar had spoiled the city and had taken from it everything valuable, those who remained had not ceased to add sins to sins, so that there was a larger portion of divine vengeance ready to fall on them.

We now see the design of this vision. And he says that the vision was presented to him by God; and to say this was very necessary, that his doctrine might have more weight with the people. God, indeed, often spoke without a vision; but we have elsewhere stated what was the design of a vision; it was a sort of seal to what was delivered; for in order that the Prophet might possess greater authority, they not only spoke, but as it were sealed their doctrine, as though God had graven on it, as it were by his finger, a certain mark. But as this subject has been elsewhere largely handled, I shall now pass it by.

Behold, he says, two baskets of figs set before the temple. fE119 The place ought to be noticed. It may have been that the Prophet was not allowed to move a step from his own house; and the vision may have been presented to him in the night, during thick darkness: but the temple being mentioned, shews that a part of the people had not been taken away without cause, and the other part left in the city; for it had proceeded from God himself. For in the temple God manifested himself; and therefore the prophets, when they wished to storm the hearts of the ungodly, often said,

“Go forth shall God from his temple.” (<232621>Isaiah 26:21; <330101>Micah 1:3.)

The temple then is to be taken here for the tribunal of God. Hence, he says, that these two baskets were set in the temple; as though he said, that the whole people stood at God’s tribunal, and that those who had been already cast into exile had not been carried away at the will of their enemies, but because God designed to punish them.

The time also is mentioned, After Yeconiah the son of Jehohoiakim had been carried away; for had not this been added, the vision would have been obscure, and no one at this day could understand why God had set two baskets in the presence of Jeremiah. A distinction then is made here between the exiles and those who dwelt in their own country; and at the same time they were reduced to great poverty, and the city was deprived of its splendor; there was hardly any magnificence in the Temple, the royal palace was spoiled, and the race of David only reigned by permission. But though the calamity of the city and people was grievous, yet, as it has been said, the Jews who remained in the city thought themselves in a manner happy in comparison with their brethren, who were become as it were dead; for God had ejected the king, and he was treated disdainfully as a captive, and the condition of the others was still worse. This difference then between the captives and those who remained in the land is what is here represented.

He now adds, that one basket had very good figs, and that the other had very bad figs. If it be asked whether Jeconiah was in himself approved by God, the answer is easy, — that he was suffering punishment for his sins. Then the Prophet speaks here comparatively, when he calls some good and others bad. We must also notice, that he speaks not here of persons but of punishment; as though he had said, “ye feel a dread when those exiles are mentioned, who have been deprived of the inheritance promised them by God: this seems hard to you; but this is moderate when ye consider what end awaits you.” He then does not call Jeconiah and other captives good in themselves; but he calls them good figs, because God had chastened them more gently than he intended to chastise Zedekiah and the rest. Thus he calls the Jews who remained bad figs, not only for this reason, because they were more wicked, though this was in part the reason, but he had regard to the punishment that was nigh at hand; for the severity of God was to be greater towards those whom he had spared, and against whom he had not immediately executed his vengeance. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. The rest we shall defer to the next Lecture.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou delayest with so much forbearance the punishments which we have deserved, and daily draw on ourselves, — O grant, that we may not indulge ourselves, but carefully consider how often, and in how many different ways we have provoked thy wrath against us, that we may thus learn humbly to present ourselves to thee for pardon, and with true repentance so implore thy mercy, that we may from the heart desire wholly to submit ourselves to thee, that whether thou chastisest us, or, according to thine infinite goodness, forgivest us, our condition may be ever blessed, not by flattering ourselves in our torpitude, but by finding thee to be our kind and bountiful Father, being reconciled to us in thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Second

<242403>Jeremiah 24:3-5

3. Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

3. Et dixit Jehova ad me, Quid tu vides Jeremiah? et dixi, Ficus, ficus bonas, bonas valde; et malas, malas valde, quae non comedantur propter malitiam.

4. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

4. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,

5. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

5. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Sicuti ficus bonae istae, sic agnoscam captivitatem Jehudah, quem emisi ex hoc loco in terram Chaldaeorum ad beneficentiam.

 

In the last Lecture we began to explain the meaning of the vision which the Prophet relates. We said that the miserable exiles whose condition might have appeared to be the worst, are yet compared to good figs, and that those who still remained in the country are compared to bad and bitter figs. We have explained why God shewed this vision to his servant Jeremiah, even because the captives might have otherwise been driven to despair, especially through the weariness of delay, for they saw that their brethren were still in possession of the inheritance granted them by God, while they were driven into a far country, and as it were disinherited, so that no one could regard them as God’s people. As then despair might have overwhelmed their minds, God designed to give them some comfort. On the other hand, those who remained in the land not only exulted over the miserable exiles, but also abused the forbearance of God, so that they obstinately resisted all threatenings, and thus hardened themselves more and more against God’s judgment, hence God declares what was remotest from what was commonly thought, that they had a better lot who lived captives in Babylon than those who remained quietly as it were in their own nest.

We have said that the badness of the figs is not to be explained of guilt, but of punishment: and this is what Jeremiah confirms, when he says, As these good figs, so will I acknowledge the captivity for good, or for beneficence, hbwf, thube. It is well known that captivity means the persons led captive, it being a collective word. Then he says,

“I will acknowledge the captives of Judah, whom I have driven from this people, so as to do them good again.”  fE120

As this doctrine was then incredible, God calls the attention of the Jews to the final issue; as though he had said, that they were mistaken who took only a present view of things, and did not extend their thoughts to the hope of mercy. For they thus reasoned, “It is better to remain in the country where God is worshipped, where the Temple is and the altar, than to live among heathen nations; it is better to have some liberty than to be under the yoke of tyranny; it is better to retain even the name of being a separate people than to be scattered here and there, so as not to be a community at all.” Hence, according to their state at that time, they thought their condition better: but God corrected this wrong judgment; for they ought to have looked to the end, and what awaited the exiles and captives as well as those whom the king of Babylon had for a time spared. Though, indeed, it was the Prophet’s object to alleviate the grief of those who had been led away into Chaldea, yet he had a special regard to the people over whom he was appointed an instructor and teacher. He was then at Jerusalem; and we know how perverse were those whom he had to contend with, for none could have been more obstinate than that people. As God had delayed his punishment, they supposed that they had wholly escaped, especially as they had an uncle as a successor to their captive king.

Hence, then, was their contempt of threatenings; hence was their greater liberty in sinning: they thought that God had taken vengeance on the exiles, and that they were saved as being the more excellent portion of the community. The Prophet, therefore, in order to break down this presumption, which he could not bend, set before them this vision, which had been given him from above. We now, then, see that the doctrine especially set forth is, that God would remember the captives for the purpose of doing them good, as though he had said that a wrong judgment was formed of the calamity of a few years, and that the end was to be looked to. It follows —

<242406>Jeremiah 24:6

6. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.

6. Et ponam (vel, adjiciam) oculum meum super eos in beneficentiam, et reducam eos ad terram hanc, et aedificabo eos et non diruam, et plantabo eos et non evellam.

 

He confirms what he said in the last verse, but in other words, for it was difficult to persuade them that they were happier who were apparently lost, than those who still enjoyed some measure of safety. He had said that he would acknowledge them; but he now adds, I will set my eye upon them. He uses a metaphor which often occurs in Scripture, for God is said to turn away his face when he hides his favor; and in the same sense he is said to forget, to depart, not to care, to despise, to cast away. Then, as God might have seemed to have no more any care for this people, he says, “I will set my eyes on them.” But he goes even farther, for he refers to the sentence announced in the last verse — he had said that he was the author of their exile, “I have cast them into the land of the Chaldeans” but he now confirms the same thing, though in other words, when he says, “Mine eyes will I set on them for good.” For God is said to visit men, not only when he manifests his favor towards them, but also when he chastises them and punishes them for their sins. He had then set his eyes on them to execute punishment; he says now that he would act differently, that he would kindly treat the miserable.

He afterwards says, I will restore them. For, as he had sent them away, it was in his power to restore them. As, then, he could heal the wound inflicted by his own hand, this promise ought to have been sufficient to dispel every doubt from the minds of the captives as to their return; and further, the Jews, who as yet remained in Jerusalem and in the land of Judah, ought to have known that they in vain boasted in their good lot, as though God treated them better than their captive brethren, for it was in his power to restore those whom he had banished.

And he adds, I will build and not pull them down, I will plant and not pluck them up. This mode of speaking would not be so significant either in Latin or in Greek; but such a repetition, as it is well known, often occurs in Hebrew. But whenever a negative is added to an affirmative, such form of expression is to be thus interpreted, “I shall be so far from plucking them up, that I will plant them; I shall be so far from pulling them down, that I will build them up;” or, “since I had pulled them down, I will now build them up; since I had plucked them up, I will now plant them:” or a perpetuity may be meant, as though God had said, “I will plant them, so as not to pluck them again; I will build them, so as not to pull them down again.” But the most frequent import of such expressions is what I first mentioned, “I will not pull them down, but on the contrary build them up; I will not pluck them up, but on the contrary plant them.”

The meaning of the whole is, that however sad might be the calamities of the people in Chaldea, they being as exiles reduced to a desolate condition, yet God could collect them again, like one who plants a tree or builds a house. The metaphor of building is common in Scripture, and also that of planting. God is said to plant men, when he introduces a certain order among them, or when he allots to them a certain place to dwell in, or when he grants them peace and quietness. God is said in <194402>Psalm 44:2, to have planted his people; but I will not refer to the many passages which are everywhere to be met with. God often says that he had planted his vineyard. (<230502>Isaiah 5:2, etc.) And then well known is this passage,

“The branch of the Lord, and the planting for his glory.”
(<236021>Isaiah 60:21)

This is said of the preservation of the Church.

The meaning then is, that though God severely chastised the exiles who had been led into Chaldea, yet their condition was not to be estimated by one day, or a month, or a few years, but that a happy end was to be expected. And as God intended at length to shew himself reconcilable and propitious, it follows that the calamity which had happened to them was lighter than that which awaited the rest, who resolutely despised God and his prophets, and thus increased the vengeance which had been already denounced on them. It follows, —

<242407>Jeremiah 24:7

7. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.

7. Et dabo illis cor ad cognoscendum me, quod ego sum Jehova; et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero ipsis in Deum, quia revertentur ad me in toto corde suo.

 

Here is added the main benefit, that God would not only restore the captives, that they might dwell in the land of promise, but would also change them inwardly; for except God gives us a conviction as to our own sins, and then leads us by his Spirit to repentance, whatever benefit he may bestow on us, they will only conduce to our greater ruin. The Prophet has hitherto spoken of the alleviation of punishment, as though he had said, “God will stretch forth his hand to restore his people to their own country.” Then the remission of punishment is what has been hitherto promised; but now the Prophet speaks of a much more excellent favor, that God would not only mitigate punishment, but that he would also inwardly change and reform their hearts, so that they would not only return to their own country, but would also become a true Church, a name of which they had vainly boasted. For though they had been chosen to be a peculiar people, yet, as they had departed from true religion, they were only a Church in name. But now God promises that he would bring them, not only to enjoy temporal and fading blessings, but also eternal salvation, for they would truly fear and serve him.

And this is what we ought carefully to observe, for the more bountiful God is towards men, the more is his vengeance kindled by ingratitude. What, then, would it avail us to abound in all good things, except we had evidences of God’s paternal favor towards us? But when we regard this end, that God testifies to us that he is our Father by his bounty towards us, we then make a right use of all his blessings; and God’s benefits cannot conduce to our salvation except we regard them in this light. Hence Jeremiah, after having spoken of the people’s restoration, justly exalts this favor above everything else, that the people would repent, so that they would not only fully partake of all the blessings they could expect, but would also worship God in sincerity and truth.

