COMMENTARIES

ON THE

BOOK OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH

BY JOHN CALVIN.

TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN, AND EDITED

BY THE REV. JOHN OWEN,

VICAR OF THRUSSINGTON, LEICESTERSHIRE.


CHAPTER 33

<243301>Jeremiah 33:1-6

1. Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the second time, (while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison) saving,

1. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam secundo, cum ipse adhuc captivus esset in atrio custodiae, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the Lord, the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; The Lord is his name;

2. Sic dicit Jehova, faciens ipsam, Jehova formans ipsam, ad stabiliendum ipsam; Jehova nomen ejus;

3. Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

3. Clama ad me, et respondebo tibi, et annunciabo tibi res magnificas et reconditas, quas non novisti:

4. For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are thrown down by the mounts, and by the sword;

4. Quia sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, super domibus urbis hujus, super domibus regum Jehudah, quae dirutae fuerunt catapultis (vel, balistis, vel, machinis aliis) et gladio, (alii autem vertunt, ad catapultas, vel, balistas, vel, alias munitiones, et ad gladium; dicemus postea de sensu: hoec omnia legenda sunt uno contextu)

5. They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is to fill them with the dead bodies of men, whom I have slain in mine anger, and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hid my face from this city.

5. Venerunt ad praeliandum cum Chaldaeis, et ad replendas ipsas (domos) cadaveribus hominum, quos percussi in ira mea et indignatione mea, et quia abscondi faciam meam ab hac urbe propter universam malitiam ipsorum;

6. Behold, I will bring it health and cum, and I will cum them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.

6. Ecce ego adduco illi restitutionem et sanationem, et sanabo eos, et aperiam ipsis multitudinem pacis et veritatis (alii vertunt, orationem)

 

This prophecy refers to the same subject; nor was it to be wondered at, that God spoke so much of the same thing, for it was necessary to render the Jews inexcusable, as they always pretended ignorance, except God made frequent repetitions. And this was also the reason why Paul said, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses everything should be established, when he said that he would come the second and the third time to Corinth. (<471301>2 Corinthians 13:1) He intimated that his coming would not be useless, for except they repented they could not have escaped by pretending ignorance, as hypocrites are wont to do. It was, then, God’s purpose to confirm by many prophecies what he had once testified respecting the restoration of the people; but he had an especial care for the faithful, that they might not grow faint and succumb under those many trials which remained for so long a time; for as some died in exile, they might have forgotten the covenant of God, and thus the soul might have perished with the body. And those who were to return to their own country had need of no common support, so that they might continue firm for seventy years, and rely with confidence on God’s mercy. We now, then, understand why God repeated the doctrine as to the return of the people.

It is said that the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah while he was yet in prison. Then the Prophet was bidden to consult the benefit of his enemies, and to promote their welfare, however unworthy they were through their ingratitude; for though they had not all demanded his death, yet the greater part of them had clamorously condemned him, and he had been with difficulty delivered, and was now lying in prison. It was a great cruelty that the people, while he was faithfully discharging his prophetic office, should thus furiously rage against him. He is, however, bidden still to proceed in the duties of his office, to comfort them, to ease their grief, and to afford them some alleviation in their evils and miseries.

There is also no doubt but that it was profitable to Jeremiah himself; for it was a most iniquitous reward, that he should, while serving God faithfully and conscientiously, be cast ignominiously into prison, and be there kept a captive so long. It was, then, some mitigation of his grief, that God appeared to him in that very prison; it was an evidence that God esteemed him higher than all the Jews. God did not then speak in the Temple, nor throughout the whole city. The prison then was God’s sanctuary, and there he gave responses to his Prophet, though he was wont to do this before from the mercy-seat, from the ark of the covenant. We hence see how great was the honor that God was pleased at that time to bestow in a manner on a prison, when he had forsaken his own Temple.

Now follows the prophecy, the substance of which is, that though the city was to be given up into the hand of the king of Babylon, yet that calamity was not to be perpetual, for God at length, after the completion of seventy years, would restore it. But why this promise was given has been stated already: it was given that the faithful might submit patiently to God, and suffer themselves with calm minds to be chastised, and also recumb on the hope the promise gave them, and thus feel assured, that as they were smitten by God’s hand, their punishment would prove their medicine and an aid to their salvation. Now, then, we perceive what this prophecy is, and also for what purpose it was delivered.

But before God promised anything respecting the return of the people, he strengthened the mind of the Prophet by a preface, and also encouraged and animated the godly to entertain good hope. The preface is, that God created and formed Jerusalem. There was, then, no doubt but he would at length rescue it from the hands of enemies; nay, that he would raise it up even from hell itself. To prove this, he says that he is Jehovah. We hence see why the Prophet, before he recited the promise, honored God with magnificent titles. But it is doubtful whether the past or the present time is to be understood, when it is said, Jehovah the maker of it, Jehovah the former of it; for either would be suitable, — that is, that God at the beginning built Jerusalem and was its founder, or that he had purposed again to create and form it anew. If the past time be taken, then the meaning is, that the city, which had been built by God, could not possibly perish, because his will was that it should remain perpetually. And the same sentiment often occurs in the Prophets, and also in the Psalms. For it was God’s design to be regarded as the founder of Jerusalem, in order that he might distinguish it from all other cities of the world. We know that there is nothing under the sun perpetual, for the whole world is subject to various changes; nay,

“the fashion of this world,” as Paul says, “passeth away.”
(<460708>1 Corinthians 7:81)

As, then, changes so various take place in all cities, God, by a singular privilege, exempted Jerusalem from this common lot; and hence the Prophet truly and wisely concludes, that the ruin of the city would not be perpetual, because God had formed it. And hence its future restitution is sufficiently proved.

But if any one prefers the present time, then the meaning would be, that he who had resolved to create and form Jerusalem is Jehovah, the God of hosts: no one then can hinder his work. As this sense is not unsuitable, I do not reject it, though I follow the former. We must, at the same time, bear in mind this principle, — that restoration is promised to the Jews, because Jerusalem had been, as it were, chosen by God, so that he took it under his care and protection, so as to preserve it perpetually. Whether then we take the words to be in the past or present time, that God is the creator and former of Jerusalem, we see that the promise of deliverance is founded on the mercy of God, even because he had cliosen Jerusalem for his own habitation, according to what is in the Psalms,

“His foundations are on the holy mountains.” (<198701>Psalm 87:1)

And there, also, the pronoun is used instead of God’s name, as here instead of the city’s name, Thus saith Jehovah, who has created it, who has formed it, that he might establish it. Here Jerusalem is not named; but the narrative is much more emphatical than if it was expressed, as also in the place we have just quoted, the word God is not given, nor the word Church, if I mistake not, in the 37th chapter of Isaiah (<233701>Isaiah 37). When the Prophet says,

“His foundations are on the holy mountains,”

there is no doubt but that the word God is to be understood, though not expressed. So here, when speaking of the city, he says that Jehovah formed it, or will form it. fF86

He adds, Jehovah is his name. Here he exalts the power of God, that the Jews might not set up against him what otherwise might have terrified them, and, as it were, reduced them to a lifeless state, and caused them wholly to faint away. He, therefore, sets before their eyes the power of God, as though he had said, that there would be no obstacle which could delay God’s work, for he had resolved to form and create anew his own city after its demolition; it is, in a word, the same as though he had bidden the people to turn their eyes and all their thoughts to God, to consider his immeasurable power, and so to entertain hope, and thus to look down, as it were, from on high on all the impediments which might have otherwise wholly weakened their confidence.

