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.


 

Lecture Ninety-Third

<242408>Jeremiah 24:8

8. And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the Lord, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt.

8. Et sicut ficus malae, quae non comeduntur prae malitia (id est, amaritudine,) sic certe (est yk, sed abundat, certe sic,) dicit Jehova, ita ponam Zedekiam, regem jehudah, et principesejus, et reliquias Jerusalem, quae residuae sunt in terra hac, et eos qui habitant in terra AEgypti.

 

God, after having promised to deal kindly with the captives, now declares that he would execute heavier punishment on King Zedekiah, and the whole people who yet remained in their own country. We have stated why God exhibited this vision to the Prophet, even that he might support their minds who saw nothing but grounds of despair, and that also, on the other hand, he might correct their pride who flattered themselves in their own lot, because God had deferred his vengeance as to them. Then the Prophet, having given comfort to the miserable exiles, now speaks against Zedekiah and his people, who boasted that God was propitious to them, and that they had not only been fortunate, but also wise in continuing in their own country.

He then says that Zedekiah and his princes, and all who remained in Judea, were like the bad figs, which could not be eaten on account of their bitterness. I have said that this is to be referred to punishment and not to guilt. They had sinned, I allow, most grievously; but we are to regard the design of the Prophet. The meaning then is, that though the condition of those who had been driven into captivity was for the present harder, yet God would deal more severely with those who remained, because he had for a time spared them, and they did not repent, but hardened themselves more and more in their wickedness.

Now we know that Zedekiah was set over the kingdom of Judah, when Jeconiah surrendered himself to Nebuchadnezzar: he was the uncle of Jeconiah, and reigned eleven years; and during that time he ought to have been at least wise at the expense of another. For Eliakim, who was also called Jehoiakim, had been chastised, and that not only once; but Nebuchadnezzar, after having spoiled the temple, rendered him tributary to himself, on his return to Chaldea. At length, after having been often deceived by him, he became extremely displeased with him; and his son, who had reigned with his father, three months after his death, voluntarily surrendered himself into the power and will of the conqueror. Mathaniah afterwards reigned, of whom the Prophet speaks here. So, he says, will I render fE121 Zedekiah (called previously Mathaniah) the king of Judah, and his princes, and the remnants of Jerusalem, who remain in this land, (for the greater part had been led into exile,) and those who dwell in the land of Egypt, for many had fled thither; and we know that they were confederates with the Egyptians, and that through a vain confidence in them they often rebelled.

And this was also the reason why the prophets so sharply reproved them: they relied on the help of Egypt, and took shelter under its protection. When, therefore, they found themselves exposed to the will of their enemies, they fled into Egypt. But Nebuchadnezzar afterwards, as we shall see, conquered Egypt also. Thus it happened that they were only for a short time beyond the reach of danger. But as fugitive slaves, when recovered, are afterwards treated more severely by their masters, so also the rage of King Nebuchadnezzar became more violent against them. It now follows —

<242409>Jeremiah 24:9

9. And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.

9. Et ponam eos in commotionem (vel, strepitum, vel, perturbationem, alii concussionem vertunt) in malum omnibus regnis terrae, in probrum, et parabolam, et proverbium, et execrationem in omnibus locis quo ejecero ipsos (vel, expulero.)

 

Here the Prophet borrows his words from Moses, in order to secure authority to his prophecy; for the Jews were ashamed to reject Moses, as they believed that the Law came from God: it would at least have been deemed by them an abominable thing to deny credit to the Law. And yet they boldly rejected all the prophets, though they were but faithful interpreters of the Law, as the case is with the Papists of the present day, who, though they dare not deny but that the Scripture contains celestial truth, yet furiously reject what is alleged from it. Similar was the perverseness of the Jews. Hence the prophets, in order to gain more credit to their words, often borrowed their very words from Moses, as though they had recited from a written document what had been dictated to them. For in Deuteronomy and in other places Moses spoke a language of this kind, — that God would give up the people to a concussion or a commotion, for a reproach, for a proverb, for a taunt, to all the nations of the earth. (<052837>Deuteronomy 28:37; <110907>1 Kings 9:7.)

It is then the same as though Jeremiah had said, that the time would at length come when the Jews would find that so many maledictions had not been pronounced in vain by Moses. They no doubt read Moses; but as they were so stupid, no fear, no reverence for God was felt by them, even when he terrified them with such words as these. The Prophet then says, that the time was now near when they should know by experience that God had not in vain threatened them.

I will set them for a commotion. The verb [wz, zuo, means to move and to be noisy. Many render the noun here “noise,” others “perturbation,” and others, “the shaking of the head;” for we are wont to shake the head in scorn. fE122

However this may be, we are to read in connection with this the following words, — that they would be for a reproach, and a terror, and a taunt, and an execration, to all nations. It is then said, on account of evil: for the preposition l, lamed, is to be taken here in different senses: before “commotion,” it means “for;” but here it is causal, “on account of.” The severe and dreadful vengeance of God would be such, that it would move and disturb all nations. He indeed mentions all kingdoms, but the meaning is the same. He then adds reproach, that is, that they would be subjected to the condemnation of all nations. They had refused to submit to God’s judgment, and when he would have made them ashamed for their good, they had wickedly resisted. It was therefore necessary to subject them to the reproach of all people.

It is added, for a proverb and for a tale, or as some read, “for a parable and for a proverb.” The word lm, meshel, means a common saying; but here it signifies a scoff, and a similar meaning must be given to, hnyn, shenine, a tale or a fable. By both words he means, that when the heathens wished to describe a most grievous calamity, they would take this example, “Yes, it is all over with the Jews, no nation has become so wretched.” The same view is to be taken of execration; for he intimates that they would become a type and a pattern of a curse, “Yes, may you perish like the Jews; may God execute vengeance on you, as he has done on the Jews.” He then adds, that this would happen to them in all places wherever God would drive them; as though the Prophet had said, that God would not be satisfied with their exile, though that was to be grievous and bitter; but that when driven to distant lands they would become objects of reproach, so that all would point at them with the finger of scorn, accompanied with every mark of reproach, and would be also taking them as an example of execration. He afterwards adds —

<242410>Jeremiah 24:10

10. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers.

10. Et mittam in ipsos gladium, famem et pestem, usque dum consumantur e superficie terrae, quam dedi ipsis et patribus ipsorum.

 

He confirms the former verse, — that God would then with extreme rigor punish them, by allowing the city and the inhabitants who remained, to be given up to the will of their enemies. And Jeremiah still speaks as from the mouth of Moses, that his prophecy might be more weighty, and that he might frighten those men who were so refractory. There are here three kinds of punishments which we often meet with, under which are included all other punishments. But as God for the most part punishes the sins of men by pestilence, or by famine, or by war, he connects these three together when his purpose is to include all kinds of punishment.

He adds, Until they be consumed from the face of the land; he says not “until they be consumed in the land,” but from the face of it, l[m, mol, from upon it: for the Jews were not consumed in their own country; but he consumed them by degrees elsewhere, so that they gradually pined away: they were driven into exile, and that was their final destruction. fE123 What this clause means I have explained in another place.

The Prophet adds, which I gave to them and to their fathers. His object here was to shake off from the Jews that foolish confidence with which they were inebriated: for as they had heard of the land in which they dwelt, that it was the rest of God, and as they knew that it had been given to them by an hereditary right, according to what had been promised to their fathers, they thought that it could never be taken away from them. They therefore became torpid in their sins, as though God was bound to them. The Prophet ridicules this folly by saying, that the promise and favor of God would not prevent him from depriving them of the land and of its possession, and from rejecting them as though they were aliens, notwithstanding the fact, that he had formerly adopted them as his children.

We now see the meaning of both parts of this vision. For the Prophet wished to alleviate the sorrow of the exiles when he said, that their state at length would be better; and so he promised that God would be reconciled to them after having for a time chastised them. Thus it is no small comfort to us when we regard the end; for as the Apostle says to the Hebrews, when we feel the scourges of God, sorrow is a hinderance to a patient suffering, as chastisement is for the present grievous, bitter, and difficult to be endured. (<581211>Hebrews 12:11.) It is therefore necessary, if we would patiently submit to God, to have regard to the issue: for until the sinner begins to taste of God’s grace and mercy, he will fret and murmur, or he will be stupid and hardened; and certainly he will receive no comfort. Afterwards the Prophet shews, on the other hand, that though God may spare us for a time, there is yet no reason for us to indulge ourselves, for he will at length make up for the delay by the heaviness of his punishment: the more indulgently he deals with us, the more grievous and dreadful will be his vengeance, when he sees that we have abused his forbearance. Now follows —


CHAPTER 25

<242501>Jeremiah 25:1

1. The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon.

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam, ad omnem populum Jehudah (sed l[ accipitur etiam hic diverso sensu: sermo enim directus fuit ad Jeremiam ut esset illius testis ac proeco, deinde ad populum ut tandem perveniret ex ore Jeremioe ad omnes Judoeos quod uni dictum fuerat) anno quarto Joakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah: hic est annus primus Nebuchadnezer regis Babel.

 

his prophecy no doubt preceded the vision which we have just explained, and which had just been presented to Jeremiah when Jehoiakim died, and when Zedekiah reigned in the place of Jeconiah; who, being the last king, was substituted for his nephew Jeconiah. But related now is the prophecy which Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and he reigned, as we shall hereafter see, eleven years. We hence conclude that his book is composed of various addresses, but that the order of time has not always been preserved. Now the sum of the whole is, that when God found that the people could not be amended and restored to a right mind by any warnings, he denounced final ruin both on the Jews and on all the neighboring nations: but why he included the heathens we shall hereafter see.

He then says, that this prophecy was committed to him in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and he adds, that the same year was the first of King Nebuchadnezar. This seems inconsistent with other places, where the third of Jehoiakim is mentioned for the fourth year; and hence a long time is allotted for the first year of Nebuchadnezar. But a solution of this is not difficult, if we consider that Nebuchadnezar suddenly returned into Chaldea to settle his affairs at home, when the report of his father’s death was brought to him; for he feared, lest in his absence a tumult should arise, as it often happened. He was therefore anxious to secure his own affairs; and having settled things at home, he brought Jehoiakim into subjection, and in the fourth year of his reign he compelled him to open his treasures, and also led away captive those whom he wished. And it was at this time that Daniel and his companions were led away into exile, and the precious vessels of the Temple were removed. As to the first year of Nebuchadnezar’s reign, he reigned first with his father; and then when he reigned alone, the beginning of a new reign is justly mentioned as the first year. Though then he was made king, yet as he did not exercise the chief power until his father’s death, it was not until that event that he was really king; this is the reason why mention is made of his first year. But we ought especially to notice what the Prophet says, — that the word came to him, not for his own sake, but that he might be the public herald of God. It now follows, —

<242502>Jeremiah 25:2

2. The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying.

2. Quem sermonem protulit Jeremias Propheta ad totum populum Jehudah, et ad omnes habitatores Jerosolymae, dicendo.

 

He shews more clearly in this verse what he had just said, — that he was not taught from above, that he might suppress what he had heard, but that he might proclaim it as from the mouth of God; and hence he gives himself the honorable title of a Prophet, as though he had said, that he came furnished with the indubitable commands of God, and was at the same time honored with the office of a Prophet; and he came thus, that no one might dare despise his doctrine. Now follows his sermon, —

<242503>Jeremiah 25:3-5

3. From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, (that is the three and twentieth year,) the word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened.

3. A tertio decimo anno Josiae filii Ammon regis Jehudah ad hunc diem, hic tertius et vicesimus annus est, loquutus est Jehova ad me, et loquutus sum ad vos, surgens mane; et non audistis:

4. And the Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.

4. Et misit Jehova ad vos omnes suos servos Prophetas, mane surgens et mittens; et non audistis et non inclinastis aurem vestram ad audiendum;

5. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever.

5. Dicendo, Revertimini agedum quisque a via sua mala eta malitia operum vestrorum; et habitate super terram, quam dedit Jehova vobis et patribus vestris a seculo et usque in seculum (et quoe sequuntur. )

 

Jeremiah now expostulates with the Jews, because they had not only perfidiously departed from the true worship of God, and despised the whole teaching of his Law, but because they had shaken off the yoke, and designedly and even obstinately rejected all warnings, being not moved by reproofs nor even by threatenings. He does not then simply charge them with impiety and ingratitude, but adds the sin of perverseness, that they were like untameable wild beasts, and could by no means be corrected.

He says, that from the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah, to that year, which was the twenty-third year, he had not ceased faithfully to perform the office committed to him, but had effected nothing. It hence appears how incorrigible was their wickedness. We have seen, at the beginning of the book, that he was called by God to be a Prophet in the thirteenth year of King Josiah; and he had now been engaged in his calling, as he declares, for twenty-three years.

He had spent his time in vain, he had consumed much labor without any fruit. It is then no wonder that he now accuses them of perverseness, and that in the name of God; for he pleads not his own cause, but shews what the Jews deserved, considering how much God had labored in reclaiming them, and that they had rejected all his warnings and refused all his remedies. Then from the thirteenth year of Josiah, he says, to this day; and afterwards in a parenthesis he adds, that he had already discharged his office for twenty-three years.

We learn that the Prophet spoke thus seventeen years before the destruction of the City and Temple; for he had accomplished forty years before the people were driven into exile, and before they who thought themselves safe, miserably perished. He continued to the death of Josiah; and afterwards about twenty-two transpired; for Jehoiakim reigned eleven years; and without reckoning the short time of Jeconiah, Mathaniah, called also Zedekiah, was in the eleventh year removed, and disgracefully and reproachfully put to death. Thus it appears that the Prophet constantly labored for forty years.

Hence, also, we learn how diabolical was the madness of that people in rejecting so many admonitions. And if we connect another thing, to which I lately referred, that they had been taught by many examples, it will appear still more evident that the disease of impiety as to that people was altogether incurable.

But this passage deserves special attention; for we here learn that we ought immediately to return to God when he invites us; for faith is known by its promptitude. As soon then as God speaks, it behoves us to be attentive, so that we may immediately follow him. But if God ceases not for a whole year to warn and exhort us, while at the same time his doctrine is despised, we become guilty of intolerable sin. Let us then remember that days are here in a manner mentioned as well as years, that the Jews might consider how many days are included in every year; and let us also know that years are mentioned by Jeremiah, that they might, understand that they had no excuse, inasmuch as God had for so long a time ceased not to promote their welfare, while in the meantime they persisted in their impiety, and continued obstinate to the last. This is the reason why the Prophet relates again when it was that he began to discharge his prophetic office, even from the thirteenth year of Josiah.

He then adds, that it was their own fault that they had not repented; spoken, he says, has Jehovah to me, and I to you. By saying that the word of God was deposited with him, he no doubt intended to assert his authority against the unbelievers, who clamored that he presumptuously pretended God’s name, and that he had not been sent by God. For we have elsewhere seen that the Church was then miserably torn, having intestine broils, and many were boasting that they were prophets; and we shall hereafter find the same thing in other places. Thus, then, Jeremiah was not received by the whole people, and his authority was disputed. Since then he had to contend with many ungodly men, he here testifies that he came not of himself, but that the prophetic office had been committed to him.

After having asserted the authority of his call, he adds, that he had faithfully promoted the welfare of the whole people; for he declares how faithful and diligent he had been when he says, that he had spoken and rose up early; for to rise up early means that he had been assiduous in his work. The Prophet then shews that he had not been tardy or idle, and that he had not spoken carelessly as many do, who seem to do what God commands, but display no fervid zeal and no sedulity. The Prophet then, after having declared that he had been sent from above, adds that he had exercised fidelity and diligence, that he had strenuously served God and his Church. I have spoken to you, he says, as the Lord had spoken to me, — how? rising up early.

He then adds, I have spoken, and ye heard not. He complains here that his work had been useless, and at the same time shews that the whole fault was in the people. He confirms the same thing in other words, Jehovah has sent to you all his servants the prophets, rising. up early, etc. He enhances their sin, — that they had not only rejected one Prophet but even many; for God had not employed Jeremiah alone to teach them, but had joined others with him, so that they were less excusable. We hence see that their sin is in this verse exaggerated; for the Jews had not only despised God in the person of one man, but had also rejected all his servants. He might, indeed, have simply said, that God had sent his servants, but he adds the word prophets, in order that their ingratitude might appear more evident. It was, indeed, very wicked to neglect God’s servants; but as prophecy was an invaluable treasure, and a singular pledge and symbol of God’s favor, it was a double crime when they thus despised the prophets, whose very name ought to have been held sacred by them.

He afterwards applies to God what he had said of himself, rising up early. It is certain that God does not rise up, as he sleeps not in the night; but the language is much more expressive and forcible, when God himself is said to rise up early. And it, was not without reason that the Prophet spoke so emphatically; for though the Jews were sufficiently convicted of ingratitude for having disregarded God’s servants, it was yet a monstrous impiety to shew no regard for God. But when the unbelieving are proved guilty, they ever fix their eyes on men, “He! it is with a mortal that I have to do; far be it from me ever to rise up against God; but why is this so much blamed, since I do not immediately perish? since I am not suddenly cast down at the nod of man? what! am I not free to inquire, and to discuss, and to examine every part of what is said? why do the prophets so imperiously treat us, that it is not lawful to doubt any of their words?” Thus, then, did the ungodly speak. But God on the other hand answered them and said, that he was despised, as also Christ said,

“He who hears you hears me,
and he who despises you despises me.” (<421016>Luke 10:16)

So also the Prophet sets forth God himself as rising up early, exhorting the people and manifesting every care for their wellbeing. This, then, is the design of the metaphor, when he says, that God had sent to them and rose up early; he rose up early while sending his servants.

Now as God fulminates against all despisers of his doctrine, so from these words we may gather no small consolation; for we certainly conclude that God watches over our safety whenever sound and faithful teachers go forth: it is the same as though he himself descended from heaven, rose up early, and was intent in securing our salvation. This we learn from the very words of the Prophet, when he says, that God rose up early. But as this testimony of God’s favor and paternal care towards us is delightful, so to the same extent dreadful is the vengeance that awaits those who neglect this favor, who sleep when God is watching, who hear not when he is speaking, who continue in their sloth and torpor when God of his own accord meets them, and kindly and gently invites them to himself.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to choose us from our infancy to be thy people, and that when we were wretched apostates, thou hast also been pleased to restore us to the right way, by stretching forth thine hand to lead us, — O grant, that we may not be deaf nor idle; but may it please thee, by thy Spirit, especially to correct all obstinacy in our hearts, so that we may render ourselves obedient and submissive to thee: and as thou hast not ceased continually to call us, may we in our turn respond to thee, and not only by our tongues, but also by our works, pursue the course which thou hast appointed for us, until we shall reach the goal, and enjoy that blessed state of glory which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Fourth

We began yesterday to explain God’s complaint against the Jews, — that he had found them wholly refractory and rebellious. He says, in one word, that they did not hear him; but he afterwards adds, that they did not incline their ear to hear him; by which mode of speaking, is set forth more fully their perverseness, as they closed their ears as it were designedly; for not to incline the ear is more than not to hear. Jeremiah then means, that they had so hardened themselves against all that was taught by the prophets, that they designedly rejected everything that was set before them by God’s authority.

He afterwards explains what God required them to do, Turn ye, I pray, every one from his evil way and from the wickedness of your doings, and dwell in the land which Jehovah has given to you and your fathers from age even to age. What God required was doubtless most just; for he demanded nothing from the Jews but to repent. There was also a promise added; God not only exhorted them to repent, but wished also to be reconciled to them, and having blotted out all memory of their sins, to shew them kindness: had they not been harder than stones, they must have been turned to his service by so kind a treatment. God might have indeed sharply reproved them, he might have threatened them, he might, in short, have cut off every hope of pardon; but he only required them to repent, and at the same time added a promise of free forgiveness. As then they had despised so great a favor, it follows that they must have been men of reprobate minds and of irreclaimable habits.

When they were bidden to repent of their evil way and of the wickedness of their doings, it was done for sake of amplifying; for the Prophet wished to take away from them every pretense for evasion, lest they should ask what was the wickedness or what was the evil way. He then intimates that they were fully proved guilty; and for this purpose he made the repetition. By way is designated a continued course of life; but as they had fully shewed themselves perverse in many ways, he refers to their fruits, as though he had said, that they in vain contended with God, by inquiring what had been their evil way, for their whole life sufficiently testified that they were wholly given to wickedness.

Now there is a striking alliteration in the verbs wb and wbw: the verb wb, shebu, means sometimes to rebel, it means to return to the right way, and it means to rest or dwell in. He uses the same verb, though the sense is different when he says, “Return ye,” and “ye shall dwell.” fE124

He also emphatically uses the word ya, aish “every one:” it means properly “man;” but it is taken in Hebrew for every one or each one, “each one from his evil way.” The Prophet exempted none, lest they thought that their fault was extenuated, had not the evil been universal. He hence says, that every one was given to wickedness; as though he had said, that impiety not only prevailed among the whole people, as the case commonly is, but that every one had become corrupt, so that there was not one sound or upright among the whole people.

And this is what ought to be observed; for we are wont, in a cold manner, to confess our sins, and to pray to God when we are proved guilty, except when each one is touched with the sense of his own guilt, and owns himself to be justly exposed to God’s judgment; for while every one mingles with the multitude, it so happens that no one acknowledges the heinousness of his own sins. Therefore, for true and sincere repentance this peculiar examination is necessary, so that every one may repent and not regard his friends.

When he says, Dwell ye in the land, though it be the imperative mood, yet it is a promise, by which God declared that he was ready to receive the Jews into favor, provided they returned from the heart to him: he proposed to them, as a symbol of his paternal layout, the possession of the land; for that land was as it were the pledge of their adoption; and the Jews, while they dwelt there, might have felt assured that God was their Father. He adds, From age even to age; as though he had said, “I am prepared to do you good not only for one day, or for a short time, but also to shew you kindness from age to age. It will then be your fault if ye be not happy, and if this happiness will not pass on from you to your children and grandchildren.” But the more delightful the invitation was, the more detestable became the impiety of the people, as it will be stated hereafter. He now adds, —

<242506>Jeremiah 25:6

6. And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands, and I will do you no hurt.

6. Et ne ambuletis post deos alienos ad serviendum ipsis, et ad incurvandum coram ipsis (id est, ad eos adorandos,) et ne provocetis me in opere manuum vestrarum, et non malefaciam vobis.

 

The Prophet mentions here one kind of sin; for though the Jews in many, and even in numberless ways kindled God’s wrath, yet they especially procured a heavy judgment for themselves by their superstitions. They indeed manifested their contempt of God by adultery, theft, and plunder, but in a way not so direct; for when they abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles, they thus shook off the yoke of God, as though they openly testified that he was no longer their God. And we know that nothing is so much valued and approved by God as a sincere attention to real piety; hence the Church is taught in the first table of the Law how he is to be worshipped. This is the reason why the Prophet especially reminds the Jews here that they had, in this respect, been rebellious against God, because he could not bring them back from their corrupt superstitions. He does not at the same time absolve them of other sins; but he mentions this one kind, in order that they might understand, that they were not only in part, but altogether rebellious against God; for they wholly departed from him when they vitiated his worship with wicked superstitions. We must then bear in mind, that the Jews were not condemned for some small offenses, but accused of the most heinous of sins; for they had become covenant-breakers and apostates, and had forsaken God himself and his law.

He says, Walk ye not after foreign gods to serve them and to worship them. He pointed out as by the finger, how gross had been their impiety; for they had given themselves up to idols, that they might basely serve them; they had wholly devoted themselves to them. It was not then an excusable error, but a manifest treachery. He adds, Provoke me not by the work of your hands. No doubt the Prophet meant by these words to confirm what has been already stated, that idolatry is before God an intolerable wickedness: and at the same time he shews, that they had not sinned through ignorance, for they had in time been reminded of the atrocity of this sin. As then they had not ceased from their superstitions, they were thus proved guilty of a diabolical madness, for they feared not to provoke God against them. And he says, by the work of your hands; and thus he speaks contemptuously or rather reproachfully of idols. They called them gods, not that they were ignorant that they were statues curiously made of wood and stone, or of some other material; but still they thought that divinity was connected with them, for they believed that God was thus rightly worshipped. Now, then, the Prophet calls them the work of hands, as though he had said, “If the Jews themselves are nothing, the idols are less than nothing; for they are only the work of hands.” And this way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets, by which God intended to shake off the stupidity of men, who were become quite senseless in their own devices; as though he had said, “Have you not a particle of a right understanding in you? do you not know, that this which ye worship is the work of your own hands? and what can your hands do? for what are ye yourselves?” We now perceive what the Prophet had in view in using these words.

There is, again; a promise given, I will not do you evil. God declares by these words that they would be exempt from all trouble and distress, if they continued to walk according to the rule of true religion; and thus he intimates that whatever evils they had already endured, and would have hereafter to endure, could not be imputed to anything but to their own perverseness, for God had of his own free-will promised to spare them, provided they departed from their wicked ways. And such a hope ought especially to encourage us to repent, for we see that God is ready to receive us and seeks reconciliation with us, and is always prepared to forgive all our sins, provided we from the heart return to him; and he seems as one unwilling to inflict punishment. Here again the impiety of the people is more fully proved, for they refused to receive from God this invaluable favor. It follows, —

<242507>Jeremiah 25:7

7. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your hurt.

7. Et non audistis me, (non auscultastic mihi) dicit Jehova, ut provocaretis (hoc est, quia voluistis me irritare) in opere manuum vestrarum, in malum vobis.

 

He proves what he had said before, that the Jews had been wholly disobedient, though God had kindly offered and shewed that he would be reconciled to them, provided they turned from the heart to him. The fact that this message was not received by the Jews, was an evidence of extreme and irreclaimable obstinacy. And he enhances their guilt by saying, that ye might provoke me; for he intimates that they were led away to evil by a voluntary purpose, as though they wished to provoke God. The Prophet, then, by saying that ye might provoke me, accuses them of deliberate wickedness. It, indeed, often happens that men go astray through ignorance, and do not attend because no one warns them; but since God had so many times exhorted the Jews to repent, no other opinion could have been formed of them, but that they designedly wished, not only to despise God, but also to provoke him to the contest.

And this is what we ought carefully to notice, for whosoever has been taught the will of God, unless he obeys, he cannot escape the charge of a voluntary obstinacy, as he has resolved, as it were, to carry on war with God. Though the ungodly do not confess this, yet the fact is evident; and God, who is a righteous judge, has declared that they who despised the prophetic doctrine were so regarded.

And he says, for evil to you, in order that they might know that God did not plead his own cause because he stood in need of their service, but that he cared for their welfare. For there is to be understood here an implied contrast, as though the Prophet had said, “What loss has God suffered by your perverseness? Ye have, indeed, tried to deprive him of his glory, for ye have adorned your idols by spoils taken from him; but it is not in men’s power to subtract anything from the rights of God; he remains ever perfect: then it only turns out to your ruin when ye are rebellious. When, therefore, God now reproves you, he does not maintain his own right, as though he received any gain or loss from you; but it is an evidence of his mercy, because he would not have you to perish, though he sees that you are led into destruction by an insane impulse.” It afterwards follows, —

<242508>Jeremiah 25:8-9

8. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Because ye have not heard my words,

8. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Eo quod non audistis ad sermones meos (hoc est, non attenti fuistis ad sermones meos:)

9. Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.

9. Ecce ego mittam et accipiam (vel, assumam) omnes cognationes (vel, familias) Aquilonis, dicit Jehova, et Nebuchadnezer regem Babylonis servum meum, et inducam eos in terram hanc et in habitatores ejus, et in omnes gentes istas in circuitu, et perdam eas, et ponam eas in stuporem et sibilum, et in vastitares seculi (id est, perpetuas.)

 

Here follows a denunciation of punishment; the Prophet says that God would no longer deal in words, for their iniquity had ripened, according to what is in Genesis,

“My Spirit shall not contend (or strive) any more with man.” (<010603>Genesis 6:3.)

When God prepares to execute vengeance on the wickedness of men, he says that there is no more time for contending. A sudden execution of judgment is then what is here intended; but he mentions at the same time the punishment. After having explained the cause of so much severity, even because they would not hear the words of God, he adds, Behold, I will send for and take all the families of the north, etc. I have no doubt but that the Prophet alludes to the edicts of kings, for when they wish to raise an army they publish their edicts, and order those everywhere to meet who have either given their names or been enlisted as soldiers. So God now by these words intimates that the Chaldeans were under his power, so that they were ready, as soon as he gave them a signal; according to other modes of speaking he uses in other places, but in the same sense, “I will hiss,” and also, “I will send an alarm.” The Scripture is full of expressions of this kind, which shew that all mortals are prepared to obey God whenever he intends to employ their services; not that it is their purpose to serve God, but that he by a secret influence so rules them and their tongues, their minds and hearts, their hands and their feet, that they are constrained, willing or unwilling, to do his will and pleasure. And in the same sense he calls Nebuchadnezzar his servant, for that cruel tyrant never meant to offer his service to God; but God employed him as his instrument, as though he had been hired by him. And we shall see also elsewhere that he is called God’s servant.

And it ought to be noticed, for we hence learn the fact, that many are God’s servants who are yet wholly unworthy of so honorable a title; but they are not so called with respect to themselves. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was making war with the God of Israel when he invaded Judea; and only ambition, and avarice, and cruelty impelled him to undertake so many wars. When, therefore, we think of him, of his designs and his projects, we cannot say that he was God’s servant; but this is to be referred to God only, who governs by his hidden and incomprehensible power both the devil and the ungodly, so that they execute, though unwittingly, whatever he determines. There is a great difference between these and God’s servants, who, when anything is commanded them, seek to render that obedience which they ought — all such are faithful servants. They are, then, justly called God’s servants, for there is a mutual concord between God and them: God commands, and they obey. But it is a mutilated and a half service when the ungodly are led beyond the purpose of their own minds, and God uses them as instruments when they think of and design another thing.

It must at the same time be noticed that this name of servant is given, though in an inferior sense, to Nebuchadnezzar for the sake of honor, in order that the Jews might be made ashamed; for it was a great reproach to them that a heathen had been chosen by God, and had obtained the title of a servant, when they themselves had become aliens. The Prophet then, no doubt, intended to cast reproach on them by raising to this dignity the king of Babylon. There was also another reason, even that the Jews might know that whatever they were to suffer would be inflicted by God’s hand, and that they might not otherwise think of Nebuchadnezzar than as God’s scourge, in order that they might thus be led to confess their sins and be really humbled. We now perceive the meaning of the words.

He says afterwards, I will bring them on this land and on all its inhabitants, etc. By these words he confirms what I have just referred to, that God had his vengeance ready as soon as he purposed to treat the Jews as they deserved. As he had then said that Nebuchadnezzar and all the people of the north were prepared by him as hired soldiers, so he now adds that victory was in his power — I will bring them, he says, over the land and over all the neighboring nations which are around. fE125 Why the Prophet denounces punishment here on other nations we shall see elsewhere. The Jews, in addition to other vain confidences, were wont to flatter themselves with this, that if Nebuchadnezzar should invade the territories of others, all would unite together against him, and that by such a confederacy they could easily overcome him. As, then, the Jews looked to all parts, and knew that the Egyptians were in alliance with them, and were also persuaded that the Moabites, the Tyrians, the Syrians, and all the rest would become confederates, they became confident, and indulged in that security by which they deceived themselves. This, therefore, is the reason why the Prophet expressly threatens the nations by which they were surrounded, not for the sake of these nations, but that the Jews might cease to entertain their vain confidence.

God says that he would make all nations, as well as the Jews, an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. He intimates that it would be a dreadful calamity, such as would astonish all that heard of it. As it is said elsewhere, “The report alone will excite alarm;” so in this place, I will make them for an astonishment. When a moderate calamity is related to us, we are indeed moved to pity; but when the greatness of the evil exceeds belief, we then stand amazed, and all our senses are stunned. The Prophet then means that the calamity which God would bring on the Jews would be, as it were, monstrous, such as would stupify all that would hear of it. fE126

At last he adds, that they would be for perpetual desolations. He does afterwards, indeed, mitigate the severity of these words; for he confines God’s vengeance to seventy years. But this mode of speaking is common in Scripture; for, lw[, oulam stands opposed to a short time. It is to be taken in different senses, according to the circumstances of the passage. It sometimes designates perpetuity, as when the Prophet says, from age to age, that is, through continued ages, or through a course of years, which shall last perpetually. But age, or lw[, oulam, is often to be taken for the time allotted to the people until the coming of Christ; and sometimes it means simply a long time, as here and in many other places. It follows, —

<242510>Jeremiah 25:10

10. Moreover, I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle.

10. Et transire faciam (hoc est, auferam) ab ipsis vocem gaudii, et vocem laetitiae, vocem sponsi et vocem sponsae, vocem molarum (id est, strepitum molarum) et lumen lucernae.

 

He confirms here what I have just said, — that the Jews were not to be chastised in a common manner, but be exposed to extreme distress. For though all things may not be with us prosperous and according to our wishes, yet marriages may still be celebrated, and some hilarity may remain; we may yet eat and drink and enjoy the necessaries of life, though we may have no pleasures; but the Prophet shews here that such would be the devastation of the land, that there would be no thoughts about marriages, that all hilarity and joy would cease, that there would be no preparations of food, no grinding of corn, and that, in short, all feasts usually kept by the light of candles would be no more celebrated. Here, then, he describes to the life that devastation which had been before mentioned. fE127

The Prophet no doubt indirectly condemns that insensibility by which the devil had possessed the minds of the people; for though the prophets continually threatened them, yet there was no end to their exultations and no moderation in them, according to what is said by Isaiah, who complains of such wantonness, that they said, “Let us feast, tomorrow we shall die;” and who also says,

“I have called you to sackcloth and ashes, but ye went to the harp and to feastings.” (<232212>Isaiah 22:12, 13)

When, therefore, the Prophet speaks here of the voice of joy and gladness, of the noise of millstones, and of lamps, he doubtless upbraids them with their stupid security; for they feared nothing, and thought themselves safe even when God was shewing himself, as with an outstretched hand, to be their avenging judge. It follows, —

<242511>Jeremiah 25:11

11. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

11. Et erit tota terra haec in vastitatem et in stuporem, et servient gentes hae regi Babylonis septuaginta annis.

 

Here the Prophet mentions the restriction of which I have spoken, and thus he mitigates the severity of their punishment. It is, then, a kind of correction; not that he changes anything, but only by this sort of correction he explains what he before meant by perpetual desolations.

He says, The whole land shall be a waste and an astonishment, or as some render it, “a desolation.” The word m, indeed, means to lay desolate, and also to astonish; but as he had lately used the word in the sense of astonishment, I see no reason for changing its meaning here, especially as it is connected with hbrj, charebe. But as to the drift of the passage, there is not much difference whether we say, the land shall be a desolation, or an astonishment; for it was to be a solitudereduced to a desolation or a wilderness. fE128

And serve shall these nations the king of Babylon seventy years, there the Prophet concludes his prophecy concerning the future calamity of the people, even that the land would be reduced to a solitude, so as to render every one passing through it astonished, or that it was to become a horrid spectacle on account of its desolation. And that a time of seventy years was fixed, it was a testimony of God’s paternal kindness towards his people, not indiscriminately towards the whole multitude, but towards the remnant of whom he had spoken elsewhere. Then the Prophet means, that however grievously the Jews had sinned, yet God would execute only a temporary punishment; for after seventy years, as we shall see, he would restore them to their own country, and repair what they had lost, even the inhabitation of the promised land, the holy city, and the Temple. And this is more fully expressed in the next verse.

<242512>Jeremiah 25:12

12. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylonem, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.

12. Et erit cum impleti fuerint septuaginta anni, visitabo super regem Babylonis et super populum ejus, dicit Jehova, iniquitatem ipsorum, et super terram Chaldaorum, et ponam eam in desolationes saeculi (id est, perpetuas.)

 

The Prophet now, as I have said, shews more clearly why the time of the captivity and exile had been defined, even that the faithful might know that God would not forget his covenant, though he deprived the people of the inheritance of the land. These words were not addressed indiscriminately to the whole body of the people, as we have observed before in other places; but the Prophet intended to consult the benefit of God’s elect, who always retained a concern for true religion; for they must have a hundred times despaired had not this promise been added. This, then, was a special doctrine intended as food for God’s children; for he addressed, as it was apart, the elect and faithful only.

God says also, that at the end of seventy years he would visit the iniquity of the king of Babylon, and of his whole people. We hence learn that Nebuchadnezzar was not called God’s servant because he deserved anything for his service, but because God led him while he was himself unconscious, or not thinking of any such thing, to do a service which neither he nor his subjects understood to be for God. Though, then, the Lord employs the ungodly in executing his judgments, yet their guilt is not on this account lessened; they are still exposed to God’s judgment. And these two things well agree together, — that the devil and all the ungodly serve God, though not of their own accord, but whenever he draws them by his hidden power, and that they are still justly punished, even when they have served God; for though they perform his work, yet not because they are commanded to do so. They are therefore justly liable to punishment, according to what the Prophet teaches us here.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we see everywhere evidences of thy wrath, and as our own conscience convinces every one of us, so that we are constrained to confess that we are all, from the highest to the lowest, guilty before thee, — O grant that we may in due time return to the right way, and seek to be reconciled to thee, and never doubt but that thou wilt be merciful and gracious to us, whenever we solicit pardon in the name of thy only-begotten Son; and may we also be so reconciled to thee, that we may know that thou art indeed with us as our Father, by ruling us by thy Spirit, so that thy name may to the end be glorified, through our Lord Jesus Christ. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Fifth

We explained in the last Lecture the verse in which God declared that he would punish the king of Babylon and his people for their cruelty towards the Israelites. We said that this was addressed peculiarly to the elect, for many of the people perished without the hope of salvation. But God intended in the meantime to shew his care for the remnant; and for this reason he defined the time of exile, and predicted that he would be an enemy to the Babylonians, for he would undertake the cause of his people.

One thing I did not explain, that is, what the Prophet says of eternal reproaches. Now, it seems that this was not fulfilled; for though after seventy years Babylon was taken and was reduced to a state of subjection, yet the city itself remained safe, and for many ages was celebrated for its great splendor. The Prophet, then, seems to have exceeded the limits of truth in speaking of these desolations; for such did not take place when the city was taken by the Medes and Persians. But, as we have said elsewhere, we ought not to restrict to one time what is said in many places by the prophets respecting the destruction of Babylon; for it pleased God, in various ways and at different times, to execute his vengeance on that people; and it appears evident from history that it would have been better for the Babylonians to have perished at once than to have undergone so many calamities. For in a short time after the people revolted from the Persians, the city was recovered by the contrivance and craft of Zopyrus; the nobles were then reduced into slavery, so that no dignity remained. It was afterwards taken by Alexander; and after that Seleucus obtained possession of it. On its ruins were then built the city Ctesiphon, and at length it gradually decayed. But no change occurred without a great diminution of the city’s opulence; and nothing more disgraceful could have happened to it than for those who were in authority to be taken and hung on gibbets, as Zenophon and other historians relate.

We now, then, see how this passage, and others like it, are to be understood; for God does not speak only of one time of vengeance, but he includes all those judgments by which he vindicated the wrongs done to his people. It now follows, —

<242513>Jeremiah 25:13

13. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations.

13. Et adducam super terram illam omnes sermones meos quod loquutus sum super eam, quicquid scriptum est in libro hoc, quod prophetavit Jeremias super omnes gentes (vel in quo prophetavit, si placeat referre ad librum.)

 

He confirms what he had said before when he says, that he would bring all his words on the Chaldeans; that is, that he would give effect to all the prophecies, so that it would be evident that Jeremiah had foretold nothing rashly, and that God had not in vain threatened them by the mouth of his servant. Such is the meaning, and hence we see what the Prophet intimates when he says, that God would bring all his words, for he had then spoken. But as the ungodly regard whatever is brought forward in God’s name as a matter of sport and mockery, and boldly deride all threatenings, to bring words means the same thing with proving by events that God does not terrify men without accomplishing his words; in short, to bring words is to prove their authority. And, as I have said, the expression has a reference to the insensibility of men who give no credit to God’s words until they are convinced by their accomplishment; for they think that the air only is beaten, and thus they are not touched by any fear. But God proves the power of his word when he executes what he has predicted.

We then see that the Prophet intends nothing else in this verse than to confirm what he had said before. And he speaks of Chaldea and says, upon that land.

And we must at the same time notice another form of speaking; for God says, that he had pronounced these words; he afterwards says, that Jeremiah was his minister, and as it were his herald; and he calls him also a scribe or a writer. God then here declares that he was the author of all that Jeremiah had brought forward; and yet he leaves his own office to his minister, for it is necessary to secure authority to the prophets; otherwise, except God visibly descended from heaven, men would either indiscriminately admit what might be said, and without judgment receive falsehood and truth, or they would become wholly hardened, so as to give no credit to prophetic instruction. He says, whatsoever is written in this book. The Prophet no doubt wrote down a summary of what he had delivered; for as we have said elsewhere, it was usual with the prophets, after they had spoken at large to the people and preached diffusely, to affix a short summary to the doors of the Temple. This volume then is what Jeremiah calls the book, which was composed from his public addresses. It might in common language be called a summary. Then he adds, in what, or, “what he prophesied,” fE129 in order to shew that he meant what he had before said; and so it might be rendered, that is, what he prophesied; but the other exposition is not unsuitable, in which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. It follows, —

<242514>Jeremiah 25:14

14. For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.

14. Quia fecerunt in illis (vel, quia coegerunt eos) in servitutem etiam ipsi, gentes multae (vel, robustae, vel, validae) et reges magni; et rependam illis secundum actionem suam et seceundum opus manuum ipsorum.

 

The beginning of the verse is obscure. When the verb db[, obed, is followed by b, beth, they think that it is to be taken actively, and rendered, to force or drive to bondage. It means properly, to serve; but they think that found as here it is a transitive verb. Some render it, “they employed them;” but this is frigid and ambiguous; for friends may be said to employ one another, when the work is mutual; hence the meaning is not sufficiently expressed. But the meaning may be given by a paraphrase, that they “forced them into bondage.” Still the meaning of the Prophet is not yet sufficiently clear; for wdb[, obedu, may be taken either in the past or future tense. It is, indeed, in the past tense; but the past may be taken for the future: thus the meaning may be different. If it be taken in the past tense, then it cannot be applied except to the Babylonians; for they were those who had treated the Israelites as slaves, or had forced them into bondage; and b, bem, “them,” might be understood of the Israelites; for we know that pronouns are often thus used, when the Church, or God’s elect people, is the subject. Then the Prophet’s words may be thus rendered, “for they have tyrannically ruled over them,” even the Israelites, “and they themselves,” that is, the Israelites, shall in their turn rule, the latter words being understood. But the meaning, as it seems to me, would be more simple, were we to read the whole together in this way, “For they also themselves shall rule over them, even over strong and valiant nations and great kings, and I will recompense them,” etc.

The reason which has constrained me to give this interpretation is this: It is said in the last verse that Jeremiah prophesied against all nations; then follows an explanation, and the Prophet briefly shews, or reminds us, what would be the issue of these prophecies, even that they also would themselves rule over these nations. Then b, bem, as I think, refers to the Babylonians and other heathen nations; and it is a common thing with the prophets, when they speak of the restoration of the ancient Church, and of Christ’s coming, to promise power to God’s children to hold the whole world under their feet. The sentence also will flow better, when we give this version, “They shall rule.” There is, indeed, a change as to time, but this is a common thing in Hebrew. It is then; For they shall rule over them, that is, the nations. Jeremiah had spoken of all heathen nations; mention had been made of all that he had prophesied against all nations; and he says now what seemed incredible, and hence the particle g, gam, is introduced, “even these very Israelites,” as though he had said, “Though this shall happen beyond hope, so as to appear strange and fabulous, yet God by the issue will shew that he has not in vain communicated this to me; for they, even the Israelites, shall have their turn to exercise dominion; and they shall constrain all nations to obey them.” And what follows confirms my view; for he adds, over strong nations, ybr ywg, guim rebim, (for the b, beth, may be repeated here;) or we may render the words “many nations;” for the word ybr, rebim, means both; but as it follows “and great kings,” I am disposed to render the words, “strong nations.” Then he says, “For they shall rule over strong nations and great kings.” fE130

He then subjoins, I will recompense them, that is, both kings and nations, according to their doing, and according to the work of their hands, because they had exercised every kind of cruelty towards the miserable Israelites. Hence the Prophet pursues the same subject, — that God would at length really shew, that though he had been angry with his Church, yet all hope of mercy was not lost, for he was mindful of his covenant. He thus mitigates the severity of what he had previously said; he promises them something far better than what the wretched Jews could have expected in their extreme calamities.

We may again learn from the words of the Prophet, that God so employed Nebuchadnezzar and others, that they performed no service deserving of praise; for had they been without fault, God must doubtless have unjustly punished them. This passage then teaches us, that though the devil and the reprobate execute God’s judgments, they yet deserve no praise for their obedience, for they have no such purpose in view. It now follows, —

<242515>Jeremiah 25:15

15. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me, Take the wine-cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.

15. Quia sic dixit Jehova Deus Israel ad me, Sume calicem vini furoris (vel, iracundiae) Sume calicem vini furoris (vel, iracundiae) hujus e manu mea, et propina illum cunctis gentibus, ad quas ego mittam to ad eas (sed hoc secundum redundat.)

 

Jeremiah now explains more at large what might on account of its brevity have appeared obscure. He had spoken of all nations, but his discourse was abrupt; for he had not yet openly told us that he had been sent by God as a herald to summon all kings and nations before his tribunal, and to declare what was to be. As, then, the Prophet had referred to nothing of this kind, his discourse was ambiguous. But he now declares that a cup from God’s hand had been delivered to him, which he was to give to all nations to drink. We hence see that there is here nothing new, but that the Prophet is, as it were, the interpreter of his previous prophecy, which was briefly stated.

Moreover, that what he said might have more weight, he relates a vision, Thus said Jehovah the God of Israel unto me, Take the cup of the wine of this fury from my hand. fE131 We have said in other places that the fulfillment of prophetic truth was not without reason dwelt upon, and that the servants of God were so armed, as though the execution of all that they alleged was ready at hand. They were said to demolish cities and to overthrow kingdoms even for this reason, because such was the torpidity of men, that they gave no credit to God, except they were brought to see the event as it were before their eyes. But as this subject has been handled more fully elsewhere, I shall only touch upon it here. He then says, that a cup had been delivered to him by God’s hand; by which words he intimates, that he did not come forth of his own will to terrify the Jews and other nations, but that he faithfully proclaimed what had been committed to him; and he also intimates, that God spoke nothing now but what he meant shortly to execute; and this is what is to be understood by the word cup.

He calls it the cup of the wine of fury, or of wrath. This metaphor often occurs in the prophets, but in a different sense. For God is said sometimes to inebriate men when he stupifies them, and drives them at one time to madness, and at another time deprives them of common sense and understanding, so that they become like beasts; but he is said also to inebriate them, when, by outward calamities, he fills them with astonishment. So now the Prophet calls calamity the cup of wrath, even that calamity, which like fire was to inflame the minds of all those who received no benefit from chastisements. Madness, indeed, means no other thing than the despair of those who perceive God’s hand stretched out against them, and thus rage and clamor, and curse heaven and earth, themselves and God. This is what we are to understand by wrath. He compares this wrath to wine, because they who are thus smitten by God’s hand are carried away as it were beyond themselves, and repent not, nor think of their sins with calmness of mind, but abandon themselves to a furious rage. We now then understand why the Prophet says, that the cup of the wine of wrath had been given to him.

Then he adds, An, make all the nations to whom I send thee fE132 to drink it. Here, again, he confirms what I lately referred to, that his office was farther extended than to teach in the middle of the Church, but that he had also been chosen to proclaim as a herald God’s judgments on all nations. He was, indeed, sent to the Jews otherwise than to heathen nations, for he was set over them as a teacher, and that for their salvation, provided they were not irreclaimable; but he was sent to the heathens expressly to threaten them with what was nigh at hand. He was, however, sent both to the Jews and to all other nations, as he will hereafter more distinctly shew in due order.

We now see the design and object of what is here said; — to add authority to his last prophecy, Jeremiah, in the first place, sets forth the vision which had been presented to him; and then he testifies that he brought nothing of his own, but only obeyed God and faithfully performed his commands; and thirdly, he intimates that he was not only appointed a teacher in the Church of God, but was also a witness of his vengeance on all nations. It follows, —

<242516>Jeremiah 25:16

16. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.

16. Et bibant et moveantur et insaniant (ad verbum legendum esset, bibent et inebriabuntur; est enim ubique, w conversivum; sed potius resolvi debet copula in particulum finalem, ut bibent et inebrientur et insaniant) a facie gladii, quem ego mitto in medio ipsorum (inter ipsos.)

 

Here the Prophet more fully shews what we have before stated, that they were not vain terrors when he denounced God’s judgments on all nations, for we call those threatenings childish which are not accomplished. But the Prophet here declares that however obstinately the Jews and others might resist, they could not possibly escape God’s vengeance, as he was the judge of all. Hence the Prophet is bidden to take a cup and to give it to others. But the Jews might have still objected and said, “We may, indeed, take the cup from thine hand, but what if we refuse? what if we cast away from us what thou givest us to drink?” Hence the Prophet says that, willing or unwilling, they were to take the cup, that they might drink and exhaust whatever was destined for them by God’s judgment; he therefore says that they may drink.

He then adds, that they may be incensed and become distracted. fE133 These two words refer, no doubt, to the grievousness of their punishment; for he intimates that they would become, as it were, destitute of mind and reason. When God kindly chastises us, and with paternal moderation, we are then able with resignation to submit to him and to flee to his mercy; but when we make a clamor and are driven almost to madness, we then shew that an extreme rigor is felt, and that there is no hope of pardon. The Prophet, then, intended to express, that so atrocious would be the calamities of the nations with whom God was angry, that they would become stupified and almost insane; and at the same time frantic, for despair would lay hold on their minds and hearts, that they would not be able to entertain any hope of deliverance, or to submit to God, but that they would, as it is usual with the reprobate, rise up against God and vomit forth their blasphemies.

He says, because of the sword that I will send among them. It appears from the word tnyb, bintem, “among them,” that there would be mutual conflicts, that they would destroy one another. God, then, would send his sword; but he would extend it now to the Chaldeans, then to the Egyptians; now to the Assyrians, then to other nations, so that with the same sword they would contend one with another, until at last it would prove a ruin to them all. It now follows, —

<242517>Jeremiah 25:17

17. Then took I the cup at the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the Lord had sent me:

17. Et sumpsi calicem e manu Jehovae, et propinavi cunctis gentibus ad quas misit me Jehova ad eas (sed iterum supervacuum est hoec repetitio:)

 

The Prophet now adds that he obeyed God’s command; for he had before often testified that he was constrained to perform his office, which he would have willingly not have done, if he was at liberty. But as he was bound to obey the divine call, it was evident that it was not his fault, and that he was unjustly charged by the people as the author of the evils denounced. We indeed know that the prophets incurred much ill-will and reproach from the refractory and the despisers of God, as though all their calamities were to be imputed to them. Jeremiah then says, that he took the cup and gave it to drink to all the nations: he intimates that he had no desire to do this, but that necessity was laid on him to perform his office. He then shews who these nations were, —

<242518>Jeremiah 25:18

18. To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; (as it is this day;)

18. Jerosolymae et urbibus Jehudah, et regibus ejus, et principibus ejus, ad ponendum eos in vastitatem (vel, solitudinem,) in stuporem, in sibulum, et maledictionem, sicut dies haec;

 

He begins with Jerusalem, as it is said elsewhere that judgment would begin at God’s house. (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.) And there is nothing opposed to this in the context of the passage; for though he had promised to the children of God a happy end to the evils which they were shortly to endure, he nevertheless enumerates here all the nations on whom God had bidden him to denounce judgments. In this catalogue the Church obtains the first place; for though God be the judge of the whole world, he yet justly begins with his own Church, and that especially for two reasons — for as the father of a family watches over his children and servants, and if there be anything wrong, his solicitude is particularly manifested; so God, as he dwells in his Church, cannot do otherwise than chastise it for its faults; — and then, we know that they are less excusable, who, having been taught the will of God, do yet go on indulging their own lusts, (<421247>Luke 12:47; ) for they cannot plead ignorance. Hence is fulfilled what Christ declares, that those servants shall be more grievously beaten, who, knowing their masters will, yet obstinately disregard it. There is, then, a twofold fault in the members of the Church; and no comparison can be made between them and the unbelieving who are in thick darkness. Since God shines in his Church and shews the way, as Moses says,

“Behold I set before you the way of life and of death; I therefore call heaven and earth to witness that there is no excuse for you. (<053015>Deuteronomy 30:15, 19.)

This, then, is the second reason why God first visits the sins of the faithful, or of those who are counted faithful.

There is also what appertains to an example: God chastises his own children lest he should seem by his indulgence to favor or countenance what is wicked and sinful. But this third reason is in a manner accidental; and therefore I wished to state it apart from the two other reasons. When, therefore, God so severely treats his own Church, the unbelieving ought to draw this conclusion, that if this be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (<422331>Luke 23:31.)

But the two things which I have before mentioned ought to be deemed by us as sufficient reasons why God, while suspending his vengeance as to the reprobate, punishes the elect as well as all those who profess themselves to be members of his Church. We now understand why Jeremiah mentions first the holy city, and then all the cities of Judah, the kings also and the princes; for God had with open bosom invited them to himself, but they had, as it were, from determined wickedness, provoked his wrath by despising both his Law and his Prophets.

He afterwards adds, to make them a waste, or a solitude. This was a grievous denunciation, no doubt, and we shall hereafter see that most became enraged against the holy man, and in their fury endeavored to destroy him; yet he with all intrepid mind fully declared what God had commanded him. He adds, an astonishment, and in the third place, an hissing, even that they would become detestable to all; for hissing intimates contempt, reproach, and detestation. In the fourth place he mentions a curse. We have already said what the Prophet meant by this word, even that the Jews would become in this respect a proverb, so that when one cursed another, he would use this form, “May God destroy thee as he destroyed the Jews.”

It is then added, as at this day. The Prophet refers, no doubt, to the time of the city’s destruction. God had indeed even then begun to consume the people; but we shall hereafter see that the minds of the greater part were still very haughty: so that they often raised their crests and looked for a new state of things, and depended on aid from the Egyptians. But the Prophet here mentions what was not yet completed, and as it were by the finger, points out the day as having already come in which the city was to be destroyed and the temple burnt up. This, then, refers to the certainty of what he predicted. Some think that it was written after Jeremiah had been led into exile; but this conjecture has nothing to support it. fE134 It seems to me enough to suppose that his object was to rouse the Jews from their security, and to shew that in a short time all that he predicted would be accomplished, and that they were no more to doubt of this than if the calamity was now before their eyes. It follows, —

<242519>Jeremiah 25:19

19. Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people;

19. Pharaoni (pendit enim a superiori versu quod propinaverit calicem Pharaoni,) regi Egyptio, servis ejus et principibus ejus et toti ejus populo;

 

It may here be asked, why he connects Pharaoh with the Jews, and assigns the second place to the Egyptians rather than to other nations? The reason is evident, — because the Jews expected deliverance from them; and the cause of their irreclaimable obstinacy was, that they could not be removed from that false confidence by which the devil had once fascinated them. They departed from God by making the Egyptians their friends; and when they found themselves unequal to the Assyrians, they turned their hopes to the Egyptians rather than to God; the prophets remonstrated with them, but with no success.

As, then, the occasion of ruin to the chosen people was Egypt, and as Pharaoh was, as it were, the fountain and cause of destruction to Jerusalem, as well as to the whole people, rightly does the Prophet, after having spoken of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, immediately mention Pharaoh in the second place; for he was a friend to the Jews, and they were so connected together that they were necessarily drawn together into destruction; for they had corrupted one another, and encouraged one another in impiety, and with united minds and confederate hearts kindled God’s wrath against themselves. fE135 The Prophet, then, could not have spoken of the Jews by themselves, but was under the necessity of connecting the Egyptians with them, for the state of both people was the same.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not to abuse thy paternal kindness, that when thou sparest us for a time, it is made by us the occasion of more audacity and liberty in sin, — O grant that we may be so subdued by thy scourges as to return without delay to thee, and to seek reconciliation with thee through the blood of thine only-begotten Son, and also to be so displeased with our vices, that we may from the heart submit to thee, so as to be governed by thy Holy Spirit, until, having been cleansed from all our filth, we shall come to that blessed glory which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, and which has been obtained for us by the blood of the same, thy Son Jesus Christ. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Sixth

<242520>Jeremiah 25:20

20. And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod,

20. Et promiscuae multitudini, et cunctis regibus terrae Uz, et cunctis regibus terrae Philistim et Ascalon et Gazae et Echron, et reliquiis Azoth,

 

Jeremiah, after having spoken of his own nation and of the Egyptians, now mentions other nations who were probably known by report to the Jews; for we see in the catalogue some who were afar off. He then does not only speak of neighboring nations, but also of others. His object, in short, was to shew that God’s vengeance was near, which would extend here and there, so as to include the whole world known to the Jews.

We stated yesterday the reason why he connected the Egyptians with the Jews; but now nothing certain can be assigned as a reason with regard to each of these nations; only it may be said in general, that the Jews were thus reminded, not only to acknowledge God’s judgment towards them as an evidence of his wrath, but also to extend their thoughts farther and to consider all the calamities, which would happen to nations far as well as nigh, in the same light, so that they might know that human events revolve, not by chance, but that God is a righteous judge, and that he sits in heaven to chastise men for their sins.

It is a common proverb, that it is a solace to the miserable to see many like them; but the Prophet had something very different in view; for it was not his object to alleviate the grief of his people by shewing that no nations would be free from calamities; but his intention was to shew them in due time that whatever happened would proceed from God; for if it had not been predicted that the Chaldeans would have the whole of the east under their dominion, it would have been commonly said, that the world was under the rule of blind fortune, and thus men would have become more and more hardened in their impiety; for it becomes the cause of obstinacy, when men imagine that all things happen by chance. And for this reason God severely reproves those who acknowledge not that he sends wars, famine, and pestilence, and that nothing adverse takes place except through his judgment. Hence the Jews were to learn before the time, that when God afflicted them and other nations, they might know that it had been predicted, and that therefore God was the author of these calamities, and that they might also examine themselves so as to acknowledge their sins; for they who dream that the world as to its evils is governed at random by fortune, do not perceive that God is displeased with them; and so they regard not what they suffer as a just punishment.

Many indeed confess God as the inflicter of punishment, and yet they complain against him. But these two things ought to be remembered, — that no adversity happens fortuitously, but that God is the author of all those things which men regard as evils, — and that he is so, because he is a righteous judge; which is the second thing. God then in claiming for himself the disposal of all events, and in declaring that the world is governed at his will, not only declares that the chief power and the supreme government is in his hand, but goes farther and shews, that things happening prosperously are evidences of his goodness and justice, and that calamities prove that he cannot endure the sins of men, but must punish them. To set forth this was the Prophet’s design.

He says that God threatened all the promiscuous multitude. fE136 The word br[, means a swarm of bees; and it means also any sort of mixture; and hence, when Moses said that many went up with the people, he used. this word. (<021238>Exodus 12:38.) Nehemiah also says that he separated such mixtures from the people of God, lest they who had become degenerated, should corrupt true religion. (<161303>Nehemiah 13:3.) That the Church, then, might remain true and faithful, he says that he took away br[, oreb, or this mixture. Now as to this passage, I have no doubt but that the Prophet speaks thus generally of the common people; and I extend this name to all the kingdoms, of which he will hereafter speak. He then adds, And all the kings of the land of Uz. We know that this was an eastern land. I know not why Jerome rendered it “Ausitis,” and not as in the Book of Job, for the same word is found there, (<180102>Job 1:2) and we find that Job was born in the eastern part of the world, for he was plundered by his neighbors, who were men of the east. Some think that it was Armenia; but it could hardly be a country so far off, for Cilicia was, with regard to Judea, in the middle between them. I, then, rather think that Uz was directly east to Judea.

He adds, And all the kings of the land of the Philistines. Whether Palestine had then many kings is uncertain; it seems indeed probable; but what seems doubtful to me, I leave as such. It is no objection that he mentions all the kings, since he afterwards speaks of all the kings of Tyre and Sidon, though neither Tyre nor Sidon had many kings; for they were only two cities. There is then no doubt, but that the Prophet in speaking of all the kings of the land, meant that though they succeeded one another, it was yet decreed in heaven, that all these nations should perish. He therefore intended to obviate every doubt; for the prophecy was not immediately fulfilled; but the nations, of whom he now speaks, retained for a time their state, so that the Prophet might have appeared false in his predictions. Hence he distinctly mentions all the kings, so that the faithful might suspend their judgment until the appointed time of God’s vengeance came.

He afterwards mentions Ashkelon; which was not a maritime city, though not far from the sea. Then he adds hz[, oze, which we call Gaza, for the Greek translators have so rendered it. But what the Greek and Latin writers have thought, that it was called Gaza, because Cyrus deposited there his treasures while carrying on war here and there, is wholly absurd; and it was a frivolous conjecture which occurred to their minds, because Gaza means a treasure, and the Greek translators rendered Oze, Gaza; but it was entertained without much thought. The situation of the city is well known. He then mentions Ekron, a neighboring city, not far from Azotus, which is also named. The Prophet says Ashdod, which the Greeks have rendered Azotus, and the Latins have followed them. We hence see that the Prophet refers to that part of the country which was towards Syria.

But it may be asked, why he names the remnant of Ashdod? Some think that he refers to neighboring towns, not so much known, as Gath, which is elsewhere named, but less celebrated. But this exposition seems to me forced and absurd. The probability is, that Ashdod had been conquered, but that owing to its advantageous locality it was not wholly forsaken. For tyra, sharit, means what is left or remains after a slaughter. What remained then in Ashdod, he delivered up to God’s sword, that it might be destroyed. It follows, —

<242521>Jeremiah 25:21

21. Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon,

21. Edom et Moab et filiis Ammon,

The same words are ever to be repeated, that Jeremiah made all these nations to drink the cup. He mentions the Idumeans, the posterity of Esau, and also the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, as also were the Ammonites. There was a relationship between these three nations and the Israelites; hence the Prophet seems designedly to have connected these three nations together. He adds —

<242522>Jeremiah 25:22

22. And all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea,

22. Et omnibus regibus Tyri et omnibus regibus Sidonis, et omnibus regibus insulae, quae est (vel, qui sunt; nam verbum nullum ponitur; potest igitur hoc tam ad reges ipsos quam ad insulam referri; qui sunt ergo) ultra mare,

 

As to the word Island, the number is to be changed; for the Prophet means not one island, but the countries beyond the sea. Some restrict the reference to Cyprus, Crete, Mitylene, and other islands in the Mediterranean; but it is a common way of speaking in Hebrew, to call all countries beyond the sea islands.

“The kings of the islands shall come.” (<197210>Psalm 72:10.)

The Prophet in that passage calls those the kings of the islands who would come in ships to Judea. So also in this place we may understand by the kings of the islands all those who were beyond the sea.

We now see that kings of one age only are not those summoned to God’s tribunal; for why does the Prophet mention all the kings of Tyre and all the kings of Sidon? Was it possible for these two cities to have four or two kings at the same time? But we must bear in mind what I have already stated, — that the children of God were warned, lest they should entertain a too fervid expectation as to the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is then the same as if he had said, “Though God’s vengeance may not come upon the present king of Tyre or of Sidon, it is yet suspended over all kings, and shall be manifested in its time.” fE137 Tyre and Sidon, we know, were cities of Phoenicia, and very celebrated; and Tyre had many colonies afar off, among which the principal was Carthage; and the Carthaginians offered honorable presents to it every year, in order to shew that they were its descendants. And Tyre itself was a colony of Sidon, according to historians; but it so prospered, that the daughter as it were swallowed up the mother. But it appears evident that there were kings there in the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah, though in the time of Alexander both cities were republics; for many changes during that period had taken place in them. Now the Prophet says only, that Tyre and Sidon would be involved in the punishment which he denounced on both kings and people. It follows —

<242523>Jeremiah 25:23

23. Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all that are in the utmost corners,

23. Et Dedan et Thema et Buz, et cunctis terminatis in angulo (alii vertunt, atonsos coma, sicut etiam 9:Cap; sed illic de hac voce dixi quantum ferebat locus,)

 

I shall now only touch briefly on the extreme ones in a corner, or those bounded by a corner, who were almost unknown to the Jews on account of their distance. fE138 After having spoken of nations so very remote, that he might not by prolixity be tedious, he mentions all the extreme ones in a corner, that is, those who were bounded by the farthest limits. As to Dedan, Tema, and Buz, we know that these countries derived their names from their founders. Who Dedan was, we learn from Moses, and also who Tema and Buz were. (<012503>Genesis 25:3,15; <130514>1 Chronicles 5:14.) Two of them were descendants of Abraham by Keturah. fE139 There is no need of saying more of these countries, for they are not known by us at this day, and we cannot learn from geographers the extent of any of these countries; for there was hardly a place at the time when heathen writers began their records, which had not long before changed its name. We however conclude that these were eastern countries. It follows —

<242524>Jeremiah 25:24

24. And all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert,

24. Et omnibus regibus Arabiae, et omnibus regibus (vertunt iterum) Arabiae (sed mihi non placet, neque unquam mihi persuadebunt interpretes, qui tamen in hoc consentiunt, repieti proprium Arabiae nomen; cunctos reges, potius vertam, promiscui vulgi, vel, gentium hinc inde collectarum) qui habitant in deserto,

 

The Prophet now mentions the kings of Arabia, who were neighbors on one side to the Jews. He has hitherto mentioned nations towards the sea; he has named many maritime towns, and also others which were at some distance from the sea, and yet were not remote; for they were towns and countries intermediate between Judea and Syria or Cilicia, or verging towards Cilicia. He now speaks of Arabia, which was between Egypt and Babylon. And though Arabia was divided into three parts; it was however sterile where it bordered on Judea; it might therefore be said to be a desert.

But the Prophet, in the first place, mentions the kings of Arabia, and then the miscellaneous kings, as we may call them, that is, those who ruled in desert regions and were hardly of any repute; we, indeed, know that they were petty robbers; and these Arabs were sometimes called Schenites, because they dwelt in tents. I therefore consider that these, by way of contempt, were called kings of the promiscuous multitude, who excelled not in dignity nor in wealth; and hence the Prophet adds, that they dwelt in the desert, being a wandering people. It follows, —

<242525>Jeremiah 25:25

25. And all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes,

25. Et omnibus regibus Zimri, et omnibus regibus Elam, et omnibus regibus Medorum,

 

He now mentions nations more remote, but whose fame was more known among the Jews. We, indeed, know that the Elamites, who dwelt between Media and Persia, had ever been people of great repute. As to Media, it was a very large kingdom and wealthy, abounding in all delicacies; and we also know how fond of display were the Medes. With regard to Zimri, fE140 it was an obscure nation in comparison with the Elamites and the Medes. The Prophet, however, intimates that every part of the earth, even the smallest kingdom, known to the Jews, would be visited by God’s judgment, so that the whole earth, in every direction, would become a witness that God sits in heaven as a judge. It follows, —

<242526>Jeremiah 25:26

26. And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshath shall drink after them.

26. Et omnibus regibus Aquilonis tam iis ui propinqui sunt quam qui remoti, viro (hoc est, cuique) contra fratrem suum, et omnibus regnis terrae, quae sunt super faciem terrae (mutatur quidem nomen, ponit ≈rah, ponit hmdaj: et rex Sesach bibet post eos.

 

The Prophet speaks now of the kings of the north who bordered on the king of Babylon; for as to Judea, Babylon was northward. He calls all those who were towards Chaldea the kings of the north. He then says, Whether near or remote, every one shall be against his brother, and, in short, all the kingdoms of the earth on the face of the earth. There is no doubt, as we shall see, but that the Prophet put in the last place the Chaldeans and their king. It is hence probable that what he here predicts was to be accomplished by the hand and power of the king of Babylon, who executed God’s vengeance on all these nations. God, then, chose for himself the king of Chaldea as a scourge, and guided him by his hand in punishing all the lands mentioned here.

I have already reminded you that this was not predicted for the sake of the Jews, that they might derive any alleviation to their grief from the circumstance of having associates, because the condition of others was nothing better; but that God’s design was another, that is, that in so great a confusion of all things, when heaven and earth, as they say, were blended together, they might know that nothing happens through the blind will of fortune. For God had already testified by the mouth of his servant what he would do, and from this prophecy it was easy to conclude that all these changes and violent commotions were the effects of God’s judgment.

The Prophet, after having shewn that the most grievous calamities were nigh all the nations who were neighbors to the Jews, and whose fame had reached them, says, in the last place, that the king of Sheshach would drink after them. Hitherto the Prophet seems to have exempted the king of Babylon from all trouble and danger; for he has mentioned all the nations, and has spoken not only of those who were nigh the Jews, but also of the Persians, the Medes, and others. What, then, could have been the design of all this, if the king of Babylon had been passed by? It might have been asked, how can it be right and consistent that this tyrant should escape punishment, though he was of all the most cruel and the most wicked? Hence the Prophet now says, that the king of Babylon, how much soever his violence prevailed among all nations, and raged unpunished, would yet in his time be brought to a reckoning. The meaning then is, that God would defer the punishment of the Chaldeans until he employed them in destroying all the nations of which Jeremiah has hitherto spoken.

Respecting the king of Babylon being called the king of Sheshach, a question has been raised, and some think that some unknown king is intended; for we know that the word is a proper name, as it appears from some passages of Scripture. (<111140>1 Kings 11:40; <141202>2 Chronicles 12:2.) But this opinion is not well founded; for the Prophet no doubt speaks here of some remarkable king; and there is also no doubt but that he reminded them of some most important event, so that there was no reason why delay should depress the minds of the faithful, though they saw that this Sheshach was not immediately punished with the rest. Others conjecture that Sheshach was a renowned city in Chaldea. But there is no necessity for us to adopt such light and frivolous conjectures. I have no doubt but that the opinion which the Chaldee paraphraser has followed is the true one, that is, that Sheshach was Babylon. For the sort of alphabet which the Jews at this day call bta, atbash, is no new invention; it appears from Jerome it had been long known; he, indeed, derived from great antiquity the practice, so to speak, of counting the letters backwards. They put, the last letter, t, in the place of a, the first, and then in the place of b, and k being in the middle of the letters was put for l; and so they called Babel Sheshach. fE141 And to designate Babylon by an obscure name was suitable to the design of the Prophet. But every doubt is removed by another passage in this Prophet,

“How is Sheshach demolished! how fallen is the glory (or praise) of the whole earth! how overthrown is Babylon!”
(<245140>Jeremiah 51:40.)

There, no doubt, the Prophet explains himself; there is therefore no need to seek any other interpretation. It is a common thing, as we know, with the prophets to repeat the same thing in other words; as he had mentioned Sheshach in the first clause, to prevent any doubt he afterwards mentioned Babylon.