Now, God says that he would give them a heart to know him. The word heart is to be taken here for the mind or understanding, as it means often in Hebrew. It, indeed, means frequently the seat of the affections, and also the soul of man, as including reason or understanding and will. But though the heart is taken often for the seat of the affections, it is yet applied to designate the other part of the soul, according to these words,

“Hitherto God has not given thee a heart to understand.” (<052904>Deuteronomy 29:4)

The Latins sometimes take it in this sense, according to what Cicero shews when he quotes these words of Ennius, “Catus AElius Sextus was a man remarkable in understanding.” (Egregie cordatus; Cic. 1 Tuscul.) Then, in this passage, the word heart is put for the light of the understanding. Yet another thing must be stated, that a true knowledge of God is not, as they say, imaginary, but is ever connected with a right feeling.

From the words of the Prophet we learn that repentance is the peculiar gift of God. Had Jeremiah said only that they who had been previously driven by madness into ruin, would return to a sane mind, he might have appeared as one setting up free-will and putting conversion in the power of man himself, according to what the Papists hold, who dream that we can turn to either side, to good as well as to evil; and thus they imagine that we can, after having forsaken God, of ourselves turn to him. But the Prophet clearly shews here, that it is God’s peculiar gift; for what God claims for himself, he surely does not take away from men, as though he intended to deprive them of any right which may belong to them, according to what the Pelagians hold, who seem to think that God appears almost envious when he declares that man’s conversion is in his power; but this is nothing less than a diabolical madness. It is, then, enough for us to know, that what God claims for himself is not taken away from men, for it is not in their power.

Since, then, he affirms that he would give them a heart to understand, we hence learn that men are by nature blind, and also that when they are blinded by the devil, they cannot return to the right way, and that they cannot be otherwise capable of light than by having God to illuminate them by his Spirit. We then see that man, from the time he fell, cannot rise again until God stretches forth his hand not only to help him, (as the Papists say, for they dare not claim to themselves the whole of repentance, but they halve it between themselves and God,) but even to do the whole work from the beginning to the end; for God is not called the helper in repentance, but the author of it. God, then, does not say, “I will help them, so that when they raise up their eyes to me, they shall be immediately assisted;” no, he does not say this; but what he says is, “I will give them a heart to understand.” And as understanding or knowledge is the main thing in repentance, it follows that man remains wholly under the power of the devil, and is, as it were, his slave, until God draws him forth from his miserable bondage. In short, we must maintain, that as soon as the devil draws us from the right way of salvation, nothing can come to our minds but what sinks us more and more in ruin, until God interposes, and thus restore us when thinking of no such thing.

This passage also shews, that we cannot really turn to God until we acknowledge him to be the Judge; for until the sinner sets himself before God’s tribunal, he will never be touched with the feeling of true repentance. Let us then know that the door of repentance is then opened to us, when God constrains us to look to him. At the same time there is more included in the term Jehovah than the majesty of God, for he assumes this principle, which ought to have been sufficiently known to the whole people, that he was the only true God who had chosen for himself the seed of Abraham, who had published the Law by Moses, who had made a covenant with the posterity of Abraham. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet meant that when the Jews became illuminated, they would be convinced of what they had forgotten, that is, that they had departed from the only true God. This mode of speaking then means the same as though he had said, “I will open their eyes, that they may at length acknowledge that they are apostates, and be thus humbled when made sensible how grievous was their impiety in forsaking me the fountain of living waters.”

He afterwards adds, that they should be to him a people, and that he in his turn would be to them a God; for they would return to him with the whole heart. By these words the Prophet shews more clearly what he had before referred to, that God’s blessings would be then altogether salutary when they regarded their giver. As long then as we regard only the blessings of God, our insensibility produces this effect, that the more bountiful he is towards us, the more culpable we become. But when we regard God’s bounty and paternal kindness towards us, we then really enjoy his blessings. This is the meaning of the Prophet’s words when he says,

“I shall be to you a God, and ye shall be to me a people.”

What this mode of speaking means has been stated elsewhere.

Though God rules the whole world, he yet declares that he is the God of the Church; and the faithful whom he has adopted, he favors with this high distinction, that they are his people; and he does this that they may be persuaded that there is safety in him, according to what is said by Habakkuk,

“Thou art our God, we shall not die.” (<350112>Habakkuk 1:12.)

And of this sentence Christ himself is the best interpreter, when he says, that he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, (<422038>Luke 20:38; ) he proves by the testimony of Moses, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, were yet alive. How so; because God would not have declared that he was their God, were they not living to him. Since then he regards them as his people, he at the same time shews that there is life for them laid up in him. In short, we see that there is here promised by God not a restoration for a short time, but he adds the hope of eternal life and salvation; for the Jews were not only to return to their own country, when the time came to leave Chaldea, and a liberty granted them to build their own city; but they were also to become the true Church of God.

And the reason is also added, Because they will return to me, he says, with their whole heart. He repeats what we have already observed, that they would be wise (cordatos) and intelligent, whereas they had been for a long time stupid and foolish, and the devil had so blinded them, that they were not capable of receiving sound doctrine. But these two things, the reconciliation of God with men and repentance, are necessarily connected together, yet repentance ought not to be deemed as the cause of pardon or of reconciliation, as many falsely think who imagine that men deserve pardon because they repent. It is indeed true that God is never propitious to us, except when we turn to him; but the connection, as it has been already stated, is not such that repentance is the cause of pardon, nay, this very passage clearly shews that repentance itself depends on the grace and mercy of God. Since this is true, it follows that men are anticipated by God’s gratuitous kindness.

We hence further learn, that God is not otherwise propitious to us than according to his good pleasure, so that the cause of all is only in himself. Whence is it that a sinner returns to the right way and seeks God from whom he has departed? Is it because he is moved to do so of himself? Nay, but because God illuminates his mind and touches his heart, or rather renews it. How is it that God illuminates him who has become blind? Surely for this we can find no other cause than the gratuitous mercy of God. When God then is propitious to men, so as to restore them to himself, does he not anticipate them by his grace? How then can repentance be called the cause of reconciliation, when it is its effect? It cannot be at the same time its effect and cause.

We ought therefore carefully to notice the context here, for though the Prophet says that the Jews, when they returned, would be God’s people, because they would turn to him with their whole heart, he yet had before explained whence this turning or conversion would proceed, even because God would shew them mercy. They who pervert such passages according to their own fancies, are not so acquainted with Scripture as to know that there is a twofold reconciliation of men with God: He is first reconciled to men in a hidden manner, for when they despise him, he anticipates them by his grace, and illuminates their minds and renews their hearts. This first reconciliation is what they do not understand. But there is another reconciliation, known by experience, even when we feel that the wrath of God towards us is pacified, and are indeed made sensible of this by the effects. To this the reference is made in these words,

“Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you,” (<380103>Zechariah 1:3)

that is, “I appear severe and rigid to you; but whence is this? even because ye cease not to provoke my wrath; return to me, and you shall find me ready to spare you.” God therefore did not then first begin to pardon sinners, when he does them good, but as he had been previously pacified, hence he turns them to himself, and afterwards shews that he is really reconciled to them.

By the whole heart, is intimated sincerity or integrity, as by a double heart, or a heart and a heart, is signified dissimulation. It is certain that no one turns to God in such a manner that he puts off all the affections of the flesh, that he is renewed at once in God’s image, so that he is freed from every stain. Such a conversion is never found in man. But when the Scripture speaks of the whole heart, it is in contrast with dissimulation;

“with my whole heart have I sought thee,” says David; “I have hid thy words and will keep them: I have prayed for thy favor; I will ask,” etc., (<19B910>Psalm 119:10-16;)

“They will seek me,” as Moses says, “with their whole heart.” (<050429>Deuteronomy 4:29; <051012>Deuteronomy 10:12)

David did not divest himself of everything sinful, for he confesses in many places that he was laboring under many sins; but the clear meaning is, that what God requires is integrity. In short, the whole heart is integrity, that is when we deal not hypocritically with God, but desire from the heart to give up ourselves to him.

As we have before refuted the error of those who think that repentance is the cause why God becomes reconciled to us, so now we must know that God will not be propitious to us except we seek him. For there is a mutual bond of connection, so that God anticipates us by his grace, and also calls us to himself; in short, he draws us, and we feel in ourselves the working of the Holy Spirit. We do not indeed turn, unless we are turned; we do not turn through our own will or efforts, but it is the Holy Spirit’s work. Yet he who under pretext of grace indulges himself and cares not for God, and seeks not repentance, cannot flatter himself that he is one of God’s people; for as we have said, repentance is necessary. It follows, — but I cannot to-day finish this part, for he speaks of the badness of the figs, and of the remnant which still remained.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are placed in this world, that while daily receiving so many blessings, we may so pass our time as to regard our end and hasten towards the goal, — O grant, that the benefits and blessings by which thou invitest us to thyself, may not be impediments to us, and keep us attached to this world, but on the contrary stimulate us to fear thy name as well as to appreciate thy mercy, so that we may thus know thee to be our God, and strive on our part to present ourselves to thee as thy people, and so consecrate ourselves and all our services to thee, that thy name may be glorified in us, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Footnotes

ftD1 The word rendered “groves,” means also idols. See <122306>2 Kings 23:6, where “grove” in our version must mean an idol. What follows here, “near the green tree,” shews clearly that “idols,” or images, are the things meant; and such is the version given by Venema and Horsley. — Ed.

ftD2 The whole of this passage, from the first to the end of the fourth verse, is wanting in the Septuagint and Arabic, but is found in the other versions and the Targum. The many emendations of Houbigant and Horsley are quite unwarrantable; the first makes his mostly from the Syriac; and the second from various readings, and those of no value, except in one or two instances, as “their” instead of “your altars” in the first verse, countenanced by very many MSS.; the other nine emendations have, for the most part, nothing of any weight in their favor. The transpositions of Houbigant are quite irreconcilable with any thing like errors incidentally committed by scribes. The same objection does not lie against the emendations of Horsley; but that ten mistakes should occur in the space of four verses is not credible; nor are most of the emendations at all necessary.

The received text is no doubt materially correct, there being no different readings of any weight or suitable, except the one noticed above. The Vulgate, the Syriac, and Targum, differ from one another as much as they do from the Hebrew. They indeed all agree materially as to the beginning of the third verse, in regarding “the mountain” and “the field” as places where the people worshipped idols; and the Vulgate and the Syriac connect the words with the former verse; and this, I believe, is what ought to be done. Then the passage will read as follows: —

1. The sin of Judah is written by a pen of iron, By the point of adamant it is graven, On the tablet of their heart, And on the horns of their altars:

2. As a memorial to their children Are their altars and their idols, Near the green tree, on the high hills, On the mountains, in the field. —

3. Thy substance, all thy treasures For a plunder will I give, Thy high places also for sin in all thy borders;

4. And thou shalt be removed, even for thyself, From thine inheritance which I gave thee; And I will make thee to serve thine enemies In a land which thou knowest not; For a fire have ye kindled in mine anger, Perpetually shall it burn.

According to the frequent manner of the prophets, the last line in the first verse is connected with the first line, and the third with the second. The sin of Judah was “written” on “the horns of the altars;” it was “graven” on “the tablet of their heart.” The services at the altars were visible; the impressions within were seen only by God. They left their altars and their idols to their children. The genitive case in Hebrew may often be rendered by a dative, as here, “A memorial to their children.” All emendations as to the beginning of the third verse are unsatisfactory: it will bear the rendering above; “for thyself,” that is, for thine own fault. — Ed.

ftD3 Like the Hebrew, there is no need of the verb is, or be, after “cursed,” inWelsh: the sentence is more emphatieal without it. In that language, too, the future tense of “trust” is understood as the present, —

Melldigedig y gwr yr hwn a hydero mewn dyn.

It is a denunciation, not an imprecation; therefore “be,”, introduced into the English version, is not proper. — Ed.

ftD4 It is rendered “a wild tamarisk — ajgriomuri>kh,” by the Septuagint; “a tamarisk,” by the Vulgate and the Targum; and “a log,” or “a trunk,” by the Syriac. Gataker considers that no particular tree is meant, but that it means a “solitary” or a “barren” tree, agreeably, in his view, with what is contrasted with it in the 8th verse. Blayney renders it, “a blasted tree.” of which Horsley approves. The word is a reduplicate of a verb, which means to be bare; and the wild tamarisk may suitably be thus designated, as it bears a very few leaves. The idea of being “blasted” is foreign to the word.