He afterwards adds, Cry to me, and I will answer thee, and I will announce to thee things magnificent and recondite, which thou hast not known. It was not so much for the sake of the Prophet as of others that this was said. For the Prophet, no doubt, had earnestly prayed, and his prison must have inflamed his ardor, so as to intercede constantly with God. God then does not here reprove his torpor or his sloth by saying, Cry to me; but as I have said, the word is so directed to the Prophet, that God excites all the godly to pray. There is indeed here an implied reproof, as though he had said that it was their fault that God did not cheer their minds with a joyful and happy message, for they had closed the door against themselves, so as to prevent God from offering them that comfort which they yet especially wished; but men, while they expect God to be propitious to them, do not yet give entrance to his grace, because they bolt up, as it were, their hearts with unbelief. We hence see why it was said, Cry to me, and I will answer thee.

But this passage ought especially to be noticed; for we may hence conclude, that whenever we pine away in sorrow, or are worn out by affliction, it is our own fault, because we are tardy and slow to pray: for every one who cries acknowledges that God is always nigh, as he promises in the Psalms, to those who truly call on him. That we are then sometimes worn out with long grief, and no comfort given to us, this happens, let us know, through our neglect and sloth, because we cry not to God, who is ever ready to answer us, as he here promises.

And he says, I will declare to thee great things, and of hidden things thou knowest not. So are the words literally; but they cannot be thus suitably rendered: then we may read, “and things hidden which thou knowest not,” or, “I will make thee acquainted with hidden things which are unknown to thee.” It may, however, be asked, why God called those things hidden, of which Jeremiah had already prophesied? The answer is obvious, — that they had, as it were, made void all the promises of God, and the holy man might, have been even confounded, when he saw that God’s favor was thus rejected; for it was reasonable to conclude, that as the people obstinately rejected the hope of deliverance, it was all over with them, and that their condition was, as it were, hopeless. We hence see that those things are often hidden to us which God has again and again made known to us; for either they do not immediately penetrate into our minds, or the memory of them is extinguished, or faith is not so vigorous in us as it ought to be, or we are disturbed and confounded by obstacles thrown in our way.

He now expresses what these hidden things were, As to the houses, he says, (so it is literally) thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, as to the houses of this city, and as to the houses of the kings of Judah. The proposition; l[, upon, often means with regard to, concerning. He names the houses of the kings, for the kings of Judah were not satisfied, as it is well known, with one palace, but had many houses without the city. As to the houses, he says, which had been thrown down. This is variously explained; the houses, say some, had been pulled down for the warlike engines, that is, that these engines might be made from the materials, and for the sword. The sense, however, would appear more obvious were we to take this view, that the houses had been thrown down by the warlike engines, and also by the sword, that is, by the violence of the enemies. The word, tlls sallut, as it has been already stated, is rendered by some fortifications; but when the storming of cities is spoken of, it means no doubt warlike machines, such as the engines to throw darts, or battering-rams: but we know not in what form they were made by the Jews and the Chaldeans.

There are two parts to this prophecy, — that the Jews were about to perish through their own fault, — and that they were to be restored through the favor and goodness of God alone. Here, then, in the first place, the Prophet condemns the false confidence of the people, who stoutly resisted the Chaldeans. They came, he says, to fight with the Chaldeans; but what would be the issue of the battle? even to fill, he says, with the carcases of men their very houses. When he says that the Jews were come, he speaks of what had already, as it were, taken place. It is indeed a participle in the present tense, coming; but the Prophet here sets before their eyes what was to be, as though he had said, “The Jews will boldly rush forth, and will think themselves equal, and even superior to the Chaldeans; thus they will arm themselves with courage for the battle.” Then he says this, in order to ridicule the audacity of the people. The sad issue of the fight follows, the filling of their own houses with the carcases of men. The copulative is redundant, or it must be taken as explanatory, and rendered, even. They shall come then to fight, evern that they may fill their own houses with carcases, and thus inflame the fury of their enemies. fF87 For it hence happened that the Chaldeans shed more blood, and spared not the mass of the people; because we know that when a city is won by force, more cruelty is exercised, and the slaughters become much greater. Had the Jews willingly surrendered, they would have received more humanity at the hand of their conquerors; but the Chaldeans became implacable, because their fury had been kindled by the pertinacity of the people fighting against them. God, at the same time, shews that the Chaldeans would not be victorious through their own valor, but because he himself would smite or slay the Jews. Then he ascribes to his own vengeance the calamity which might have seemed to proceed from the Chaldeans; for Jeremiah could not have exhorted the people to repentance except he shewed that it happened through a righteous judgment, that the Chaldeans so cruelly raged against them. But we must defer the rest until to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that we may so learn to humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, whenever thou chastisest us, that we may not faint in our miseries, but flee to thy mercy with more confidence, and by acknowledging our sins, may become so displeased with ourselves, that we may never lose the taste of thy mercy but gird ourselves up so as to entertain good hope, and call upon thee, until we shall at length find by success that our prayers are not in vain; and may we ever thus find comfort in our evils, so that we may at length enjoy that perfect felicity, which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-Third

I was compelled yesterday to stop at the second clause of the fifth verse, where God declares that the Jews were slain by him, while they were exerting all their strength to resist. He then says that that slaughter happened to the city and to the people, because they had sinned against him. But he says, first, I have slain them, and then, I have hid my face from this city, and he also adds the reason, on accorent of all their wickedness. Then he declares that he was the author of that slaughter, and he also shews that in just judgment he punished the wickedness of the people. For as they had never ceased for a long time to provoke his vengeance, he here shews that they deserved that reward, even of having their city forcibly taken by the Chaldeans, and also of being everywhere slain, and of having their houses filled with dead bodies.