But here a question arises; why did not the Prophet openly and plainly denounce ruin on the king as well as on the Chaldean nation? Many think that this was done prudently, that he might not create an ill-will towards his own people; and Jerome brings forward a passage from Paul, but absurdly, where he says,

“Until a defection shall come,” (<530203>2 Thessalonians 2:3)

but he did not understand that passage, for he thought that Paul spoke of the Roman empire. One error brings another; he supposed that Paul was cautious that he might not excite the fury of the Roman Emperor against the Church; but it was no such thing. Now, they who reject the opinion, which is the most correct, that Sheshach was Babylon, make use of this argument, — that the Prophet was not afraid to speak of Babylon, because he had declared openly of it what he had to say, as we have already seen in other places, and as it will appear more clearly hereafter. But I do not allow that the Prophet was afraid to speak of Babylon, for we find that he boldly obeyed God, so that he stood firm, as we may say, in the midst of many deaths; but I think that he concealed the name for another reason, even that the Jews might know that they had no cause to be in a hurry, though the punishment of Babylon had been predicted, for the prophecy was, as it were, buried, inasmuch as the Prophet withheld the very name of Babylon. It was not, then, his purpose to provide for the peace of the Church, nor was he afraid of the Chaldeans, lest he should kindle their fury against God’s people; he had no such thing in view, but wished rather to restrain too much haste.

And this appears from the context; Drink, he says, shall the king of Sheshath after them; that is, all these nations must drink before God shall touch the king of Babylon. He will not, then, be an idle spectator of all these calamities, but his severity will proceed through all lands until it reaches its summit; and then, he says, this king shall drink after the rest. Now, it might have seemed a poor consolation that God would for so long a time spare the king of Babylon; but all God’s children ought nevertheless to have acquiesced in the admonition given them, that though they were to bear in mind that each of these nations were to be punished by God’s hand, they were yet to believe that the king of Babylon would have his turn, and that they therefore were to restrain themselves, and not to be carried away by too hasty a desire to look for his punishment, but patiently to bear the yoke of tyranny laid on them, until the seasonable time came of which they had been reminded. It follows, —

<242527>Jeremiah 25:27

27. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.

27. Et dices ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Bibite et inebriamini, vomite et cadite, et ne surgatis a facie gladii, quem ego mitto inter vos.

 

Here the Prophet returns to his former discourse. He had said that a cup was extended to him by God’s hand, that he might give it to all nations to drink. He now repeats and confirms the same thing, not indeed that he brought this message to all the nations; for we have said the benefit arising from these predictions belonged only to the Jews. Neither the Tyrians nor the Sidonians ever knew that they were punished by God’s hand when they were plundered by their enemies; this never came to their minds, nor had this been ever taught them. The Prophet had not been appointed their teacher; but his duty was only to warn his own nation.

However, the Prophet, that his predictions might have greater authority, is here introduced as God’s herald, denouncing ruin on all nations, Thou shalt therefore say to them, Thus saith Jehovah, etc. The true God was unknown to these heathens, except they had heard that God was worshipped in Judea; but at the same time they despised, yea, hated true religion. But, as I have already said, the Prophet addressed his own people, the Jews alone, though he spoke of aliens and distant nations. I cannot advance further now.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since there are before our eyes so many evidences of thy judgments and of thy goodness, we may advance in the fear of thy name, and not go on to kindle thy wrath more against us, but that, being touched with true repentance, we may seek to be reconciled to thee, and that, commiserating the many evils, by which the world is at this day afflicted, we may also strive to restore those to the right way who seem to give themselves up to their own ruin, so that by converting those to thee who are now far away and aliens, thy name may be more glorified and proclaimed by us with one consent, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Seventh

We began yesterday to explain the verse in which Jeremiah bids all nations to drink of the cup until they were drunken. Of the metaphor of the cup an explanation has already been given: the reason is, because God in his infinite wisdom knew what every one deserved, or how just it was to chastise at one time in a lighter, and at another time in a heavier degree. As then the measure is not the same, the similitude of a cup is most suitable. Further, God sometimes gives a cup to drink, that he who cannot bear a heavier punishment may only taste it. For we know that God deals more severely with the strong and the obstinate: but when any one is weak, he is treated more gently, and is made only to sip or to taste of the cup.

But the Prophet says here that they were to drink until they became drunken, according to what is said in another place, when the heathens are spoken of, “They shall even exhaust the yew dregs.” And God makes men drunken, as I have said before, even when he blinds them and gives them the spirit of giddiness or stupor. (<310126>Obadiah 26.) But the word drunkenness refers to external chastisements. Drink ye, then, and be drunken; that is, “think ye not that you have suffered all, when God begins to punish you and has given you one draught only; but the Lord will make you thoroughly drunken.” And hence he adds, Vomit ye and fall; for they who indulge in excess and fill themselves, so that they almost burst, must necessarily disgorge themselves. And vomiting disorders the brain, so that the feet can no longer perform their office, and no part of the body retains its power. The meaning then is, that as God had for a long time deferred his judgment, and all nations had hardened themselves when his long-suffering invited them to repentance, the most dreadful vengeance was now nigh them all, a vengeance which would compensate for the delay or the length of endurance.

Some interpreters hence conclude, that the punishment of all the nations of whom the Prophet now speaks, would be of no avail to them: but this seems not to me to be well founded. For he has spoken of the chosen people; and it is certain that some of them repented, however small the number was, and we shall also see that pardon and salvation are promised even to the heathens, after the execution of God’s judgments. I therefore thus simply interpret these words, — that they should not only taste of the cup, but also drink to excess, so as to become like drunken men, wholly stupified, because the heaviness of their punishment would deprive them of reason. In no way more solid is the reason given by Jerome, when he says that the Prophet’s discourse refers to the reprobate, because he subjoins, And rise no more. Jerome thought, that by this expression extreme despair is intimated. But the Prophet, in my judgment, meant nothing else than that God’s vengeance on all the nations would be so great that vestiges of it would remain after a length of time; as the case is with a drunkard, who cannot get rid of the effects of his excess in a night or in a day, but he remains stupid for some time, or becomes frantic. This is what the Prophet means when he says, and they shall rise no more. fE142

It now follows, On account of the sword which I send among you. He now expresses without a figure what he had said of drunkenness and vomiting, even that so great a horror would seize their minds, that they would lie down wholly stupified. But God declares that he would send a sword against them, that the Jews might understand, as it has been already stated, that when all things would be in a state of almost entire confusion, yet God’s judgment would be within the limits of moderation. It now follows —

<242528>Jeremiah 25:28

28. And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to endure drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Ye shall certainly drink.

28. Et erit, si rennerint ad sumendum (hoc est, sumere) calicem e manu tua ad bibendum, tunc dices ad eos (copula enim debetg resolvi in adverbium temporis,) Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Bibendo bibetis.

 

In this verse the Prophet intimates, that however refractory the nations might be, yet they could effect no good by their obstinacy, for willing or unwilling they would be constrained to drink of the cup. But in order to render the matter more striking, he introduces them as refusing; If they refuse to take the cup, thou shalt say to them, says God, Drinking ye shall drink. We have before said that the Prophet was not set a teacher over the heathens: hence what he declares here appertained not to aliens; but the whole benefit belonged to God’s Church. Therefore what is said was spoken for God’s people, even that they might know that as God had determined to punish the wickedness of men, none of all those threatened with judgment could possibly escape. Men indeed are often like unruly horses, who kick and are ferocious, and rage against their rider, and also bite; but the Prophet shews that God possesses a power sufficient to quell such obstinacy. He however reminds us how rebellious most would be, nay, almost all, when chastised by God’s hand. It is indeed a rare instance when he who has sinned, willingly and calmly submits to God, and owns that he is justly punished: nay, they who confess that they have deserved some heavy punishment, do yet complain against God; for they dread his vengeance, and apprehend not his mercy, and promise not to themselves any pardon. There is then no wonder that the Prophet ascribes here to wicked men, both Jews and aliens, so hard and rebellious a spirit, that they would resist God, and try to extricate themselves from his hand, in short, that they would by all means attempt to escape his judgment.

This is the reason why he says, If they refuse to take the cup from thy hand. We hence see that we are not to take the words in their literal sense: for the Prophet did not speak to aliens, but what he had in view was the event itself, or rather the disposition of the people. These nations had indeed some power, and doubtless they strenuously defended their own safety; and this was the act of refusing intended by the Prophet. For when the enemy attacked the Moabites, they did not immediately yield; and the same was the case with others. Tyre was almost unassailable, for it was situated in the sea; where it was easy to prevent the approach of enemies. As then they had resolutely opposed their enemies, they are said to have refused the cup from God’s hand, for they thought that they could keep off the coming evil. But however inconquerable they thought themselves to be, and how much soever they trusted in their own power, yet God says, that their efforts would be in vain and useless: drinking, he says, ye shall drink. fE143 The reason follows —

<242529>Jeremiah 25:29

29. For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly punished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts.

29. Quia ecce in urbe in qua invocatum nomen meum super eam, ego incipio ad malefaciendum (ad malum inferendum,) et vos inoxii eritis? Non eritis innoxii; quia gladium ego advoco super incolas terrae, dicit Jehova exercituum.

 

A proof is added by comparing the less and the greater; for the Prophet reasons thus, — “If God spares not the city in which he has chosen a temple for himself, and designed his name to be invoked, how can he spare aliens to whom he has never made any promise, as he regarded them as strangers? If then the green tree is consumed, how can the dry remain safe?” This is the import of the passage. The Apostle uses the same argument in other words; for after having said that judgment would begin at God’s house, he immediately shews how dreadful that vengeance of God was to be which awaited his open enemies! (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.)

We may hence gather a useful doctrine. Since God not only declares that he will be indiscriminately the avenger of wickedness, but also summons in the first place his Church which he has chosen before his tribunal, its condition may seem to be worse than that of alien nations. Hence the minds of the godly, when they view things in this light, might be much depressed. It seems a singular favor of God, that he unites us to himself; but yet this honor seems only to lead to punishment: for God connives at the wickedness of heathens, and seems to bury them in oblivion; but as soon as we fall into sin, we perceive signs of his wrath. It would then be better to be at a distance from him, and that he should not be so solicitous in his care for us. Thus the faithful view the unbelieving as in a better state than themselves. But this doctrine mitigates all the sharpness of that grief, which might otherwise occasion great bitterness. For when it is represented to us, that God begins at his Church, that he may more heavily punish the unbelieving after having long endured them, and that they may thus be far more grievously dealt with than the faithful, as the dry tree is much sooner consumed than the green, — when therefore this is set before us, we have doubtless a ground for comfort, and that not small nor common.

We hence see why Jeremiah added this, — that how much soever the nations would resist God, they would yet be constrained, willing or unwilling, to yield, as God was more powerful than they; and for this reason, that since God would not spare his chosen people, the heathens could by no means escape unpunished, and not find him to be the judge of the world. Let then this truth be remembered by us, whenever our flesh leads us to complain or to be impatient; for it is better for us that God should begin with us, as at length the wicked shall in their turn be destroyed, and that we should endure temporal evils, that God may at length raise us up to the enjoyment of his paternal favor. And for this reason Paul also says, that it is a demonstration of the just judgment of God when the faithful are exposed to many evils. (<530104>2 Thessalonians 1:4, 5.): For, when God chastises his own children, of whose obedience he yet approves, do we not see as in a glass what is yet concealed? even the dreadful punishment that awaits all the unbelieving. God, then, represents to us at this day the destruction of his enemies by the paternal chastisements with which he visits us; and they are a certain proof or a lively exhibition of that judgment which the unbelieving fear not, but thoughtlessly deride.

Now, he says, Behold I begin to bring evil, etc. The verb [rh, ero, means properly to do evil; and it would be a strange thing to say that God does evil, were it not that common usage explains the meaning. They who are in any measure acquainted with Scripture know that calamities are called evils, that is, according to the perceptions of men. The Lord then is said to bring evil on men, not because he injures them or deals unjustly and cruelly with them, but because what is adverse to men’s minds is thought to be by them, and is called evil. Then he says, I begin to do evil in the city on which my name is called. fE144 God’s name is called on a people, when he promises to be their guardian and defender, and his name is said to be called upon men, when they betake themselves to his guardianship and protection.

But we must notice the real meaning, — that God’s name is called on a people, when they are deemed to be under his guardianship and keeping; as God’s name is called on the children of Abraham, because he had promised to be their God; and they boasted that they were his peculiar people, even on account of their adoption. So God’s name was called on Jerusalem, because there was the Temple and the altar; and as God called it his rest or habitation, his name was there well known, according to what we say in French, Se reclamer, il se reclame d’un tel, that is, such an one claims this or that as his patron, so that he shelters himself under his protection. So also the Jews formerly called on God’s name, when they said that they had been chosen to be his people: nay, this may also be applied to men; for the name of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham was called on the twelve tribes, even for this reason, — because they regarded, when seeking to rely on God’s covenant, their own origin, for they had descended from the holy fathers, with whom God had made his covenant, and to whom he had promised that he would be ever their God. All the Israelites called on Abraham, not, that they offered him worship, but that, as they were his offspring, they might feel justly assured that the gratuitous covenant by which God had adopted them to himself, had been transmitted to them. But this calling may be also taken in another sense, even because they daily appeased God by sacrifices and prayers: when they committed their safety to God, there was a sacrifice always added, and reconciliation was also promised. Then to be called upon or invoked, arqn, nukora, may be taken in this sense, even that they knew that God was reconciled to them, when they from the heart repented. Since then God’s name was called upon in that city, how was it possible that the Gentiles should escape that judgment to which the holy city was of be exposed?

But the former view seems to me the best; and there is no doubt but that God speaks here to the free adoption by which he had chosen that people for himself: hence was the invocation or the glorying of which he now speaks.

But as it was difficult to make the Jews to believe what the Prophet had said, he dwells on the subject, and repeats what was before sufficiently clear. He not only says, Shall ye be treated as innocent? but he mentions the word twice, Shall ye by being treated as innocent be treated as innocent? fE145 And thus he rebuked the perverse contumacy by which the heathens were filled, while looking on their wealth, their number, and other things, and at the same time disregarding all that the prophets proclaimed at Jerusalem, as though it was nothing to them. The question is in itself emphatical, “Can ye by any means be treated as innocent?” The verb hqn, nuke, means to be innocent, but it is applied to punishment; as the word ˆw[, on, which means iniquity, is used to designate punishment. So he is said not to be innocent who cannot exempt himself from God’s judgment, nor be free from it.

He confirms this sentence when he says, For a sword am I calling for on all the inhabitants of the earth, saith Jehovah of hosts. This confirmation is by no means superfluous, for the insolence of the nations had increased through the forbearance of God, for they had for a long time, yea, for many ages, been in a quiet state, and had indulged themselves in their pleasures, and slept as it were in their own dregs, according to what is said elsewhere. The Prophet then says now, that God was calling for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth. For he had often and in various ways chastised his own people, while the Gentiles were not in any danger and free from troubles. (<244811>Jeremiah 48:11.) But he says now that he was calling for a sword to destroy all those whom he seemed to have forgiven.

But God is said to have called for men as well as for a sword; for Nebuchadnezzar is said to have fought under the banner of God; he is said to have been like a hired soldier. But God now speaks of the sword, that we might know that it is in his power to excite and to quell wars whenever it pleases him, and that thus the sword, though wielded by the hand of man, is not yet called forth by the will of man, but by the hidden power of God. It follows, —

<242530>Jeremiah 25:30

30. Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.

30. Et tu prophetabis ad eos (vel, contra eos) omnia verba haec, et dices illis, Jehova ab excelso rugiet, et ex habitaculo sanctitatis suae edet vocem suam; rugiendo rugiet super habitaculum suum; celeusma (clamorem potius generaliter) quasi prementium torcular respondebit super cunctos incolas terrae.

 

The word ddyh, eidad, is rendered celeusma, a shout; but some render it a mournful singing; and it often occurs when the vintage is spoken of. Celeusma, as it is well known, is the shout of sailors. Its etymology is indeed general in its meaning; for keleu>ein is to exhort, to encourage; and then the noun is exhortation. But as this word is only used as to sailors, I prefer to adopt the word sound, or a loud noise.

Then he says, Prophesy thou against them all these words, and say to them, etc. I have already reminded you that no command was given to the Prophet to go to the heathens and to address each nation among them, or, in other words, to perform among them his prophetic office. But though he did not move a foot from the city, yet the influence of his prophecy reached through every region of the earth. The preaching therefore of Jeremiah was not in vain, for the Jews understood by what happened, that there was in the language of the holy man the power of the Spirit for the salvation of all the godly, and for the destruction of all the unbelieving. It is, then, in this sense that God bids and commands him again to prophesy against all nations, and to speak to them, not that he actually addressed them; but when he taught the Jews, his doctrine had an influence on all nations.

And he says, Jehovah from on high shall roar, and from the habitation of his holiness shall send forth his voice. The metaphor of roaring is sufficiently common. It seems indeed unsuitable to apply it to God; but we know how tardy men are, and how they indulge themselves in their own insensibility, even when God threatens them. Hence God, adopting a hyperbolical mode of speaking, reproves their stupidity, as he cannot move them except he exceeds the limits of moderation. This then is the reason why he compares himself to a lion, not that we are to imagine that there is anything savage or cruel in him; but as I have said, men cannot be moved, except God puts on another character and comes forth as a lion, while yet he testifies not in vain elsewhere, that he is slow to wrath, inclined to mercy and long-suffering. (<198605>Psalm 86:5, 15.) Let us then know that the impious contempt, by which most men are fascinated, is thus condemned, when God does as it were in this manner transform himself, and is constrained to represent himself as a lion.

Roar, then, he says, shall Jehovah, from on high, and from the habitation of his holiness shall he send forth his voice. When he speaks of on high, it is probable that heaven is meant; and the habitation of his holiness is often taken for the sanctuary or the Temple; but in other places, when the same words are repeated, heaven is also meant by the habitation of his holiness. There is yet nothing unsuitable, if we say that the Prophet here refers to the Temple, and that he thus refers to it, that he might raise upwards the minds of the Jews, who had their thoughts fixed on the visible Temple: nay, this seems to be required by the context. They indeed foolishly thought that God was bound to them, because it had been said,

“Here is my rest for ever; here will my name and power dwell.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14)

They strangely thought that there was no God but he who was inclosed in that visible and external sanctuary. Hence was that pride which Isaiah reproves and severely condemns when he says,

“Where is the place for my rest? the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what place then will you build for me?” (<236601>Isaiah 66:1.)

The Prophet there does not merely speak, as many think, against superstition; but he rather beats down that foolish arrogance, because the people thought that God could never be separated from the material Temple. And yet it was not for nothing that the Temple had the name of being the royal throne of God, provided vices were removed. So now the Prophet, though he exalts God above the heavens, yet alludes to the visible sanctuary, when he says, “Roar shall Jehovah from on high, and from the habitation of his holiness shall he send forth his voice;” that is, though the Gentiles think that God sits and rests in a corner, yet his throne is in heaven: that he has chosen for himself a terrestrial habitation, is no reason why the government of the whole earth should not be in his hands; and therefore he manifests proofs of his vengeance towards all nations; but for the sake of his Church he will go forth as it were from his Temple: and he repeats again, Roaring he shall roar on his dwelling, or habitation. fE146 Jerome usually renders the last word ornament, beauty; and yet this passage sufficiently proves that it cannot mean any other thing than habitation, as well as many other passages.

He afterwards proceeds to another comparison, He will respond a shout, as those who tread the wine-press against all the inhabitants of the earth. This repetition and variety confirm what I have said, — that God hyperbolically set forth the vehemence of his voice in order to fill with terror the secure and the torpid. And the Prophet seems here to intimate, that though there would be none to cheer, yet God’s voice would be sufficiently powerful. For they who tread the wine-press mutually encourage one another by shouting; one calls on another, and thus they rouse themselves to diligence. There is also a mutual concord among sailors, when they give their shouts, as well as among the workmen who tread the grapes in the wine-press. But though God would have no one to rouse him, yet he himself would be sufficient; he will respond a shout. fE147 The Prophet might have used another word; but he says, he will respond — to whom? even to himself; that is, though all united to extinguish God’s vengeance, yet he will come forth a conqueror, nor will he have any need of help. It then follows, —

<242531>Jeremiah 25:31

31. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations; he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord.

31. Pervenit (hoc est, perveniet) sonitus (vel, impetus) ad extremitatem terrae; quia lis Jehovae cum gentibus, judicium (id est, contentio, vel, disceptatio) ei contra omnem carnem: impios dabit (tradet) ipsos ad gladium, dicit Jehova.

 

He pursues the same subject; he says that there would be a dreadful assault, and that it would extend to the extreme parts of the earth. The word ˆwa, shaun, means a noise or sound; but it is also taken for violence or assault; and either meaning would not be unsuitable here. The sound then, or assault, shall come to the extreme parts of the earth. It then follows, that God had a strife with all nations; and here the Prophet seems to obviate a question that might have been raised, “What does this mean? that God will suddenly raise a commotion, after having been quiet and still for so many ages, without giving any symptom of his vengeance?” For we have said that the nations here mentioned had been long in a tranquil state. Hence the Prophet answers this unexpressed objection and says, that God had a contention with them.

The time of contending is not always: he who does not immediately bring his adversary before the judge, but deals kindly with him, and seeks to obtain amicably from him what is right, does not thereby forego what is justly due to him; but when he finds that the contumacy of his adversary is such that his kind dealing effects nothing, he may then litigate with him. The same thing is now expressed by the Prophet, even that God would now contend with the nations and dispute with all flesh. God is indeed, properly speaking, the judge of the world; and there is no arbiter or a judge in heaven or on earth to be found before whom he can dispute; but yet this mode of speaking ought to be especially noticed; for God thus silences all those complaints which men are wont to make against him. Even they who are a hundred times proved guilty, yet complain against God when he severely punishes them, and they say that they are made to suffer more than they deserve. Hence God for this reason says, that when he punishes he does not exercise a tyrannical power, but that he does as it were dispute with sinners. At the same time he sets forth his own goodness by representing the end he has in view; for what he regards in rigidly punishing wickedness, is nothing else than to obtain his own rights; and as he cannot secure these by kind means, he extorts them as it were by the aid of laws. fE148

Let us then observe, that nothing is detracted from God’s power and authority, when it is said, that he disputes or contends with men; but that in this way all those clamors are checked which the ungodly raise against him, as though he raged immoderately against them, and also that thus the end of all punishment is pointed out, even that God condescends to assume the character of an opponent, and proposes nothing else than to require what is reasonable and just, like him who having a cause to try before the judge, would willingly agree beforehand, if possible, with his adversary; but as he sees no hope, he has recourse to that remedy. So God contends with us; for except we were wholly irreclaimable, we might be restored to his favor; and reconciliation would be ready for us, were we only to allow him his rights.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seekest continually in various ways to restore us to thyself, — O grant, that we may not by our untameable perverseness resist thy holy and kind admonitions, nor continue torpid in our drowsiness, but anxiously flee to thee, and so humbly solicit pardon, that we may thus shew that we really and habitually repent, so that thy name may in every way be glorified, until we shall come into thy celestial glory, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Eighth

<242532>Jeremiah 25:32

32. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.

32. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce malum egredietur a gente in gentem, et tempestas magna excitabitur a lateribus terrae.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the subject which we began to explain in the last Lecture. He had before prophesied of God’s judgments, which were nigh many nations, and which referred to almost all the countries near and known to the Jews, and to some that were afar off. The substance of what has been said is, — that God, who had long spared the wickedness of men, would now become an avenger, so that it might openly appear, that though he had deferred punishment, he would not allow the ungodly to escape, for they would in proper time and season be called to give an account.

To the same purpose is what he adds here, go forth shall evil from nation to nation. The explanation by some is, that one nation would make war on another, and that thus they would destroy themselves by mutual conflicts; and this meaning may be admitted. It seems, however, to me that the Prophet meant another thing, even that God’s vengeance would advance like a contagion through all lands. And according to this view he adds a metaphor, or the simile of a storm, or a tempest, or a whirlwind; for when a tempest arises, it confines not itself to one region, but spreads itself far and wide. So the Prophet now shews, that though God would not at one time punish all the nations, he would yet be eventually the judge of all, for he would pass far and wide like a storm. Thus, then, I interpret the passage, not that the nations would make war with one another, but that when God had executed his judgment on one nation, he would afterwards advance to another, so that he would make no end until he had completed what Jeremiah had foretold.

And this view appears still more evident from the second clause of the verse, for this cannot be explained of intestine wars, raised shall be a tempest from the sides of the earth. We hence see that the meaning is, that God would not be wearied after having begun to summon men to judgment, but would include the most remote, who thought themselves beyond the reach of danger. As when a tempest rises, it seems only to threaten a small portion of the country, but it soon spreads itself and covers the whole heavens; so also God says, that his vengeance would come from the sides of the earth, that is, from the remotest places, so that no distance would prevent the completion of what he had foretold by his servant.

But this may also be accommodated to our case; for whenever we see that this or that nation is afflicted by any calamity, we ought to remember this truth, that God seasonably warns us, that we may not abuse his patience, but anticipate him before his scourge passes from some side of the earth to us. In short, as soon as God manifests any sign of his wrath, it ought instantly to occur to us, that it may spread in a moment through all the extremities of the earth, so that no corner would be exempted. For if he makes known his power in the whirlwind or the storm, how will it be, when he makes a fuller and a nearer manifestation of his judgment, by stretching forth his hand as it were in a visible manner? This, then, is the import of this verse. It afterwards follows, —

<242533>Jeremiah 25:33

33. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.

33. Et erunt interfecti Jehovae, in die illa ab extremitate terrae ad extremitatem terrae: non plangentur, et non colligentur, et non sepelientur; stercus in supereficie terrae erunt (id est, pro stercore.)

 

This verse explains what I have just said; and hence it also appears that the Prophet did not speak of mutual slaughters inflicted by one nation on another, but that he only declared that God’s wrath would spread like a storm so as to extend to all nations and lands. The Prophet no doubt continues the same subject; and we see why he says here, And the slain, of Jehovah shall be in that day, etc.; he calls our attention to God alone; he will speak otherwise hereafter, he does not set here before us the ministers of God’s vengeance, but God himself as acting by himself.

Hence he says, the slain of Jehovah; some read, “the wounded;” and llj, chelal, means to wound and to kill; but “the slain” is more suitable here. The slain then of Jehovah shall be from one extremity of the earth to the other; as though he had said, that God would not be satisfied with punishing three or four nations, but would shew himself the judge of all the countries of the earth.

Now this passage is worthy of special notice; for we often wonder why God connives at so many crimes committed by men, which none of us would tolerate. But if we consider how dreadful was the tempest of which the Prophet now speaks, we ought to know that God rests for a time, in order that the ungodly and the wicked might be the less excusable. It was at the same time doubtless a sad spectacle, when so many regions and provinces were unceasingly suffering various calamities, when one nation thought itself better off than its neighbors, but presently found itself more cruelly treated. And yet this was generally the case, for God’s wrath extended to the extremities of the earth.

He amplifies the atrocity of the evil by mentioning three things,They shall not be lamented, nor gathered, nor buried; but they shall be as dung, and shall thus lie on the face of the earth. We have said in other places that lamentation does no good to the dead; but as it is what humanity requires, the want of it is rightly deemed a temporal punishment. So when any one is deprived of burial, it is certainly nothing to the dead if his body is not laid in a grave; for we know that God’s holy servants have often been either burnt or hung or exposed to wild beasts; and the whole Church complains that dead bodies were lying around Jerusalem and became food to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth. But these things do not disprove the fact, that burial is an evidence of God’s paternal kindness towards men. For why has he appointed that men should be buried rather than brute animals, except that he designed it to be an intimation of an immortal life? As, then, burial is a sign of God’s favor, it is no wonder that he often declares to the reprobate that their dead bodies would be cast away, so as not to be honored, with a grave.

But we must remember this truth, — that temporal punishments happen in common to God’s children and to aliens; God extends without any difference temporal punishments to his own children and to the unbelieving, and that in order that it may be made evident that our hope ought not to be fixed on this world. But however this may be, it is yet true that when God punishes the unbelieving in this way, he adds at the same time some remark by which it may be understood, that it happens not in vain nor undesignedly, that those are deprived of burial, who deserve that God should exterminate them from the earth, and that their memory should be obliterated, so that they should not be connected among men. But we have said also in another place, that such expressions admit of another meaning, which yet is not at variance with the former, but connected with it, and that is, that so great would be the slaughter, that none would be left to shew this kindness to his friend or to his neighbor or to his brother. For when four or ten or a hundred die, they may be buried; but when God slays by the sword a great number in one day, none are found to take care of burying the dead, as few remain alive, and even they dread their enemies. When therefore the prophets say that those whom God slew would be without lamentation and burial, they intimate that so great would be the number, that all would lie on the ground; for no one would dare to perform this humane act towards the dead, and were all to do their utmost, they would not be able, as the number would be so great.

Thus Jeremiah confirms what we have said, — that God’s vengeance would extend to all lands and all nations, so as to involve in ruin the nobles as well as the common people, and to leave remaining but a small number.

For the same purpose he adds what follows, that they would be as dung on the face of the earth. This is added by way of contempt. It was then hardly credible, that so many illustrious, wealthy, and powerful nations could thus in so short a time be destroyed. But the Prophet, in order to shake off this false conceit, says that they would become like dung, that however great their dignity and power, their wealth and strength, might be, they could not yet escape the hand of God, for he would reduce to nothing the glory of the whole world. We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. It then follows —

<242534>Jeremiah 25:34

34. Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel.

34. Ulalate pastores, et clamate, et volutate vos eximii gregis; quia impleti sunt dies vestri ad mactandum, et dispersiones vestrae (vel, afflictiones, confractiones;) et cadetis tanquam vas desiderii (id est, pretiosum.)

 

I doubt not but that the Prophet now turns his discourse especially to his own nation, which interpreters have not observed, and hence have not understood the meaning of the Prophet. He prophesied of God’s judgments, that the Jews might know that they in vain looked for impunity, as the Lord would not pardon the ignorant and destitute of all true knowledge, who might have pretended their ignorance as an excuse; and also that this comfort might support the minds of the godly, that the heathens, involved in the same guilt, would be subjected to the same judgment; and lastly, that knowing the difference between them and other nations, they might flee to God’s mercy and be encouraged to repent by entertaining a hope of pardon. After having then treated this general subject, he now returns to the people over whom he was appointed a teacher. He might indeed have declared from an eminence what was to take place through the whole earth; for so extensive was the office of a herald which God had conferred on him. He might then by the virtue of his office have denounced ruin on all nations; but he ought not to neglect his special care for the chosen people. And so I explain this passage; for he now again directs his discourse to the Jews.

Hence he says, Howl, ye pastors, and cry, etc. By pastors he means the king and his counsellors, the priests and other rulers; and by the choice of the flock he seems to understand the rich, whose condition was better than that of the common people. Some in a more refined manner consider the choice of the flock to have been those void of knowledge, unlike the scribes and priests and the king’s counsellors; but this view seems not to be well-founded. I therefore adopt what is more probable, — that the choice of the flock were those who were rich and high in public esteem, and yet held no office of authority in the commonwealth or in the Church. However this may be, the Prophet shews, that as soon as God began to put forth his hand to punish the Jews, there would be no ranks of men exempt from lamentation, for he would begin with the pastors and the choice of the flock.

He adds that their days were fulfilled. Here he indirectly condemns that wicked security which had for a long time hardened them, so that they despised all threatenings; for God had now for many years called on them, and had sent his Prophets one after another; when they saw the execution of judgment suspended over them, they considered it only as a bugbear, “Well, let the prophets continue to pronounce their terrors, if they will do so, but nothing will come of them.” Thus the ungodly turned God’s forbearance into an occasion for their obstinacy. As then this evil was common among the Jews, the Prophet now says, by way of anticipation, that their days were fulfilled. For there is to be understood this contrast, that God had spared them, not that he had his eyes closed, or that he had not observed their wicked deeds, but that he wished to give them time to repent; but when he saw that their wickedness was unhealable, he now says that their days were completed. And he adds, to be killed or slain. I wonder that learned interpreters render this, “that they may slay one another.” There is no need of adding anything, for the Prophet meant to express no such sentiment, nor to restrict what he denounces here on the Jews, to intestine or domestic wars; on the contrary, we know that they were slain by aliens, even by the Chaldeans. This sense then is forced, and is also inconsistent with history. It is added, and your dispersions fE149 also are fulfilled, or your breakings. The verb ≈wp, puts, means to scatter or to dissipate, and also to afflict, to tear; and the sense of tearing or breaking is what I prefer here. And he adds, And ye shall fall as a precious vessel. This simile appears not to be very appropriate, for why should he not rather compare them to an earthen vessel, which is of no value and easily broken? But his object was to point out the difference in their two conditions, that though God had honored them with singular privileges, yet all their excellency would not keep them safe; for it often happens that a vessel, however precious, is broken. And he speaks not of gold or silver vessels, but of fragile vessels, once in great esteem. That he might then more grievously wound them, he says that they had been hitherto precious vessels, or a precious vessel; for he speaks of them all in the singular number, and that they were to be broken; and thus he confirms what I said on the last verse, that hypocrites in vain trusted in their present fortune, or in the superior blessings of God, for he could turn to shame whatever glory he had conferred on them. It follows, —

<242535>Jeremiah 25:35

35. And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape,

35. Et peribit fuga a pastoribus, et evasio ab eximiis gregis.

 

He explains what we have now observed, for he had bidden the pastors to howl and the choice of the flock to roll or to prostrate themselves in the dust; he now gives the reason, even because they could not preserve their lives, no, not by an ignominious flight. It is indeed very miserable, when any one cannot otherwise secure his life than by seeking exile, where he must be poor, and needy, and despised; but even this is denied by the Prophet to the king and his counsellors, as well as to the rich through the whole city and the whole land: Perish, he says, shall flight from them. This mode of speaking is common in Hebrew:

“Flight,” says David, “has perished from me,”
(<19E205>Psalm 142:5;)

that is, I find no way of escape. So here, Perish shall flight; that is, while looking here and there in order to escape from danger, they shall be so shut up on every side, that they shall necessarily fall a prey to their enemies. It follows, —

<242536>Jeremiah 25:36

36. A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the Lord hath spoiled their pasture.

36. Vox clamoris pastorum et ululatus eximoirum gregis, quia perdidit jehova pascua eorum.

 

He not merely repeats the same thing in other words, but adds also something more grievous, that God would render desolate their pastures. He pursues the same metaphor; for as he used this comparison in speaking of the king’s counsellors and the priests, so now he does the same; and what he means by pastures is the community, the people, in the city and in the country; fE150 as though he had said, that they had hitherto ruled over that land which was rich and fertile, and in which they enjoyed power and dignity, but that now they would be deprived of all these benefits. He afterwards adds, —

<242537>Jeremiah 25:37

37. And the peaceable habitations are cut down because of the fierce anger of the Lord.

37. Et peribunt (vel, succidentur, vertunt alii) pascua pacis (tuguria pacis, hos est, tranquilla) a facie excandescentiae (vel, furoris) irae Jehovae.

 

He goes on with the same subject, that the tents, previously tranquil, would perish or be destroyed. And he designedly calls their dwellings peaceable; for the Jews, having found that their enemies had not before disturbed them, still promised to themselves the same good fortune in future.

And the faithful indeed do act thus rightly, and justly conclude from God’s previous benefits that he will be kind to them as he had ever been so; but hypocrites, though they repent not, yet absurdly think that God is bound to them; and though they daily provoke his wrath, they yet securely continue in their confidence of having peace. Since God then had until that time deferred the grievousness of his wrath, the Prophet says, that though their tents had been peaceable, fE151 yet they could not be exempted from destruction as soon as the indignation of God’s wrath went forth. It might have been enough to make use of one of these words, either of ˆwrj, cherun, or of a, aph; but the Prophet used the two, indignation and wrath, fE152 in order that he might fill the wicked with more terror; for as they were obstinate in their wickedness, so they were not moved except God doubled his strokes and set forth the extremity of his wrath. It follows, —

<242538>Jeremiah 25:38

38. He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion: for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger.

38. Dereliquit tanquam leo tabernaculum suum; quia redacta est terra eorum in vastitatem a facie irae oppressoris (aut, praedonis) et a facie excandescentiae irae ejus.

 

The Prophet in the last verse reminds us, that the Jews in vain trusted in God’s protection, for he would forsake his own Temple as well as the city. It was as it were a common saying among them,

“He has said, This is my rest for ever.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)

But hypocrites did not consider that he could still stand faithful to his promises, though he did not suffer them to go unpunished. They could not therefore connect these two things together, — that God would be always mindful of his covenant, — and that still he would be the judge of his Church.

This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that God would forsake as a lion his tabernacle. Some give this explanation, that he would go forth for a short time, as hungry lions are wont to do; but this is too far-fetched. I therefore have no doubt that God sets forth his power under the character of a lion; for the Jews would have been feared by all their enemies, had not God changed as it were his station. But as they had expelled him by their vices, so that he had no more an habitation among them, hence it was that they became exposed to the plunder of all nations. The import of the passage then is, that as long as God dwelt in the Temple he was like a lion, so that by his roaring alone he kept at a distance all nations and defended the children of Abraham; but that now, though he had not changed his nature, nor was there anything taken away or diminished as to his power, yet the Jews would not be safe, for he would forsake them. fE153

And the reason is added, which clearly confirms what has been said, For their land (he refers to the Jews) shall be desolate. But whence this desolation to Judea, except that it was deprived of God’s protection? For had God defended it, he could have repelled all enemies by a nod only. But as he had departed, hence it was that they found an easy access, and that the land was thus reduced to a waste.

It is added, on account of the indignation of the oppressor. Some render the last word “dove,” but not correctly. They yet have devised a refined meaning, that God is called a dove because of his kindness and meekness, though his wrath is excited, for he is forced to put on the character of another through the perverseness of men, when he sees that he can do nothing by his benevolence towards them. But this is a far-fetched speculation. The verb hny, inc, means to oppress, to take by force; and as it is most frequently taken in a bad sense, I prefer to apply it here to enemies rather than to God himself. There are many indeed who explain it of God, but I cannot embrace their view; for Jeremiah joins together two clauses, that God would forsake his Temple, as when a lion departs from his covert, and also that enemies would come and find the place naked and empty; in short, he intimates that they would be exposed to the will and plunder of their enemies, because they would be at that time destitute of God’s aid. And as he had before spoken of the indignation of God’s wrath, so now he ascribes the same to their enemies, and justly so, for they were to execute his judgments; what properly belongs to God is ascribed to them, because they were to be his ministers. fE154

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to gather us, so that we may be under thy protection and care, and to offer thyself to be our Shepherd, and even to exhibit thyself as such through thine only-begotten Son, — O grant, that we may willingly obey thee and hearken to the voice of that Shepherd whom thou hast set over us, so that we may be preserved to the end by thy goodness and power, and never wander from thee nor be carried away by our lusts, but so continue under the shadow of thy wings, that thou mayest be ever present with us and check our enemies, so that we may remain safe under thy protection throughout life, as well as in death, through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture Ninety-Ninth

CHAPTER 26

<242601>Jeremiah 26:1-2

1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word from the Lord, saying,

1. Principio regni Joakim filii Josiae, regis Jehudah, fuit sermo hic a Jehova, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, And speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Sta in atrio templi Jehovae, et loquere ad omnes urbes Jehudah (id est, omnes cives urbium Jehudah) quae veniunt ad orandum in templum Jehovae hos omnes sermones quas mandavero tibi ad loquendum ad ipsos (hoc est, loquaris ipsis;) ne diminuas verbum.

 

This chapter contains a remarkable history, to which a very useful doctrine is annexed, for Jeremiah speaks of repentance, which forms one of the main points of true religion, and he shews at the same time that the people were rejected by God, because they perversely despised all warnings, and could by no means be brought to a right mind. We shall find these two things in this chapter.

He says that this word came to him at the beginning of the reign, of Jehoiakim, of which king we have spoken in other places, where Jeremiah related other discourses delivered in his reign. We hence conclude that this book was not put together in a regular order, but that the chapters were collected, and from them the volume was formed.

The time, however, is not here repeated in vain, for we know that the miserable derive some hope from new events. When men have been long afflicted and well-nigh have rotted in their evils, they yet think, when a change takes place, that they shall be happy, and they promise themselves vain hopes. Such was probably the confidence of the people when Jehoiakim began to reign; for they might have thought that things would be restored by him to a better state. There is also another circumstance to be noticed; though their condition was nigh past hope, they yet hardened themselves against God, so that they obstinately resisted the prophets. It hence appears that the reprobate were become more and more exasperated by the scourges of God, and had never been truly and really humbled. This was the reason why Jeremiah, according to God’s command, spoke so sharply.

I pass by other things and come to the words, that the word of Jehovah came to him. He thus arrogated nothing to himself; but he testifies how necessary it was, especially among a people so refractory, that he should bring nothing of his own, but announce a truth that came from heaven. A general subject might be here handled, which is, that God alone is to be heard in the Church, and also that no one ought to assume to himself the name of a prophet or teacher, except he whom the Lord has formed and appointed, and to whom he has committed his message; but these things have been treated elsewhere and often and much at large; and I do not willingly dwell long on general subjects. It is then enough to bear in mind the purpose for which Jeremiah says that the word of Jehovah came to him, even that he might secure authority to himself; he does not boast of his own wisdom nor of anything human or earthly, but says only that he spoke what the Lord had commanded him.

He adds, Thus saith Jehovah, Stand in the court of the house (literally, but house means the Temple) of Jehovah. It was not allowed the people to enter into the Temple; hence the Prophet was bidden to abide in the court where he might be heard by all. He was, as we have seen, of the priestly order; but it would have been but of little avail to address the Levites. fE155 It was therefore necessary for him to go forth and to announce to the whole people the commands of God which are here recited; and he was to do this not only to the citizens of Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews; and this is expressly required, speak to all the cities of Judah; and then it is added, who come to worship in the Temple of Jehovah. God seems to have designedly anticipated the presumption of those who thought that wrong was done to them, when they were so severely reproved; “What! we have left our wives and children, and have come here to worship God; we have laid aside every attention to our private advantage, and have come here, though inconveniently; we might have lived quietly at home and enjoyed our blessings; we have incurred great expenses, undertaken a tedious journey, brought sacrifices, and denied ourselves as to our daily food, that God might be worshipped; and yet thou inveighest severely against us, and we hear nothing from thy mouth but terrors; is this right? Does God render such a reward to his servants?”

Thus then they might have contended with the Prophet; but he anticipates these objections, and allows what they might have pleaded, that they came to the Temple to offer sacrifices; but he intimates that another thing was required by God, and that they did not discharge their duties in coming to the Temple, except they faithfully obeyed God and his Law. We now see why the Prophet said, that he was sent to those who came up to Jerusalem to worship God. The deed itself could not indeed have been blamed; nay, it was highly worthy of praise, that they thus frequented the worship of God; but as the Jews regarded not the end for which God had commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, and also the end for which he had instituted all these external rites, it was necessary to remove this error in which they were involved.

Speak, he says, all the words which I have commanded thee to speak to them. The Prophet again confirms, that he was not the author of what he taught, but only a minister, who faithfully announced what God had committed to him; and so the people could not have objected to him by saying, that he brought forward his own devices, for he repelled such a calumny. The false prophets might have also alleged similar things; but Jeremiah had certain evidences as to his calling, that the Jews, by rejecting him, condemned themselves, for their own consciences fully convicted them. But from this passage, and from many like passages, we may draw this conclusion, — that no one, however he may excel in powers of mind, or knowledge, or wisdom, or station, ought to be attended to, except he proves that he is God’s minister.

He afterwards adds, Thou shalt not diminish a word. Some read, “Thou shall not restrain,” which is harsh. The verb, [rg, garo, properly means to be lessened and to be consumed. And Moses makes use of the same word in <051232>Deuteronomy 12:32, when he says,

“Thou shalt not add, nor diminish,”

in reference to the Law, in which the people were to acquiesce, without corrupting it with any human devices. To diminish then was to take away something from the word. fE156 But we ought to consider the reason why this was said to Jeremiah; it never entered the mind of the holy man to adulterate God’s word; but God here encourages him to confidence, so that he might boldly execute his commands. To diminish then something from the word, was to soften what appeared sharp, or to suppress what might have offended, or to express indirectly or coldly what could not produce effect without being forcibly expressed. There is then no doubt but that God anticipates here this evil, under which even faithful teachers in a great measure labor; for when they find the ears of men tender and delicate, they dare not vehemently to reprove, threaten, and condemn their vices. This is the reason why God added this, Diminish not a word; as though he had said, “Declare thou with closed eyes and with boldness whatever thou hast heard from my mouth, and disregard whatever may tend to lessen thy courage.”

We may now easily learn the use of this doctrine; the Prophet was not sent to profane men, who openly avowed their impiety, or lived in gross sins; but he was sent to the very worshippers of God, who highly regarded his external worship, and for this reason had left wives and children, came to the Temple and spared neither labor nor expense. As, then, he was sent to them, we must beware, lest we sleep in our vices and think that we have done our duty to God, when we have apparently given some evidences of piety; for except we really and sincerely obey God, all other things are esteemed of no value by him. It then follows —

<242603>Jeremiah 26:3

3. If so he they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil which I purpose to do unto them, because of the evil of their doings.

3. Si forte audiant et convertantur quisque a via sua mala, et poeniteat me mali quod ego cogitans ad faciendum (id est, cogito facere) ipsis propter (a facie, ad verbum) malitiam actionurn ipsorum.

 

In this verse God briefly shows for what end he sent his Prophet. For it would not have been sufficient for him to announce what he taught, except it was known to have been the will of God. Here then God asserts that he would not be propitious to the people, except they complied with what he required, that is, to repent. Thus he testifies that what was taught would be useful to them, because it had reference to their safety; and a truth cannot be rendered more entitled to our love than when we know that it tends to promote our wellbeing. Therefore God, when he saw the people rushing headlong through blind despair into all kinds of impiety, designed to make the trial whether or not some of them were healable; as though he had said, “What are ye doing, ye miserable beings? It is not yet wholly over with you; only obey me, and the remedy for all your evils is ready at hand.” We now see what God’s design was, even that he wished to give those Jews the hope of mercy who were altogether irreclaimable, so that they might not reject what he taught on hearing that it would be for their good.

But we may hence gather a general doctrine; that when God is especially displeased with us, it is yet an evidence of his paternal kindness when he favors us with the prophetic teaching, for that will not be without its fruit, except it be through our own fault. But at the same time we are rendered more and more inexcusable, if we reject that medicine which would certainly give us life. Let us then understand that the Prophet says here, that he was sent that he might try whether the Jews would repent; for God was ready to receive them into favor.

By saying ylwa, auli, “if peradventure,” he made use of a common mode of speaking. God indeed has perfect knowledge of all events, nor had he any doubt respecting what would take place, when the prophets had discharged their duties; but what is pointed out here, and also condemned, is the obstinacy of the people; as though he had said, that it was indeed difficult to heal those who had grown putrid in their evils, yet he would try to do so. And thus God manifests his unspeakable goodness, that he does not wholly cast away men who are almost past remedy, and whose diseases seem to be unhealable. He also strengthens his Prophet; for he might from long experience have been led to think that all his labor would be in vain; therefore God adds this, that he might not cease to proceed in the course of his calling; for what seemed incredible might yet take place beyond his expectation. We now see why it was said, If so be that they will hear.

It is then added, and turn, etc. From the context we learn, that repentance as well as faith proceeds from the truth taught: for how is it that those alienated from God return, confess their sins, and change their character, minds, and purposes? It is the fruit of truth; not that truth in all cases is effectual, but he treats here of the elect: or were they all healable, yet God shews that the use and fruit of his truth is to turn men, as it is said also by the Prophet, (<390406>Malachi 4:6,) and repeated in the first chapter of Luke,

“He will turn many of the children of Israel.” (<420106>Luke 1:6.)

What follows is not without its weight, every one from his evil way; for God intimates that it was not enough that the whole people should ostensibly confess their sins, but that every one was required to examine himself: for when we seek God in a troop, and one follows another, it is often done with no right feeling. Repentance therefore is only true and genuine, when every one comes to search his own case; for its interior and hidden seat is in the heart. This is the reason why he says, If a man, that is, if every one turns from his evil way.

As to God’s repentance, of which mention is made, there is no need of long explanation. No change belongs to God; but when God is said to turn away his wrath, it is to be understood in a sense suitable to the comprehension of men: in the same way also we are to understand the words, that he repents. (<198505>Psalm 85:5; 110:4.) It is at the same time sufficiently evident what God means here, even that he is reconcilable, as soon as men truly turn to him: and thus we see that men cannot be called to repent, until God’s mercy is presented to them. Hence also it follows, that these two things, repentance and faith, are connected together, and that it is absurd and an impious sacrilege to separate them; for God cannot be feared except the sinner perceives that he will be propitious to him: for as long as we are apprehensive of God’s wrath, we dread his judgment; and thus we storm against him, and must necessarily be driven headlong into the lowest abyss, hence under the Papacy they speak not only foolishly, but also coldly of repentance; for they leave souls doubtful and perplexed, nay, they take away every kind of certainty. Let us then understand the reason why the Holy Spirit teaches us, that repentance cannot be rightly and profitably taught, unless it be added, that God will be propitious to miserable men whenever they turn to him.

With regard to the word I think, I have already said, that God forms no contrary purposes; but this refers to those men who deserved his dreadful vengeance; it is the same as though he had said, — “Their iniquity has already ripened; I am therefore now ready to take vengeance on them: nevertheless let them return to me, and they shall find me to be a Father. There is, then, no reason for them to despair, though I have already manifested tokens of my vengeance.” This is the meaning; but he repeats the reason of his wrath, On account of the wickedness of their doings; for we know that they were proud and obstinate; it was therefore necessary to close their mouths, otherwise they would have raised a clamor, and said, that God was unjustly angry, or that he exceeded all bounds. Whatever evils then were at hand, God briefly shews that they came from themselves, that the cause was their own wickedness, fE157 It follows, —

<242604>Jeremiah 26:4-6

4. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord, If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,

4. Dices ergo ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova, Si non audieritis me, ut ambuletis in lege mea, quam posui coram conspectu vestro,

5. To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;

5. Ad audiendum sermonem (hoc est, ut audiatis sermones) servorum meorum prophetarum, quos ego mitto ad vos, et mane surgendo et mittendo, neque tamen audistis (hoc postremum lego parenthesin;)

6. Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.

6. Et (id est, tunc) ponam domum hanc (id est, templum) sicuti Silo, et urbem hanc ponam maledictionem cunctis gentibus terrae.

 

The Prophet now briefly includes what he had been teaching, what he had been commanded to declare to the people. No doubt he spoke to them more at large; but he deemed it enough to shew in a few words what had been committed to him. And the sum of it was, that except the Jews so hearkend as to walk in God’s Law, and were submissive to the prophets, final ruin was nigh the Temple and the city. This is the meaning: but it may be useful to consider every particular.

By these words, Except ye hearken to me, to walk in my law, God intimates, that he mainly requires obedience, and esteems nothing as much, according to what he says, that it is better than all sacrifices. (<091522>1 Samuel 15:22.) This subject was largely treated in the seventh chapter, where he said,

“Did I command your fathers when they came out of Egypt to offer sacrifices to me? this only I required, even to hear my voice.” (<240722>Jeremiah 7:22, 23)

We hence see, that the only way of living piously, justly, holily, and uprightly, is to allow ourselves to be ruled by the Lord. This is one thing. Then what follows is worthy of being noticed, To walk in my law. God here testifies that his will is not ambiguous or doubtful, for he has prescribed what is right in his law. Were God then to descend a hundred times from heaven, he would bring nothing but this message, that he has spoken what is necessary to be known, and that his Law is the most perfect wisdom. Had he said only, “Hear me,” men might have still evaded and avowed themselves ready to learn. God therefore does here silence hypocrites, and says that he required nothing else but to follow his Law. And for the same purpose he adds what follows, which I have set before you: for this kind of speaking intimates that the doctrine of the Law was by no means obscure or doubtful, as Moses said,

“I this day call heaven and earth to witness, that I have set life and death before your eyes.” (<053019>Deuteronomy 30:19)

And in another place he said,

“Say not, Who shall ascend above the clouds? or, Who shall descend into the abyss? or, Who shall pass beyond the sea? The word is in thy heart and in thy mouth,” (<053012>Deuteronomy 30:12-14; <451006>Romans 10:6-8)

as though he had said, “God has deprived you of every excuse, for there is no reason for doubting, since he has spoken so familiarly to you, and has explained everything necessary to be known.”

And hereby is confuted the impious blasphemy of the Papists, who impudently assert that not only the Law is obscure, but also the Gospel. And Paul also loudly declares, that the Gospel is not obscure except to those who perish, and who have a veil over their hearts, being visited with judicial blindness. But as to the Law, in which there is no such plainness as in the Gospel, we see what Jeremiah affirms here, that it was set before the eyes of all, that they might learn from it what pleased God, and what was just and right.

But what follows in the next verse ought to be especially observed; for these two things are necessarily connected, — that God required nothing but obedience to his Law, — and that his will was that his prophets should be heard, — To hearken, he says, to the words of my servants, the prophets, whom I send to you, (it is in the second person.) Here there seems to be some inconsistency; for if God’s Law was sufficient, why were the prophets to be heard? But these two things well agree together: the Law alone was to be attended to, and also the prophets, for they were its interpreters. For God sent not his prophets to correct the Law, to change anything in it, to add or to take away; as it was an unalterable decree, not to add to it nor to diminish from it. What then was the benefit of sending the prophets? even to make more manifest the Law, and to apply it to the circumstances of the people. As then the prophets devised no new doctrine, but were faithful interpreters of the Law, God joined, not without reason, these two things together, — that his Law was to be heard and also his prophets; for the majesty of the Law derogated nothing from the authority of the prophets; and as the prophets confirmed the Law, it could not have been that they took away anything from the Law.

Nay, this passage teaches us, that all those who repudiate the daily duty of learning, are profane men, and extinguish as far as they can the grace of the Spirit; many such fanatics among the Anabaptists have been in our time, who despised learning of every kind. They boasted that the doctrine of the Law was the Alphabet; and they also indulged in this dream, that wrong is done to the Holy Spirit when men attend to learning. And some dare, in a grosser manner, to vomit forth their blasphemies; they say that Scripture is enough for us, yea, even these two things, “Fear God and love thy neighbor.” But as I have already said, we must consider how God has spoken by his Law; whether he has closed up the way, so as not to explain his will more clearly by the prophets, nor to apply to present use what would have otherwise been less effectual? or that he purposed to draw continually by various channels the doctrine which flows from that fountain? But now, since God had given his own Law, and had added to the Law his prophets, every one who rejected the prophets must surely ascribe no authority to the Law. Even so now, they who think it not their duty at this day to seek knowledge in the school of Christ, and to avail themselves of the hearing of his word, no doubt despise God in their hearts, and set no value either on the Law, or on the prophets, or on the Gospel. Remarkable then is this passage; it shews that the Lord would have his Law to be our leader and teacher, and yet he adds his own prophets.

He says further, Whom I have sent to you, rising early and sending. Here he upbraids the Jews with their slowness and insensibility; for he roused them early, and that not once but often, and yet he spent his labor in vain. Rising early, when applied to God, means that he called these men in due time, as though he had said, that it was not his fault that the Jews had departed from the right way of safety, for he had been sedulously careful of their well-being, and had in due time warned them. We hence see how the Prophet condemned their tardiness and indifference, and then their hardness, by saying, and sending; for this intimates a repetition or assiduity. He had said before, “whom I sent to you, rising early;” now, when he says and sending, he means that he had not sent one prophet, or many at one time, but one after another continually, and that yet it had been without any benefit. The end of the verse I read in a parenthesis, (but ye have not hearkened.) Indeed what follows stands connected with the previous verses. fE158

Then will I make, etc.: the copulative is to be rendered here as an adverb of time. What had been just said, “but ye have not hearkened,” was by way of anticipation; for the Jews, swelling with great arrogance, might have immediately said, “Oh! what new thing dost thou bring? Except ye hearken to my voice, saith Jehovah, to walk in my Law, which I have set before you, as though all this were not well known even to children among us; and yet thou pretendest to be the herald of some extraordinary prophecy; certainly such boasting will be deemed puerile by all wise men.” Thus then they might have spoken, but the Prophet here briefly checks the insolence of such a foolish censure, but ye have not hearkened; as though he had said, that he had not been sent in vain to speak of a thing as it were new and unusual, because the Jews had corrupted the whole Law, had become disobedient, unteachable, and unbelieving, and had despised both the Law of God and his Prophets.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased not only to make known thy will once by the Law, but also to add more light by thy holy prophets, and further to give us perfect light by thy Gospel, and as thou invitest us daily to learn by means of those whom thou hast sent, — O grant, that we may not be deaf nor tardy to hear, but promptly submit ourselves to thee, and so suffer ourselves to be ruled by thy word, that through our whole life we may testify that thou art indeed our God, we being thy people, until we shall at length be gathered into that celestial kingdom, which thine only-begotten Son our Lord has purchased for us. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundredth

We could not yesterday finish the words of the Prophet, as time did not allow us to do so. We said that the Prophet had denounced God’s vengeance on the people in such a manner, that he softened that severity by some comfort, lest despair should have rendered more obstinate those whom he wished to turn into obedience; we said also, that the ministers of the word cannot otherwise speak rightly or profitably of repentance, except they connect with it the promise of God’s mercy. But as the Prophet had to do with refractory men and despisers of God, it behoved him to declare what at length he subjoins, even that the destruction of the Temple and city was nigh at band, except they repented.

And he says that that house would become like Shiloh, in order that by this example he might touch their hearts; for the ark of God had been long at Shiloh, and that place might have been deemed venerable for being ancient. Jerusalem was indeed renowned, but Shiloh was in time before it. This place was now forsaken; nay, it presented a sad and a degraded spectacle. He thus set before their eyes an example of God’s vengeance, such as awaited them. We have seen the same reference in <240712>Jeremiah 7:12, where the Prophet says,

“Go to Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant was,”

etc.; but he now speaks more briefly, for he no doubt repeated often the same things.

Then he adds, I will make this city a curse, or execration, to all the nations of the earth. It was still more intolerable to the Jews to hear what Jeremiah says here, — that so great a city, the sanctuary and the royal throne of God, would become a curse to heathen nations; and yet as God had commanded him to say this, he boldly performed his duty. Now follows the reward he met with, —

<242607>Jeremiah 26:7-8

7. So the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.

7. Et audierunt sacerdotes et prophetae et totus populus Jeremiam loquentem sermones hos in templo Jehovae.

8. Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.

8. Et factum est, cum finesset Jeremias loqui quaecunque mandaverat Jehova, ut loqueretur toti populo, ut loqueretur toti populo, comprehenderunt ipsum sacerdotes et prophetae et totus populus, dicendo, Morte morieris.

 

Here the Prophet recites what happened to him, after he had declared God’s message, and faithfully warned the people by adding threatenings, as God had commanded him. He says first that he was heard; which is not to be deemed as commendatory, as though the priests and prophets patiently heard what he taught; for there was no teachable spirit in them, nor did they come prepared to learn, but they had long indulged themselves in perverseness, so that Jeremiah was become to them an avowed enemy; and they also audaciously opposed all his threatenings. But though they were not ashamed to reject what the Prophet said, they yet observed a certain form, as it is usual with hypocrites, for they are more exact than necessary, as they say, in what is formal, but what is really important they neglect. We may hence observe, that the priests and prophets deserved no praise, because they restrained themselves, as though they deferred their judgment until the cause was known, but as the whole people were present, they for a time shewed themselves moderate; it was yet a reigned moderation, for their hearts were full of impiety and contempt of God, as it became really manifest.

But it must be observed that he says that the priests and prophets hearkened. As to the priests, it is no wonder that he calls them so, though they were in every way wicked, for it was an hereditary honor. But it is strange that he mentions the prophets. At the same time we must know, that Jeremiah thus calls those who boasted that they were sent from above. In the twenty-third chapter he at large reproves them; and in many other places he condemns their impudence in falsely assuming the authority of God. He then allowed them an honorable title, but esteemed it as nothing; as we may do at this day, who without harm may call by way of ridicule those prelates, bishops, or pastors, who under the Papacy seek to be deemed so, provided we at the same time strip them of their masks. But these lay hold on the title, and thus seek to suppress the truth of God, as though to be called a bishop were of more weight than if an angel was to come down from heaven. And yet were an angel to descend from heaven, he ought to be counted by us as a devil, if he brought forward such filthy and execrable blasphemies, as we see the world is at this day polluted with by these unprincipled men. This passage then, and the like, ought to be borne in mind, for they shew that titles are not sufficient, except those who bear them really shew that they are such as their calling imports. Thus, then, Jeremiah was called a Prophet, and also those impostors were called prophets whose only religion it was to corrupt and pervert the doctrine of the Law, but they were so called with regard to the people. It is in the meantime necessary, wisely to distinguish between prophets or teachers, as also the Apostle reminds us, we ought to inquire whether their spirit is from God or not. (<620401>1 John 4:1.)

He says at last, that he was condemned by the priests, and the prophets, and the whole people; he at the same time introduced these words, that he had spoken all that the Lord had commanded him. Thus he briefly exposed the injustice of those by whom he was condemned; for they had no regard to what was right, as we shall presently see. But as they had brought with them a preconceived hatred, so they vomited out what they could no longer contain. It afterwards follows, —

<242609>Jeremiah 26:9

9. Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

9. Quare prophetasti in nomine Jehovae, dicendo, Tanquam Silo erit domus haec, et urbs haec perdetur, ut non sit habitator? (congregatus autem totus populus ad Jeremiam in templo Jehovae.) (Hoc per parethesin legendum est, et refertur ad sequentem contextum, ut suo loco dicemus.)

 

Here is added the cause of Jeremiah’s condemnation, that he had dared to threaten with so much severity the holy city and the Temple. They did not inquire whether God had commanded this to be done, whether he had any just cause for doing so; but they took this principle as granted, that wrong was done to God when anything was alleged against the dignity of the Temple, and also that the city was sacred, and therefore nothing could be said against it without derogating from many and peculiar promises of God, since he had testified that it would be ever safe, because he dwelt in the midst of it. We hence see by what right, and under what pretense the priests and the prophets condemned Jeremiah.

And by saying, in the name of Jehovah, they no doubt accused him as a cheat, or a false pretender, because he had said that this had been commanded by God, for they considered such a thing impossible and preposterous. God had promised that Jerusalem would be his perpetual habitation; the words of Jeremiah were, “I will make this city like Shiloh.” God seemed in appearance to be inconsistent with himself, “This is my rest for ever,” “this shall be a desert.” We hence see that the priests and the prophets were not without some specious pretext for condemning Jeremiah. There is therefore some weight in what they said, “Dost thou not make God contrary to himself? for what thou denouncest in his name openly and directly conflicts with his promises; but God is ever consistent with himself; thou art therefore a cheat and a liar, and thus one of the false prophets, whom God suffers not in his Church.” And yet what they boasted was wholly frivolous; for God had not promised that the Temple should be perpetual in order to give license to the people to indulge in all manner of wickedness. It was not then God’s purpose to bind himself to ungodly men, that they might expose his name to open reproach. It is hence evident that the prophets and priests only dissembled, when they took as granted what ought to have been understood conditionally, that is, if they worshipped him in sincerity as he had commanded. For it was not right to separate two things which God had connected; he required piety and obedience from the people, and he also promised that he would be the guardian of the city, and that the Temple would be safe under his protection. But the Jews, having neither faith nor repentance, boasted of what had been said of the Temple, nay, they bragged, as we have seen elsewhere, and spoke false things; and hence the Prophet derided them by repeating three times,

“The Temple of Jehovah, the Temple of Jehovah, the Temple of Jehovah,” (<240704>Jeremiah 7:4)

as though he had said, — “This is your silly talk, you ever cry boastingly, ‘The Temple of God;’ but all this will avail you nothing.”

It then follows, that the people were assembled. Here Jeremiah passes to another part of the narrative, for he reminded the princes and the king’s councillors that they were not without reason roused to go up to the Temple. fE159

If the dispute had been between few, either Jeremiah would have been slain, or in some way intercepted, or it might have been that the princes would have circumvented the king and his councillors, and thus the holy man would have been privately crushed. But here he introduced these words, that the whole people were assembled against him. Hence it was that the report, reached the king’s court; and so the princes and councillors were commanded to come. In short, Jeremiah shews the reason why the princes came unto the Temple; it was because the city was everywhere in a commotion, when the report spread that something new and intolerable had been announced. The king therefore could not neglect this commotion; for it is a dangerous thing to allow a popular tumult to prevail. And therefore Jeremiah thus adds, —

<242610>Jeremiah 26:10

10. When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord’s house.

10. Et audierunt principes Jehudah sermones hos, et ascenderunt e domo regis in domum Jehovae (hoc est, a palatio regis in Templum,) et sederunt in foribus portae Templi Jehovae novae.

 

We have said that the princes were roused by a popular clamor; nor is there a doubt but; that the king had sent them to quell the commotion. It must be especially noticed, that they were engaged in other matters, as it was seldom the case that courtiers spent their time in hearing the prophets. It is indeed true, that the occupations of those are sacred, who have the care of the commonwealth, who dispense justice, and who have to provide for the public safety; but it behoves them so to divide their time, that they may be able to consecrate some portion of it to God. But courtiers think themselves exempted by a sort of privilege, when yet the truth is more necessary for them than even for the common people; for not only the duty of the head of a family lies on each of them, but the Lord has also set them over a whole people. If, then, private men have need of being daily taught, that they may faithfully rule and guide themselves and their families, what ought to be done by those rulers who are as it were the fathers of the commonwealth? But as I have already said, such men usually exempt themselves from the yoke of the faithful.

Hence then it was, that none of the princes were present, when Jeremiah had been commanded to proclaim his message, not only on the day when few came to the Temple, but when they came from all the cities of Judah to sacrifice at Jerusalem. It was, indeed, a very shameful sign of gross contempt, that no one of the king’s counsellors appeared in the Temple, when there were present, from remote places, those whom religion and the desire to sacrifice had brought there. But he says that they came to know the cause of the commotion; for it is said, that they sat at the new gate, which some say was eastward; and they conjecture that it was called new, because it had been renewed; the king’s palace was also towards the east, and the eastern gate was his tribunal. I am disposed to embrace this opinion, that they sat at the eastern gate. fE160 It now follows, —

<242611>Jeremiah 26:11

11. Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes, and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.

11. Et dixerunt sacerdotes et prophetae principibus et toti populo, dicendo, judicium mortis est viro huic, uia prophetavit contra urbem hanc quemadmodum audistis auribus vestris.

 

We hence conclude, that the people in assenting to the sentence of the priests and prophets, had done nothing according to their own judgment, but that all of every rank through a violent feeling condemned Jeremiah. And as the priests and prophets directed also their discourse to the people, it appears clear, that they were guided by them, so that they thoughtlessly and inconsiderately gave their consent; for it often happens in a mob that the people exclaim, “Be it so, be it so; amen, amen.” Jeremiah has indeed said, that he was condemned by the whole people; but it must be observed, that the people are like the sea, which of itself is calm and tranquil; but as soon as any wind arises, there is a great commotion, and waves dash one against another; so also it is with the people, who without being excited are quiet and peaceable; but a sedition is easily raised, when any one stirs up men who are thoughtless and changeable, and who, to retain the same simile, are fluid like water. This, then, is what Jeremiah now intimates.

But there is another thing to be noticed, — that the common people suffer themselves to be drawn in all directions; but they may also be easily restored, as it has been said, to a right mind. “When they see,” says Virgil, “a man remarkable for piety and good works, they become silent and attend with listening ears.” He there describes (Aeneid, 1) a popular commotion, which he compares to a tempest; and he rightly speaks of a tempest; but he added this simile according to common usage. The same thing is now set before us by the Prophet; the priests and prophets, who thought that they alone could boast of their power and speak with authority, in a manner constrained the people apparently to consent. The king’s counsellors being now present, the people became as it were mute; the priests perceived this, and we shall see by the issue that what the same poet mentions took place, “By his words he rules their hearts and softens their breasts.” For it became easy for the king’s counsellors even by a word to calm this foolish violence of the people. We shall indeed soon see, that they unhesitantly said, “There is no judgment of death against this man.” It is hence evident how easily ignorant men may be made inconsistent with themselves; but this is to be ascribed to their inconstancy; and noticed also ought to be what I have said, that there was no real consent, because there was no judgment exercised. The authority of the priests overpowered them; and then they servilely confessed what they saw pleased their princes, like an ass, who nods with his ears.

Now, when the subject is duly considered, it appears, that the priests and the prophets alone spoke both to the princes and to the whole people, that Jeremiah was guilty of death, fE161 because he had prophesied against the city. We have said that they relied on those promises, which they absurdly applied for the purpose of confirming their own impiety, even that God had chosen that city that he might be there worshipped. It was a false principle, and whence proceeded their error? not from mere ignorance, but rather from presumption, for hypocrites are never deceived, except when they determine not to obey God, and as far as they can to reject his judgments. When, therefore, they are carried away by a perverse and wicked impulse, they ever find out some plausible pretext; but it is nothing but a disguise, as we clearly see from this narrative. It follows, —

<242612>Jeremiah 26:12

12. Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes, and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house, and against this city, all the words that ye have heard.

12. Et dixit Jeremias cunctis principibus et toti populo, dicendo, Jehova misit me ad prophetandum contra domum hanc et contra urbem hanc cunctos sermones quos audistis.

 

Jeremiah pleads only his own calling and the command of God; and thus he confutes the preposterous charge which they most impudently brought against him. There is no doubt but that he might have spoken at large, but he deemed it enough to include the substance of his defense. Had he made a long discourse, the main point might have been more obscure. He now clearly makes known the state of the question on both sides. The priests by their own authority condemned Jeremiah, because he reduced to nothing [as they thought] God’s promises, for he had threatened destruction to the city and to the temple; but Jeremiah on the other side answers, that he had declared nothing but what God had enjoined. There was need of proof, when the priests held that God was inconsistent with himself in denouncing destruction on that city, which he had undertaken to defend and protect. But the confutation of this was ready at hand, — that God had never bound himself to hypocrites and ungodly men; nay, the whole glory of the city and the majesty of the Temple were dependent on his worship; nor is there any doubt but that Jeremiah had alleged these things. But as it was the main thing, he was satisfied with stating that he had been sent by God.

Thus he indirectly condemned their vain boastings, — that God was on their side; but he says, “I come not except by God’s command.” Now, though he declares briefly and distinctly that he had been sent by God, he yet presents himself as ready to prove everything; and as I have already said, there is no doubt but that he answered and discussed that frivolous question on which the priests so much insisted.