But Venema contends that the reference is not to any tree, but to a person dwelling in solitude; and he renders the passage thus, —

And he shall be like the naked in solitude, Nor shall he see when good cometh; And is like him who inhabits parched spots in the desert, A land of salt and not inhabited.

The words “see” and “inhabit,” appear doubtless more suitable when the passage is thus rendered; yet what is said of the “tree” in verse 8 is equally metaphorical. What seems most agreeable to the whole context is such a rendering as follows: —

And he shall be like a bare tree in the desert, Which perceives not when good cometh; For it inhabits parched spots in the wilderness, The land of salt and not inhabited.

It is sometimes the case that it is proper in our language to render the copulative w by “which;” not that it properly means that, but the meaning cannot be otherwise seen. The connection here is with the “bare” tree; it is bare, and perceives or knows not widen good comes, for it inhabits parched places. This seems to be the meaning. — Ed.

ftD5 The verbs here are all futures, but ought to be rendered in our language, as they are in Syriac, in the present tense, —

And he shall be like a tree which is planted by waters, And nigh the stream sends forth its roots, Which perceives not when heat comes; And its leaf is flourishing, And in the year of drought it suffers not, And never ceases from bringing forth fruit.

The verb gad, when applied to the mind, means agitation, commotion, trouble, disturbance: but here, as applied to a tree, it must mean a withering effect, a disturbance as to the process of growing. Joined with a negative, it may therefore be rendered, “it suffers not,” or, it withers not, according to the Targum, which applies it to the leaf, but not correctly. “It will not fear” is the rendering of the Septuagint; of the Vulgate, “it will not be careful,” as in our version; and of Blayney, “it is without concern.” None of these give the secondary meaning of the verb, which it evidently has here. — Ed.

6 The early versions and the Targum are neither consistent nor satisfactory as to the beginning of this verse: “Deep is the heart above all things, and it is man,” Septuagint; “Depraved is the heart of all, and inscrutable,” Fulgate; “Hard in heart is man above all things,” Syriac; “The heart, deeper than anything, is human,” Arabic; “Deceitful is the heart above all things, and it is strong.” Targum. Correct, no doubt, is the first clause in the Targum, but not the last. Critics agree as to the first word, “deceitful,” but not as to the word rendered in our version “desperately wicked.” It occurs in all nine times, and four times in other parts of Jeremiah, (<241518>Jeremiah 15:18; <241716>Jeremiah 17:16; <243012>Jeremiah 30:12, 15) and it is rendered “incurable,” except in <241716>Jeremiah 17:16. It means to be so bad as to be past endurance or past remedy. Blayney renders it here, “past all hope;” and Horsely, “incurable,” which is perhaps the best word, —

Deceitful the heart above every thing, And incurable it is,
who can know it?

The meaning is, that it is incurably deceitful; hence the question,” Who can know it?” — Ed.

ftD7 The beginning of this verse is an answer to the previous question, “Who can know it?” The best rendering would be this, —

I Jehovah, — who search the heart and try the reins, And that in order to give to every man According to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. — Ed.

ftD8 It is evident from <092620>1 Samuel 26:20, that the partridge is meant; and it appears from a quotation which Parkhurst makes from Buffon, under the word arq, that the red partridge is referred to here; for the male of the red kind in eastern countries sits on eggs as well as the female. This explains what appears intricate in this passage; for the word is masculine, and the verbs are in the same gender. What is here stated respecting the partridge is what often happens, the nest being often disturbed; and then the eggs become useless. It is a case of this kind that is here referred to, —

A partridge sitting and not hatching, Is he who gets wealth, and not by right; In the midst of his day shall he leave it, And at his end shall be a fool.

The reason why the partridge sits and hatches not, is intimated in the second clause, when it is said that the getter of wealth leaves it in the midst of his day: various things often compel the partridge to leave its eggs, such as dogs, cattle, etc.: and then nothing is brought forth. So the rich man is constrained to quit his wealth before he derives any benefit from it. This seems to be the comparison. — Ed.

ftD8A There are many MSS. and the marginal reading, in favor of “days” for “day:” but the latter is more poetical: man’s day is his life. “A fool,” — so the versions, and more suitable here than any other word: he will then appear to all to have acted foolishly and not wisely; and he will find himself to have so acted, though he thought himself before to be very wise.

Some consider the word to be a proper name, Nabal, whose history we have in <092510>1 Samuel 25:10-39; and they render the line thus, —

And at his end shall be a Nabal. — Ed.

ftD9 If we connect “from the beginning” with the following words, and not with “high,” which seems to give a better meaning, we shall get rid of the Rabbinical figment; and it seems also right to join with this verse the first words in the next, as it has been done by the Septuagint, —

A throne of glory on high, Is from the beginning the place of our sanctuary, — The hope of Israel.

Or we may render the first line thus, —

The glorious throne of the most high.

For so we find wrm rendered in <195602>Psalm 56:2. — Ed.

ftD10 The reading of the Keri and of many MSS. is no doubt to be adopted, and the final as is sometimes the case, is dropped. It would then be, according to the Septuagint, yrwsw Our version is the Vulgate. I would connect “earth” or land with this word, —

And apostates in the land shall they be recorded.

This would be their designation; they were to be handed down to posterity as apostates in the very land which God gave them. The reason why the is dropped is the connection of the word with “land,” though preceded by b. — Ed.

ftD11 Both the object and the ground of praise: Thou art he whom I praise or glorify; or, Thou art he who givest me an occasion to praise. “Thou art my boasting (kau>chma,”) is the Septuagint. — Ed.

ftD12 The Targum thus paraphrases the verse, —

Behold they say to me “Where is what thou hast prophesied in the name of the Lord? let it be now confirmed.”

Their language was similar to that of those mentioned in <610304>2 Peter 3:4. — Ed.

ftD13 It is singular how variously the early versions and the Targum have rendered the first half of this verse. Various, too, have been the opinions of critics. The first verb means to hasten, in a transitive, and in an intransitive sense, to urge, and to be urgent, forward, or hasty. It is used here evidently intransitively. Then the literal rendering seems to be this, —

But I have not been more forward than a pastor
after thee, or following thee.

The meaning seems to be, that he did not exceed his commission; and this is confirmed by the latter part of the verse. The preposition m has often the meaning of “more than,” or above.

The word “woeful” is the same with what is rendered “desperately wicked” in Jeremaih 17:9. Its meaning is, to be bad beyond recovery; and when applied to day, it may be properly rendered “irretrievable.” I thus render the two lines, —

But I — I have not been forwarder than a pastor following thee, And the irretrievable day have I ncot desired.

This day was the day of exile which he had foretold. Then the words, “thou knowest,” stand connected with what follows. — Ed.

ftD14 The Targum connects “thou knowest” with what follows; and such is the version of Blayney, and more suitable it is to the passage, —

Thou knowest what has gone forth from my lips, Before thy face has it been. — Ed.

ftD15 I would render <241718>Jeremiah 17:18 thus, —

18. Ashamed let my persecutors be, That I may not be ashamed; Dismayed let them be, That I may not be dismayed; Bring on them the day of evil, And doubly with breaking break them.

There was a contest between the Prophet and his enemies; the shame and dismay of his enemies would deliver him from shame and dismay. The copulative w may often be rendered that, ut. The two last lines refer to the two preceding couplets in an inverted order. “The day of evil” was to dismay his enemies, and “the breaking” was to make them ashamed. The breaking was that of the spirit or of the heart; it means sorrow, trouble, such as brings men to a state of helplessness; it does not mean destruction. The line may be thus rendered, —

And doubly with depression depress them.

The word doubly, means what is extreme. — Ed.

ftD16 There is a peculiarity in the phraseology of the original as to the relative “which,” after “the gate of the city;” literally it is, “which they enter through it the kings of Judah, and which they go out through it.” In Welsh there is exactly the same form of expression, — Yr hwn yr a trwyddo frenhinoedd Iwda, etc. Had this been the Welsh version, it would have been literally the Hebrew, and more consonant than the present version with the idiom of the language. — Ed.

ftD17 “Guard ye your souls” is the version of the Septuagint, Vulgate, and the Targum; but that of the Syriac is, “Take heed to yourselves;” which is no doubt the meaning, as the word soul, pn, is often used for one’s self. — Ed.

ftD18 Our version, “they obeyed not,” is the Targum. The Septuagint and the Vulgate have the same rendering with that of Calvin. The verb is [m which is to hear, to hearken, to listen. The charge of not hearing God’s word, was often brought by the prophets against the Jews. They would not hear or attend to what was said to them, not that they did not obey it. This is the case still with all who are perverted by superstition and tradition; they will not hear the word of God, and its authority is wholly disregarded. Anything about tradition and the Church will be attended to; but God’s word is neglected; they will not hear it. — Ed.

ftD19 The verse may be thus rendered, —

And they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear; But hardened their neck, So as not to hear, and not to receive correction.

They were reproved and warned; but they refused to be corrected. — Ed.

ftD20 It is more consistent with the rest of the passage to regard this word as meaning “sacrifice of praise,” or thanksgiving, or confession. There were sacrifices of this kind especially prescribed; see <030712>Leviticus 7:12-15, and the word is often taken in this sense, without the word “sacrifice” being connected with it. Offerings according to the Law are the things which are here mentioned: and the same verb “bring,” precedes hdwt as in the previous instances, when “burnt-offering, sacrifice,” etc., are named.

The Septuagint, as in many other instances, give only a verbal translation, “praise;” “oblation,” is the Vulgate;  “thanksgiving,” the Syriac; and “sacrifice of confession,” the Targum.

All the words are singular in Hebrew — burnt-offering — sacrifice — oblation, (or meat-offering) — incense — thanksgiving. It would be well to retain the singular in a version. — Ed.

ftD21 Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate improperly render the verb “thou shalt hear;” but the Targum retains the causative sense, “I will cause thee to hear.” — Ed.

ftD22 The proper rendering of the former part of this verse, according to Gataker and Venema, is as follows, —

“And marred was the vessel which he made,
at the clay was in the hand of the potter.”

Though there be readings, and many, which have b instead of k before “clay,” yet the received text is the most suitable. The word “clay” is omitted in the Septuagint. The meaning is, that the vessel was marred, while it was yet as a soft clay in the hand of the potter, after he had formed it on the stones. As to “potter,” the noun here is used instead of the pronoun, “in his hand,” which is often the case in Hebrew. The pronoun “his” is what is given by the Septuagint and the Vulgate. — Ed.

ftD23 “On the stones,” is the Septuagint; “on the wheel,” the Vulgate and the Targum; “on the anvil,” the Syriac.

“There can be no doubt,” says Blayney, “that the machine is intended on which the potters formed their earthen vessels; and the appellation oiJ li>qoi, “the stones,” will appear very proper if we consider this machine as consisting of a pair of circular stones, placed upon one another like millstones, of which the lower was immovable, but the upper one turned upon the foot of a spindle or axis, and had motion communicated to it by the feet of the potter sitting at his work, as may be learned from Ecclesiastes 38:29. Upon the top of this upper stone, which was flat, the clay was placed, which the potter, having given the stone the due velocity, formed into shape with his hands.”

ftD24 “At length,” or finally — pe>rav, is the Septuagint; “suddeny,” theVulgate; but the Targum renders the word here, “At one time,” and in ver. 9, “At another time;” and this seems to be the meaning of [gr, when repeated, as it is here. Let it be so rendered, and let the future verb which comes after it be viewed as present, which is often the case in Hebrew, and the whole passage may be literally rendered, without giving an unusual meaning to the copulative, w, —

7. At one time I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, In order to pluck up and to pull down and to destroy

8. And that nation returns from its evil, Against which I had spoken, And I repent of the evil Which I had thought of doing to it:

9. And at another time I speak of a nation and of a kingdom, In order to build and to plant; And it doeth evil in mine eyes, So as not to hear my voice; And I repent of the good Which I had spoken of doing to it, or of making good to it.