He afterwards says, Behold, I will bring a renewal and a healing, and I will heal them. This is the main point, as they say, in the passage. He had been hitherto shewing, that the Jews had deserved so heavy a punishment, because by their obstinacy they had not ceased to provoke God against themselves. But he promises here to be propitious to them after having moderately corrected them. For we have said, that the design of this prophecy was to sustain the Jews, so that they might not despond, but rely on the promise of favor, however bitter exile might be. Then he says, I will bring a renewal, or restoration, and a healing. fF88

And it is added, I will open to them abundance of peace and of truth. Some render the last word, tma, amet, prayer; for the verb ˆma amen, means sometimes to pray and also to multiply. There may then be a twofold meaning; the first, that God would open to them an access to prayer; for things were so hopeless among the people, that no one dared to utter a word. Even Jeremiah himself was forbidden to pray, (<241114>Jeremiah 11:14) because God had resolved to destroy those miserable men respecting whom there was no hope of repentance. Some therefore understand that an access to prayer is here promised, so that the faithful and the servants of God might pray for the prosperity of the city. But this explanation seems to me to be too far-fetched. I take, therefore, a simpler interpretation, — that God would give them abundance of peace, or rather the prolonging or continuance of peace. By peace is meant, as it is well known, a happy state. Then to Jerusalem, reduced to extreme miseries, God promises joyful things, so that she should afterwards live prosperously; and he adds the word truth, which is to be taken here for stability, fF89 as, indeed, everywhere in Scripture, as though he had said, that the prosperous state of the city would notbe for a month, or a short time, but continual and even perpetual, as he declares in the next verse.

<243307>Jeremiah 33:7

7. And I will cause the captivity of Judah, and the captivity of Israel, to return, and will build them, as at the first.

7. Et reducam captivitatem Jehudah, et captivitatem Israel, et aedificabo cos sicuti a principio.

 

By the word building, God means that they would return to their own country for this end — that they might remain secure in it. And this promise was very needful, since the Jews were on every side surrounded by enemies; for all their neighbors had united together against them, and were most hostile, so that they never ceased to create new troubles. For this reason mention is made of building, as though the Prophet had said, that the prosperity of the city would be lasting, for it would be so founded, that it would not fall or totter at any kind of assault.

But he promises deliverance, not only to the tribe of Judah, but also to the whole kingdom of Israel. Though very few returned, yet God offered the benefit which he had promised to all in common: and then, as it has been often said, this promise is to be extended to the coming of Christ. For God confined not his favor to those few years in which liberty was granted to the Jews, when they returned from their exile in Babylon; but included the eternal salvation which remained for them, of whiclx the prelude was their return. Let us now proceed, —

<243308>Jeremiah 33:8

8. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.

8. Et purgabo eos ab omni iniquitate eorum, qua peccarunt mihi (hoc est, in me) et ignoscam omnibus iniquitatibus eorum quibus peccarunt in me, et quibus scelerate egerunt contra me.

 

He says first, that he would cleanse themfrom all iniquity, and then, that he would be propitious to all their iniquities. He no doubt repeats the same thing; but the words are not superfluous, for it was necessary seriously to remind the Jews of their many vices, of which indeed they were conscious, and yet they did not repent. As then they perversely followed their own wills, it was needful for the Prophet to goad them sharply, so that they might know that they were exposed to eternal destruction, if God’s mercy, and that by no means common, came not to their aid. Here, then, he represents the greatness of their sins, that he might on the other hand extol the mercy of God.

By the word cleanse, one might understand regeneration, and this may seem probable to those who are not well acquainted with the language of Scripture; but rhf, theer, means properly to expiate. This then does not refer to regeneration, but to forgiveness, hence I have said, that the Prophet mentions two things here in the same sense, — that God would cleanse them from iniquity, — and that he would pardon all their iniquities. We see now the reason why the Prophet used so many words in testifying that God would be so merciful to them as to forgive their sins, even because they, though loaded with many vices, yet extenuated their heinousness, as hypocrites always do. The favor of God, then, would never have been appreciated by the Jews had not the atrocity of their guilt been clearly made known to them. And this also was the reason why he said, I will pardon all their iniquities. He had said before, I will cleanse them from all iniquity; then he added, I will pardon all their iniquities. For by this change in the number the Prophet shews the mass and variety of their sins, as though he had said, that the heaps of evils were so multiplied, that there was need of no common mercy in God to receive them into favor.

He says further, By which they have sinned against me, and by which they have acted wickedly against me. These words confirm what I have already said, that the Jews were severely reproved by the Prophet, in order that they might first consider and reflect on what they deserved; and secondly, that they might extol the favor of God according to its value.

We must at the same time observe, that the Jews had their attention directed to the first and chief ground of confidence, so that they might have some hope of a restoration; for the origin of all God’s blessings, or the fountain from which all good things flow, is the favor of God in being reconciled to us. He may, indeed, supply us bountifully with whatever we may wish, while yet he himself is alienated from us, as we see to be the case with the ungodly, who often abound in all good things; and hence they glory and boast as though they had God as it were, in a manner, bound to them. But whatever God grants and bestows on the ungodly, cannot, properly speaking, be deemed as an evidence of his favor and grace; but he thus renders them more unexcusable, while he treats them so indulgently. There is then no saving good, but what flows from the paternal love of God.

We must now see how God becomes propitious to us. He becomes so, when he imputes not our sins to us. For except pardon goes before, he must necessarily be adverse to us; for as long as he looks on us as we are, he finds in us nothing but what deserves vengeance. We are therefore always accursed before God until he buries our sins. Hence I have said, that the first fountain of all the good things that are to be hoped for, is here briefly made known to the Jews, even the gratuitous favor of God in reconciling them to himself. Let us then learn to direct all our thoughts to God’s mercy whenever we seek what seems necessary to us. For if we catch as it were at God’s blessings, and do not consider whence they proceed, we shall be caught by a bait: as the fish through their voracity strangle themselves, (for they snatch at the hook as though it were food) so also the ungodly, who with avidity seize on God’s blessings, and care not that he should be propitious to them; they swallow them as it were to their own ruin. That all things then may tuae to our salvation, let us learn to make always a beginning with the paternal love of God, and let us know that the cause of that love is his immeasurable goodness, through which it comes that he reconciles us freely to himself by not imputing to us our sins.