It is further worthy of being noticed, that he addressed both the princes and the people; and thus he intimated that the priests and the prophets were deaf, and not worthy of being spoken to; for it was their determination proudly to despise God, and to carry on war, as it were avowedly, with his servants; for he would have otherwise no doubt gladly endeavored to restore them to the way of safety. But as he saw that they had closed the door against themselves, he passed them by. This is the reason why he says, that he spoke to the princes and to the people, having passed by those, on whom he must have spent labor in vain. And surely when they said that he was worthy of death, they proved by such a presumption that they would not be taught by him; and also their cruelty prevented them from being teachable. But the Prophet had regard to the very source of evil, because their object was obstinately to resist God and all his prophets.

By saying, that he was sent to prophesy all that they had heard, he made them judges, though he did not address them together with the princes; for we have seen that the latter were in the king’s palace, and had been sent for when there was a fear of some commotion. But there is no doubt but that the address was repeated again. Jeremiah then made them judges and arbitrators, when he said that he retracted nothing, but that what they had heard, he had faithfully declared according to the command of God. It follows, —

<242613>Jeremiah 26:13

13. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.

13. Et nunc bonificate (bonas facite) vias vestras et studia vestra, et obtemperate voci Jehovae Dei vestri, et poenitebit Jehovam omnis mali quod pronunciavit contra vos.

 

He not only confirms here what he had taught, but also reproves the hardness and obstinate wickedness of the priests and prophets; for though he addressed the princes and the people, he yet no doubt designed to touch more sharply those ungodly men who set themselves up against God; and at the same time his discourse referred to them all, when he said, “How have I sinned? I have endeavored to promote your safety, must I therefore die?” We hence see that the Prophet not only confirmed what he had said, but also accused his adversaries of ingratitude; for nothing could have been more kind, and ought to have been more acceptable, than to be called to repent, that they might receive mercy from God: “What was the object of my doctrine? even that ye might repent; and what does repentance bring? even salvation; for God is ready to forgive you. Now ye cannot bear to hear, that God would be merciful to you. What madness is this?” We now then see the design of the Prophet.

And this passage deserves to be noticed; for God will render to all the ungodly their own reward; not only because they harden themselves against every instruction, but also because they are manifest and, as it were, sworn enemies to their own salvation, inasmuch as they refuse the necessary remedy, and do not allow themselves to be restored to the right way, that they may be forgiven. Very weighty, then, is what he now says, that no fault could be found in his doctrine, except that it proved galling to the wicked, but that they could yet obtain peace, provided they sought reconciliation with God.  fE162

He adds, Hear ye the voice of Jehovah, in order to shew that he required nothing new from the people, that he imposed on them no hard yoke, but only called them to the duty of obeying the Law; and he adds to this, your God, in order to take away from them every excuse, lest they should object and say that what Jeremiah alleged was unknown to them. Here, then, he triumphantly declares that he had taught them nothing that was alien to the Law, and that the Jews were inexcusable who professed Jehovah to be their God, and yet hearkened not to his voice, which ought to have been familiar to them.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast not only called us once to the hope of an eternal inheritance, but invitest us continually to repentance, while we cease not by our continual sins to depart from thee, — O grant that we may not with deaf ears reject thy voice, but be pliable and submissive to thee, and that we may also so accustom ourselves to bear the yoke, that we may prove, through our whole life, that we are of thy sheep, and that Christ, thine only-begotten Son, whom thou hast set over us, is indeed our Shepherd, until we shall be gathered unto that kingdom which he has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and First

<242614>Jeremiah 26:14-15

14. As for me, behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you:

14. Et ego, ecce ego in manu vestro, facite mihi sicuti bonum, vel sicuti rectum erit in oculis vestris.

15. But know ye for certain, that, if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof; for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you, to speak all these words in your ears.

15. Veruntamen sciendo seite, quod si vos occideritis me, sanguinem purum (vel, innoxium) vos ponetis super vos et super urbem hanc, et super habitatores ejus; quia in veritate misit me Jehova ad vos, ut loqueror in auribus vestris cunctos istos sermones.

 

Jeremiah, after having exhorted the princes, the priests, and the whole people to repent, and having shewn to them that there was a remedy for their evil, except by their obstinacy they provoked more and more the wrath of God, now speaks of himself, and warns them not to indulge their cruelty by following their determination to kill him; for they had brought in a sentence that he deserved to die. He then saw that their rage was so violent, that he almost despaired of his life; but he declares here that God would be an avenger if they unjustly vented their rage against him. He yet shews that he was not so solicitous about his life as to neglect his duty, for he surrendered himself to their will; “Do what ye please,” he says, “with me; yet see what ye do; for the Lord will not suffer innocent blood to be shed with impunity.”

By saying that he was in their hand, he does not mean that he was not under the care of God. Christ also spoke thus when he exhorted his disciples not to fear those who could kill the body. (<401028>Matthew 10:28.) There is no doubt but that the hairs of our head are numbered before God; thus it cannot be that tyrants, however they may rage, can touch us, no, not with their little finger, except a permission be given them. It is, then, certain that our life can never be in the hand of men, for God is its faithful keeper; but Jeremiah said, after a human manner, that his life was in their hand; for God’s providence is hidden from us, nor can we discover it but by the eyes of faith. When, therefore, enemies seem to rule so that there is no escape, the Scripture says, by way of concession, that we are in their hands, that is, as far as we perceive. We ought yet to understand that we are by no means so exposed to the will of the wicked that they can do what they please with us; for God restrains them by a hidden bridle, and rules their hands and their hearts. This truth ought ever to remain unalterable, that our life is under the custody and protection of God.

We now, then, see in what sense Jeremiah regarded his life as in the hand of his enemies, not that he thought himself cast away by God, but that he acknowledged that loosened reins were given to the wicked to rage against him. But we must at the same time bear in mind why he said this; after having conceded that his life was in their hand, he adds, yet knowing know ye, that if ye kill me, ye will bring innocent blood upon yourselves. fE163 But he had said before that they might do what seemed them good and right. fE164 Good and right here is not to be taken for a judgment formed according to the rule of justice, but for a sentence formed iniquitously according to their own will. This is a common mode of speaking in Hebrew. Jeremiah then testifies that he was not solicitous about his life, for he was prepared to offer himself, as it were, as a sacrifice, if the rage of his enemies should go so far. But in warning them to beware of God’s vengeance, his object was not his own safety, but it was to stimulate them to repentance. He then plainly says that he did not fear death, for the Lord would presently shew himself to be his avenger, and that his blood also would be so precious in the sight of God, that the whole city, together with the people, would be punished, were they to deal unjustly with him.

But let us attend to what follows, even that God had sent him. He now takes this principle as granted, that it could not be that God would forsake his servants, to whom he has promised aid when oppressed by the ungodly. God, indeed, ever exhorts his ministers to patience, and he would have them to be prepared for death whenever there is need; yet he promises to bring them help in distress. Jeremiah then relied on this promise, and was thus persuaded that it could not be that God would forsake him; for he cannot disappoint his people, nor forfeit his faith pledged to them. As, then, he was fully persuaded of his own calling, and knew that God was the author of all his preaching, he boldly concluded that his blood could not be shed with impunity. All faithful teachers ought to encourage themselves, for the purpose of discharging strenuously the duties of their office, with this confidence, — that God who has committed to them their office can never forsake them, but will ever bring them help as far as it may be necessary. It now follows, —

<242616>Jeremiah 26:16

16. Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests, and to the prophets, This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.

16. Et dixerunt principes et universus populus sacerdotibus et prophetis, Non est viro huic judicium mortis; quia in nomine Jehovae Dei nostri loquutus est nobis.

 

Jeremiah shews here that the sentence pronounced on him by the priests and false prophets was soon changed. They had indeed heard him, and had given some appearance of docility, as it is the case with hypocrites who for a time attend; but they exasperated themselves against God, and as their minds were previously malignant, they were rendered much worse by hearing. So it happened to the priests and false prophets, and in their blind rage they doomed the holy Prophet to death. He now says that he was acquitted by the princes and the king’s counsellors, and also by the votes of the people. The people had, indeed, lately condemned him, but they had been carried away by the vain pomp and splendor of the priests and prophets; when they saw these so incensed against Jeremiah, they could not bring themselves to inquire into the cause. Thus the common people are always blinded by prejudices, so that they will not examine the matter itself. So it was when Jeremiah was condemned. We have said that the people were of themselves quiet and peaceable; but the prophets and priests were the farmers, and hence it was that the people immediately gave their consent. But in the presence of the princes they went in a contrary direction.

This passage, in short, teaches us how mischievous are rulers when there is no regard had for equity or justice; and it also teaches us how desirable it is to have honest and temperate rulers, who defend what is good and just, and aid the miserable and the oppressed. But we see that there is nothing steady or fixed in the common people; for they are carried here and there like the wind, which blows now from this quarter and then from that.

But we must notice this clause, that Jeremiah was not worthy of death, fE165 because he had spoken in the name of Jehovah. They thus confessed, that whatever came from God ought to have been received, and that men were mad who opposed the servants of God, for they hurried themselves headlong into their own destruction.

We may hence deduce a useful truth, that whatever God has commanded ought, without exception, to be reverently received, and that his name is worthy of such a regard, that we ought to attempt nothing against his servants and prophets. Now, to speak in the name of Jehovah is no other thing than faithfully to declare what God has commanded. The false prophets, indeed, assumed the name of God, but they did so falsely; but the people acknowledge here that Jeremiah was a true prophet, who did not presumptuously thrust in himself, nor falsely pretended God’s name, but who in sincerity performed the duties of his office. It follows, —

<242617>Jeremiah 26:17-19

17. Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying,

17. Et surrexerunt viri ex senioribus terrae, (ex senibus terrae,) ac dixerunt ad totum coetum populi (vel, locuuti sunt dicendo; est quidem semper verbum, rma, loquuti sunt erqo ad totum coetum) dicendo,

18. Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.

18. Micha Morasthites fuit prophetans diebus Ezechiae regis Jehudah, et dixit ad totum populum Jehudah, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Sion ager (sed subaudienda est particula similitudinis, Sion ut ager) arabitur, et Jerusalem solitudines (vel, acervi) erit (hoc est, erit in solitudines, vel, in acervos, vel, in ruinas,) et mons domus (id est templi) in excelsa sylvae.

19. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.

19. An occidendo occidit eum Ezechias rex Jehudah, et totus Jehudah? an non timuit Jehovam? et deprecatus est faciem Jehovae, et poenituit Jehovam mali, quod loquutus fuerat contra eos: et nos facimus malum grande adversus animas nostras.

 

It is uncertain whether what is here recited was spoken before the acquittal of Jeremiah or not; for the Scripture does not always exactly preserve order in narrating things. It is yet probable, that while they were still deliberating and the minds of the people were not sufficiently pacified, the elders interposed, in order to calm the multitude and to soften their irritated minds, and to reconcile those to Jeremiah who had previously become foolishly incensed against him; for no doubt the priests and the false prophets had endeavored by every artifice to irritate the silly people against the Prophet; and hence more than one kind of remedy was necessary. When therefore the elders saw that wrath was still burning in the people, and that their minds were not disposed to shew kindness, they made use of this discourse. They took their argument from example, — that Jeremiah was not the first witness and herald of dreadful vengeance, for God had before that time, and in time past, been wont to speak by his other prophets against the city and the temple.

The priests and the prophets had indeed charged Jeremiah with novelty, and further pretended that they thus fiercely opposed him on the ground of common justice. Jeremiah had said, that God would spare neither the holy city nor the Temple. This was intolerable, for it had been said of the Temple,

“This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell.”
(<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)

We hence see that Jeremiah was overwhelmed as it were by this one expression, while the priests and the false prophets objected and said,

“Thou then makest void God’s promises; thou regardest as nothing the sanctity of the Temple.”

And they further pretended that not one of the prophets had ever thus spoken. But what do the elders now answer? even that there had been other prophets who had denounced ruin on the city and the Temple, and that, was falsely charged with this disgrace, that he was the first to announce God’s judgment. We now understand the state of the case: Jeremiah is defended, because he had not alone threatened the city and the first, but he had others as the originators, from whose mouths he had spoken, who were also the acknowledged servants of God, from whom credit could not be withholden, such as Micah.

Now, what is here related is found in <330312>Micah 3:12. The Prophet Micah had the same contest with the priests and prophets as Jeremiah had; for they said that it was impossible that God should pour his vengeance on the holy city and the Temple. They said,

“Is not Jehovah in the midst of us?”

and they said also, “No evil shall come on us.” They were inebriated with such a security, that they thought themselves beyond the reach of danger; and they disregarded all the threatenings of the prophets, because they imagined that God was bound to them. We indeed know that hypocrites ever relied on that promise, “Here will I dwell;” and they also took and borrowed words from God’s mouth and perverted them like cheats: “God resides in the midst of us; therefore nothing adverse can happen to us.” But the Prophet said, (the same are the words which we have just repeated,)

“For you Sion shall be plowed as a field, fE166 and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of this house as the heights of a forest.”

But let us now consider each clause. It is first said, that the elders from the people of the land rose up. fE167 It is probable that they were called elders, not as in other places on account of their office, but of their age. It is indeed certain that they were men of authority; but yet I doubt not but that they were far advanced in years, as they were able to relate to the people what had happened many years before. As it is added, that they spoke to the whole assembly of the people, we may hence deduce what I have already stated, — that the people were so violent, that there was need of a calm discourse to mitigate their ardor; and certainly when once a commotion is raised and rages, it is not an easy matter immediately to allay it. When, therefore, the kind elders saw that the minds of the people were still exasperated, they employed a moderating language, and said, Micah fE168 the Morasthite (they named his country) prophesied in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, etc.

We ought to notice the time, for it might seem strange, that when that holy king was anxiously engaged in promoting the true worship of God, things were in so disordered a state as to call for so severe a denunciation. If there ever was a king really and seriously devoted to the cause of religion, doubtless he was the first and chief exemplar; he spared no labor, he never seemed to shun any danger or trouble, whenever religion required this; but we find that however strenuously he labored, he could not by his zeal and perseverance succeed in making the whole people to follow him as their leader. What then must happen, when those who ought to shew the right way to others are indifferent and slothful? In the meantime the good princes were confirmed by the example of Hezekiah, so that they did not faint or fail in their minds when they saw that success did not immediately follow his labors, nor any fruit. For it is a grievous trial, and what shakes even the most courageous, when they think that their efforts are vain, that their labors are useless, yea, that they spend their time to no purpose, and thus it happens that many retrograde. But this example of Hezekiah ought to be remembered by them, so that they may still go on, though no hope of a prosperous issue appears; for Hezekiah did not desist, though Satan in various ways put many hinderances in the way, and even apparently upset all his labors, so that they produced no fruit. So much as to the time that is mentioned.

The elders said, that Micah had spoken to the whole people, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, Sion, shall be plowed as a field, We have already seen on what occasion it was that Micah spoke with so much severity; it was when hypocrites set up their false confidence and falsely assumed the name of God, as though they held him bound to themselves. For you, he said, Sion shall be plowed as a field. He began with the temple, and then he added, and Jerusalem shall be in heaps, or a solitude; and lastly, he said, and the mountain, of the house, that is, of the temple, etc. He repeated what he had just said, for what else was the mountain of the temple but Sion? But as this prediction could have hardly been believed by the Jews, the Prophet, for the sake of confirmation, said the same thing twice. We hence conclude that it was not a superfluous repetition, but that he might shake with terror the hypocrites, who had hardened themselves against God’s threatenings, and thought themselves safe, though the whole world went to ruin.

Having now related what Micah had denounced, they added, Slaying, did Hezekiah the king of Judah and all Judah slay him? By the example of the pious King Hezekiah, they exhorted the people to shew kindness and docility, and shewed that it was an honor done both to God and to his prophets, not to be incensed against his reproofs and threatenings, however sharply they might have been goaded or however deeply they might have been wounded. But they further added, Did he not fear Jehovah? and supplicate the face of Jehovah? and did not Jehovah repent? They confirmed what Jeremiah had previously said, that there was no other remedy but to submit themselves calmly to prophetic instruction, and at the same time to flee to the mercy of God; for by the fear of God here is meant true conversion; what else is God’s fear than that reverence by which we shew that we are submissive to his will, because he is a Father and a Sovereign? Whosoever, then, owns God as a Father and a Sovereign, cannot do otherwise than to submit from the heart, to his good pleasure. Therefore the elders meant that Hezekiah and the whole people really turned to God. Now repentance, as it must be well known, contains two parts — the sinner becomes displeased with himself on account of his vices — and forsaking all the wicked lusts of the flesh, he desires to form his whole life and his actions according to the rule of God’s righteousness.

But they added, that they supplicated, etc. Though Jeremiah uses the singular number, he yet includes both the people and the king; he seems however to have used the singular number designedly, in order to commend the king, whose piety was extraordinary and almost incomparable. There is no doubt but that he pointed out the right way to others, that they might repent, and also that he humbly deprecated that vengeance, which justly filled their minds with terror. He, indeed, ascribed this especially to the pious king; but the same concern is also to be extended to the chief men and the whole body of the people, as we shall presently see; did he not then supplicate the face of Jehovah?

This second clause deserves special notice; for a sinner will never return to God except he has the hope of pardon and salvation, as we shall ever dread the presence of God, except the hope of reconciliation be offered to us. Hence the Scripture, whenever it speaks of repentance, at the same time adds faith. They are indeed things wholly distinct, and yet not contrary, and ought never to be separated, as some inconsiderately do. For repentance is a change of the whole life, and as it were a renovation; and faith teaches the guilty to flee to the mercy of God. But still we must observe that there is a difference between repentance and faith; and yet they so unite together, that he who tears the one from the other, entirely loses both. This is the order which the Prophet now follows in saying that Hezekiah supplicated the face of Jehovah. For whence is the desire to pray, except from faith? It is not then enough for one to feel hatred and displeasure as to his sins, and to desire to be conformed to God’s will, except he thinks of reconciliation and pardon. The elders then pointed out the remedy, and shewed it as it were by the finger; for if the people after the example of Hezekiah and of others repented, then they were to flee to God’s mercy, and to testify their faith by praying God to be propitious to them.

Hence it follows, that Jehovah repented of the evil which he had spoken against them. The Prophet now makes use of the plural number; we hence conclude that under the name of King Hezekiah alone he before included the whole people. God then repented of the evil. fE169 As to this mode of speaking, I shall not now speak at large. We know that no change belongs to God; for whence comes repentance, except from this, — that many things happen unexpectedly which compel us to change our purpose? one had intended something; but he thought that that would be which never came to pass; it is therefore necessary for him to revoke what he had determined. Repentance then is the associate of ignorance. Now, as nothing is hid from God, so it can never be that he repents. How so? because he has never determined anything but according to his certain foreknowledge, for all things are before his eyes. But this kind of speaking, that God repents, that is, does not execute what he has announced, refers to what appears to men. It is no wonder that God thus condescendingly speaks to us; but, while this simplicity offends delicate and tender ears, we on the contrary wonder at God’s indulgence in thus coming down to us, and speaking according to the comprehension of our weak capacities. We now perceive how God may be said to repent, even when he does not execute what he had denounced. His purpose in the meantime remains fixed, and as James says,

“There is in him no shadow of turning.” (<590117>James 1:17.)

But a question may again be raised, How did God then repent of the evil which he had threatened both to the king and to the people? even because he deferred his vengeance; for God did not abrogate his decree or his proclamation, but spared Hezekiah and the people then living. Then the deferring of God’s vengeance is called his repentance; for Hezekiah did not experience what he had feared, inasmuch as he saw not the ruin of the city nor the sad and dreadful event which Micah had predicted.

Now this also is to be noticed, — that the pious king is here commended by the Holy Spirit, that he suffered himself to be severely reproved, though, as I have already said, he was not himself guilty. He had, indeed, a burning zeal, and was prepared to undergo any troubles in promoting the true worship of God; and yet he calmly and quietly bore with the Prophet, when he spoke of the destruction of the city and Temple, for he saw that he had need of such a helper. For however wisely may pious princes exert themselves in promoting the glory of God, yet Satan resists them. Hence they ever desire, as a matter of no small importance, to have true and faithful teachers to help, to assist and to strengthen them, and also to oppose their adversaries; for if teachers are silent or dissemble, a greater ill-will is entertained towards good princes and magistrates; for when with the drawn sword they defend the glory of God and his worship, while the teachers themselves are dumb dogs, all will cry out, “Oh! what does this severity mean? Our teachers spare our ears, but these do not spare even our blood.” It is, therefore, ever a desirable thing for good and pious kings to have bold and earnest teachers, who cry aloud and confirm the efforts of their princes. Such was the feeling of pious Hezekiah, as we may conclude from this passage. The rest I must defer.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to gather us as a people to thyself, and to promise that we should be like a spiritual temple for thee to dwell in, — O grant that we may consecrate among us a perpetual habitation for time, and so strive through the whole course of our life to devote ourselves to thee, that thy grace and blessing may never depart from us, but that we may experience more and more that those are never destitute of thy protection who truly and undissemblingly rely on thee, so that thy name may be more and more glorified in us through thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Second

We saw yesterday the example which the elders had alleged to deliver Jeremiah from death, — that he was not the first who had threatened the city and the Temple with ruin, for Micah under the reign of Hezekiah had done the same and was not put to death. They hence concluded that it would be a heinous crime were they to slay Jeremiah, and that it would not remain unpunished. They then intimated that the people would commit a most grievous offense, if they killed Jeremiah; and they also added, that vengeance would follow, for the Lord would render them their due reward, if they thus cruelly treated the holy Prophet. It now follows, —

<242620>Jeremiah 26:20-23

20. And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath-jearim, who prophesied against this city, and against this land, according to all the words of Jeremiah:

20. Atque etiam vir fuit prophetans in nomine Jehovae, Urias, filius Semeah ex Cariath-iarim, et prophetavit contra urbem hanc et contra terram hanc secundum sermones Jeremiae:

21. And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt;

21. Et audivit rex Joakim et omnes magnates ejus et Proceres sermones ejus, et quaesivit rex interficere ipsum, et audivit Urias et timuit, et fugit et transivit (vel, concessit) in Egyptum;

22. And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt:

22. Et misit rex Joakim viros in Egyptum, Elnathan filium Achobor et viros cure eo in Egyptum:

23. And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.

23. Et eduxerunt Uriam ex Egypto, et adduxerunt eum ad regem Joakim, qui percussit eum gladio, et projecit cadaver ejus in sepulchra populi (vel, plebis potius.)

 

Another example is brought forward, partly different, and partly alike, — different as to the king, the like as to a Prophet. Uriah, mentioned here, faithfully discharged his office; but Jehoiakim could not bear his preaching, and therefore slew him. Some explain the whole in the same manner, as though the elders designed to shew that the wicked can gain nothing by resisting God’s prophets, except that by contending they make themselves more and more guilty. But others think that this part was brought forward by the opposite party, and the words, “And also,” gw, ugam, favor this opinion; for they may be taken adversatively, as though they said, “But there was another Prophet, who did not speak of the ruin of the city and of the destruction of the Temple with impunity.” And this opinion seems to be confirmed by what follows in the last verse of the chapter, Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam, etc.; the particle ˚a, ak, is properly nevertheless; but it means sometimes, at least, or only. But in this place, as I shall shew again presently, it retains, I think, its proper meaning; for the Prophet declares, that though he was in great danger, yet Ahikam fought so bravely for him, that at length he gained his cause.

But as to the present passage, both expositions may be admitted; that is, either that the malignants adduced the death of Uriah in order to overwhelm Jeremiah, — or that God’s faithful followers intended to shew that there was no reason of acting in this manner, for the state of things had become worse, since King Jehoiakim had cruelly slain God’s servant.

But the time ought especially to be noticed. We have seen that this prophecy was committed to Jeremiah, and also promulgated at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign; but this beginning is not to be confined either to the first or second year; but as he became tributary to the king of Babylon, he afterwards endeavored to throw off the yoke and was at length disgracefully dethroned; hence the beginning of his reign must be during the time that his power was entire. While then Jehoiakim retained his dignity, Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim this message. However this may have been, the King Jehoiakim thus enjoyed a tranquil reign; he was at Jerusalem. It is not therefore said here, that Uriah had threatened the city in his days; but the history is given as of a present thing. One thing then is evident, that this discourse was delivered, when King Jehoiakim was not afar off. His palace was nigh the Temple; his counsellors were present who had come down, as we have seen, on account of the tumult. For the affair could not be hidden; since the priests and the false prophets everywhere inflamed the rage of the people. The king’s counsellors therefore came to quell the disturbances. If this part of the address is to be ascribed to the defenders of Jeremiah, then they must have been endued with great courage and firmness, to allege against the king a nefarious murder, and also to condemn him for a sacrilege, for he had not only done an injury to a holy Prophet, but had directly opposed God himself. There are on both sides probable conjectures; for if we follow this opinion, that the servants of God, who favored Jeremiah and sought to deliver him from danger, spoke these words, it might be objected and said, that no such thing is expressed But the narrative goes on continuously, And there was also a man, etc. Now when different persons speak and oppose one another, it is usual to mark the change. It seems then that the whole is to be read connectedly, so that they who first adduced the example of Micah, then added on the other hand, that Uriah indeed suffered punishment, but that thus a crime was added to a crime, so that Jehoiakim gained nothing by furiously persecuting God’s Prophet. And that they did not speak of the consequences, ought not to appear strange, for the condition of the city and of the people was known to all, and a more grievous danger was nigh at hand. Hence a simple narrative might well have been given by them; and as they did not dare to exasperate the mind of the king, it was the more necessary to leave that part untouched.

But if the other view be more approved, that the enemies of Jeremiah did here rise against him, and alleged the case of Uriah, there is also some appearance of reason in its favor; the king was living, his counsellors were present, as we have said. It might then be, that those who wished the death of Jeremiah, referred to this recent example in order to have him destroyed, — “Why should he escape, since Uriah was lately put to death, for the cause is exactly the same? Uriah did not go any farther than Jeremiah; he seems indeed to have taken the words from his mouth. As, then, the king did slay him, why should Jeremiah be spared? Why should he escape the punishment the other underwent, when his crime is more grievous?” It hence appears that this view can without absurdity be defended, that is, that the enemies of Jeremiah endeavored to aggravate his case by referring to the punishment the king inflicted on Uriah, whose case was not dissimilar; and I do not reject this view. If any approve of the other, that this part was spoken by the advocates of Jeremiah, I readily allow it; but I dare not yet reject wholly the idea, that Jeremiah was loaded with prejudice by having the case of Uriah brought forward, who was killed by the king for having prophesied against the city and the Temple. fE170

Let us now consider the words; There was also a man who prophesied in the name of Jehovah, etc. If we receive the opinion of those who think that Jeremiah’s enemies speak here, then the name of Jehovah is to be taken for a false pretense, as though they had said, “It is a very common thing to pretend the name of God; for every one who claims to himself the office of teaching, boasts that he is sent from above, and that what he speaks has been committed to him by God.” Thus they indirectly condemned Jeremiah; for it was not enough for him to pretend God’s name, as Uriah, of whom they spoke, had also professed most loudly that he was God’s prophet, that he brought nothing as his own, and that he had a sure call. But if this part is to be ascribed to God’s true worshippers, whose object it was to protect and defend Jeremiah, to speak in the name of Jehovah, as we said yesterday, was not only to glory on account of the prophetic office, but also to give evidence of faithfulness and of integrity, so as really and by the effect to prove that he was God’s prophet, such as he wished to be thought.

They then added, he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah. If the adversaries of Jeremiah were the speakers, we see that he was so overpowered, that it was afterwards superfluous to know anything more of his cause; for another had already been condemned, whose case was in no way dissimilar or different; “He spoke according to the words of Jeremiah, and he was condemned, why then should we now hesitate respecting Jeremiah?” We see how malignantly they turned against Jeremiah this example, as though he was condemned beforehand in the person of another. But if these were the words of the godly, they are to be accounted for in another way; what is intimated is, that if Jeremiah was slain, God’s vengeance would be provoked; for it was more than enough to shed the innocent blood of one Prophet.

It then follows, And when, Jehoiakim the king, and all his mighty men and the princes, heard his words, etc. This verse seems to favor the opinion of those who conclude that godly men were the speakers; for they spoke dishonorably of the king and his counsellors; the king heard and his mighty men, (powerful men, literally,) and also all the princes; and the king sought to slay him. These words, however, may also be ascribed to the ungodly and the wicked, for they wished to terrify the common people by first mentioning the king and then the mighty men and the princes. And to seek to kill him, might also have been excused, even that the king could not bear such a reproach without revenging it; for he saw that the Prophet had taken such a liberty as not, to spare the holy city nor the Temple: The king then heard, and his mighty men and princes; and then, the king sought to slay him.

But when Uriah heard it, he feared and fled. This passage teaches us that even the faithful servants of God, who strive honestly to fulfill their office, are yet not always so courageous as boldly to despise all dangers; for it is said that the Prophet feared; but he was not on this account condemned. This fear was not indeed blameless; but his fear was such, that he yet continued in his vocation. He might indeed have pleased the king, but he dreaded such perfidy more than death. He, therefore, so feared, that he turned not aside from the right course, nor denied the truth., nor admitted anything unworthy of his dignity or of the character he sustained. His fear then, though wrong, did not yet so possess the Prophet, but that he was ever faithful to God in his vocation. It then follows, that he went into Egypt. We hence conclude, that the king’s wrath and cruelty were so great, that the holy man could not find a corner to hide himself in through the whole land of Judea, nor even in other regions around. He was therefore forced to seek a hiding place in Egypt.

It is afterwards added that the king sent men, even Elnathan, the chief of the legation, with others. fE171 There is no doubt but that Jehoiakim sent to the king of Egypt and complained that a turbulent man had fled, and that he asked him to deliver him up as a fugitive. So then he was brought back, not through power, but through a nefarious compact, for he was betrayed by the king of Egypt.

It is at length added, that they led up Uriah from Egypt, and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people, by way of dishonor; for Jeremiah here calls them the graves of the common people, as we in French call shambles des charniers. The rich are honorably and splendidly buried at this day, and every one has his own grave; but when there is a vast number, the bodies are thrown together, for it would be too expensive to dig a grave for each. It seems also that there was such a practice in Judea, and that God’s Prophet was buried in this ignominious manner.

Thus they who spoke intimated that the king’s wrath so burned, that he not only put him to death, but followed up his vengeance, so that a new disgrace awaited the Prophet, even when dead, for he was cast among the obscure and ignoble common people.

I have hitherto so explained this passage as to leave it doubtful whether the probability is that the speakers were Jeremiah’s enemies or his advocates. And though, as I have declared twice or three times, I reject not the view which is different from that which I embrace, yet it seems most probable to me that the words were spoken by the godly men who defended the cause of Jeremiah. All the various reasons which lead me to this conclusion I will not here specify; for every one may himself see why I prefer this view. The common consent of almost all interpreters also influences me, from which I wish not to depart, except necessity compels me, or the thing itself makes it evident that they were mistaken. But we have seen from the beginning, that the two examples consecutively follow one another, and that nothing intervenes; it may hence be supposed, that the enemies of Jeremiah had previously performed their part. The words themselves then shew that those who commenced the discourse were those who carried it on. And that they did not mention the reason why they adduced this example is not to be wondered at; for the displeasure of the king was feared, and he had given no common proof, in his treatment of the holy Prophet, how impatiently he bore anything that trenched on his own dignity. They therefore cautiously related the matter, and left what they did not express to be collected by those who heard them. But it was easy from their words to know what they meant, — that God’s vengeance was to be dreaded; for one Prophet had been slain; what if there was to be no end to cruelty? would not God at length arise to execute judgment when his servants were so unworthily treated? As, then, the words are not completed, it seems probable to me that God’s true servants spoke thus reservedly and cautiously, because they dared not to express their thoughts openly.

Further, these words, the king sought to slay him, and the king sent men, etc., are more suitable when considered as spoken by the defenders of Jeremiah than by the ungodly and the wicked; and they also named Elnathan, that they might hand down his name with infamy to future ages. And they lastly added that the Prophet was brought up from Egypt. What was very shameful seems certainly to be set here before us, that he was forcibly brought back from that land to which he had fled for an asylum, and also that he was brought to the king, that he smote him with the sword, that is, cruelly killed him; and further, that being not satisfied with this barbarous act, he caused him to be ignominiously buried. All these particulars, as I have said, seem to shew that these words may be more suitably applied to the holy men who defended the cause of Jeremiah than to his enemies. It now follows, —

<242624>Jeremiah 26:24

24. Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

24. Veruntamen manus Achicam, filii Saphan, fuit cum Jeremia, ne traderetur ipse (vel, ne traderent ipsum) in manum populi ad interficiendum ipsum.

 

There is here an adversative particle, and not without reason; for the contention is pointed out which had so raged that it became difficult to extricate the holy Prophet from danger. We hence conclude that Jeremiah was in so much peril that it was with great and arduous effort that Ahikam saved him. There is a frequent mention of this man in sacred history, and his name will hereafter be found in several places, and he was left to govern the remnant of the people after the demolition of the city. (<122522>2 Kings 25:22; <243914>Jeremiah 39:14.)  fE172 And there is no doubt but that he made progress in religion and was an upright man, and that his virtues were so valued by Nebuchadnezzar that he bestowed on him such an honor. He was soon afterwards slain by the ungodly and the wicked; but there is nothing related of him but what is honorable to him. It was indeed an extraordinary act of courage that he dared to oppose the fury of the whole people, and to check the priests and the false prophets who had conspired to put the holy man to death.

This is the reason why it is in the last place added, that the hand of Ahikam was with Jeremiah; though the people were furious, and the priests would by no means be restrained from persecuting the holy man, yet Ahikam could not be turned from his holy purpose, but persevered to defend a good cause until Jeremiah escaped in safety. It is hence said, that his hand was with Jeremiah; for by hand in Scripture is meant effort, (conatus;) for where there is anything to be done, or any difficulty, the Scripture uses the word hand. But as Ahikam exerted himself to the uttermost, not only in aiding the holy Prophet by his words, but also in repressing the fury of the people, and in boldly resisting the priests and the false prophets, the hand in this place means aid; his hand was with Jeremiah, that is, he aided or helped him, so that he was not delivered up into the hand of the people.

It hence also appears, as we said yesterday, that the tumult of the people was not immediately allayed, for the false prophets and the priests had so roused their virulence that they became almost implacable. Here, then, is set before us an example of courage and perseverance; for it is not enough for us to defend a good cause when we may do so with safety, except we also disregard all ill-will and despise all dangers, and resist the fury of the wicked, and undergo contentions and dangers for God’s servants whenever necessary. We are also taught at the same time how much weight belongs to the influence of one man when he boldly defends a good cause and yields not to the madness of the wicked, but risks extremities rather than betray the truth of God and his ministers. Now follows, —


CHAPTER 27

<242701>Jeremiah 27:1-5

1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

1. Principio regni Jehoiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah fuit sermo hic ad jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the Lord to me, Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck,

2. Sic dicit jehova ad me (mihi,) fac tibi vincula et juga, et pone ea super collum tuum;

3. And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedeldah king of Judah;

3. Et mitte ad regem Edom, et ad regem Moab, et ad regem filiorum Ammon, et ad regem Tyri, et ad regem Sidonis, per manum nuntiorum, qui venient Jerusalem ad Zedechiam regem Jehudah;

4. And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters;

4. Et mandata dabis illis ad dominos suos, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Sic dicetis ad dominos vestros,

5. I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my out-stretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.

5. Ego feci terram, hominem et jumentum quod super faciem terrae est, in virtute mea magna, et brachio meo extento; et dedi eam illi qui placeret in oculis meis.

 

Jeremiah prefaces this prediction by saying, that it was delivered to him at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign. But this beginning, as we have said, extended to the whole of his reign while it was prosperous and entire. While, then, Jehoiakim enjoyed a quiet possession of the kingdom, Jeremiah was bidden to make known what had been committed to him, not to Jehoiakim himself, but, as we learn from the third verse, to Zedekiah who had not immediately succeeded him, but became at last king after various changes. God, then, committed this prophecy to his servant, but did not design it to be immediately promulgated. If it be asked, why God designed what he purposed to be made known to be concealed for so long a time? the answer is this, — that it was done for the sake of the Prophet himself, in order that he might with more alacrity perform his office, knowing of a certainty that no one thought that it could ever happen, and certainly the thing was incredible. fE173

God’s design then was to communicate this to his Prophet himself, that he might see afar off what no one, as I have just said, had thought could ever come to pass. This is the reason, as I think, why this prophecy was not immediately published, but was like a treasure deposited in the Prophet’s bosom, until the ripened time came. I shall defer till tomorrow the explanation of this prophecy.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that when at any time thou grievously threatenest us, we may not, on that account, become angry, but learn to acknowledge our sins, and truly to humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, and also to deprecate thy wrath, and to prove by true repentance, that we profit by thy word, and believe thy denunciations, so that we may become partakers of that mercy, through which thou promisest to be propitious to all who turn to thee: and may we thus advance more and more, and persevere in the right course of repentance, until having at length put off all the vices of the flesh, we shall attain to a perfection of righteousness and the fruition of that glory which has been laid up for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture one Hundred and Third

We explained yesterday why this command was given to Jeremiah at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, which was not yet to be executed until the time of Zedekiah: it was God’s design to strengthen him in the meantime, lest he should faint in his course. Let us now see what was the object of this prophecy and what is its meaning.

The Prophet seems to have addressed the ambassadors who were sent by neighboring kings to King Zedekiah; and he was bidden to command them to declare each to his master, that they were all to come under the yoke of the king of Babylon. There is, moreover, no doubt but that God designed especially and chiefly to give a lesson to Zedekiah and to the Jews; for these legations mentioned here might have so emboldened them as to despise all prophecies, and to think themselves beyond all danger. For the purpose for which these legations were sent by the king of Sidon, by the king of Tyrus, by the king of Moab and Ammon, ought to be particularly observed: when they saw that the king of Babylon would not spare them, they began to join their forces. Every one at first consulted his own advantage, and saw no need of mutual help; and so it was that the Chaldeans easily overcame them while they were disunited. Experience at length taught them, that neither the king of Judah nor ally of the neighboring kings could sustain the contest unless they formed a confederacy. Thus, then, it happened that the king of Tyrus, the king of Sidon, the king of Moab, and the king of Ammon, offered their forces and their money to the king of Judah, and that he also promised to help them in return, if the Chaldean attacked them. It was therefore a new occasion for confidence to the Jews, so that they gathered courage, and thus were emboldened to resist, relying on so many neighboring kings.

The Chaldeans had been hitherto successful, for they had assailed each by himself; but when all of them were ready by their united forces to oppose and restrain their attacks, it was hardly credible that they could be conquered. It was therefore God’s purpose to remove this false confidence, and to warn Zedekiah and the whole people, lest they should be deceived by such allurements, but that they might know that they were patiently to endure the punishment inflicted on them by God. This therefore was the reason why the Prophet was sent to the ambassadors who had come to Jerusalem. He was not set a teacher over them; but this was done with reference to Zedekiah and the people. It is yet probable that these commands were set forth before the king, that the king might know that he had been wholly deceived, and that he still foolishly trusted to the subsidies which had been offered.

We may easily imagine how grievous it must have been to the king and to the people to hear this prophecy. The ambassadors were in a manner dishonored; the kings, by whom they had been sent, might have complained that they were treated with great indignity. Hence the king and the people must have been very incensed against Jeremiah. But the Prophet boldly performed what God commanded him, as it behoved him. And we shall hereafter see, that his words were addressed to King Zedekiah rather than to these heathens.

We now understand the reason why God would have his Prophet to give these commands to the ambassadors, who had been sent by heathen kings to King Zedekiah: it was that the king might know that it was wholly useless for these kings to promise their assistance; for he had to do, not with the Chaldean king, but rather with the judgment of God, which is irresistible, and which men in vain struggle with.

Though the Prophet was bidden to command the ambassadors to say to the kings by whom they had been sent, Thus saith Jehovah, of hosts, fE174 they yet might have refused to do so, and that with indignation: “What! Are we come here to be ambassadors to thee? and who indeed art thou who commandest us? besides, dost thou think that we are so mad as to threaten for thy sake, our kings and masters, and to declare to them what thou biddest, that they are shortly to become the servants of the Chaldean king?” The ambassadors then might have thus treated the holy Prophet with derision and laughter: but, as we have said, the whole was done for the sake of Zedekiah and the people, in order that the Prophet might dissipate that vain splendor and pomp, by which he saw that Zedekiah and all the Jews were deceived; for they thought that they had as it were high and large mountains to be set in opposition to the Chaldean king and his army: “On what part can they assail us, since the king of Tyrus is on our side, and also the king of Sidon, the king of Moab, and the king of Ammon? these rule widely, and their cities are impregnable.” Thus, then, the Jews were convinced that they would be exempt from every trouble and molestation; but in order that they might not deceive themselves with that vain display, Jeremiah said,

“Declare, ye ambassadors, to your masters what God has spoken, even that ye must submit to the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

And a visible symbol was added in order to confirm the prediction: the Prophet was bidden to put a yoke on his neck, or yokes, for he speaks in the plural number. fwm muth, means a pole, a yoke, a transverse piece of wood: and no doubt he applied some pieces of wood to his neck, like the yoke laid on oxen; and then he tied this yoke or crossbar; for rsy, isar, means to bind or tie, and so twrswm, musarut, are bands; rswm, musar, also means sometimes a girdle; but here it is to be taken for bands or ligaments. It was a sad spectacle to see on the neck of Jeremiah, when he went forth, the symbol of the bondage of all kings and nations: he was as it were in the place of all a captive before the time: but when God laid a yoke on the Jews and on all other nations, Jeremiah was then a free man; for though he bore this mark of bondage, he yet expected God’s judgment with a resigned mind, while others disregarded it. But this confirmation rendered them more inexcusable, as the case is, when God, to strengthen faith, adds sacraments or other helps to his word, by which means he impresses us the more, for he thus teaches not only our ears, but also our eyes and all our senses: when God thus omits nothing that may tend to strengthen our faith in his word, a heavier condemnation awaits us, if such signs avail not.

We then perceive the reason why the Prophet applied to his neck the symbol of future bondage: were there any teachable among the people, to see such a sign with their eyes must have been useful to them. But as the greater part had hardened themselves in their obstinacy, what ought to have done them good, by humbling them in time before God, so as to anticipate his judgment, had no other effect but to render their punishment more grievous.

Then follow these words, I have made the earth, the man and the beast, which are on the face of the earth, by my great power, and by mine extended arm. fE175 The spectacle would have been unmeaning and to no purpose, had Jeremiah only put the yoke on his neck, and added no instruction; for we know that all signs are as it were dead, except life is given them by the word. As then an image avails not much, so whatever signs may be set before our eyes, they would be frivolous and without meaning, were no doctrine added as the life. And hence also is condemned the madness of the Papists, who amuse the minds of the people with many signs, while no doctrine is conveyed. It therefore follows that they are mere figments, and attended with no profit. God, then, has ever added to signs his doctrine, which may therefore be truly compared to the soul, which gives life to the body, that would otherwise be without motion or strength. On this account Jeremiah shews what the yoke meant. He also speaks of the power and sovereign authority of God; for kings, though they confess that God holds the government of the world, cannot yet entertain the idea that they can be in a moment overwhelmed and cast down from their dignity. For they seem to themselves to be fixed in their nests, and so they promise to themselves a permanent condition, and imagine that they are not subject to the common lot of mortals.

As, then, kings are so inflated with pride, the Lord used this preface, that he made the earth and all living beings. He speaks not of heaven, but mentions only that he made the earth, and man, and the animals which are on the face of the earth; and adds, by my great power and extended arm. Why was this said, except that men might be awakened on hearing that the earth continues not as it is, but as it is sustained by God’s power by which it was once created? The same power preserves men and animals; for nothing can remain safe except God exercises from heaven his hidden power. This, then, was the reason why these words were introduced. God set his own arm and power in opposition to the pride of those who thought that they stood by their own power, and did not acknowledge that they were dependent on the nod of God alone, who sustained them as long as he pleased, and then overthrew and reduced them to nothing when it seemed good to him.

This doctrine, then, ought to be applied to ourselves: for Jeremiah did not speak generally and indiscriminately of God’s power, but accommodated to the subject in hand what he said of God’s power, that men might, know that there is nothing fixed or permanent in this world, but that God preserves men and animals, and yet in such a way, that at any moment he can by a single breath reduce to nothing all those who exist and all that they have. It follows —

<242706>Jeremiah 27:6-7

6. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.

6. Et nunc ego dedi omnes terras istas in manum Nebuchadnezer regis abylonis servi mei, atque etiam bestiam agri (hoc est, bestias agrestes) dedi illi ad serviendum ei:

7. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.

7. Et servient ei omnes gentes et filio ejus, et filio filii ejus usque dum venerit temput terrae ejus, atque etiam ipsius; et servient ei gentes multae (vel, magnae) et reges magni.

 

God, after having claimed to himself the government of the whole earth, and shewn that it is in his power to transfer kingdoms to whom he pleases, now declares his decree — that he would subject to the king of Babylon all the neighboring lands, even Tyrus and Sidon, the country of Moab, the country of Ammon, the country of Edom, and even Judea itself. If Jeremiah had begun by saying, that God had given to King Nebuchadnezzar these lands, the prediction would not have been so easily received, for pride would have been as it were an obstacle to bolt up their minds and hearts. But the preface, as it has been stated, served to shew that they were not to think that they could stand against the will of God. After having then brought down the great height which seemed fixed in their hearts, he now declares that King Nebuchadnezzar would be the lord over Judah as well as over all the countries around, for God had set him over these lands.

He extends also this subjection, of which he speaks, over the very beasts, and not without reason; for he thus indirectly condemns the hardness of men, if they resisted, as though he had said, “What will it avail you to attempt with refractory hearts to shake off the yoke? for the very beasts, tigers, wolves, lions, and every fierce and savage animal in the land, even all these beasts shall know that the King Nebuchadnezzar is their master, even by a hidden instinct. Since, then, these beasts shall obey King Nebuchadnezzar, because he has been raised by God to that dignity, how great must be the stupidity of men in not acknowledging what the very beasts understand?” We hence see the design of mentioning the beasts; the Prophet upbraided men with their madness, if they ferociously resisted the King Nebuchadnezzar; for in that, case the beasts of the field were endued with more intelligence than they. For whence is it that beasts have fear, except that God has imprinted certain marks of dignity on kings, according to what is said by Daniel. (<270238>Daniel 2:38.) As, then, the majesty of God appears in kings, the very beasts, though void of reason and judgment, yet willingly obey through a hidden impulse of nature. Hence inexcusable is the pride of men, if at least they do not imitate the example of the very beasts. fE176

Nebuchadnezzar is afterwards called the servant of God, not that he was worthy of such an honor, as it had never been his purpose to labor for God; but he was called a servant, because God designed to employ him in his service, as those are called in the Psalm the sons of God, to whom the word of God was addressed, that is, to whom he gave authority to rule. (<198206>Psalm 82:6; <431035>John 10:35.) So also Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant, because he was divinely endued with sovereign power. This he did not know, nor was this said for his sake, nor was he honored with such a name, as though God regarded him as one of his own people; but this had a reference to the Jews and to all the other nations, in order that they might be fully persuaded that they were obeying God in humbling themselves and in undertaking the yoke of the king of Babylon, for this pleased God. There is no power, says Paul, but from God, (<451301>Romans 13:1,) and that sentence is derived from this principle, that all power is from God; for he gives the power to rule and to govern to whom he pleases. Whosoever, then, are endued with the power of the sword and public authority, are God’s servants, though they exercise tyranny and be robbers. They are servants, not with respect to themselves, but because God would have them to be acknowledged as his ministers until their time shall come, according to what follows —

Serve him shall all nations, and his son, and the son of his son. The greater part think that Nebuchadnezzar had only two successors of his own posterity, Evil-merodach and Belshazar; others name five, and two of them between Evil-merodach and Belshazar. Those who think that there were no more than three, quote this testimony of the Prophet, for he names only the king’s son and his grandson; but this would be no sufficient reason. I am, however, disposed to follow what has been more commonly received, that Belshazar, the last king of Babylon, who was slain by Cyrus, was the third from Nebuchadnezzar. fE177

But this is not the main thing; for the Prophet speaks of the time of the Chaldean monarchy as well as of the king, until the time of his land shall come. The time of the land was that determined by heaven; for as to every one of us there is a limit fixed beyond which no one can pass, so we ought to judge of kingdoms. As, then, the life of every individual has its fixed limits, so God has determined with regard to the empires of the whole earth; thus the life and death of every kingdom and nation are in the hand and at the will of God. For this reason it is now said, that the time of Chaldea would come, and then it is added, and of the king himself. fE178 This ought not to be confined to Nebuchadnezzar himself; but as his grandson represented him, the time, though not strictly, may yet be aptly said to have been that, when God had put an end to him and to his power when Babylon was taken by the Medes and Persians. This was, however, at the same time for the comfort of the godly; for it was not God’s design to leave the faithful without some alleviation in their trouble, lest grief should overpower them; when they found themselves oppressed by the Chaldeans, and in a manner overwhelmed, doubtless despair might have crept in, and hence murmurings and blasphemies might have followed. It was, therefore, God’s purpose to mitigate in some measure their bitterness when he added, that the time of Nebuchadnezzar himself would come, that is, the time in which he was to perish. When, therefore, the faithful saw him taking possession of all lands, and dreaded by all nations, they were not to despond, but rather to extend their thoughts to that time of which Jeremiah had predicted, that they might receive some alleviation to their grief, and be enabled to bear with more resignation the cross laid on them. In this expression, then, is included a promise; for the hope of deliverance was set before them, when they understood that reverses would soon happen to King Nebuchadnezzar.

He afterwards adds, serve him shall great, or many nations (for the word ybr, rebim, means both) and great kings. fE179 This was distinctly expressed, that no conspiracy might deceive the Jews and other nations; for they thought that when united together they could offer an effectual resistance: “Accumulate your forces and your efforts,” says God; “yet all these shall be dissipated; for my decree is, that great kings and many nations shall serve the Chaldeans.” It follows —

<242708>Jeremiah 27:8

8. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.

8. Erit autem ut gens et regnum, quae non servierint ei, nempe Nebuchadnezer regi Babylonis, et qui non posuerit collum suum sub jugo regis Babylonis, gladio et fame et peste visitabo super gentem illam, dicit Jehova, donec interfecero ipsos in manu ejus.

 

After having promulgated his decree by the mouth of Jeremiah, God now adds a threatening, in order that the Jews as well as others might willingly, and with resigned and humble minds, undertake the yoke laid on them. The Prophet, indeed, as we have said, had the Jews more especially in view; but he extended, as it were by accident, his prediction to aliens. We hence see why this denunciation of punishment was added. It ought, indeed, to have been enough to say, that Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant to subdue Judea; but as it was a hard thing for the Jews to receive that enemy, nor could they be induced to submit to him, it became necessary to add this threatening, “See what ye do, for ye cannot be stronger than God.” This threatening is indeed included in the former verse; but we know how tardy men are to learn, especially when any false impression has preoccupied their minds. As, then, the Jews refused the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, though the Prophet had testified to them that he was God’s servant, they would not have hesitated still to evade and to be refractory, had not their hardness and obduracy been broken by this commination.

And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom, which will not serve him, even Nebuchadnezzar, and not put their neck under his yoke, it shall be, that I shall visit that nation, etc. God speaks without distinction of all nations; but the Jews ought to have reasoned from the less to the greater; for if God would so severely punish the pride of the Gentiles, in case they withdrew themselves from under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, how much heavier and more dreadful vengeance ought the Jews to have dreaded, who had been warned by the Prophet, and who doubtless knew that this happened not to them by chance, but that it was God’s righteous judgment, by which their sins were punished? Were they obstinately to attempt to shake off the yoke from their neck, would not this have been to fight against God? We now, then, perceive that the Prophet spoke thus indiscriminately of all nations, that he might sharply rebuke the Jews; and he showed that their ferocity would be inexcusable were they not willingly to humble themselves.

By mentioning twice, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, he seems to imply something important; for they might have objected and said, “What have we to do with a king so distant? and by what right does he now invade our countries? why is he not content with his own burdens? why does he not abide in his own city and in his own land?” And the name of Babylon was at the same time hateful, for they had carried on war with many nations, and reduced the Assyrians under their yoke, who were neighbors to the Jews, and the Assyrians were also in a manner connected with them; and their name was no doubt abhorred by the Jews, on account of the wars perpetually carried on by them. Hence God meets here these objections, and shows that however odious Babylon might be to the Jews, and that however remote Nebuchadnezzar might be from Judea, yet his yoke was to be borne, as it had been so appointed by God. This seems to me to be the reason why Jeremiah repeated the words, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.

There is also a denunciation of punishment, that God would visit with pestilence, famine, and the sword. We know that these words are commonly mentioned in Scripture, when it is God’s purpose to set forth the signs of his wrath. He has indeed various and innumerable ways by which he chastises us; but these are his most remarkable and most known scourges, the pestilence, the sword, and the famine. He then says, that he would visit the nations who would not obey King Nebuchadnezzar with these three scourges; and at the same time he shews what the end would be, until I slay, or consume them by his hand. He not only threatens them with pestilence, famine, and the sword, but he also shows that the end would be such, that the nations who might at first obstinately resist, would yet be constrained to undertake the yoke, and to acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar as their king and master. This is the reason why he says, by his hand.

Death might have seemed lighter, if only they could have escaped the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar; but since both would happen to them, even to be consumed by famine, the sword, and the pestilence, and yet not to be able to escape bondage, it was a miserable prospect indeed. We now then perceive why God speaks of the hand of the King Nebuchadnezzar; it was, that the Jews might know that they could effect nothing by seeking means to escape, for they would at length, willing or unwilling, be brought under the hand and under the yoke of this king.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not in various ways to arm thine hand against us, we may, being at least touched by thy holy admonitions, humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, and thus anticipate thy judgment, so that thou mayest meet us as a merciful and gracious God, and not only remit to us the punishments which we have deserved, but also shew and perpetuate to us thy paternal favor, until, having been led by thine hand, we shall come unto that celestial kingdom which thou hast prepared for us, and which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fourth

<242709>Jeremiah 27:9

9. Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:

9. Et vos ne audiatis prophetas vestros, et divinos vestros, et somniatores vestros, et augures vestros, et incantatores vestros, qui dicunt vobis (loquuntur vobiscum dicendo; est quidem idem verbum, sed repetitio esset nimis dura,) Non servietis (vel, ne serviatis) regi Babylonis (est verbum futuri temporis, sed quidam accipiunt in modo hortandi, ut satis tritum est in lingua Hebraica.)

 

As Jeremiah had declared to the king, as well as to the citizens, that they could not escape the punishment that was at hand, he now shakes off from them that vain confidence, which was as an obstacle in the way, so that they were not touched by threatenings, nor received wholesome warnings. For the false prophets deceived them by their flatteries, and promised that all things would happen prosperously to them. As then the Prophet saw that the ears both of the king and of the people were closed against him, so that he could do little or nothing by exhorting and threatening them, he added what he deemed necessary, even that all the things which the false prophets vainly said were altogether fallacious.

He therefore said, Hear ye not your prophets and your diviners; for sq, kosam, is to divine; then he adds, your dreamers; in the fourth place, your augurs; in the fifth place, your sorcerers, or charmers. Some indeed regard ynn[, onnim, as observers of time, for hnw[, oune, is a stated time, hence they who imagine that a thing is to be done on this or that day, and promise a happy issue, were called, as they think, ynn[ onnim, because they superstitiously observed hours and periods of time. But as ˆn[, onen, means a cloud, they may also be called ynn[, onnim, who divined by the stars, and hence took counsel as to what was to be done. fE180

But let us now inquire, whether Jeremiah speaks of such dreamers, and others as were among the Jews, or whether he includes also such as were found among the neighboring nations. It seems probable to me, that what he says ought to be confined to the Jews; for I take the word ye, as emphatical, Hear ye not, etc. There follows afterwards an explanation, According to these words have I spoken to the king; and then he adds, that he spoke to the priests and to the people. Hence then we conclude, that the whole of this part was probably addressed to the Jews alone. Divinations,

auguries, and incantations, were indeed prohibited in the Law; but we well know how often the Jews gave up themselves to these tricks of the devil, the Law of God being wholly despised by them. It is then no wonder if at this time there were among them magicians, as well as augurs and diviners, notwithstanding the manifest prohibition of the Law. We may, however, so understand these words, as that the Prophet compared these false prophets to diviners, as well as to augurs and sorcerers. He sets, in the first place, the prophets, but in mentioning them, he seems to mark them with disgrace, because they had departed from their own office, and had assumed another character, for they deceived the people, as augurs, diviners, and magicians were wont to deceive the nations.

It is indeed certain, as I have before reminded you, that the Prophet spoke, not for the sake of other nations, but that the Jews might be rendered inexcusable, or, if there was any hope of repentance, that they might be reminded not to proceed in their usual course. We hence see the meaning of the words, and at the same time perceive the design of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit, who spoke by his mouth.

I said at first that the Prophet met an objection, which might have lessened or taken away the authority of his doctrine; for it was not a small trial, that the prophets denied that any evil was at hand. For the prophetic name was ever held in great repute and respect among the Jews. But we see also at this day, and experience sufficiently teaches us, that men are more ready to receive error and vanity, than to receive the word of God; and so it was then, and the Jews imagined that they honored God, because they regarded his Prophets. But when any one faithfully performed the prophetic office, he was often despised. The Jews therefore were taken up only with a mere name, and thought that they did all that was required by saying that they attended to the prophets, while at the same time they boldly despised the true servants of God. It is so at this day; while the name of the Catholic Church is boasted of under the Papacy, it seems that a regard is had for God; but when the word of God is brought forward, when what has been spoken by apostles and prophets is adduced, it is regarded almost as nothing. We hence see that the Papists separate God as it were from himself, as the Jews formerly did.

And hence also we see how necessary it was for Jeremiah to remove such a stumblingblock; for the Jews might have pertinaciously insisted on this objection,“Thou alone threatenest us with exile; but we have many who glory in being prophets, and who promise safety to us: wouldest thou have us to believe thee alone rather than these who are many?” Thus the Prophet, being alone, had to contend with the false prophets, who were many. And we have now a similar contest with the Papists; for they boast, of their number; and then they object, that nothing would be certain, if it was allowed to every one to appeal to the word of God. They hence conclude that we ought simply to believe the Church, and to receive whatever is brought under the pretense of being Scripture. But Jeremiah had confidence in his own vocation, and had really proved his divine mission, and also that he proclaimed the messages which he had received from the mouth of God. As then he had given certain proofs of his vocation, he had a right to oppose all those false prophets, and not only to disregard their lies, but also in a manner to tread them under his feet, as he seems to have done, Hear ye not, he says, your prophets.

He concedes to them an honorable name, but improperly. It is therefore a catachristic way of speaking, when he names them prophets; but he leaves them their title, as it was not necessary to contend about words. Yet he shews at the same time that they were wholly unworthy of being heard. Hence no authority was left them, though a mere empty name was conceded to them. It is the same at this day, when we call those priests, bishops, and presbyters, who cover themselves with these masks, and yet shew that there is in them nothing episcopal, nothing ecclesiastical, and, in short, nothing that belongs to the doctrine of Christ, or to any lawful order.

He afterwards adds, Who say to yote, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon. We have said that the last clause is rendered by some as an exhortation, Serve ye not the king of Babylon, as though the false prophets stimulated the Jews to shake off the yoke.: But the proper meaning of the verb may be still retained, Ye shall not serve; for we know that the false prophets, when they came forth, pretended to be God’s ambassadors, sent to promise tranquillity, peace, and prosperity to the Jews. Thus they reigned to do, when yet God, as it has been stated, and as we shall again see presently, had testified that there was no other remedy for the people but by submitting to the king of Babylon. It follows —

<242710>Jeremiah 27:10

10. For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land: and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.

10. Quia mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis, ut procul abducant vos e terra vestra, et ejiciam vos, et pereatis.

 

This verse also confirms what I have said, — that this discourse was designed for the Jews, and that it was peculiarly for them; for what is said here could not be applied to heathen nations. What then had been lately said of augurs, magicians, and diviners, ought no doubt to be understood of those impostors who, under the name of prophets, deceived that miserable people.

He says that they prophesied falsehood. Many, no doubt, adduced, for the purpose of opposing him, their own evasions: “Art thou alone to be believed? dost thou alone tell the truth? how dost thou prove that what thou teachest is an oracle from heaven, and that these deceive us?” For so do the ungodly usually clamor, as we see to be the case at this day with the Papists, who cover themselves with a pretense of this kind: for whatever abomination there may be, they cover it over by means of this sophistry alone — that the Scripture is obscure, and that controversy is uncertain, and that therefore nothing is to be believed but what the Church has decreed: so with them the definition of men, as they say, is the only rule of faith; and hence, also, the whole authority of Scripture is by them trodden under foot, as though God had in vain spoken by his own prophets and apostles. There is no doubt but the doctrine of Jeremiah was opposed by such clamors: he however persevered in the course of his office, and boldly condemned the prophets, that they only deceived the Jews by their lies.

He adds, that they may remove you far from your land. I have said that this cannot be applied to other nations: but God gave a hope of mercy to his people, provided they willingly obeyed the king of Babylon. It was not indeed a full pardon; yet it was owing to his kindness that God did not treat the Jews with strict justice, but chastised them with gentleness and paternal moderation: for it was an endurable punishment, to remain in their own country and to pay tribute to the king of Babylon. God then would have mitigated the punishment of the people, if only they had willingly undertaken the yoke., This is what Jeremiah now says: “The false prophets seek only this, to drive you far from your country; for they would have you to think that you shall be free from all punishment: but God is prepared to deal gently with you; though he will not wholly pass by your vices, yet your chastisement will be one easily borne, for ye shall remain in your own country. But if ye will believe these impostors, they will lead you away into distant exile; for God says, I will cast you away, and ye shall perish.” fE181

If it be objected again that the Jews could not form a certain opinion, whether Jeremiah was to be believed rather than the others who were many, the answer is at hand: they were themselves conscious of being wicked, and there was no need of long debates to ascertain what was true; for every one found God’s judgment to be against himself, as they had departed from the pure worship of God, and had polluted themselves with many ungodly superstitions, and a license in all kinds of sins had also prevailed among them: they had been warned, not once, nor for one day, but by many prophets, and also continually and for a long time. As then they had thus provoked God’s vengeance by their obstinate wickedness, how could they be in doubt respecting Jeremiah, whether he had, as from the mouth of God, and as a celestial herald declared to them what they deserved? And surely whenever men pretend that they have fallen through error or ignorance, they can always be deprived of this evasion; for their own conscience convicts them, and is sufficient to condemn them.

God adds, that the Jews would perish, except they anticipated extreme judgment, that is, except they submitted to paternal chastisement. This passage deserves to be specially noticed, as we shall presently see again; for we are here taught that whenever God shews some signs of displeasure, there is nothing better for us than to prepare ourselves for patience; for we shall thus ever give place and a free passage to his mercy: but by pertinacity we gain nothing, and do nothing but kindle his wrath more and more. This then is what Jeremiah means when he declares, that they who submitted not to the king of Babylon would perish. It follows —

<242711>Jeremiah 27:11

11. But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the Lord; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.

11. Gens autem quae adduxerit cervicem suam sub jugum regis Babyonis, et servierit ei, relinquam eam in terra sua, dicit Jehova, et colet eam et habitabit in ea.

 

He seems indeed to speak here indiscriminately of all nations; but the admonition belongs to the Jews alone, as we have said, and as it appears from the context. He seems however to mention the nations, that he might more sharply touch the Jews, as though he had said, “Though God’s promises are not to be extended to heathen nations, yet God will spare the Tyrians and the Moabites, if they submit quietly to the king of Babylon, and take upon them his yoke. If God will spare heathen nations, when yet he has promised them nothing, what may his chosen people expect? But if he will punish nations who err in darkness, what will become of a people who knowingly and wilfully resist God and his judgments?” For obstinacy in the Jews was mad impiety, as though they avowedly designed to carry on war with God; for they knew that Nebuchadnezzar was the executioner of God’s vengeance. When therefore they ferociously attempted to exempt themselves from his power, it was to fight with God, as though they would not submit to his scourges.

We now then perceive why Jeremiah spoke what we here read, not only of the Jews, but also generally of all nations, The nation that brings its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serves him, I will leave it in its own land. We must yet bear in mind what I have before said, that the Jews were the people especially regarded. If, then, they had given place to God’s kindness, he would have graciously spared them, and they would have perpetually enjoyed their own inheritance; but it was their obstinacy that drove them far into exile. And hence he adds, I will leave it in its land; and it shall cultivate it and dwell in it.

There is a striking allusion in the word db[, obed, for it means to serve, and also to cultivate; but there is to be understood a contrast between cultivating the land and that subjection, to which he exhorted the Jews, as though he had said,“Serve the king of Babylon, that the land may serve you; it will be the reward of your obedience, if you will submit yourselves to the power of the king of Babylon, that the land will submit, to you, and you will compel it to serve you, so that it will bring forth food for you.” We hence see that God promised that the land would serve the people, if they refused not to serve the king of Babylon.

And hence also we may gather useful instruction, — that all the elements would be serviceable to us, were we willingly to obey God, but that on the contrary, the heaven, and the earth, and all the elements will be opposed to us, if we pertinaciously resist God. But Jeremiah speaks here more expressly of the submission which men render to God, when they calmly receive his correction, and acknowledge, while he inflicts punishment, that they justly deserve it, and do not refuse to be chastised by his hand. When, therefore, men thus submit to God’s judgment, they obtain his favor, so that the earth, and heaven, and all the elements will serve them. But the more perversely men exalt themselves and raise their horns against God, the more bondage shall they feel; for their own chains bind them stronger than anything else, when they thus struggle with God and do not humble themselves under his mighty hand. The same thing the Prophet still more clearly confirms when he says, —

<242712>Jeremiah 27:12

12. I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.

12. Ad Zedekiam ergo regem Jehudah loquutus sum secundum conctos sermones istos, dicendo, Adducite colla vestra ad jugum regis Babylonis et servite ei et populo ejus, et vivetis.

 

This verse proves with sufficient clearness that what we have hitherto explained was spoken especially to the chosen people; for Jeremiah tells us here, that he spoke to the King Zedekiah, and in the sixteenth verse he adds that he spoke to the priests and to the people. He was not then sent as a teacher to the Moabites, the Tyrians, and other foreign nations; but God had prescribed to him his limits, within which he was to keep. He therefore says, that he spoke to the king.

We hence learn what he had before said, that he was set over kingdoms and nations; for the doctrine taught by the prophets is higher than all earthly elevations. Jeremiah was, indeed, one of the people, and did not exempt himself from the authority of the king, nor did he pretend that he was released from the laws, because he possessed that high dignity by which he was superior to kings, as the Papal clergy do, who vauntingly boast of their immunity, which is nothing else but a license to live in wickedness. The Prophet then kept himself in his own rank like others; and yet when he had to exercise his spiritual jurisdiction in God’s name, he spared not the king nor his counsellors; for he knew that his doctrine was above all kings; the prophetic office, then, is eminent above all the elevations of kings.

And skilfully no less than wisely did the Prophet exercise his office by first assailing the king, as he had been sent to him. At the same time he addressed him in the plural number, Bring ye your neck, he says; and he did so, because the greater part of the people depended on the will of their king. Then he adds, Serve ye his people. It was, indeed, a thing very unpleasant to be heard, when the Prophet commanded the Jews to submit, not only to the king of Babylon, but also to all his subjects; it was an indignity that must have greatly exasperated them. But he added this designedly, because he saw that he had to do with men refractory and untamable. As, then, they were not pliant, he dealt the more sharply with them, as though he wished to break down their foolish pride. It was not therefore a superfluous expression, when he bade the Jews to obey all the Chaldeans; for they had been so blinded by perverse haughtiness, that for a long time they had resisted God and his prophets, and continued untamable.

There is afterwards added a promise, and ye shall live, fE182 which confirms the truth to which I have referred, — that it is the best remedy for alleviating evils, to acknowledge that we are justly smitten, and to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; for thus it happens, that evils are turned into medicines, and thus become salutary to us. Whatever punishment is inflicted on us for our sins, as it is a sign of God’s wrath, so in a manner it places death before our eyes. Punishment, then, in itself can do nothing but fill us with dread, nay, overwhelm us with despair; and I speak of punishment even the slightest; for we suffer nothing which does not remind us of our sin and guilt, as though God summoned us to his tribunal. How dreadful surely it must be to sustain this, and to fall into the hands of the living God? Hence, when God touches us as it were with his little finger, we cannot but fall down through fear. But this comfort is given to us, that punishment, though in itself grievous and as it were fatal, becomes profitable to us, when we allow God to be our judge, and are prepared to endure whatever seems good to him.

This is what the Prophet means, when he promises that the Jews would live, if they submitted to the king of Babylon; not that they could merit life by their obedience; but the only way by which we can obtain God’s favor and be reconciled to him, is willingly to condemn ourselves; for we anticipate extreme judgment, as Paul says, when we condemn ourselves; and then we shall not be condemned by God. (<461131>1 Corinthians 11:31.) For how is it, that God is so angry with the wicked, except that they wish to be forgiven while in their sins? But this is to pull him down from his throne, for he is not the judge of the world, if the ungodly escape unpunished and laugh at all his threatenings. So also on the other hand, when in true humility we suffer ourselves to be chastised by God, he becomes immediately reconciled to us. This, then, is the life mentioned here. fE183 It follows, —

<242713>Jeremiah 27:13

13. Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?

13. Quare peribitis tu et ppopulus tuus gladio, fame et peste, quemadmodum loquutus est Jehjova super gentem quae non servierit regi Babylonis?

 

Here is a threatening added; for all means were used not only to invite the Jews, but also to stimulate them to repent. The Prophet offered them pardon, if they quietly submitted to be chastised by God. It was to be their life, he said, when the Lord punished them according to his will. As they could not be sufficiently moved by this kindness, he now adds, “See ye to it, for except ye receive the life offered to you, you must inevitably perish. Therefore thou, Zedekiah, wilt precipitate thyself with all thy people into eternal destruction, if ye continue to be perverse and obstinate against God.”