The whole is a striking narrative of God’s dealings with nations and kingdoms. — Ed.

ftD25 More is meant by this word than expressed, which is often the case in all languages. “I contrive with respect to you a contrivance.” is perhaps the most literal rendering. “Device” is taken commonly in a bad sense. — Ed.

ftD26 The variety of the versions is remarkable as to the word awn; “We shall be men, or act manly,” is the Septuagint; “We have despaired,” the Vulgate; “We shall perish,” the Syriac. It is a participle, and may be rendered “Hopeless.” Blayney’s version is, “It is a thing not to be hoped.” — Ed.

ftD27 More literally, —

For after our own contrivances shall we go; And we shall do, each, the resolutions of his evil heart. — Ed.

ftD28 It is rendered in the Septuagint and Vulgate as a noun in the plural number, and more suitably in this place, —

13. Therefore thus saith Jehovah, Enquire I pray among the nations, Who hath heard such things as these — The horrible things which she hath fully done, The virgin of Israel.

The particle dam, much, very much, etc., must from its position be construed with the verb, and not with “horrible.” It may be rendered, “which she hath done excessively.” — Ed.

ftD29 The general drift of this verse is no doubt given here, though the version seems not to be correct. The early versions and the Targum are all different, and hardly present any meaning at all. The versions of Blayney and Horsley are not much better. Venema appears to have given the most satisfactory version, which is as follows, —

Will any one forsake for a rock A field irrigated by the snow of Libanus? Shall for strange waters Be abandoned cold streams?

To make the two clauses alike, the preposition m is put before “waters,” which is found before “rock.” “Strange waters” were those conducted to a place by artificial means. But to give m the meaning which it often has, rather than, the verse may be thus rendered, —

Shall it be forsaken, rather than the rock, The field watered by the snow of Libanus? Shall they be abandoned rather than strange waters, The cooling streams (or rills)?

The change proposed in the last verb is unnecessary, as both verbs are nearly of the same meaning. The second line literally rendered is, “The field of the snow of Libanus;” so called as being irrigated by the melted snow from that mountain. To prefer a rocky dry ground for such a field, symbolized the conduct of the Jews, as well as to prefer waters brought by pipes from a distance to refreshing streams. — Ed.

ftD30 So the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Targum, but the Syriac and Arabic are like our version, “to vanity,” the idol being often so called: and this is the most suitable rendering here, as it shews the object of their worship when they forsook Jehovah. The word may be rendered “to a lie,” or, what is meant, “to a false god.” See <450125>Romans 1:25. — Ed.

ftD31 I propose the following rendering of the verse, —

For forsaken me have my people; To vanity they burn incense, And make them stumble in their ways, The paths of ages; So that they walk in the tracks Of a way not prepared; literally, not cast up or raised.

That “they” were the false priests is evident, because to burn incense was the office of the priests. To stumble in God’s ways is to transgress his law; and these “ways” were “the paths of ages,” or, of antiquity, or, “ancient paths,” as they had for ages been made known to the people.-Ed.

ftD32 More literally, “And shall nod with his head.” — Ed.

ftD33 Many copies read b, though all the versions retain the k; “As a burning wind will I scatter them,” is the version of the Septuagint and the Vulgate; “As a hot wind,” etc, is the Syriac. — Ed.

ftD34 It would be better to render this, “The law cannot perish,” etc.; for the future with a negative may often be thus rendered: yk, translated, “For,” often means certainly, truly, surely, doubtless, and might be so translated here, —

Surely, not perish can the law from the priests,
Or counsel from the wise, Or the word from the Prophet.

These things they thought were impossibilities. How like are errors and the delusions of men in every age! “The word” was what the prophets taught and preached: hence “the word” in the New Testament often means the preaching of the gospel — Ed.

ftD35 This phrase, “Let us smite him with the tongue,” is thus literally rendered by the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Arabic; but by the Syriac, “Let us smite his tongue,” and paraphrased by the Targum, “Let us testify against him false testimonies.” “With our tongue,” is Piscator’s; that is, by accusations to the king; “For his tongue,” is Junius’s; that is, for his denunciations; “On the tongue,” is Blaney’s; that is, on the offending part, an allusion to a mode of punishment that was practiced; or, as Gataker suggests, in order to stop his mouth.

The most probable meaning is, that they meant to accuse him before the authorities; therefore “with the tongue,” as countenanced by the best versions, is the best rendering.

“Let us accuse him, let us speak so ill of him, that no man may attend to him, but that all may flee from him,” Cocceius. — Ed.

ftD36 The voice of my justification,” is the Septuagint, “the voice of my adversaries,” the Vulgate; “the voice of my oppression,” “the Syriac : “the voice of my strife,” the Arabic. But the best is our version and that of Calvin. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac are wholly wrong: for the verb byr never means any one of the ideas which they convey. — Ed.

ftD37 It is better to render these lines like the Septuagint and Vulgate, —

Is not evil rendered for good?
For they have dug a pit for my soul.

Or thus, —

Should evil be rendered for good? —
For they have dug a pit for me.

So should “soul” be rendered here and in many other places. There is here an allusion to the practice of digging pits to take wild beasts. — Ed.

ftD38 The rendering of this line is various: our version, “pour out,” etc., cannot be sustained; nor “drain them,” etc., by Blayney. The idea generally given by the versions and the Targum to the verb, is that of giving up, delivering, committing. The Syriac seems to give the original correctly, “deliver them into the hands of the sword;” only the verb hdg, signifies to draw or drive rather than to deliver. Perhaps the literal rendering would be, “drive them on the hands of the sword,” as though the sword was a person with hands stretched cut to receive what might come in its way: but “hands” in this instance mean power; so that the best version would be,

And deliver them into the power of the sword.

ftD39 Literally, “the slain of death,” as in the next line, “the smitten of the sword.” The two lines are literally thus, —

And let their men be the slain of death;
Their youths the smitten of the sword in battle.

“Death” here, notwithstanding what Horsley has said, evidently means pestilence. See <241502>Jeremiah 15:2. The “men” were those past the time of ervice, and “youths” or young men were those fit for war. — Ed.

ftD40 The last line in the Syriac is, —

In the time of thine indignation act against them.

“Take vengeance on them,” is the paraphrase of the Targum. Horsley would have it,” deal with them,” leaving out “thus” in our version. It is no doubt an expression which includes more than what is stated. It may be rendered “do for them,” that is, wholly destroy them; — Ed.

ftD41 The literal rendering of this verse I conceive to be the following, —

“Thus saith Jehovah, go and get;. bottle from the maker of earthenware, and some of the elders of the people and of the elders of the priests.”

The m, of, or from, before elders, implies a part; and it is the idiom of the language not to put in “some,” — “get (or take) from the elders,” etc. He was first to get the bottle, and then some of the elders. The Vulgate very strangely represents the Prophet as taking the bottle from the elders, omitting the w, and as taking it from both elders! — Ed.

ftD42 It appears that the valley of Hinnom was not to the east, but to the south of Jerusalem. See <061508>Joshua 15:8. The Keri and several copies read tysrjh and it is given untranslated by the Septuagint the Syriac, and the Arabic. It is rendered “earthen” by the Vulgate, as though the s, as Calvin mentions, is substituted for . In this case it might be rendered “the potsherd” — “at the entrance of the gate, The potsherd.” It was the gate, before which did lie all the broken vessels, and the dirt and filth from the Temple. For this reason it may be that the Targum renders it here, “the gate of the dunghill.”

Parkhurst, however, takes the word as it is in the text, and gives this version, “the gate of the burnings,” so called because of the practice of burning children in the valley opposite the gate. See <240731>Jeremiah 7:31. All these names would properly designate the south gate. — Ed.

ftD43 Perhaps the idea would be better expressed, if we were to say, “They had alienized the place,” or heathenized it, made it a heathen place. To alienate is to transfer a right or property from one to another. This was indeed true, for they separated as it were the place from God and transferred it to heathen deities. But the idea here seems to be, that they made the place heathenish: “and have heathenized this place.” “Alienated” is the Septuagint; “made it alien,” the Vulgate; “polluted,” the Syriac; and “defiled,” the Targum. — Ed.

ftD44 The plain meaning is, I will frustrate all your plots and projects, whereby you think to escape and to secure yourselves, and make them as vain and empty as this earthen bottle is. — Gataker.

ftD45 The words are in the singular number — “The bird of heaven and the beast of the field.” — Ed.

ftD46Blayney gives the same meaning, —

“And I will make this city an object of astonishment and of hissing.”

The Vulgate and the Syriac are the same; but the Septuagint and the Targum have “desolation” instead of “astonishment.” The word hm signifies both, as in Hebrew the same word often expresses the cause and the effect: desolation is the cause, astonishment is the effect. The primary meaning is what is given mostly by the Septuagint and very seldom the secondary. The literal rendering of the sentence is, —

“And I will set this city for an astonishment
and for a hissing.” — Ed.

ftD47 Plagam; the original word is considered to be in the plural number, and means strokes, stripes, scourges, but not plagues in the usual sense of the word — pestilences: it may be rendered smitings, or more properly, inflictions. It occurs three times in <052859>Deuteronomy 28:59, and is rendered plagues, but it ought to be smitings or inflictions; and so here, “on account of all her infiictions.” — Ed.

ftD48 The expression, according to the Hebrew, is, “I will cause them to eat.” What a punishment! Those who sacrificed their children to their idols were judicially brought to such straits as to be driven to eat their own children! God often punishes men in a way that corresponds with their sin. Through superstitious madness the Jews willingly offered their children in sacrifice to demons; and through the extreme cravings of hunger they were constrained to eat their own children! — Ed.

ftD49 The word is rwxm, which means a siege, as well as tribulation or distress; and the former is the most suitable word here; and so it is rendered by the Targum and the early versions, except the Syriac. — Ed.

ftD50 This is evidently the meaning, and not that given in our version. See note in vol. 1. — Ed.

ftD51 The ellipsis in the last clause is what often occurs in Hebrew; it may be supplied in our language by that, —

“Thus will I do to this place, saith Jehovah, and to its inhabitants, and that to make this city like Tophet.”

The full sentence is, “and thus will I do to make,” etc. — Ed.

fD52 On account of all the houses,” is the Septuagint and the Targum; “all the houses,” is the Vulgate and the Syriac, being put in apposition with “the houses of Jerusalem,” etc.

The words which follow are literally, — “which they have burned incense on their roofs,” which we properly render in our language, “on whose roofs they have burned incense;” but the Welsh is literally the Hebrew, Y rhai yr arogldarthasant ar eu pennau, — “which they incensed on their roofs;” but “incensed” in this sense is not used. — Ed.

Footnotes to Translator’s Preface of Calvin’s Commentaries on the Prophet Jeremiah

ftE1A There is another peculiarity as to ra which may be mentioned, that is, when connected with a noun and rendered “whose,” in the genitive case in our language. “Whose land the rivers have spoiled;” literally, “whom the rivers have spoiled her land.” (<231802>Isaiah 18:2.) “Whose merchants are princes;” literally, “who-her merchants are princes.” (<232308>Isaiah 23:8.) Here, again, the Welsh is exactly the Hebrew, and in the first of these verses, the very order of the words is the same, — “Yr hon yr yspeiliodd yr avonydd ei thir.” “Whose mouth speaketh vanity;” literally, “who — their mouth speaketh vanity.” (<19E408>Psalm 144:8.) The Welsh is literally the same, — “Y rhai y llevara en genan wagedd;” the “who” is in apposition with “their,” both being in Hebrew the same in every case. See also <050809>Deuteronomy 8:9; <199504>Psalm 95:4, 5; <19E415>Psalm 144:15; <19E605>Psalm 146:5.