We may also gather another doctrine from this passage, — that if the grievousness of our sins terrifies us, yet all diffidence ought to be overcome, because God does not promise his mercy only to those sinners who have slightly fallen, either through ignorance or error, but even to such as have heaped sins on sins. There is therefore no reason why the greatness of our sins should overwhelm us; but we may ever venture to flee to the hope of pardon, since we see that it is offered indiscriminately to all, even to those who had been extremely wicked before God, and had not only sinned, but had also become in a manner apostates, so that they ceased not in all ways to provoke God’s vengeance. It follows, —

<243309>Jeremiah 33:9

9. And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, and for all the prosperity, that I procure unto it.

9. Et erit mihi in nomen, laetitiam (alii in constructione vertunt, in nomen laetitiae) in laudem et in decorem (vel, gloriam) apud omnes gentes terrae, quae audient omnem beneficentiam, quam ego exercuero erga ipsos (quam ego facio ipsis, ad verbum) et pavebunt et contremiscent super omni beneficentia, et super onmi pace, quam ego facio illi (mutat humerum; dixerat, twa nunc dicit, hl h[, et refertur hoc pronomen ad urbem ipsam)

 

Here God testifies that his favor would be such as to deserve praise in all the world, or, which is the same thing, that his bounty would be worthy of being remembered. Hence he says, that it would be to him for a name among all nations; but as he designed to extol the greatness of his glory, he adds, a praise and an honor, or a glory; and it is emphatically added, among all nations. And this passage shews to us that the Prophet did not speak only of the people’s return, and that this prophecy ought not to be confined to the state of the city, such as it was before the coming of Christ; for though the favor of God was known among the Chaldeans and some other nations, it was not yet known through the whole world, for he says, among all the nations of the earth; and God no doubt included all parts of the world. We hence then conclude that the favor of which the Prophet speaks refers to the kingdom of Christ, for God did not then attain a name to himself among all nations, but, as it is well known, only in some portions of the east. When, therefore, he says that the favor he would shew to his people, would be to him a name, he promises no doubt that deliverance which was at length brought by Christ.

And in the same sense must be taken what follows, Because they shall hear, etc.; for the relative ra asher, is here a causative, as the Prophet expresses here the way and manner in which glory and honor would come to God on account of the deliverance of his people, even because the nations would hear of this; and this has been done by the preaching of the Gospel, because then only was God’s goodness towards the Jews everywhere made known, when the knowledge of the Law and of prophetic truth came to aliens who had previously heard nothing of the true doctrine of religion. We now then understand the design of the holy Spirit.

Further, by these words God exhorts all to gratitude; for whenever the fountain of God’s blessings is pointed out to us, we ought not to be indifferent, but to be stimulated to give thanks to him. When therefore God declares that the redemption of his people would be a name to him among all nations, he thus shews to the godly that they ought not to be torpid, but to proclaim his goodness. And at the same time it serves for a confirmation, when God intimates that he would be the Redeemer of his people, in order that he might acquire to himself a name, for there is to be understood a contrast, that in this kindness, he would not regard what the Jews deserved, but would seek for a cause in himself, as it is expressed more fully elsewhere,

“Not on your account will I do this, O house of Israel,” (<263622>Ezekiel 36:22)

and the faithful sing in their turn,

“Not on our account, O Lord, but on account of thy name.”
(<197909>Psalm 79:9; <19B501>Psalm 115:1)

We then see that God brings forward his own name, that the Jews might continue to entertain hope, however guilty they may have been, and own themselves worthy of eternal destruction.

If we read, “It shall be to me for a name of joy,” the sense would be, “for a name in which I delight.” If we read the words apart, “For a name and joy,” the sense would be still the same; nor ought it to be deemed unreasonable that God testifies that it would be to him for joy. For though he is not moved and influenced as we are, yet this mode of speaking is elsewhere adopted, as in <19A431>Psalm 104:31,

“The Lord shall rejoice in his works.”

God then is said to take delight in doing good, because he is in his nature inclined to goodness and mercy.

He afterwards adds, they, shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, etc. The word lk cal, “all,” denotes greatness, and is to be taken emphatically. The words, however, may at first sight appear singular, “they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness,” etc.; for it seems not reasonable that men should fear, when they acknowledge God’s goodness, for this, on the contrary, is a reason for joy and confidence. This clause is sometimes applied to the ungodly, for they have no taste for God’s favor so as to be cheered by it, but on the contrary they fret and gnash their teeth when God appears kind to his people; for they are vexed, when they see that they are excluded from the enjoyment of those blessings, which are laid up, as it is said elsewhere, for them who fear God. But I have not the least doubt but the Prophet means the conversion of the Gentiles when he says, they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness, etc.; as though he had said, that not only the name of God would be known among the nations, so that they would proclaim that he had been merciful to his people, but that it would at the same time be the effect and influence of his grace, that the nations would become obedient to God. Moreover, it is a usual thing to designate the worship and fear of God by the words fear, dread, and trembling. For though the faithful do not dread the presence of God, but cheerfully present themselves to him whenever he invites them, and in full confidence call on him, there is yet no reason why they should not tremble when they think of his majesty. For these two things are connected together, even the fear and trembling which humble us before God, and the confidence which raises us up so as to dare familiarly to approach him. Here then is pointed out the conversion of the Gentiles; as though the Prophet had said, that the favor of deliverance to the Church would not only avail for this end, to make the Gentiles to proclaim God’s goodness, but would also have the effect of bringing them under his authority, that they might reverence and fear him as the only true God. He again adds the word peace, but in the same sense as before: he mentions goodness, the cause of prosperity, and then he adds peace or prosperity as its effect. It afterwards follows, —

<243310>Jeremiah 33:10-11

10. Thus saith the Lord, Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast,

10. Sic dicit Jehova, Adhuc audietur in loco hoc, de quo vos dicitis, Exterminatus est (vel, traditus exitio) ab homine (hoc est, ut non supersit homo) neque supersit jumentum in urbibus Jehudah et in compitis Jerusalem, quae in solitudinem redacta sunt, ut non sit homo et non sit habitator, et non sit animal (vel, jumentum)

11. The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness; the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride; the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord.

11. Vox laetitiae et vox gaudii, vox sponsi et vox sponsae, vox dicentium, celebrate Jehovam exercituum, quia bonus Jehova, quia in seculum misericordia (vel, clementia) ejus, afferentium laudem (hoc est, testimonium gratiarum actionis, pro sacrificio hic capitur) in domum Jehovae, quia reducam captivitatem terrae sicut ab initio, dicit Jehova.

 

These two verses are connected together, and have been improperly divided, for the sentence is not complete. In the first place we have, Yet shall be heard, but what? the voice of joy, etc., as we find in the following verse. Jeremiah confirms at large what he had taught respecting the return of the people, because there was need of many and strong supports, that, the faithful might proceed in their course with confidence. It was indeed difficult to muster courage under so great a calamity; and had they for a short season breathing time, yet new trials constantly arising might have cast them down and laid them prostrate. There is no wonder then that the Prophet here speaks diffusely of that favor which was deemed incredible; and then the memory of it might not have always remained fixed in the hearts of the faithful, had not a repeated confirmation been given.