We hence see that nothing was left undone by the Prophet to bend the Jews to obedience and to lead them to repentance. By speaking of the sword, famine, and pestilence, he intimates that there would be no end, until they were consumed by God’s vengeance, except they suffered themselves, as we have said, to be thus chastised by his paternal kindness, for this would be salutary to them.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not often and continually to provoke thy wrath against us, we may of our own accord anticipate thy judgment, and not harden ourselves in our sins, having been especially warned by thy word, but in due time repent, and so submit ourselves to thee, that whatever thou mayest appoint for us, we may not doubt but thou wilt be propitious to us; and while fleeing to thy mercy, may we not refuse the punishment thou deemest expedient to bring us to the right way, until having at length put off all our corruptions, we shall enjoy that eternal inheritance, which is laid up for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifth

We said yesterday, that as the Prophet saw that there was great insensibility in the Jews, so that they disregarded all God’s promises, he added terror to the hope of mercy. Hence he said, “Ye shall perish, thou and thy people.” He was, no doubt, constrained by necessity to speak in this severe way; for the kind exhortation which he had used availed nothing; and yet God shewed at the same time by his threatening how much he loved the people; for he had a sympathy for them, and as it is said elsewhere, he willed not the death of the sinner, but sought to induce those who were not wholly irreclaimable to repent that they might live. The same thing we now from these words of the Prophet; for God assumes the character of a man ready to give help, and sympathizes with the miseries of a people whom he saw rushing headlong into destruction. It now follows, —

<242714>Jeremiah 27:14

14. Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.

14. Et ne audiatis verba prophetarum, qui dicunt vobis (qui loquutur vobiscum, dicendo,) Non servietis regi Babylonis; quia mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis.

 

He repeats the same words which we have met with before; there is therefore no need of dwelling long on them here. Yet the repetition was not superfluous; for he had a hard contest with the false prophets, who had attained great authority. As Jeremiah alone made an onset on the whole multitude, the greater part of them might have objected and said, that in matters of such perplexity there was nothing certain or clear. As therefore it was not easy to convince the Jews who were disposed to believe the false prophets, it was necessary to say the same thing often, as we shall also see hereafter. He adds, —

<242715>Jeremiah 27:15

15. For I have not sent them, saith the Lord, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.

15. Quia non misi eos, dicit Jehova, et ipsi prophetant in nomine meo ad mendacium (id est, fallacium) ut vos ejiciam, et pereatis vos et prophetae, qui prophetant vobis.

 

He confirms what he had said, that they had not been sent by God. The object is to shew the Jews, that they were not to receive thoughtlessly everything presented to them under God’s name, but that they were to exercise discrimination and judgment. This is a passage worthy of special notice, for the devil has ever falsely assumed God’s name; and for all the errors and delusions which have ever prevailed in the world, he has not obtained credit otherwise than by this false pretense. And at this day we see that many are wilfully blind, because they think they are excused before God if they can pretend ignorance, and they say that they are not wickedly credulous, but they dare not make curious inquiries. As then there are many who wilfully put on nooses and also wish to be deceived, we ought to notice what the Prophet says here, that we ought to distinguish the true from false prophets; for what purpose? even that we may receive them only, and depend on their words who have been sent by the Lord.

It may be here asked, how comes this difference? It was formerly necessary for prophets to be raised in a special manner, for it was a special gift to predict future and hidden events, hence the prophetic was not an ordinary office like the sacerdotal. That promise indeed ever continued in force,

“A prophet will I raise to thee from the midst of thy brethren.” (<051818>Deuteronomy 18:18.)

But though this was a perpetual favor conferred by God on the Israelites, yet the prophets were ever called in a special manner; no one was to take this office except endued with an extraordinary gift. Though Jeremiah was a priest, yet he was not on that account a prophet; but God, as we have seen, made him a prophet. But with regard to us, the matter is different, for God does not at this day predict hidden events; but he would have us to be satisfied with his Gospel, for in it is made known to us the perfection of wisdom. As then we live in “the fullness of time,” God does not reveal prophecies so as to point out this or that thing to us in particular. We may now obtain certainty as to the truth, if we form our judgment according to the Law, and the Prophets, and the Gospel. There is indeed need of the spirit of discernment; but we shall never go astray, if we depend on the mouth of God, and follow the example of the Bereans, of whom Luke speaks in the Acts, who says, that they carefully read the Scriptures, and searched whether things were as they were taught by Paul. (<441711>Acts 17:11.) No wrong was done to Paul, when the disciples, in order to confirm their faith, inquired whether his preaching was agreeable to the Law and to the Prophets. So also now, all doctrines ought to be examined by us; and if we follow this rule, we shall never go astray.

As to the ancient people, they could not, as it was said yesterday, be deceived, for the prophets were only interpreters of the Law. With regard to future things, this or that was never predicted by the prophets, unless connected with doctrine, which was as it were the seasoning, and gave a relish to the prophecies; for when they promised what was cheering, it was founded on the eternal covenant of God; and when they threatened the people, they pointed out their sins, so that it was necessary for God to execute his vengeance when their wickedness was incurable. Ever to be borne in mind then is that which is said in Deuteronomy, that God tried his people whenever he gave loose reins to false prophets, (<051303>Deuteronomy 13:3,) for every one who sincerely and undissemblingly loves him shall be guided by his Spirit. This then is the sure trial which God makes as to his faithful people, according to what Paul also says, who refers to this testimony of Moses, that heresies arise in order that they who are the faithful and sincere servants of God, might thereby shew what they really are, (<461119>1 Corinthians 11:19; ) for they do not fluctuate at every wind of doctrine, but remain firm and constant in the pure obedience of faith. Rightly then does Jeremiah say, that they who gave hope of impunity to the people, had not been sent by the Lord; for every one had his own conscience as his judge.

He adds, They prophesy falsely in my name. We see how sedulously and prudently we ought to take heed lest the devil should fascinate us by his charms, especially when the name of God is pretended. It is then not enough for us to hear, “Thus has God spoken,” unless we are fully persuaded that those who use such a preface have been called by him, and that they also afford a sure evidence of their call, so that we may be certain that they are as it were the instruments of the Spirit. Ungodly men will find here an occasion for clamoring, because God does in a manner make a mock of the anxiety of men, for he might send angels from heaven, he might himself speak; but when he employs men, and permits false prophets to boast of this word and of that, while they wholly dissemble, he seems in this way as though he designedly bewildered miserable men. But there is nothing better for us than to acknowledge that our obedience is tried by God, when he addresses us by men; for we know that nothing is more contrary to faith than pride, as also humility is the true principle of faith and the real entrance into God’s kingdom. This then is the reason why God makes use of men.

In the meantime, when impostors creep in and boast that they are true legitimate prophets, it is indeed a grievous trial, and much to be feared; yet. God, as I have said, will ever relieve us, provided we trust not to our own judgment, and assume not to ourselves more than what is just and right, but look to him as the judge, and submit ourselves to his word; and further, if we suffer ourselves to be ruled by his Spirit, he will ever give us wisdom, which will enable us to distinguish between true and false prophets. However this may be, we clearly see that it is no new thing for Satan’s ministers to prophesy in God’s name, that is, falsely to assume his name, when in reality and truth they are vain pretenders.

He afterwards adds, that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, as well as they. Here Jeremiah reminded them, that the prophets who promised impunity could not at length escape, but that they would have to suffer punishment not only for their presumption, but also for those sins by which they, together with the whole people, had already provoked the wrath of God; for their crime was twofold: despising God, they had promised all liberty to indulge in sin; and they had also dared to come forth and to pretend God’s name, though they had not been called, nor did they bring, as we have said, any message from God. But the Prophet again repeated, that such prophets were instigated by the devil’s artifice, in order to aggravate God’s judgment; for the people, inebriated with joy, added sins to sins, as security is wont to lead men to all kinds of wickedness. There is therefore nothing more ruinous than for false teachers to flatter sinners, and so to cajole and wheedle them as to make them to think that they have nothing to do with God; for the devil rules then indeed, when men’s consciences are thus asleep in a deadly lethargy. He afterwards adds, —

<242716>Jeremiah 27:16

16. Also I spake to the priests, and to all this people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the Lord’s house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.

16. Et ad sacerdotes et ad populum hunc loquutus sum, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova, Ne audiatis sermones prophetarum vestrorum, qui prophetant vobis, dicendo, Ecce vasa domus Jehovae reducentur e Babylone nunc cito; mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis.

 

Jeremiah, as we have seen, did not deal privately with the king alone, for he did not separate him from the people; but as he had directed his words chiefly to him, he therefore expresses now what might have seemed obscure, that though he had begun with the king, he yet included all the Jews. It was indeed necessary to begin with the king, for we know that earthly kings think much of their own dignity, and that the whole people are dependent on their will. Hence Hosea condemned them, because they rendered a too willing obedience to royal edicts, and worshipped God according to what it pleased the king and his counsellors to dictate. (<280511>Hosea 5:11: <330616>Micah 6:16.) As then the royal name served to dazzle the eyes of the simple, Jeremiah was bidden to address first the king himself; but he now shews that the priests and the people were included.

It was indeed like something monstrous, that the priests, whom God had designed to be the interpreters of his Law, should have become so stupid as thoughtlessly to receive, together with the common people, what they had heard from the false prophets. This surely was by no means compatible with that high encomium by which they are honored by Malachi, that the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and that from him the Law is to be sought, because he is the messenger of the God of hosts. (<390207>Malachi 2:7.) As then they were the guardians of the Law and of knowledge, as they were messengers from God himself to the people, how was it that their stupidity was so monstrous, that they did not distinguish between truth and falsehood, but were led astray, together with the most ignorant, by what the false prophets delivered!

This ought to be carefully noticed, that we may not at this day be too much disturbed, when we see the pastoral office assumed by ignorant asses, and that those who are called, and wish to be thought ministers, are so inexperienced in Scripture that they are deficient as to the first elements of religion. And we see the very thing happening at this day especially under the Papacy, as existed among the ancient people; for the Papal bishops are for the most part extremely stupid and presumptuous. There are to be found many husbandmen and artisans, who know nothing of learning, but have only heard what is obscure and indistinct, and yet they can speak better on the general principles of faith than these haughty prelates in all their splendor. How is this? even because the just reward for their sloth is rendered to them. They are verily ignorant of what should qualify them to be bishops, and yet they glory in the name! Yea, though they do not think that Episcopacy consists in anything but in revenues, and also in vain symbols, such as to be mitred, to wear an episcopal ring, and to exhibit other like trumperies, they yet suppose themselves to be a sort of half-gods. Hence it is, that God exposes them to the utmost reproach. The same was the case with the priests under the Law, as Jeremiah now shews; for they were not ashamed of their ignorance, but encouraged the people to believe the false prophets; so at this day do the bishops; they scud forth their monks and such like brawlers, who run here and there to deceive the ignorant people, and they secure a hearing to them. And what is the burden of their message? to bid men to attend to the holy Catholic Church; and what is the Catholic Church? The Synod which the Pope assembles, where the mitred bishops sit; for what purpose? That they may know what pleases these brawlers, to whom is committed the office of disputing. We hence see that all things under the Papacy are at this day in great disorder; and yet this horrible disorder differs nothing from that of old. And it is, as I have said, what ought to be particularly noticed, that our faith may not fail, when we see all things in a confusion and hardly any order remaining.

Now also is added a clearer explanation, — that the Jews were warned, lest they should receive the false prophecy respecting the restoration of the vessels of the Temple; for in order to render the people secure as to the future, the false prophets boasted in this manner, “The splendor of the Temple shall shortly be restored; for the vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar has taken away, shall return together with the captives, and everything decayed shall be repaired.” But Jeremiah said, that what they promised was false; “Believe them not,” he says, “when they say to you, Behold, the vessels of Jehovah’s house shall be brought back, (or restored, that is, shall return hither; ) for the king of Babylon shall either be constrained to restore what he has taken away, or he will of his own accord restore it.” And they also added, Now soon, in order that the shortness of time might be all additional chain to captivate the minds of the people; for had a long time been mentioned, the prophecy would have been less plausible and by no means acceptable to them; but they said, “Almost within a day the vessels of the Temple shall be brought back here.” And Jeremiah also, as we have already seen, and shall presently see again, did not deprive the people of every hope, but had assigned seventy years for their exile. Now these prophets, in order to dissipate this fear, said, — “Shortly shall the vessels be restored;” but he declared that they prophesied falsely to them. It follows —

<242717>Jeremiah 27:17

17. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?

17. Ne audiatis ipsos, servite regi Babylonis, et vivetis: ut quid erit urbs haec desolatio (hoc est, in vastitatem?)

 

It is not to be wondered at that Jeremiah said the same things so often, for, as we have seen, he had to contend with false prophets. When any one speaks, and there be no dispute and no adversary opposing him, he may calmly deal with the teachable and confine himself to a few words; but when contention arises, and opponents appear, who may seek to subvert what we say, then we must exercise more care, for they who are thus driven different ways, will not be satisfied with a few words. As, then, Jeremiah saw that the people were fluctuating, he found it necessary, in order to confirm them, to use many words; not that prolixity is in itself sufficient to produce conviction; yet there is no doubt but that Jeremiah spoke efficiently so as to influence at least some portion of the people. Besides, it was necessary to dwell more expressly on a subject not very plausible; the false prophets were heard with favor, and the greater part greedily devoured what was set forth by them; for the hope of impunity is always pleasing and sought after by the world.

But what did Jeremiah say? Serve ye the king of Babylon; that is, “No better condition awaits you than to pay tribute to the king of Babylon; be subject to his authority, and patiently endure whatever he may prescribe to you.” This was indeed a very hard speech; for subjection was not unaccompanied with reproach; besides, he bade them to surrender themselves to a most cruel enemy, as though they were to expose their life to him; and lastly, they were to risk the danger of being spoiled of all that they had. What Jeremiah taught then was very much disliked, as he thus exhorted the people to endure all things. This was, then, the reason why he had not declared in a few and plain words what God had committed to him; it was difficult to persuade the people to undergo the yoke of the king of Babylon, and to submit to his tyranny.

We hence see that there were two very just reasons why the Prophet insisted so much on this one subject, and confirmed what he might have briefly said without any prolixity; Hearken, ye to them, he says; serve ye the king of Babylon and ye shall live. fE184 We must again bear in mind what we said yesterday, that patiently to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand is the best remedy for mitigating punishment, and that in this way punishment is turned into medicine; so on the other hand, when we are like refractory and ferocious horses, whatever punishment God inflicts on us, is only a prelude to endless destruction. Let us then lay hold on this truth and constantly meditate on it, — that our punishment becomes vivifying to us, when we acknowledge God to be a righteous judge and suffer ourselves to be corrected by him. But I refer only briefly to this subject now, for I spoke of it more at large yesterday.

He adds, Why should this city be a desolation? He set before them the city in which God’s sanctuary was, and by the sight of it he tried to turn them to repentance; for it was extremely base to harden themselves against the warnings of the prophets, so as to cause the Temple of God to be demolished, and also the holy city to be reduced to a waste, in which God designed to have his dwelling, as he had said,

“This is my rest for ever.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14)

In short, he declared to the Jews that a most awful condemnation awaited them, if they suffered the city to perish through their own fault, and that they would be the authors of their own ruin, if they undertook not the yoke of the king of Babylon. It follows —


<242718>Jeremiah 27:18

18. But if they be prophets, and if the word of the Lord be with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the Lord, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.

18. Qued si Prophetae sunt, et si est sermo Jehovae cum ipsis (id est, apud ipsos,) intercedant ipsi apud Jehovam exercituum, ne veniant vasa, quae supersunt in Temple Jehovae, et in dome regis Jehudah et Jerosolymae Babylonem.

 

Here the Prophet laughs to scorn the foolish confidence with which the false prophets were swollen, when they promised all happiness in time to come. He hence says, that they were not to be believed as to the prosperity of which they prophesied, but that on the contrary they ought to have dreaded a most grievous punishment.

He then says, If they are prophets, let them intercede with Jehovah, that what still remains may not be taken away from Jerusalem. They promised the return of the vessels, which had been already carried away to Babylon; and yet what still remained in the Temple and in the palace of the king and in the whole city, was to be removed to Babylon. We now perceive the Prophet’s design; he compares the future with the past, and shews that these impostors foolishly promised some better state of things, even when God’s heavy judgment was impending over them; for the city and the Temple were doomed to entire ruin. The verb [gp, pego, means to meet, to go to meet, and is taken metaphorically in the sense of interceding; for he who meets one as an intercessor, in a manner restrains the opponent; and the Scripture uses this word, when it speaks of the saints as supplicating God; the proper word is interceding. fE185

From this passage we learn that these two things are united — teaching and praying. Then God would have him whom he has set a teacher in his Church, to be assiduous in prayer. And so the Apostles said, when they spoke of appointing deacons, that they could not attend to tables; for they said that they were sufficiently engaged in teaching, and they mentioned also prayers. (<440602>Acts 6:2-4.) The same also we learn from this place, where Jeremiah ascribes the office of interceding to God’s true and faithful servants who conscientiously discharged the office of teaching; If they be prophets, he says, let them intercede with Jehovah, that the remaining vessels be not taken away. Let us at the same time notice the definition he gives; for by this he also shews who are to be counted true prophets, even those who have the word of God, as we have found elsewhere,

“The Prophet who has a dream, and who has my true word, let him speak my word.” (<242328>Jeremiah 23:28)

We said by these words of the Prophet it may be determined who they are who deserve to be called prophets, even those who have the word of God. Jeremiah confirms the same here when he says, If they are prophets, and if the word of Jehovah is with them. These two clauses ought to be read together, for the latter is exegetic, or explanatory of the former. But I cannot now finish the whole, I must therefore defer the rest till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we continually by our many vices draw on ourselves new punishment, we may strive to be reconciled to thee, and thus anticipate thy judgment, and so submit to thee in true humility, that we may not by struggling against thee be untamable, but confess our guilt, obtain thy favor, and find reconciliation with thee, until having at length put off all our vices, we shall come to that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixth

<242719>Jeremiah 27:19-22

19. For thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the residue of the vessels that remain in this city,

19. Quia sic dicit Jehova exercituum de columnis et de mari, et de basibus, et de residuo vasorum quae supersunt in urbe hac,

20. Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem;

20. Quae non abstulit Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonia, cum adduxit captivum Jechaniam filium Jehoiakim regem Jehudah e Jerusalem, Babylonem, et omnes proceres Jehudah et Jerusalem;

21. Yea, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the Lord, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem;

21. Certe sic dicit Jehovah exercituum, Deus Israel, de vasis quae supersunt in domo Jehovae et in domo regis et in Jerusalem;

22. They shall be carried to Babylon, and there shall they be until the day that I visit them, saith the Lord: then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place.

22. Babylonem transferentur, et illic erunt usque ad diem quo visitabo ea (vel, cos, quod mihi magis placet,) dieit Jehova; et ascendere faciam eos et reducam cos ad locum hunc.

 

Jeremiah said, in the passage we considered yesterday, that it was more to be desired that God should keep what remained at Jerusalem, than that what had been taken away should be restored, for the time of punishment had not yet passed away; and thus he condemned the false teachers, because they had presumptuously and boldly promised a quick return as to the king as well as to those who had been led with him into exile, he now confirms the same thing, and says that what remained as yet at Jerusalem was already destined for their enemies the Babylonians, and would become their prey. Nebuchadnezzar had in part spared the Temple and the city; he had taken away chiefly the precious vessels, but had not entirely spoiled the Temple of its ornaments. As, then, some splendor was still to be seen there, the Jews ought to have learned that he had acted kindly towards them. He now says, that the Temple and the city would be destroyed; and this may be gathered from his words when he says, that there would be nothing remaining.

Thus saith Jehovah concerning the pillars, etc. There is no doubt but that Solomon spent much money on the pillars, as the Scripture commends the work. He adds, concerning the sea, which was a very large vessel, for from it the priests took water to wash themselves whenever they entered the Temple to perform their sacred duties. And though it was made of brass, it was yet of no small value on account of its largeness; and for this reason it was called sea. He mentions, in the third place, the bases. fE186 Jerome reads, “To the bases,” for the preposition is la, but it means often of, or concerning, as it is well known. He then declares what God had determined as to the pillars as well as the sea and the bases. There were, indeed, other vessels besides; but he specified these in order that the king, and also the people, might know that nothing would be left remaining in the Temple.

And he also adds, The residue of the vessels which remains, in this city. By adding, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not away, he indirectly condemned the Jews, because they did not acknowledge that the cruelty of their enemy had been moderated by divine power. For we know how cruel were Babylonians, and how insatiable was their avarice, and that nothing would have been left in the Temple had not their hands been in a manner restrained by the hidden power of God. The Jews ought to have duly considered this, and therefore the Prophet alludes to their ingratitude when he says, that Nebuchadnezzar had not taken away the vessels when yet he led captive the king and all the chief men, both of the city and the whole land. There is, indeed, to be understood here a comparison between the less and the greater, as though he had said, “Nebuchadnezzar would not have been so gentle had not God moderated his spirit, for he spared not your king, he led into exile all your chief men; how, then, was it that he left anything to remain in your city, and that the pillars were not taken away? Did he despise them? They have been polished with exquisite skill, and the materials are very costly. Ye hence see that God gave you a proof of his mercy, for some things still remain safe in the city as well as in the Temple; yet ye disregard this so great a benefit bestowed on you by God; what, then, will at length happen to you?” We now perceive the Prophet’s design in these words when he says, that the vessels were not taken away, even when the king was taken captive, and when the chief men of the land were led into exile.

Useful instruction may also be hence gathered. Whenever God chastises us, let us ever consider that he does not proceed to extremities; for the cause of murmuring, and often of despair, is this, — because we think that he deals with us with extreme rigor. But this happens through our sinful and perverted judgment; for God never afflicts us so severely but that some portion of kindness and of moderation ever appears; in a word, his judgments are always founded on his goodness. Were any one, therefore, rightly to call to mind how far he is from suffering extreme evils, it would conduce much to alleviate his sorrows. But when we reject every knowledge of God’s goodness, and only consider his severity, we either murmur or in a manner become furious against him. But this passage teaches us, that when God leaves some residue to us, it is an evidence of his paternal favor, and that therefore something more may be hoped for, provided we from the heart repent.

The design, then, of the Prophet’s warning was, that the Jews might receive this remaining favor of God, and not proceed in their obstinacy until God again stretched forth his hand to destroy them.

He repeats again the same words, Yea, thus saith Jehovah, etc.; for so ought the particle yk, ki, to be rendered in this place. fE188 And he emphatically expresses what was of itself sufficiently clear, that he might deeply imprint on their minds this declaration of God, and that thus some terror might penetrate into the hearts of those who were so obdurate that it was not easy to effect anything by a simple statement of the truth. Thus, then, saith Jehovah of the vessels which yet remain in the Temple of Jehovah and in, the palace of the king, They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall be, etc. Jeremiah intimates that the Jews had no hope, as they were perversely resisting God and refusing to be chastised by his hand. And he says, until the day in which I shall visit them, the vessels; for so the reference may suitably be made; but as it is often the case in Hebrew to put a pronoun when anything remarkable is spoken without any noun, or a subject, as they say, preceding it, I am inclined to refer it to the Jews themselves; for the restoration of the vessels depended on that of the people. He means, then, that the vessels would be held captive until God allowed a free return to the people, which happened through the edict of Cyrus, after he had obtained power in Chaldea and Assyria.

It was the same thing as though the Jews were reminded that the exile which had been predicted would be long, and that they foolishly hoped for what the false prophets had promised as to the vessels; for God had no greater care for the vessels than for his chosen people, as the vessels were acceptable to God for the people’s sake. Here, then, Jeremiah confirms what he has said elsewhere, and that often, that the people would be captives until the day of visitation, that is, till the end of seventy years. When, therefore, says God, I shall visit the Jews themselves, I will then bring back also the vessels; and so it was permitted by the command of Cyrus. We now understand the simple meaning of the words. Another narrative follows, —


CHAPTER 28

<242801>Jeremiah 28:1-2

1. And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests, and of all the people, saying,

1. Factum est anno illo, principio regni Zedechiae, regis Jehudah, anno quarto, mense quinto, loquutus ad me Chananiah, filius Assur, propheta qui erat e Guibeon (oriundus e Guibeon) in Templo Jehovae, coram oculis sacerdotum et totius populi, dicendo,

2. Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.

2. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, confregi (aut contrivi) jugum regis Babylonis.

 

The Prophet relates here with what haughtiness, and even fury, the false prophet Hananiah came forward to deceive the people and to proclaim his trumperies, when yet he must have been conscious of his own wickedness? It hence clearly appears how great must be the madness of those who, being blinded by God, are carried away by a satanic impulse. The circumstances of the case especially shew how great a contempt of God was manifested by this impostor; for he came into the Temple, the priests were present, the people were there, and there before his eyes he had the sanctuary and the ark of the covenant; and we know that the ark of the covenant is everywhere represented as having the presence of God; for God was by that symbol in a manner visible, when he made evident the presence of his power and favor in the Temple. As Hananiah then stood before God’s eyes, how great must have been his stupidity to thrust himself forward and impudently to announce falsehood in the name of God himself! He had yet no doubt but that he falsely boasted that he was God’s prophet.

And he used the same words as Jeremiah did, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Surely these words ought to have been like a thunderbolt to him, laying prostrate his perverseness, even had he been harder than iron; for what does Jehovah of hosts mean? This name expresses not only the eternal existence of God, but also his power, which diffuses itself through heaven and earth. Ought not Hananiah then to have trembled when any other had alleged God’s name? But now, though he derided and laughed to scorn the prophetic office as well as God’s holy name, he yet hesitated not to boast that God was the author of this prophecy, which was yet nothing but an imposture. And he added, the God of Israel, so that he might be in nothing inferior to Jeremiah. This was a grievous trial, calculated not only to discourage the people, but also to break down the firmness of the holy Prophet. The people saw that God’s name was become a subject of contest; there was a dreadful conflict, “God has spoken to me;” “Nay, rather to me.” Jeremiah and Hananiah were opposed, the one to the other; each of them claimed to be a Prophet. Such was the conflict; the name of God seemed to have been assumed at pleasure, and flung forth by the devil as in sport.

As to Jeremiah, his heart must have been grievously wounded, when he saw that unprincipled man boldly profaning God’s name. But, as I have already said, God in the meantime supported the minds of the godly, so that they were not wholly cast down, though they must have been somewhat disturbed. For we know that God’s children were not so destitute of feeling as not to be moved by such things; but yet God sustained all those who were endued with true religion. It was indeed easy for them to distinguish between Jeremiah and Hananiah; for they saw that the former announced the commands of God, while the latter sought nothing else but the favor and plaudits of men.

But with regard to Hananiah, he was to them an awful spectacle of blindness and of madness, for he dreaded not the sight of God himself, but entered the Temple and profaned it by his lies, and at the same time assumed in contempt the name of God, and boasted that he was a prophet, while he was nothing of the kind. Let us not then wonder if there be many mercenary brawlers at this day, who without shame and fear fiercely pretend God’s name, and thus exult over us, as though God had given them all that they vainly prattle, while yet it may be fully proved that they proclaim nothing but falsehoods; for God has justly blinded them, as they thus profane his holy name. We shall now come to the words:

And it was in the same year, even in the fourth of Zedekiah’s reign, etc. The fourth year seems to have been improperly called the beginning of his reign. We have said elsewhere, that it may have been that God had laid up this prophecy with Jeremiah, and did not design it to be immediately published. But there would be nothing strange in this, were the confirmation of his reign called its beginning. Zedekiah was made king by Nebuchadnezzar, because the people would not have been willing to accept a foreigner. He might indeed have set one of his own governors over the whole country; and he might also have made a king of one of the chief men of the land, but he saw that anything of this kind would have been greatly disliked. He therefore deemed it enough to take away Jeconiah, and to put in his place one who had not much power nor much wealth, and who was to be his tributary, as the case was with Zedekiah. But in course of time Zedekiah increased in power, so that he was at peace in his own kingdom. We also know that he was set over neighboring countries, as Nebuchadnezzar thought it advantageous to bind him to himself by favors. This fourth year then might well be deemed the beginning of his reign, for during three years things were so disturbed, that he possessed no authority, and hardly dared to ascend the throne. This then is the most probable opinion. fE189

He says afterwards, that Hananiah spoke to him in the presence of the priests and of the whole people. fE190 Hananiah ought at least to have been touched and moved when he heard Jeremiah speaking, he himself had no proof of his own call; nay, he was an impostor, and he knew that he did nothing but deceive the people, and yet he audaciously persisted in his object, and, as it were, avowedly obtruded himself that he might contend with the Prophet, as though he carried on war with God. He said, Broken is the yoke of the king of Babylon, that is, the tyranny by which he has oppressed the people shall be shortly broken. But he alluded to the yoke which Jeremiah had put on, as we shall presently see. The commencement of his prophecy was, that there was no reason for the Jews to dread the present power of the king of Babylon, for God would soon overthrow him. They could not have entertained hope of restoration, or of a better condition, until that monarchy was trodden under foot; for as long as the king of Babylon bore rule, there was no hope that he would remit the tribute, and restore to the Jews the vessels of the Temple. Hananiah then began with this, that God would break the power of the king of Babylon, so that he would be constrained, willing or unwilling, to let the people free, or that the people would with impunity extricate themselves from the grasp of his power. He then adds, —

<242803>Jeremiah 28:3

3. Within two full years will I bring again into this place the vessels of the Lord’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:

3. Adhuc (in adhuc, ad verbum) anni duo dierum (hoc est, cum transierint anni dierum duo,) ego reducam ad locum hunc omnia vasa domus Jehovae (id est, Templi,) quae abstulit Nebuchadnezer, rex Babylonis, a loco hoc et transportavit Babylonem.

 

We now see that what Hananiah had in view was to promise impunity to the people, and not only this, but also to soothe them with vain confidence, as though the people would have their king soon restored, together with the spoils which the enemy had taken away. But he began by referring to the power of the king, lest that terrible sight should occupy the minds of the people so as to prevent them to receive this joyful prophecy. He then says, Further, when two years shall pass, fE191 I will bring back to this place all the vessels which King Nebuchadnezzar has taken away. Jeremiah had assigned to the people’s exile seventy years, as it has been stated before, and as we shall hereafter often see; but here the false prophet says, that after two years the exile of the king and of the people would come to an end, and that the vessels which had been taken away would be restored; he speaks also of the king himself, —

<242804>Jeremiah 28:4

4. And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim King of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the Lord: for I will break the yoke Jehudah, of the king of Babylon.

4. Et Jechaniam, filium Jehoiakim, regem Jehudah, et totam captivatatem (hoc est, totam turbam captivam; est enim twlg nomen collectivum, ut alibi diximus, totam ergo turbam captivam) Jehudah, quae profecta est Babylonem (hoc est, qui abducti fuerunt, vel, qui profecti sunt; sed violonter tracti tamen) ego reducam ad hunt locum, dicit Jehova; quia contrivi jugurn regis Babylonis.

 

Hananiah promised as to the king himself, what he had just predicted respecting the vessels of the Temple and of the palace. But it may be asked, how did he dare to give hope as to the restoration of Jeconiah, since that could not have been acceptable to Zedekiah? for Jeconiah could not have again gained what he had lost without the abdication of Zechariah; but he would have never submitted willingly to lose his own dignity and to become a private man, and to allow him who had been deprived of this high honor to return again. But there is no doubt but that he relied on the favor of the people, and that he was fully persuaded that if Zedekiah could ill bear to be thus degraded, he would yet be constrained to shew a different feeling; for Zedekiah himself regarded his own reign as not honorable, as he sat not in David’s throne by the right of succession. He had been set on the throne by a tyrant, and he dared not to make any other pretense to the people than that he wished Jeconiah to return and to possess the kingdom of which he had been deprived. As then this impostor knew that the king dared not to shew any displeasure, but that his prophecy would be gratifying and acceptable to the people, he boldly promised what we here read respecting the return of Jeconiah.

He hence says in God’s name, Jeconiah, the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, and all the captive people, who have been led away to Babylon, will I restore to this place. We see that he was ever inflated with the same arrogance, and that he wholly disregarded God, whose name he thus in sport profaned. But all this flowed from this fountain, even because he had been blinded by the righteous judgment of God.

he then confirms his own prophecy, repeating its beginning, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. fE192 He had made open for himself an entrance, by saying that the destruction of the Babylonian monarchy was at hand; and now, after having given utterance to what seemed good to him on the whole affair, he refers again to that event. As then he promised that the monarchy would not stand longer than two years, the Jews might have supposed that they would become free, and might thus have hoped for a happy state of things; and this was the design of the impostor; but what was the answer of Jeremiah? His opposition to him was frank and firm; but as he saw that he had incurred the ill-will of the people, he was anxious to remove it; and before he repeated what he had said of their seventy years in exile, he shewed that he had not eagerly received his commission, as though he had been alienated from his people, or had disregarded their welfare, or had been carried away by some morbid feeling to bring a sad and mournful message. He therefore said, —

<242805>Jeremiah 28:5-6

5. Then the prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah, in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of the Lord,

5. Tunc dixit Jeremias propheta Chananiae prophetae coram oculis sacerdotum et coram oculis totius populi, qui stabant in domo Jehovae (hoc est, in Tempe,)

6. Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the Lord do so: the Lord perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the Lord’s house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place.

6. Et dixit Jeremias propheta, Amen, sic faciat Jehova, stabiliet Jehova sermones tuos, quos prophetasti ad reducendum (hoc est, ut reducantur) vasa Templi et tota captivitas ex Babylone ad hunc locum.

 

I have shortly reminded you of the design of the Prophet; for it was to be feared that the people would not hear him, or at least that they would not well receive him, as he had threatened them and handled them roughly and severely. We know that men ever seek to be flattered; hence adulations are ever delightfully received. Such is the pride of men, that they cannot bear to be called to an account for what they have done; and they become also indignant, when they see their crimes and vices brought to light; besides, they are so delicate and tender, that they avoid as much as they can all adverse rumors; and if any fear assails them, they instantly resist.

Now Jeremiah had been furnished with a twofold message, to expose the vices of the people, to shew that the Jews were unworthy to inherit the land, as they were covenant-breakers and despisers of God and of his Law; and then, as they had been so often refractory and perverse, he had another message, that they would not be suffered to escape unpunished, as they had in so many ways, and for so long a time continued to provoke God’s wrath; all this was very displeasing to the people. It was therefore Jeremiah’s object to turn aside the false suspicion under which he labored, and he testified that he desired nothing more than the well-being of the people; “Amen,” he said, “may it thus happen, I wish I were a false prophet; I would willingly retract, and that with shame, all that I have hitherto predicted, so great is my care and anxiety for the safety of the public; for I would prefer the welfare of the whole people to my own reputation.” But he afterwards added, as we shall see, that the promise of Hananiah was wholly vain, and that nothing would save the people from the calamity that was very near at hand.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou continuest to invite us to thyself, and often to remind us of our sins, that we may embrace the hope of mercy that is offered to us, — O grant, that we may not be ungrateful for this so great and invaluable a blessing, but come to thee in real humility and true repentance, and that trusting in thine infinite goodness, we may not doubt but that thou wilt be propitious to us, so that we may be kindled with the desire for true religion, and in all things obey thy word, that thy name may be glorified in us, until we shall at length come into that celestial glory, which thy Son hath obtained for us by his blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Seventh

We began in the last Lecture to explain the answer of Jeremiah, when he said to Hananiah, “May God confirm thy words, and may the vessels of the Temple be restored to this place and return together with the captive people.” We briefly stated what is now necessary again to repeat, that there were two feelings in the Prophets apparently contrary, and yet they were compatible with one another. Whatever God had commanded them they boldly declared, and thus they forgot their own nation when they announced anything of an adverse kind. Hence, when the Prophets threatened the people, and said that war or famine was near at hand, they doubtless were so endued with a heroic greatness of mind, that dismissing a regard for the people, they proceeded in the performance of their office; they thus strenuously executed whatever God had commanded them. But they did not wholly put off every humane feeling, but condoled with the miseries of the people; and though they denounced on them destruction, yet they could not but receive sorrow from their own prophecies. There was, therefore, no inconsistency in Jeremiah in wishing the restoration of the vessels of the Temple and the return of the exiles, while yet he ever continued in the same mind, as we shall hereafter see.

If any one objects and says that this could not have been the case, for then Jeremiah must have been a vain and false prophet; the answer to this is, that the prophets had no recourse to refined reasoning, when they were carried away by a vehement zeal; for we see that Moses wished to be blotted out of the book of life, and that Paul expressed a similar wish, even that he might be an anathema from Christ for his brethren. (<023232>Exodus 32:32; <450903>Romans 9:3.) Had any one distinctly asked Moses, Do you wish to perish and to be cut off from the hope of salvation? his answer, no doubt, would have been, that nothing was less in his mind than to cast away the immutable favor of God; but when his mind was wholly fixed on God’s glory, which would have been exposed to all kinds of reproaches, had the people been destroyed in the Desert, and when he felt another thing, a solicitude for the salvation of his own nation, he was at the time forgetful of himself, and being carried away as it were beyond himself, he said, “Rather blot me out of the book of life,and the ease of Paul was similar. And the same view we ought to take of Jeremiah, when he, in effect, said, I would I were a false prophet, and that thou hast predicted to the people what by the event may be found to be true.” But Jeremiah did not intend to take away even the least thing from God’s word; he only expressed a wish, and surrendered to God the care for the other, the credit and the authority of his prophecy, he did not, then, engage for this, as though he ought to have made it good, if the event did not by chance correspond with his prophecy; but he left the care of this with God, and thus, without any difficulty, he prayed for the liberation and return of the people. But it now follows —

<242807>Jeremiah 28:7-9

7. Nevertheless, hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people;

7. Verum audi nunc (vel, agedum, hortantis) sermonem hunc, quem ego pronuncio (pronuncians sum) in auribus tuis et in auribus totius populi, —

8. The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old, prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence.

8. Prophetae qui fuerunt ante me et ante to a seculo, et prophetarunt super terras multas (vel, magnas) et regna magna de praelio, de malo et de peste:

9. The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him.

9. Propheta qui prophetaverit de pace (hoc est, de rebus prosperis,) cum venerit sermo (id est, cum eventu comprobatus fuerit sermo prophetae,) cognoscetur propheta quod miserit eum Jellova in veritate.

 

Jeremiah, having testified that he did not wish for anything adverse to his own people, but had a good will towards them, now adds that what he had predicted was yet most true. Here is seen more fully what I have said of his twofold feeling; for though the Prophet wished to consult the welfare of the people, he did not yet cease to render full obedience to God, and to announce those messages which were at the same time very grievous: thus Jeremiah did not keep silence, but became an herald of God’s vengeance against the people. On the one hand, then, he showed that he desired nothing more than the welfare and the safety of his people, and that yet it was not in his power nor in that of any mortal to change the celestial decree which he had pronounced. We hence see that God so influenced the minds and hearts of his servants, that they were not cruel or barbarous; and yet they were not made soft and pliable through the influence of humanity, but boldly declared what God had commanded them.

For this reason he said, Nevertheless, hear thou this word which I pronounce in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people. By these words Jeremiah indirectly condemned the vanity of Hananiah, who sought to flatter the people, and by his adulations hunted for favor and applause, as it is usual with such impostors, he then said that it availed him nothing to give the people the hope of a near deliverance, for God had not changed his purpose. And Jeremiah now boldly and openly opposed him, as he had sufficiently rebutted that ill-will with which he was unjustly loaded; for impostors ever find out calumnies by which they assail the faithful servants of God. He might at the beginning have objected to Jeremiah and said, “Thou art alienated from thine own nation, thou art not touched by the many miseries by which we have been hitherto distressed, nor carest thou for what may happen to us in future.” Thus he might have kindled hatred against Jeremiah, had he not cleared himself. But after he had testified that he felt kindly and was well affected towards his own nation, he assailed the impostor himself, and hesitated not to assert what seemed very grievous, that the people would become captives.

Yet Jeremiah seems here to have been smitten in some measure with fear; for he did not confirm his own prophecy, but left that as it were in suspense; and yet he doubtless exposed the false declaration of Hananiah. But we know that the whole of what the Prophet said is not recited; for he only in a brief way records the heads or the chief things; and further, as we shall presently see, Jeremiah could not act as he wished in the midst of such a tumult, for he would have spoken to the deaf; and as Hananiah had prejudiced the minds of almost all, the holy Prophet would not have been listened to while there was such a confusion. He was therefore satisfied with the brief assertion, that God would soon shew that Hananiah was a false witness in promising so quick a return to the captives and exiles.

But he makes here only a general statement, The Prophets who have been before, me and thee, and prophesied against many (or great) lands, and against great kingdoms, have prophesied of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The word h[r, roe, evil, is placed between two other kinds of evil; but it is to be taken here no doubt for famine, as it is evident from many other passages. fE193 Then he adds, changing the number, When any prophet spoke of peace, the event proved whether or not he was a true prophet. fE194 Now, experience itself will shortly prove thee to be false, for after two years the people who are now in Babylon will be still there under oppression, and the condition of the residue will be nothing better, for those who now remain in the city and throughout all Judea shall be driven into exile as well as their brethren.”

Jeremiah seems here to conclude that those alone are to be deemed true prophets who prove by the event that they have been sent from above; and it not only appears that this may be gathered from his words, but it may also be shewn to be the definition of a true prophet; for when the event corresponds with the prophecy, there is no doubt but that he who predicted what comes to pass must have been sent by God. But we must bear in mind what is said in <051301>Deuteronomy 13:1, 2, where God reminds the people that even when the event answers to the prophecy, the prophets are not to be thoughtlessly and indiscriminately believed, as though they predicted what was true;

“for God,” he says, “tries thee,” that is, proves thy faith, whether thou wilt be easily carried away by every wind of doctrine.”

But there are two passages, spoken by Moses himself, which at the first sight seem to militate the one against the other. We have already quoted the first from <051301>Deuteronomy 13; we have the other in the <051818>Deuteronomy 18:18,

“The prophet who has predicted what is found to be true,
I have sent him.”

God seems there to acknowledge as his faithful servants those who foretell what is true. But Moses had before reminded the people that even impostors sometimes speak the truth, but that they ought not on this account to be believed. But we must remember what God often declares by Isaiah, when he claims to himself alone the foreknowledge of things,

“Go,” he says, “and inquire whether the gods of the Gentiles will answer as to future things.” (<234407>Isaiah 44:7)

We see that God ascribes to himself alone this peculiarity, that he foreknows future events and testifies respecting them. And surely nothing can be more clear than that God alone can speak of hidden things: men, indeed, can conjecture this or that, but they are often mistaken.

With regard to the devil, I pass by those refined disquisitions with which Augustine especially wearied himself; for above all other things he toiled on this point, how the devils reveal future and hidden things? He speculated, as I have said, in too refined a manner. But the solution of the difficulty, as to the subject now in hand, may be easily given. We first conclude, that future events cannot be known but by God alone, and that, therefore, prescience is his exclusive property, so that nothing that is future or hidden can be predicted but by him alone. But, then, it does not follow that God does not permit liberty to the devil and his ministers to foretell something that is true. How? As the case was with Balaam, who was an impostor, ready to let on hire or to sell his prophecies, as it is well known, and yet he was a prophet. But it was a peculiar gift to foretell things: whence had he this? Not from the devil any farther than it pleased God; and yet the truth had no other fountain than God himself and his Spirit. When, therefore, the devil declares what is true, it is as it were extraneous and adventitious.

Now, as we have said, that God is the source of truth, it follows that the prophets sent by him cannot be mistaken; for they exceed not the limits of their call, and so they do not speak falsely of hidden things; but when they declare this or that, they have him as their teacher. But these terms, as they say, are not convertible — to foretell what is true and to be a true prophet: for some, as I have said, predict what is found afterwards by trial and experience to be true, and yet they are impostors; nor did God, in the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, intend to give a certain definition by which his own prophets are to be distinguished; but as he saw that the Israelites would be too credulous, so as greedily to lay hold on anything that might have been said, he intended to restrain that excess, and to correct that immoderate ardor. Hence he commanded them to expect the event, as though he had said, “If any arise among you who will promise this or that in my name, do not immediately receive what they may announce; but the event will shew whether I have sent them.” So also, in this place, Jeremiah says, that the true prophets of God had spoken efficiently, as they had predicted nothing but what God had ratified and really proved to have come from him.

Thus, then, we ought to think of most, that is, that those who predict what is true are for the most part the prophets of God: this is to be taken as the general rule. But we cannot hence conclude, that all those who apparently predict this or that, are sent by God, so that the whole of what they teach is true: for one particular prophecy would not be sufficient to prove the truth of all that is taught and preached. It is enough that God condemns their vanity who speak from their own hearts or from their own brains, when the event does not correspond. At the same time he points out his own prophets by this evidence, — that he really shews that he has sent them, when he fulfils what has been predicted by them. As to false prophets there is a special reason why God permits to them so much liberty, for the world is worthy of such reward, when it willingly offers itself to be deceived. Satan, the father of lies, lays everywhere his snares for men, and they who run into them, and wish to cast themselves on his tenterhooks, deserve to be given up to believe a lie, as they will not, as Paul says, believe the truth. (<530210>2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11.)

We now then see what was the object of Jeremiah: his design was not to prove that all were true prophets who predicted something that was true, for this was not, his subject; but he took up another point, — that all who predicted this or that, which was afterwards found to be vain, were thus convicted of falsehood. If then any one predicted what was to be, and the thing itself came not to pass, it was a sufficient proof of his presumption: it hence appeared, that he was not sent of God as he boasted. This was the object of Jeremiah, nor did he go beyond it; for he did not discuss the point, whether all who predicted true things were sent from above, and whether all their doctrines were to be credited and they believed indiscriminately; this was not the subject handled by Jeremiah; but he shewed that Hananiah was a false prophet, for it would appear evident after two years that he had vainly spoken of what he had not received from God’s Spirit. And the same thing Moses had in view, as I have already explained.

As to the prophets, who had been in all ages and prophesied respecting many lands and great kingdoms, they must be considered as exclusively the true prophets: for though there had been some prophets among heathen nations, yet Jeremiah would not have thought them worthy of so great an honor; and it would have been to blend together sacred and profane things, had he placed these vain foretellers and the true prophets in the same rank. But we know that all God’s servants had so directed their discourse to the elect people, as yet to speak of foreign kingdoms and of far countries; and this has not been without reason distinctly expressed; for when they spoke of any monarchy they could not of themselves conjecture what would be: it was therefore necessary for them thus to speak by the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Were I disposed to assume more than what is lawful, and to pretend that I possess some special gift of prophesying, I could more easily lie and deceive, were I to speak only of one city, and of the state of things open before my eyes, than if I extended my predictions to distant countries: when therefore Jeremiah says that the prophets had spoken of divers and large countries, and of most powerful kingdoms, he intimates that their predictions could not have been ascribed to human conjectures; for were any one possessed of the greatest acuteness, and were he to surpass angels in intelligence, he yet could not predict what is hereafter to take place in lands beyond the seas But whatever had been predicted by the prophets, God sanctioned it by the events of time. It then follows that their call was at the same time sanctioned; that is, when God as it were ratified from heaven what they had spoken on earth. Whether therefore the prophets spoke of peace, that is, of prosperity, or of war, famine, and pestilence, when experience proved that true which they had said, their own authority was at the same time confirmed, as though God had shewed that they had been sent by him.

We must also notice the word tmab, beamet, he says that God sent them in truth. He condemns here the boldness which impostors ever assume; for they surpass God’s faithful servants in boasting that they have been sent. As then they were thus insolent, and by a fallacious pretense of having been called to their office, deceived unwary men, the Prophet adds here this clause, intimating that they were not all sent in truth. He thus conceded some sort of a call to these unprincipled men, but yet shewed how much they differed from God’s servants, whose call was sealed by God himself. It follows —

<242810>Jeremiah 28:10-11

10. Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and brake it.

10. Et abstulit Chananias propheta ligamen illud (vinculum) e collo Jeremiae prophetae, et confregit illud.

11. And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

11. Et dixit Chananias in oculis totius populi (hoc est, coram toto populo loquutus est,) dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova, In hunc modum confringam jugum Nebuchadnezer, regis Babylonii cum adhuc (id est simulae) fuerunt duo anni dierum e collo omnium gentium: et profectus est Jeremias propheta per viam suam.

 

It was not enough for the impostor to resist the holy servant of God to his face, without laying sacrilegious hands on that visible symbol, by which it had pleased God to testify that the Prophet’s message was true. For such was the tardiness of the people, nay, their insensibility, that they could not be much moved by words; therefore God added a symbol, for Jeremiah carried cords or bands around his neck: and it was a sign of reproach before men, yet, in order to touch the people, he refused not to undergo that reproach.

The band then on the neck of Jeremiah was like a sacrament; for it was a visible sign to establish the credit of his message. And what did Hananiah do? After having insolently inveighed against Jeremiah, and promised deliverance to the people after two years, he violently broke and took off the cord or the band which Jeremiah had around his neck.

We hence see how great and how impetuous is the fury of those whom the devil impels: for when once they arrive at that degree of temerity as to dare to resist the word of God, and, were it possible, to cast him from his own throne, they spare no symbols of his power and glory. We ought especially to notice this madness of Hananiah; for he not only resisted God’s servant, and endeavored to subvert his prophecy, but also snatched away the bands, that he might set up the falsehood of the devil in opposition to the true sacrament. This sign, as we have said, availed to confirm the prophecy of which we have heard; but what was done by Hananiah? he not only took away that sign, but by breaking the bands he attracted the attention of men, and by such a representation made them to believe that there would be in two years a deliverance. Then Hananiah displayed his furious zeal in two ways; for he profaned that symbol which Jeremiah had adopted according to God’s command, and he also took it away, as though he aimed to be above God, and to overthrow his truth, and would triumph over it.

The same thing we now see done under the Papacy: for we know that what Christ had commanded has been either corrupted, or obscured, or blotted out by them; and they have also devised fictitious sacraments and innumerable pompous rites, by which they fascinate foolish and credulous men. The same did Hananiah; and therefore his disciples and imitators are the Papists; who not only reject or extenuate the testimonies which have come from God, but plainly dishonor his sacraments by arrogantly bringing forward their own devices and inventions.

We must also notice how craftily this impostor insinuated himself; for he seemed to imitate the true prophets of God, for he set a sign before the people, and then added a doctrine. The Papists have their empty signs, but they only delight the eyes, while yet they have no care nor concern for the ears. But Hananiah came still nearer to God’s servants, so that he might deceive even those who were not stupid. What, indeed, could we desire more in this man than that he should set forth a sign? He also added the name of God and declared what was his purpose, in this manner will 1 break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar: nor did he speak in his own name, but assumed the person of God, Thus saith Jehovah, I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar.

But as we have elsewhere said, this preposterous imitation of the devil ought not to disturb pious minds; for God ever supplies his own people with the spirit of discernment, provided they humbly pray to him. And therefore whenever Jeremiah repeated the word prophet, which he conceded to Hananiah, as he assumed it himself, for whenever he spoke of Hananiah, he honored him with this name, even that he was a prophet, — the holy man was not ignorant what an occasion of offense it was, when a prophet, who is so acknowledged in the Church of God, is yet the minister of Satan, a liar and an impostor. But his object was to warn us in due time, lest novelty should frighten us when any boasts of the title of a prophet. So the Papists brag that they are prelates and bishops, and boast that they are the successors of the Apostles: but the devil is their chief, who calls himself the Vicar of Christ on the earth. Then Jeremiah designedly called Hananiah so many times a prophet, so that our faith, when any such thing happens to us, may not fail, as though some new thing had taken place. I cannot to-day finish the last part of the verse.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou wouldest so try the constancy of our faith as to permit the devil to blend his lies with thy holy truth, we may not yet be entangled in them, but be attentive to that light which thou settest before us, and by which thou guidest us into the way of salvation; and may we in the spirit of docility so offer ourselves to be ruled by thee, that thou mayest also become our faithful and infallible leader, until we shall at length attain that eternal life which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture one Hundred and Eighth

Hananiah, after having broken the bands of Jeremiah, predicted that God would liberate the Jews as well as other nations from under the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar; and it is at length added, that Jeremiah went his way; by which words the Prophet intimates that he left the place, for he was unwilling contentiously to dispute with a violent man, or rather with a wild beast; for it is probable, nay, it may be concluded as certain, that Hananiah had great power in the Temple, for his prophecies were plausible. For as men always seek flatteries, when they heard promised to them what was especially desirable, even an end to all their evils and calamities after two years, all of them greedily received what the impostor had said. Besides, not only his tongue fought against Jeremiah, but also his hands, for he violently assailed the holy man when he broke his bands. Hence Jeremiah could not have acted otherwise than to turn aside as it were from the storm; nor did he do this through fear, but because he saw that his adversary would be his superior in wrangling, nor did he hope to be heard amidst noise and clamors; for he saw that a great tumult would immediately rise if he began to speak. He found it therefore necessary to withdraw from the people.

We are hereby reminded that we ought wisely to consider what occasions may require; for it is not right nor expedient to speak always and everywhere. When, therefore, the Lord opens our mouth, no difficulties ought to restrain us so as not to speak boldly; but when there is no hope of doing good, it is better sometimes to be silent than to excite a great multitude without any profit. True indeed is that saying of Paul, that we ought to be instant out of season, (<550402>2 Timothy 4:2;) but he means, that the ministers of Christ, though they may sometimes offend and exasperate the minds of many, ought not yet to desist but to persevere. But Jeremiah had no hearers, and the whole people were so incensed, that he could do nothing against that impostor even if he exposed himself to death. He therefore was silent, for he had already discharged the duties of his office; he might have also withdrawn, that he might come furnished with new messages, and thus endued with new authority, as, indeed, it appears from what follows, —

<242812>Jeremiah 28:12-13

12. Then the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the prophet (after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah,) saying,

12. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam, postquam confregit Chananiah propheta jugum (aut, vinculum) e collo Jeremiae prophetae, dicendo,

13. Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.

13. Vade et loquere cum Chanania, dicendo, (alloquere Chananiam, dicendo,) Sic dicit jehova, Vincula lignea fregisti; fac autem tibi loco illorum vincula ferrea.

 

It hence appears that Jeremiah had regard only to the common benefit of the people, and that he wisely kept silence for a time, that he might not throw pearls before swine, and thus expose in a manner the holy name of God to the insolence of the ungodly. He therefore waited until he might again go forth with new messages, and thus secure more credit to himself. For had he contended longer with Hananiah, contentions would have been kindled on every side, there would have been no hearing in a tumult, and the Jews would have wholly disregarded anything he might have then spoken. But as he had withdrawn from the crowd, and was afterwards sent by God, the Jews could not have so presumptuously despised him or his doctrine. This, then, was the reason why he was for a short time silent.

If he feared and trembled in the midst of these commotions, God in due time confirmed him by giving him new commands: The word of Jehovah, he says, came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah broke the band from his neck. By these words he intimates, that the ungodly, however insolently they may rise up against God, ever depart with shame and reproach. For Hananiah had not only opposed Jeremiah by his words and tongue, but had also broken the cords or bands from his neck. This, then, the Prophet now repeats, in order that he might shew, as it were by his finger, that Hananiah by his audacity gained nothing, except that he rendered his vanity more notorious.

Now it is an abrupt sentence when he says, Go and speak to Hananiah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, Thou hast broken the wooden bands; but make to thee iron bands; Jeremiah does not keep to the same point; for in the first clause he relates what he had been commanded to say to Hananiah; and in the second he relates what God had commanded him to do, even iron bands. But there is no obscurity as to the meaning; for doubtless the Prophet might have arranged his words thus, “Thou hast broken the bands from my neck; but God has commanded me to make new ones from iron.” fE195 Though Jeremiah, then, only tells us here that God commanded him to make iron bands, it may yet be easily concluded that when he spoke of wooden bands he at the same time added what he relates of iron bands, but in a different connection., Now follows the explanation, —

<242814>Jeremiah 28:14

14. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also.

14. Quoniam sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, jugum ferreum imposui super collum omnium gentium istorum, ut serviant Nevuchadnezer, regi Babylonis, et servient ei, atque etiam bestiam agri dedi illi.

 

It would have been a vain spectacle, had Jeremiah brought only his iron band around his neck; but when he added an explanation of the symbol, he no doubt prevailed on many to believe his prophecy, and rendered those inexcusable who had hardened themselves in their wickedness. But it is worthy of being observed, that God replaced the wooden bands with iron bands; and he did this, because the whole people had through their foolish and wicked consent approved of the madness of that impostor, who had dared to profane that symbol, by which God had testified that he did not speak in vain, but seriously by the mouth of his servant.

A profitable doctrine may be hence elicited, — that the ungodly by barking against God gain nothing, except that they kindle more and more his wrath, and thus render double their own evils, like a dog, who being ensnared obstinately strives to extricate himself from the snare and to shake it off, and thus strangles himself. In like manner the ungodly, the more they resist God, the heavier judgment they procure for themselves. And, therefore, whenever God declares to us that he is offended with our sins, we ought to take heed, lest while we seek to break the wooden bands, he be preparing and forming for us iron bands. Our condition will ever become worse, unless we humbly deprecate God’s wrath as soon as it appears, and also patiently submit to his scourges when he chastises us for our offenses. We ought then to bear this in mind as to the wooden and iron bands.

He adds, Upon the neck of all these nations. The Jews, as it has been stated, hoped that Nebuchadnezzar could be in a moment driven back beyond the Euphrates, and would be made to surrender other countries which he had occupied; and all the neighboring nations had conspired, and sent ambassadors here and there; and when the Amorites, the Moabites, and other nations gave encouragement to the Jews, they also in their turn animated others, so that they might all make an assault on the Babylonians. As, then, such a secret conspiracy gave courage to the Jews, this was the reason why the Prophet spoke of other nations. He says, And they shall serve him. He had, indeed, already subdued all these countries; but the Prophet means, that the domination of the king of Babylon would continue, though Hananiah had said, that it would stand only for two years. Continuance, then, is set in opposition to a short time, as though the Prophet had said, “Let, indeed, the nations chafe and fret, but they shall abide under the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar, and in vain shall they attempt to extricate themselves, for God has delivered them up to bondage.”

This servitude may at the same time be explained in another way; the condition of these nations was bearable, as long as Nebuchadnezzar ordered tribute to be paid; and when he sent his prefects, the object was no other than to retain possession; but when he found that they could not be otherwise subdued than by a harder servitude, he began to exercise great tyranny, though he had been before an endurable master. The same thing may be also said of the Jews; for we know that they had been tributaries to the king of Babylon; and as he had spared them, his humanity might have been deemed a sort of liberty; but when he found that a hard wood could not be split but by a hard wedge, he began more violently to oppress them. Then that servitude began which is now mentioned. The Jews, therefore, began then really to serve the king of Babylon, when he saw that they would not endure that bearable yoke which he had laid on them, but in their obstinacy and pride ever struggled against it.

The Prophet adds, The beast of the field have 1 also given him. By these words he indirectly upbraids the Jews, as we have before reminded you, with their perverseness, because they perceived not that it was the righteous judgment of God, that Nebuchadnezzar imposed laws on them as a conqueror; for they would have been defended by a celestial aid, as it is said by Moses, had they not deprived themselves of it. (<052925>Deuteronomy 29:25.) As, then, they had long rejected the protection of God, hence it was that Nebuchadnezzar invaded their country and conquered them. As they now continued to bite and champ their bridle, the Prophet exposes their madness; for they did not humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, while wild beasts, void of reason and understanding, perceived that it happened through God’s secret and wonderful providence, that Nebuchadnezzar took possession of these lands. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet expressly mentioned wild beasts, as though he said, that the Jews were so refractory, that there was in them less reason, humility, and solicitude than in lions, bears, and animals of the like kind; for through the secret impulse of God the wild beasts submitted to the authority of King Nebuchadnezzar, while the Jews became more and more insolent. It was the highest madness not to acknowledge God’s judgment, while this was done by wild and savage animals. It follows, —

<242815>Jeremiah 28:15

15. Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.

15. Et dixit jeremias propheta Chananiae prophetae, Audi agedum Chanania, non misit to Jehova, et tu confidere fecisti populum hunc super mendacio (vel, in mendacio.)

 

There would not have been weight enough in the plain teaching of Jeremiah had he not confronted his adversary, as the case is at this day with us; when insolent and unprincipled men rise up and dare to vomit forth their blasphemies, by which they darken and degrade the doctrines of true religion, we are under the necessity to contend with them, otherwise what we teach would be ineffectual; for the minds of many, I mean the simple, are in suspense and fluctuate when they see a great conflict between two contrary parties. It was therefore necessary for the holy man to expose the lies of Hananiah, for he ever vaunted himself and boasted of his own predictions.

But what did Jeremiah say? Jehovah hath not sent thee. This refutation ought to be noticed whenever we contend with Satan’s ministers and false teachers; for whatever they may pretend, and with whatever masks they may cover their lies, this one thing ought to be more than sufficient to put an end to their boastings, — that they have not been sent by the Lord. Jeremiah might have contended in a long speech with Hananiah, for he might have been made sufficiently eloquent through the Holy Spirit suggesting and dictating whatever was needful on the subject; but this concise brevity produced much greater effect than if he had made great display and used many words. Let this, then, be borne in mind, that wherever there is a controversy about religion, we ought ever to ask whether he who speaks has been sent by God; for whatever he may babble, though the most acute, and though he may talk things which may fill with wonder the minds of the simple, yet all this is nothing but smoke when his doctrine is not from God. So also we ought at this day to deal in a brief manner with those mercenary dogs of the Pope who bark against the pure truth of the Gospel; we ought to be satisfied with this compendious answer, — that God is not their master and teacher. But as our state now is different from that of the ancient people, we must observe that sent by the Lord is he only whose doctrine is according to the rule of the Law, and of the Prophets, and of the Gospel. If, then, we desire to know whom the Lord has sent, and whom he approves as his servants, let us come to the Scripture, and let there be a thorough examination; he who speaks according to the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, has a sure and an indubitable evidence of his divine call; but he who cannot prove that he draws what he advances from these fountains, whatever his pretences may be, ought to be repudiated as a false prophet. We hence see what an important instruction this passage contains.

He then adds, Thou hast made this people to rely on falsehood. They pervert the meaning of the Prophet who thus render the words, “Thou hast falsely rendered this people secure,” at least they lessen by one half what the Prophet intended to express; for not only is Hananiah condemned because he vainly and falsely pretended God’s name, but the word rq, shicor, is introduced, the very thing employed; as though he had said, “Thou feedest this people with a vain hope which thou hast formed in thine own brains; therefore thy fictions make this people to go astray.” Hence Jeremiah not only accused this impostor that he by his fictions deceived the people, but also that he brought forward his prophecies in God’s name; and these removed their fear and gave them some hope, so that the people became torpid in their security.

Let us learn from this passage that we ought especially to take heed when the ground of trust is the subject, lest we rely on any empty or perishable thing, like wretched hypocrites who devour shadows only, and afterwards find nothing solid in their own fictions. But when we refer to trust, let there be something solid on which we can safely rely; and we know that we cannot possibly be disappointed, if we look to God for all things, if we recumb on his mercy alone; for there is no rest nor peace for us anywhere else but in Christ. Let us then retain this object of trust, and let it be our only support. It follows, —

<242816>Jeremiah 28:16

16. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord.

16. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego emitto to (hoc est, projicio) e superficie terrae hujus (vel, terrae; potius indefinite accipitur hoc loco pro tota terra: hnh videtur quidem paulo post notare certum annum; sed in voce hmdah puto exprimi speciialiter Judaem, imo potius totum orbem, atque hoc facile colligitur, quia denunciat Jeremias sublatum iri Chananiam e medio, et non fore amplius superstitem mundo: morieris, ergo, hoc anno, quia defectionem loquutus es contra Jehovam.

 

Here is added the punishment which confirmed the prophecy of Jeremiah; for it was God’s purpose to have regard to the ignorance of many who would have otherwise stumbled, or made their ignorance a pretext, for they could not determine which of the two had been sent by God, Hananiah or Jeremiah. It was then God’s design, in his paternal indulgence, to stretch forth his hand to them, and also in an especial manner to render inexcusable the unbelieving who had already given themselves up, as it were, to the devil; for the greater part were not moved by an event, so memorable; fE196 for it follows immediately, —

<242817>Jeremiah 28:17

17. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year, in the seventh month,

17. Et mortuus est Chananias propheta anno illo, mense septimo.

 

All those who had disregarded Jeremiah saw, in a manner, before their eyes the judgment of God. No surer confirmation could have been expected by the Jews, had they a particle of understanding, than to see the impostor slain by the word of Jeremiah alone; for he never touched him with a finger, nor caused him to be led to punishment, though he deserved this; but he drove him out of the world by the mere sound of his tongue. As, then, the word of the holy Prophet had a celestial and divine power, as though God himself had fulminated from heaven, or with an armed hand had slain that ungodly man, how great was their blindness not to be moved! However, they were not moved; hence some of the Rabbins, wishing to conceal, as their manner is, the reproach of their own nation, imagine that the disciples of Hananiah secretly took away his body, and that then the people knew nothing of his death. But what need is there of such an evasion as this? for Jeremiah says no such thing, but speaks of the event as well known; it was indeed a sure testimony of his own call. It hence follows that it was not unknown to the Jews; and yet the devil had so blinded the greatest part of them, that they paid no more attention to the holy man than before; on the contrary, they wholly disregarded those threatenings of which he had been the witness and herald.

But how does this appear? the greatest part of the people often rose up against him as though he was the most wicked of men; he was accused as the betrayer of his country, and hardly escaped, through the clemency of. a cruel king, when he was cast into a dungeon as one half-dead. Since, then, the Jews thus pertinaciously raged, we hence understand what the Prophet so often threatened them with, even with the spirit of giddiness, and of fury, and of madness, and of stupor, and of drunkenness. Moreover, it was needful for that small portion which was not wholly irreclaimable to be restored to the right way; and this was done by this manifest proof of Jeremiah’s call. It was also necessary on the other hand that the unbelieving should be more restrained, so that they might be condemned by their own conscience, as Paul calls heretics self-condemned who were become fixed in their own perverseness, and had willingly and designedly sold themselves as slaves to the devil.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou dost kindly and graciously invite us to repentance, we may be so touched by the sense of thy wrath, that we may not by our perverseness increase more and more the heinousness of thy vengeance against us, but lay hold on the mercy that is offered to us, so that we may experience the efficacy and fruit of thy truth for our salvation, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Ninth

CHAPTER 29

<242901>Jeremiah 29:1

1. Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;

1. Hi sunt sermones libri (vel, epistolae) quem misit Jeremias propheta Jerusalem ad reliquias seniorum captivitatis, et ad sacerdotes et ad prophetas, et ad universum populum, quem captivum abduxerat Nebuchadnezer e Jerusalem in Babylonem;

 

Here the Prophet begins a new discourse, even that he not only cried out constantly at Jerusalem, that the Jews who still remained there should repent, but that he also mitigated the grief of the exiles, and exhorted them to entertain the hope of returning, provided they patiently endured the chastisement allotted to them. The design of the Prophet was at the same time twofold; for he not only intended to mitigate by comfort the sorrow of the exiles, but designed also to break down the obstinacy of his own nation, so that they who still remained at Jerusalem and in Judea might know that nothing would be better for them than to join themselves to their other brethren. The Jews, as it has already appeared, and as we shall hereafter in many places see, had set their minds on an unreasonable deliverance; God had fixed on seventy years, but they wished immediately to break through and extricate themselves from the yoke laid on them. Hence Jeremiah, in writing to the captives and exiles, intended to accommodate what he said to the Jews who still remained at Jerusalem, and who thought their case very fortunate, because they were not driven away with their king and the rest of the multitude. But at the same time his object was to benefit also the miserable exiles, who might have been overwhelmed with despair, had not their grief been in some measure mitigated. The Prophet, as we shall see, bids them to look forward to the end of their captivity, and in the meantime exhorts them to patience, and desires them to be quiet and peaceable, and not to raise tumults, until the hand of God was put forth for their deliverance.

he says that he wrote a book fE197 to the remaining elders; fE198 for many of that age had died; as nature requires, the old who approach near the goal of life, die first, he then says that he wrote to them who still remained alive. We hence conclude that his prophecy was designed for them all; and yet he afterwards says, “Take wives and propagate;” but this, as we shall see, is to be confined to those who were at that time in a fit age for marriage. He did not however wish to exclude the aged from the comfort of which God designed them to be partakers, and that by knowing that there would be a happy end to their captivity, provided they retained resignation of mind and patiently bore the punishment of God justly due to them for having so often and in such various ways provoked him. Then he adds, the priests, and the prophets, and then the whole people. fE199

But we must notice that he not only exhorts the people to patience, but also the priests and the prophets. And though, as we shall hereafter see, there were among them impostors, who falsely boasted that they were prophets,  fE200 it is yet probable that they are also included here who were endued with God’s Spirit, either because the spirit was languid in them, or because God did not always grant to them the knowledge of everything. It might then be that the prophets, to whom God had not made known this, or whose minds were oppressed with evils, were to be taught.

As to the priests, we hence conclude that they had from the beginning neglected their office, for they would have been God’s prophets, had they faithfully performed their sacerdotal office; and it was, as it were, an extraordinary thing when God chose other prophets, and not without reproach to the priests; for they must have become degenerated and idle or deceptive, when they gloried in the name alone, when they were destitute of the truth. This then was the reason why they were to be taught in common with the people. It now follows, —

<242902>Jeremiah 29:2

2. After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;

2. Postquam egressus fuerat Jechaniah rex et domina (id est, regina, mater ejus,) et proceres, principes Jehudah et Jerusalem, et artifex et sculptor ex Jerusalem;

 

He mentions the time when the book was sent, even after the calamity which had happened, when King Jeconiah and his mother were driven into exile, and Zedekiah, his successor, was made governor in his place, as we shall presently see. It was then during these beginnings of a change that Jeremiah wrote. All things were then in such a ferment, that some feared more than what was necessary, and others entertained vain hopes, as the case usually is in a disordered state of things. It was then after this fresh calamity that Jeremiah wrote, as his words most especially shew. He might indeed, as in other instances, have mentioned the year; but as he plainly declares that this happened after the departure of Jeconiah, his purpose is sufficiently evident, even that he wished in due time to give some relief to their sorrow, who might have succumbed under it, had not God in a manner stretched forth his hand to them. For we know that fresh grief is difficult to be borne; and hence it is that it is called a bitter grief; for it was a grievous novelty, when they were violently and suddenly dragged out of their quiet nests. It was then Jeremiah’s object at that time to give them some comfort; he also saw that those who were left in Judea were greatly disturbed and continually agitating new schemes; for Zedekiah’s kingdom was not as yet established, and they despised him and were ever looking for their own king. As, then, things were thus in disorder at home, and as the miserable exiles especially, were at first very grievously afflicted, Jeremiah set before them a seasonable remedy. This then is the reason why he points out the time.

The mother of Jeconiah, we know, was led away with him into captivity; and she is called, hrybgh, egebire; fE201 for though she was not properly the queen, she yet ruled in connection with her son. Some render ysyrs, sarisim, eunuchs; fE202 but I prefer the word “chiefs;” and hence is added the word yr, shari, princes, that is, the courtiers, who governed the people, not only in Jerusalem, but through the whole of Judea. He also adds the artificers and sculptors, for Nebuchadnezzar had chosen the best of them; he had deprived the city of its nobles, that there might be none of authority among the Jews to venture on any new attempt; and then he had taken away those who were useful and ingenious, so that he left them no sculptors nor artificers. It now follows, —

<242903>Jeremiah 29:3-6

3. By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,) saying,

3. Per manum Eleasah filii Saphan et Gamariae filii Helchiae, quos miserat Zedechias rex Jehudah ad Nebhadnezer regem Babylonis Babylonem, dicendo,

4. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;

4. Sic dicit Jehovah exercituum, Deus Israel, universae captivitati quam captivam adduxi e Jerusalem Babylonem,

5. Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;

5. AEdificate domos, et inhabitate; plantate hortos, et comedite fructus eorum;

6. Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.