The following are similar instances: — “Whose seed was in itself;” literally, which — its seed was in itself. (<010112>Genesis 1:12.) “In the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; literally, which — in it is the fruit of a tree yielding seed;” (<010129>Genesis 1:29.) “Wherein is the breath of life;” literally, “which — in it is the breath of life.” (<010617>Genesis 6:17.) “Of beasts that are not clean;” literally, “of the beast which — not it was clean.” (<010708>Genesis 7:8.) “That hath statutes;” literally, “which to it are statutes.” (<050408>Deuteronomy 4:8.) See <051901>Deuteronomy 19:1; <080302>Ruth 3:2.

ftE2B A few passages shall be referred to, and they shall be arranged in lines that the order may be more clearly seen, —

But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, But ye are justified, In the name of the Lord Jesus, And by the Spirit of our God. (<460611>1 Corinthians 6:11.)

He mentions sanctification first, and then justification; the next line refers to justification, and the last to sanctification.

That if thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, And shalt believe in thine heart, etc., etc.; For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, And with the mouth confession is made, etc. (<451009>Romans 10:9, 10.)

Confession and faith, and then faith and confession. This inversion seems to shew their inseparable connection, as in the former case as to sanctification and justification; and it is to be observed that in both instances the right order is given last; but the case is different in the following example: —

And he gave some apostles, And some prophets, and some evangelists, And some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, For the work of the ministry, For the edifying (or building) of the body of Christ. (<490411>Ephesians 4:11, 12.)

The work of building the Church, which included especially the laying of the foundation, belonged to the Apostles; the ministerial work generally was performed by those called prophets and evangelists, who were the assistants of the Apostles; but the perfecting work, that of furthering the continual progress of the saints in a religious life, was carried on by stationary pastors and teachers. See similar instances in <400706>Matthew 7:6, and <460124>1 Corinthians 1:24, 25.

ftE3A As to ra, I may here state the result of a minute examination as to the Book of Psalm. It is found there as a relative, and as an adverb, about a hundred and seven times; about forty times as a nominative to verbs; nearly thirty times as an adverb or conjunction, for, because, that, whom, how, whose, etc.; in a few instances, in construction with nouns to which are affixed pronouns in the same case, as exemplified in a previous note; in twenty-six instances governed by verbs in the objective case, without any pronouns affixed to the verbs; and five times, according to our version, accompanied by pronouns when thus circumstanced. But in these five instances our version seems to me to be incorrect, the construction being inconsistent with what appears to be the common usage of the language. The passages are the following, <190105>Psalm 1:5; <190803>Psalm 8:3; <198805>Psalm 88:5; <199412>Psalm 94:12; and 107:2;  ra should be when in the first, how in the second, where in the third, when in the fourth, and that in the fifth, or how. as it is sometimes rendered in our version. In the first twelve chapters of Deuteronomy, there are at least a hundred instances of ra being governed in a transitive sense; and in no case it has a corresponding pronoun after the verb, but there are several instances of this, when governed by an intransitive verb — such as the following, “A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness,” literally, “A land which without scarceness thou shalt in it eat bread.”

ftE1 The account which Blayney gives is the most probable: that he was the first of his order. There were twenty-four courses of priests, as appointed by David, 1 Chronicles 24; and the head of each course was for the time the ruler or governor of the Temple. These heads of the courses were no doubt the “chief priests” mentioned in the New Testament, for in fact there was only one chief priest. They were also called the “captains” of the Temple. “The chief overseer in the house of Jehovah” is the most suitable rendering. The whole verse might be rendered as follows, — “When Pashur, the son of Immer, the priest, while he was the chief overseer in the house of Jehovah, heard Jeremiah prophesying these words, then Pashur smote Jeremiah,” etc. So the Syriac, and so does Blayney connect the first with the second verse. The family of “Immer” formed the sixteenth course. See <132414>1 Chronicles 24:14. “The priest” refers to Pashur, and not to “Immer;” and it is so rendered by the Sept., Vulg., and the Arab., though not by the Syr. Immer was the name of the family. — Ed.

ftE2 The versions differ — “dungeon” is the Sept.; “stocks-nervum” is the Vulg.; and “circle,” or “circuit,” is the Syr.; but the Targ. has “prison.” The word occurs in two other places, in <132926>1 Chronicles 29:26, and in <141610>2 Chronicles 16:10, and is rendered “prison.” Venema renders it “the torturing prison,” taking the verb from which the word comes in a bad sense, as signifying to distort, and hence to torture. Symmachus favors this view, for he renders it “a place of torment — zasanisth>rion,” and “a rack — strezlwth>rion.” The form of the expression is in favor of this idea, “and set him in the stocks,” or on the rack. And so in <242926>Jeremiah 29:26, the rendering ought to be — “that thou shouldest set him on the stocks (or rack) and in prison” Of what kind was this instrument of torture it is not known. Prisons had especially three names — “the house of roundness (rhsh);” “the house of confinement (alkh);” and “the house of the rack, or stocks, (tkphmh).” See <013920>Genesis 39:20; <112227>1 Kings 22:27; and <141610>2 Chronicles 16:10. But “the house” is not here torture itself. Had the prison been intended, the word “house,” as in <141610>2 Chronicles 16:10, would have been placed before it. It is at the same time probable that the prison was the place where the rack or the stocks were. — Ed.

ftE3 I would render the verse thus: —

3. And it happened on the morrow that Pashur brought out Jeremiah from the stocks; and Jeremiah said to him, — Not Pashur does Jehovah call thy name, But, Terror on every side.

I take arq to be a participle, and not a verb in the past tense. — Ed.

ftE4 The word is not spelt with h, but with j; it is “Pashchur.” Therefore, the former derivation cannot be admitted. Venema derives it from wp, to be proud, or ferocious, and rwj, which means “white,” or splendid; then the meaning is, “splendid prince.” Gataker seems to prefer the opinion of those who derive the word from p, diffusion, and rwj, paleness, because he diffused, or spread fear, which produces paleness to all around. Instead of this, a terror, the cause of paleness, would be to him and to all his friends, as stated in the following verse. — Ed.

ftE5 The Vulg. alone gives this meaning to the phrase; the Sept. has “me>toikon — emigrant,” and the Syr. “stranger and wanderer.” And then in the fourth verse both these versions give a correspondent meaning. “I will deliver thee into emigration (or captivity) with all thy friends.” That this word, rendered “terror,” may be derived from rwg, which means to sojourn, to peregrinate, is undeniable; as a participle noun from Hiphil, it may mean a sojourner, or an emigrant. The word in this sense is found often in the plural number. See <014709>Genesis 47:9; <020604>Exodus 6:4. But the phrase, as found here, occurs four times in this book, where it can have no other meaning than “terror (or fear) on every side,” <240625>Jeremiah 6:25; <242010>Jeremiah 20:10; <244605>Jeremiah 46:5; <244929>Jeremiah 49:29; and it occurs once elsewhere, in <193201>Psalm 32:13; where also its meaning is evident from the context. — Ed.

ftE6 What Calvin and our version render “strength” is rendered the same by the Sept., ijscu<n, — by the Vulg., “substance,” — by the Syr., “citadels,” — and by the Targ., riches. The primary meaning of the word is to be strong, or firm; and then what is strongly, or firmly secured — store, or treasure, here, and the two things which follow are explanatory of this store, — the labor, or the fruit of labor, — their garments; and precious things, — their gold, silver, and precious stones and furniture: —

5. And I will give the whole store of this city, Even all the fruit of its labor, And every precious thing in it, — Yea, all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give, Into the hand of their enemies: And they shall plunder them and take them, And bring them into Babylon.

All the versions refer “them” in the two last lines to the people, but the Targum to the things mentioned in the preceding lines; but the former view is the right one. To render the last verb to “carry,” as in our version, is not correct; for it means to cause to come, and hence to bring; and this clearly supports the versions.

The exposition of Blayney is, that by “strength’” is meant the military, by “labor” the workmen, and by “the precious” the respectable part of society. Then he ought to have gone on and said, that by “the treasures” were meant the kings of Judah! But all this is fancy, and wholly inconsistent with the tenor of the passage. They were to “plunder” them; and if their stores were not referred to, how could this be said of what their enemies would do? And then, according to this view, the treasures of the kings were to become a spoil, and not the stores of the city. To spoil the people of their property was one of the most common threatenings of the Prophets. — Ed.

ftE7 This verse ought to be thus arranged, —

6. And thou, Pashur, and all who dwell in thine house, Go shall ye into captivity: Yea, to Babylon shalt thou go, And there shalt thou die, and there be buried — Thou and all thy friends, To whom thou hast prophesied falsely.

There is here an instance of the free and unmodified manner in which statements are often made in Scripture. It is said in <242004>Jeremiah 20:4, that “his friends” would fall by the sword; but here, that they would be carried into Babylon, die, and be buried there. The hearers of Jeremiah, no doubt, understood him, though a captious hearer could have made out a contradiction against him. But the meaning is, that many of them would be slain by the sword, and that many of them, or most of such as remained, would be led into captivity. A great number were to be slain, and a great number would be taken captives. — Ed.

ftE8 I find none agreeing with Calvin in his view of this verse; nor many with our version in rendering the first verb “deceived.” So is the Septuagint, but the Vulgate, Syriac, and Targum have “enticed.” In other parts it is rendered in our version “enticed,” “allured,” and “persuaded.” Blayney has “allured,” but Gataker and Lowth prefer “persuaded;” and this wholly comports with the view the Prophet gives of his calling in the first chapter, to which he evidently refers, and also with what follows in this verse. He was unwilling to undertake the office, but he was induced to do so by what God said to him. There was nothing like deception in the case; for God had previously told him of the difficulties he would have to encounter. And then he adds, that he was “constrained,” which I consider to be the meaning of the next verb. He had been persuaded by reasons and promises, and constrained by authority. I would render the verse thus, —

7. Thou didst persuade me, O Jehovah, and I was persuaded; Thou didst constrain me, and didst prevail: I am become a derision every day; The whole of it are jeering me.

The “it” refers to the city where he was, and of which he speaks at the end of the last chapter; for this chapter is but a continuation of the narrative. What he relates there of the fate of the city drew the attention and excited the rage of Pashur. After having spoken of what Pashur did, Jeremiah gives utterance here to his complaints.

Blayney renders the last line thus, and is approved by Horsley, —

Ridicule hath spent its whole force upon me.

All the versions and the Targum regard hlk, not as a verb, but as signifying “all,” or every one; and the proposed rendering is too refined. — Ed.

ftE9 The beginning of the eighth verse seems to be connected with the end of the seventh. Such appears to be the Syriac version. Then the remaining part of the eighth will coalesce with the ninth. This gives a consistency to the whole passage.

I am become a derision every day; The whole of it are jeering me,

8. Whenever I speak, cry against violence, Or, proclaim a devastation. Because the word of Jehovah was to me A reproach and a scoff every day,

9. Therefore I said, “I will not mention it, Nor will I speak any more in his name;” But it became in my heart Like a burning fire, confined in my bones; And I was wearied with restraining and I could not — Ed.

ftE10 There is not much agreement in the early versions on this verse, nor in the Targum; and modern expounders somewhat differ, though the general meaning is obvious, and is given very lucidly by Calvin. I shall give what I consider to be the most literal rendering, —

Truly I have heard the babbling of many, — “Terror on every side, publish ye, We also shall publish it:” All the men who are at peace with me, Watch for my halting, — “He may perhaps be enticed; Then we shall prevail over him, And shall take on him our revenge.”

Both Grotins and Blayney render yk, “truly,” or verily, and consider this verse connected with the following. There is evidently in the second line an allusion to the name given to Pashur: the multitude, by the way of ridicule, repeated the name. Cocceius and Blayney render the line according to this meaning. “All the men,” etc., literally, “Every man of my peace,” that is, who is at peace with him; they were those who seemed to be his friends, though really his enemies, and plotting for his downfall, and that by trying to entice him out of his course. — Ed.

ftE11 Except in the first line, the Sept. and the Vulg. differ from the text as well as from one another; both are exceedingly confused. Few expounders have kept the proper tenses of the verbs. The Prophet states not only what would happen to his enemies, but also what had already in part happened to them, —

11. But Jehovah is with me as a terrible warrior; Therefore my persecutors shall stumble, And shall not prevail: They have become exceedingly ashamed, Because they have not succeeded; A perpetual shame! It shall not be forgotten.