He again introduces God as the speaker, that the promise might have more effect. Again, he says, shall be heard in this place — even in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem — the voice of joy, etc. He repeats what we noticed yesterday, that the Jews put every obstacle they could in the way of their restoration. The narrowness of our hearts, we know does in a manner exclude an entrance as to God’s favor; for being filled, nay, swollen with unbelief, we suffer not God’s grace to enter into us. So the Jews, by desponding and imagining that their calamity was incurable, and that no remedy was to be expected, rejected as far as they could the promised favor of deliverance. This, then, is what the Prophet again upbraids them with, even that they said that the whole country and all the cities were destroyed, so that neither man nor beast remained. This was, indeed, the fact at that time, and the Jews had spoken correctly; but as it was said yesterday, the ungodly never feel the scourges of God without rushing headlong into despair. Then what is condenmed is this, that the Jews thought that they were to perish without any hope of deliverance. Hence the Prophet here reproves their unbelief, and at the same time exhorts them to entertain hope. But he testifies that God’s grace would surpass all their wickedness.

Heard then shall be the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness; the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride; that is, marriages shall again be celebrated. And this way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets when they refer to the joyful condition of the city and of the people; for in seasons of mourning no one thinks of marrying a wife, so that marriage-feasts then cease as well as all festivals. Then the Prophet briefly shews that God would put an end to the calamities of the people, and give them reasons for rejoicing after he had for a time punished their sins.

But he shews also of what kind their joy would be, The voice of them who shall say, Praise ye Jehovah of hosts. Here he distinguishes between the faithful and the ungodly, for joy is common to both, when prosperity happens to them; for God’s children may rejoice when the Lord shews himself to them as a bountiful Father. But the profane exult through intemperate joy, and at the same time they make no mention of God, for they live only on present things; but the faithful raise up their thoughts to God, and never rejoice without thanksgiving. Thus they consecrate and sanctify their joy, when the ungodly, by polluting God’s blessing, do also contaminate their joy. We ought then to take special notice of this difference which the Prophet here intimates, between godly and profane joy; for the children of this world do indeed exult, but as we have said, immoderately in their joy; and they are unthankful to God, and never duly reflect on his goodness; nay, they designedly turn away their eyes and their thoughts from God; but the faithful have always a regard to God whenever it succeeds well with them, for they know that everything flows to them from God’s goodness only.

Hence he says, Heard shall be the voice of them who shall say, Praise ye Jehovah, for he is good, etc. The Prophet here alludes to the customary practice of singing, which is spoken of in sacred history. For we know that when the Temple was dedicated, the praises of God were celebrated, and the Levites always sang, For his mercy is for ever. They first exhorted others to praise God, and to every sentence this repetition was added, “For his mercy is for ever.” What then had formerly been in common use the Prophet refers to: Heard then shall be that usual song, Praise ye Jehovah, for his mercy is for ever.

He then adds, Of them who shall bring praise to the house of Jehovah; for I will restore the captivity of the land. He mentions sacrifices, for the service, according to the Law, required, that these should be added as evidences of gratitude. God indeed had no need of vetires, nor did he delight in external displays; but these exercises of religion were necessary for a rude people, and still learning the elements of truth. The Prophet then speaks here with reference to a particular time, when he connects sacrifices with praises and thanksgiving, he yet shews for what end God required sacrifices to be then offered to him, lest the Jews should think that God was pacified when a calf had been slain. He then shews that all this had been prescribed to them, and enjoined for this end — that they might shew themselves thankful.

This metonymical mode of speaking ought then to be carefully observed; for hence we conclude, that sacrifices of themselves were of no moment, but were only acceptable and of good odor to God on this account — because they were evidences of gratitude.

He then adds, To the house of Jehovah. Now, this also ought in the last place to be noticed, — that it is not sufficient for one to be thankful to God, but that public thanksgiving is also required, so that we may mutually stimulate one another. And we also know that confession ought not to be separated from faith; as faith has its seat in the heart, so also outward confession proceeds from it; and therefore it cannot be but that the interior feeling must break out from the soul, and the tongue be connected with the heart. It hence follows, that all those are guilty of falsehood who say that they have faith within, but are at the same time mute, and, as far as they can, unworthily bury the benefits of God. And as I have said, this zeal is required of all the godly, in order that they may stimulate one another to praise God; for it was for this purpose and for this reason, that express mention is made of the Temple; that is, that the faithful might understand, that God is to be worshipped, not only privately and within closed doors, but that also a public profession ought to be made, so that they may together with common consent celebrate and acknowledge his benefits and blessings.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not to separate ourselves often from thee, we may at least know that reconciliation is prepared for us, provided we seek it by a true and sincere faith in thine only-begotten Son, and so return to thee as really to loathe ourselves on account of our sins, and that relying on thine infinite mercy we may never doubt but that thou wilt be reconciled to us, until having at length finished our present course of life, and being cleansed from all the pollutions of the flesh, we shall be clothed with that celestial glory, which thy Son by his death and resurrection has obtained for us. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth

<243312>Jeremiah 33:12-13

12. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Again in this place, which is desolate without man and without beast, and in all the cities thereof, shall be an babitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down.

12. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Adhuc erit in loco hoc destructo, ut non sit homo et jumentum, et in omnibus urbibus ejus, habitaculum pastorum accubare facientium oves:

13. In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the vale, and in the cities of the south, and in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, shall the flocks pass again under the hands of him that telleth them, saith the Lord.

13. In urbibus montis (hoc est, montanis) et in urbibus planicei (campestribus) et in urbibus Austri (id est, quae vergunt ad meridiem) et in terra Benjamin, et per circuitus Jerusalem, et in urbibus Jehudae, adhuc transibunt oves per manus numerantis, dicit Jehova.

 

Jeremiah still pursues the same subject; but he speaks here of the settled happiness of the people, as though he had said, that there was no reason for the Israelites to fear, that God would not open for them a way of return to their own country, and preserve and protect them after their return. But in setting forth their quiet and peaceable condition, he speaks of shepherds; for we know that it is a sure sign of peace, when flocks and herds are led into the fields in security. For enemies always gape after prey, and the experience of wars proves this; for whenever incursions are made by enemies, they send spies that they may know whether there are any shepherds or keepers of cattle; and then they know that there is a prey for them. As then shepherds, when an invasion from enemies is dreaded, dare not go forth, and as there is then no liberty, the Prophet, in order to intimate that the Jews would be in a tranquil state, says, There shall again be in this place the habitation of sheepherds, who will make their sheep, or their flock, to lie down.

We now perceive the design of the Prophet; for one not sufficiently acquainted with Scripture might raise a question, Is this promise to be confined to shepherds and herdsmen? But, as I have already intimated, the answer is obvious, — The promise is general, but expressed in this way, — that God would be the guardian of his people, so that shepherds would drive here and there their flocks, and herdsmen their cattle, in perfect safety, and without any fear of danger.