6. Accipite uxores et generate filios et filias; et accipite filiis vestris uxores, et filias vestras date nuptum viris, ut generent filios et filias; et crescite (aut, multiplicamini) illic, et ne minuamini.

 

This is the substance of the message, which the Prophet, no doubt, explained to them at large; but here he touches but briefly on what he wrote to the captives, even that they were patiently to endure their exile until the time of their deliverance, which was not to be such as many imagined, but such as God had fixed. Well known indeed at that time was Jeremiah’s prophecy, not only in Judea, but also to the captives, that their exile could not be completed in a shorter time than seventy years.

It is said that he sent his letter by the hand of the king’s ambassadors. It is probable that this was done by the permission of Zedekiah; for there is no doubt but that in sending his ambassadors he intended to obtain favor with King Nebuchadnezzar, by whose nod he had come to the throne; for he was not of such dignity as to be made king, though of the royal seed, had not Nebuchadnezzar thought that it would be more advantageous to himself. For had he appointed any other governor over the Jews, a sedition might have been easily raised; he therefore intended in a measure to pacify them, for he knew that they were a very refractory people. However, Zedekiah ruled only by permission, not through his own power, nor on account of his wealth, but through the good pleasure of a conqueror. He then sent his ambassadors to promise all kinds of homage, and to know what was to be done in future. As, then, he did not wish the return of Jeconiah, he permitted his ambassadors to carry the letter of Jeremiah, not indeed that he wished to obey God. It was not, then, owing to any sincere regard for religion, but because he thought that it would be advantageous to him, that the Jews should remain in Chaldea till the death of Jeconiah; for he thus hoped that his kingdom would be confirmed, for Jeconiah was, as it were, his rival. Nor is there a doubt, but that Nebuchadnezzar wished to hold Zedekiah bound by this fetter; for he could any day restore Jeconiah, who was his captive, to his former state.

Now, then, we understand why Zedekiah did not prohibit Jeremiah’s letter to be carried to the captives: he thought that it would serve to tranquilize his kingdom. But the holy Prophet had another thing in view; for his anxious object was, not to gain the favor of the king, but to shew, as God had commanded him, how long the captivity would be. Zedekiah indeed might have wished that a permission should be given to the exiles to return; for those who remained in Judea were only the dregs and offscourings of society; it was not an honorable state of things: and it may be that he had also this in view, in sending ambassadors to Nebuchadnezzar, that Jerusalem might not remain desolate, but that a portion at least of the exiles might return, and that there might also be some to cultivate the land which had been nearly stripped of its inhabitants. But Jeremiah declared what he knew was by no means acceptable to the king, that a return was in vain expected before the termination of seventy years. We hence see that he spoke nothing to gain the favor of the king; and yet the king did not regard with displeasure, that the letter was sent to allay all commotions, and to restrain all the violence of those who would have been otherwise too prone to make some new attempts. This accounts for the circumstance, that the letter was sent by the hand of Elasah and Gemariah.

He adds, at the same time, that they were sent by Zedekiah to Babylon, that is, to gain the favor of King Nebuchadnezzar, or, at least, to secure his friendship. I now come to the message itself:

God commanded the captives to build houses in Chaldea, to plant vineyards, and also to marry wives, and to beget children, as though they were at home. It was not, indeed, God’s purpose that they should set their hearts on Chaldea, on the contrary, they were ever to think of their return: but until the end of the seventy years, it was God’s will that they should continue quiet, and not attempt this or that, but carry on the business of life as though they were in their own country. As to their hope, then, it was God’s will that their minds should be in a state of suspense until the time of deliverance.

At the first view these two things seemed inconsistent, — that the Jews were to live seventy years as though they were the natives of the place, and that their habitations were not to be changed, — and yet that they were ever to look forward to a return. But these two things can well agree together: it was a proof of obedience when they acknowledged that they were chastised by God’s hand, and thus became willingly submissive to the end of the seventy years. But their hope, as I have just observed, was to remain in suspense, in order that they might not be agitated with discontent, nor be led away by some violent feeling, but that they might so pass their time as to bear their exile in such a way as to please God; for there was a sure hope of return, provided they looked forward, according to God’s will, to the end of the seventy years. It is then this subject on which Jeremiah now speaks, when he says, Build houses, and dwell in them; plant vineyards, and eat of their fruit. For this whole discourse is to be referred to the time of exile, he having beforehand spoken of their return; and this we shall see in its proper place.

But the Jews could not have hoped for anything good, except they were so resigned as to bear their correction, and thus really proved that they did not reject the punishment laid on them.

We now see that Jeremiah did not encourage the Jews to indulge in pleasures, nor persuade them to settle for ever in Chaldea. It was, indeed, a fertile and pleasant land; but he did not encourage them to live there in pleasure, to indulge themselves and to forget their own country; by no means: but he confined what he said to the time of the captivity, to the end of the seventy years. During that time, then, he wished them to enjoy the land of Chaldea, and all its advantages, as though they were not exiles but natives of the place. For what purpose? not that they might give themselves up to sloth, but that they might not, by raising commotions, offend God, and in a manner close up against themselves the door of his grace, for the time which he had fixed was to be expected. For when we are driven headlong by a vehement desire, we in a manner repel the favor of God; we do not then suffer him to act as it becomes him: and when we take away from him his own rights and will, it is the same as though we were unwilling to receive his grace. This would have been the case, had they not quietly and resignedly endured their calamity in Chaldea to the end of the time which had been fixed by God.

We now perceive that the Prophet’s message referred only to the time of exile; and we also perceive what was the design of it, even to render them obedient to God, that they might thus shew by their patience that they were really penitent, and that they also expected a return in no other way than through God’s favor alone.

In bidding them to take wives for their sons, and to give their daughters in marriage, he speaks according to the usual order of nature; for it would be altogether unreasonable for young men and young women to seek partners for themselves, according to their own humor and fancy. God then speaks here according to the common order of things, when he bids young men not to be otherwise joined in marriage than by the consent of parents, and that young women are not to marry but those to whom they are given.

He then adds, Be ye multiplied there and not diminished; as though he had said, that the time of exile would be so long, that except they propagated, they would soon come to nothing: and God expressed this, because it was not his will that Abraham’s seed should fail. It was indeed a kind of death, when he had driven them so far, as though he had deprived them of the inheritance which he had promised to be perpetual: he, however, administers comfort here by commanding them to propagate their kind: for they could not have been encouraged to do so, except they had their eyes directed to the hope of a return. He then afforded them some taste of his mercy when he bade them not to be diminished in Chaldea. He then adds, —

<242907>Jeremiah 29:7

7. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

7. Et quaerite pacem urbis ad quam transtuli vos illuc (sed abundat), et orate pro ea Jehovam, quia in pace ejus erit vobis pax.

 

Jeremiah goes still farther, even that the Jews had been led to Babylon, on the condition of rendering willing obedience to the authority of King Nebuchadnezzar, and of testifying this by their prayers. He not only bids them patiently to endure the punishment laid on them, but also to be faithful subjects of their conqueror; he not only forbids them to be seditious, but he would have them to obey from the heart, so that God might be a witness of their willing subjection and obedience.

He says, Seek the peace of the city; this may be understood of prayers; for rd, daresh, often means to pray: but it may suitably be taken here, as I think, in reference to the conduct of the people, as though he had said, that the Jews were to do what they could, to exert themselves to the utmost, so that no harm might happen to the Chaldean monarchy; for they are afterwards directed to pray. It may indeed be, that the same thing is repeated in other words; but if any one weighs the subject more fully, he will, I think, assent to what I have stated, that in the first clause the Prophet bids them to be faithful to King Nebuchadnezzar and to his monarchy. Seek, then, the peace of the city: fE204 by peace, as it is well known, is to be understood prosperity.

But he was not satisfied with external efforts, but he would have them to pray to God, that all things might turn out prosperously and happily to the Babylonian king, even to the end of their exile; for we must bear in mind that the Prophet had ever that time in view. We hence learn that he exhorted the exiles to bear the yoke of the king of Babylon, during the time allotted to the captivity, for to attempt anything rashly was to fight against God, and that he thus far commanded them quietly to bear that tyrannical government.

He repeats again what he had said, (though I had passed it by,) that they had been carried away captives: for he had spoken of it, “all the captivity which,” he says, “I made to migrate,” or removed, or led captive, “from Jerusalem.” Now, again, he repeats the same thing, that he had carried them away captives, ytylgh wa, asher egeliti; fE205 and he said this, that they might not regard only the avarice, or the ambition, or the pride of King Nebuchadnezzar, but that they might raise up their eyes to heaven, and acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar as the scourge of God, and their exile as a chastisement for their sins. God thus testified that he was the author of their exile, that the Jews might not think that they had to do with a mortal man, but on the contrary, understand that they were kicking against the goad, if they murmured and complained, because they lived under the tyranny of a foreign king. That they might not then be agitated with vain thoughts, God comes forth and says, that the exile was imposed on them by his just judgment, in order that they might know that they would gain nothing by their perverseness, and that they might not be disturbed by an anxious disquietude, nor dare to attempt anything new, for this would be to resist God, and as it were to carry on war with heaven. I will finish here.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we may be more and more habituated to render obedience to thee, and that whenever thou chastisest us with thy scourges, we may examine our own consciences, and humbly and suppliantly deprecate thy wrath, and never doubt but thou wilt be propitious to us, after having chastised us with thy paternal hand; and may we thus recumb on thy fatherly kindness, that we may ever look forward with quiet minds, until the end appears, which thou hast promised to us, and that when the warfare of this present life shall be finished, we may reach that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Tenth

In the last Lecture we did not finish the seventh verse, in which the Prophet says that the Jews, as long as God would have them to be exiles, were to be so fixed in Babylon, that they ought to have deemed their union such, as though they were of the same body. For by saying that their peace would be in the peace of Babylon, he intimates that they could not be considered as a separate people until the time of seventy years was completed. He therefore commanded them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon.

At the first view this may seem hard; for we know how cruelly that miserable people had been treated by the Chaldeans. Then to pray for the most savage enemies, might have appeared unreasonable and by no means suitable. But the Prophet mitigates the hardness of the work by saying, that it would be profitable to them to pray for the happy condition of Babylon, inasmuch as they were the associates of their fortune. We know how much the prospect of what is profitable avails to persuade us, as we think not of undertaking anything except what we deem will be successful. For this reason then the Prophet teaches the Jews that they ought not to refuse what was required from them, when God bade them to pray for Babylon, because the prosperity of that kingdom would be for their benefit, he intimates also, as I have already hinted, that they were so connected with

Babylon, that they could not expect to be exempt from all trouble and annoyance, if any adversity happened to Babylon, for they were of the same body. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet.

But we may hence deduce a very useful doctrine, — that we ought not only to obey the kings under whose authority we live, but that we ought also to pray for their prosperity, so that God may be a witness of our voluntary subjection. For if it was the duty of the Jews to pray for the wellbeing of the Chaldeans for this reason, because they were for a certain time under their authority, there is no excuse for us, when we live under any legitimate prince, and that not only for a few days, unless we testify our voluntary submission before God; and he who prays to God for the happy state of the country in which he lives, will not surely neglect his other duties. fE206 The principal thing indeed is to testify before God what our feeling is; and then other things must be added, such as promptitude to perform all duties of obedience and everything of the like kind. It now follows, —

<242908>Jeremiah 29:8

8. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed,

8. Quoniam sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ne decipiant vos prophetae vestri, qui sunt in medio vestri, et divini vestri; et ne attendatis ad somnia vestra, quae vos somniatis.

 

As the minds of almost all were taken up, as we have seen, with that vain and false confidence which they had imbibed from false prophecies, that they should return after two years, the Prophet gives this answer, and reminds them to beware of such impostures. And thus we see that it is not sufficient for one simply to teach what is right, except he also restores from error those who have been already deceived or are in danger of being deceived. For to assert the truth is only one-half of the office of teaching, because Satan ever leads his ministers to corrupt the pure doctrine with falsehoods. It is not then enough to proclaim the truth itself, except all the fallacies of the devil be also dissipated, of which there is at this day a manifest instance under the Papacy; for as the minds of almost all are there inebriated with many corrupt inventions, were any one only to shew that this or that is right, he would certainly never in this way eradicate errors from the hearts of men. And hence Paul bids bishops not only to be furnished with doctrine in order to shew the right way to the teachable, but also to be so armed as to be able to resist adversaries and to close their mouths. (<560109>Titus 1:9.)

Inasmuch then as from the beginning of the world Satan has never ceased to try and attempt, as far as he could, to corrupt the truth of God, or to immerse it in darkness, it has hence been always necessary for God’s servants to be prepared to do these two things — faithfully to teach the meek and humble, — and boldly to oppose the enemies of truth and break down their insolence. This is the rule which the Prophet now follows; he had exhorted the Jews to bear patiently the tyranny to which they were subject, because it was God’s yoke; but as on the other hand the false prophets boasted that there would be a return in two years, it was necessary for him to oppose them; on this point then he now speaks.

And that what he was going to say might have more weight, he speaks again in God’s name, Let not your prophets who are in the midst of you deceive you. For while Jeremiah had many adversaries at Jerusalem, the devil was also deceiving the miserable exiles in Chaldea. He then warns them not to believe these impostors; and though by way of concession he calls them prophets who were wholly unworthy of so honorable a name, he yet by way of reproach gives them afterwards the name of diviners. Then the first name refers to that outward profession in which they gloried, when they boasted that they were sent by God and brought his commands. He then conceded to them the name of prophets, but improperly, or as they say, catachristically; as the case is at this day; for we do not always fight about names, but we call those priests, bishops or prelates, who are so brutal that they ought not to be classed among men. In like manner, as it has already often appeared, the prophets spoke freely, and never hesitated to call those prophets who had already gained some estimation among the people. But that they might not be proud of such fallacious boasting, he afterwards designated them by another name; he called them diviners, and then dreamers; and afterwards he adds, Attend not to your dreams. He addresses here the whole people; and there were a few who, under the color and pretense of having a prophetic spirit, announced prophecies.

But Jeremiah did not without reason transfer to the whole people what belonged to a few; for we know that the devil’s ministers are cherished not only through the foolish credulity of men, but also through a depraved appetite. For the world is never deceived but willingly, and men, as though they were given up to their own destruction, seek for themselves falsehoods in every direction, and though unwilling to be deceived, they yet for the most part seek to be deceived. Were any one to ask, does the world wish to be deceived? all would cry out, from the least to the greatest, that they shun and fear nothing so much; and yet whence is it that as soon as Satan gives any sign, he attracts vast multitudes, except that we are by nature prone to what is false and vain? Then there is another evil, that we prefer darkness to light. Jeremiah then did no wrong to the people by telling them to beware of the dreams which, they dreamt.

Some indeed take ymljm, mechelmim, in a transitive sense, as it is in Hiphil, and ought to have been written here ymyljm, mechelimim; but it may be taken in the neuter gender. fE207

However this may be, the meaning of the Prophet is not ambiguous; for he imputes this to all the Jews, that they were deceived by vain dreams, and that the fault could not be confined to a few impostors, for it was an evil common to them all. And the pronoun ta, atere, is emphatical, ye, he says, dream; for he sets these false dreams in opposition to prophecies. We know that God formerly revealed his will either by visions or by dreams. There were then dreams, which were divine, of which God was the author. But he shews here that the people devised all these impostures for themselves, so that it availed them nothing to pretend that they were prophets, the interpreters of God, and that they announced what they had received by dreams; for what makes the difference is, whether one dreams from his own brain, or whether God reveals to him in a dream what ought to be deemed oracular. We now then understand the design of the Prophet. It follows, —

<242909>Jeremiah 29:9

9. For they prophesy falsely to you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.

9. Quoniam fallaciter (vel, in mendacio) ipsi prophetant vobis in nomine meo; non misi eos, dicit Jehova.

 

He confirms what he had said by this reason, that they ran without being called, according to what we found in <242321>Jeremiah 23:21. He then repudiates these false prophets, for they spoke not from the mouth of God. But the difference was rendered very obscure and indistinct, when they pompously alleged the name of God and professed that they brought forward nothing but what they had learnt from him; yet as we have elsewhere said, no one can be deceived except willingly and knowingly; for God never leaves his faithful people destitute of the spirit of discernment, provided they offer themselves cordially and sincerely to be taught by his true and legitimate servants. And then the Jews ought to have examined all the doctrines and all the prophecies by the rule of the Law. But if the Law was difficult to be understood, they ought, as I have said, to have sought of God the spirit of wisdom and discernment.

Jeremiah then did not without reason reject whatever the false prophets boasted of, for the purpose of gaining the approbation and applause of the people; for they were not sent nor approved by God. So also at this day, every one who wishes to distinguish with certainty between various doctrines, by which the world is agitated, nay, shaken, can without difficulty attain his object, provided he offers himself as a scholar to Christ, and connects the Law and the Prophets with the Gospel, and makes use of this rule to prove all doctrines; and provided in the meantime he trusts not to his own acumen, but submits himself to God and seeks of him the spirit of judgment and discrimination. It ought also to be observed, that in the same way the false prophets can be abundantly exposed when we thus shew that they are not sent by God; and we further convince them of vanity, when we prove their doctrine to be inconsistent with the Law and the Gospel.

However this may be, this principle ought to be held, that none ought to be attended to, but those who can shew that they bring messages from God and are furnished with his word. We have said elsewhere, that in order that any one may be accounted as sent by God, it is necessary, first, that he should be rightly called, and secondly, that he should faithfully execute his office; for whosoever thrusts in himself without the command of God, though he may speak what is true and holy, he yet deserves not the name of a Prophet or teacher; and then vocation itself will not be sufficient, except there be faithfulness and integrity. But what Jeremiah mainly insists on here is, that those who promised the people a return in a short time did not speak from the mouth of God: They prophesy falsely, he says, in my name; how? Because I have not sent them. It follows —

<242910>Jeremiah 29:10

10. For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

10. Quia sic dicit Jehova, secundum mensuram (nam talm accipitur metaphorice pro mensura; sed adhuc aspera esset loquutio, ideo simplicius vertendum est, quia ubi impleti fuerint) in Babylone septuaginta anni, visitabo vos, et suscitabo super vos sermonem meum bonum, ut reducam vos ad locum hunc.

 

In order to expose the dreams by which the false prophets had inebriated the people, he again repeats what he had said, that the end of their exile could not be expected until the end of seventy years. And this way of teaching ought to be particularly observed, for the truth of God will ever avail to dissipate all the mists in which Satan never ceases to envelop the pure truth. As then we have before seen, that when the people are imbued with any error, it ought to be boldly resisted; so now we see with what weapons all God’s servants ought to fight, in order to expose all those fallacies by which pure doctrine is assailed, even by setting in opposition to them the word of God: for this is the way which Jeremiah points out to us by his own example. He had spoken of the false prophets, he warned the people not to believe them; but as the minds of many were still vacillating, he confirms what he had said that they were not sent by God, because God never varies in his purpose, and never changes, and is never inconsistent with himself: “Now he has prefixed seventy years for your exile; whoever, then, tries to impugn that truth, is a professed and an open enemy to God.” We now perceive the object of the Prophet; When seventy years then shall be fulfilled, etc.  fE208

The Prophet here puts a restraint on the Jews, that they might not hasten before the time; and then he gives them the hope of a return, provided they quietly rested until the end fixed on by God. There are then two things in this verse, — that the people would ill consult their own good, if they hastened and promised to themselves a return before the end of seventy years, — and that when that time was completed, the hope of a return would be certain, for God had so promised.

He adds, And I will raise up my good word towards you. By good word he means what might bring joy to the Jews. Though God’s word is fatal to the unbelieving, yet it never changes its nature; it ever remains good. And hence Paul says that the Gospel is a fatal odor to many, but that it is, nevertheless, a sweet odor before God, (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16;) for it ought to be imputed to the fault of those who perish, that they receive not the doctrine of the Gospel to their own salvation. The word of God is then always good: but this commendation is to be referred to experience, that is, when God really shews that he is propitious to us. And a shorter definition cannot be given, than that the good word denotes the promises, by which God testifies his paternal favor. But we have seen elsewhere that threatenings are called an evil word: why so? This character cannot, indeed, as it has been just said, be suitably applied to God’s word; yet God’s word which threatens destruction is called evil, as it is said,

“I am he who create good and evil,” (<234507>Isaiah 45:7)

but it is so according to our apprehension of its effects. And all this reasoning seems nearly superfluous, when we understand that God by the word of evil strikes the unbelieving with fear, but that the Prophet now means no other thing than to bear testimony to God’s favor to the Jews: and hence he says, that they would find by experience, that God had not in vain promised what he had before mentioned.

But he is said to rouse up fE209 his good word, that is, when it produced its effects before their eyes; for when God only speaks, and the thing itself does not yet appear, his word seems in a manner to he dormant and to be useless. And for seventy years the Jews could perceive no other thing than that God was displeased with them, and thus they were continually in fear; for the promise continued as it were dormant, as its effects were not as yet visible. God then is said to rouse up his word, when he proves that he has not promised anything in vain. The meaning is, that the prophecy which Jeremiah had related would not be fruitless; but if the people did not soon know this, yet God, when the time came, would really prove that he deceives not his people, nor allures them when he promises anything, by vain hopes.

And the Prophet explains himself, for he says that God would restore them to their own country: for this was the good word, the promise of deliverance, as the word, according to what the people felt, was evil, and bitter, and bad, when God had threatened that he would cast away the reprobate. But it is an accidental thing, as I have said, that men find God’s word to be evil for them or adverse to them; for it proceeds from their own fault, and not from the nature of the word. It follows —

<242911>Jeremiah 29:11

11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

11. Quia ego cognosco cogitationes meas, quas ego cogito super vos, dicit Jehova, cogitationes pacis, et non in malum; ut dem vobis finem et expectationem.

 

He confirms the same thing, and employs many words, because it was difficult to raise up minds wholly broken down. For the world labors under two extreme evils, — they sink in despair, or are too much exalted by foolish pride: nay, there is no moderation except when ruled by God’s Spirit we recumb on his word; for when they devise vain hopes for themselves, they are immediately rapt up above the clouds, fly here and there, and in short think that they can climb into heaven; this is the excess of vain and foolish confidence: but when they are dejected, then they fall down wholly frightened, nay, being astonished and lifeless they lose every feeling, receive no comfort, and cannot taste of anything which God promises. And both these evils prevailed evidently among the Jews. We have seen how much the Prophet labored to lay prostrate their pride and arrogance; for they laughed at all threatenings, and remained ever secure; though God, as it were, with an armed hand and a drawn sword menaced them with certain destruction, yet nothing moved them. And when they were driven into exile, they were extremely credulous when the false prophets promised them a quick return; while, in the meantime, God, by his servants, shewed to them that he would be gracious to them, and after seventy years would become their deliverer; but they were deaf to all these things, nay, they rejected with disdain all these promises, and said,

“What! will God, forsooth, raise up the dead!”
(<263712>Ezekiel 37:12)

This, then, is the reason why the Prophet now speaks so largely of their future redemption: it was difficult to persuade the Jews; for as they thought that they would soon return to their own country, they could not endure delay, nor exercise the patience which God commanded. They were at the same time, as we have said, quite confident, inasmuch as the false prophets filled their minds with vain hopes.

He therefore says, I know the thoughts which I think towards you. Some think that God claims here, as what peculiarly belongs to him, the foreknowledge of future things; but this is foreign to the Prophet’s meaning. There is here, on the contrary, an implied contrast between the certain counsel of God, and the vain imaginations in which the Jews indulged themselves. The same thing is meant when Isaiah says,

“As far as the heavens are from the earth, so far are my thoughts from your thoughts,” (<235509>Isaiah 55:9)

for they were wont absurdly to measure God by their own ideas. When anything was promised, they reasoned about its validity, and looked on all surrounding circumstances; and thus they consulted only their own brains. Hence God reproved them, and shewed how preposterously they acted, and said, that his thoughts were as remote from their thoughts as heaven is from the earth. So also in this place, though the two parts are not here expressed; the Prophet’s object was no other than to shew, that the Jews ought to have surrendered themselves to God, and not to seek to be so acute as to understand how this or that would be done, but to feel convinced that what God had decreed could not be changed.

It must yet be remarked, that he speaks not here of his hidden and incomprehensible counsel. What then are the thoughts of which Jeremiah now speaks? They were those respecting the people’s deliverance, after the time was completed, for God had promised that he would then be propitious to his Church. We hence see that the question here is not about the hidden counsels of God, but that the reference is simply to the word which was well known to the Jews, even to the prophecy of Jeremiah, by which he had predicted that the Jews would be exiles for seventy years, and would at last find that their punishment would be only a small chastisement, as it would only be for a time: I know then my thoughts. But still he indirectly condemns the Jews, because they entertained no hope of deliverance except from what came within the reach of their senses. He then teaches us that true wisdom is to obey God, and to surrender ourselves to him; and that when we understand not his counsel, we ought resignedly to wait until the due time shall come.

He says that they were thoughts of peace, fE210 that is, of benevolence. Peace, as it has been often said, is taken for felicity, as in <242907>Jeremiah 29:7,

“For the peace of Babylon shall be your peace;”

that is, if Babylon be prosperous, you shall be partakers of the same happiness. So now, in this place, God declares that his thoughts were those of peace, for he designed really to shew by the effect his paternal kindness towards his people.

He afterwards adds, that 1 may give you the end and the expectation. By tyrja, achrit, which means in Hebrew the last thing, we are to understand here the end, as though he had said, that it was to be deemed as final ruin, when people had been driven away to a foreign land. For it was no small trial when the Jews were deprived of that land which was the rest and habitation of God; it was the same as though they had been cut off from every hope: it was then a sort of repudiation, and repudiation was a kind of death. But here God declares that he would put an end to their exile, as it was to be only for a time. It is hence to be inferred, that the people did not perish when they were led into exile, but that they were only chastised by God’s hand.

He adds expectation, which Jerome has rendered “patience,” but in a very forced manner. There is, indeed, no doubt but that by this second word the Prophet more fully and clearly expressed what he meant by the first word, tyrja, achrit, even the end that was wished or desired, I will then give you the end, even that ye may enjoy the promises, as ye wish and expect, and ought to hope for, since God has made them. fE211 Here I will make an end.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased kindly to shew to us thy paternal love, and givest us daily a testimony of it in thy Gospel, — O grant, that we may not go astray, following our vagrant and erring thoughts, but acquiesce in thy simple truth; and though we must be exercised in this world by many conflicts, as our life is to be as it were a continual warfare, may we yet never doubt but that there is prepared for us a sure rest in heaven through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Eleventh

<242912>Jeremiah 29:12

12. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

12. Et invocabitis me et ibitis; et orabitis me, et exaudiam vos.

 

Jeremiah pursues the same subject, even that the Jews, after having undergone the punishment allotted to them by God, would at length return to their own country and find God merciful, and hence learn that their chastisement in exile would prove useful to them. He had indeed in the last verse explained this with sufficient clearness, but he now expresses the manner; and that would be by calling on God. he uses two words, Ye shall call on me, he says, and pray. The verb put between these two tklh, elcatem, is regarded almost by all as referring to a right course of life, as though the Prophet had said, that those who before wandered after their own lusts would now walk in the way of God, that is, in his Law; but this seems to me to be too forced an explanation. I doubt not then, but that the Prophet here indirectly reproves the indifference of the people in not immediately acknowledging that they were chastised by God’s hand, that they ought in due time to repent. To go then or to walk is the same thing, in my judgment, as though he had said, “After having suffered the exile, not of one year, but of seventy years, ye shall then begin to be wise.”

It was not only sloth but stupidity, that they were not subdued by God’s scourges so as to call on him; but as they were of a disposition so rude and refractory the Prophet here briefly reminds them that many years had been necessary to subdue them, as twenty or thirty years were not sufficient. We now then understand the design of the word qlh, elek, to walk.  fE212 The meaning then is, that after having profited under the scourges of God, they would become humble so as to deprecate his wrath.

But there is added a promise, that God would hear them. It may however appear, that God promised conversion even in the first clause; and, no doubt, prayer is the fruit of repentance, for it proceeds from faith; and repentance is the gift of God. And further, we cannot call on God rightly and sincerely except by the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit; for he it is who not only dictates our words, but also creates groanings in our hearts. And thus Augustin, writing against the Pelagians, understands the passage, and proves that it is not in the power of man either to convert himself or to pray; “for God,” he says, “would in vain promise what is in the power of man to do; and this is the promise, ye shall pray; it then follows, that we do not pray through the impulse of our own flesh, but when the Holy Spirit directs our hearts, and in a manner prays in us.” I do not, however, know whether the Prophet intended to speak in so refined a manner. From other passages of Scripture it is easy to prove, that we cannot pray to God, except he anticipates us by his own Spirit. But as to this passage, I prefer to take a simpler meaning, that God would hear, when they began to pray; but yet he shews that it would not be after a short space of time, because they were almost untameable, and would not repent until after many years. It follows, —

<242913>Jeremiah 29:13

13. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

13. Et quaeretis me, et invenietis, quia quaeretis in toto corde vestro.

 

He confirms in other words the same thing; and yet the repetition, as we said yesterday, is not useless; for as the Jews perversely despised all threatenings, so it was difficult for them to receive any taste of God’s goodness from his promises. This then is the reason why the Prophet employs many words on this subject. By the word seek, he means prayers and supplications, as mentioned in the last verse. And Christ also, exhorting his disciples to pray, says, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” There is no doubt but that he speaks there of prayer; he yet adopted various modes of speaking, derived from the common habits of men. But to seek, when we feel the need of God’s grace, is nothing else than to pray. Hence the Prophet says, ye shall seek me and ye shall find me. And though he addresses here the Israelites, yet this doctrine ought to be extended to the whole Church; for God testifies that he will be propitious to all who flee to him.

But as hypocrites are abundantly noisy, and seem to surpass the very saints in the ardor of their zeal, when the external profession is only regarded, the Prophet adds, Because fE213 ye shall seek me with your whole heart. There is no doubt but that the Jews groaned a thousand times every year when oppressed by the Chaldeans; for they had to bear all kind of reproaches, and then they had nothing safe or secure. They were therefore under the necessity, except they were harder than iron, to offer some prayers. But God shews that the seasonable time would not come, until their prayers proceeded from a right feeling; this he means by the whole heart. It is indeed certain that men never turn to God with their whole heart, nor is the whole heart ever so much engaged in prayer as it ought to be; but the Prophet sets the whole heart in opposition to a double heart. Perfection, then, is not what is to be understood here, which can never be found in men, but integrity or sincerity.

We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet’s words, — that the Jews, when they began in earnest to flee to God, would find him propitious, provided only they did this in sincerity of heart and not in dissimulation; and also that this would not take place soon, for their hardness and obstinacy were greater than that they could be brought to repent in a short time. Therefore God reminds them that there was need of many evils, so that they might at length turn and divest themselves of that perverseness to which they had wholly surrendered themselves.

Now the whole of this, as I have already observed, ought to be applied to the benefit of the Church; for this promise is to be extended to all the godly, — that when they call on God in their miseries, he will hear them. And Jeremiah seems to have taken this sentence from Isaiah,

“As soon as thou callest on me, I will hear thee; before thou speakest, I will stretch forth my hand.” (<235809>Isaiah 58:9)

And this circumstance also ought to be noticed, that the Prophet addressed the Jews who were miserably oppressed. Let us then know that this sentence is rightly addressed to those in distress, who seem to have God against them and displeased with them; and this is the seasonable time which is mentioned by David in <193206>Psalm 32:6.

This passage also teaches us, that it is no wonder that the Lord doubles his scourges and does not immediately pardon us, because we are not so ready to bend as to return to him on the first day. He is therefore constrained by our perverseness to chastise us for a longer time; and yet this promise is still to be held valid, that if we even late repent, God will be still propitious to us, only that the reprobate are not under this pretext to indulge in their vices; for we see that profane men trifle with God, and wickedly abuse his paternal indulgence. Let the sinner then beware lest he should lay up for himself a store of vengeance, if he waits till the end of life. But there is still a hope set before those who have been long torpid in their sins, that if they at length come, though late, they shall still come in time, for God will hear them. But the exception ought to be carefully observed, that God will not be intreated, except he is sought with the whole heart, that is, in sincerity. So there is no reason for us to wonder that his ears are often closed to our prayers, because we only pretend to seek him, and that we are endued with no sincerity appears from our life. It now follows, —

<242914>Jeremiah 29:14

14. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord; and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

14. Et inveniar a vobis, dicit Jehova, et reducam captivitatem vestram, et colligam (vel, congregabo) vox ex omnibus gentibus et ex omnibus locis quo expulero vos illue, dicit Jehova; et redire faciam vos ad locum e quo expuli vos illinc (abundat).

 

The Prophet now applies what he seemed to have spoken generally. He then shews the effect of God’s favor, after having been reconciled to his people, even that he would restore their captivity, and gather them from all places. This was particularly said to the Jews; but the two former verses contain, as I have said, a general doctrine. He had before said, Ye shall find me; but he says now, I shall be found by you, or, I will shew myself to you. There is an implied contrast between the hiding and the manifestation, for God had in a manner hid himself during the time of exile; but he suddenly made his face to shine forth, and thus manifested himself as a Father, after having apparently forgotten his people. Suitably then does the Prophet speak here; for though the Lord ever looks on us, we on the other hand do not see him, nay, we think that he is far from us. But he then only appears to us, when we perceive that he cares for our salvation.

By saying, from all nations and from all places, he evidently obviated a doubt which otherwise might have crept into the minds of many, “How can it ever be that God will gather us after we have been thus dispersed?” For no certain region had been allotted to them, in which they might dwell together so as to form one body; but they had been scattered as by a violent whirlwind like chaff or stubble; and God had so driven them away that there was no hope of being again gathered. As then it was incredible, that a people so dispersed could be collected together, the Prophet says, “from all nations and from all places.” The same thing is declared in the Psalm,

“He will gather the dispersions of Israel.” (<19E702>Psalm 147:2)

For when the Jews looked on their dreadful dispersion, they could entertain no hope. We see then how the Prophet encouraged them still to hope, and bade them to struggle against this trial. The sentence seems to have been taken from Moses, for he says,

“Though you be scattered through the extreme parts of the world, yet God will gather you.” (<053001>Deuteronomy 30:1-3)

We see that Moses there expressly reproves the unbelief of the people, if they despaired of God’s mercy and salvation, because they were torn and scattered. he therefore shews that God’s power was abundantly sufficient to collect them again, though they were scattered to the four quarters of the world. We now perceive the object of the Prophet.  fE213

And hence we may gather a useful doctrine, — that God in a wonderful manner gathers his Church when scattered, so as to form it into one body, however he may for a time obliterate its name and even its very appearance. And of this he has given us some proof in our time. For who could have thought that what we now see with our eyes, would ever take place? that God would in a secret manner gather his elect, when there was everywhere a dreadful desolation, and no corner found in the world where two or three faithful men could dwell together. We hence see that this prophecy has not been fulfilled only at one time, but that the grace of God is here set forth, which he has often manifested, and still manifests in gathering his Church. It follows, —

<242915>Jeremiah 29:15-17

15. Because ye have said, The Lord hath raised us up prophets in Babylon;

15. Quoniam dixistis, Excitabit nobis Jehova prophetas in Babylone;

16. Know that thus saith the Lord of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity;

16. Ideo sic dicit Jehova regi sedenti super solium Davidis et toti populo sedenti in hac urbe (hoc est, habitanti, nam bwy hic diversis modis accipitur,) fratribus vestris, qui non egressi sunt vobiscum in exilium;

17. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

17. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce ego mitto in eos gladium, famem, pestem; et ponam eos tanquam ficus sordidas (aut, foetidas,) quae non comeduntur prae malitia ( id est, prae amaritudine.)

 

Many interpreters connect the first of these verses with the preceding ones, and they seem not to think so without reason; for the reason given is not unsuitable, if we refer to what the Prophet had said, even that the Jews were by no means to hope for a return until the end of seventy years. But the meaning I adopt is more probable; the particle yk, ki, is repeated; the first is causal, and the second an illative; fE214 and consistently with the usage of Scripture the learned and the experienced think that this is the real meaning of the Prophet. He then says, that the captives were very foolish who hoped for a quick end to their exile, because they had false prophets who gave them such a promise; ye have then said, that prophets have been given you, in Chaldea, and that God had there pitied you, because there are those who prophesy of a return in a short time. As then ye are so foolishly credulous, Thus saith Jehovah to your brethren, he then turns his discourse to the exiles, and exhorts them not to suffer themselves to be led astray. But here he indirectly reproves them, because they could not bear a condition which was even better than that of the residue, as though he had said, “What means this your unreasonableness! that when all your ways are closed up against you, and the power of your conqueror is so great that ye cannot move a finger without his nod, ye should yet think that you shall be set free in two years! and surely if you were before foolishly secure and confident, your calamities ought now to make you humble. But your brethren, who seem yet to enjoy liberty because they dwell at Jerusalem, (for those alone were then remaining,) even these your brethren suffer far more grievously than ye do.”

We now perceive for what purpose the Prophet, after having addressed the captives, turned his discourse to King Zedekiah and to the Jews, who as yet remained at home or in their own country; it was, that the captives might hence know how great was their madness to promise to themselves a return, after having been driven to remote lands, when final ruin was nigh both the king and the people, who as yet remained at Jerusalem; Thus then saith Jehovah to the king who sits on the throne of David, and to all the people who sit in this city, etc.

To sit, as I have already said, is to be taken here in two different senses; the king is said to sit on his throne while he retains his dignity; but the people are said to sit while they rest and dwell quietly in any place. It is not without reason that the word king is here expressly mentioned, for the exiles were ever wont to connect it with the hope of their return; “The Temple still remains, God is there worshipped, and the kingdom still exists; these things being secure, it cannot be all over with our nation.” The safety of the people depended on the kingdom and the priesthood. When therefore, on the one hand, they fixed their eyes on royalty, and on the other hand, on the priesthood and sacrifices, they felt persuaded that it could not be otherwise but that God would soon restore them; for God had promised that the kingdom of David would be perpetual, as long as the sun and moon would shine in heaven. Except then this splendor or glory had been extinguished, the Israelites could not have been humiliated, especially as those who had been led into exile were of the tribe of Judah. We now understand why the word king was expressly mentioned. Though, then, a king still sat on the throne of David, he yet declares that his condition and that of his people was harder than that of the captive multitude.

He says, I will pursue them with the sword, and famine, and pestilence. The surrender of Jeconiah, as we have elsewhere seen, was voluntary; he was therefore more kindly received by the king of Babylon. At length the city was attacked, and as the siege was long, there was more rage felt against the king and the whole people, for the Chaldeans had been wearied by their obstinacy. Hence it was, that they dealt more severely with them. But nothing happened except through the just vengeance of God; for though they exasperated the Chaldeans, there is no doubt but that God blinded their minds so that they procured for themselves a heavier judgment. It was, then, a punishment inflicted on them by God; and hence rightly does Jeremiah testify that God was the author of those calamities, for the Chaldeans, as we have seen elsewhere, were only ministers and executioners of God’s vengeance; Jehovah of hosts then says, Behold, I will pursue you, etc.

He then adds, And I will make them like worthless figs. He calls the figs here yr[, sherim, worthless; but in the twenty-fourth chapter he called them bad; still the meaning is the same. There is no doubt but that he refers to the prophecy which we there explained. For the Prophet saw two baskets of figs, in one of which were sweet figs, and in the other bitter. God asked, “What seest thou?” he said, “Good figs, very good, and bad figs, very bad.” God afterwards added, “The good and sweet figs are the captives; for I will at length shew mercy to them, and liberty to return shall be given them. They shall then be good figs, though now a different opinion is formed; for they who still lived at Jerusalem, think themselves more happy than the exiles; but the bad and bitter figs,” he says, “are this people who pride themselves, because they have not been led into captivity; for I will consume them with the pestilence, and the famine, and the sword.” This was the Prophet’s language in that passage. He now again declares that King Zedekiah and all the people would be like bitter and putrid figs, which, being so bad, are not fit to be eaten. He then adds, —

<242918>Jeremiah 29:18-19

18. And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment; and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them.

18. Et persequar (ad verbum est, post eos: persequar eos) gladio, fame et peste; et ponam eos in commotionem (vel, concussionem) cunctis regnis terrae, in execrationem, et in stuporem, et in sibilum, et in probrum inter cunctas gentes ad quas expulero eos (vel, quo expulero eos illuc:)

19. Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the Lord, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the Lord.

19. Propterea quod non audierunt sermones meos, inquit Jehovah, quos misi ad eos peer servos meos Prophetas, mane surgendo et mittendo; et non audistis, inquit Jehova.

 

He goes on with the same subject, — that he would not cease to consume them with pestilence, famine, and the sword, until he wholly destroyed them, according to what we find in the twenty-fourth chapter. He repeats what is in that chapter; but the words are taken from the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, and from the twenty-ninth. The prophets, we know, drew the substance of their doctrine from the fountain of the Law, and, strictly speaking, brought forward nothing new, but accommodated the doctrine of Moses to the circumstances of the time in which each lived.

Hence we find among the curses of the Law these words, I will set them for a commotion, or a concussion. The word may be explained in two ways, — either that the nations would tremble at such a sad spectacle, — or that they would shake their head. The second view is to be preferred, according to what I have stated elsewhere, I will then set them for a commotion, that is, every one who shall see their miseries, will shake his head in contempt, as though he had said, “All will assent to the just vengeance of God, and ye shall be objects of reproach among all the heathens; for all will acknowledge that ye suffer most justly for your sins.”

He adds, for a curse. The word hla, ale, is properly an oath, but is taken in many places for a curse, which is introduced or understood when we swear. But as men often expose themselves to punishment for perjury, the word means, frequently, a curse; and what is to be understood, as it has been explained elsewhere, is a pattern or formula of a curse; and we have seen in what sense the Prophet said this, that is, that every one who wished to curse himself or others, or to imprecate, as they say, some dire things, would take the Jews for an example, “May God curse thee as he did the Jews;” or, “May he draw forth his severity to thy ruin, as he did to the Jews.” He then says that they would be for a curse, that is, that they would be so miserable that they would be taken as an example in imprecations.

He afterwards adds, for an astonishment, as he had spoken of the shaking of the head, so now he mentions astonishment, which is something more grievous, that is, when such a spectacle presents itself as makes all men to stand astonished, as not knowing what it means. Hissing is mentioned; as it is said elsewhere that they would be a proverb, lm, meshel, and also a taunt, so Jeremiah says in this place, that they would be a hissing, as he has spoken of the shaking of the head.

And lastly he adds, that they would be a reproach even to all nations, for all would deem them worthy of their calamities, however grievous they were, when a comparison would be made between their iniquities and God’s vengeance. The reason follows, because they hearkened not to God. But I cannot now finish.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast given so remarkable a proof both of thy wrath and of thy paternal kindness in thy dealings with thine ancient people, — O grant, that we may not by our obstinacy provoke thine extreme wrath, but in time anticipate thy judgment, so that we may find thee reconcilable, and never doubt but that thou wilt be merciful to us when we sincerely turn to thee; and as we are so prone to all evil, yea, and rush headlong into it, and as our wickedness and hardness are so great, grant to us, we pray thee, the spirit of meekness, that we may in all things submit ourselves to thee, and thus render ourselves thy children, that we may also find thee to be our Father in thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Twelfth

The Prophet, after having denounced God’s judgment on those who remained in their own country as well as on the exiles, subjoins this reason, because they hearkened not to the word of the Lord; and this was a most grievous sin. Though ignorance is no excuse before God, for those who are without the Law must perish; yet the servant who knew his Lord’s will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. And the more abundant God’s grace is in calling us to the right way of salvation, the more base is our ingratitude when we close our ears and disregard the concern and care which he manifests for our salvation. Let us then know that nothing is less tolerable than the rejection of the prophetic word.

And we must notice what follows, which I sent them by my servants the prophets. The Jews might have otherwise objected and said, that they did not intend to be rebellious against God, but that there were many contentions among the prophets. Lest, then, they should seek an evasion by a pretense of this kind, he says that the word, brought by his ministers and witnesses the prophets, was worthy of no less reverence than if angels came down from heaven to them. And this passage serves to shew the use of external doctrine, which fanatical men despise, thinking the hidden word sufficient, that is, whatever they may dream. But God thus proves the obedience of our faith, while he rules us by the hand and labor of men. Whosoever then rejects the faithful teachers of the word, shews that he is a despiser of God himself. The meaning is, that God defines his word, not as an oracle of any kind, but as the doctrine which has been deposited with faithful teachers.

He afterwards adds, rising up early and sending. The metaphor is taken from men who are sedulous and diligent. We indeed know that God never awakes and never changes place; but he could not otherwise express his paternal care toward his people, as though he had said, that he was sedulously engaged in admonishing them. And thus the more inexcusable was rendered the sloth of the people; for God hastened as it were to rise up early, as they who spare no labor, but willingly deprive themselves of some portion of their sleep, that they may complete their work or their journey. As God then manifested so much diligence in securing the wellbeing of men, the more shameful is the sloth of men, when they become deaf, or are not moved, but remain in their indifference. It now follows, —

<242920>Jeremiah 29:20-21

20. Hear ye therefore the word of the Lord, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon;

20. Et vos audite sermonem Jehovae cuncta captivitas, quam misi Jerosolyma Babylonem;

21. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name, Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes:

21. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, ad Achab filium Colaniah, et ad Zedechiam filium Maassiae, prophetantes vobis in nomine meo mendacium, Ecce ego ponam eos (vel, tradam) in manum Nebuehadnezer regis Babylonis; et percutiet eos coram oculis vestris:

 

Jeremiah announces a special prophecy, but in confirmation of his former doctrine. His object is still the same, to prevent the captives, as they had begun, to listen to flatteries, and to make them feel assured that they were to bear their exile till the end of seventy years. But he speaks here of three impostors; he connects two of them together, and mentions the third by himself. He directs his discourse especially to all the captives, for he deigned not to address those who professed to be God’s enemies, and sold themselves as slaves to the devil for the purpose of deceiving. It was therefore useless to spend labor on them. But he addressed the whole people, and at the same time foretold what would happen to these two false prophets, even Ahab and Zedekiah. He calls one the son of Kolaiah, and the other the son of Maaseiah; for Ahab was a name then in frequent use, and Zedekiah was a name which, on account of the memory of a pious and godly king, was in high esteem among the good. To prevent then any mistake, he mentioned their fathers.

The import of the prophecy is, that a judgment would soon overtake them, as they would be killed by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were in exile, but such madness had possessed them, that they hesitated not to provoke the wrath of that tyrant whom they knew to be cruel and bloody. Then Jeremiah declares, that as they thus deceived the people, they would soon be punished, as Nebuchadnezzar would slay them. There is yet no doubt but that Nebuchadnezzar had regard to his own private advantage; for before they were brought before him, he wished to allay every cause of tumult. As they ceased not to encourage the hope of a speedy return, without some check, it could not be otherwise but that frequent disturbances would arise. Therefore Nebuchadnezzar, as it is usual with earthly kings, consulted his own benefit. But he was in the meantime the servant of God; for those two impostors who had promised a return to the people, were to be exposed to contempt. Their death then disclosed their vanity, for it thereby appeared that they were not sent by God. It is indeed true that God’s faithful servants are often cruelly treated, nay, even slain by the ungodly. But the case was different as to these two. For they were not proved guilty of falsehood, because they happened to have unhappily prophesied, but because they raised up a standard as it were, and said, that the people would soon return to their own country; and hence it was that they were slain. We then see that what would take place was not without reason foretold by Jeremiah; for from their death it might have been concluded, that whatever they had promised respecting the return of the people, were mere fallacies; and they were slain even before the time which they had predicted. We now perceive the meaning. We shall now notice the words.

He says, Hear ye, the, whole captivity, the word of Jehovah. He would have the Jews to be attentive, for if a thousand impostors had been killed, yet their faith in falsehood would never have been destroyed, had not Jeremiah prophesied before the time what would take place. He then sits here as a judge; for though Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be killed, yet it appears evident that it was ordained by God, and indeed for this end, that the people might learn to repent. We hence see that Jeremiah was their judge; and Nebuchadnezzar afterwards executed what God by the mouth of his servant had pronounced as a judgment. This is the reason why he addressed his words to the whole people.

He yet at the same time adds, that they had been sent by God, whom I have sent, etc. and he said this, in order that they might not imagine that they went there by chance or by adverse fortune, and that they might acknowledge that when they were deprived of their own country, it was a just punishment for their sins.

By saying, I will give (or deliver) them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the Prophet still more clearly expresses what I have just said, that they would be thus slain by the order of the king, because God had determined what was to be done to them. And he assigns the cause of their death or mentions its author, that the Jews might not fix their eyes on the king of Babylon. What had Nebuchadnezzar in view? to preserve a peaceable kingdom; he saw the danger of a tumult if he pardoned these two men, who had disturbed the people. Lest, then, the Jews should look only on the design of the king, God here sets before them another and a higher reason, even because they prophesied falsely in his name. A clearer explanation follows, —

<242922>Jeremiah 29:22

22. And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The Lord make thee like Zedekiah, and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;

22. Et sumetur ab ipsis maledictio apud omnem captivatem Jehjudah, quae ist in Babylone, dicendo, Statuat to Jehova ut Zedechiam et sicut Achab, quos combussit rex Babylonis igni (vel, ustalavit, vel, frixit etiam, ut alii vertunt; hlq non tantum significat comburere, sed ustulare, vel paulatim urere, quod idem est, sed Hieronymus vertit fuisse frictos;)

 

Here we are to notice the circumstances; for if Jeremiah had only spoken of their death, the Jews might still have been doubtful whether he had delivered a prophecy; but when now is added what kind of punishment was inflicted on them, Jeremiah points out as by the finger what was as yet unknown, and even incredible. It might indeed have happened to the captives that the king should order them to be slain, but it could not have occurred to any man to suppose what Jeremiah declares, that they would be roasted  fE217 in the fire. We hence see that God here obviates the evasions of perverse minds, so that there would be no room for evading, when he specifies the very kind of death which they were to undergo.

But he says first, Taken from them shall be a curse, that is, the form of cursing. Mentioned yesterday was hla, ale, an oath; he puts down now hllq, kolle; and llq, koll, is to curse. The meaning then is, that they would become an exemplar of a curse to all the captives, who would say, May God make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab whom the king of Babylon roasted. The cause of their death is again repeated; and the Prophet did not without reason dwell on this, that he might turn away the eyes of the people from the immediate cause, which was commonly known, that is, that Nebuchadnezzar would not endure any tumults to be raised in his dominions; that they might therefore acknowledge God to be the author of this punishment, he says, —

<242923>Jeremiah 29:23

23. Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have commited adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord.

23. Propterea quod fecerunt (vel, patrarunt) flagitium in Israel, et scortati sunt cum uxoribus sociorum suorum, et locuti sunt sermonem in nomine meo mendaciter; quod (vel, quem sermonem) non mandaveram ipsis; ego autem sum cognitor et testis, dicit Jehova.

 

We perceive why the Prophet mentions the cause of their death; it was, that the Jews might regard the event, not according to their own thoughts, but that they might feel assured that God took vengeance on the impiety of those who had falsely pretended his name. For we know that we always look here and there, and that when we find an immediate cause, we neglect and esteem as nothing the judgments of God. In order then to correct this evil, Jeremiah again repeats that Zedekiah and Ahab were not punished by the king of Babylon, but by God himself, because they committed villany in Israel. Some render, hlbn, nubele, enormity or abomination; but I am disposed to render it villany, or turpitude, or filthiness.  fE218 They, then, committed a filthy thing. He afterwards specifies two kinds, that they committed adultery with the wives of their friends, and that they falsely prophesied in the name of God.

By the first clause we see how great was the stupidity of the people, for they did not consider what was the life of those who pretended to be witnesses for God, as though they were angels come down from heaven. Their wickedness might indeed have been concealed; but there is no doubt but that the Jews were extremely stupid, for they had willingly seized on the vain promises, which afforded them gratification. As, then, they were anxious to return, and wished to be restored to their own country as it were against the will of God, and sought to break through all obstacles by the force of their own obstinacy; it was a just punishment, that they were so blinded as not to see what was yet sufficiently manifest, even that these vaunting prophets were adulterers, and that the filthiness of their life was so great, that it was certain that they had nothing divine or heavenly in them.

Then there is another kind of evil added, that they prophesied falsely in God’s name. This was an atrocious crime; for as his truth is precious to God, so it is a sacrilege that he cannot bear, when his truth is turned into falsehood. But as the minds of them all were so corrupted, that no one would open his eyes, God testifies, that though their adulteries might be unknown to the people, that though their vanity in their false prophecies might not be perceived, yet it was enough that he knew and was a witness.

Now this passage is worthy of special notice; for hypocrites, until they find that they are proved guilty before men, fear nothing, nay, they haughtily exalt themselves, even when things are justly laid to their charge. Since, then, the hardness and dishonesty of hypocrites are so great, it is necessary to summon them before God’s tribunal, that they may know that they may a hundred times be acquitted by the world, and yet that this derogates nothing from God’s judgment. It now follows —

<242924>Jeremiah 29:24-27

24. Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,

24. Et ad Semaiah Nehelamitem dices, dicendo, (sic dices,)

25. Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying,

25. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, dicendo, Propterea quod tu misisti in nomine meo literas ad totum populum, qui est Jerosolymae, et ad Zephaniam filium Maassiae, et ad cunctos sacerdotes, dicendo,

26. The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.

26. Jehova posuit to (vel, constituit to) sacerdotem pro Jehoiada sacerdote, ut sitis praefecti domus Jehovae super omnem virum insanum (vel, arreptitium) et prophetantem, ut ponas ipsum in carcem (alii vertunt, in cippum) et in compedes (vel, manicas, quod aliis magis placet.)

27. Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?

27. Et tu quare non increpuisti Jeremiam Anathotitem, qui prophetat vobis?

 

Here Jeremiah prophesies respecting a third person, who had written a letter to the priests and to the whole people against himself, and had expostulated with the chief priest and with others, because Jeremiah had, with impunity, long exhorted the people to bear their long exile. This is the import of the passage; but as to his punishment we shall see what it was at the end of the chapter. I did not wish to give the whole, because I cannot finish this prophecy today. I have therefore taken the former part only, even that Shemaiah had not only encouraged the people, as others did, to hope for a return, and to raise a commotion, but had also scattered his poison at Jerusalem, and had endeavored to load Jeremiah with ill-will, that he might be slain as a false prophet, and an enemy to the public good, as well as to the Law and the Temple.

Thou shalt then say to or of Shemaiah, for la, al, may be taken in either sense.  fE219 His crime is now related, we shall hereafter see what his punishment was. His crime was, that he wrote in God’s name. Had he only been a fanner of cruelty, he would have deserved no pardon; but his crime was doubled, for he dared to pretend the authority of God, and to boast that he was as it were his scribe, as though he had said that his letter had been dictated by the Holy Spirit, that he had not spoken his own thoughts, or presumptuously, but that God could not endure the liberty given to Jeremiah; for though he continually preached of long exile, yet the chief-priest suffered him, and no one of the whole priestly order opposed him; and at the same time he blames the people for their indulgence. That he did all this in God’s name was far more grievous than if he had written as a private individual. And it is said that he had written to the whole people, even in order that they might all in a body unite against Jeremiah. For, had he written only to the priests, they might have objected that they were not at liberty to act so violently against Jeremiah, as sedition might be raised. We hence see the craft of this base man; though he despised the people, yet that all of them, even the least, might help the priests to do this act of cruelty, and that there might be the union of all, he included the whole people in his letter.

He afterwards mentioned the priest and all the priests. The word priest, in the singular number, meant the high-priest: then the priests were not only those descended from Aaron, but all the Levites. There was the high-priest, and then the descendants of Aaron were the chief, and, as it were, the colleagues of the high priest; but the Levites were an inferior order, though here by the priests he means also the Levites.

Here follows the subject of the letter, Jehovah hath made thee a priest, etc. Here the impostor Shemaiah accuses the high-priest of ingratitude, because he had been chosen in the place of another. For it is probable that Jehoiada was still living, but that he had been led away into Chaldea with the other exiles. As then so high a dignity had, beyond hope, and before the time, come to the high-priest, the false prophet reproves him, because he did not rightly acknowledge this favor of God, as though he had said, that he was rendering an unworthy reward to God, who had raised him to that high station: God, he said, hath made thee a priest in the place of Jehoiada the priest. Thus the ministers of Satan transform themselves into angels of light; and yet they cannot so dexterously imitate God’s servants, but that their deceit makes itself presently known; for craftiness is very different from a right and prudent counsel. God endues his servants with counsel and wisdom; but Satan, with craft and guile. Though, then, at the first view, some artifice appears in this letter of the false prophet, yet we may gather from its contents, that he falsely pretended the name of God, that he falsely alleged that the chief priest was chosen in the place of Jehoiada. That ye should be, he says: at first he addresses the high-priest, but now he includes also others, that ye should be the keepers, or the rulers of the house of God.  fE220 For though the chief power was in the high-priest, yet as he could not alone undertake everything, it was necessary for him to have others connected with him. This is the reason why Shemaiah not only says that the high-priest was a ruler in the Temple of God, but after having placed him in the highest honor, mentions also others.

He says against every man that is mad; so [gm, meshego, is rendered by Jerome, and I think not unsuitably; for the word means properly one that is insane: but this was applied to false teachers, because they boasted that they were under a divine impulse, when they spoke their own thoughts. This appears evident from the ninth chapter of Hosea, where it is said that the people would at length acknowledge that the prophets, who had flattered them, were insane, and that the men of the Spirit were mad. The Prophet conceded to them both names, that they were prophets and men of the Spirit, that is, spiritual; but he proved that they had only the names and not the reality: for prophets were called spiritual men, because God inspired them with his Spirit; but the ungodly, when they wished to revile the true prophets, called them mad. So did they speak who were with Jehu, when a prophet came to anoint him, “What means this mad fellow?” this word [gm, meshego, is what they used; and they called him in contempt mad, who had yet spoken by the secret impulse of the Spirit. (<120911>2 Kings 9:11.) So, in like manner, do the ungodly rave in contempt of God against everything found in Scripture. fE221

But as it has been already stated, it was necessary to distinguish between the true servants of God and those only in name; for many boasted that they were called by God, and yet were impostors. God then called these mad and insane; but what did the ungodly do? they transferred the reproach to the lawful servants of God. So, in this place, Shemaiah says, that Jeremiah was mad, who falsely pretended the name of God, and prophesied falsely.

He adds, That thou shouldest put him in prison, or cast him into prison or the stocks, as some render the word. Then he says, in manacles, that is, thou shouldest bind him, until his impiety be known, so that thou mayest detain him in prison.  fE222 It is, indeed, probable that the chief priests had assumed this power during the disordered state of things. This proceeding no doubt resulted from a good principle; for God ever designed that his Church should be well governed: he therefore commanded in his Law, that when any dispute or question arose, the chief priest was to be the judge, (<051708>Deuteronomy 17:8, 9; ) but when mention is here made of prison and of manacles, it: was an act, no doubt, beyond the Law. It is therefore probable that it was added to the Law of God when the state of things was in disorder and confusion among the Jews. And whence was the origin of the evil? from the ignorance and sloth of the priests. They ought to have been the messengers of the God of hosts, the interpreters of the Law, the truth ought to have been sought from their mouth; but they were dumb dogs, nay, they had so degenerated, that nothing priestly was found in them; they had forgotten the Law, there was no religion in them. As then they had neglected their office, it was necessary to choose other prophets: and as we have said elsewhere, it was as it were accidental that God raised up prophets from the common people. There was, indeed, a necessity of having prophets always in the ancient Church; but God would have taken them from the Levites, except that he designed to expose them to reproach before the whole people, when he made prophets even of herdsmen, as in the case of Amos.

As then the priests suffered the prophetic office to be transferred to the common people, a new way was devised, that it might, not be any loss to them, as under the Papacy; for we know that bishops are for no other reason made rulers in the Church, but that there might be pastors and teachers. For of what use could these asses be, whom we know to be for the most part destitute of any learning? What could these men do, who are profane, and given up to their own pleasures and enjoyments? In short, what could gamesters and panders do? for such are almost all the Papal bishops. It was therefore necessary to give up their office to brawling monks, “You shall teach, for we resign to you the pulpits.” But, at the same time, they retained the power of judgment in their own hands: when any controversy arose, neither the noisy brawlers nor the dumb beasts could of themselves decide anything; for ignorance prevented the latter, and power was wanting to the former. How, then, did the bishops formerly condemn heretics? and how do they condemn them still? Why, thus: When one was a Carmelite, they called in the Franciscans; and when one was an Augustinian, the Dominicans were summoned. For, as I have said, these mute animals had no knowledge nor wisdom. And yet a certain dignity was maintained by the bishops or their vicars, when they pronounced sentence in condemning heretics. And such was probably the case among the ancient people; for those who pretended to be prophets were summoned, and that by the authority of the high-priest, under the pretext of law, but not without some corruption added to it; for God had not given fetters and manacles to the priests, that they might thus restrain those who might create disturbance and corrupt the pure truth. But what remains I shall defer to the next Lecture.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we are prone to what is false, and wholly devoted to vanity, we may be governed by thy Spirit, and desire no other thing than to be obedient to thee; and as we offer ourselves to thee, as thy disciples, grant that having the light of thy word shining before us, we may follow the way which thou shewest to us, and thus persevere in a right course, until we shall at length come to that blessed rest which is prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirteenth

We saw in the last Lecture the substance of the letter which Shemaiah had written to the chief priest. He reproved him for his neglect, because he did not silence Jeremiah according to the right and duty of his office. This had a plausible appearance; but it was a false principle which he assumed, — that Jeremiah falsely pretended God’s name, and was not sent, and had no command to prophesy; fE223 this was false. Justly then does the Prophet now oppose him, and pronounce the punishment which he deserved. It then follows, —

<242928>Jeremiah 29:28-29

28. For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.

28. Nempe quia misit (vel, quia ideo, ad verbum, quia ob id, vel, propterea) ad nos in Babylonem, dicendo, Longum est (tempus exilii,) aedificate domos et habitate, plantate hortos et comedite fractum eorum.

29. And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.

29. Legerat autem Zephania epistolam hanc in auribus Jeremiae prophetae.

 

The crime ascribed to Jeremiah was, — that he rendered the captives indifferent, so that they cast off every hope of deliverance, and disregarded their own country. But the design of Jeremiah was far different; it was, that the people might not by too much haste anticipate the promises of God, and that he might also extend their hope to the end, prefixed. As there are two causal particles here found, ˆkAl[ yk, ki ol-ken, some give this rendering, “For for this cause,” that is, because he claimed the name of a Prophet. The simpler meaning however is, that he gives a reason why Shemaiah blamed the neglect of the priest, even because he (Jeremiah) had habituated the captives to bear their exiles. But he reproached the holy man, as though he had made them indifferent through long delay. Jeremiah had indeed said that the time would be long; but this particular phrase, It is long, means a different thing, as though Jeremiah wished to bury in oblivion the hope of a return, because it would have been foolish to languish so long.

It follows, And Zephaniah had read, etc. The past perfect tense is more suitable here, for the verse ought to be put in a parenthesis. The Prophet obviates a doubt which might have been entertained. He then shews how the prophecy was made known to him; he was one of the hearers when the letter was read. And it is probable that the priest called Jeremiah on purpose, that he might be proved guilty by his own accuser. However this may have been, he wished to expose the holy man to the hatred of the people, or rather to their fury. The constancy of Jeremiah was worthy of greater praise, while he boldly reproved the arrogance of them all, who had nothing else in view but to suppress God’s truth by force and tyranny.

<242930>Jeremiah 29:30-32

30. Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying,

30. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam, dicendo,

31. Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the Lord concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite, Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie;

31. Mitte ad totam captivitatem, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova de Semaiah Nehelamita, Propterea quod prophetavit vobis Semaiah, cum ego non miserim ipsum, et confidere vos fecit super mendacio;

32. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the lord; because he hath taught rebellion against the Lord.

32. Ideo sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego visitans (id est, visitabo) super Semaiah Nehelamitam, et super semen ejus, non erit illi vir, qui habitet in medio populi hujus, et non videbit bonum quod ego faciam populo meo, dicit Jehova, quia aversionem (vel, defectionem) loquutus est contra Jehovam.

 

Jeremiah distinctly declares that this impostor would not escape unpunished, because he had dared falsely to pretend the name of God, and avowedly opposed Jeremiah. Here, then, the Prophet makes no long discourse, but on the contrary simply declares by the power of the Spirit what would take place. He speaks in God’s name, for he had been sent as a herald to proclaim this judgment. This, then, is the reason why he is so brief; for there was to be no dispute, though the impostor on the other hand was carrying himself very high, and hesitated not to overthrow the revealed truth of God, which had been confirmed by many witnesses.

The sum of what is stated is, that Shemaiah would not see the favor of God, and that none of his seed would remain alive. It was a curse under the Law, as it is well known, that one should have no seed left. (<052818>Deuteronomy 28:18.) Jeremiah then denounces on Shemaiah this punishment, that no one of his seed would remain alive, but that he would die childless; and then he excludes him from the enjoyment of the benefit which the Lord had determined to bestow on his people. He wished to return after two years to his own country; Jeremiah commanded the people patiently to endure their exile to the end of seventy years, which was the time of their deliverance. As, then, Shemaiah despised the lawful time, he was deprived of the favor of seeing that event.

Added then is the reason; first, because he had abused the name of God; he prophesied and I had not sent him, said the Lord; the second reason was, that he deceived the people with a vain hope; falsehood of itself is worthy of a heavy punishment; but when it was pernicious to God’s people, it became still more heinous, and therefore worthy of a twofold punishment.

Now we see that Jeremiah esteemed as nothing that he was condemned by Shemaiah; for he retained his own dignity; though the impostor attempted to subvert his authority, yet the Prophet speaks as though he was wholly unstained and not hurt nor affected by any calumny. The same magnanimity of mind is what all faithful teachers ought to possess, so as to look down, as from on high, on all deceivers, and their chatterings, and curses, and to go on in their course, however insolently the despisers of God may rise up against them, and tear and overwhelm them with reproaches. Let then all those who seek to serve God and his Church follow this example of the Prophet, so that they may not be discouraged in their minds when they find that they have to contend with dishonest men.

But Jeremiah is bidden to write to all the captives, for Shemaiah was not worthy of being reproved; but God had a regard for the public safety of the exiles, and reminded them of what would take place. It is indeed probable that this prophecy was without any fruit, until it was known by the event itself that Jeremiah had not without reason thus prophesied. Until, then, Shemaiah died, and died without any to succeed him, the people disregarded what had been predicted; but at length they were constrained to acknowledge that Jeremiah had not spoken his own thought, but had been furnished with a message from God; for God really fulfilled what he had predicted by the mouth of his Prophet.

The two reasons follow, why God resolved to punish Shemaiah: the first is, that he had seized on the prophetic office without a call; and hence we conclude, according to what has already appeared, that this office which had been instituted by God, was perverted, when any one intruded into it without a commission. Let us then know that no one ought to be deemed a legitimate teacher, except he can really shew that he has been called from above. I have in several places stated that two things belonged to a call; the inward call was the chief thing when the state of the Church was in disorder, that is, when the priests neglected the duty of teaching, and wholly departed from what their office required. When, therefore, the Church became disordered, God applied an extraordinary remedy by raising up prophets. But when the Church is rightly and regularly formed, no one can boast that he is a pastor or a minister, except he is also called by the suffrages of men. But as I have spoken on this subject more at large on the twenty-third chapter, I only slightly refer to it now.

As to the present passage in which God condemns Shemaiah for having thrust in himself without being called, what is meant is, that he brought forward his own dreams, having been furnished with no commission; for the prophetic office was then special. Then Shemaiah is here rejected as an impostor, because he had only brought forward prophecies suggested by his own brains, which yet he falsely pretended to have been from God; and it was a most atrocious crime, as it was a sacrilege to abuse, as Shemaiah did, the name of God. But the atrocity of his sin the Prophet still further sets forth, by saying that his prophecies were pernicious and fatal to the people. We hence conclude how solicitous God was for the safety of his people, in thus avenging the falsehoods which were calculated to lead them to ruin; and Jeremiah shews that Shemaiah’s teaching was ruinous, because he inebriated the people with false confidence; he made you, he says, to trust in falsehood; for he promised them a quick return, when it was God’s will, that the Jews should patiently bear their exile till the end of the seventy years.

But we may deduce from this passage a useful doctrine, — that nothing is more pestiferous in a Church than for men to be led away by a false confidence or trust. For it is the foundation of all true religion to depend on the mouth or word of God; and it is also the foundation of our salvation. As, then, the salvation of men as well as true religion is founded on faith and the obedience of faith; so also when we are drawn away to some false trust, the whole of true religion falls to the ground, and at the same time every hope of salvation vanishes. This ought to be carefully observed, so that we may learn to embrace that doctrine which teaches us to trust in no other than in the only true God, and reject all those inventions which may lead us away from him, even in the least degree, so that we may not look around us nor be carried here and there.

For this reason, as I have said, the Prophet declares that Shemaiah would die childless, and be precluded from enjoying the favor which God had resolved and even promised to bestow on his people. And all this, as I have reminded you, was said for the sake of the people; for this prophecy did no good to Shemaiah nor to his posterity; but his punishment ought to have benefited the miserable exiles so as to lead them to repentance, however late it may have been. This is the import of the passage.


CHAPTER 30

<243001>Jeremiah 30:1-3

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

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam a Jehova dicendo,

2. Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, dicendo, Scribe tibi omnes sermones quos loquutus sum ad to in libro:

3. For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

3. Quoniam ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et reducam captivitatem populi mei Israel et Jehudah, dicit Jehovah; et reducam eos in terram quam dedi patribus ipsorum et possidebunt cam.

 

This and the next chapter contain, as we shall see, a most profitable truth; and that the people might be the more attentive, God introduced these prophecies by a preface. Jeremiah spoke many things which afterwards, as it has elsewhere appeared, had been collected and inserted in one volume by the priests and Levites; but God reminds us in these words, that the prophecies which are to follow respecting the liberation of the people, were especially to be remembered.