The last two lines are according to what Horsley suggests. “A terrible warrior” is rendered by the Sept., “a strong combatant, machth<v ijscu>wn;” by the Vulg., “a brave warrior, bellato fortis, by the Syr., “the strongest giant;” and by the Arab., “the strongest help.” — Ed.

ftE12 There is but little difference between this verse and the 20th of the 11th chapter (<241120>Jeremiah 11:20); the variety is in the first two lines. While here we have —

But Jehovah of hosts, who art the trier of the righteous,
The seer of the reins and of the heart;

we have as follows in <241120>Jeremiah 11:20, —

But Jehovah of hosts, who art a righteous judge,
The trier of the reins and of the heart.

As in the former instance, the Versions render what follows as an imprecation, — “May I see,” etc., while the Targum does as Calvin, “I shall see,” etc.; and this better comports with the passage. The Prophet first mentions God as a righteous judge, and then he concludes that he should see God’s vengeance on his enemies, because he had devolved his cause on him, or revealed it to him. He had referred his cause to a righteous judge, and hence he felt assured that vengeance would overtake his enemies. — Ed.

ftE13 The “poor” here does not mean him who is in low circumstances, but him who is helpless or defenseless; and this is the meaning of the word often in other parts, especially in the Psalm. The word “soul,” too, here and in other places, means life, —

Sing ye to Jehovah, praise Jehovah, For he hath rescued the life of the helpless From the hand of malignants. — Ed.

ftE14 The greatest difficulty in this passage is the connection. That Jeremiah should have cursed his birth-day is what can be accounted for, as in the case of Job. Nature, even in the best of men, sometimes utters its own voice. But how he came to do this immediately after having thanked God for his deliverance, seems singular. The explanation of Calvin, that he relates what had passed in his mind, while he was confined by Pashur, is plausible, and has been adopted by Grotius, Gataker, Cocceius, and Henry. Grotius considered, “I had said,” to be understood at the beginning of the fourteenth verse. Adam Clarke thought that the words have been transposed, and that the five last verses ought to come in between the eighth and the ninth verse: and he says what is true, that there are many transpositions in this book. Houbigant,  approved by Horsley, thought the right place for these verses is between the sixth and the seventh verse. But these transpositions are not satisfactory. Venema’s notion is, that Jeremiah does not speak in his own name, but in the name of Pashur. Having described in the previous verse his own ease, the protection he found from God, he describes in these verses the wretchedness and misery of his persecutor, and introduces him as cursing his birth-day, etc. But this is very far-fetched and fanciful. Scott acknowledges the transition to be very extraordinary, but yet thinks that the Prophet describes what had passed through his own mind, and says that the experience of good men proves that such sudden changes occur. “An experimental acquaintance with our hearts,” he says, “and the variations of our passions, under sharp trials, as encouraging or discouraging thoughts occur to our minds, will best enable us to understand it.” This is probably the right view of the subject. The Prophet, indeed, acknowledged God’s kindness in saving his life, and invited others to join him in praising him: yet when he considered his circumstances, he gave way to his own natural feelings. — Ed.

ftE15 Our version seems right in rendering the w in this sentence or; and so it ought to be rendered in the previous verse, otherwise there is an inconsistency in representing a man destroyed, and hearing an outcry, etc. The two verses may be thus rendered, —

16. And let that man be like the cities Which Jehovah overturned and repented not; Or a hearer of an outcry in the morning And of tumult at noon-tide.

17. Why not slay me did he from the womb? Or become to me did my mother my grave, And her womb a perpetual conception?

The last words are, literally, “a conception of perpetuity,” — the Vulg. has, “an eternal conception,” — the Syr., “a perpetual conception.” Then the next verse is as follows, —

18. For what purpose has this been?  From the womb I came forth To see labor and sorrow, And spent in shame are my days. — Ed.

ftE16 The “if” may better be rendered “it may be,” ylwa; it is so rendered by the Vulg., Syr., and the Targ. — Ed.

ftE17 The Syr. Renders the verb “ascend” as a Hiphil; and more consistently with the passage, “and drive him away from us.” With the exception of the Arab., the Versions and the Targ. Render the first verb in the verse, not “inquire,” but “ask,” or “pray the Lord for us.” Then the verse would be as follows: —

2. Pray now for us to Jehovah; for Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon, is warring against us: it may be that Jehovah will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, and make him to depart from us.

The verb rd, transitively as here, means to seek: see <193405>Psalm 34:5. And to seek the favor of Jehovah, or to pray to him, seems most consistent with the latter part of the verse. Blayney’s rendering is, “Intreat, we pray thee, Jehovah for us;” and this is the meaning taken by Venema and Gataker. — Ed.

ftE18 The verb ks means to turn, to turn aside, to turn round, to change; it seems to mean here to turn to a contrary purpose, to turn from the right use, to divert, to revert, or to reverse, “Behold, I will reverse the instruments of war which are in your hands; meta>strefw — I change,” that is, to what is opposite, is the Sept.; Blayney reads, “Behold, I will turn aside,” etc. — Ed.

ftE19 There seems to be a gradation in these terms, — “in wrath, and in hot displeasure, and in great foaming indignation.” The first word means simply wrath or anger; the second, heated wrath; and the third, foaming wrath, and “great” is added to it. None of the Versions, except the Arab., presents this climax; the Sept. and Syr. have only two, “anger and great wrath;” the Vulg., “fury, indignation, and great wrath;” and the Arab., “wrath, indignation, and the greatest fury.” The Targ. has the same with the Vulg. These terms refer evidently to the provocations which had been given by the Jews. Their conduct had been such as to excite wrath, and heated wrath, and even great foaming wrath. — Ed.

ftE20 The Versions and the Targum all differ as to these three verbs, and their distinct meaning is not given by any of them. The first is to spare, the second is to relent, and the third is to feel compassion or pity. The last act, sparing, is mentioned first, then the previous one relenting, and in the third place, what occasions relenting, pity, or compassion. The same verbs occur together in chapter 13:14, but in a different order, relent, spare, pity. — Ed.

ftE21 “Shall go to,” is the Sept.; “shall fly to,” the Vulg.; “shall obey,” the Targ.; it is omitted in Syr. Blayney is, “surrendereth himself.” The verb, followed by l[, as here, means to fall away to, or to join. See <122511>2 Kings 25:11. “But he who goeth out and joins the Chaldeans, who besiege you, shall live,” etc. — Ed.

ftE22 The phrase is not, “against this city,” but “upon this city;” and such is the rendering of the Sept. and Vulg., though the Syr. has “against.” How could his face be set against it, not for good? God is said to set or fix his face on the city, and it was for doing it evil, and not for doing it good. — Ed.

ftE23 The verb “thou shalt say,” or “say,” at the beginning of verse 8, is to be understood here, “say also to the house,” etc. So the Vulg. connects the sentence, and also the Targ. But the Sept., Syr., and the Arab. put the word “house” in the vocative case — “O house of the king of Judah, hear the word of the Lord.” More consistent with the original is the former construction. — Ed.

ftE24 The correct rendering is, “The right defend ye in the morning.” The common meaning of ˆwd is to defend, to vindicate, to plead for, or contend for: it means, also, to rule with authority. It is rendered often in our version to judge, while it ought to be to defend. See <013006>Genesis 30:6; <190104>Psalm 1:4; <19D514>Psalm 135:14. “In the morning” may be taken literally or figuratively. The morning was the time observed by good judges to decide matters of judgment: in corrupt times the judges or princes spent the morning in drinking. See <211016>Ecclesiastes 10:16. Thus the judges are here required to reassume the ancient practice of deciding causes in the morning. See <021813>Exodus 18:13. The phrase, “in the morning,” means also to do a thing, promptly, fully, and diligently. The very same words are used in <19A108>Psalm 101:8, and rendered in our version “early,” only the word for morning is in the plural number — “in the mornings,” literally. Then, if taken figuratively, the phrase means — promptly, carefully, diligently — “Defend carefully the right.” The version of Blayney is singular, but inadmissible — “Judge ye, searching out right.” There is no instance of the verb ˆwd being used intransitively, and “in the morning” is given by all the Versions and the Targ. — Ed.

ftE25 This sentence is as follows, — “And rescue the plundered from the hand of the violent,” or him who uses violence. The Vulg. alone has “calumniator” for the last word, which is wholly improper; “who wrongs him” is the Sept.; “who oppresses him” is the Syr. and Arab. The word means to oppress by force or violence. — Ed.

ftE26 Of all explanations of this passage, this is the most satisfactory. Mount Sion was surrounded by a valley, and that valley by contiguous mountains. The city, therefore, was a valley with a rock or a mountain in the midst, called here the rock of the level ground. The sentence may, indeed, be thus rendered, “The inhabitant of the valley of the rock of the level ground.” “The valley of the rock” means, in this case, the valley around the rock or the mountain; then the valley is farther designated as the level ground.

The Versions vary; that of Sept. is, “who inhabitest the valley of Sor, the plain;” the Vulg., “the inhabitress of the solid valley and of the plain;” the Syr., “who dwellest in valleys, who hast a large plain;” and the Targ., “who dwellest in strength, in fortified cities.” The nearest to the original is the Sept. version; which has been followed by Venema, who thought that there was a valley called Sor in Jerusalem, which, from its situation, was the most secure part of the city: hence the word “descend,” in the following sentence.

Blayney’s version is, “O thou inhabitant of the levelled hollow of a rock.” He considered that Mount Sion is meant, the residence of the house of David, and so called, because the top was levelled. Then he rendered the following sentence, “Who shall make a breach on us?” But the difficulty is to understand “the levelled hollow,” and how to make the original to bear such a rendering. Doubtless, the version of Calvin or that of Venema, which is not very different, is the best. — Ed.

ftE27 The Sept. and Arab. are, “Who will alarm us?” the Vulg., “Who will smite us?” Syr., “Who can come against us?” and the Targ., “Who will descend against us?” The verb ttj, is intransitive, and if it be here in Hiphil, it will not admit of the preposition l[, which comes here after it. This sufficiently proves that it is tjn, to come down, to descend, which requires this very preposition. See <193802>Psalm 38:2. This being clearly the case, the view of Blayney, as to “the levelled hollow of a rock,” must be wrong, for to “descend” into Mount Sion, would be no suitable expression. — Ed.

ftE28 “The Word ‘forest’ is often metaphorically taken for a city in the prophetical writings, because its stately buildings, or its principal inhabitants, resemble tall cedars standing in their several ranks. See <242207>Jeremiah 22:7; <232702>Isaiah 27:24; <262046>Ezekiel 20:46; Zecheriah. 11:1.” — Lowth.

ftE29 Or “descend;” it appears that Jeremiah was in the Temple when he had this commission. And it would be better to render the first words, “Thus said Jehovah,” as it is a narrative of what had taken place. In <241801>Jeremiah 18:1, it is said the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and then he was commanded to go down to the potter’s house; which intimates that he was at the time in the Temple, officiating probably in his course as a priest. — Ed.

ftE30 The verb here is different from that in <242112>Jeremiah 21:12, though rendered in our version the same — “execute.” It is h[, to do, to act, but is used in a wide sense, like facio in Latin. To do judgment is to judge or condemn, that is, the guilty; to do justice is to justify or acquit, that is, the innocent. Perhaps the best rendering would be, “Administer judgment and justice;” the former to the guilty, and the latter to the innocent.

Blayney’s version can by no means be approved, “Do right and justice,” as the distinctive character of the two acts is not expressed. “Do judgment and justice,” are all the Versions and the Targum. — Ed.

ftE31 So it is rendered by Blayney; by the Vulg. and Targ., “Make not sad;” by the Sept., “Tyrannize not over;” and by the, Syr., “Wrong not.” The verb means to press down, to depress, and hence to oppress. With this the next verb is connected by w in many copies, and by all the Versions except the Arab., and by the Targum; and it means to do wrong by force or violence, outrageously to injure, or to deal unjustly with, to plunder. They were not to press them down by denying them their rights, nor violently to take their things away from them, or to plunder them.