And in the next verse Jeremiah confirms the same thing, where he mentions, as before, the cities of the mountains, and the cities of the plains, and then the cities of the south, and adds also the land of Benjamin, which was a different part of the country, and he mentions generally the circuits of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. What then? The flocks, he says, shall pass under the hands of a numberer. Here, again, is set forth a greater security, because shepherds would not, as it were, by stealth lead forth their sheep, and afterwards gather them in a hurry, as it is usually done, when there is any fear of danger. The sheep, he says, shall pass under the hands of a numberer. This could not be the case but in time of perfect peace and quietness; for where there is fear, the shepherds can hardly dare send forth their flocks, and then they dare not number them, but shut them in; and they are also often compelled to drive their flocks into forests and desert places, in order to conceal them. When, therefore, Jeremiah mentions the numbering of them, he intimates that the whole country would be in a state of peace, as in other words, and without a figure, he presently will tell us. But the Prophet in this way exalted the benefits of God, and at the same time strengthened the minds of the weak, for as it has been said, this favor could have hardly been tasted by the Jews while in a state so despairing. The Prophet then made use of a homely and ordinary style when he spoke of flocks and herds. It now follows —

<243314>Jeremiah 33:14

14. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel, and to the house of Judah.

14. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et excitabo (vel, stabilium) sermonum meum benum, quem loquutus sum (vel, pronuntiavi) ad domum Israel et ad domum Jehudah.

 

Jeremiah now shews why God had promised that there would be a quiet habitation for shepherds, so that no one would by force take away their flocks. For God declares, that his promise would not be void, as its effects would shortly be evident, even when his mercy was known by the ten tribes and by the kingdom of Judah. Hence he says, The days shall come; for it behoved the faithful to look farther than to their present condition. As they were then exposed to slaughter, though the unbelieving still entertained vain hopes, yet the children of God saw thousand deaths; so that it could not be but that terror almost drove them to despair; and in their exile they saw that they were far removed from their own country, without any hope of a return. That the Prophet then might still support these, he bids them to extend their thoughts to a future time; and he had prefixed, as we have before seen, seventy years. It is the same then as though he had said, that the favor of which he predicts could not be laid hold on, except the faithful held their minds in suspense, and patiently waited until the time of the promised deliverance came.

Coming then are the days, and I will rouse, or as some render it, “and I will establish;” and both meanings may suit; for wq kum, means to rise, but here in an active or transitive sense it means to make to rise. However, its meaning sometimes is to establish, and sometimes to rouse, fF90 so as to make that to appear which was before hidden. And this mode of speaking is fitly adopted as to the promises of God; for they seem for a time to he dormant without any effect, or seem to disappear or vanish away. Hence the stability of the promises then appears, and is seen when God raises them up, they being before hidden and concealed from the faithful. The meaning of the Prophet is, that God would at length render evident the power of his word, by fulfilling it.

But from this manner of speaking, a useful doctrine may be deduced: for we are thus reminded that the promises of God are not always so manifest, that their effect or accomplishment is evident to us, but on the contrary they may appear to be dead and void. When it is so, let us learn to exercise faith and patience, so that our souls may not tremble, though God’s promises may not every moment manifest their power by being actually fulfilled. In short, the true application of prophetic truth is, that we never lay hold on, and really embrace the promises of God, except we look forward to the days that are coming, that is, except we patiently wait for the time prefixed by God: and further, except our faith leans on the promises, when they seem to he dormant, it is not firm, and has no roots or foundations; for as the root which nourishes the tree is not seen, but lies hid in the earth, and as the foundation of a house is not visible to our eyes, so ought our faith to be in like manner founded, and to drive deep roots into God’s promises, so that its firmness may not be in the air, nor have a visible surface, but a hidden foundation. This then is the import and the proper application of this doctrine.

But God calls it his good word, because he had promised to be the deliverer of his people. The word of God, when it denounces all kinds of death, and contains nothing but terrors, is always good, if goodness be taken for what is just and right; and hence God, by Ezekiel, reproves the Jews, because his word was bitter to them, and says,

“Are the ways of the Lord crooked and thorny? Ye are awry,” he says, “and not my word.” (<261825>Ezekiel 18:25)

But here the goodness of the word is to be taken for the deliverance of the people; for when God shakes the despisers of his Law with terror, his word is called evil on account of its effect. At the same time, as I have already said, whether God offers to us his favor and mercy, or denounces vengeance on the unbelieving, his word is ever good and right, though it may not be pleasant. This then relates to the apprehensions of men when he says, I will rouse, or establish, my good word.

He afterwards adds, which I have spoken;’by which clause he confirms the doctrine of Jeremiah, for he shews that he was its author, and that Jeremiah brought nothing from himself, but faithfully testified of his mercy and of the liberation of the people according to the commission he had received. We are at the same time reminded, that we are not presumptuously to hope for anything, except God has spoken. Let us then learn to embrace his promises, so that none of us may look for this or that, but know that then only he will be propitious to us, when we lean on his word. He afterwards speaks of the kingdom of Israel, and of the kingdom of Judah, to intimate that he would be merciful to the whole people, though the ten tribes had been for a long time separated from the tribe of Judah, and from the half tribe of Benjamin, as it has been stated elsewhere. It follows —

<243315>Jeremiah 33:15

15. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.

15. Diebus illis et termpore illo germinare faciam Davidi germen justitiae; et faciet judicium et justitiam in terra.

 

Here the Prophet shews what Paul afterwards has spoken of, that all the promises of God are in Christ yea and amen, (<470120>2 Corinthians 1:20) that is, that they do not stand nor can be valid as to us, except Christ interposes to sanction or confirm them. Then the efficacy of God’s promises depends on Christ alone. And hence the Prophets, when speaking of the grace of God, come at length to Christ, for without him all the promises would vanish away. Let us also know that the Jews had been so trained as ever to flee to God’s covenant; for on the general covenant depended all particular promises. As, for instance, Jeremiah has hitherto been often prophesying of God’s mercy to the people, after having punished them for their sins; now this promise was special. How then could the Jews and the Israelites believe that they should return to their own country? This special promise could have been of no moment, except as it was an appendix of the covenant, even because God had adopted them as his people. As then the Jews knew that they had been chosen as a peculiar people, and that God was their Father, hence their faith in all the promises. Now, again, we must bear in mind, that the covenant was founded on Christ alone; for God had not only promised to Abraham that he would be a Father to his seed, but had also added an earnest or a pledge that a Redeemer would come.