There is, however, another circumstance to be noticed. We have seen that such was the stubbornness of the people, that Jeremiah spent his labor among them in vain, for he addressed the deaf, or rather stocks and stones, for they were so possessed by stupor that they understood nothing, for God had even blinded them, a judgment which they fully deserved. Such was the condition of the people. We must further bear in mind the comparison between the doctrine of Jeremiah and the fables of those who fed the miserable people with flatteries, by giving them the hope of a return after two years. God knew what would be the event; but the people ceased not to entertain hope and to boast of a return at the end of two years. Thus they despised God’s favor, for seventy years was a long period: “What! God indeed promises a return, but after seventy years who of us will be alive? Hardly one of us will be found then remaining, therefore so cold a promise is nothing to us.” They, at the same time, as I have said, were filled with a false confidence, as with wind, and behaved insolently towards God and his prophets, as though they were to return sound and safe in a short time.

But profane men always run to extremes; at one time they are inflated with pride, that is, when things go on prosperously, or when a hope of prosperity appears, and they carry themselves proudly against God, as though nothing adverse could happen to them; then when hope and false conceit disappoint them, they are wholly disheartened, so that they will receive no comfort, but plunge into the abyss of despair. God saw that this would be the case with the people, except he came to their aid. Hence he proposes here the best and the fittest remedy — that the Prophet, as he had effected nothing by speaking, should write and convert as it were into deeds or acts what he had spoken, fF1 so that after the lapse of two years they might gather courage, and afterwards acknowledge that they had been deceived by unprincipled men, and thus justly suffered for their levity, so that they might at length begin to look to God and embrace the promised liberation, and not wholly despond. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet was commanded to write the words which he had before declared with his mouth.

Now, as we understand the design of God, let us learn that when it happens that we go astray and wander after false imaginations, we are not on that account to cast away the hope of salvation; for we see that God here stretches forth his hand to those who had erred, and who had even wilfully cast themselves into ruin, for they had been more than enough admonished and warned by true and faithful prophets; their ears they had stopped; their hearts they had hardened; and yet when they had sought as it were designedly to ruin themselves, we see how God still recalled them to himself.

He says that God had commanded him to write in a book all the words which he had heard; and the reason follows, For, behold, come shall the days, saith Jehovah, in which I will restore the captivity of my people Israel and Judah. fF2 There is to be understood a contrast between the restoration mentioned here and that of which the false prophets had prattled when they animated the people with the hope of a return in a short time; for, as I have said, that false expectation, when the Jews sought unseasonably to return to their own country, was a sort of mental inebriety. But when they found that they had been deceived, despair only remained for them. Hence the Prophet recalls them here to a quietness of mind, even that they might know that God would prove faithful after they found out that they had rashly embraced what impostors had of themselves proclaimed. We then see that there is here an implied comparison between the sure and certain deliverance which God had promised, and the false and stolid hope with which the people had been inebriated: come, then, shall the days. Now it appears that two years had taken away every expectation; for they believed the false prophets who said that God would restore them in two years; after the end of that time all the hope of the people failed. Therefore the Prophet here removes that erroneous impression which had been made on their minds, and he says that the days would come in which God would redeem his people; and thus he indirectly derides the folly of the people, and condemns the impiety of those who had dared to promise so quick a return.

We now, then, see why he says, come shall the days; for every hope after two years would have been extinguished, had not God interposed. Come, then, shall the days in which I wll restore the captivity of Israel and Judah. The ten tribes, we know, had been already led into exile; the tribe of Judah and the half tribe of Benjamin only remained. Hence the ten tribes, the whole kingdom of Israel, are mentioned first. The exile of Israel was much longer than that of Judah. It afterwards follows, —



<243004>Jeremiah 30:4-6

4. And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel, and concerning Judah.

4. Hi vero sunt sermones quos loquutus est Jehova de Israele et Jehudah (vel, ad Israelera et ad Jehudah:)

5. For thus saith the Lord, We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.

5. Certe ita dicit Jehova, Vocem trepidationis audivimus, pavorem et non pacem (vel, pavoris et non pacis)

6. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?

6. Inquirite et aspicite an pariat masculus? quare video cunctos viros manibus suis super lumbos tanquam parturiens (solet mulier, subaudiendum est, vel, sicuti solet mulier parturiens) et conversae sunt omnes facies in pallorem (vel, in auriginem, ut alii vertunt, sed nomen palloris melius convenit?)

 

Both Jews and Christians pervert this passage, for they apply it to the time of the Messiah; and when they hardly agree as to any other part of Scripture, they are wonderfully united here; but, as I have said, they depart very far from the real meaning of the Prophet.

They all consider this as a prophecy referring to the time of the Messiah; but were any one wisely to view the whole context, he would readily agree with me that the Prophet includes here the sum of the doctrine which the people had previously heard from his mouth. In the first clause he shews that he had spoken of God’s vengeance, which rested on the people. But it is briefly that this clause touches on that point, because the object was chiefly to alleviate the sorrow of the afflicted people; for the reason ought ever to be borne in mind why the Prophet had been ordered to commit to writing the substance of what he had taught, which was, to supply with some comfort the exiles, when they had found out by experience that they had been extremely perverse, having for so long a time never changed nor turned to repentance. The Prophet had before spoken at large of the vices of the people, and many times condemned their obstinacy, and also pointed out the grievous and dreadful punishment that awaited them. The Prophet then had in many a discourse reproved the people, and had been commanded daily to repeat the same thing, though not for his own sake, nor mainly for the sake of those of his own age, or of the old. But after God had destroyed the Temple and the city, his object was to sustain their distressed minds, which must have otherwise been overwhelmed with despair. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet here touches but slightly on the vengeance which awaited the people. There is, however, as we shall see, great force in this brevity; but he is much fuller as to the second part, and for this end, that the people might not succumb under their calamities, but hope in the midst of death, and even begin to hope while suffering the punishment which they deserved.

Now he says, Thus saith Jehovah, A cry, or, the voice of trembling, or of fear, have we heard. The word hdrj, cherede, is thought to mean properly that dread which makes the whole body to tremble, and is therefore rendered trembling. God speaks, and yet in the person of the people. Why? In order to expose their insensibility; for as they were obstinate in their wickedness, so they were not terrified by threatenings, however many and dreadful. God dictated words for them, for they were altogether void of feeling. We now see why God assumed the person of those who were secure, though Jeremiah daily represented to them God’s vengeance as near at hand. The meaning is, that though the people were asleep in their sins, and thought themselves beyond the reach of danger, even when God was displeased with them, yet the threatenings by which God sought to lead them to repentance would not be in vain. Hence God says, We have heard the voice of fear; that is, “Deride and scoff as you please, or remain insensible in your delusions, so as to disregard as the drunken what is said, being destitute of feeling, reason, and memory, yet God will extort from you this confession, this voice of trembling and fear.”

He then adds, and not of peace. This is emphatically subjoined, that the Prophet might shake off from the people those foolish delusions with which they were imbued by the false prophets. He then says, that they in vain hoped for peace, for they could not flee from terror and fear. He enhances this fear by saying, Inquire and see whether a man is in labor? Some one renders this absurdly, “Whether a man begets?” by which mistake he has betrayed a defect of judgment as well as ignorance; he was indeed learned in Hebrew, but ignorant of Latin, and also void of judgment. For the Prophet here speaks of something monstrous; but it is natural for a man to beget. he asks here ironically, “Can a man be in labor?” because God would put all men in such pains and agonies, as though they were women travailing with child. As, then, women exert every nerve and writhe in anguish when bringing forth draws nigh, so also men, all the men, would have their hands laid on their loins, on account of their terror and dread. Then he says, and all faces are turned into paleness; that is, God would terrify them all.

We now understand the meaning of the Prophet; for as the Jews did not believe God’s judgment, it was necessary, as the Prophet does here, to storm their hardness. If he had used a common mode of speaking, they would not have been moved. Hence he had respect to their perverseness; and it was on this account that he was so vehement. Inquire, then, he says, and see whether a man is in labor? God would bring all the men to a condition not manly, such as that of a woman in labor, when in her last effort to bring forth, when her pain is the greatest and the most bitter. Men would then be driven into a state the most unbecoming, strange, and monstrous. It follows: —

<243007>Jeremiah 30:7

7. Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble: but he shall be saved out of it.

7. Heus, quia magnus hic dies a non esse sicut ipsum (hoc est, ut non sit similis, ut nunquam fuerit similis) et tempus afflictionis (vel, augustiae), hoc ipsi Jacob. (hoc est, populo Israelitico) et ab ea servabitur.

 

The Prophet goes on in this verse to describe the grievousness of that punishment for which the people felt no concern, for they disregarded all threatenings, as I have already said, and had now for many years hardened themselves so as to deem as nothing so many dreadful things. This, then, was the reason why he dwelt so much on this denunciation, and exclaimed, Alas! great is that day: “great” is to be taken for dreadful; and he adds, so that there is none like it. It was a dreadful spectacle to see the city destroyed, and the Temple partly pulled down and partly consumed by fire: the king, with all the nobility, was driven into exile, his eyes were put out, and his children were slain; and he was afterwards led away in a manner so degraded, that to die a hundred times would have been more desirable than to endure such indignity. Hence the Prophet does not say without reason, that that day would be great, so that none would be like it: and he said this, to shake away the torpidity of the people, for they thought that the holy city, which God had chosen for his habitation, could not fall, nor the Temple perish, he further says, that it would be a time of distress to the people. But at the end of the verse he gives them a hope of God’s mercy, even deliverance from this distress. We now, then, see the design of the Prophet in these verses. fF3 — There will be no Lecture tomorrow on account of the Consistory.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not in various ways perversely to provoke thy wrath against us, — O grant that we may at length be turned to obedience by thy kind admonitions, and at the same time submit also to thy just severity, and know that whenever thou severely chastisest us, we are dealt with as we deserve: may we yet never despond, but flee to thy mercy, not doubting but that thou in the midst of wrath rememberest thy paternal love, provided we rely on that favor which thou hast promised to us through thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fourteenth

<243008>Jeremiah 30:8

8. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:

8. Et erit die illo, dicit Jehova exercituum, confringam jugum a collo tuo, et vincula tua disrumpam et non adigent amplius eum ad servitutem alieni:

 

Jeremiah proceeds with what he touched upon in the last verse, even that the Lord, after having chastised his people, would at length shew mercy to them, so as to receive them into favor. He says, in short, that their captivity would not be perpetual. But we must remember what we have before stated, that is, that deliverance is only promised to the faithful, who would patiently and resignedly submit to God and not disregard his paternal correction. If, then, we desire God to be propitious to us, we must suffer ourselves to be paternally chastised by him; for if we resist when goaded, no pardon can by any means be expected, for we then, as it were, wilfully provoke God by our hardness.

He therefore says, in that day, that is, when the appointed time was completed. The false prophets inflamed the people with false expectation, as though their deliverance was to take place after two years. God bade the faithful to wait, and not to be thus in a hurry; he had assigned a day for them, and that was, as we have seen, the seventieth year. He then mentions the yoke, that is, of the king of Babylon, and taking another view, the chains. The yoke was what Nebuchadnezzar laid on the Jews; and the chains of the people were those by which Nebuchadnezzar had bound them. At last he adds, And rule over them shall no more strangers. The verb db[, obed, is to be taken here in a causative sense; even the form of the sentence shews this, and they who render the words, “and strangers shall not serve them,” wrest the meaning; for it could not be a promise; and this is inconsistent with the context, and requires no confutation, as it is evidently unsuitable. If the verb be taken in the sense of serving, then “strangers” must be in the dative case. We have seen before a similar phrase in <242514>Jeremiah 25:14, where the Prophet says that neither kings nor strong nations would any longer rule over the Jews. The same verb is used, and the same form of expression. Strangers, then, shall make them serve no more; that is, they shall not rule over them so as slavishly to oppress them. fF4

We now perceive the design of the Prophet; he exhorts the Jews to patience, and shews that though their exile would be long, yet their deliverance was certain. It follows, —

<243009>Jeremiah 30:9

9. But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.

9. Et servient Jehovae Deo suo et Davidi regi suo quem suscitabo ipsis.

 

The former promise would have been defective had not this clause been added; for it would not be enough for men to live as they please, and to have liberty promised them, except a regular order be established. It would, indeed, be better for us to be wild beasts, and to wander in forests, than to live without government and laws; for we know how furious are the passions of men. Unless, therefore, there be some restraint, the condition of wild beasts would be better and more desirable than ours. Liberty, then, would ever bring ruin with it, were it not bridled and connected with regular government. I therefore said that this verse was added, that the Jews might know that God cared for their welfare; for he promises that nothing would be wanting to them. It is then a true and real happiness, when not only liberty is granted to us, but also when God prescribes to us a certain rule and sets up good order, that there may be no confusion. Hence Jeremiah, after having promised a return to the people into their own country, and promised also that the yoke would be shaken off from their neck, makes this addition, that having served strangers they would be now under the government of God and of their own king. Now this subjection is better than all the ruling powers of the world; that is, when God is pleased to rule over us, and undertakes the care of our safety, and performs the office of a Governor.

We hence see that the design of the Prophet was to comfort the faithful, not only with the promise of liberty, but also with this addition, that in order that nothing might be wanting to their complete happiness, God himself would rule over them. Serve, then, shall they their God. The word king is added, because God designed that his people should be governed by a king, not that the king would sit in the place of God, but added as his minister. Now this was said a long time after the death of David; for David was dead many years before Jeremiah was born: nor did he live again in order that he might rule over the people; but the name of David is to be taken here for any one that might succeed him.

Now, as God had made a covenant with David, and promised that there would be always one of his posterity to sit on his throne, hence the Prophet here, in mentioning David, refers to all the kings until Christ: and yet no one after that time succeeded him, for the kingdom was abolished before the death of Jeremiah; and when the people returned into their own country there was no regal power, for Zerubbabel obtained only a precarious dignity, and by degrees that royal progeny vanished away; and though there were seventy chosen from the seed of David, yet there was no scepter, no crown, no throne. It is therefore necessary to apply this prophecy to Christ; for the crown was broken and trodden under foot, as Ezekiel says, until the lawful king came. He intimated that there was no king to be for a long time, when he said,

“Cast down, cast down, cast down the crown.”
(<262127>Ezekiel 21:27)

He therefore commanded the name of a king to be abolished, together with all its symbols, and that not for a short time but for ages, even until he came forth who had a just right to the crown or the royal diadem. We hence see that this passage cannot be otherwise explained than by referring to Christ, and that he is called David, as the Jews were always wont to call him before Christ appeared in the world; for they called the Messiah, whom they expected, the Son of David. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.

But we may hence gather a very useful doctrine, even this, — that nothing is better for us than to be in subjection to God; for our liberty would become that of wild beasts were God to allow us to live according to our own humor and inclinations. Liberty, then, will ever be destructive to us, until God undertakes the care of us, and prepares and forms us, that we may bear his yoke. Hence, when we obey God, we possess true and real happiness. When, therefore, we pray, let us learn not to separate these two things which ought necessarily to be joined together, even that God would deliver us from the tyranny of the ungodly, and also that he would himself rule over us. And this doctrine is suitable to our time: for if God were now only to break down the tyranny of the Pope and deliver his own people, and suffer them to wander here and there, so as to allow every one to follow his own will as his law, how dreadful would be the confusion! It is better that the devil should rule men under any sort of government, than that they should be set free without any law, without any restraint. Our time, indeed, sufficiently proves, that these two things have not, without reason, been joined together; that is, that God would become the liberator of his people, so as to shake off the yoke of miserable bondage and to break their chains, and also that he would be a king to govern his people.

But we ought also carefully to notice what follows, — that God would not otherwise govern his Church than by a king. He designed to give an instance, or a prelude, of this very thing under the Law, when he chose David and his posterity. But to us especially belongs this promise; for the Jews, through their ingratitude, did not taste of the fruit of this promise: God deprived them of this invaluable benefit, which they might justly and with certainty have expected. As the favor which they have lost has now been transferred to us, what Jeremiah teaches here, as I have said, properly belongs to us; that is, that God is not our king except we obey Christ, whom he has set over us, and by whom he would have us to be governed. Whosoever, then, boast that they willingly bear the yoke of God, and at the same time reject the yoke of Christ, are condemned by this very prophecy; for it is not God’s will to rule uninterveniently, so to speak, his Church; but his will is that Christ, called here David, should be king; unless, indeed, we accuse Jeremiah of stating an untruth, we must apply the word David to the person of Christ. Since it is so, God then will not otherwise rule over us than by Christ, even to the end of the world; we must obey him and render him service.

He adds, Whom I will raise up. It was also the office and work of God to raise up Christ, according to what is said in the second Psalm,

“I have anointed my King.”

We must always come to the fountain of God’s mercy, if we would enjoy the blessings of Christ, according to what is said,

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.”

We shall, indeed, find in Christ whatever is necessary for our salvation; but whence have we Christ, except from the infinite goodness of God? When he pitied us, he designed to save us by his only begotten Son. Salvation then is laid up for us in Christ, and is not to be sought anywhere else: but we ought, ever to remember that this salvation flows from the mercy of God, so that Christ is to be viewed as a testimony and a pledge of God’s paternal favor towards us. This is the reason why the Prophet expressly adds, that God would raise up a king to rule over his people. It follows —

<243010>Jeremiah 30:10

10. Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.

10. Et tu ne timeas, Jacob, serve mi, dicit Jehova, et ne paveas, Israel, quia ecce ego servans to a longinquo, et semen tuum e terra captivitatis eorum; et sedebit Jacob et quiescet et tranquillus erit, et nemo exterrebit (nemo exterrens, ad verbum)

 

The Prophet enforces his doctrine by an exhortation; for it would not be sufficient simply to assure us of God’s paternal love and goodwill, unless we were encouraged to hope for it, because experience teaches us how backward and slow we are to embrace the promises of God. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet exhorts and encourages the faithful to entertain hope. Were there in us that promptitude and alacrity which we ought to have, we should be content even with one word; for what can be wished for beyond God’s testimony respecting his favor? But our listlessness renders many goads necessary. Hence, when doctrine precedes, it is necessary to add exhortations to stimulate us; and these confirm the doctrine, so that the grace of God may flourish effectually in our hearts.

He addresses “Jacob” and “Israel;” but they mean the same, as in many other places. These duplicates, as they are called, are common, we know, in the Hebrew language; for the same words are repeated for the sake of emphasis. So, in this passage, there is more force when Jeremiah mentions two names, than if he had said only, “Fear not thou, Jacob, and be not afraid.” He then says, Fear not thou, Jacob; and Israel, be not thou afraid. fF5 And he does this, that the Jews might remember that God had not only been once propitious to their father Jacob, but many times; for from the womb he bore a symbol of that primogeniture which God had destined for him; and he afterwards had, for the sake of honor, the name of Israel given to him. As, then, God had in various ways, and in succession, manifested his goodness to Jacob, the people might hence entertain more hope.

He calls him his servant; not that the Jews were worthy of so honorable a title; but God had regard to himself, and his gratuitous adoption, rather than to their merits. He did not then call them servants, because they were obedient, for we know how contumaciously they rejected both God and his Prophets; but because he had adopted them. So when David says,

“I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid,”
(<19B616>Psalm 116:16)

he does not boast of his obedience, nor claim to himself any deserving virtue, but, on the contrary, declares, that before he was created in the womb, he was God’s servant through his gratuitous adoption. Hence, he adds, “I am the son of thine handmaid,” as though he had said, “I belong to thee by an hereditary right, because I am descended from that nation which thou hast been pleased to choose for thy peculiar people.” We now then see that the name servant, ought not to be understood as intimating the merits of the people, and that their obedience is not here commended, as though they had truly and faithfully responded to the call of God, but that their gratuitous adoption is alone extolled.

He adds, Behold, I will save thee from far. He first declares that he would be ready to save the people when the suitable time came; for behold here intimates certainty. And he subjoins, from far, lest the people should fail in their confidence; for they had been driven into distant exile; and distance is a great obstacle. Were any one to promise to us an advantageous retreat, without calling us away to some unknown country, we could more easily embrace the promise; but were any one to say, “I promise to you the largest income in Syria, and you shall have there whatever may be deemed necessary to make your life happy;” would you not reply, “What! shall I pass over the sea, that I may live there? it is better for me to live here in comparative poverty than to be a king there.” As, then, a difficulty might have presented itself to the Jews, when they saw that they had been driven away into very remote countries, the Prophet adds, that this circumstance would be no obstacle so as to prevent God to save them: I will save you then from far; as though he had said, that his hands were long enough, so that he could extend them as far as Chaldea, and draw them from thence.

He then adds, and thy seed from the land of their captivity. As the expectation of seventy years was long, God refers what he promises to their seed. There is no doubt but that the Prophet reminded the Jews, that the time determined by God was to be waited for in patience, as was the case with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for though they knew that they would be strangers in the land which God had promised them, yet they did not on that account despise or disregard the favor promised them. Abraham received in faith what he had heard from God’s mouth,

“I will give thee this land;”

and yet he knew that he would be there a stranger and a sojourner. (<011207>Genesis 12:7) His children had to exercise the same patience. Abraham had indeed been warned of a very long delay; for God had declared that his seed would be in bondage for four hundred years. (<011513>Genesis 15:13) Here, then, the Prophet exhorts the people of his time to entertain hope, according to the example of their father, and not to despise God’s favor, because its fruit did not immediately appear; for Abraham did not enjoy the land as long as he lived, and yet he preferred it to his own country; Isaac did the same; and Jacob followed the example of his fathers. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet mentions seed, as though he had said, “If the fruit of redemption will not come to you, yet God will not disappoint your hope, for your posterity shall find that he is true and faithful.”

If any one had then objected, and said, “What is that to me?” the objection would have been preposterous; for why had God promised to their posterity a return to their own country? was it not thus to testify his love towards them? And whence came their freedom, and whence God’s paternal love, except from the covenant? We hence see that the salvation of the fathers was included in the benefit which their sons enjoyed. And therefore, though the fruition of that benefit was not visibly granted to the fathers, yet they partook in part of the fruit, for it was made certain to them, that God would become the deliverer of his people even in death itself.

He adds that which is the main thing in a happy life, that they would be at rest and in a quiet state, so that none would terrify them; fF6 for a return to their own country would not have been of any great importance, without a quiet possession of it. Hence the Prophet, after having said that God would come to save the people, and that distance would not prevent him to fulfill and complete what he had promised, now adds, that this benefit would be confirmed, for God would no more allow strangers to lead the Jews into exile, or to rule over them as they had done. God then promises here the continuance of his favor.

But as this did not happen to the Jews, we must again conclude that this prophecy cannot be otherwise interpreted than of Christ’s kingdom. And Daniel is the best interpreter of this matter; for he says, that the people were to be exposed to many miseries and calamities after their return, and that they were not to hope to build the Temple and the city except in great troubles. The Jews then were always terrified. We also know, that while building the Temple, they held the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other, for they often had to bear the assaults of their enemies. (<160417>Nehemiah 4:17) Since, then, the Jews ever suffered inquietude until the coming of Christ, it follows, that until his coming, this promise was never accomplished. Then the benefit of which the Prophet speaks here is peculiar to the kingdom of Christ. Now, since from the time Christ was manifested to the world, we see that the world has been agitated by many storms, yea, all things have been in confusion; it follows, that this passage cannot be explained of external rest and earthly tranquillity. It ought, therefore, to be understood according to the character of his kingdom. As, then, Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, it follows that a tranquil and quiet state is promised here, not because no enemies shall disturb us or offer us molestation, but because we shall especially enjoy peace with God, and our life shall be safe, being protected by the hand and guardianship of God. Then spiritual tranquillity is what is to be understood here, the fruit of which the faithful experience in their own consciences, though always assailed by the world, according to what Christ says,

“My peace I give to you, not such as the world gives,”
(<431427>John 14:27)

and again,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (<431633>John 16:33)

It follows —

<243011>Jeremiah 30:11

11. For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

11. Quoniam ego tecum, dicit Jehova, ad servandum to; nam faciam consumptionem in cunctis gentibus, ad quas dispergam to illuc; atqui tecum non faciam consumptionem, et castigabo to in judicio, et mundando non mundabo to (vel, purgando non purgabo to, vel, succidendo non succidam to: dicemus postea de verbo)

 

He repeats in other words what we have already stated, but for the purpose of giving fuller support to trembling and wavering minds. God then promises that he would be present with his people to save them. Now as this could not easily be believed, and as the Jews looking only on their state at that time could not but despair, the Prophet added this comparison between them and the Gentiles. The Chaldeans and the Assyrians flourished seventy years in every kind of wealth, in luxuries, in honor — in short, they possessed every thing necessary for an earthly happiness. What, then, could the Jews have thought, but that unbelievers and God’s enemies were happy, but that they were miserable, being oppressed by hard servitude and loaded with many reproaches, and living also in poverty, and counted as sheep destined for the slaughter? When, therefore, all these things were plain before their eyes, what but despair must have laid hold on their minds? Therefore God obviates this evil; fF7

And he says that he would make a consummation among the nations, as though he had said, “When I begin to punish the Gentile nations, I will destroy them with an utter destruction, no hope will remain for them. But as to thee, I will not make a consummation.” Thus he makes a difference between the punishment inflicted on the reprobate and ungodly and that by which he would chastise the sins of his people; for the punishment he would inflict on the wicked would be fatal, while the punishment by which he would chastise his Church would be only for a time; it would therefore be to it for medicine and salvation.

We now, then, perceive what the Prophet had in view: he mitigated the bitterness of grief as to the faithful, for God would not wholly cast them away. And he shews that their scourges ought to be patiently borne, because they were to hope for an end of them; but that it would be different when he visited the reprobate, because he would leave them without any hope. In short, he says, that he would be a severe judge to the last degree as to the unbelieving, but that he would chastise his own people as a Father.

Other passages seem, however, to militate against this view; for God declares that he would make a consummation as to his chosen people, as in <231023>Isaiah 10:23, and in other places. But the explanation is obvious; for there he refers to the whole body of the people, which were alienated from him; but here his word is addressed to the faithful,

“the remnant of grace,”

as Paul calls them, (<451105>Romans 11:5) We ought, therefore, ever to consider who those are whom the Prophets address; for at one time they refer to the promiscuous mass, and at another time they address apart the faithful, and promise them salvation. Thus, then, we have before seen that God would make a consummation as to his people, that is, the reprobate; but the Prophet here turns his discourse to the Church and the seed which God would preserve in safety among a people apparently cut off and lost. Whenever, therefore, the devil would drive us to despair, whenever we are harassed in our minds when God deals with us more severely than we expect, let this consolation be remembered, that God will not make a consummation with us; for what is here said of the Church may and ought to be applied to every individual believer. God, indeed, handles them often roughly when he sees it necessary for them, but he never wholly consumes them.

I will not make, he says, a consummation with thee, but I will chastise thee in judgment. Here the copulative ought to be taken as an adversative particle, and “judgment” has the sense of moderation, as we have seen in <241024>Jeremiah 10:24,

“Chastise me, O Lord, but not in thy wrath;”

he had mentioned “judgment” before. In this sense is judgment used here, that is, for that moderation which God adopts towards his chosen, for he is ever mindful of his mercy, and regards not what they deserve, but what they can bear. When, therefore, God withholds his hand and gently chastises his people, he is said to punish them in judgment, that is, moderately. For judgment is not to be taken here for rectitude, because God never exceeds due limits so as to be subject to the charge of cruelty; judgment is also opposed to just rigor, and it is often opposed to injustice; but in this place we are to understand that the contrast is between judgment and the just rigor of God. Then judgment is nothing else but the mitigation of wrath.

At last he adds, By cleansing I will not cleanse thee, or, “by cutting down I will not cut thee down.” The verb, hqn, nuke, means sometimes to cleanse, or to render innocent; and it means also intransitively to be pure and harmless; but it is to be taken here transitively. It cannot, then, be rendered otherwise than “by cleansing I will not cleanse thee,” or, “I will not cut thee down;” for it has also this meaning, and either of the two senses is suitable. If we read, “I will not cut thee down,” it is the continuation of the same subject; “I will chastise thee in judgment, and I will not therefore cut thee down,” that is, I will not make a consummation. It would then be, as it is evident, a very suitable connection, and it would run smoothly were we to read, “I will not cut thee down.” But the other version is also appropriate, though it may admit of a twofold meaning; some take it adversatively, “Though I shall not make thee innocent;” that is, though I shall not spare thee, but chastise thee moderately; and this intimation was very seasonable; for the flesh ever seeks impunity. Now God sees that it is not good for us to escape unpunished when we offend; it is then necessary to bear in mind this doctrine, that though God will not allow us to be exempt from punishment, nor indulge us, but smite us with his rods, he is yet moderate in his judgment towards us. But others refer to this passage in Isaiah,

“I made thee to pass through the furnace and refined thee, but not as silver, otherwise thou wouldest have been consumed.”
(
<234810>Isaiah 48:10)

God then tries his people, or cleanses them with chastisements; but how? or, how long? — not as silver and gold, for that would wholly consume them. For when silver is purged from its dross, and also gold, the purer and clearer portion remains; but men, as there is nothing in them but vanity, would be wholly consumed, were God to try them as silver and gold. But as this interpretation is too refined, I am more disposed to adopt one of the two first, that is, that God would not wholly cut them down, though he would chastise them, or, that though he would not count or regard them wholly innocent, nor so indulge them as to let them go unpunished, he would yet be merciful and propitious to them, as he would connect judgment with his chastisements, that they might not be immoderate. fF8

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are born wholly alienated from thy kingdom and the hope of salvation, and as a dreadful scattering awaits us except thou gatherest us by the power and grace of thy Spirit, — O grant, that as thou hast once adopted us as thy people, and hast been pleased to gather us under the yoke of Christ, we may remain in obedience to him, and thus continue under thy government, that after having completed our course in this life, we may at length come unto that kingdom where we shall enjoy all those good things which we now only by hope taste, through the same, Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifteenth

<243012>Jeremiah 30:12

12. For thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.

12. Quoniam sic dicit Jehova, gravitas confractioni tuae (vel, fracturae alii vertunt, contritionem, qued idem est, nam rb significat etiam centerere) segra plaga tua.

 

The design of the Prophet is first to be noticed: he was fighting with those impostors who gave hope of a return in a short time to the people, while seventy years, as it has been said, were to be expected. The Prophet then wished to shew to the people how foolishly they hoped for an end to their evils in so short a time. And this is what ought to be carefully observed, for it was not without reason that the Prophet dwelt much on this point; for nothing is more difficult than to lead men to a serious acknowledgment of God’s judgment. When any thing adverse happens, they are tender and sensitive as to the evils they endure; but at the same time they look not to God, and comfort themselves with vain imaginations. It was therefore necessary for the Prophet to dwell on his doctrine at large; for he saw that the Israelites promised to themselves a return after two years, though they had been warned by the Prophets that they were to bear the scourge of God for seventy years.

This is the reason why the Prophet speaks here of the grievousness of evils, not because the Israelites were insensible, but because they had been credulous, and were still hoping for a return, so that they deceived themselves with false comfort. He therefore says, that the breaking was grievous; some give this rendering, “Unhealable, or hopeless, is thy bruising.” But wna, anush, is here a substantive, for it is followed by the preposition l, lamed; nor can what the Prophet says be rendered otherwise than in this manner, “Grievousness is to thy bruising,” or breaking. He afterwards adds that the wound was grievous, that is, difficult to be healed; for so I understand the passage. fF9 But the end was to be hoped for; yet the people were not to think it near at hand; they were, on the contrary, to prepare themselves for patient waiting until the end prescribed by God had come. It follows, —

<243013>Jeremiah 30:13

13. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.

13. Nemo judicans (hoc est, nemo est qui judicet) judicium tuum (hoc est, qui suscipiat causam tuam) ad sanitatem medelae et curatio non sunt tibi (alii vertunt, Nemo judicans judicium tuum, ut emplastrum adhibeat; sed hoc durius; deinde, medela et curatio non sunt tibi; sed videtur mihi simplex esse verborum sensus, quod nemo judicet judicium, deinde quod nihil ad curationem remedii suppetat)

 

The Prophet speaks first without a figure, then he illustrates the simple truth by a metaphor. He says that there was no one to undertake the cause of the people; as though he had said, that they were destitute of every aid. This was, indeed, in a measure already evident; but so supine was the security of the people, that they daily formed for themselves some new hopes. Then Jeremiah declared what had already in part happened and was still impending; and thus he proved the folly of the people, who still flattered themselves while they were involved in evils almost without a remedy. “Thou seest,” he says, “that there is no one to stretch forth a hand to thee, or who is ready to help thee; and yet thou thinkest that thou wilt soon be free: whence is this vain expectation?” He then comes to a metaphor, There is no one to apply medicine for thy healing. In one sentence he includes the whole first chapter of Isaiah, who handles the subject, but explains more fully his meaning. There is, however, nothing obscure when the Prophet says that there was no one to heal the evils of the people. fF10

We must ever bear in mind his object, that is, that the people were too easily deceived, when they hoped to return shortly to their own country. But we may hence gather a general truth, — that men never understand the favor of God until they are subdued by many and severe reproofs: for they always shun God’s judgment, and then they become blind to their own sins, and foolishly flatter themselves. And, further, when they only in words confess that they have sinned, they think that they have done abundantly enough. They ought therefore to be urged to the practice and duty of repentance. It afterwards follows —

<243014>Jeremiah 30:14

14. All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not: for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.

14. Omnes amici tui obliti sunt tui, et non requirunt; quia plaga tibi (hoc est percussi to) castigtione crudelis (hominis, aut, saevi) propter multitudinem iniquitatum tuarum, invaluerunt scelera tua.

 

The Prophet again repeats, that nothing remained for Israel as coming from men, for no one offered to bring help. Some, indeed, explain the words as though the Prophet had said, that friends, as it is usually the case, concealed themselves through shame on seeing the condition of the people hopeless: for as long as friends can relieve the sick, they are ready at hand, and anxiously exert themselves, but when life is despaired of, they no longer appear. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, condemns here the Jews for the false confidence with which they had been long fascinated; for we know, that at one time they placed hope in the Egyptians; at another in the Assyrians; and thus it happened that they brought on themselves many calamities. And we have seen elsewhere, in many passages, that these confederacies are compared to impure lusts; for when the people sought at one time the friendship of the Egyptians, at another, that of the Assyrians, it was a kind of adultery. God had taken the Jews under his care and protection; but unbelief led them astray, so that. they sought to strengthen themselves by the aid of others. Hence, everywhere in the Prophets the Egyptians and the Assyrians are compared to lovers. And this view will suit well here; for it was not enough to point out the miseries of the people, without making known the cause of them.

Then the Prophet refers to those false counsels which the Jews had adopted, when they thought themselves secure and safe while the Egyptians, or the Assyrians, or the Chaldeans were favorable to them. For this reason he says, that all their friends had forgotten them, and also that they did not inquire for them, that is, that they had cast off every care for them. And he adds the reason, because God had smitten, the people with an hostile wound. Here the Prophet summons them again to God’s tribunal, that they might learn to consider that these evils did not happen by chance, but that they were the testimonies of God’s just wrath. God then comes forth here, and declares himself the author of all those calamities; for the Prophet would have spoken to no purpose of the miseries of the people, had not this truth been thoroughly impressed on their minds, — that they had to do with God.

Now, that God calls himself an enemy, and compares himself to a cruel enemy, must not be so understood as that the covenant had been abolished by which he had adopted the children of Abraham as his own; for he, through his mercy, always reserved some remnants. Nor ought we to understand that there was excess in God’s severity, as though he raged cruelly against his people, when he executed his judgments: but this ought to be understood according to the common perceptions of men. God also calls elsewhere the Israelites his enemies, but not without lamentation,

“Alas!” he says, “I will take vengeance on my enemies.” (<230124>Isaiah 1:24)

He assumed there the character of one grieving, as though he had said, that he unwillingly proceeded to so much rigor, for he would have willingly spared the people, had not necessity forced him to such severity. But, as I have already said, when God calls himself the enemy of his people, it ought to be understood of temporal punishment, or it ought to be explained of the reprobate and lost, who had wholly alienated themselves from God’s favor, and whom God had also cut off from the body of his Church as putrid members. But as the Prophet here addresses the faithful, there is no doubt but that God calls himself an enemy, because, according to the state of things at that time, the Jews could not have otherwise thought than that God was angry with them.

With regard to cruel one, we have already said, that excess is thereby denoted, as though too much rigor or severity were ascribed to God: but the Jews could not have been otherwise awakened to consider their sins, nor be sufficiently terrified so as to be led seriously to acknowledge the judgment of God. And God himself, in what follows, sufficiently proves, that though he compares himself to a severe or cruel man, yet nothing wrong could be found in his judgments.

For he adds, for the multitude of thine iniquity, because thy sins have prevailed. Though the Jews thought that God acted severely, when he threatened them with long exile, here their mouth was closed by the multitude of their iniquity; as though he had said, “Set in a balance on one side, the weight of the punishment of which ye complain, and on the other side the heap of sins by which ye have often, and for a long time, provoked my wrath against you.” God then, by multitude of iniquity, shews that it could not be ascribed to him as a fault that he so severely punished the Jews, because they deserved to be so punished. And he confirms the same thing in other words, not that there was anything ambiguous in what he had said, but because the Prophet saw that he had to do with perverse men. That he might then reprove their indifference, he says, that their sins had grown strong. fF11 It follows —

<243015>Jeremiah 30:15

15. Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.

15. Quid vociferaris propter confractionem tuam? aeger est (vel, gravis) dolor tuus propter multitu-dinum iniquitatis tuae, quoniam invaluerunt scelera tua, feci haec tibi.

 

The Prophet now anticipates an objection, lest the Jews should expostulate with God; for it sufficiently appears that they always complained of God’s extreme severity, when they indulged themselves in their vices. As soon then as God treated them as they deserved, they became exasperated and enraged against him. Hence the Prophet now meets their perverse and unjust complaints, and asks, why they cried out for their bruising, as though he had said, that these clamors were much too late, when they had passed by the season for repentance. For God had suspended his extreme threatenings until the people had betrayed so much obstinacy, that there was no room for mercy. When, therefore, the people’s wickedness had become unhealable, the Prophet, as we have seen, proclaimed their exile.

Now, indeed, he derides their late crying, for they had been too long torpid in their contempt of God: Why, then, dost thou cry for thy bruising? grievous is thy sorrow, or, grievousness is to thy sorrow; fF12 but for the multitude of thine iniquity, and because thy sins have grown strong, have I done these things to thee. Here God frees himself from the calumnies of the people, and shews that those who murmured or made a clamor, acted unjustly, having not considered what they merited: for they were worthy of the heaviest punishment, because they not only in one way brought ruin on themselves, and more and more kindled God’s vengeance, but had also for many years hardened themselves in their sins; and they had, besides, given themselves up, in various ways, to every kind of wickedness, so that the Prophet justly upbraided them with a multitude of iniquity, and also with a mass of sins. God then says, that he had not exceeded the limits of moderation in the punishment he inflicted on the people, because their desperate wickedness and perverseness compelled him. But consolation is immediately subjoined, —

<243016>Jeremiah 30:16

16. Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.

16. Propterea omnes qui devorant to devorabuntur, et omnes hostes tui, omnes, inquam, in captivitatem ibunt; et erunt qui to diripiunt in direptionem, et omnes qui to praedantur erunt in praedam.

 

Here, again, the Prophet promises that God would be gracious to his people, but after a long time, when that perverseness would be subdued, which could not be soon cured. We ought, then, ever to bear in mind the difference between the promise of favors, of which Jeremiah was a witness and a herald, and those vain boastings, by which the false prophets deceived the people, when they encouraged them to expect a return in a short time, and said that the term of deliverance was at hand.

And this difference ought to be noticed on this account, because a most useful doctrine may hence be gathered: the unprincipled men who basely pretend God’s name, have this in common with his true and faithful servants, — that they both hold forth the favor of God: but those who falsely use God’s name bury the doctrine of repentance; for they seek only to soothe people with flatteries: and as they hunt for favor, they wholly omit the doctrine that may offend, and is in no way sweet and pleasant to the flesh. Jeremiah did not, indeed, deal so severely with the people, but that he gave them some hope of pardon, and always mitigated whatever severity there was in the doctrine of repentance: but at the same time he did not, by indulgence, cherish the vices of the people, as was wont to be done by the false prophets. But what did these do? they boasted that God was merciful, slow to wrath, and ready to be reconciled to sinners: hence they concluded that exile would not be long; and at the same time, as we have said, they perfidiously flattered the people. So then, it ought to be borne in mind, that we are not fit to receive the favor of God, nor are capable of it, so to speak, until all the pride of the flesh be really subdued, and also all self-security be corrected and removed.

We now see why the Prophet subjoined the promise of favor, after having spoken of the dreadful judgment of God. But the illative, ˆkl laken, does not seem suitable; for how can this verse be connected with the threatenings which we have noticed? Therefore they who devour thee shall be devoured. But therefore refers to what he had before said. fF13 It is not then strange, that he draws the inference, — that God having taken vengeance on the wickedness of the people, would also execute vengeance on their enemies. Then the illative is not unsuitable, because the time of mercy had arrived when the Jews became subdued, so as to humble themselves before God and to repent of their sins.

But there is here a common doctrine which we meet with everywhere in the Prophets, even that God, after having made a beginning with his Church, becomes then a judge of all nations; for if he by no means spares his elect, his own family, how can he leave aliens unpunished? And it is the perpetual consolation of the Church, that though God employs the wicked as scourges to chastise his people, vet their condition is not better, for when they have triumphed for a moment, God will soon bring them to judgment. There is, therefore, no reason why the faithful should envy their enemies when they are chastened by God’s hand, and when their enemies exult in their pleasures; for their prosperity will soon come to an end, and with the same measure will God mete unto them the reward of the wrong done to his people.

Whosoever, then, devours thee shall be devoured, and all thine enemies, yea, all, shall go into captivity; and, lastly, they who plunder thee, etc., which is rendered by some, “they who tread thee shall be for treading.” But as the verb means plundering, to avoid repetition, I prefer the former meaning: They, then, who spoil thee shall become a spoil, and they who plunder thee shall be for plunder.” The reason follows, —

<243017>Jeremiah 30:17

17. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, sayinq, this is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

17. Quia adducam sanationem tibi, et a doloribus tuis sanabo to, dicit Jehova; quoniam expulsam vocarunt to Sion, quam nemo requirit.

 

When God promised favor to the Jews, he referred to their enemies; for it would have been a grievous temptation, which would have otherwise not only disturbed and depressed their minds, but also extinguished all faith, to see their enemies enjoying all they could wish, and successful in everything they attempted, had not this consolation been granted them, — that their enemies would have at length to render an account for the wickedness in which they gloried. But now the main thing is here expressed, — that God, when reconciled to his people, would heal the wounds which he had inflicted; for he who inflicts wounds on us, can alone heal us. He exercises judgment in punishing, he afterwards undertakes the office of a Physician, to deliver us from our evils. It is, therefore, the same as though the Prophet had said, “When the right time shall pass away, which God has fixed as to his people, deliverance is to be hoped for with certainty; for the Lord has decreed to punish his people only for a time, and not wholly to destroy them.”

Iwill bring thee, he says, healing, and will heal thee of thy wounds. And this admonition was very necessary, for the Jews had nearly rotted in their exile when God delivered them. They might have then been a hundred times overwhelmed with despair; but God bids them here to raise upwards their minds, so as to expect help from heaven, for there was none on earth. And he adds, because they called thee, Zion, an outcast whom no one seeketh; that is, of whom, or of whose welfare, no one is solicitous. He confirms what I have before said, — that the extreme evils of the people would be no hinderance when God came to deliver them, but, on the contrary, be the future occasion of favor and mercy. When, therefore, the people should become so sunk in misery as to make all to think their deliverance hopeless, God promises that he would then be their Redeemer. And this is what we ought carefully to notice: for we look around us here and there, whenever we hope for any help; but God shews that he will be then especially propitious to us, when we are in a hopeless state according to the common opinion of men. It follows, —

<243018>Jeremiah 30:18

18. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling-places; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

18. Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego reducens captivitatem tabernaculorum Jacob et habitaculorum ejus miserabor; et adificabitur urbs super excelsum suum (vel, super acervum suum; vel, culmen) et palatium in sua statione (vel, regula) sedebit.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same subject, and dwells on it more at large; for as it was difficult to lead the people seriously to repent, so it was difficult to raise up desponding minds after they had been subjected to a multitude of calamities. God then declares here again that he would come to restore his people from captivity.

Behold, he says, I restore, etc., as though he was already prepared with an outstretched hand to liberate his people. Let it be noticed, that the Prophet did not in vain represent God as present; but he, no doubt, had regard to the want of faith in the people, and sought to remove this defect. Since then the Jews thought themselves wholly forsaken, the Prophet testifies that God would be present with them, and he introduces him as speaking, Behold, I restore, etc., as though he was already the liberator of the people. He names the restoration of tents and habitations, because they had been long sojourners in Chaldea and other countries, where they had been scattered. As then they had their own dwellings, the Prophet reminds them that they were yet but strangers among the nations, for God would restore them to their own country, which was their real dwelling-place. This is the reason why he speaks of tents and habitations. He, at the same time, points out the cause of their redemption, even mercy, so that the Jews might at length learn to flee to this their sole asylum, and know that there was no other remedy for their calamities than this, — that God should look on them according to his mercy, for he might have justly destroyed them altogether. In short, the Prophet reminds them that they must have perished for ever, had not God at length shewed mercy to them.

He mentions a fuller display of his favor, — that he would again build Jerusalem upon its own heap, or hill, as some render it; for the situation of the city was high, and towered above other parts of Judea. But it seems to me that the Prophet means that the city would be built on its own foundations, for he calls here the ruins heaps, or piles. For the city had been destroyed in such a manner, that yet some ruins remained, and some vestiges of the walls. It is then the same as though he had said, that the city, however splendid and wealthy in former times, would yet be so restored, that its dignity would not be less than before. But he speaks of its extent when he says, that it would be built upon its heaps, that is, on its ancient foundations.

And this point is confirmed by what immediately follows, the palace shall be set in its own form or station, wfpm l[ al meshephthu. The word fp shepheth, properly means judgment, but it means also form, measure, manner, custom. Here, no doubt, the Prophet means that the king’s palace would be equally splendid to what it had been, and in the same place. Some think that ˆwmra armun, means the Temple; and this sense I do not reject; but as the Hebrews for the most part understand by this term a splendid, large, or high building, I prefer the former sense, that is, that he speaks of the royal palace: stand then will the king’s palace in its own form or place, as though it had never been destroyed. fF14 In short, he promises such a restoration of the city and kingdom, that no less favor from God was to be expected in the second state of the Church, than it had formerly; for God would obliterate all memory of calamities when the Church again flourished, and the kingdom became so eminent in wealth, honor, power, and other excellencies, that it would evidently appear that God had only for a time been displeased with his Church.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we are so slow to consider thy judgments, and become continually hardened in our sins, — O grant, that being really touched by those many warnings by which thou not only invitest, but also stimulatest us to repent, we may learn to humble ourselves, and so Submit to thy chastisements, that we may be capable of receiving that mercy which turns whatever evil may happen to us to our good and salvation, until we shall at length be gathered into that blessed rest which is prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixteenth

<243019>Jeremiah 30:19

19. And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving, and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

19. Et egredietur ab ipsis laus et vox laetitiarum; et augebo eos, et non minuentur; et decorabo eos, nec attenuabuntur.

 

The Prophet confirms what he had said. We have stated that the Jews, while any hope remained for them, were perverse towards God, but that, after they were brought to extremities, they became extremely dejected; for they lost all hope as to their state, and became so desponding that they would receive no consolation. It was not therefore enough, slightly, or in a few words, to promise them restoration; it was necessary that the promise should be repeatedly confirmed. This then is now the subject of the Prophet; he promises that praise and the voice of joy would proceed from them.

We ought to notice here the contrast between sighings, groanings, complaints, lamentations, and giving of thanks; for as long as they were detained in exile, no praise could have been heard among them. Sorrow is, indeed, no hinderance to prevent us to bless God in extreme misery; but we cannot with a full mouth, so to speak, bless God, except when some cause of joy is presented to us. Hence is that saying of James,

“Is any joyful among you? let him sing.” (<590513>James 5:13)

As then the Prophet speaks of thanksgiving, he intimates that God’s favor would be so great as to remove every sorrow and sadness from the Jews. But he indirectly exhorts the faithful to celebrate God’s kindness. Had he only said, “Go forth from them shall the voice of joy,” it would, indeed, have been a complete sentence; but it was also necessary to remind the faithful for what end God would deal so kindly with his people, even that they might proclaim his goodness; for this is the design for which we receive every good from God’s hand. Thanksgiving is then usually connected with joy, when mention is made of the Church.

But we have said that the faithful cannot with so much alacrity praise God, when they are pressed down by distresses, as when God makes their hearts to rejoice; for grief holds bound all the feelings of men; but joy, proceeding from a perception of God’s paternal favor, dilates as it were their souls; and hence also their tongues are set loose. For this reason it is said in <195115>Psalm 51:15,

“O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.”

David there intimates that he had been for a time silent; when God hid from him his face, he could not taste of his paternal goodness. During that time David had his heart as it were bound and his mouth closed; but he prays the Lord to open his mouth, that is, to grant him joy that he might give him thanks.

We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet: he intimates, that though the Jews would be in sorrow for a time, would groan and mourn, yet this condition would not be perpetual; for God would at length comfort them, so that they would not only rejoice, but also proclaim his mercy when liberated.

He adds, I will increase them, and they shall not be lessened; I will adorn them, etc. Some render this also, “I will increase them: “ but the words are different; and dbk cebed, means sometimes to increase, and sometimes to adorn, to glorify, to honor. The words which follow are also different, t[m moth, and r[x tsor. And though the Prophet meant to repeat nearly the same thing, yet there is no doubt but that he intended to set forth the favor of God by this variety, as though he had said, that so remarkable would be the mercy of God, that the Jews would acknowledge, that what had been promised to their father Abraham had been fillfilled to them,

“Thy seed shall be as the sand of the sea, and as the stars of heaven.” (<012217>Genesis 22:17)

The perpetuity also, or the continuity of his favor is denoted, when he says, they shall not be lessened, they shall not be made small. It is possible for a people to increase for a short time; but such a thing is often of no long duration, for the form of this world passeth away. God then promises stability and perpetuity to his Church, for he would manifest his favor to it from day to day, and from year to year. fF15 This is the meaning. It follows —

<243020>Jeremiah 30:20

20. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

20. Et erunt filii ejus sicut ab initio, et coetus ejus coram facie mea stabilietur (vel, dirigetur, nam ˆwk utrumque significat) et visitabo super omnes oppressores ejus.

 

This abundance of words which the Prophet employs is by no means useless; for we ought always to remember how hard were their temptations when no token of God’s favor appeared for seventy years. It was hence necessary to sustain minds overwhelmed with evils by many supports, so that they might not wholly faint; and he adds promises to promises, that the Jews might see as it were a spark of light from the deep abyss. And hence, also, we may gather a useful admonition: Though the Lord may favor us today, so that we are not exercised by very grievous trials, yet every one knows by his own experience, how prone we are to despond; and then when we once begin to faint, how difficult it is to be raised up to the confidence of hope. Let us then learn to join promises to promises, so that if one will not suffice, another may.

He now says that their children would be as from the beginning. Some give this refined explanation, that the children of the Church would be as from the beginning, that is, before the Law; for the covenant of grace was made by God with Abraham before the Law was proclaimed: they hence think that the abrogation of the Law is here denoted, as though he had said, that the Church would be free when Christ came, and that the servile yoke of the Law would then be removed. But this kind of refinement I cannot approve; for I do not think that such a notion ever entered into the mind of the Prophet. I have then no doubt but that the reference here is to the kingdom of David, as though the Prophet had said, that the state of the Church would be no less prosperous and happy under Christ than formerly under David. Were any one to object and say, that Christ’s kingdom is much more happy than that of David: this I grant; but the prophets ever compare the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of David, and they were content with this way of teaching, as it exceeded the hope of the people; for the Jews thought it not credible that they could ever attain their ancient renown. When, therefore, he says here, that the children of Judah would be as at the beginning, there is no doubt with me but that he had a regard to that promise, which declares that the seed of David would be for ever on his throne, as long as the sun and moon shone in the heavens. (<198937>Psalm 89:37)

The meaning is, that though the kingdom would through a dreadful ruin become extinct, together with all its dignity, the Jews would yet, through Christ, recover what they had lost through their sins, ingratitude, and perverseness.

He afterwards adds, His seed shall be established before my face, and I will visit all his oppressors. Here again God confirms the promise concerning the perpetuity of his Church. He therefore says that the assembly of the people would be established before him, fF16 by which words he bids the Jews to look upwards, for in the world nothing was to be found but despair. God then calls the attention of the Jews to himself, when he says that the Church would be established before his face. And as the power of enemies was so great, that the faithful might justly object and say, that every avenue was closed up against God’s favor, he adds, that God on the other hand had sufficient power to destroy and to reduce to nothing all their enemies; and he mentions all, because the Chaldean monarchy was widely extended and consisted of many nations; and there was no part of it which was not most hostile to the Jews. As, then, the miserable exiles saw that not only the Chaldeans were inimical to them, but also other nations, so that they were hated almost by the whole world, God here comes to their aid, and declares that he had power enough to destroy all their enemies.

A useful doctrine may be hence deduced: The Church was in such a manner perpetual, that its condition was yet variable; for it often seemed good to God to break off the course of his favor before the coming of Christ. What then happened we may accommodate to our own time. As, then, the Prophet says here, that the children of the Church would be as at the beginning, we need not wonder when the Church happens at any time to be scattered, as indeed the case was under the Papacy. For the Church was not only dead, but also buried, and was not only as a putrid carcase, but like the dust it had wholly vanished; for what remnants could have been found fifty years ago? We hence see that what happened under the Law has also taken place under the kingdom of Christ; for the Church has sometimes been overwhelmed with troubles, and has been hid without any glory or beauty. But, in the meantime, we embrace this promise, that the children of the godly shall be as formerly; for as the kingdom of Christ in former times flourished, so we ought to feel assured that there is sufficient power in God to restore to the Church its glory, so that Christ’s kingdom may again rise up, and all God’s blessings shine forth in it. But as many enemies surround the Church on every side, and the Devil ever excites everywhere commotions and disturbances, let us know that there is another clause added, even that God will be the defender of his people; so that how much soever the whole world may attempt to tread under foot his favor, he will yet not suffer them to accomplish their fury; for he has the power not only to restrain their assaults, but also wholly to destroy them and to obliterate their memory; for this is what is implied in the word visiting. It then follows —

<243021>Jeremiah 30:21

21. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.

21. Et erit fortis ejus (vel, magnificus) ab ipso, et dominator ejus e medio ejus exibit, et appropinquare eum faciam, et aceedet ad me; nam (vel, certe) quisnam hic qui applicet, (vel, qui adaptet) cor suum ut accedat ad me? (alii vertunt, qui alliciat cor suum; dicemus postea de sensu) dicit Jehova.

 

The Prophet, no doubt, explains here more at large what he had said of the restoration of the Church; for we know that the Jews had been so taught, that they were to place their whole confidence as to their salvation on David, that is, on the king whom God had set over them. Then the happiness and safety of the Church was always founded on the king; he being taken away, it was all over with the Church, as the Anointed is said to be the Lord, in whose spirit is our spirit. (<250420>Lamentations 4:20) Hence God has even from the beginning directed the attention of his people to their king, that they might depend on him, not that David was able by his own power to save the people, but because he typically personated Christ. We have not now an earthly king who is Christ’s image; but it is Christ alone who vivifies the Church. But it was at that time set forth figuratively, that the king was, as it were, the soul of the community; and we have before seen, that when the Prophet animated the Jews with hope, he set before them David, and afterwards the Son of David.

For the same reason, he says here, His valiant one, or, illustrious one, shall be from himself. For we must remember the condition of that miserable and calamitous time when God took away every source of joy, by depriving the people of all the dignity with which they had been honored. It was the same then as though Jeremiah had promised the Jews a resurrection, for they were in their exile as dead men, as their hope of public safety had vanished when their king was destroyed. Here, then, he bids them to entertain good hope, because the Lord was able to raise them from death to life. And doubtless it was a wonderful resurrection when the Jews returned to their own country, a way having been opened for them; for they had been driven away, as it were, into another world. And who could have ever thought that so many obstacles could have been removed, when the Chaldeans extended their dominion even over Judea? The miserable exiles had certainly no refuge. It was not then to no purpose that Jeremiah testifies here, that the strong or valiant, that is, the king, would be from the people, and that there would come forth a Ruler from the midst of them. To come or go forth does not mean here to depart, as though the king would go elsewhere; but to go forth signifies here to proceed: Go forth then, or proceed, shall a Ruler from the midst of the people: how this took place it is well known.

But Isaiah had foretold what his successor here confirms, saying,

“Come forth shall a shoot from the root (or stem) of Jesse, and a rod shall spring up from the root of his tree.” (<231101>Isaiah 11:1)

He calls it there the house of Jesse, which was a private house: he would have dignified the favor with a more glorious name, had he mentioned David; but as there was then no kingdom, he refers to Jesse; for as David came forth as an unknown rustic from the folds of the sheep, so also the Lord would raise up a shoot from the stem of a tree that had been cut down. We hence see in what sense Jeremiah uses the expression, “Come forth;” for Christ rose up beyond the expectation of men, and rose up as a shoot when a tree is cut down, that is, when there was no resemblance of majesty among the people.

He afterwards adds, I will cause him to draw near, and he will come to me. This may be either confined to the head or extended to the whole body; and the second idea is what I mostly approve; for the people were a long time removed from the presence of God, even as long as they were exiled from their country. Hence God adds, “I will cause them again to draw nigh, and they shall come to me.” If, however, any one prefers to explain this of the head, or of the king himself, I offer no objection.

Now, we are taught from this passage, that whenever God speaks of the restoration of the Church, he ever declares that he will be entreated by us; in short, that whenever he invites us to the hope of favor and salvation, we ought always to look to Christ; for except we direct all our thoughts to him, all the promises will vanish away, for they cannot be valid except through him; because in Christ only, as Paul says, they are yea and amen. (<470119>2 Corinthians 1:19, 20) But as this truth often occurs in the Prophets, it is enough here to touch on it by the way, as I have handled it more fully elsewhere.

As to the latter part of the verse, there is some ambiguity, — for who is he, this, etc. There are two demonstrative pronouns, hz awh hua, ze. Afterwards comes br[ oreb, fitting his heart. The verb br[ oreb, means to be a surety, and also to fit, to adapt, to accommodate, or to form, and sometimes to render sweet or pleasant; and on this account some have thus translated, “Who will allure his heart?” He then adds, that he may come to me, saith Jehovah? I have said that this passage is obscure, and it has hence been turned into various meanings by interpreters. Some apply the words to Christ, that he alone has of his own accord come to the Father. Others consider a negative to be understood, as though it was said, that no one prepares his heart to come to God. But there are some who regard the passage as an exhortation, “Who is he who will apply his heart that he may come to me?” Now, if we read it as expressing astonishment or wonder, it would be, in my view, its real meaning. I am not aware that any one has mentioned this; but the Prophet, I have no doubt, intended his words to be so understood.

He said before, “I will cause him to draw nigh; that he may come to me.” I have already explained this of the people, who had been long rejected. God then promises here a gathering, as though he had said, “For a time I scattered the people here and there like chaff; I will now gather them again together, and they shall be under my care and protection as formerly.” Having said this, he now touches on the ingratitude of the people by this question, “Who is there who comes to me? who will frame his heart that he may be reconciled to me?” It is, then, an expression of wonder, intended to make the Jews know that their hardness and insensibility are condemned; for when God kindly invited them, they rejected his favor, when he sought to embrace them, they fled far off from him.

But an objection may be here made, “Why then did God promise that he would cause the Jews to come to him?” To this I answer, that God performs or fulfils this promise in various ways: he might have called the Jews to himself by an outward invitation, as he did when the liberty of returning was given them: and then, indeed, a few of the Jews accepted his favor; but all the Israelites, already habituated to the pleasures and enjoyments of those countries, regarded as nothing what God had promised. Thus very few returned to their own country, and restoration was despised by them, though they had once been very anxious about it. God, however, even then made the people to draw nigh; for he stretched forth his hand as though he would gather them and cherish them under his wings. But as the greatest part despised his invaluable favor, God here justly complains of so great an impiety, and exclaims as through wonder or astonishment, Who is he who will form his heart, that, he may come to me?

Had it been simply said, “Who is he who comes to me?” the meaning, through brevity, would have been obscure. But God here clearly distinguishes between the two kinds of access: the first was, when liberty was given to the people, by the decree of Cyrus, and a permission given to build the city and the temple. God, therefore, caused them then to draw nigh that they might come to him; this was the first access. But he now adds, that the Jews did not form or prepare their heart. He indeed speaks of future time, but yet he charges them with ingratitude, which afterwards was fully manifested. Hence he says, “Who is this, that he may come to me?” that is, “I will contrive means that they may unite again in one body, call on me and enjoy their inheritance: this will I do that they may come to me; but many will still live in their own dregs, and prefer Chaldea and other countries to the temple and religion. Many, then, will be they who will not form their heart to come to me.”

We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. But we must at the same time bear in mind, that by saying above, “I will cause him to draw near that he may come to me,” God does not speak of the hidden working of his Spirit; for it is in his power, as we shall presently remark, to draw the hearts of men to himself whenever he pleases. But when he said, I will cause him to draw nigh, etc., he spoke only of an outward restoration; and now he adds a complaint, that the Jews would wickedly repudiate this favor, for no one would prepare his heart. We yet see that the whole fault is cast on the Jews, that they were to be deprived of their own country: for it was owing to nothing on God’s part that they were not restored, but to themselves, because they were devoted to their own pleasure, and regarded their return and to be counted God’s people as nothing. It was therefore the object of the Prophet to ascribe to the Jews the whole fault that God’s favor would not come to them, or that it would not be effectual as to the greatest part of them, even because they would not prepare or form their heart, that they might come to God, in order that they might be partakers of that invaluable privilege offered to them.

Now, the Papists lay hold on this passage to prove that there is a free-will in man to come to God; but to do so is indeed very absurd. For whenever God condemns the hardness of the people, he doubtless does not argue the question, what power there is in men, whether they can turn to do what is good, whether they can guide their own hearts. To hold this would be extremely foolish. When it is said in <194508>Psalm 45:8,

“To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as your fathers in the wilderness,”

shall we say that as they hardened their hearts they were capable of turning, so that they could by the power of free-will choose either good or evil? To say this would be puerile and extremely sottish. We hence see that the Papists are unworthy of being reasoned with, when they seek to prove free-will by such arguments. They would, indeed, adduce something plausible were their exposition adopted; for they render the words thus, “Who is this,” etc., as though God praised the promptitude of the faithful, who willingly offer themselves and prepare their hearts. But opposed to this view is the whole context. It hence appears that it was very far from the Prophet’s design to represent God as commending the obedience of the godly; but, on the contrary, he exclaims with wonder, as Isaiah does when he says,

“Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (<235301>Isaiah 53:1)

He surely does not set forth the obedience of the faithful in receiving promptly and gladly the Gospel; but, on the contrary, (as though something monstrous terrified him) that the world would not believe the Gospel, when yet it offered to them salvation and eternal life. So also in this place, Who is he? etc. For what could have been more desirable than that God should at length, by outstretched arms, gather the Jews to himself?”I wish you to draw nigh, ye have been for a time, as it were, banished from me, I had driven you to distant lands; but I am now ready to gather you.” As, then, God so sweetly and kindly allured them to himself, it was doubtless a most abominable and monstrous ingratitude for them to reject the offer and to turn their backs as it were on God, who so kindly invited them. As, then, the Prophet is here only condemning such insensibility and perverse wickedness in the Jews, there is no reason why we should be in quest of a proof in favor of free-will. fF17

We may add, that David uses the same verb in <19B973>Psalm 119:73, 125, when he says,

“Cause thy servant to approach thee, that he may learn thy commandments.” fF18

Some render the words, “Be a surety for thy servant,” etc.; for the verb: br[, which is here, is found there also. Therefore the passage might be aptly turned against the Papists, who hold that it is in the power of man to form his own heart. But David testifies that this is peculiarly the office and work of God; for by asking this from him he doubtless confesses that it was not in his own power. It afterwards follows, —

<243022>Jeremiah 30:22

22. And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

22. Et eritis mihi in populum, et ego ero vobis in Deum (Quod postea confirmat primo versu capitis, 31, cum dicit, In tempore illo, dicit Jehova, Ero in Deum cunctis cognationibus Israel, et ipsi erunt mihi in populum)

 

As this verse and what occurs in the first verse of the next chapter are materially the same, they shall be both explained here. God then says that the Jews would become a people to him, and that he would become a God to them. This mode of speaking is what we meet with everywhere in the Prophets; and it is very expressive, and includes the whole of true happiness. For when have we life, except when we become the people of God? We ought also to bear in mind that saying of the Psalmist,

“Blessed are the people whose God is Jehovah.”
(<19E415>Psalm 144:15)

It confirms what I have just said, that a happy life is complete in all its parts, when God promises to be a God to us and takes us as his people. The Prophets, therefore, do not without reason so often inculcate this truth; for though nothing else might be wanting to us that could be expected, yet until we feel assured that God is a Father to us, and that we are his people, whatever happiness we may have, it will only end in misery.

But the Prophet expresses himself more fully, when he says, At that time, that is, when God restored his Church, will I be a God to all the families of Israel. They had been so scattered, that they were not one body; but God promises the gathering of that Church, from which the ten tribes had fallen off, when they revolted from the family of David. I cannot proceed farther now.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast manifested to us in thine only-begotten Son all the paternal goodness of which the fathers formerly tasted, and hast so really and fully exhibited it, that nothing more can be desired by us, — O grant, that we may remain fixed in our trust in thee, and so cleave by true faith and in sincerity of heart to our Redeemer, that we may expect from him all things necessary for our salvation: and may we know that whatever may happen to us, we are still blessed, provided we enjoy this singular privilege, to call on thee as our Father through the name of the same thy Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Seventeenth

We compared yesterday the two verses in which God promises that he would yet be a God to his people. We stated what this promise means. But the latter verse specifies the time, in order that the Israelites might wait for and expect this favor, though not as yet evident: hence it is said, At that time. He afterwards adds, I will be a God to all the families of Israel, and for this reason, because they had been so dispersed, that they did not appear as one people, and were like different nations. Here, then, a promise is made that the people would be collected together, so that they might be united, and become one body, as they were before their dispersion. It follows, —

<243023>Jeremiah 30:23

23. Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind; it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked.

23. Ecce tempestas (sed subaudienda est nota similitudinis k, sicut tempestas) Jehovae furor (vel, iracundia) egredietur, tempestas sese involvens, super caput impiorum residebit.

 

The Prophet seems to speak abruptly; for nothing could be more delightful than the promise that God gives, that he would be a Father to the people; but he immediately adds, that there would arise an involving whirlwind, which would abide on the head of the wicked. These things, at the first view, seem not to harmonize. But the latter sentence may be applied to the heathens, or to any of the enemies of the Church; for whenever God appears as the Savior of his people, his vengeance goes forth, and is poured on the wicked. Hence such declarations as the following often occur,

“The day of my vengeance is nigh, and the year of my visitation.” (<236304>Isaiah 63:4)

Isaiah joins both, the favor of God and his vengeance: and this is often done by the other Prophets, in order that we may see that God’s mercy cannot be clearly and distinctly perceived towards the faithful, except when his judgment on the other hand be made conspicuous as to the wicked. So this passage may be explained. But we may well thus connect the words of the Prophet, — that he kindly endeavored to allure the people by offering them God’s favor; but that having seen that it would be despised, as we stated yesterday, by the greater part of them, he now seasonably threatens them, that if they refused the favor offered them, such ingratitude could not be borne by God. And this is a mode of teaching common in Scripture. For God on his part thus manifests his kindness so as to stimulate men; but as he sees them not only slothful and tardy, but also wicked and ungrateful, he declares that they shall not be unpunished if they despise his favor. The former truth then well agrees with what the Prophet now says, — that the wrath of God would arise like a tempestuous storm.

He afterwards adds, a whirling or involving tempest, properly, a tempest gathering itself. The verb is rwg gur, in a reduplicate form and in Hithpael. A similar sentence is found in <242319>Jeremiah 23:19; but there the Prophet used another word as required by the subject. fF19 Some render it “falling,” for rwg, gur, means to fall; and this meaning is suitable, “a falling storm,” that is, impetuously descending, so as to abide on the head of the wicked. But the former sense has been more generally taken, and I am disposed to embrace it; for it tends to shake men with terror, when the storm is said to be like a whirlwind, for it turns and twists around, so that it cannot be avoided. The meaning then is, that God’s vengeance would be fatal to all the wicked. But we may take the wicked, y[r reshoim, for the despisers of God, though boasting of his name, as well as for aliens: but I am inclined to include both, even domestic and foreign enemies of God; as though the Prophet had said, that no remedy remained, except they fled to the mercy of God. It afterwards follows, —

<243024>Jeremiah 30:24

24. The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.

24. Non revertetur (vertunt) furor irae Jehovae, donec exequatur ipsum, et donec surgere faciat (attollat, vel, stabiliat) cogitationes cordis sui: in extremo dierum intelligatis in hac re.

 

He confirms the last sentence, and compares the wrath or the vengeance of God to a messenger or a minister, who is sent to carry a message, or to perform what has been commanded him. Of God’s word, that is, of his threatenings as well as of his promises, Isaiah speaks thus,

“My word shall not return to me void.” (<235511>Isaiah 55:11)

The meaning is, that whatever God promises or threatens, is never without its effect. But they wrongly understand the passage who say that the word of God returns not void, because it brings forth fruit; for he speaks of the effect of the word, whether for salvation or for perdition. So now also God declares that his vengeance, when gone forth, shall not return until it fulfils what has been commanded.

He then adds, and until he shall have confirmed, etc.; for so the verb wmyqh ekimu, properly means: until God then shall have confirmed or established the thoughts of his heart. The thoughts of his heart he calls the decrees or purposes of God; but it is a mode of speaking taken from men, and therefore metaphorical; for it is not consistent with what God is, either to think or to deliberate. But, as to the subject itself, there is nothing ambiguous; for the Prophet means, that when God sends forth his vengeance, all the wicked must perish, for so has God decreed, and his purposes can never be frustrated. Then he shews that God’s vengeance will be accomplished, because God has so determined. For God does not dissemble when he promises salvation to men, or denounces on them the punishment which they have deserved; but he executes the decrees or purposes of his heart. fF20

Then the Prophet here condemns the stupidity of all those who thought that they could escape, though they had often heard that their guilt was so great that they must at last be visited with judgment. Though they had often heard this, yet they were deaf to all warnings; and it was for this reason that the Prophet spoke of the thoughts of God’s heart.