We may render the passage as Gataker does, “And the stranger, the orphan, and the widow oppress not, wrong not,” or plunder not. A similar passage is in <240706>Jeremiah 7:6. The word rendered there “oppress” is different, q[, and more general in its meaning, including the two ideas here — oppression by denying them their rights, and by plundering them. — Ed.

ftE32 There is first in this passage a general direction, “Administer ye judgment and justice;” and then there is a specification which refers first to justice and then to judgment, the order, as is commonly the case, being reversed. It was an act of “justice” to rescue the plundered from the hands of the plunderer. Then they were forbidden to administer wrong, “judgment,” so as to depress and plunder the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, and to shed innocent blood. See <199406>Psalm 94:6. It shews a bad state of society when the wicked and the guilty are not punished; but it is still worse when the helpless are oppressed, and the innocent are condemned. — Ed.

ftE33 Poor Peter never had any throne, therefore the Pope’s throne cannot be apostolic. The Pope’s throne is a heathen throne, both materially and spiritually. The seat itself is a chair of some heathen hero or deity, and the power claimed to be exercised was never claimed nor possessed by Peter. The Pope is quite as much an impostor as Mahomet, only his blasphemy is greater and more detestable. — Ed.

ftE34 The Vulg., the Syr., and the Targum omit the w before “enter:” but it has often the meaning of then, especially when preceded, as here, by the conditional particle if. — Ed.

ftE35 The verse may be rendered thus, —

4. For if doing ye shall do this word, Then come through the gates of this house Shall kings, sitting for David on his throne, Who shall ride in a chariot and on horses, He, and his servant, and his people.

The “sitting” belongs to the kings, but “riding” to the king, his servant, and his people. As “he” is in the singular number, so “the servant” is, though both are pluralized by the Sept., the Vulg., and the Arab., and indeed, the “servant” by the Syr. And the Targ. But the Hebrew is as rendered above, as to the word “chariot,” and “servant;” it is the idiom of the language. — Ed.

ftE36 “These words” include the “word” of message contained in the second verse, and the “word” of precept in the third verse; and “this word” or thing, at the beginning of the fourth verse, is the latter — the word of precept. — Ed.

ftE37 That “the top (or head) of Lebanon,” means Jerusalem, or the city of David, the residence of the royal family, is evident from the seventh verse, “they shall cast down thy choice cedars.” This point being settled, there can be hardly a doubt respecting the correctness of Calvin’s view. All the Versions give this rendering, “Gilead, thou art to me the head of Lebanon;” the meaning of which does not appear. The Targum is a paraphrase not more intelligible. It would be better to use the future tense, as that is used at the end of the verse, —

Gilead shalt thou be to me, O top of Lebanon! Surely I will make thee a wilderness, Like cities not inhabited.

It was to be dealt with by him as Gilead had been, which was now wholly depopulated. — Ed

ftE38 The verb is dq, to sanctify, or rather to separate or to set apart for a holy purpose, to consecrate. It is rendered by the Septuagint, “I will bring;” by the Vulgate, “I will sanctify;” by the, Syriac, “I will prepare:” but by Blayney, “I will commission.” It intimates a setting apart or selecting for a holy purpose, such as the execution of the just judgment of God. Perhaps the best rendering would be, “I will consecrate for thee.”

The next words are “destroyers, each man and his instrument,” rendered by the Septuagint, “a destroying man and his hatchet;” by the Vulgate, “a slaying man and his weapons;” by the Syriac, “wasters, each with a hatchet in his hand;” and by the Arabic, “a destroying man with his hatchet.”

The word ylk, does not mean specifically a weapon of war, but generally an instrument of any kind; and “hatchet” is the most suitable term for it here. We might then give this version, —

7. And I will consecrate for thee destroys, Every man and his hatchet; And they shall cut down thy choisest cedars, And shall cast them into the fire. — Ed.

ftE39 So the Versions, “through,” and not, “by,” as in our version; it is “nigh” in the Targ. The preposition is l[, upon, over, most commonly. It may mean the passing over the city when in ruins. — Ed.

ftE40 Literally, “nor nod for him.” They were not to shake the head for him in sign of sorrow. There was a shaking of the head in scorn or derision as well as in condolence or sympathy. See <241816>Jeremiah 18:16. — Ed.

ftE41 The Versions and the Targum seem to favor this view of Calvin, as they render the participle, “going away,” in the present tense, as in our version. The verse, then, is as follows, —

Weep ye not for the dead, nor bewail him; Weep, weep for him who goeth away; For he will not return any more, And see the land of his nativity.

The repetition of the verb “weep” is emphatical. Our version, “weep sore,” is the Arab. The Sept. and the Targ. take it as an instance of what often occurs in Hebrew, a participle joined to a verb to enhance its force; but it is not so here, the two verbs are in the imperative mood. But it may be that there is here, as many think, a direct allusion to Josiah, who was dead, and was much lamented, and to Shallum, who was taken captive and carried into Egypt, where he died. In that case we ought to render the second line thus, —

Weep, weep for him who has gone away.

The Hebrew participle may often be rendered in the past tense; and so it is rendered here by Gataker, Venema, and Blayney. — Ed.

ftE42 Most commentators agree that Shallum was another name for Jehoahaz, who succeeded his father Josiah. See <122330>2 Kings 23:30; and <143601>2 Chronicles 36:1. He reigned only three months, and was succeeded by his elder brother Jehoiakim. Compare <143602>2 Chronicles 36:2, with <242205>Jeremiah 22:5. The only difficulty arises from <130315>1 Chronicles 3:15, where we have the sons of Josiah arranged in this order, — Johanan, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, and Shallum. Johanan no doubt died young, and he could not be Jehoahaz, for he is said to be the first-born; and Jehoahaz, as it appears from <143602>2 Chronicles 36:2 and 5, was younger than Jehoiakim, and older by many years than Zedekiah. The only solution of the difficulty seems to be that there is, as Blayney, Horsley, and others thought, a typographical mistake in <130315>1 Chronicles 3:15, that Shallum ought to be before Zedekiah, instead of being after him. His two brothers had two names as well as Shallum. There is a mistake of the same kind (that of transcribers at an early period, as there are no different readings) in <143609>2 Chronicles 36:9, where Jehoiachin is said to have been eight years old when he began to reign, instead of eighteen, as we find it stated in <122408>2 Kings 24:8. And this age alone comports with the language of Jeremiah in this chapter, for he would not have denounced such a judgment on a child eight years of age.

As to <400111>Matthew 1:11, the true reading no doubt is, “And Josiah begat Jehoiakim, and Jehoiakim begat Jeconiah,” etc., as found in some copies, though not of great authority.

Some, with Calvin, think Shallum to be Jeconiah, or Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, and not Shallum the son of Josiah. The objection to this is, that the Prophet here proceeds from Shallum to Jehoiakim, and then to his son Jeconiah. And from what he says of Jehoiakim, it appears that he delivered this prophecy in his reign, except we think, as some do, that the Prophet relates here in the reign of Zedekiah what he had previously prophesied. But the probability is, as Blayney and others think, that this prophecy was delivered in the reign of Jehoiakim. — Ed.

ftE43 There is no doubt but ra is sometimes an adverb of time, when; but all the Versions and the Targum render it here who, “who has gone forth,” etc. Shallum, whoever he was, had no doubt been led captive, as it is said in the next verse; for the verb, which Calvin renders in the second future, is in the past tense, and is so rendered by all the Versions. — Ed.

ftE44 This verse is not correctly rendered by Calvin nor by any of the early versions. The two last clauses are made by them all in a great measure tantological, while they are perfectly distinct in their meaning. I render the verse thus, —

Wo to him who builds his house by means of injustice, And his chambers by means of wrong judgment: Of his neighbor he makes a slave for no reason, And for his work he gives nothing to him.

The verb rb[  when followed by b, means to enslave, or to make a slave. See <242514>Jeremiah 25:14. We hence see the force of the word, snj gratuitously, for no reason, because the Jews might under certain circumstances be reduced to a state of slavery; but Jehoiakim did this when there was no cause. This was the “wrong judgment” And then he gave them no support, nothing for their work; this was the “injustice.” He reduced them to slavery, and did not maintain them. The real import of the passage is completely lost in the loose rendering of the Versions; but the Targ. rightly expresses the meaning of the third line, “To slavery he reduces for no cause his neighbor.” — Ed.

ftE44 The word is yjwrm, rendered “fanned — rJipista<,” by the Sept., and “spacious” by the other Versions and the Targ. The rendering may be “chambers of ventilations,” meaning “airy chambers.” Parkhurst considers it a Huphal participle, and renders it “airy.” But Blayney objects to this, as it is in a different gender from “chambers;” but it may be viewed as in construction; for in Hebrew two nouns are often used for a noun and a participle, or an adjective. — Ed.

ftE45 The Vulg., the Syr., and Targ., read, “And he opens for himself windows.” The verb is [rq, to rend, to divide, and also to distend, to enlarge, to dilate. See <240430>Jeremiah 4:30. The line may be rendered, —

And he makes large his windows. — Ed.

ftE46 Calvin is quite right in applying the latter part to the house generally, and not to the chambers, as it is done by the Sept. and the Arab.; and guided by them, Houbigant proposed emendations of the Text. The arrangement of the verse is according to the common practice of the Prophets, —

14. Who says, “I will build me a spacious house, And airy upper apartments:” And he makes large his windows; And covered it is with cedar, And painted with vermilion.

There are two things mentioned, — house and apartments. Of the latter he speaks first, as it is usually the case, that he made large windows in them; and then he speaks of the house in general, that it was covered (not ceiled) with cedar, as the Temple was, (<110615>1 Kings 6:15,) and painted with vermilion. Here we see an instance how emendations have been proposed through ignorance as to the Hebrew style. The Syriac version makes the sense more distinct, though it be not literal, and is as follows, —

Who says, “I will build me large houses, And spacious chambers:” For these he opens windows; Those he covers with cedars, And adorns with paintings.

“Vermilion,” r, rendered, “mi>ltw — ochre,” or ruddle, by the Sept.; “sinopide — a red stone,” by the Vulg. and Targ. Parkhurst quotes Pliny, who says that mi>ltov was found in silver mines, and was a sort of reddish sand, and used as a paint. Something of this kind was what is here mentioned, though it is not known now specifically what it was, nor is it of much consequence. It occurs only here, and in <262314>Ezekiel 23:14. — Ed.

ftE47 The general sense is given, but not a literal rendering. The last verb is variously rendered; “because thou betakest thyself to cedar,” is the Vulg.; “wilt thou delight thyself in cedars?” the Syr.; the Targ. is a loose paraphrase, and the Sept. and Arab. wholly depart from our present text, “because thou art stimulated by Ahaz thy father.” Then what follows is widely different, but wholly inconsistent with the original. The verb is the Hithpael of hrj, to burn, to be hot; and it means to be hot or warm with anger, exertion, grief, or delight. In the second sense it is used in <241205>Jeremiah 12:5; but here in the last sense, “because thou art inflamed with cedar,” or greatly delightest thyself in cedar; and this meaning is countenanced both by the Vulg. and Syr. Blayney takes the third sense — “hot with grief,” and gives this version, which is approved by Horsley, though its meaning is not very evident, —

Shalt thou reign because thou frettest thyself in cedar?

Venema is more to the point, —

Shalt thou reign, because thou art in great heat for cedar? — Ed.

ftE48 The whole verse would read better thus, —

15. Shalt thou reign, because thou art enamored with cedar? Thy father — did he not eat and drink? When he administered judgment and justice, Then it was well with him.

To eat and to drink, as Calvin, observes, means a happy life; his father enjoyed life, though he took no delight in cedars; but his happiness arose from governing justly his people. The Syr. connects the two last lines as above, —

He executed judgment and justice, I therefore did him good. — Ed.

ftE49 Venema considers that there is here no repetition, but takes this verse as addressed to Jehoiakim, and gives this version, —

By judging judge the afflicted and poor, Then it will be well with thee: Is not this the knowledge of me, saith Jehovah?