We now then perceive the reason why the Prophets, when they sought to strengthen the faithful in the hope of salvation, set forth Christ, because the promises had no certainty without the general covenant. And further, as the general covenant could not stand, nor have any validity, except in Christ, this is the point to which Jeremiah now turns his attention, as we have also seen in other places, especially in the twenty-third chapter, from which he repeats this prophecy. God then had promised that his people would be restored; he had also promised that he would be so propitious to them as to preserve them in safety as his people: he now adds —

In those days, and at that time, I will raise up, I will cause to germinate; the verb in the twenty-third chapter is ytmqh, ekamti, I will cause to rise; but here, “I will cause to germinate;” and there we read, “a righteous branch,” but here, “a branch of righteousness,” which means the same thing. But why does the Prophet now speak of the seed of David? It is not an abrupt sentence; and the reason is, because the minds of the faithful would have alwass vacillated, had not Christ been brought forward, on whom the eternal and unchangeable covenant of God was founded. But they could not have had any taste of God’s grace, had they not known that they had been gratuitously chosen by him. Adoption then was the foundation of the covenant; and then Christ was the earnest and pledge of the covenant, as well as of gratuitous adoption. Hence it was, that the Prophet, wishing to seal and confirm his prophecy, bids the faithful to look to Christ.

He says, In those days, and at that time; for, as it is said in the proverb, “Even quickness is delay when we have ardent wishes,” so now a long delay might have produced weariness iu the Israelites. That they might not, then, be carried away by too much haste, he mentions those days and that time. So that if God deferred the time, that they might check themselves, he says, I will make to grow for David a righteous branch.

This passage ought, no doubt, to be understood of Christ. We know that it was a common thing with the Jews, that whenever the Prophets promised to them the seed of David, to direct their attention to Christ. This was then a mode of teaching familiarly known to the Jews. The Prophets, indeed, sometimes mentioned David himself, and not his son,

“I will raise up David,” etc. (<263423>Ezekiel 34:23)

Now David was dead, and his body was reduced to dust and ashes; but under the person of David, the Prophets exhibited Christ. Then as to this passage, the Jews must shew their effrontery in a most ridiculous manner, if they make evasions and attempt to apply it otherwise than to Christ. This being the ease, were any one to ask now the Jews, how this prophecy has been fulfilled, it would be necessary for them to acknowledge Christ, or to deny faith in God, and also in Jeremiah. It is, indeed, certain that Jeremiah celebrates here the grace of deliverance especially on this account, because a Redeemer was shortly to come. For the return of the Jews to their own land, what was it? We know that they, even immediately at their restoration, were in a miserable state, though their condition then was much better than afterwards; for in after times they were cruelly treated by Antiochus and other kings of Syria: they were ever exposed to the heathens around them, so that they were harassed and plundered by them at pleasure. Then during the whole of that time which preceded the coming of Christ, God did not fulfill what he had promised by Jeremiah and his other servants. What is now their condition? Dispersed through the whole world; and they have been so for more than fifteen hundred years, since Christ arose from the dead; and we see that they pine away under their calamities, so their curse seems dreadful to all. God had, indeed, spoken by Moses, and then repeated it by his Prophets,

“Ye shall be for a hissing and for a curse to all nations.” (<052837>Deuteronomy 28:37; <242518>Jeremiah 25:18)

But that punishment was to be for a time. There is, therefore, no reason for what the Jews allege. It hence appears that they are wholly destitute of all credit, and only perversely pretend, I know not what, that there may be some show, though wholly hypocritical, in what they assert. But with regard to us, we see that the promise respecting the coming of the Messiah has not been made in vain; and we also know, that it happened, through the wonderful purpose of God, that the Jews did not enjoy full and real happiness, such as had been promised at the coming of Christ, lest they should think that what all God’s servants had promised was then accomplished: for we know how disposed men are to be satisfied with earthly things. The Jews might then have thought that their happiness was completed, had not God exercised them with many troubles, in order that they might ever look forward to the manifestation of Christ.

He calls it the Branch of righteousness, by way of contrast, because the children of David had become degenerated; and God had almost deemed them accursed, for the greatest part of the kings were destitute of God’s grace. There was, then, but one Branch of righteousness, even Christ. We further know how wide and extensive is Christ’s righteousness, for he communicates it to us. But we ought to begin with that righteousness which I have mentioned, that is, what is in opposition to the many changes which happened to the posterity of David, for things often were in a very low state. Though unto David, dwdl Ladavid, is often taken as meaning, “I will raise up the branch of David,” yet God seems here to refer to the promise which he had made to David, as God is said in many passages to have sworn to his servant David. (<198903>Psalm 89:3; 132:11)

It follows, And he shall execute judgement and justice in the land. By these words a right government is denoted; for when the two words are joined tegether, justice refers to the defense of the innocent, and judgment to the punishment of iniquity; for except the wicked are restrained by the fear of the law, they would violate all order. Judgment, indeed, when by itself, means the right administration of the law; but as I have already said, justice and judgment include the protection of the good, and also the restraint of the wicked, who become not obedient willingly or of their own accord. In a word, the promise is, that the king here spoken of would be upright and just, so as to be in every way perfect, and exhibit the model of the best of kings.

But we must always observe the contrast between the other descendants of David and Christ. For the Jews had seen the saddest spectacles in the posterity of David: many of them were apostates, and perverted the worship of God; others raged against the Prophets and all good men, and were also full of avarice and rapacity, and given to all kinds of lusts. Since, then, their kings had debased themselves with so many crimes, there is here promised a king who would so discharge his office as to be owned as the true minister of God.

It is, at the same time, necessary to bear in mind the character of Christ’s kingdom. It is, we know, spiritual; but it is set forth under the image or form of an earthly and civil government; for whenever the Prophets speak of Christ’s kingdom, they set before us an earthly form, because spiritual truth, without any metaphor, could not have been sufficiently understood by a rude people in their childhood. There is no wonder, then, that the Prophets, wishing to accommodate their words to the capacity of the Jews, should so speak of Christ’s kingdom as to portray it before them as an earthly and civil government. But it is necessary for us to consider what sort of kingdom it is. As, then, it is spiritual, the justice and judgment of which the Prophet speaks, do not belong only to civil and external order, but rather to that rectitude by which it comes that men are reformed according to God’s image, which is in righteousness and truth. Christ then is said to reign over us in justice and judgment, not only because he keeps us by laws within the range of our duty, and defends the good and the innocent, and represses the audacity of the wicked; but because he rules us by his Spirit. And of the Spirit we know what Christ himself declares, “The Spirit shall convince the world of righteousness and judgment,” etc. (<431608>John 16:8) Hence we must come to spiritual jurisdiction, if we wish to understand what that righteousness is which is here mentioned: of the same kind also is the judgment that is added. It afterwards follows, —

<243316>Jeremiah 33:16

16. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.