At last he adds, At the extremity of days ye shall understand this. This may be applied to the faithful no less than to the wicked. For though the faithful embraced God’s promises, and relied on them, yet, as they had to contend constantly with the heaviest trials, it was necessary to stimulate and animate them to patience. It might then be suitably said to them, “Ye shall understand this in the last days;” it being a kind of exhortation, as though he had said, “Ye indeed think the wicked happy, because God does not immediately punish them, because his vengeance does not instantly break forth in thunders against them; but patiently bear your miseries, and ye shall at length find that their destruction has not been in vain predicted; and ye shall also receive a reward for your faith and patience, if ye continue resigned to the last.” But the sentence may also be suitably applied to the wicked, because they were wont to form their judgment according to the present aspect of things. Hence the Prophet exposes the false opinion by which they deceived themselves, and says, that too late they would understand what they were then unwilling to perceive.

If then we explain this sentence of the children of God, it is an exhortation to bear patiently their evils until God appeared as their defender: but if we apply it to the unbelieving, it is a derision of their insensibility, because they regarded as fables all threatenings; but the Prophet exclaims, “Ye shall at last become wise, but it will be too late.” Even experience becomes a teacher when there is no more opportunity to repent.


CHAPTER 31

<243101>Jeremiah 31:1-2

1. At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

1. In tempore illo, dicit Jehova, ero in Deum cunctis cognationibus Israel; et ipsi mihi in populum.

2. Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Invenit gratiam in deserto populus qui evaserant a gladio, proficiscendo donec quietem daret ipsi Israeli (vel profectus est Israel, donec se ad quietem conferret)

 

I omit here any remarks on the first verse; for it was explained in connection, with the 22d verse of the last chapter (<243022>Jeremiah 30:22). The verb ˚wlh eluk, in the second verse, is in the infinitive mood, but it is to be taken as a preterite, and in this interpreters agree. But some apply it to God, that he is a leader to his people, until he brings them to rest; and as the verb, w[ygrhl, laeregiou, to rest him, so to speak, is in Hiphil, it seems that this ought to be ascribed to God. But we may take the words more simply, “until he betakes himself to rest;” added afterwards is the word “Israel;” and thus we may render the pronoun “himself,” and not “him,” — until then he betook himself to rest. fF21

Let us now come to the truth which the Prophet handles: he reminds the people, no doubt, of the ancient benefits of God, in order that the miserable exiles might entertain hope, and not doubt but that God would be their deliverer, though they were drowned, as it were, in Chaldea, and overwhelmed with a deluge of evils. This is the reason why he mentions the desert, and why Jeremiah also adds, that they who were then preserved had escaped from the sword. For the people, though they dwelt in a pleasant and fertile country, were in a manner in a desert, when compared with their own country. As then the Israelites had been driven far away into foreign lands, all the regions where they then inhabited are compared to a desert. A similar mode of speaking is adopted by Isaiah when he says,

“A voice crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight paths in the wilderness.” (<234003>Isaiah 40:3)

What did he understand then by desert? even the most fertile regions, Chaldea, Assyria, and other neighboring countries. But with regard to the people, he thus calls these countries, because their exile was always sorrowful and miserable. So then in this place the Prophet, in order to animate the exiles with hope, says, that though they had been sent away to unknown regions, yet distance, or anything else which might seem opposed to their liberation, could not prevent God to restore them; for he formerly liberated their fathers when they were in Egypt.; Now as the Jews might again object and say, that they were few in number, and also that they were ever exposed to the sword, as they dwelt among conquerors the most cruel, he says, that their fathers were not preserved otherwise than by a miracle; they had been snatched, as it were, from the midst of death.

We now perceive the design of the Prophet; and we may include in a few words the substance of what he says, — That there was no reason to fear, that God would not, in due time, deliver his people; for it was well known, that when he became formerly the liberator of his people, his power was rendered illustrious in various ways, nay, that it was inconceivably great, since for forty years he nourished his people in the desert, and also that their coming out was as though the dead arose from their graves, for the Egyptians might have easily killed the whole people; so that they were taken as it were from death, when they were led into the land which had been promised to Abraham. There was therefore no doubt but that God would again, in a wonderful way, deliver them, and manifest the same power in liberating them as was formerly exhibited towards their fathers.

A profitable doctrine may hence be gathered: Whenever despair presents itself to our eyes, or whenever our miseries tempt us to despair, let the benefits of God come to our minds, not only those which we ourselves have experienced, but also those which he has in all ages conferred on his Church, according to what David also says, who had this one consolation in his grief, when pressed down with extreme evils and almost overwhelmed with despair,

“I remember the days of old.” (<19E305>Psalm 143:5)

So that he not only called to mind the benefits of God which he himself had experienced, but also what he had heard of from his fathers, and what he had read of in the books of Moses. In the same manner the Prophet here reminds us of God’s benefits, when we seem to be forsaken by him; for this one thought is capable of alleviating and comforting us. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —

<243103>Jeremiah 31:3

3. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.

3. Ab antiquo Jehova apparuit mihi; atqui dilectione perpetua dilexi re; ideo protraham (vel, protraxi, vel, extendi) ad to clementiam.

 

The last part is commonly rendered, “I have therefore drawn thee in mercy;” but the sense is frigid and unsuitable. I therefore doubt not but that he, on the contrary, means, that the mercy of God would not be evanescent, but would follow the people from year to year in all ages. At the beginning of the verse the Prophet introduces the Jews as making a clamor, as the unbelieving are wont to do, who, while they reject the favor of God, yet wish to appear to do so with some reason. Then, in the first place, is narrated the blasphemy of the people. These impious and diabolical words were no doubt everywhere heard at that time, “He! God has appeared to us, but it was a long while ago:” as profane men say at this day, when we bring forward examples of God’s favor from the Law or from the Prophets, or from the Gospel, He! c’est du temps jadis. Thus, they facetiously deride whatever God has at any time testified in his word, as though it were obsolete, because it is ancient. It is the same when we announce any terrors according to ancient examples, “He! it happened formerly, but a long time ago.” They then always return to that impious common saying, Le temps jadis. And the same thing Jeremiah meant to express here, At a remote time Jehovah appeared to us; that is, “Thou indeed speakest in high terms of the redemption by which the fathers were liberated, but what is that to us? why dost not thou rather shew us plainly what God intends to do? and why dost thou not bring forward some ground for present joy? why dost thou not really prove that God is propitious to us? but thou speakest of the ancient deliverance, while that narrative is now as it were obsolete.”

We hence see, that men have been always from the beginning ungrateful to God; for as far as they could, they buried the kind acts of God; nor by this only was their impiety discovered, but because they treated with scorn all ancient histories, which have yet been preserved for us, in order that our salvation might be promoted.

“Whatsoever is written,” says Paul, “has been written for our instruction, that through the patience and the consolation of the Scripture we might have hope.” (<451504>Romans 15:4)

He there shews that we are to learn patience from the examples contained in the Scripture, and that we have there a ground for strong consolation, so that we may cherish hope until God delivers us from all miseries. But what say the profane?” He, thou tellest us what has been written, but this is remote from us, and through length of time has vanished away: what is antiquity to us?” But though the Jews used this sacrilegious language, let us yet learn to embrace whatever is set before us in Scripture, while God invites us to hope for mercy, and at the same time exhorts us to patience; nor let this blasphemy ever fall from our mouths; nay, let not this thought ever creep into our hearts, “God appeared a long while ago.” Let us then abominate the ingratitude of those who would have God to be always present, and yet pay no regard to his ancient benefits.

Hence the Prophet answers, But, etc.: the copulative w is here an adversative, as though he had said, Nay, or Yea, for it may also be taken for g, gam, “Yea, I have loved thee with perpetual love.” Then God answers the ungodly, and shews, that he having become once the liberator of his people, did not undertake this office through a momentary impulse, but because he had so promised to Abraham, and had adopted the people. Since then God’s covenant was perpetual, he thus refutes here the impious calumny, that God acted bountifully only for a moment towards his people, and had regard only once for their miseries, so as to help them. Yea, he says, I have loved thee with perpetual love. God then here shews, that the redemption, by which he had exhibited a remarkable proof of his mercy, was founded on the gratuitous adoption which was not for one year, but perpetual in its duration. We thus see that he reproves the detestable blasphemy of the people, and intimates that adoption was the cause of their redemption.

And this passage ought to be carefully noticed: for these false imaginations come immediately to our minds, when we read or hear how God had in various ways and degrees been merciful towards his people, “He! that happened formerly, but we know not whether God’s purpose remains the same; he, indeed, conferred this favor on his ancient people, but we know not whether the same can or will be extended to us.” Thus the devil, by his craft, suggests to us these false imaginations, which impede the flow of God’s favor, that it may not come to us. So the grace of God is stopped in its course, when we thus separate ourselves from the fathers, and from all his servants towards whom he has been so merciful. It is, therefore, a doctrine especially useful, when the Prophet shews, that whatever blessings God has at any time conferred on his ancient people, they ought to be ascribed to his gratuitous covenant, and that that covenant is eternal: and hence there is no doubt but that God is at this day prepared to secure the salvation of all the godly; for he remains ever the same, and never changes; and he would also have his fidelity and constancy to shine forth in the covenant which he has made with his Church. Since, then, the covenant of God is inviolable and cannot fail, even were heaven and earth brought into confusion, we ought to feel assured that God will ever be a deliverer to us: how so? because his covenant remains the same; and, therefore, his power to deliver us will remain the same. This is the use we ought to make of this clause.

A confirmation afterwards follows, Therefore have I prolonged towards thee my mercy. I have already said, that this clause is otherwise rendered and explained. But nothing can be more diluted when we read thus, “I have drawn thee in mercy.” What has this to do with the perpetuity or the continued course and progress of love? But the other meaning is very suitable, that God would prolong his mercy to Israel. There is understood only one letter, but this does not interfere with the sense; and such forms of speech are elsewhere often found, he then says, that as he had embraced Israel with perpetual love, he had, therefore, drawn out or extended his mercy; for from the time he delivered his people from the tyranny of Pharaoh, and fed them forty years in the desert, he had bestowed on them many benefits. For with what victories favored he them? and then how often had he pitied them? God then ceased not from continuing his mercy to them from the time he had stretched forth his hand to them. And according to this view it is very appropriately said, that he had prolonged his mercy; for not only for one day or one year did he shew himself propitious to the Israelites, but he had exhibited himself the same for four hundred, five hundred, six hundred years. And thus also is best confuted that impiety and blasphemy of the people, that God had formerly appeared to them; “Nay,” he says, “except thou suppressest most wickedly my benefits, thou must perceive that the benefits I conferred on thy fathers have been long extended to thee, and have been perpetual and manifold.” fF22

We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. Were any to prefer turning the preterite to the future, I would not object, “Therefore will I prolong (or extend) towards thee my mercy.” This sense would be suitable. But when the words are taken as they are, we see why the Prophet adds, that God’s mercy had been prolonged, that is, that he might condemn the ingratitude of the Jews, because they did not rightly consider the benefits which had been bestowed on them for so many ages. It follows —

<243104>Jeremiah 31:4

4. Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.

4. Adhuc aedificabo to, et aedificaberis, puella Israel: adhuc ornaberis tympanis tuis, et exibis in choros ludentium.

 

Jeremiah, in this verse, proceeds with the same subject, — that though there would be the long time of seventy years, yet God would become the liberator of his Church. Length of time might have extinguished the faith of the people, as it is too commonly the case: for when nothing appears to us but the naked word, and when God repeats the same promises from day to day, we think it of no moment; and then when some evil has been prevailing, we think that all ways have been already closed up, so that God cannot bring a remedy; we thus measure his power by our own standard: and as he comes late to help us, because he suffers men to be long afflicted with disease or other evils, so we imagine that God will never come, when he suspends and delays his favor longer than we wish.

Hence the Prophet says here, I will yet build thee, and built shalt thou be, virgin of Israel; and then, thou shalt yet be adorned with thy tabrets. Joy is here set in opposition to the grief with which the people were to be oppressed in exile, and in part had been already oppressed, for many had been driven into exile. But Jeremiah expresses their joy and gladness by a figurative mode of speaking, by tabrets and dances of those who play. For when the Prophets announce the vengeance of God, they are wont to say, “cease shall all joy among you; ye shall not play any more with the harp or with musical instruments.” So also in this place Jeremiah says, that they would return to the tabrets and dances, when God restored them to their own country. We ought not at the same time to turn this testimony of the Prophet to excuse profane lasciviousness, by which profane men pervert the benefits of God, for they preserve no moderation in their joy, but abandon themselves, and thus become wanton against God. And it is the tendency of all dances and sounds of tabrets, to besot profane men. The Prophet then did not intend to allow this sort of licentiousness to the people: for we must ever bear in mind what he said yesterday, that the voice of praise would go forth with joy. By tabrets and dances, he then means holy joy, connected with praises to God, and with the sacrifice of thanksgiving. fF23 It afterwards follows —

<243105>Jeremiah 31:5

5. Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things.

5. Adhuc plantabis rites in montibus Samariae: plantabunt plantatores (hoc est, plantabunt vinitores) et profanabunt (id est, conferent ad usum communem)

 

The verb llj, chelal, means to profane, but it means also to apply to common use. The expression is taken from the Law; for it was not lawful to eat of the fruit of the vine until after the fourth year; for its uncircumcision as it were remained in the vine, so that its fruit was unclean. Then its first-fruits were offered to God; afterwards every one enjoyed his vintage. (<031923>Leviticus 19:23-25) But at the same time Jeremiah had respect to the curses which we read of elsewhere,

“Thou shalt plant a vineyard, and others shall eat its fruit.” (<052830>Deuteronomy 28:30)

What did he then mean by these words? even that the country would, for a time, be so deserted, that there would be no vines on the richest and the most fertile mountains. The mountains of Samaria were rich in vines; and when vines on these were cut down, there was a dreadful desolation. When, therefore, the Prophet says, they shall yet plant a vineyard, he intimates that the land would be desolate for a time; so also when he says, I will yet build thee, he reminds the Jews, that they were to bear with resignation the judgment of God, while they could see nothing but desolation through the whole land.

This, then, is what the word yet intimates: but when he promised that there would be vines again on the mountains of Samaria, he adds, that they who planted them would enjoy the fruit. Here, then, is an additional blessing: it would have availed them nothing to plant or set vines, except this blessing of God was added; for it is a very grievous thing to be deprived of a possession which we have cultivated, and on which we have spent much labor. He then who has diligently planted vines, and he who has cultivated his land, if driven into exile, feels deeply wounded in his mind, when he sees that his vines and his land are in the possession of strangers. Hence the Prophet here intimates that God’s favor would be certain, because he would not only give leisure to the Jews, when they returned, to plant vines, but would also cause them to enjoy the fruit in peace and quietness. They shall then profane, fF24 that is, apply to their own use, in the fifth year, the fruit produced by the vines, as though he had said, “They shall dwell, without disturbance, in their own inheritance, when once they shall have returned to it.”

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once testified that thou art to us a Father through thine only-begotten Son, we may not only taste of that promise, but be also wholly satisfied with it, and remain in it constantly, until having gone through all evils, we may at length attain to the full manifestation of it, when thou gatherest us into that blessed rest, which is the fruit of thy eternal adoption, through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Eighteenth

<243106>Jeremiah 31:6

6. For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God.

6. Quia erit dies, quo clamabunt (sed subaudiendum est relativum) custodes in monte Ephraim, Surgite et ascendamus Sion ad Jehovam Deum nostrum.

 

The Prophet here amplifies the kindness of God, because he would not only restore the tribe of Judah, but also the ten tribes, who had previously been led into exile. He then promises here a full and complete restoration of the Church. The Prophets do not always speak in the same manner of the liberation of the people; sometimes they confine what they say to the tribe of Judah, as though the rest were in a hopeless state, but often they extend their prophecies to the whole body of the people. So in this place Jeremiah includes, together with the tribe of Judah, the ten tribes, and the half tribe of Benjamin, for some of the tribe of Benjamin had remained and had never revolted from the family of David. But they usually call the kingdom of Israel the ten tribes, and denote the kingdom of Judah by the name of that one tribe: thus the tribe of Benjamin, divided into two parts, is not mentioned.

The meaning, then, of the Prophet is, that when God redeemed his people, not only Judah would return, but also the Israelites, of whom there was hardly a hope, because they had been in exile for a long time; and as they had rejected the pure and legitimate worship of God, they might have been thought to have been excluded from the Church, for by their own perfidy they had shut out themselves, so that they were unworthy of so honorable a distinction. So the Prophet here declares that God’s favor would surpass the wickedness and perverseness of the people of Israel.

Hence he says that the day would come in which watch-men would cry on the mountain of Ephraim, etc. By Ephraim, as it is well known, are often to be understood the ten tribes, and that on account of Jeroboam, who first reigned over them. But we ought ever to remember, that under one tribe, in this case, are included all the ten tribes. When, therefore, the Prophet speaks of watchmen on Mount Ephraim, he means all the watchmen, placed on their watchtowers, through the whole kingdom of Israel. But the contrast ought to be noticed, for Jeroboam had closed up every passage by which the Israelites might ascend to Jerusalem; for he feared lest they should there hear of God’s covenant which he had made with David and his posterity. He was in at ease with himself, because he had obtained the kingdom by sinister means. God had, indeed, by his Prophet commanded him to be anointed a king; but it does not hence follow, that as to himself he had obtained the kingdom justly. It is true that God intended to punish Rehoboam and also the people; but he who had been the author of the revolt was perfidious in seeking to establish a kingdom for his posterity; he forbade any one to ascend to Jerusalem, and therefore he built altars in Dan and Bethel. (<111229>1 Kings 12:29-31) On this account the Prophet Hosea complains that they besieged the ways like thieves, and that many who ascended to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God were slain; and some were plundered and sent home. (Hosea:6:9) The contrast then is worthy of being noticed, when the Prophet says,

“Yet cry shall watchmen on Mount Ephraim, Arise, let us ascend to Zion to our God.”

For though in appearance they forsook only the posterity of David, they yet at the same time renounced the true and pure worship of God; and the religion which they followed under Jeroboam was spurious; for they ought to have offered sacrifices to God only in one place, for it is often found in the Law,

“Thou shalt come to the place which the Lord thy God shall choose.” (<051226>Deuteronomy 12:26)

But they having despised the place which God had appointed for himself, built altars elsewhere. Then their worship was nothing but superstition; and though they multiplied sacrifices, they did nothing but provoke God’s wrath; for it is not lawful for us to devise anything beyond what is prescribed in the Law.

The Prophet therefore says, Cry shall watchmen, Arise, let us ascend into Zion; that is, there will not be such a division among the people as there was formerly. For a few only worshipped God in the Temple which had beell built by his command, and the rest gave themselves up to numberless superstitions; but now they shall again unite in one body. In short, Jeremiah here teaches us, that all the children of Abraham would return to a fraternal agreement, and that there would be a bond between them, a unity of faith, for they would together unite in offering sacrifices, and no one would invent a god for himself. fF25

Now this passage is especially useful; for we may hence learn what is the right state of the Church; it is when all agree in one faith. But we must, at the same time, see what is the foundation of this faith. The Papists indeed boast of this union, but yet they pass by what ought to hold the first place, that is, that all must have regard to the only true God, according to what they are taught by his word. Hence the Prophet here mentions Mount Sion, which had been chosen by God, that he might shew that no unity pleases God, unless men obey his word from the least to the greatest, and not follow their own imaginations, but embrace what he teaches and prescribes in his Law. This is the import of this passage. The Israelites shall then call him their God, from whom they had before wickedly departed. It follows —

<243107>Jeremiah 31:7

7. For thus saith the Lord, Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.

7. Quid sic dicit Jehova, Exultate propter Jacob in laetitia (vel cum Jacob, nam l potest utroque modo accipi) et jubilate in capite gentium; promulgate, laudate, et dicite, Serva Jehova populum suum, reliquias Israel.

 

The Prophet confirms the contents of the verse we have explained; and it was necessary to make this addition, because what he had said was almost incredible. He therefore enlarged upon it. Thus saith Jehovah; this preface he made, as I have often reminded you, that his doctrine might have more weight. Jeremiah, indeed, adduced nothing but what he had learnt from God, and by the revelation of his Spirit; but it was needful sometimes expressly to testify this on account of his hearers.

He now bids them to exult with joy, and to shout for joy. It must be observed that this prophecy was announced, when the utter destruction of the people, of the city, and temple, was not far distant; but it was the Prophet’s object to comfort, so to speak, the dead in their graves, so that they might patiently wait for their promised deliverance, and that they might feel assured that it was not more difficult for God to raise the dead than to heal the sick. Therefore the prophecy had its use when the Jews were driven into exile and miserably scattered, so as to have no hope of deliverance. But that his doctrine might more effectually enter into their hearts, he exhorts them to rejoice, to shout for joy, and to sing; and not only them, but also strangers. For though it will presently appear that their joy was not in common with the unbelieving, the Prophet yet seems to address his words on purpose to aliens, that the Jews themselves might become ashamed for not embracing the promise offered to them. For what doth the Prophet say? “Ye alien nations, shout for joy, for Jacob.” What should Jacob himself do in the meantime? We now then see the design of the Prophet’s vehemence in bidding all to rejoice for the redemption of the people, even that this prophecy might not only bring some comfort to the miserable exiles, but that they might also know, that whilst in the midst of death, they would live before God, provided they did not despair.

In short, he not only intended to mitigate their sorrow, but also to fill them with spiritual joy, that they might not cease to entertain hope and to take courage, and not only patiently, but cheerfully to bear their calamities, because God promised to be propitious to them. This is the reason why he bids them to exult with joy, and to shout for joy.

He adds, among the chief of the nations. This may be understood as though the Prophet had said, that the nations would be so contemptible, that the children of God would not be disposed to insult them; but I understand the words in a simpler way, — that the Prophet bids them to exult at the head of nations, as though he had said, “openly, so that your joy may be observed by all.” For though the Jews entertained the hope of a return, yet they hardly dared to give any sign of their confidence, because they might have thus exasperated the minds of their enemies. They were, therefore, under the necessity of being wholly silent, and, as it were, without life. Now the Prophet sets this manifest joy in opposition to that fear which constrained the Jews to be almost wholly mute, so that they dared not by gesture nor by words, to make known what they had learned from the holy servants of God. In short, the Prophet intimates that the liberation of the Jews would be so glorious, that they would dread no danger in proclaiming openly the kindness of God. This seems to be denoted by the head of the nations.

He then adds, Proclaim ye, praise and say, Save, etc. This refers properly to the faithful; for we know that God is not really invoked by the unbelieving. Faith alone opens a door of access to us, and there cannot be any right praying except what proceeds from faith. The Prophet then addresses here the children of God, when he says, “Proclaim ye, praise and say,” etc. And though all the ungodly were by evident experience convinced of the wonderful power of God, yet there was not among them any herald of God’s grace. It is then enjoined on the faithful, as their own proper office, to celebrate the favor of God. And to this is added thanksgiving, as though the Prophet had said that God’s grace cannot be rightly proclaimed unless his goodness be acknowledged, and the sacrifice of praise be offered to him. We hence learn that we are to be so animated by his promises to trust in God as not to grow torpid. For many cheer themselves up when they hear some joyful news, but this joy produces in them security. Thus it comes that faith is choked, and does not produce its proper fruits; for the chief work of faith is prayer to God. Now, they who are secure because they think of no danger, do not flee to God, and thus omit that work of religion in which they ought mainly to exercise themselves. Hence the Prophet reminds the faithful here that they are so to praise God as not to neglect prayer.

The meaning is, that when God promises that he will be propitious to us, he gives us a sufficient reason for joy. We ought then to be satisfied with the naked word of God, when he declares that he will be a Father to us, and when he promises that our salvation will be the object of his care. But yet, as I have already said, joy ought not to render us secure, so as to make faith idle, but it ought rather to stimulate us to prayer. True and spiritual joy we then have, derived from God’s word, when we are diligent in prayer; and coldness and security are no tokens of faith, but of insensibility; and the promises of God produce no real effects in us, as it must needs be, unless our minds are kindled into a desire for prayer, yea, into a fervor in prayer. This then is the reason why the Prophet, after having bidden the faithful to praise and exalt the favor of God, adds this prayer — “Say ye, Save thou, Jehovah, thy people.” It then behoved them so to rejoice as to feel solicitous for the restoration of the Church. And it behoves us, also, at this time, whenever God shines on us with the testimony of his favor, so to rejoice as not to omit that primary exercise of faith, even prayer.

He further adds, the remnant of Israel, because it was necessary that what Isaiah had predicted should be fulfilled,

“Though thy people were as sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be delivered.” (<231022>Isaiah 10:22)

Though, then, the Prophet has been speaking generally of all the posterity of Abraham, and included the ten tribes, yet here he qualifies that statement by mentioning the remnant or residue of Israel, and this in order that the faithful might not despond on seeing hardly one in ten or in fifty returning from exile; for we know that in comparison of their great number, a few only returned from exile. He has then mentioned here “the remnant of Israel,” that the faithful at a future time might not be shaken in their hope, though God did not immediately restore the whole Church; and it was also necessary to deprive the hypocrites of that vain confidence with which they were filled; for they were wont to seize on everything which God promised by his servants. Hence Jeremiah excluded them, that they might know that this promise did not belong to them, according to what Paul, while handling this subject, shews to us at large. (<450927>Romans 9:27; <451105>Romans 11:5,7) And he is a correct interpreter of this passage and of similar ones, when he says that God was never so bound to the people of Israel, but that he could freely do what he pleased, so that a remnant only should he saved. And he calls them the “remnant of grace,” because they are in no other way saved than through the free and gratuitous goodness of God.

And this doctrine may also be justly applied to our time. For we are by no means to expect that God will so restore his Church in the world, that all shall be renewed by his Spirit, and unite in true religion; but he gathers his Church on all sides, and yet in such a way, that his gratuitous mercy ever appears, because there shall be remnants only. It follows, —

<243108>Jeremiah 31:8

8. Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.

8. Ecce reducens ipsos e terra Aquilonis: et congregabo eos ex lateribus terrae; in ipsis erunt caecus et claudus, praegnans et puerpera simul, coetus magnus revertentur huc.

 

The Prophet again confirms the same truth, but with amplification. For this oracle is not only prefaced as having proceeded from God, but that the address might be more forcible, he introduces God himself as the speaker, Behold me restoring them from, the land of the north; for Babylon, as it is well known, was northward from Judea. And whenever the Prophets speak of the deliverance of the people, they ever name the north; as, also, when they threaten the people, they say that an army or a calamity was to come from the north. They had before been delivered from the south, for such was the situation of Egypt. The Prophet now intimates that God was furnished with power to liberate them again from the land of the north.

Then he says, and I will collect them from the sides of the earth: by sides, he means the extremities or the corners, so to speak, of the earth; as though he had said, that their dispersion would not prevent God from collecting his people.

Nearly the same promise was announced by Moses, though in other words, —

“Though thou wert dispersed through the four quarters of the world, I will yet from thence collect thee.”
(<053004>Deuteronomy 30:4)

God there means that distance of places would be no obstacle to him, but that as soon as the fit time arrived, he would again collect his Church from its dispersion. We hence see what the Prophet understands by the sides of the earth. And he intended to obviate a doubt which might have depressed the minds of the people on seeing the body torn and deformed: “Eh! how can it be, that we can again come together?” In order then to remove this doubt, the Prophet says that God would come to collect his people again, not only from one corner, but also from the extreme regions of the earth.

He then adopts another mode of speaking, in order to shew that no impediment would be so strong as to exceed God’s power, when his purpose was to deliver his people: The blind, he says, and the lame, the pregnant, and the one in travail, shall come. The blind cannot move a step without stumbling or falling; then the blind are by no means fit to undertake a journey, for there is no way which they can see as open for them; and the lame, when there is a way for them, cannot make any progress. But God promises that such would be their deliverance, that both the lame and the blind would participate of it. He then mentions the pregnant and women in childbed. The pregnant, owing to the burden she carries, cannot undertake a long journey, and she that is recently confined, can hardly dare to leave her bed, being so debilitated by parturition; but God promises that the pregnant and the lately confined shall return with the rest; as though he had said, that there was no fear but that God would restore his Church, because his power was superior to all the impediments of the world, so that he could confirm the feeble, guide the blind, sustain the lame, and strengthen the pregnant and those lying in childbed.

Now, though the Prophet addressed this discourse to the ancient people, it yet contains a doctrine perpetually useful. We hence gather, that they act preposterously who estimate God’s favor according to present appearances. But this is a mistake almost inbred in us by nature, and engrosses all our thoughts and feelings. Hence arises want of confidence in God, and hence it also happens, that all God’s promises become frigid to us, or at least lose their just value. For when God promises anything, we look around us and inquire how it can be fulfilled; and if our minds cannot comprehend the way and manner, we reject what has proceeded from the mouth of God. Let us then attend to this prophetic doctrine; and when God seems to promise what surpasses our faith, nay, what appears to us by no means possible, let this doctrine come to our minds, and let it serve as a corrective to check our false thoughts, lest we, having our minds preoccupied by a false and preposterous opinion, should do wrong to the power of God. If, then, the deliverance which God promises seems incredible, as to our perceptions, let us remember that it is in his power to make the blind to see, the lame to walk, the pregnant and those lying in childbed, to undertake a journey; for he can by his power surmount all obstacles, so that we shall find our faith victorious, provided we learn to rely on God’s promises, and firmly rest on them. We now understand what use we ought to make of this prophecy. It follows afterwards —

<243109>Jeremiah 31:9

9. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born.

9. Cum fletu venient, et in precationibus (vel, miserationibus) addiscam cos; deducam ad fluvios aquarum, in viam rectam, ubi non impingent (non impingent in ea, ad verbum, sed hb debet resolvi in relativum) quoniam ero Israeli in Patrem, et Ephraim primogenitus meus ipse.

 

The Prophet still pursues the same subject; but he adds, that though they went with weeping into exile, yet that would be no impediment, that God should not restore them again to their own country: for I take the beginning of this verse, in weeping shall they come, in an adversative sense. Some explain weeping as the effect of joy; for joy as well as grief sometimes brings tears. Some then think the meaning of the Prophet to be, that so great would be the joy on their return, that tears would flow from their eyes. But I, on the contrary, think, that the Prophet means what was afterwards repeated in one of the Psalms,

“Going forth they went forth and wept; but coming they shall come with exultation, carrying their sheaves.” (<19C606>Psalm 126:6)

For the Prophet compares the exile of the people to sowing; for except the seed cast on the earth dies, it remains dry and barren, and does not germinate: the death then of the seed is the cause of production. So also it was necessary for the people to be by exile thus cast on the ground, that their calamity might be a kind of death to them. But he says that the Jews when cast forth as a seed, that is, when driven into exile to be put to death by the chastening rod of God, “had come with weeping;” but that afterwards they returned with joy as in harvest, that is, when liberty to return was granted them. So also the Prophet here speaks, as I think, in an adversative sense, of the Jews; the particle though is to be understood.

It afterwards follows, With prayers, or mercies, will I lead them. The word ynwnjt, techenunim, which is found mostly in the plural number, means prayers; and I know not whether this sense is suitable here. In Zechariah, the word being connected with grace, it cannot be otherwise explained than of mercy, (<380709>Zechariah 7:9) and I am inclined to adopt this meaning here, even that the weeping of the people would be no hinderance, that God should not at last shew mercy to them, and turn their weeping and tears into laughter and joy. But if any one prefers to render the word, prayers, the sense would not be improper; that is, that when they began suppliantly to confess their sins, and to flee to God’s mercy, there would then come the time of joy. But weeping then must be applied to blind grief, for the Jews were not as yet subdued so as to submit to God, to be humbled and to repent. Hence weeping is to be taken in a bad sense, even for grief, mixed with perverseness, when they murmured against God; and the Prophet must have taken prayers as tokens of repentance, that is, when the Jews, having been truly convinced of their sins by many and continual evils, would begin to flee to God’s mercy. But he seems rather to set God’s mercies in opposition to the sorrow in which the Jews were involved when God hid his favor from them. fF26

He adds, I will lead them to fountains of waters, according to what is said in the book of Psalms, that they would find fountains and wells on their journey. (<198406>Psalm 84:6) For the Jews had to travel through deserts and sterile sands; so they thought that they lived in another world while they were in Chaldea: they remembered how vast was the solitude through which they had passed. Hence then was their despair, so that they refused every comfort when the Prophets exhorted them to entertain good hope. God therefore promises to be their leader on their journey, so that they should not want water in the lonely and barren desert. And we see that the Prophet, by the various figures he uses, means one and the same thing, even that whatever obstacles may meet us, to prevent us from tasting of God’s goodness, and to embrace the promises of salvation, they will all vanish away, if we bear in mind the infinite power of God. I will then lead them by fountains of water.

Then he says, through a straight way, in which they shall not stumble, according to what is said in <234003>Isaiah 40:3,

“A voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight the paths of our God; let every valley be raised and mountain be made low, so that rough places may become plain, and the crooked (or tortuous) become straight ways.”

We thus see how these prophecies harmonize, and ought to be regarded as teaching the same thing, — that God surmounts all obstacles when it is his purpose to save his Church; for how much soever all the elements may unite against the salvation of the godly, God can by one breath dissipate them all, and cast down the loftiest mountains that may be in his way, and give rivers in deserts and dry lands; and thus he can constrain to obey him whatever may seem opposed to the salvation of his Church.

He afterwards adds, for I shall be a Father to Israel, Ephraim my first-born he, or shall be; for awh, eua, as it is well known, is taken in the place of a verb. Here Jeremiah points out the cause, and as it were the fountain of the deliverance of which he has been hitherto speaking, even because God would become reconciled to his people. He intimates also the cause of the exile and of all the evils that had been and would be, because they had provoked God by their sins. God had indeed adopted them as his people in the person of Abraham; but the Prophet intimates an interruption when he says, I will be, though the covenant of God had never been annulled. He was then ever the Father of the Church, but the benefit of adoption did not appear; as to outward appearance the people seemed as rejected, as it has been said in other places: and on this subject Hosea also speaks in these words,

“I will say to her who obtained not mercy, Thou shalt obtain mercy; I will say to the not beloved, Thou art a beloved people.” (<280223>Hosea 2:23)

For nothing could have been said of the Jews when expelled from their inheritance, but that they were wholly alienated from God. He was therefore no Father to them at that time, that is, he did not appear to be so, although he did prove himself to be a Father really and effectually. He then began to be a Father when the people returned into their own country, because God’s favor then shone forth, which for a time had been as it were extinct. fF27

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast so often been pleased to receive into favor thine ancient people, though extremely provoked by their perverse wickedness, — O grant, that mercy may also at this day be shewn to us, and that though we wholly deserve to perish eternally, thou mayest yet stretch forth thine hand to us and grant to us a testimony of thy favor, so that we may be able with a cheerful mind to call on thee as our Father, and ever to entertain hope of thy mercy, until we shall be gathered into that kingdom, where we shall perfectly render to thee the sacrifice of praise, and rejoice in the fruition of that eternal life, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Nineteenth

We explained yesterday how God began to be a Father to Israel when he restored him from exile. Adoption, with regard to God, remained indeed the same, as it has been stated; but as to the judgment of men, it was abolished. He then began anew so to collect his people, that they might really know him as their Father.

He afterwards adds, that Ephraim would be his first-born. Ephraim is no doubt taken here for the whole people; nor does the Prophet here make any distinction between the two kingdoms, but includes even the tribe of Judah in the name Ephraim, as it is done in many other places. But yet it is proper to observe, that Ephraim is sometimes taken for all the posterity of Abraham, sometimes for the kingdom of Israel, and sometimes for that tribe itself. When the kingdom of Judah is distinguished from the kingdom of Israel, then Ephraim includes only the ten tribes; but in this place the Prophet did not intend to mark the difference between the tribe of Judah and the ten tribes, because it would have in this case been very strange to call Ephraim the first-born; for we know that Ephraim had been rejected from a regard to David, as it is said in the Psalms,

“And God refused the tribe of Joseph, and rejected the tabernacles of Ephraim; he chose the tribe of Judah whom he loved.”
(
<197867>Psalm 78:67, 68)

There a comparison is made between the kingdom of Judah which God had erected, having added a promise, and the kingdom of Jeroboam, which was, as it were, spurious; for the revolt from the family of David had torn the body of the Church, so that it became as it were mutilated. For this reason it is said that Ephraim was rejected, that is, because God regarded David alone and his posterity with paternal favor; and of his whole family it was said,

“He shall call me, ‘My Father;’ and I will say to him
‘Thou art my Son.’” (<198926>Psalm 89:26)

In this place then, the Prophet speaks generally of the people, as though he had said that it was only a temporary division when the ten tribes had formed for themselves a kingdom of their own, but that they would become one people, so that Ephraim would differ in nothing any more from Judah. To the same purpose is what is said by Hosea,

“When Israel was a child I loved him,
and from Egypt have I called my Son.” (<281101>Hosea 11:1)

There the Prophet calls the people Israel; he does not, however, denote the ten tribes only, but he placed in the first rank David and his posterity. Indeed, the Prophets, when prophesying of the restoration of the Church, direct their eyes to the first unity which God had fixed among the people, for it was then only the true state of things, when the twelve tribes preserved a fraternal union. We now then perceive why the Prophet says that Ephraim was God’s first-born.

But it may be asked here, “With respect to whom is he thus called? for it follows that there were other sons of God, if Ephraim was the first-born among them.” But this conclusion is not well-founded; for Mary is said to have brought forth her first-born son, who was yet her only son, (<400125>Matthew 1:25) and Christ is called elsewhere the first-begotten with: reference to all the faithful,

“that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” (<450829>Romans 8:29)

But Mary had brought forth her only son. Hence the word, “first-born,” does not prove that others follow, the second and the third in their order; but we may say that Ephraim was called the first-born of God with reference to the Gentiles, who at length became partakers of free adoption: for we also are the children of Abraham, because we have been planted by faith among the elect people; yet this solution seems to me more refined than solid. I then give this simple interpretation, that Ephraim was called the first-born because he was preferred to all the Gentiles; God was pleased to choose them as his people. This then was the peculiar privilege of the seed of Abraham; for though the human race was one and the same, yet it pleased God to choose and adopt Abraham and his posterity. It now follows, —

<243110>Jeremiah 31:10

10. Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.

10. Audite sermonem Jehovae, gentes, et annuntiate in insulis e longinquo, et dicite, Qui dispersit Israel congregabit eum, et custodiet tanquam pastor gregem suum.

 

The Prophet dwells at large on the redemption which was in the opinion of all incredible, especially as so many years had already elapsed; for it was the full extent of human life when the people had been buried, as it were, in their graves for seventy years. Then the length of time alone was sufficient to cut off every hope. No wonder then that our Prophet sets forth in a lofty strain the return of the people.

Hence he exclaims, Hear, ye nations, the word of Jehovah. And then, as by God’s command, he sends forth heralds here and there to proclaim the favor granted: Go ye, he says, and announce it in remote islands. Now, by these words he intimates that the liberation of the people would be a remarkable demonstration of God’s power, which was to be made known through all nations. Had not this been said, the hope of the people must have failed through its own weakness, and been reduced, as it were, to nothing. But when they heard. Jeremiah’s prophecy respecting this extraordinary favor of God, it was no common consolation to them; that is, that God would become such a deliverer to them that he would exercise his power in such a way as to become evident even to remote nations, yea, the report of which would penetrate into the farthest regions. By islands the Prophets mean countries beyond the sea; thus by the Jews, Italy, Spain, Greece, France, were called Islands. Then the Prophet here by remote islands, means all the regions of the world distant from Judea, and especially those beyond the sea.

He afterwards says, he who has dispersed Israel will gather him. This sentence confirms the hope of liberation; for God could easily redeem his people, since their exile was a punishment inflicted by his own hand. Had the Chaldeans obtained the victory over them by their own prowess, they might have cast away all hope as to their deliverance. God then exhorts the people here to entertain hope, because he could heal those wounds which he himself had inflicted; as though he had said, “I am he who drove you into exile, am I not able to bring you back? Had you been led away by the power of your enemies, you might be now without any hope of deliverance; but as nothing happened but through my righteous judgment, mercy can bring a remedy for all your evils.” Then God shews that their liberation could be easily effected, since the Chaldeans gained nothing by their own power, but as far as he permitted them when chastising his people. He then reasons from contraries, that since he had dispersed, he could also gather them. For had the Israelites been dispersed at the will and pleasure of men, their deliverance might have seemed to be beyond the power of God; but as he had chastised them, he could, as I have just said, heal the wounds inflicted by his own hand.

A useful doctrine may be hence deduced: the Prophet invites the people to repentance by reminding them that God had dispersed them; for had not the miserable people known this and been fully persuaded of it, they would not have fled to God’s mercy, nor have regarded him, nor entertained hope of deliverance. It was, therefore, necessary that repentance should in due order precede, that the people might embrace the deliverance offered to them. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that it was God who had dispersed Israel. He indeed reasons, as I have said, from contraries; but the sentence, no doubt, contains the exhortation which I have now stated, that the people might know that they suffered a just punishment; for it was not by chance, nor by the will of men, but by God’s righteous judgment, that they had been driven into exile.

It follows, and he will guard them as a shepherd his flock. The Prophet here shews that God’s favor would not be momentary, but that their liberation would be the beginning of a deliverance continued to the end; and to know this is most necessary; for what would it avail us to be once delivered by God? Were it so, our salvation would soon fail. But when we hear that we are delivered by God from the tyranny of our enemies for this end, that he may continue towards us his favor, that he may become our perpetual guardian and shepherd, this is a solid ground of confidence. This then is the reason why the Prophet, after having spoken of the deliverance of his people, at the same time adds, that God would be their shepherd, that he would perpetually guard and preserve his people. It follows, —

<243111>Jeremiah 31:11

11. For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.

11. Quia redimet Jehova Jacob et redimet e manu (est quidem aliud verbum, sed idem significat, lan hdp redemit e manu) potentis (vel, robusti) prae ipso.

 

He goes on with the same subject. He had said before that it would not be a difficult or an arduous work for God to deliver his people; he now says, Jehovah will redeem his people, and will redeem them from the hand of one more powerful than themselves. Jeremiah again obviates the doubt which might have dejected the minds of the godly; for this thought ever recurred to them, “How can God redeem us? he might indeed have cheeked the Chaldeans, but now they rule over the whole East; this monarchy is like a gulf in which the whole world is swallowed up: since then God has thus exalted the Chaldean power, we are wholly without hope.” They might then have despaired when they compared this evil with all the remedies that might occur to them. But the Prophet here confirms what he had just stated, that God would be more powerful than the Chaldeans and all other enemies; as though he had said,

“Though your enemies are strong, and ye are like sheep in the jaws of wolves, yet nothing can hinder God from redeeming you.” fF28

To the same purpose is what God says often by his Prophets,

“Ye have been sold for nothing, and redeemed shall
ye be without price,” (<235203>Isaiah 52:3)

as though he had said, “I am not bound to pay anything to the Chaldeans, for I did not sell you to them as by a contract, but I sold you on account of your sins; as to them, they have given me no price: let nothing, therefore, terrify you as though they could oppose your deliverance against my will.” How so? “Because they have no right to detain you; therefore, if ye only accept my favor, the strength of your enemies, which appears so formidable, shall not hinder your redemption.” This is the reason why he says that the Chaldeans were stronger or more powerful than the Israelites.

This truth is also of no little use to us at this day; for when we consider how great is the strength of our enemies, despair must overwhelm our minds; but this promise comes to our aid — God testifies that he will in such a way be the Deliverer of his people, that the power of men shall not prevent nor delay his work. It follows, —

<243112>Jeremiah 31:12

12. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd; and their soul shall be as a watered garden: and they shall not sorrow any more at all.

12. Et venient et laudabunt in excelso Zion, et confluent ad beneficentiam Jehovae, ad triticum et ad vinum et ad oleum, et ad gregem pecudum (ad verbum, filios ovium) et armenti ( vel, pecoris; distinguit oves et arietes a bobus et vaccis) et erit anima eorum quasi hortus irriguus, et non adjicient ad dolendum (vel, lugendum) amplius.

 

He says that they would come to sing praises on the height of Zion; by which words Jeremiah promises the restoration of the Temple, for otherwise the return of the Jews to their own country would have been of no great importance; nay, it would have been better for them to have remained in Chaldea, if they only regarded quietness, wealth, and pleasures; for we know how great was the fertility and pleasantness of Chaldea. Then as to the benefits of an earthly and fading life, dwelling there would have been more advantageous to the Jews; but their return to their own country was to be looked for chiefly that they might be separated from heathens, and might rightly worship God, and so dwell in the promised inheritance, as to be strangers in the world, having respect to their celestial rest.

What then has been hitherto said of the people’s return would have been unimportant, had not this promise been added respecting the restoration of God’s worship. At the same time he exhorts the Israelites to gratitude by shewing to them the end for which they were to be made free, even that they might sing praises on the height of Zion. We, indeed, know that the Temple was built on the top of that hill. But the Prophet mentions the height or high place, because gratitude was freely expressed when the Jews returned to their own country; for while they lived in exile they were like persons mute. It is hence said in the Psalms,

“How shall we sing a song to God in a foreign land?”
(<19D704>Psalm 137:4)

And they might have been still fearful after their return, had not a full liberty been granted them. This then is the benefit which the Prophet refers to when he says, that they would celebrate this favor on the high place of Sion, not in an obscure corner, but so that their voice might be heard far and wide.

He adds, and they shall flow together to the goodness of Jehovah, to the wheat, vine, and oil. fF29 This mode of speaking, common among the Prophets, ought to be specially noticed. They describe the kingdom of Christ in a way suitable to the comprehension of a rude people, and hence they set before them external images; for when Christ’s kingdom is the subject, mention is made of gold, of silver, of every kind of wealth, and also of great splendor and of great power, for we know that what is beyond and above the world cannot be immediately comprehended by the human mind. We are here inclosed, as it were, in prisons — I speak not of our bodies; but while we sojourn on earth, we cannot raise our minds upwards so as to penetrate as far as the celestial glory of God. As, then, the kingdom of Christ is spiritual and celestial, it cannot be comprehended by buman minds, except he raises up our thoughts, as he does, by degrees. This, then, is the reason why the Prophets have set forth the kingdom of Christ by comparing it to earthly kingdoms. We also know that there was a peculiarity in the Old Testament, when God covered with shadows what was afterwards clearly revealed in the Gospel; in Christ the heavens are opened to us. Hence this form of stating the truth would now be not only superfluous to us, but even injurious, as it would draw us back from the enjoyment of heavenly things. For we ought to distinguish between our state and that of the ancient people. Paul reminds us that they were children under a schoolmaster, being under the Law; but that we are grown up, and that, therefore, the bondage under which the Fathers lived, has come to an end through the coming of Christ. (<480323>Galatians 3:23-25)

Though David was endued with a singular gift of the Spirit, yet he confined himself within his own limits; for he knew that God intended so to rule at that time his Church, as that the manner of teaching should be suitable to children. But now, after we have grown up in Christ, the figures and external images have ceased; for though godliness has promises respecting the present as well as the future life, as Paul testifies, (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8) we ought yet to rise above that doctrine which is elementary. Hence when the Prophets promise wine, and oil, and wheat to the faithful, their object is to raise up their minds by degrees and gradually to higher things, according to the condition and comprehension of childhood.

And this ought to be carefully noticed; for many profane men, when they read such sentences, think that the people were addicted only to present gratifications, and that all the Jews were slaves to their appetites, and were fed by God like swine or oxen. But such an opinion is to be altogether abhorred; for they who entertain it not only wrong the Fathers most grievously, whose hope was the same as ours, as thy ever looked forward to an eternal inheritance, being strangers, as the Apostle tells us, in this world, (<581113>Hebrews 11:13) but they also disunite the body of the Church, and extinguish the grace of God, which was granted formerly through many ages, though it was only at the coming of Christ that God commenced to proclaim to men his eternal salvation. But we must bear in mind that the holy Fathers were not so brutish in their minds, that they confined their thoughts to this world; for they knew that they had been adopted by God, that they might at last enjoy a celestial life; and hence they called themselves sojourners. Jacob, who had long dwelt in the land of Canaan, says that his whole life had been a continual pilgrimage. (<014709>Genesis 47:9) And the Apostle wisely notices this, when he says that they were acknowledged by God as his children, because they were strangers in this world. (<581113>Hebrews 11:13) Then the holy fathers had the same hope as we now receive from the Gospel, as they had also the same Christ. But the difference is, that God then set forth his grace under visible figures, and it was, therefore, more obscure, but that now, figures and types had ceased, and Christ has come forth and appeared to us more clearly. I have therefore said, that this doctrine ought to be wisely applied to our use, lest we seek to be fed and crammed when God invites us to the participation of his grace. But we ought to know, that of all men, we are the most miserable, if our hope is confined to this world; and yet, at that time this way of teaching was very necessary, for the return of the people, as it has been stated, required it.

Now, then, let us know that by saying, they shall flow together to the goodness of Jehovah, to wine, oil, and wheat, something better and more excellent than food and sufficiency is promised, and that what is spiritual is conveyed under these figures, that the people might, by degrees, ascend to the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which was as yet involved in shadows and obscurity.

He afterwards adds, their soul shall be as a watered garden. He intimates that their abundance would be perpetual. When a fruitful year happens, fruits then, indeed, abound, and the quantity of wine and wheat is more than the demand; but after a fertile year sterility follows, which absorbs the previous abundance; and so it often happens, because men through their ingratitude, as it were, drive away God’s blessing, so that it does not flow to them in a continuous course; but God promises here that the souls of the people would be as watered gardens, because they were not to be satisfied only for a short time, but were at no time to be exposed to want, or famine, or to any deficiency.

He says further, they shall again mourn no more. He confirms the same thing by using various forms of expression; but what he substantially means is, that when God’s people were made free, God’s blessing would be continued to them, so that the faithful would not be subject to the common miseries of men. fF30 For we know what our condition is in this world, for every hour, nay, almost every moment, our joy is turned into sorrow, and our laughter into tears. But God promises here that he would be so propitious to his Church, that it would have a perpetual cause for rejoicing. Now, how this comes to pass we do not easily comprehend; for though God in Christ has plainly unfolded to us the treasures of celestial life, yet we always creep on the earth. Hence it comes that we do not attain what is contained in these sentences which speak of the true and real happiness of the godly. However, we ought, in the main, to regard our joy as perpetual; for whatever evils may happen to us, yet God shines on us by his grace, and thus all things turn out for our good, and are aids to our salvation, as Paul tells us in Romans:8:28. And thus we cease not to glory in distresses and afflictions, as he also teaches us in the fifth chapter; and we dare to triumph over cold and heat, over nakedness and all other evils, and even over death itself.

But we must bear in mind that Christ’s kingdom only begins in us here, and in the rest of the world; it is, then, no wonder that we taste so little of the benefits which the Prophets extol in such high terms. When, therefore, a temptation of this kind creeps in, when God treats us more sharply then we desire, “What does this mean? Wert thou one of God’s children, would he not deal with thee indulgently as he has promised? Where is that abundance of wheat, wine, and oil, for thou art often in want? Thou always livest in penury, nor does there appear to be anything better for thee to-morrow, as thou art now robbed and art come to a barren country,” — now when such a temptation as this creeps in, such as may draw thee to despair, let this doctrine come to thy mind, “Is the kingdom of God made perfect in thee?” Now if not one of us has hardly entered into God’s kingdom, there is no wonder that we are not partakers of all the good things which God has promised to his people; for if Christ’s kingdom is weak and feeble in us, it is nothing but right that we should live, as it were, in that penury which tempts us to distrust God; the same is the way with the whole world. There is, then, no reason to wonder that God does not fulfill what he has promised under Christ’s kingdom, when men are not capable of receiving so great a kindness; for it is written,

“Open thy mouth and I will fill it.” (<198110>Psalm 81:10)

But we are straitened in ourselves; hence it is, that hardly the smallest drops of God’s bounty come to us. It afterwards follows, —

<243113>Jeremiah 31:13

13. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.

13. Tunc laetabitur virgo (aut puella) in choro et adolescentes (vel, electi; sed signi,ficat proprie adolescentes) et senes pariter; et convertam luctum eorum in gaudium, et consolabor eos et exhilarabo a suo dolore.

 

This is a confirmation of the former verse; for he says that joy would be in common to young women and young men, and also to the old. He had spoken of the perpetuity of joy; but he now extends this joy to both sexes, women and men, and to all ages. Of the dance we have spoken elsewhere, — that wantonness in which the world indulges in its hilarity, was not permitted; as to profane men, there is no moderation in their joy. The Prophets followed the common mode of speaking; and, indeed, the Israelites had their dances while celebrating the praises of God; but it was a chaste and modest joy, yea, and a sacred joy, for it was a mode of worshipping God. Yet the Prophet speaks according to the common practices of the people, as in many other places, when he says that young women and young men would rejoice in the dance.

He then adds, I will turn their mourning to joy, I will console them and exhilarate them from their grief. fF31 Here the Prophet averts the thoughts of the Israelites from the evils they then had, lest their grief should so darken their minds as to prevent them to taste of God’s goodness promised them. That the feeling, then, of present evils might not hinder them to come to God and receive his favor, he speaks of their grief and mourning, and intimates that the change would be easily made by God’s hand, when it pleased him to deliver his people and restore them to their former state, so that their complete happiness would take place under the reign of Christ.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are still in our state of pilgrimage, and as thou makest us partakers of thy goodness, according as thou knowest to be necessary for us, — O grant, that we, being ever reminded by thy benefits, may aspire to higher things, and may, through all the temptations with which we must contend, advance towards the goal set before us, looking for that perfect felicity in heaven, of which a few sparks only now shine before our eyes, and thus carry on a warfare under the banner of thy Son, so as not to doubt but that a triumph is prepared for us in that blessed life which has been obtained by his blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Twentieth

<243114>Jeremiah 31:14

14. And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lord.

14. Et satiabo animam sacerdotum pinguedine, et populus meus beneficentia mea salvabitur, dicit Jehova.

 

This verse is connected with the former; for what the Prophet had said generally of the whole people, he now distinctly declares respecting the priests, for they were, as it were, the heart of the people; and by this order God gave a lively representation of his favor. This is the reason why the Scripture, in setting forth God’s blessing to his chosen people, speaks especially of the priests, as it appears from many places. Then the Prophet intimates that God would be bountiful indiscriminately to all the Israelites, but that his peculiar favor would be conspicuous towards the priests, for the condition of the people would not be complete without the priesthood, for the priesthood was, as it were, the soul. They would have lived like the heathens, had not God prescribed how he was to be called upon and worshipped. And having mentioned the priests, he does not confine himself to them, but the favor of God is extended to the whole people. It is not then only of the priests that the Prophet speaks, but he declares that the people would be made blessed through God’s bounty, and yet that his peculiar kindness would be manifested towards the Levitical priests, according to what we read in the Psalms: a special blessing is promised to the priests, accompanied with felicity to the godly; and David, when felicitating himself on having so many of God’s blessings, by which he was distinguished, does indeed mention the provisions of his table and abundance of all other things, yet he immediately adds,

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord.” (<192306>Psalm 23:6, 7)

By this conclusion, he intimates, that he esteemed as nothing what profane men desire, except he enjoyed as the first thing the worship of God; for this is the main part of our happiness. For wherefore do we live, except we learn, while we partake of blessings from God’s hand, that he is our Father, and that we are stimulated by his bounty to worship him, and except we surrender ourselves wholly to his word?

We now, then, perceive the Prophet’s object in saying, that the priests would be satiated with fatness.

As the word ˆd, deshin, fatness, denotes abundance of all things; so satiate intimates the great extent of God’s bounty. Some render it “inebriate,” but improperly; and it would be inappropriate to say, “I will inebriate with fatness.” But hwr rue, means to irrigate and also to satiate: hence the Prophet said, in what we considered yesterday, that the soul of the faithful would be like a watered garden; it is there hwr, rue. So also now God means, that he would be so bountiful towards his people, that nothing would be wanting to the full affluence of all good things. And he again says the same thing with regard to the whole people, My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith Jehovah. We hence see that nothing is promised to the priests, except in connection with the whole Church. It follows —

 

<243115>Jeremiah 31:15-16

15. Thus saith the Lord, A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

15. Sic dicit Jehova, Vox in excelso audita est, lamentatio, fietus amaritudinum, Rachel plorans super filiis suis noluit (renuit, vel, non admisit) ad consolandum (hoc est, non admisit consolationum super filiis suis) quia non ipsi, (hoc est, quia non sunt)

16. Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.

16. Sic dicit Jehova, Prohibe vocem tuam a fletu et oculos tuos a lachrymis, quia erit merces operi tuo, dicit Jehova, et revertentur e terra hostis.

 

Here, in the first place, the Prophet describes the desolation of the land, when deprived of all its inhabitants; and, in the second place, he adds a comfort, — that God would restore the captives from exile, that the land might again be inhabited. But there is here what they call a personification, that is, an imaginary person introduced: for the Prophet raises up Rachel from the grave, and represents her as lamenting. She had been long dead, and her body had been reduced to ashes; but the discourse has more force when lamentation is ascribed to a dead woman than if the Prophet had said, that the land would present a sad and a mournful appearance, because it would be waste and desolate; for rhetoricians mention personification among the highest excellencies, and Cicero, when treating of the highest ornament of an oration, says, that nothing touches an audience so much as when the dead are raised up from below. The Prophet, then, though not taught in the school of rhetoricians, thus adorned his discourse through the impulse ot God’s Spirit, that he might more effectually penetrate into the hearts of the people.

And this personification introduces a scene, for it brings before us the Jews and the other Israelites; nor does it only represent to them the calamity that was at hand, and what had already in part happened, but it also sets before their eyes the vengeance of God which had taken place in the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, when first four tribes were driven into exile, and afterwards the whole kingdom was destroyed, and it also sets forth what the Jews little thought of and did not fear, even the extreme calamity and ruin of the kingdom of Judah, and of the holy city.

Hence he says, Thus saith Jehovah, A voice on the height is heard, even lamentation, the weeping of bitterness, he introduces God as the speaker; for the Jews, though they had seen the dreadful scattering of their brethren, were yet remaining secure; and hence another Prophet complains, that no one laid to heart the calamity of Joseph. (<300606>Amos 6:6) They saw that the whole land was almost consumed by God’s vengeance, as though a fire had raged everywhere; and yet they followed their own gratifications, as Isaiah also accuses them. (<232201>Isaiah 22) This is the reason why God is made to speak here: he had to do with men altogether torpid and heedless. That the Prophet then might awaken them from their torpor, he introduces God as making the announcement, A voice then is heard, — whose voice? of Rachel.

Interpreters think that Rachel is mentioned, because she was buried in Bethlehem: but as to Joseph, that is, his posterity, this region had come by lot, it seems to me probable that the Prophet here refers not to the grave of Rachel, but to her offspring; for that part which they who descended from her son Benjamin had obtained, was laid waste; hence he introduces Rachel as the mother of that part of the country; and it is well known that under the tribe of Ephraim is included the other ten tribes: but the reference to her burial is without meaning. Rachel, then, weeping for her children, refused consolation, because they were not; fF32 that is, she could not receive consolation, for a reason was wanting, as her posterity were destroyed, and were become extinct in the land.

This passage is quoted by Matthew, (<400218>Matthew 2:18) where he gives an account of the infants under two years old, who had been slain by the command of Herod: then he says, that this prophecy was fulfilled, even that Rachel again wept for her children. But the explanation of this is attended with no difficulty; for Matthew meant no other thing than that the same thing happened at the coming of Christ as had taken place before, when the whole country was reduced to desolation; for it was the Evangelist’s object to remove an offense arising from novelty, as we know that men’s minds feel a dread when anything new, unexpected, and never heard of before happens. Hence, the Evangelists often direct their attention to this point, so that what happened in the time of Christ might not terrify or disturb the minds of men as a thing new and unexpected, inasmuch as the fathers formerly had experienced the same. To no purpose then do interpreters torture themselves by explaining this passage allegorically; for Matthew did not intend to lessen the authority of ancient history, for he knew in what sense this had been formerly said; but his only object was to remind the Jews that there was no cause for them to be greatly astonished at that slaughter, for that region had formerly been laid waste and bereaved of all its inhabitants, as though a mother, having had a large family, were to lose all her children. fF33

We now then see how Matthew accommodated to his own purpose this passage. He retains the proper name, “Ramah,” and there was a place so called; but the appellative is preferable here, “A voice is heard on the height,” as we had yesterday, “on the height of Zion.” Then a high place is what Jeremiah has mentioned here, because lamentation was to be heard through all parts of the country, for a voice sent forth from a high place sounds afar off. fF34 Now, also, we perceive the meaning of this sentence, — that the country possessed by the sons of Benjamin had been reduced to desolation, so that the mother, as one bereaved of her children, pined away in her lamentation, as nothing could afford her comfort, because her whole offspring had been cut off.

Now follows a promise which moderates the grievousness of the calamity. And the two verses ought to be read as opposite the one to the other, “Though Rachel, weeping for her children, has no ground for consolation for a time, yet God will console her.” And thus the Prophet, in the former verse, exhorts the Jews to repentance, but in the latter to hope: for it was necessary that the Jews should be forewarned of their dreadful calamity, that they might acknowledge God’s judgment; and it was also necessary for them to have their minds inspired with hope. Now, then, the Prophet bids them to be comforted; for Rachel, having long bewailed her children without any consolation, would at length obtain God’s mercy. God then would console Rachel after her long lamentation.

Refrain, he says, thy voice from weeping. The word is hkb beke: as he had mentioned this word before in the second place, “lamentation, the weeping of bitterness,” so he now repeats the same here, “Refrain thy voice from weeping,” that is, cease to complain and to bewail the death of thy children, and thine eyes from tears. The meaning is, that the lamentation of Rachel would not be perpetual. We have said that a dead woman is introduced, but that this is done for the sake of solemnity and effect, so that the Jews, having the matter set as it were before their eyes, might be more touched and moved. But if we wish to understand the meaning of the Prophet without a figure it is this, — that the lamentation would not be perpetual, because the exiles would return, and that the land that had fallen to the lot of the children of Benjamin and of Joseph would again be inhabited.

And he says, for reward shall be to thy work. He means that the sorrow of Rachel would at length happily come to an end, so as to produce some benefit. While the faithful, according to Isaiah, were complaining that they were oppressed with grief without hope, they said, “We have been in travail, and brought forth wind:” by these words they meant that they had experienced the heaviest troubles; and then they added, “without fruit,” as though a woman were in travail and suffered the greatest pain and anguish, and brought forth no living, but a dead child, which is sometimes the case. Now a woman who gives birth to a living child rejoices, as Christ says, because a man is born, (<431621>John 16:21) but when a woman after long pains brings forth a dead lump or something monstrous, it is an increase of sorrow. So the Prophet says, that the labor of Rachel, that is, of her country, would not be without fruit: there shall then be a reward to thy work. The Scripture uses the same way of speaking in <141507>2 Chronicles 15:7, where the Prophet Azariah speaks to the King Asa,

“Act manfully, and let not your hands be weakened, for there shall be a reward to your work.”

Then by work is to be understood trouble or sorrow, and by reward a joyful and prosperous issue. The meaning is, that though the whole country mourned miserably for a time, being deserted and bereaved of its inhabitants, yet the issue would be joyful, for the Lord would restore the exiles, so that the land would be like a mother having a numerous family, and delighting in her children, or in her offspring.

Now, were any one to apply this to satisfactions, he would be doing what is very absurd, as the Papists do, who say that by the punishment which we suffer we are redeemed from eternal death, and that then the vengeance of God is pacified, and satisfaction is made to his justice. But when the Prophet declares that there would be reward to the work, he does not commend the fruits of the punishment by which God chastised his people, as though they were, as they say, satisfactions; but he simply reminds them that their troubles and sorrows would not be useless, for a happier issue than the Jews hoped for would take place. But it is God’s gratuitous gift that there is a reward to our work, that is, when the miseries and calamities which he inflicts on us are made aids to our salvation. For doubtless whatever evils we suffer, they are tokens of God’s wrath; poverty, cold, famine, sterility, disease, and all other evils, are so many curses inflicted by God. When, therefore, there is a reward to our troubles and sorrows, that is, when they produce some benefit or fruit, it is as though God turned darkness into light; for naturally, as I have said, all these punishments are curses. But God promises that he will bless us, so that all these punishments shall turn out for our good and salvation, as Paul tells us in <450828>Romans 8:28.

Then he adds, they shall return from the land of the enemy. By these words he refers to the restoration of the people, so that Rachel would again see her posterity inheriting the promised land. But there is no reason refinedly to dispute here, whether Rachel rejoiced at the return of her offspring, or whether that calamity was lamented by her; for the Prophet’s object was not to shew whether or not the dead are conscious of our affairs; but he speaks figuratively in order to render what he said more striking and forcible. It follows, —

<243117>Jeremiah 31:17

17. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.

17. Et erit spes novissimo tuo, dicit Jehova; et redibunt filii ad terminum suum (hoc est, in regionum suam)

 

He indeed explains in a few words, but with sufficient plainness, what he had said. We must always bear in mind the order which I have pointed out, — that he first placed before the Jews their calamity, that they might humble themselves before God; and then he gave them the hope of return, that they might feel assured that God would be propitious to them. He now includes both in these few words, there shall be hope in thine end; for they embrace the two clauses, — that the whole country would lament for a time, and then that their tears would be turned to laughter and their sorrow to joy: for had the happiness of the people flowed in one unbroken stream, the word, “end,” would not have been suitable; for it refers to what terminates. There is then to be understood a contrast between the end and the beginning. In short, Jeremiah teaches here, that the grievous time, during which God would afflict his people, was to be borne patiently. But after having bidden them to continue in a state of suspense, he sets before them a happy issue.

Now this passage contains a useful doctrine, — that we are not to measure God’s favor by present appearances, but learn to keep our minds and thoughts in suspense, while the Lord seems to be angry with us, and only disheartening terrors meet us, so that we may cherish in our hearts the hope which the Prophet exhorts us to entertain, and distinguish between our present state and the end. And on this account it is that the Apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, while exhorting the faithful to patience, says that the rod is always at the time grievous to children, but that correction appears useful, when the end is regarded. (<581211>Hebrews 12:11) So when we perceive that God is displeased with us, we cannot but feel a dread, and we desire at the same time to escape from his chastening hand; but, as I have just said, we ought to direct our thoughts to the end or the issue, according to what we are taught here: there shall then be hope in thine end. fF35

But a question may be here moved, Was there no hope for the intermediate time, while God was punishing the Jews? the answer is obvious, — the Prophet takes hope here for hope accomplished. If any one calls it actual hope or hope effected, I do not object. But he doubtless intimates that all the calamities which the Jews would have to endure would at last end in their deliverance, and would be for their good. We thus see that hope here, as we have said, is to be taken for hope accomplished. And the Prophet explains himself, they shall return to their own border. Here by stating a part for the whole he mentions border for the whole country, as though he had said, “Ye are now far off from your country, but you shall again return to that land which has been marked out by certain limits, even by Euphrates, Egypt, the sea and Arabia;” for these were the four borders. It afterwards follows, —

<243118>Jeremiah 31:18

18. I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.

18. Audiendo audivi Ephraim transmigrantem, (vel, cum transmigravit, vel, lamentantem, ut alii vertunt; dicemus postea de voce) Castigasti me, et castigatus sum tanquam vitulus non edotus; converte me et convertar, quia tu Jehova Deus meus.

 

The Prophet here speaks more distinctly of a blessed issue, and shews that the punishment by which God had already chastised the people, and by which he was prepared to chastise the tribe of Judah, was wholly necessary, which he would give them as a medicine. For as long as we have set before us the wrath of God, we necessarily, as it has been already said, try to avoid it, because we wish well to ourselves, and endeavor to remove to a distance, as much as we can, whatever is adverse to us: hence the punishment which God inflicts is never pleasant to us, our sorrow in evils and adversities is never mitigated, nor do we quietly submit to God, unless we direct our minds to the fruit which distresses and chastisements bring forth. We now then perceive the object of the Prophet: the Jews always murmured and said, “Why does not God spare and forgive us? why does he not deal more gently with us?” The Prophet therefore shews, that God had a regard to the wellbeing of his people in chastising them; for had he indulged them in their sins, their pride and perverseness would have increased.

The intention then of these words is this, and it is for this end the Prophet speaks, — that the Jews might know that all their punishment, which would have been otherwise bitter and grievous, was a sort of medicine, by which their spiritual diseases were to be healed.

He therefore says, Hearing I have heard Ephraim, after having transmigrated, etc. The participle ddwntm, metnudad, is in Hithpael, and comes from dwn, nud, or from ddn nedad. Some render it, “transmigrating,” and others, “lamenting.” But dwn, nud, means to move, to wander, to migrate from one place to another; it means also to complain, to tell of adversities, though it is often applied to those whose object is to solace the miserable and the mournful. If any one prefers the rendering, “I have heard Ephraim lamenting,” I do not object, for there is a sufficient probability in its favor. But it may also be derived from dwn, nud, as well as from ddn nedad; the most suitable sense would then be, “after having moved into exile,” or literally, “after having transmigrated,” that is, after God had driven Ephraim, even the ten tribes, into exile. fF36

After Ephraim then had thus transmigrated, or had been driven into exile, he then began to say, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastened, for I was an untamed bullock: Turn thou me and I shall be turned; for thou, Jehovah, art my God. fF37 The Prophet, no doubt, as I said before, meant here to check the murmurs which prevailed among the Jews, who said, that God was too rigid and severe, he shews not only that they were worthy of the very grievous punishment they were suffering, but also that it was a testimony of God’s favor, that he thus intended to cleanse them from their sins; for they would have a hundred times grown putrid in their wickedness, had not God thus reduced them to a sound mind. He at the same time sets forth Ephraim as an example, that the Jews might resignedly follow their brethren, and not discontentedly bear their exile, seeing that it had already been profitable to their brethren. When therefore they perceived that their punishment was useful to the Israelites, and brought forth good fruit, they ought to have submitted themselves willingly to God, and not to have murmured against him for punishing them for their sins, but to have borne their exile as a paternal correction.

Then he says, “I have heard Ephraim,” — at what time? This circumstance ought to be especially noticed, it was after he had transmigrated. When they were quiet in the land, they were, as it follows, like untameable steers. The Prophets also use this mode of speaking, when they describe the Israelites before their dispersion; they call them fat and well fed oxen: affluence produced luxury, and luxury pride. Thus, then, they kicked, as it were, against God, according to what is said by Moses,

“My people having grown fat kicked.”
(<053215>Deuteronomy 32:15)

As they were such, it was necessary that they should be tamed. And to this refers the time that is mentioned: when Ephraim was forcibly driven from his own country, then he began to acknowledge his evils and to be touched with a penitent feeling; “Thou hast chastised me,” he says, “and I was instructed.” The verb rsy, iser, means to instruct as well as to chastise, and is applied to princes, counsellors, fathers, and magistrates. The word chastise is more restricted in Latin. But rsy iser, properly means to teach, and yet often it means to chastise, for that is one way of teaching or instructing. He then says that he was chastised, though in a different sense: in the first clause, when he says, “Thou hast chastised me,” he refers to the punishment by which God had humbled his people; and in the second clause he says, “I was instructed,” that is, “I begin now at length to become wise;” for it is the wisdom even of fools, not to become hardened under their calamities; for they who become hardened are altogether in a hopeless state. It is the chief part of wisdom to acknowledge what is right, and willingly to follow it; but, except we be willing to regard our own good, God will then chastise us. fF38

When our diseases are healable, we turn to God; but the perversely wicked bite and champ the bridle, and contend with God’s judgment: But the Prophet here refers to the faithful alone; for punishment has not the same effect on all indiscriminately. God, indeed, calls all men by punishment to repentance, so that even the reprobate are without excuse when they harden their hearts, and profit not under the rod. But punishment is peculiarly useful to the faithful; for God not only scourges them, but also, by his Spirit, bends their minds to docility, so that they willingly suffer themselves to be corrected by him. Hence I said that this clause properly refers to the faithful, when the Prophet says that Ephraim was instructed, after having been warned by punishment, to turn himself to God.