But the words will not admit of this rendering. The verb is in the past tense, followed by a noun derived from the same verb, a thing not unusual in Hebrew. Literally the verse is, —

He defended the defense (the cause) of the needy and poor, Then well it was with him: Was not that to know me, saith Jehovah?

The pronoun awh, is not this, but that, when used as a demonstrative pronoun. See <010219>Genesis 2:19. We may indeed render the last line thus, —

Was not that the knowledge of me, saith Jehovah? That is, Was it not the fruit or the effect of that knowledge? — Ed.

ftE50 The Vulg. is, “Was it not so, because he knew me, saith Jehovah?” the Syr., “He who doeth such things knoweth me, saith the Lord;” and the Targ., “Is not that the knowledge which I desire, saith the Lord?” The Vulg. is the most correct. “They are said to know God,” says Grotius, “who shew by their deeds that they know what pleases Him.” — Ed.

ftE51 The most literal version of this verse is the following, —

For on nothing are thine eyes and thine heart, Except on thy gain, And on innocent blood, that it may be shed, And on oppression and on violence, That they may be done.

“That it may be shed,” is literally, “for being shed,” it is a passive participle; and such is the case as to the last verb. — Ed.

ftE52 It is “to” in the Sept. and Vulg., and “concerning” in the Syr., Arab., and Targ. The latter is most adopted by commentators. — Ed.

ftE53 The original is not “his,” but “her glory.” The lamentation is such as was used for kings, when there was also a condolence expressed for the queens. Ah, my brother! and, Ah, lord! was a lamentation for the king when dead, (<243405>Jeremiah 34:5; ) and, Ah, sister! and, Ah, her glory! was sympathy for the surviving queen. Her glory had departed with her husband. This is Blayney’s view.

The Versions and the Targum are all different, and not one of them renders the original correctly.

The verse may be thus rendered, —

18. Therefore thus saith Jehovah of Jehoiakim, The son of Josiah, the king of Judah — They shall not lament for him — . “Ah, my brother, and, Ah, sister. They shall not lament for him — “Ah, Lord! and, Ah, her glory!”

To render the w disjunctively “or,” as in our version, seems not suitable. The lamentation and the condolence are to be connected together. The “Ah” might be rendered “Alas;” and so it is in many places. See <111330>1 Kings 13:30. — Ed.

ftE54 The verb, or rather participle, rendered “drawn,” means to be dragged along, and not carried. See <101713>2 Samuel 17:13. He was to be dragged out of the city and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. It is said in <143606>2 Chronicles 36:6, that Nebuchadnezzar “bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon.” The probability is (for we have no express account) that he died while in fetters at Jerusalem, before he was removed, and that Nebuchadnezzar, from indignation at his rebellion, had him dragged as a dead ass out of the city and exposed as food for rapacious birds and beasts. We find it said in <122406>2 Kings 24:6, that “Jehoiakim slept with his fathers;” but this only means that he died, or that he died a natural death and was not killed; for we find this phrase used, when burial is afterwards mentioned. See <141216>2 Chronicles 12:16; 16:13, l4. — Ed.

ftE55 “All around,” yrb[m, is rendered “beyond the sea” by the Sept.; “to those who pass by,” by the Vulg.; “from the farther shores of the sea, by the Syr.; “at the fords,” by the Targ.; “beyond the fords,” that is, of the Nile, by Grotius and Piscator; and “from the borders,” by Blayney. But the most suitable rendering here is what has been adopted by Gataker and Venema, “from Abarim,” a mountain in the confines of Moab. See <042712>Numbers 27:12. There are here two mountains previously mentioned, lying to the north; and here is another to the east. Jerusalem (for that is here addressed) is commanded, by way of taunt, to ascend these mountains to cry for aid and to utter its lamentation; for all its lovers from these quarters were destroyed; the king of Babylon had subdued them. — Ed.

ftE56 The word for tranquillity is in the plural number, “tranquillities,” meaning tranquil, or quiet times or seasons. It is rendered “fall,” very unaccountably, by the Sept.; “abundance,” by the Vulg.; “affluence,” by the Syr.; “when thou didst sit tranquil,” by the Targ. But the word clearly means a tranquil, quiet, or peaceable state. Blayney rightly renders the expression, “in the times of thy tranquillity.” — Ed.

ftE57 The yk is omitted in the Sept., and the clause is given as in apposition with the former, which seems to be the meaning; “the way” was not to hear God’s voice. Blayney, very unsuitably, connects the last line with the following verse. I render the verse thus, —

21. I spoke to thee in thy quiet times; Thou didst say, “I will not hear:” This has been thy way from thy childhood; For thou didst not hear my voice.

It has been usual with many to render “hear,” “obey;” but not rightly. The complaint against the people was, that they would not “hear” the voice of God, much less obey it. The answer here was that they would not “hear.” The complaint, or the charge against them is the same, and the verb ought to be so rendered. — Ed.

ftE58 The wind sometimes means what is empty; and in this sense the Sept., the Vulg., and the Arab. take it here, “All thy pastors the wind shall feed;” but the Syr. and the Targ. take the “wind” as meaning a blasting or a stormy wind: “All thy pastors the wind shall feed on,” or eat up, is the Syr.; and the Targ. gives this paraphrase, “All thy pastors shall be scattered unto every wind.” The verb, no doubt, means to feed, and to feed on, or eat up, or consume, but not to scatter or disperse. Therefore the meaning here is, either that the pastors would have nothing but what was empty to support them, or that they would be consumed as by a blast. The first is most consonant to the tenor of the passage; for the aid of their lovers is previously referred to; but they would find this aid to be “wind,” and then it is added, that these lovers as well as themselves would be driven into captivity. There is a striking paronomasia in the words. The word for pastors is derived from the verb to feed. We may give this version, “All thy feeders shall the wind feed.” The feeders had fed the people with winds, with empty expectations, and they, in their turn, would have nothing but wind, what was empty, to live upon or to support them. — Ed.

ftE59 Our version is better as to the two verbs here used, “ashamed and confounded.” The latter is stronger than the former. The Vulg. and the Targ. invert the order, “confounded and ashamed.” The Sept. and Arab. have “ashamed and dishonored,” or despised. The first verb means simply to be ashamed, and the other to turn aside as it were from a sense of shame, as one not able to look on others. — Ed.

ftE60 The former part of this passage is differently rendered by all the early versions: the Sept., “thou wilt groan;” the Vulg., “how thou hast groaned;” the Syr., “how much wilt thou groan.” The reading adopted was tnhn, from hhn, instead of tnjn, for the y is not found in many copies, nor in the Keri, nor in connection with the two participles at the beginning of the verse. The Targ. has “what wilt thou do.” Most of modern expounders take the text as we have it, and there are no different readings. Then the whole verse would read as follows, —

23. Inhabitress of Lebanon! nestler in the cedars! How graceful (or favored) shalt thou be, When come on thee shall throes, A pain like that of childbearing!

The gender is feminine, and either Jerusalem or the house or family of David is meant. The word for “throes” means girding pains or pangs. The verse is the language of irony. The people were so hardened, that nothing else would have touched them. — Ed.

ftE61 The early Versions throughout this passage give his name as Jeconiah; but the Targ., Coniah, according to the Hebrew. The Rabbins give various reasons for the change, and others too, which are frivolous. The reason given by Calvin and adopted by Gataker, Lowth, and others, is confirmed by the contemptuous language used in the 28th verse. — Ed.

ftE62 There is here a striking contrast: God would pluck off Jeconiah, were he like a signet on his right hand, and would deliver him into the hand of his enemies. From being as it were on the divine hand, he would be given up into the hand of those who sought his life. — Ed.

ftE63 The word is strong; it means to toss, to hurl, violently to cast forth, to throw with force, as one throws a missile weapon. See <092811>1 Samuel 28:11. The “mittam” of the Vulg. is too weak; the “ajporjrJi>yw” of the Sept. is more suitable. — Ed.

ftE64 The phrase, “to raise or lift up the mind,” or the soul, is to set the heart on a thing. The Vulg. has adopted the Hebrew idiom, “to which they lift up their soul.” The Sept. leaves out “return,” and have only, “which they wish in their souls.” Our version retains the true idea, though it be not literal, “whereunto they desire to return;” literally, “where they are lifting up their soul to return there:” the two adverbs of place are given, the relative adverb and the pronoun adverb, if we may so call them. It is the same sort of idiom as when a relative and a pronoun are used, one before and the other after the verb, as in <242225>Jeremiah 22:25, “whom thou fearest (or dreadest) their face,” rightly rendered in our version, “whose face thou fearest:” but the Welsh is literally the Hebrew; the idiom is exactly the same. — Ed.

ftE65 The verb means to loose, to set free; and it is here in a passive sense, to be loosed or set free. It seems to refer to the setting free the idol or statue from its fastenings; therefore, “broken down” would be its best rendering. — Ed.

ftE66 It is singular that all the early versions soften down the strong terms used in this verse; not one of them give a faithful translation. The Sept., the Syr., and the Arab. give hardly the half of the verse, and what they give is divested of the tone and spirit of the original. The Vulg. leaves out the word “idol” or statue, and puts “an earthen vessel” in its place. The whole verse I render as follows, —

28. A contemptible, broken down idol! Is this the man Coniah? Is he a vessel in which there is no delight? Why are they cast out, he and his seed, And sent into a land which they have not known?

There is the relative which understood after “vessel” in the third line. The Welsh, which in this kind of idiom is exactly the same with the Hebrew, admits of the same sort of ellipsis, —

Ai llester yw heb hoffder ynddo?

Which is verbally the Hebrew, “Is he a vessel without delight in it?” The “casting out” was from the land of Canaan, and the “sending” was into the unknown land. — Ed.

ftE67 It does not appear whether Calvin meant the earth generally or the land of Judea. But the latter most probably is what is intended. The version, then, ought to be, “Land, land, land!” The Sept. and the Arab. have “land” only twice, but the other versions have it three times as in Hebrew. The paraphrase of the Targ. is singular, “From their own land they have made them to migrate to another land; land of Israel! hear the words of the Lord.”

“Land” means often the inhabitants; and what follows proves that it has this meaning here; for it is added, “Write ye,” etc. — Ed.

ftE68 The word rendered “childless”” properly means “wholly stripped,” or destitute, or “quite naked.” It is rendered “banished” by the Sept., but “childless” by the Vulg., the Syr., and the Targ. He was “childless” as a king, having had no son as a successor on the throne of David; but he had children, see <130317>1 Chronicles 3:17, 18. And that this is the meaning appears evident from the end of the verse.

Scott thinks that Zedekiah, the uncle of Jeconiah, is the person spoken of in these two last verses. He considers that the contents of this chapter were repeated in Zedekiah’s reign as a warning to him. But this view is not consistent with the general tenor of the chapter. See especially <242213>Jeremiah 22:13, 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19; these shew evidently that the prophecy was delivered in the time, probably in the latter time of Jehoiakim; then the Prophet proceeds, in <242224>Jeremiah 22:24 to the end of the chapter, prophetically to describe the late of his son Jeconiah. And having said that he would be childless as a king, that none of his seed would sit on the throne of David, he introduces in the next chapter, which is connected with this, the “righteous branch,” the Messiah, the King of Zion. The proper division of the chapter is at the ninth verse. According to this view there is a perfect consistency, — Jeconiah was the last reigning prince in the right line (Zedekiah, his uncle, was not in the right line) on the throne of David, as a temporal sovereign; then he, of whom David was a type, came, not to sit and to rule on the visible throne of David, but on that which it represented. — Ed.

ftE69 It is an exclamation in the Sept. and Syr.; “Oh! the Pastors,” etc., but a denunciation in the Vulg. and the Targ., “Wo to the Pastors,” etc. The original may be rendered in either way; the latter is the most suitable here. — Ed.

ftE70 The word is singular in Hebrew, “pasture,” or feeding. — Ed

ftE71 The meaning seems to be that they had caused the flock to be scattered and driven away through their bad c