He compares himself to an untameable steer; for steers are wanton before they are habituated to the yoke. Such also is the wantonness of men before God subdues them by various kinds of punishment, and not only subdues them, but renders them also tractable and submissive. Next week I shall lecture instead of Beza.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are always carried away by our own vanities, and as the licentiousness and insolence of our flesh are such that we never follow thee and submit to thy will, — O grant, that we may profit more and more under thy scourges, and never perversely harden ourselves, but learn to know that even when thou appearest rigid, thou hast a regard for our salvation, so that we, turning to thee, may strive during the rest of our life to glorify thy name through thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One hundred and Twenty-First

In the last lecture, the Prophet told us that Ephraim, until he had been chastised by God’s hand, was like an untamed bullock, and that, therefore, exile was useful to him. He now adds, Turn me, and I shall be turned.

This second clause seems not to be in accordance with the former; for the Israelites had before confessed that they had turned, and now they pray God to turn them. Why is this said? For it seems useless to ask for what we have already obtained. But the solution is obvious. It may first be answered, that men never so repent but that they have need of the continual aid of God; for we must be renewed from day to day, and by degrees renounce the lusts of our flesh; nor is it in one day that we put off the old man. And when the Prophet in the Psalms speaks of the deliverance of the people, he says that it was a miracle, that the people had been restored beyond all hope;

“We were,” he says, “like those who dream;”

he afterwards adds,

“Turn our captivity, O Lord,” (<19B601>Psalm 116:1, 4)

and this he said because God had restored but a small number. The same also happens as to spiritual turning, both with regard to the whole body and to individual members. We turn, as I have already said, by little and little to God, and by various steps; for repentance has its progress. There is, therefore, nothing improper when we say that the Prophet, in the name of the ten tribes, asks God to go on with his work. But as this explanation is rather strained, I prefer a simpler view of the words, “Turn me, and I shall be turned.” They mean the same thing as though the Prophet had said, “O Lord, this is thy work.” He does not then simply refer to a future time, but speaks of God’s favor, as though he had said, that men do not turn by their own impulse, but that God, by the hidden power of his Spirit, turns them.

The Israelites had before confessed that they had been profitably chastised by God’s hand, because punishment had instructed them; but now he adds that this was the singular kindness of God. But, as we before observed, punishment is what the elect and the reprobate have in common; but the end and fruit of punishment is far different; for the reprobate become more and more hardened, the very reverse of being submissive to God; but the elect are subdued, for God not only smites them with his rods, but also tames them within, subdues their pride, and, in a word, bends their hearts to obedience by his Spirit.

We now then understand the purpose of the Prophet: for in the name of the people, he first confesses that punishment, inflicted by God, had been useful, and secondly, he adds, that it was not through the power of men that they willingly returned to a right mind, but that God had bent their hearts by his Spirit, so that they did not become hardened by punishment, nor obstinately resisted, as the case most commonly is. We hence, then, conclude that repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit. God, indeed, invites us, and even urges us by external means to repent; for what is the design of punishment, but to lead us to repentance? But we must still remember that were God only to chastise us, it would have no other effect than to render us inexcusable, for our perverseness could never in this way be corrected. It is, then, necessary to add the second favor, that is, that God should subdue us within, and restore us to obedience. This the Prophet testifieswhen he says, “Turn me, and I shall be turned,” as though he had said, that men indeed turn when God reminds them of their sins, but that they do this not by their own power, for it is the peculiar work of God.

He therefore adds, For thou, Jehovah, art my God. By this clause he intimates that God favors only his elect with this privilege; as though he had said, that it does not happen to all indiscriminately that they repent and submit to God when he punishes them for their sins, but that it is a benefit peculiar to his chosen people. We ought then especially to notice the reason by which the Prophet confirms the previous sentence, for we hence learn the manifest difference there is between the elect and the reprobate; for some rebel and kick against the goads, and obstinately rush headlong into ruin, but others calmly and quietly submit to God: the reason is, because some are reprobate and the others are the elect. It now follows, —


<243119>Jeremiah 31:19

19. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did hear the reproach of my youth.

19. Quia postquam convertisti me, poenituit me, et postquam cognitus sum mihi (vel, ostensum fuit mihi, vel, agnovi meipsum) percussi femur meum; pudefactus sum, atque etiam confusus, quia tuli opprobrium adolescentiae meae.

 

Jeremiah now proceeds with what he had before briefly touched upon, even to shew that the punishment inflicted on the Israelites had not been without its fruit. And this is a doctrine which ought especially to be known, for we always shun whatever is hard to the flesh; so that if it were according to our own will, the chastisements of God would never be well received by us. It is, therefore, necessary to regard the end, as the Apostle reminds us. (<581211>Hebrews 12:11) Now when we see that God has a regard for our own salvation while handling us somewhat roughly, our sorrow is mitigated and lessened, especially when experience proves that punishment is good for us; we then felicitate ourselves, and give thanks to God that he has not suffered us wholly to perish in our sins. This is the reason why the Prophet enlarges on this doctrine.

He therefore says, After thou hast turned me, I repented. He confirms what he has already said, that it is the peculiar work of God when a sinner repents, and that it cannot be ascribed to human powers, as though men could of themselves turn to the right way. But how was this done? After thou hast turned me. He thus repeats in other words what he had said, but for the purpose of confirming his previous declaration. The meaning is, that we are never touched by a serious feeling, so as to be displeased with our sins, until God himself turns us.

We hence learn how blind the Papists are, who, speaking of repentance, hold that man, through his own free-will, returns to God; and on this point is our greatest contest with them at this day. But the Prophet briefly determines the whole question; for, as he had said before, that men cannot turn except God turns them, he now adds, that he had found this to be really the fact, that people had never become conscious of their sins though God had grievously punished them until they were turned, not by their own free-will, but by the hidden working and influence of the ttoly Spirit; after thou hast turned me, I repented. The meaning is, that men never entertain a real hatred towards sin, unless God illuminates their minds and changes their hearts; for what is the turning or conversion of which the Prophet speaks? It is the renewal of the mind and heart. For let its definition be fetched, as they say, from what is contrary to it; what is turning away? It is the alienation of the mind and heart from God. It then follows that when we turn we are converted, we are renewed in knowledge, and then in heart, or in our affections; both of which the Prophet ascribes to the grace of God, for he says that the people repented not of their sins until they were turned or converted, that is, until they were renewed both in mind and heart. Some give this version, “After I received consolation;” but their mistake is easily confuted by the context; for it immediately follows, I was ashamed and also confounded. There is no doubt then but that here is set forth the displeasure at sin that is felt when the sinner is terrified by God’s judgment so as to renounce his vices.

After I was made known to myself, or, after it was shewn to me, or, simply, after I knew it, etc. For we may take the meaning to be, After it was given to Ephraim to know himself, or, after he knew himself. Some give this version, “After I was known;” and so the meaning would be the same with those words of Paul,

“After ye have known God, or rather are known by him.”
(
<480409>Galatians 4:9)

But I fear that this exposition is too refined. I therefore would rather follow those who give this rendering, After I became known to myself, or, after the thing was made known to me. The Prophet, no doubt, commends here the grace of God, because the veil had been taken away from the eyes of the people, or because they had been cured of their blindness; as though they had said, that they had long been blind, because they took delight in their vices, and their whole soul was in a torpid state; for we know that those who are forsaken by God are wholly insensible, and are as it were like the beasts. Then the people of Israel confess that they were, for a time, thus stupid, and that their minds were blinded: they therefore acknowledge here the grace of God, that he had at length opened their eyes. For they do not speak here, as we have said, of their virtue or power, but acknowledge that it proceeded wholly from God’s gratuitous favor that they repented.

As then, under the word, turning or conversion, is included the renewal of the whole soul, so now it is expressly said, that they were endued with a right mind, because God had taken away the veil by which their eyes were covered, and had conferred on them new light. The meaning is, that they were not touched by the true fear of God before they were endued with a right mind; but at the same time he testifies that it had been obtained through the peculiar favor of God. We hence see that the Prophet, in the name of the ten tribes, acknowledges that nothing depended on the free-will of man, but that a sound mind and a right feeling of the heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. fF39

The smiting of the thigh means sorrow or grief, which arises from the fear of God: for as long as we disregard God’s judgment, Satan must necessarily fascinate us with his allurements; but when God manifestly shews that he is our judge, and when our own baseness comes to view, then we begin to smite the thigh. And he adds, what means the same thing, I was ashamed and even confounded. I wonder why many interpreters have omitted the particle mg gam, even: they invert the order, and render thus, “I was confounded and ashamed.” But the particle shews that the Prophet enhances the greatness of the sorrow and shame when he says, I was ashamed and even confounded.

He then adds, Because I have borne the reproach of my youth. He here repeats what he had said before, even that punishment, sent from above, had done good to the Israelites. For except they had been thus made ashamed, they would have always taken delight in their vices; for we see that the wicked flatter and deceive themselves as long as God spares and shews forbearance towards them. Hence the Prophet, in the name of the people, says, that punishment had been profitable to him. But we must bear in mind what we have said, that this fruit altogether proceeds from the grace of God: for the reprobate, however dreadful the examples of vengeance which God may exhibit, still remain unbending, nor do they bear their own reproach, that is, confess that they have sinned. To bear reproach, then, is peculiar to the elect of God, who have been regenerated by his Spirit; for they understand the cause of their evils. When we see two diseased persons, one of whom is insane, and so is insensible as to his disease, and the other feels his sorrow, and is affected by it: in this case we see some difference. But we see another difference in others who are diseased; we may therefore suppose a third case, for it often happens, that he who is affected with sorrow, does not yet examine into its cause. He then who is healable is one who understands whence has arisen his disease, and so is ready to obey, and willing to adopt the necessary remedies. There are also many who rush headlong to their own ruin; some, indeed, feel their punishment to be bitter, but consider not the cause of it, that is, that they have provoked God’s wrath: but they who are prepared to seek the restoration of health, well know how they have contracted their disease. Hence the Prophet here says, that they bore their reproach, for they not only felt their sorrow, but also considered its fountain, that is, that they had, by their sins, provoked the wrath of God.

By youth he metaphorically points out the time when the Israelites indulged in excesses; for we know how much ardor belongs to that age. In the aged there is more moderation; but the young intemperately indulge themselves. It is therefore a metaphorical expression, by which the Prophet intimates, that the Israelites had, for a time, been wanton against God, their petulance being not subdued, for, as he had said, they had been like untamed bullocks. It follows, —

<243120>Jeremiah 31:20

20. ls Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him: I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.

20. An filius pretiosus mihi Ephraim? an filius oblectationum? tamen ex quo tempore loquutus sum de eo, recordando recordabor filius (wnrkza, vel, quia a termpore loquutus sum cum eo, reeordando recordabor illius; dicemus postea de sensu) propterea sonuerunt viscera mea illi (id est, super ipsum) miserando miserabor illius, dicit Jehova.

 

God here complains of the Israelites, because he had produced so little an effect on them by his great goodness: for the adoption with which he had favored them was an immense benefit;but by their ingratitude they had in a manner annihilated that favor. God then here asks, what sort of people the Israelites had been. But a question makes a thing stronger; for he who asks a question shews that he speaks not of a thing uncertain, but the knowledge of which is so conspicuous that it cannot be denied. It is then the same as though he had said, that Ephraim was unworthy of any honor or esteem, and that he was no object of delight. We now then perceive what God means in the beginning of the verse, even that the people were unworthy of any mercy, because they had abolished, as far as they could, the favor of adoption: for by the word son, he refers to that special favor, the covenant which he had made with the seed of Abraham.

In the first place, he calls him a son, ˆb, ben, and then a child, dly, ilad, which refers to his birth: but by these two names, God here intimates that they were to him a peculiar people, as he everywhere calls those his sons who were the descendants of Abraham; for circumcision was to them a symbol and pledge of the covenant; and so the time is a circumstance that ought to be noticed, because God does not shew here what the Israelites were before he had chosen them to be his people. But as I have already said, he charges them with ingratitude, since the time they had been adopted by him as his children. He then calls them sons, or children, by way of concession, and with regard to their adoption, as Jerusalem was called the holy city, because it was God’s habitation. There is then a concession as to the name given to them. But he afterwards adds, that this son was not precious, that is, worthy of any honor, and that he was not an object of delight; as though he had said, that he was of a perverse and wicked disposition, so that he could not take any delight in him, as by another simile he complains in <240221>Jeremiah 2:21, as we have seen, that the Jews were become bitter to him,

“My vine have I planted thee;
why then art thou turned to me into bitterness?”

So also now he says, that the Israelites were indeed his sons, but that they were evil-disposed sons, disobedient sons, sons who only vexed their father, who wounded his feelings, who filled him with sorrow.

He then adds, For from the time I spake in him, so it is literally. It is commonly agreed that these words are to be read with those which follow. “For from what time I spake;” and thus the relative ra, asher, is to be understood; but literally it is, “For from the time I spake in him,” wb, bu, or, as some render it, “concerning him;” but it may suitably be rendered “with him.” Then they read, in connection with this, Remembering I will yet remember him.

This passage, on account of its brevity, is obscure, and therefore ambiguous; but the common opinion is this, — that though Ephraim was not a child of delight, yet God would be merciful towards him; and thus they take yk ki, in an adversative sense, “notwithstanding,” or yet: “Is Ephraim a precious son? Is he a child of delight? yet remembering I will still remember him;” as though he had said, that he would not be prevented by the people’s wickedness, for he would still pity him according to his infinite goodness, or that his goodness would surpass their wickedness. This sense is plausible; yet it may be doubted whether this be the meaning. Some read the words, “From the time I spake concerning him,” that is, while I now speak of him: but I know not whether this explanation can stand. I am therefore inclined to the opinion of those who refer this to threatenings, even that from the time God had spoken against Israel, he was yet ready to be reconciled to them, according to what is said by the Prophet Habakkuk,

“In wrath wilt thou remember mercy.” (<350302>Habakkuk 3:2)

But this ought to be rather understood of the covenant, as though God had said, “From the time I spake with him, I will remember him;” that is, that he might shew the reason why he dealt so mercifully with the people. For as their wickedness and corruption were so great, a doubt might arise, “Can God still patiently endure them?” Here then our attention is called back to the fountain of gratuitous mercy, even that God would forgive his people, because he had once chosen them.

But still when I narrowly weigh everything, I think the meaning of the Prophet to be different. I therefore separate the two clauses, “From the time I spake with him,” and, “Remembering I will yet remember him;” for the sentence is harsh, when we say, “From the time I spake with him,” and then add, “I will yet remember him.” But the exposition, the most suitable in my opinion, is this, “From the time I spake with him,” (for b means with) that is, I desisted not continually to exhort him to repentance, and yet I effected nothing; notwithstanding I will still remember him; that is, “Though I have found this people very perverse, and though they have long given many proofs of their obstinacy, for I have spoken to them for a long time, nevertheless I will still remember them.” For the people deserved eternal ruin who had been so often warned; but God declares that he would still be propitious to them, though he had spoken to them for a time, that is, a long time; for he had not ceased for a long space of time to exhort that people by his Prophets, but with no success. So then I read the words, “From the time I spake with him,” separately from what follows, and connect them with the former clauses, “Is he a precious son? Is he a child of delight?” For he complains that they had been rebellious and untameable, not only from the time he had only once addressed them and sought to do them good, but for several ages. He therefore declares that the people themselves had no hope, because they had been intractable for a long time. He yet adds, though it was so, Remembering I will still remember him. fF40

And he enhances the benefit of this reconciliation, and says, Therefore sounded have my bowels for him, fF41 pitying I will pity him. Here God ascribes to himself human feelings; for the bowels are moved and make a noise under immoderate grief; and we sigh and groan deeply, when we are pressed down by great sorrow. So also when God expresses the feelings of a tender father, he says that his bowels made a noise, because he wished to receive his people again into favor. This, indeed, does not properly belong to God; but as he could not otherwise express the greatness of his love towards us, he thus speaks in condescension to our capacities. It follows —

<243121>Jeremiah 31:21

21. Set thee up way-marks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.

21. Statue tibi titulos, pone tibi acervos, adjice (vel, applica) cor tuum ad semitam, ad viam per quam ambulasti; revertere virgo Israel, revertere ad urbes tuas istas.

 

He describes what mercy would do, even that God would at length restore the captives and bring them back from exile to their own country. There was however mention made previously of his favor, that we may know that the people were restored for no other reason but because God had mercy on them. The Prophet then having pointed out the fountain of redemption, passes on now to the external effect, by which God proved that he was reconciled to his people. Hence he says, set up for thee titles.

We must first understand why the Prophet speaks thus. When the Jews were led away into Chaldea, they thought that a return was closed up against them. Having then given up every concern for their country, they dwelt among foreign nations, as though they were dead to the land of Canaan. They knew that they had forfeited that land; but they did not understand what had been so often said to them by the Prophets, that their punishment was to be temporary. As they had before disregarded all threatenings, so when God began to fulminate against them, despair overwhelmed their minds, so that they did not wish to hear anything about a return. As then they thought that they were never to return to their own country, they had forgotten the way. As when one moves to another place where he intends to dwell all his life, he only seeks to know the way thither, but does not observe the accommodations on the road, in order to use them again, nor does he take notice which way he goes, whether he turns here to the right and there to the left; it is enough for him to reach the place to which he is going; so also it was with the Jews; they had made up their minds to remain in perpetual exile, they were not therefore solicitous about the road, so as to remember their journey. Therefore the Prophet says now, Set up for thee titles, or inscriptions; for those who travel anywhere, if they mean to return, know that such an inn was commodious, and also that there was so much distance between this town or city and that village, and in like manner, that the road was straight or turned more to one side than another. When therefore they think of a return, they attend to such things as these.

It is for this purpose that the Prophet says, Set up for thee titles, that is, that thou mayest assist thy memory, as travelers are wont to do, who intend to return by the same way. Set up then for thee titles, and raise up for thee heaps, or stones, which we call in our language monioyes; as though he had said, “Thou indeed hast hitherto thought that the way has been closed up against thee, so that thou art to return no more: but God will stretch forth his hand and restore thee to thy former state.” We hence see that the similitude is taken from the common practice of men, but employed for this end, that the Jews might not despair of their restoration as they had previously don. fF42

He then says, Apply thy hearthe now explains himself — apply thy heart to the footpath, to the way through which thou hast passed. We thus see that the Prophet becomes the interpreter of his own words, even that the people would return along the same road, though they expected no such thing. And he again confirms the same declaration in other words, Return, thou daughter of Israel, return to thine own cities; as though he had said, “Though the land has beea deserted for a time, and reduced to solitude, yet the cities remain, which shall again receive their inhabitants; and through the wonderful favor of God the land still waits for its people.” Though it cast them out for a time, yet the exile was not to be perpetual, for the cities which remained were still by right the property of the people, not because they were worthy of them, but because God had prefixed, as it has elsewhere appeared, a set time for their exile and punishment.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as pertinacity is inbred in us, so that we always struggle against thee, and are never tractable until we are renewed by thy Spirit, — O grant, that thy chastisements by which thou wouldest restore us to a sound mind, may not prove ruinous to us, but so influence us by thy Spirit within, that we, being really humbled, may acknowledge thee as our Judge and Father — our Judge, in order that we may be displeased with ourselves, and being touched by thy judgment, we may condemn ourselves, — and our Father, in order that we may, notwithstanding, flee to that mercy which is daily offered to us in the Gospel, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-SECOND

<243122>Jeremiah 31:22

22. How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.

22. Quousque vagaberis (aut, cir cuibis) filia rebellis (immorigera)? quia creavit Jehova rem novam in terra, Foemina circundabit virum.

 

As the Prophet had promised a return to the people, he now reproves especially the Israelites, who looked here and there, and never could acquiesce in the word of God alone: for it is a common thing with almost all the unbelieving, that they torment themselves, and, as it were, designedly contrive for themselves many inquietudes. Since then the Israelites were looking forward to what might happen, and could not entertain any hope as to their return, except when some appearance of hope was presented to them, the Prophet now on this account reproves them.

He first calls the people disobedient or rebellions, for they had often been terrified by threatenings, and God had also offered them the hope of pardon. As they had been perverse whenever God spared them, and as they had also rejected all his promises, the Prophet does not without reason call them disobedient or rebellious. And by circuits or wanderings, he means those vain speculations with which the unbelieving are wont to weary themselves; for the word means properly to go around. We may indeed take it in the sense of wandering, and it is the same thing: but as I have said, the Prophet most fitly gives the name of circuits to those crooked and tortuous speculations in which the unbelieving indulged. And there seems to be understood a contrast between the straight way set before theIn by God, and those circuitous courses in which miserable men entangle themselves, when they do not follow God, but are led astray by their own vain devices. Isaiah also makes use of the same similitude, for he says, that the people were carried away by their own inventions, so that they fruitlessly wearied themselves, because they did not proceed in the straight way. (<235710>Isaiah 57:10) fF43

We may hence deduce a useful doctrine, — that we are always within the boundary of safety, when we obey God and walk in the way set before us in his word; but that as soon as we turn aside from the right way, we are only drawn here and there through windings and strayings, so that our labor is at last useless and even ruinous.

We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet: as the unbelief of the people was, as it were, a sealed door, so that they did not receive God’s promises as to their liberation and return, his purpose here was to correct this evil, and to reprove the Israelites for wandering and being disobedient.

He afterwards adds, For behold Jehovah will createliterally, has created; but the past tense is here to be taken for the future; and it serves to shew the certainty of a thing when he uses the past tense, as though he was speaking of a thing already done: Jehovah then has created a new thing. He intimates that the Israelites acted foolishly in estimating the promise of deliverance according to their own judgment of things, and the state of things as it appeared to them; for he says that the favor promised them would be wonderful, for this is what he means by a new thing, as though he had said, “Ye indeed judge, according to your usual manner, of what God promises to you, as to your return, but it will be a miracle; act not then perversely, by regarding the favor of God as the common order of nature, for God will surpass everything that is usual among men.”

It ought also to be observed, that what Jeremiah said of the redemption of the people is to be extended to the eternal salvation of the Church; for God in a wonderful manner raises the dead, defends and preserves his Church, and succors her in her troubles. Whenever then the Scripture speaks of the state of the Church, we ought to ascend above the world, and above our own conceptions, and to realize the miracle which is hid from us.

Now follows the miracle, A woman shall surround a ‘man. Christians, almost with one consent, explain this of the virgin Mary; and the “new thing,” leads them to this opinion, and probably, also, they were anxious to lay hold on whatever might seem to refer to the mystery of our salvation. They, therefore, say that the new thing of which the Prophet speaks is the virgin carrying the infant Christ in her womb, and that he is called man, because he was full of divine power, though he increased according to the flesh in stature, wisdom, and strength. All this is deservedly laughed at by the Jews; yet they themselves, as I think, do not rightly understand the meaning of the Prophet. They apply it to the people of Israel, because they were like a woman divorced from her husband. They then say, “A woman shall embrace a man after having been alienated from him, and prostituted herself to many adulterers.” The Jews seem to think that they give the meaning of the Prophet; but I think otherwise, for there is here a comparison made between a woman and a man, which they do not consider. For the Prophet does not speak here simply of a man, but of a strong man; for the word rbg geber, means a man who is brave or courageous. When, therefore, he compares a woman to a man, I doubt not but the Prophet means that the Israelites, who were like women, without strength, were destitute of any means of help; but then he says, that they would be superior in strength to their enemies, whose power filled the whole world with terror. We, indeed, know what sort of monarchy Babylon was when the Jews were led into exile. If then we consider what the Jews at that time were, we must say that they were like weak women, while their enemies were strong and warlike: A woman then shall surround a man. fF44

The word bbs, sebab, means not to embrace, but oftentimes to besiege; and it is taken in many places of Scripture in a bad sense, “Enemies have surrounded me.” When, therefore, a siege is mentioned, the Scripture uses this word. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “Women shall bring men into such straits that they shall hold them captive.” fF45 But he uses the singular number, as though he had said, “One woman shall be superior to many men, or each Jew shall exceed in valor a Chaldean; so the Jews shall gain the upper hand, though the strength of their enemies be great and terrible.” This is what I regard as the meaning of the Prophet; and justly does he set forth this as a wonderful thing, for it, was a sort of revolution in the world when God thus raised up his servants, so that they who had enslaved them should become far unequal to them. It follows, —

<243123>Jeremiah 31:23

23. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah, and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity, The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.

23. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Adhuc dicent hoc verbum (hoc est, pronunciabunt hunc sermonum) in terra Jehudah et urbibus ejus, ubi convertero captivitatem ipsorum, Benedicet tibi Jellova, habitaculum justitiae, mons sanctitatis.

 

He confirms in other words what he has said before; nor is the repetition, as we have said elsewhere, superfluous; for it was difficult to convince the Jews that what they had already regarded as impossible could be effected; for by their perverseness they had closed, as it were, the door against the word of God. As then despair had thus laid hold on them, and fast bound their minds, it was necessary to dwell at large on the subject, so that they might at length embrace the promise of deliverance. This is the reason why the Prophet employed many words on the same subject.

Now he makes this preface, that he had his message from God; and he speaks in his name, so that the incredible thing might be believed both by the Israelites and the Jews. They shall yet, he says, say in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I shall restore their captivity, etc. By these words the Prophet brings forward the Israelites and the Jews, as it were, into the middle, that they might see placed before their eyes what they deemed impossible. When I shall restore, therefore, their captivity, they shall again say, Bless thee may God, O dwelling-place of justice, O mountain of holiness.

It was not without reason that the Prophet employed this mode of speaking; for Jerusalem, we know, was entirely overthrown, and the Temple pulled down, and even burnt with fire. As then this was a spectacle awful and dreadful to all, there is here described a wonderful revolution, even that Sion would again be the moment of holiness, and Jerusalem the habitation of justice, though then a solitude and desolation. And this passage deserves a special notice, so that we may know that God restores his Church as though he drew it up even from hell itself. When, therefore, there is no form of a Church appearing, let us allow that the power of God can raise it up. Whence?, even, as it has been said, from hell. It follows, —

<243124>Jeremiah 31:24

24. And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks.

24. Et sedebunt (vel, habitabunt) in ea (nempe terra) Jehudah, et omnes urbes ejus (id est, incolae ejus) simul agricolae, et proficiscentur cum grege.

 

He proceeds with the same subject, but sets forth the effect of that favor of which he had spoken, for dwell, he says, shall the Jews again in the land; that is, they shall rest there and have a quiet habitation. He adds cities, only to amplify the favor of God as to the number and multiplicity of men; as though he had said, that not a few would return, but a vast number of men, sufficient to fill their cities. Now this was to exceed the hope of all; for when they saw the cities deserted, and the land almost empty, who would have thought that they would again be filled with people? But this the Prophet confirms by saying, Dwell there shall Judah and all his cities; and he adds, husbandmen. He extends God’s favor to the country and the villages, as though he had said, that the land would be filled with inhabitants, not only as to the fortified towns, but as to the fields.

It often happens that cities are inhabited when there is any fear or danger from enemies; for they who dwell in cities have walls for their defense, and mounds and other means of safety. Had then the Prophet spoken only of cities, he would not have sufficiently set forth the favor of God. Hence he adds husbandmen, as though he had said, that dwelling in the land would be safe, though there were no gates, no walls, no defences, for husbandmen would rest secure in their cottages as though inclosed within walls. We now then understand what the Prophet means.

Some read thus, “Husbandmen, and they who go forth with the flock,” as though the Prophet made a distinction between husbandmen and keepers of sheep; but this seems to me unsuitable; for I doubt not but that he means that husbandmen with their flocks and herds would be secure, having no fear of the inroads of enemies, but living in the land under the care and protection of God, without apprehending anything adverse or hostile to them. The meaning is, that the restoration of the Church would be such, that its state would not be worse than in former ages, and that it would be in a peaceable and quiet condition, so that the inhabitants of the villages and country places would not be less secure than those in cities. fF46

Now, were any one to ask, when was this fulfilled? We must bear in mind what has been said elsewhere, — that the Prophets, when speaking of the restoration of the Church, included the whole kingdom of Christ from the beginning to the end. And in this our divines go astray, so that by confining these promises to some particular time, they are compelled to fly to allegories; and thus they wrest, and even pervert all the prophecies. But the Prophets, as it has been said, include the whole progress of Christ’s kingdom when they speak of the future redemption of the people. The people began to do well when they returned to their own country; but soon after distresses came as Daniel had predicted. It was, therefore, necessary for them to look for the coming of Christ. We now taste of these benefits of God as long as we are in the world. We hence see that these prophecies are not accomplished in one day, or in one year, no, not even in one age, but ought to be understood as referring to the beginning and the end of Christ’s kingdom. It follows, —

<243125>Jeremiah 31:25

25. For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.

25. Quia irrigabo (vel, inebriabo) animam sitientem, et Omnem animam quae deficit implebo.

 

By this verse he removes every doubt, lest any one should reject what he had promised as to the restoration of the people, because the Jews and the Israelites were at the time as dead men. He therefore says, I will water the thirsty soul; some render it “the weary soul;” but hpy[ pn, nupesh oiphe, is often taken metaphorically for a thirsty soul. So in <19E306>Psalm 143:6, it is said,

“I am as a dry land;”

weariness cannot be suitably applied to land; and in <232908>Isaiah 29:8, we have these words,

“As one dreaming he thinks that he eats; afterwards, when awake, his soul is empty: and as one who thinks that he drinks,”

etc. The Prophet employs there the same word, because there is hardly ever weariness without thirst; we contract thirst by weariness. Then the soul is said to be hpy[, oiphe, by a metaphor, not weary, but on the contrary thirsty; and the verb corresponds, which means to inebriate, to irrigate, or to water, and often to satiate. I will then irrigate, or water to satiety, thy dry soul, and every soul which faints, etc., but as bad, dab, means to be deficient, and sometimes to be wearied, here it denotes a defect, for it follows, I will fill. It is then to be taken for a famished soul. fF47

The meaning is, that though the Israelites should hunger and thirst, and be for a time without food and drink, yet their want would not prevent God from affording them relief, for he had the power and the will to satisfy the hungry, and to give drink to the thirsty, or to those who were fainting on account of thirst. It now follows, —

<243126>Jeremiah 31:26

26. Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.

26. Propterea expergefaetus sum et vidi, et somnus meus dulcis fuit mihi, (vel utilis)

 

Here the Prophet comes forth, and by his own example encourages the faithful to be confident, even to recumb on God’s promise, as though they really enjoyed already what was as yet hid from them, nay, as it has been said, incredible. He then says, that he awoke and saw. This metaphor ought to be applied to a feeling contrary to that by which the Prophet had been, as it were, astonished. For though the Jews were not yet led into exile, yet the ten tribes were in that miserable bondage, — their kingdom had fallen and perished, and final ruin was nigh the kingdom of Judah. While then the Prophet was considering these dreadful vengeances of God, he was, as it were, overwhelmed with sleep. He now says that he awoke. As in darkness men lose the rigor of their minds, and sleep also prevails, so that they cannot distinguish between black and white; so also the Prophet confesses that he was for a time, as it were, lifeless; he then says, that he awoke, that is, when God’s favor shone forth, not by its own effect, but in this prophecy.

We then see that he knew as through a mirror what was yet far distant; for the term of seventy years had not as yet commenced: but faith, as it is well known, is the seeing of things hid, and the substance of things absent; for except the word of God obtains in our hearts this assurance, we betray our unbelief. The Prophet gave a proof of his faith, for he fully acknowledged that all that had been by God predicted, though far distant, would yet be accomplished in due time. We now understand why he says, that he awoke.

And he adds, And my sleep was pleasant to me. After having said that he saw the work of God, which yet could not be seen by the human eye, he now adds that his sleep had been pleasant to him, while yet he had been sorrowful and full of fear; for the best alleviator of all sorrow is hope.

But we have said that the sorrow by which the mind of the Prophet had been for a time overwhelmed, is compared to a sleep. fF48 He now adds, —

<243127>Jeremiah 31:27

27. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.

27. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et seminabo domum Israel et domum Jehudah semine hominis et semine animalis.

 

We see that the Prophet brings forward nothing new, but only animates the Jews with confidence as to their deliverance and their return. He yet employs another similitude, even that God would again sow Judah in the land, that he might produce an increase of men, and also of cattle, and of all kinds of animals. We have said that the land was to be for a time dreary and forsaken. As God then thus condemned as it were the land, that all might regard it as given up to desolation and solitude, the Prophet says that God would cause it to be inhabited again by both men and beasts.

But the similitude sets forth still more fully the favor of God. There is to be understood a contrast between a cultivated and a deserted land. It is as though one should say, “They shall sow and reap on mountains, where corn has never been, where a plough has never been seen.” Were any one then to promise a sowing and a harvest in a desert land, it would be a new thing, and could hardly be believed. Even so does the Prophet now say, I will sow, etc., as though he said, “The land indeed shall for a time be accursed, so that it will not sustain either men or beasts; but it shall be sown again.” I will sow it, he says, with the seed both of, men and of animals: and thus he meets a question, which might have been asked, “How can it be that the land will be again inhabited, since it is now deserted by its inhabitants?” even because God will sow it. In this way then, the Prophet answers the question. But at the same time he exalts the favor of God, as though he had said, that there would be no other remedy for the barrenness of the land, until God should cultivate it himself, and scatter seed on it: which is the same as to say, that the restoration of the land would not be the work of human industry or power, but of the wonderful power of God. fF49 It follows, —

<243128>Jeremiah 31:28

28. And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the Lord.

28. Et erit, sicuti vigilavi super eos ad evellendum et conterendum, et ad confringendum et ad perdendum, et ad affligendum, sic vigilabo super eos ad aedificandum et ad plantandum, dicit Jehova.

 

By these words the Prophet confirms what he had said; for the Israelites and the Jews might have ever made this objection, “Why should God promise to be the liberator of his people, whom he had suffered to be oppressed with so great evils, for it would have been easier to prevent them?” The Jews then might have raised this clamor, “Thou givest us here the hope of a return, but why does God suffer us to be driven into exile? why then does he not apply the remedy in time; for now too late he declares that he will be a help to us after our ruin.” As then the Jews thought that a restoration was promised to them unseasonably, the Prophet says that it was God who chastised them and punished them for their sins, and that he could also relieve them whenever it pleased him. For had the Chaldeans, according to their own pleasure, ruled over the Jews, and had obtained the victory over them, who could have ever hoped that the miserable men, thus reduced, could have been delivered by God’s hand? But now the Prophet shews that there was no reason for the Jews to despair, as though it were difficult for God to free them from the tyranny of their enemies; for nothing had happened to them by chance, or through the power of their enemies, but through the righteous judgment of God.

We now then perceive the design of the Holy Spirit in what the Prophet says, As I have watched over them to pluck up and to break down and to break in pieces and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch, etc. fF50 God then sets himself forth as the judge who had punished them for their sins, in order that he might convince them that he would also become their Physician, as though he had said, “I who have inflicted the wound can therefore heal it,” according to what is said elsewhere,

“God is he who kills and brings to life, who leads down to the grave and brings up.” (<090206>1 Samuel 2:6)

But he employs many words, for the great mass of so many evils might have plunged the Jews into the abyss of despair. Hence the Prophet anticipates them, and shews, that though they had been reduced to extremities, yet so many and so severe calamities could not prevent God from restoring them, when it seemed good to him. He yet reminds them, that it was not without cause that they suffered such grievous things; for God takes no delight in the miseries of his people. The people then ought to have learnt that they had been guilty of great sins from the fact, that they had been chastised with so much rigor and severity. He now adds, So will I watch over you to build and to plant.

As for the verb destroy, if we read rh erem, it ought to be rendered, and to take away. The verb r rem, as it is well known, means to elevate; but metaphorically, to take away. But the received reading, as I have said, is srh eres. He says, that he would watch to build and to plant them, as he had watched to destroy them; as though he had said, that they had already been taught by experience, how great was the power of God’s hand to save as well as to destroy. They had disregarded threatenings as long as God had spared them, and they thought that they could sin with impunity; and we see how insolently they rejected all the Prophets. But God had at length shewed by severe proofs how his judgments oughf; to have been dreaded. He now then inspires them with hope, for his watching would no less avail for their preservation. It follows, —

 


<243129>Jeremiah 31:29-30

29. In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.

29. In diebus illis non dicent amplius, Patres comederunt omphacium (uvam acerbam) et dentes filiorum obstupuerunt:

30. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.

30. Quin potius vir (hoc est; quisque) in sun iniquitate morietur; omnis homo comedens (hoc est, quisquis comederit) uvam acerbam obstupescent dentes ejus (aut, omnis viri qui comederit, dentes obstupescent)

 

Ezekiel shews that it was a complaint commonly prevailing among the people, that they suffered for the sins of their fathers, as Horace also says, a heathen and a despiser of God, “O Roman, thou dost undeservedly suffer for the faults of thy fathers.” fF51 Such, then, was the arrogance of the Jews, as to strive with God, as though he punished them, while they were innocent; and they expressed this by using a proverb, “If our fathers have eaten sour grapes, what is the reason that our teeth are set on edge?” We know that teeth are set on edge when unripe fruits are eaten; but the word properly means sour grapes, which the Greeks call omphakes. Then the Prophet says, that this proverb would be no longer used, for after having been tamed by evils, they would at length know that God had not dealt so severely with them without a just cause.

We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. And he says, In those days, that is, after God had punished the people, and also embraced them through his mercy; for both these things were necessary, that is, that their perverseness and pride should be subdued, and that they should cease to expostulate with God, and also that the gratuitous favor of God should be manifested to them. At that time then, he says, they shall not use this impious proverb, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth have been blunted: fF52 but on the contrary, he adds, every one shall die in his own iniquity; and whosoever eateth a sour grape, his teeth shall be blunted; that is, at that time the just judgment of God shall be exalted, so that there will be no place for these insolent and blasphemous clamors; the mercy of God will also be made manifest, for men, worthy of death, will be delivered, but not otherwise than through the gratuitous goodness of God.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou warnest us daily by so many evidences of thy wrath, that we may in due time repent, — O grant, that we may not be slow to consider thy work, and also the doctrine which thou addest, but anticipate thy extreme vengeance, and thus be made capable of receiving thy mercy, that as thou freely offerest it to us, we may anxiously embrace it, and also so retain it in our hearts by true faith, that thou mayest continue its course towards us, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Third

<243131>Jeremiah 31:31-32

31. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah;

31. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et percutiam cum domo Israel et cum domo Jehudah foedus novum:

32. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord)

32. Non secundum foedus quod percussi cum patribus eorum die quo apprehendi manum eorum, ut educerem eos e terra Egypti, quod irritum fecerunt foedus, inquam, et ego dominabor illis, dicit Jehova.

 

Jeremiah proceeds with the same subject, but shews more clearly how much more abundant and richer the favor of God would be towards his people than formerly, he then does not simply promise the restoration of that dignity and greatness which they had lost, but something better and more excellent. We hence see that this passage necessarily refers to the kingdom of Christ, for without Christ nothing could or ought to have been hoped for by the people, superior to the Law; for the Law was a rule of the most perfect doctrine. If then Christ be taken away, it is certain that we must abide in the Law.

We hence then conclude, that the Prophet predicts of the kingdom of Christ; and this passage is also quoted by the Apostles, as being remarkable and worthy of notice. (<451127>Romans 11:27; <580808>Hebrews 8:8-12; <581016>Hebrews 10:16)

But we must observe the order and manner of teaching here pursued. The Prophet confirms what I have before said, that what we have been considering was incredible to the Jews. Having then already spoken of the benefits of God, which could have been hardly recognised by the senses of men, in order to obviate the want of fifith, he adds, that the Lord would manifest his mercy towards them in a new and unusual manner. We hence see why the Prophet added this passage to his former doctrine. For had he not spoken of a new covenant, those miserable men, whom he sought to inspire with the hope of salvation, would have ever vacillated; nay, as the greater part were already overwhelmed with despair, he would have effected nothing. Here then he sees before them a new covenant, as though he had said, that they ought not to look farther or higher, nor to measure the benefit of God, of which he had spoken, by the appearance of the state of things at that time, for God would make a new covenant.

There is yet no doubt but that he commends the favor of God, which was afterwards to be manifested in the fullness of time. Besides, we must ever bear in mind, that from the time the people returned to their own country, the faith of those who had embraced the favor of deliverance was assailed by the most grievous trials, for it would have been better for them to continue in perpetual exile than to be cruelly harassed by all their neighbors, and to be exposed to so many troubles. If, then, the people had been only restored from their exile in Babylon, it was a matter of small moment; but it behoved the godly to direct their minds to Christ. And hence we see that the Prophets, who performed the office of teaching after the restoration, dwelt on this point, — that they were to hope for something better than what then appeared, and that they were not to despond, because they saw that they did not enjoy rest, and were drawn into weary and grievous contests rather than freed from tyranny. We indeed know what Hagggai says of the future temple, and what Zechariah says, and also Malachi. And the same was the object of our Prophet in speaking of the new covenant, even that the faithful, after having enjoyed again their own country, might not clamor against God, because he did not bestow on them that happiness which he had promised. This was the second reason why the Prophet spoke of the new covenant.

As before, he now repeats the words, that the days would come, in which God would make a covenant with Israel as well as with Judah. For the ten tribes, as it is well known, had been driven into exile while the kingdom of Judah was still standing. Besides, when they revolted from the family of David, they became as it were another nation. God indeed did not cease to acknowledge them as his people; but they had alienated themselves as far as they could from the Church. God then promises that there would be again one body, for he would gather them that they might unite together, and not be like two houses.

Now, as to the new covenant, it is not so called, because it is contrary to the first covenant; for God is never inconsistent with himself, nor is he unlike himself, he then who once made a covenant with his chosen people, had not changed his purpose, as though he had forgotten his faithfulness. It then follows, that the first covenant was inviolable; besides, he had already made his covenant with Abraham, and the Law was a confirmation of that covenant. As then the Law depended on that covenant which God made with his servant Abraham, it follows that God could never have made a new, that is, a contrary or a different covenant. For whence do we derive our hope of salvation, except from that blessed seed promised to Abraham? Further, why are we called the children of Abraham, except on account of the common bond of faith? Why are the faithful said to be gathered into the bosom of Abraham? Why does Christ say, that some will come from the east and the west, and sit down in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? (<421622>Luke 16:22; <400811>Matthew 8:11) These things no doubt sufficiently shew that God has never made any other covenant than that which he made formerly with Abraham, and at length confirmed by the hand of Moses. This subject might be more fully handled; but it is enough briefly to shew, that the covenant which God made at first is perpetual.

Let us now see why he promises to the people a new covenant. It being new, no doubt refers to what they call the form; and the form, or manner, regards not words only, but first Christ, then the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the whole external way of teaching. But the substance remains the same. By substance I understand the doctrine; for God in the Gospel brings forward nothing but what the Law contains. We hence see that God has so spoken from the beginning, that he has not changed, no not a syllable, with regard to the substance of the doctrine. For he has included in the Law the rule of a perfect life, and has also shewn what is the way of salvation, and by types and figures led the people to Christ, so that the remission of sin is there clearly made manifest, and whatever is necessary to be known.

As then God has added nothing to the Law as to the substance of the doctrine, we must come, as I have already said, to the form, as Christ was not as yet manifested: God made a new covenant, when he accomplished through his Son whatever had been shadowed forth under the Law. For the sacrifices could not of themselves pacify God, as it is well known, and whatever the Law taught respecting expiation was of itself useless and of no importance. The new covenant then was made when Christ appeared with water and blood, and really fulfilled what God had exhibited under types, so that the faithful might have some taste of salvation. But the coming of Christ would not have been sufficient, had not regeneration by the Holy Spirit been added. It was, then, in some respects, a new thing, that God regenerated the faithful by his Spirit, so that it became not only a doctrine as to the letter, but also efficacious, which not only strikes the ear, but penetrates into the heart, and really forms us for the service of God. The outward mode of teaching was also new, as it is evident to all; for when we compare the Law with the Gospel, we find that God speaks to us now openly, as it were face to face, and not under a veil, as Paul teaches us, when speaking of Moses, who put on a veil when he went forth to address the people in God’s name. (<470313>2 Corinthians 3:13) It is not so, says Paul, under the Gospel, but the veil is removed, and God in the face of Christ presents himself to be seen by us. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet calls it a new covenant, as it will be shown more at large: for I touch only on things which cannot be treated apart, that the whole context of the Prophet may be better understood. Let us then proceed now with the words.

He says that the covenant which he will make will not be such as he had made with their fathers. Here he clearly distinguishes the new covenant from the Law. The contrast ought to be borne in mind; for no one of the Jews thought it possible that God would add anything better to the Law. For though they regarded the Law almost as nothing, yet we know that hypocrites pretended with great ardor of zeal that they were so devoted to the Law, that they thought that heaven and earth could sooner be blended together, than that any change should be made in the Law; and at the same time they held most tenaciously what God had only for a time instituted. It was therefore necessary that the Law should be here contrasted with the new covenant, that the Jews might know that the favor in reserve for them would be far more excellent than what had been formerly manifested to the fathers. This, then, is the reason why he says, not according to the covenant, etc.

He afterwards adds, which I made with their fathers when I laid hold of their hand, etc. Here he shows that they could never have a firm hope of salvation, unless God made a new covenant. Such was their pride, that they hardly would have received the favor of God, had they not been convinced of this truth: for this would have been always in their mouth, “Did not God shew himself a Father to his people when he redeemed them? was it not a testimony of his paternal favor? has he not elevated the condition of the Church, which he designs to be perpetual?” They would have therefore rejected the favor of God, had not the Prophet openly declared that the Law had been and would be still useless to them, and that there was therefore a necessity for a new covenant, otherwise they must have perished.

We now perceive the design of the Prophet; and this ought to be carefully observed; for it would not be enough to know what the Prophet says, except we also know why he says this or that. The meaning then is, that it ought not to appear strange that God makes a new covenant, because the first had been useless and was of no avail. Then he confirms this, because God made the first covenant when he stretched out his hand to his ancient people, and became their liberator; and yet they made void that covenant. The circumstance as to the time ought to be noticed, for the memory of a recent benefit ought to be a most powerful motive to obedience. For how base an ingratitude it was for those, who had been delivered by the wonderful power of God, to reject his covenant at a time when they had been anticipated by divine mercy? As then they had made void even at that time the covenant of God, it may with certainty be concluded, that there had been no time in which they had not manifested their impiety, and had not been covenant-breakers.

He adds, I however ruled over them, or was Lord over them. Though some confine the verb ytl[b bolti, to the rule exercised by a husband, and this would not be unsuitable, as God not only ruled then over his people, but was also their husband, a similitude which is often used; yet I know not whether this view can be satisfactorily sustained we ought therefore to be satisfied with the general truth, that God had the people under his own authority, as though he had said, that he only used his own right in ruling over them and prescribing to them the way in which they were to live. At the same time the word covenant, was more honorable to the people. For when a king enjoins anything on his people, it is called an edict; but God deals with his own people more kindly, for he descends and appears in the midst of them, that he may bind himself to his people, as he binds the people to himself. We hence see, in short, why God says that he ruled over the people, even because he had purchased them for himself, and yet he had not enjoyed his own right on account of the untameable and perverse disposition of the people. fF53

It ought at the same time to be observed, that the fault is here cast on the people, that the Law was weak and not sufficiently valid, as we see that Paul teaches us in <450712>Romans 7:12. For as soon as the weakness of the Law is spoken of, the greater part lay hold of something they deem wrong in the Law, and thus the Law is rendered contemptible: hence the Prophet says here that they had made God’s covenant void, as though he had said, that the fault was not to be sought in the Law that there was need of a new covenant, for the Law was abundantly sufficient, but that the fault was in the levity and the unfaithfulness of the people. We now then see that nothing is detracted from the Law when it is said to be weak and ineffectual; for it is an accidental fault derived from men who do not observe nor keep their pledged faith. There are still more things to be said; but I now, as I have said, touch but briefly on the words of the Prophet. It then follows, —

<243133>Jeremiah 31:33

33. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

33. Quia hoc foedus quod percutiam cum domo Israel post dies illos, dicit Jehova, ponam legem meam in medio ipsorum (id est, in visceribus) et in cordibus ipsorum scribam eam; et ego ero illis in Deum, et ipsi erunt mihi in populum.

 

He now shews a difference between the Law and the Gospel, for the Gospel brings with it the grace of regeneration: its doctrine, therefore, is not that of the letter, but penetrates into the heart and reforms all the inward faculties, so that obedience is rendered to the righteousness of God.

A question may however be here moved, Was the grace of regeneration wanting to the Fathers under the Law? But this is quite preposterous. What, then, is meant when God denies here that the Law was written on the heart before the coming of Christ? To this I answer, that the Fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power then to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the Law, but it was a benefit transferred to the Law from the Gospel. This is one thing. Then we know that this grace of God was rare and little known under the Law; but that under the Gospel the gifts of the Spirit have been more abundantly poured forth, and that God has dealt more bountifully with his Church. But still the main thing is, to consider what the Law of itself is, and what is peculiar to the Gospel, especially when a comparison is made between the Law and the Gospel. For when this comparison ceases, this cannot be properly applied to the Law; but with regard to the Gospel it is said, that the Law is that of the letter, as it is called elsewhere, (<450706>Romans 7:6) and this also is the reason why Paul calls it the letter in <470306>2 Corinthians 3:6,

“the letter killeth,”

etc. By “letter” he means not what Origen foolishly explained, for he perverted that passage as he did almost the whole Scripture: Paul does not mean there the simple and plain sense of the Law; for he calls it the letter for another reason, because it only sets before the eyes of men what is right, and sounds it also in their ears. And the word letter refers to what is written, as though he had said, The Law was written on stones, and was therefore a letter. But the Gospel — what is it? It is spirit, that is, God not only addresses his word to the ears of men and sets it before their eyes, but he also inwardly teaches their hearts and minds. This is then the solution of the question: the Prophet speaks of the Law in itself, as apart from the Gospel, for the Law then is dead and destitute of the Spirit of regeneration.

He afterwards says, I will put my Law in their inward parts. By these words he confirms what we have said, that the newness, which he before mentioned, was not so as to the substance, but as to the form only: for God does not say here, “I will give you another Law,” but I will write my Law, that is, the same Law, which had formerly been delivered to the Fathers. He then does not promise anything different as to the essence of the doctrine, but he makes the difference to be in the form only. But he states the same thing in two ways, and says, that he would put his law in their inward parts, and that he would write it in their hearts. fF54 We indeed know how difficult it is that man should be so formed to obedience that his whole life may be in unison with the Law of God, for all the lusts of the flesh are so many enemies, as Paul says, who fight against God. (<450807>Romans 8:7) As then all our affections and lusts thus carry on war with God, it is in a manner a renovation of the world when men suffer themselves to be ruled by God. And we know what Scripture says, that we cannot be the disciples of Christ, except we renounce ourselves and the world, and deny our own selves. (<400624>Matthew 6:24; <421426>Luke 14:26, 27) This is the reason why the Prophet was not satisfied with one statement, but said, I will put my Law in their inward parts, I will write it in their hearts.

We may further learn from this passage, how foolish the Papists are in their conceit about free-will. They indeed allow that without the help of God’s grace we are not capable of fulfilling the Law, and thus they concede something to the aid of grace and of the Spirit: but still they not only imagine a co-operation as to free-will, but ascribe to it the main work. Now the Prophet here testifies that it is the peculiar work of God to write his Law in our hearts. Since God then declares that this favor is justly his, and claims to himself the glory of it, how great must be the arrogance of men to appropriate this to themselves? To write the Law in the heart imports nothing less than so to form it, that the Law should rule there, and that there should be no feeling of the heart, not conformable and not consenting to its doctrine. It is hence then sufficiently clear, that no one can be turned so as to obey the Law, until he be regenerated by the Spirit of God; nay, that there is no inclination in man to act rightly, except God prepares his heart by his grace; in a word, that the doctrine of the letter is always dead, until God vivifies it by his Spirit.

He adds, And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. Here God comprehends generally the substance of his covenant; for what is the design of the Law, except that the people should call upon him, and that he should also exercise a care over his people? For whenever God declares that he will be our God, he offers to us his paternal layout, and declares that our salvation is become the object of his care; he gives to us a free access to himself, bids us to recumb on his grace, and, in short, this promise contains in itself everything needful for our salvation. The case is now also at this day the same under the Gospel; for as we are aliens from the kingdom of heaven, he reconciles us by it to himself, and testifies that he will be our God. On this depends what follows, And they shall be my people; for the one cannot be separated from the other. By these words then the Prophet briefly intimates, that the main object of God’s covenant is, that he should become our Father, from whom we are to seek and expect salvation, and that we should also become his people. Of these things there is more to be said again; but I have explained the reason why I now so quickly pass over things worthy of a longer explanation. He adds, —

<243134>Jeremiah 31:34

34. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

34. Et non docebit amplius vir (id est, quisque) proximum suum, et quisque fratrum suum, dicendo, cognoscite Jehovam; quia omnes cognoscent me a parvo ipsorum, et (sed abundat copula) ad magnum ipsorum, dicit Jehova; quia ignoscam pecattis ipsorum, et iniquitatum ipsorum non recordabor amplius.

 

But I cannot now proceed farther, for the clock strikes.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit as to make through thy Son a covenant which has been ratified for our salvation, — O grant, that we may become partakers of it, and know that thou so speakest with us, that thou not only shewest by thy Word what is right, but speakest also to us inwardly by thy Spirit, and thus renderest us teachable and obedient, that there may be an evidence of our adoption, and a proof that thou wilt govern and rule us, until we shall at length be really and fully united to thee through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth

And no more shall every one teach his neighbor, and every one his brother, saying, Know ye Jehovah; for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more. Here is mentioned another difference between the old and the new covenant, even that God, who had obscurely manifested himself under the Law, would send forth a fuller light, so that the knowledge of him would be commonly enjoyed. But he hyperbolically extols this favor, when he says that no one would have need of a teacher or instructor, as every one would have himself sufficient knowledge. We therefore consider that the object of the Prophet is mainly to shew, that so great would be the light of the Gospel, that it would be clearly evident, that God under it deals more bountifully with his people, because its truth shines forth as the sun at noon-day. The same thing Isaiah promises, when he says that all would become the disciples of God. (<235413>Isaiah 54:13) This was indeed the case also under the Law, though God gave then but a small taste of heavenly doctrine: but at the coming of Christ he unfolded the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so that under the Gospel there is the perfection of what had been begun; for we know that the ancient people were like children, and hence God kept them in the rudiments of knowledge: now, as we are grown up, he favors us with a fuller doctrine, and he comes, as it were, nearer to us.

Hence, he says, No more shall every one teach his neighbor, and a man his brother. fF55 I have said that the Prophet here amplifies the favor of God. But we find that some fanatics have ignorantly and foolishly abused this passage, seeking to put down teaching of every kind, as the Anabaptists in our day, who reject all teaching; and flattering themselves in their ignorance, they proudly boast that they are endued with the Spirit, and say, that dishonor is done to Christ, if we are still disciples, because it is written as one of the praises and encomiums given to the new covenant, that no one shall teach his neighbor any more. And hence it has also happened, that they are inebriated with strange and horrible doctrines: for the devil, when they become swollen with so much pride, can fascinate and delude them as he pleases; and their own pride also so leads them astray, that they invent dreams; and many unprincipled men have drawn aside this passage to serve their own purposes. For when they boast themselves to be prophets, and persuade the simple that they are so, they hold many attached to themselves, and derive gain by this sort of boasting.

But the Prophet here does not mean inspiration, nor does he exclude the practice of teaching, as I have already said; he only shews to us the superior brightness of the gospel light, as God, under the Law, did not so perfectly teach his people as he does us at this day. And hence is that saying of Christ,

“Blessed are the eyes which see the things which ye see, and the ears which hear the things which ye hear; for many kings and prophets,” etc. (<421023>Luke 10:23)

Christ, then, is the best interpreter of this passage, even that God would cause the truth to shine forth more fully under the Gospel; and hence Christ is called by Malachi

“the Sun of Righteousness,” (<390402>Malachi 4:2)

for the Prophet there intimates that the Fathers had indeed some light, but not such as we have. In short, we ought to bear in mind the comparison, of which mention was made yesterday, even that God held his people in suspense with the hope of a better state.

And that we may no farther seek an explanation, let us carefully weigh the words; for it is not simply and without exception said, “No one shall teach his neighbor,” but it it is added, “Saying, Know ye Jehovah.” We hence see that the Prophet promises knowledge, so that they might be no longer alphabetarians; for these words, “Know ye Jehovah,” point out the first elements of faith, or of celestial doctrine. And, doubtless, if we consider how great was the ignorance of the ancient people, they were then only in the elements. He who is at this day the least among the faithful, has so far advanced, that he knows much more clearly what pertains chiefly to salvation than those who were then the most learned. The meaning then is, that all God’s chosen people would be so endued with the gift of knowledge, that they would no longer continue in the first elements.

Now, were any one pertinaciously to urge this one clause, it would be right to set before him a passage in Isaiah, for he certainly speaks of the kingdom of Christ, when he says,

“Lay hold shall each on the hand of his neighbor, and say, Come, let us ascend into the mountain of the Lord, and he will teach us his ways,” etc. (<230203>Isaiah 2:3)

Now, let us reconcile these two prophecies. The design of both is to set forth the favor of God, manifested by Christ at his coming. The one passage says, “No one will teach his neighbor;” and the other, “Lay hold will each on the hand of his neighbor, and say, Let us come and ascend into the mountain, that Jehovah may teach us.” Now the way of reconciling them is this, — that Jeremiah says, that the people would not be so ignorant under the new covenant as to stand in need of the first principles of truth; but that Isaiah says, that each would lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, that they might mutually help one another, so as to attain the knowledge of God’s law. The question is thus solved; and we, at the same time, see how remarkable is the benefit with which God favors his people, as he thus makes himself familiarly known to them.

He says, All shall know me, from the least to the greatest. He does not mean that knowledge would be in all in an equal measure. Experience indeed proves this to be false; and further we know, that God has testified from the beginning, as Paul also reminds us, (<451202>Romans 12:2, 3) that the measure of his gifts is according to his good pleasure. But the Prophet means, that those who are the least or the lowest among God’s people shall be endued with so much light of knowledge that they will be almost like teachers. To the same purpose is the prophecy of Joel,

“Prophesy shall your sons, your daughters shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (<290228>Joel 2:28)

He promises that there would be everywhere prophets and teachers, because the grace of God would be at that day more abundant; and these things ought ever to be understood comparatively. Though, then, many are now ignorant among the children of God, and among those who are really of the number of the faithful, yet if we consider how great was the obscurity of the Law, those who are at this day the least among the disciples, are not otherwise than prophets and teachers. And for this reason Christ says,

“He who is least in the kingdom of heaven,
is greater than John the Baptist,”

who yet was superior to all the Prophets. (<401111>Matthew 11:11) John the Baptist was, in his office, exalted above all the Prophets, and he excelled them in knowledge; and yet the least of those who professed the Gospel and bore testimony to it, was greater, says Christ, than John the Baptist. And this is not to be applied only to them individually, nor be confined to them, but rather to the clear and plain doctrine which the Gospel conveys, according to the passage we quoted yesterday, where Paul says that there is now no veil intervening, but that we are allowed to see God, as it were, face to face in the person of Christ. (<470318>2 Corinthians 3:18)

It follows, For I well forgive their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more. The Prophet, no doubt, shews here the foundation of God’s kindness, even that he would receive the people into favor by not imputing to them their sins. If we then seek for the origin of the new covenant, it is the free remission of sins, because God reconciles himself to his people. And we hence conclude, that there is no other cause that we can imagine, why God appeared in his only-begotten Son, and manifested so great a bounty: for the Prophet here reduces to nothing all the glory of the flesh, and lays prostrate all merits, when he says, that God would be so bountiful to his people as to become propitious to them, freely to remit their sins, and not to remember their iniquities. This passage, then, cannot properly be taken as referring to the perpetual remission of sins, though this he included in the general doctrine; but we must bear in mind the design of the Prophet, which was to shew, that God from the beginning, with regard to his Church, was moved by no other cause than a desire to abolish sins.

The Apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, gives rather a refined interpretation of this passage, for he dwells on the word more, d[, od. He says, that under the New Testament God forgives iniquities, because expiation has been made, so that there is no more need of sacrifices. For he assumes the opposite idea, that God remembered iniquities until he made the new covenant. If he remembered sins, he says, until he made a new covenant, it is no wonder that he then required daily sacrifice to propitiate him: but now under the New Testament he remembers them no more. Then sacrifices cease, because there is now no need of satisfaction when sins are forgiven. He hence concludes, that we have been so expiated by the blood of Christ, and so reconciled to God, that confidence as to our salvation ought to give us an entire rest. But we ought to bear in mind what I have said, that the Prophet here expressly, and in the first place, speaks of the beginning of the mercy and grace which God promises; he therefore declares that God would be so kind and so gracious as not to remember iniquities.

What, then, does the particle more intimate? Even that God had for a time been angry with his people, and visited their sins with judgment. For God is said to call our sins to remembrance, he is said to be angry with us, he is said to be the avenger of our iniquities, when he punishes us, when he gives evidences of his severity and of his vengeance. Whenever then God severely handled his people, he seemed to remember their iniquities; but when he made the new covenant, all iniquities were then buried, and cast, as another Prophet says, into the depths of the sea. (<330719>Micah 7:19) Then the Apostle misapplied the testimony of the Prophet: by no means; for he wisely accommodated it to the subject he was discussing: what God promises, that he would not any more remember iniquities, after having made the new covenant, was accomplished through the coming of Christ. Then Christ alone has effected this — that our iniquities should no more be remembered before God. Hence also we easily learn what the Apostle intended to prove, even that sacrifices cease when sins are expiated. These things indeed harmonize well together, and there is nothing forced or too refined.

Moreover, the Prophet does not here discuss the whole question respecting the difference between the Old and New Testament, but only takes this as granted, that the grace of God would be more abundant than formerly, in order that the faithful, supported by hope, might patiently endure their evils and most grievous trials with which they had to contend, and not despond until Christ was manifested, as we said yesterday. Here, then, he speaks of the grace of regeneration, of the gift of knowledge, and at the same time promises that God would be propitious to his people in a different and more perfect way than he had been in former times. But the Apostle in that Epistle seems to apply this to ceremonies, because these things are connected together; that is, the abrogation of ceremonies and the regeneration of the Spirit which is promised here. Then the Apostle does not wrest the words of the Prophet; but as he commends the new covenant, which was to be more excellent than the Law, he hence concludes, that it is no wonder that ceremonies were not to continue but for a time. For he assumes this principle, that a new covenant was to succeed the old: then some change was necessarily to be. He assumes also that the new covenant was opposed to the old, and that the old was subject to destruction. The Jews could not endure any change in the types, for they would have them to remain the same. But the Apostle says that it is nothing strange that a thing should decay; for God, he says, does not certainly without reason call that covenant old which he made by Moses; then it will not always continue valid. (<580813>Hebrews 8:13) Since it is so, it cannot be inconsistent with the truth and faithfulness of God, that the ceremonies should cease as to their use, while the Law itself remained unchanged. We now then see that the Apostle faithfully interpreted the design of the Prophet by accommodating his testimony to the abrogation of ceremonies.

But as I have to explain only the words of the Prophet, there is no need to speak further of the difference between the Old and New Testament, that is, in what particulars they differ; for the Old and New Testament differ also in other things. But the Prophet, as I have said, thought it sufficient to touch on this point, — that something better was to be hoped at the coming of Christ than what the Fathers in all ages had found. And thus, as I have said, he sought to alleviate the sorrow of the faithful, whom God exercised with hard trials before Christ was manifested in the flesh.

Moreover, the Law and the Gospel form a contrast like Moses and Christ. Then the New Testament is more excellent than the Law, as Christ excels Moses. But we must come to a passage in John, that we may more fully understand why the Prophet says that the grace of the new covenant would be different from that, of the old. John says,

“The Law was given by Moses, but grace
and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (<430117>John 1:17)

John seems there to leave nothing to the Law but an evanescent shadow. For if Christ only brought truth to us, then there was no truth in the Law, and there was no grace in the Law; but this seems to east a reproach on the Law. Now this question was in part answered yesterday. But as I wish to finish this passage, let it be briefly observed, that whenever the Law is thus extenuated, it is only that the benefit of Christ may be set forth, so that we may know how invaluable is God’s mercy which appears in his only-begotten Son.

Were now any one to object and say, “But why had he previously published the Law? and why did he command it to be reverently received, if it was without grace and truth?” To this I answer, according to what I said yesterday, that the Law was not destitute of those benefits which we at this day receive under the Gospel, but that these benefits were then, as it were, adventitious, and that they do not properly belong to the Law; for if the Law were separated from the Gospel, it would be the same as if one was to separate Moses from Christ. If Moses be regarded, not as opposed to Christ, he was the herald and witness of God’s paternal kindness towards his people; his doctrine also contained promises of a free salvation, and opened to the faithful the door of access to God. But if Moses be set in opposition to Christ, he becomes the minister of death, and his doctrine leads to destruction; for the letter, as Paul in <470306>2 Corinthians 3:6, calls it, killeth, — how so? Because whosoever is attached to Moses departs from Christ; and Christ alone possesses in himself the fullness of all blessings. It then follows, that nothing remains in Moses when considered in himself. But God promised salvation to his ancient people, and also regenerated his chosen, and illuminated them by his Spirit. This he did not do so freely and extensively as now. As then God’s grace is at this day more abundant, it is justly extolled in high terms by all the Prophets; and then, as I have already said, whatever God at that time conferred, was, as it were, adventitious, for all these benefits were dependant on Christ and the promulgation of the Gospel. Let us now proceed, —

<243135>Jeremiah 31:35-36

35. Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of hosts is his name:

35. Sic dicit Jehova, Qui ponit solera (vel, posuit) in lucem diei, et leges (vel, statuta, decreta) lunae et stellarum in lucem noctis; scindens mare, et resonant (tumultuautur) fluctus ejus; Jehova exercituum nomen ejus:

36. If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

36. Si remota fuerint decreta haec a conspectu meo, dicit Jehova, etiam semen Israel cessabit (vel, deficiet) ne sit gens coram facie mea cunctis diebus.

 

He confirms the promises which we have been considering; for it was difficult to believe that the people would not only recover what they had lost, but also be made much more happy; for the Church was then wholly in a desponding state. It was not then an easy matter to raise, as it were, from the lowest depths a miserable people, and to comfort them so that they might overcome their dreadful trial; for the disorder of the Church was such, that had it been raised a hundred times from the dead, it might again be a hundred times crushed into death, for there still remained for it most grievous evils in future. This is then the reason why the Prophet dwells at large on proving the same thing.

He says in the person of God, “I am he who created the sun, the moon, and the stars; the regular order of things in creation still continues, for the sun performs its course, and so does the moon.” He speaks, indeed, of their diurnal course, for we know that the Prophets spoke popularly, and according to the common notions. Had they philosophized, as astrologers do, and spoken of the monthly course of the moon, and of the annual course of the sun, they could not have been understood by the common people. They were, therefore, satisfied to state things which even children could comprehend, even that the sun made its circuit daily round the world, that the moon did the same, and that the stars in their turns followed; so that the moon holds the first place in the night among the stars, and that the sun rules during the day. “I am the Lord,” he says, “who have fixed this order of things which still remains:” I cut or divide the sea, he says, that is, I stir it up with tempests, and make a noise, or roar, do its waves.”

He mentions things which are contrary, but not inconsistent, though different. For the course of the sun, moon, and stars is regular and fixed, and so he calls their courses tqj cheket, and yqjh echekim, that is, decrees, which are not changeable. fF56 Then in the heavens we find an order so arranged and regulated, that nothing deviates from its appointed course. But in storms and tempests God seems as though he would shake the world and overturn what appears otherwise immovable; for even the very rocks, as it were, tremble when the sea is violently stirred up; and yet God calms the very sea, and thus puts an end to storms and tempests, so that there ever appears to be a stability and a perpetuity in nature. He then adds, If removed shall these laws be from my presence, the seed of Israel shall also fail; that is, “As certain as is the stability of the order of nature, seen in the course of the sun and the moon, and in the turbulent sea, so certain will be the deliverance of ray Church, nor can it ever be destroyed.” The tempest on the sea seems to shake the world, and yet the world remains fixed. The sun and moon, when they rise, might overwhelm the whole earth; for we know that the sun is much larger than the earth. While so large a body, and almost immeasurable, hangs over our heads, and rolls on so swiftly, who ought not to be afraid? Yet the sun proceeds in its course, and the earth remains firm, because it so pleases God. There is, therefore, no reason to fear that the safety of the Church should ever fail, for the laws or decrees of nature shall never cease; that is, God, who has from the beginning governed the world, will not disregard the welfare of his Church, for whose sake the world has been created.

Nor, indeed, is it a matter of wonder, that the safety of the Church is here shewn to be so secure, for it may justly be preferred even to the fixed course of the sun and of the moon, and to other institutions of nature. But God deemed it enough in this place to use this comparison, according to what is said in the Psalms, where the sun and the moon are called his faithful witnesses in heaven. (<198936>Psalm 89:36, 37) But there also the covenant is spoken of, which God was about to make with his people through his only-begotten Son. He mentions the moon as his witness in heaven; but as I have already said elsewhere, he raises us far above the world and above all the elements, yea, above the sun and the moon, when he treats of the certainty of our salvation; and, doubtless, the condition of the Church does not depend on the state of the world; for it is said in another place,

“They shall grow old, but thou wilt remain for ever.”
(<19A226>Psalm 102:26-28)

And the Prophet there compares the heavens to garments, which wear out by use, and at length become useless; but the condition of the Church, he says, is far different. He does not, indeed, express these words; but after having said, “Thou, O God, art the same from eternity,” he comes to the eternity of the Church, “Thy children’s children shall endure.” We now see that the Church has the preference over the whole world. But God had a regard in this place to the weakness of his people, when he said that his grace to his people would be as sure and certain as the institutions of nature. Some refer the last clause in verse 35 (<243135>Jeremiah 31:35) to the Red Sea; because God divided the Red Sea; but this is wholly foreign to the meaning of the Prophet, nor does it require any confutation; bu