16. Diebus illis servabitur Jehudah, et Jerusalem habitabitur secure; et hoc nomen quo vocabitur ipsa, Jehova justitia nostra.

 

Here the Prophet extends the benefits of the kingdom to all the Jews, and shews how much was to be expected fromthat kingdom which he had promised; for in it would be found perfect happiness and safety. Had not this been added, what we have heard of the righteous king would have appeared cold and uninteresting; for it sometimes happens, that however much the king may exercise justice and judgment, yet the people continue still miserable. But the Prophet testifies here that the people would be in every way blessed and happy, when governed by the King promised to come. Hence he says, In those days Judah shall be saved. He promises salvation to the Jews, though under that name are included also, as it is often the case, the ten tribes. He adds Jerusalem, but in a similar sense, Jerusalem shall dwell safely, that is, shall be in a peaceable state. This mode of speaking is taken from Moses; for the Prophets, whenever they spoke of God’s blessings, are wont to borrow their doctrine from that fountain. He then says, that the people would be saved, and then that they would be in peace and quietness.

It may now be proper to repeat what I have already touched upon, — that the salvation mentioned here belongs to the kingdom of Christ. Had he been speaking of some earthly or temporal government, the salvation must also have been temporal. But as the spiritual and celestial kingdom of Christ is the object of the promise, the salvation mentioned must reach to the very heavens. Hence its limits are far wider than the whole world. In short, the salvation of which Jeremiah now prophesies, is not to be confined to the boundaries of a fading life, nor is it to be sought in this world, where it has no standing; but if we wish to know what it is, we must learn to raise our thoughts upwards, and above the world and everything that exists here. It is an eternal salvation. In the meantime, Christ gives us some foretaste of this salvation in this life, according to what is said,

“godliness has the promises of the present as well
as of the future life.” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8)

But as this promise ought to be applied to the kingdom of Christ, there is no doubt but it is perpetual, and ought to raise up our thoughts to heaven itself.

To salvation is added safety; for were the faithful ever to fear and tremble, where would be their salvation? And we know that the happiness brought to us by Christ cannot be otherwise received, except through peace, according to what Scripture so often teaches us:

“Having been justified,” says Paul, “we have peace with God.” (Romans 5:l)

And then when he speaks in the fourteenth chapter of the same Epistle of the kingdom of God, he says that it consists in joy and peace; and in another place he says,

“May the peace of God, which surpasses all conception, obtain the victory in your hearts.” (<500407>Philippians 4:7)

Hence these things are connected together, salvation and peace, not that we enjoy this joyful and peaceful state in the world; for they greatly deceive themselves who dream of such a quiet state here, as we have to engage in a perpetual warfare, until God at length gathers us to the fruition of a blessed rest. We must, therefore, contend and fight in this world. Thus the faithful shall ever be exposed to many troubles; and hence Christ reminds his disciples, “In me ye have peace; but in theworld” — what? Sorrows and troubles. (<431633>John 16:33)

We now, then, see why the Prophet joined safety or security to salvation, even because we cannot otherwise know that we shall be saved, except we be fully persuaded that God so cares for our salvation as to protect us by his power, and that his aid will be always ready whenever needed.

He in the last place adds, And this is the name by which they shall call her, Jehovah our righteousness. In chapter 23 (Jeremiah 23) this name is given to Christ, and to him alone it properly belongs; but it is here transferred to the Church, for whatever belongs to the head, is made common to all the members. For we indeed know that Christ has nothing as his own, for as he is made righteousness, it belongs to us, according to what Paul says,

“He is made to us righteousness, and redemption, and sanctification, and wisdom.” (<460130>1 Corinthians 1:30)

As, then, the Father conferred righteousness on his own Son for our sake, it is no wonder that what is in his power is transferred to us. What, then, we found in the twenty-third chapter was rightly declared, for it belongs peculiarly to Christ, that he is God our righteousness. But as we partake of this righteousness, when he admits us into a participation of all the blessings by which he is adorned and enriched by the Father, it hence follows, that this also belongs to the whole Church, even that God is its righteousness. fF91 Hence it is wisely said by the Prophet, that this would be the name of the whole Church, which could not be, except it had put on Christ, so that God might reign there in righteousness, for the righteousness of Christ extends to all the faithful; and Christ also dwells in them, so that they are not only the temples of Christ, but, as it were, a part of him; and even the Church itself is by Paul called Christ,

“As there are,” he says, “many members in the human body,
so is Christ.” (<461212>1 Corinthians 12:12)

This cannot be applied to Christ personally, but he thus calls the Church by a metonymy, on account of that participation which I have mentioned.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to perform to the Jews what thou didst promise, by sending the Savior, and hast also designed, by pulling down the middle wall of partition, to make us partakers of the same invaluable blessing, — O grant, that we may embrace him with true faith, and constantly abide in him, and so know thee as our Father, that, being renewed by the Spirit of thy Son, we may wholly devote ourselves to thee, and consecrate ourselves to thy service, until at length that which is begun in us be completed, and we be filled with that glory to which thy Son, our Lord, daily invites us. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-Fifth

<243317>Jeremiah 33:17-18

17. For thus saith the Lord, David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;

17. Quia sic dicit Jehova, non exeidetur Davidi vir qui sedeat super solium domus Israel;

18. Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt-offerings, and to kindle meat-offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.

18. Et sacerdotibus Levitis non excidetur vir coram facie mea, qui aecendat holocaustum, adoleat oblationem et faciat sacrificium cunctis diebus.

 

The Prophet had spoken of the restoration of the Church; he now confirms the same truth, for he promises that the kingdom and the priesthood would be perpetual. The safety of the people, as it is well known, was secured by these two things; for without a king they were like an imperfect or a maimed body, and without a priesthood there was nothing but ruin; for the priest was, as it were, the mediator between God and the people, and the king represented God. We now, then, perceive the object of the Prophet, why he speaks expressly here of the kingdom and the priesthood, for the people could not otherwise have any ground to stand on. He therefore declares that the condition of the people would be safe, because there would always be some of the posterity of David, who would succeed to govern them, and there would always be some of the posterity of Levi, to offer sacrifices.

But this passage ought to be carefully noticed, for we hence gather, that though all other things were given to us according to our wishes, we should yet be ever miserable, except we had Christ as our head, to perform the office of a king and of a priest. This, then, is the only true happiness of the Church, even to be in subjection to Christ, so that he may exercise towards us the two offices described here. Hence also we gather, that these are the two marks of a true Church, by which she is to be distinguished from all conventicles, who falsely profess the name of God, and boast themselves to be Churches. For where the kingdom and priesthood of Christ are found, there, no doubt, is the Church; but where Christ is not owned as a king and a priest, nothing is there but confusion, as under the Papacy; for though they pretend the name of Christ, yet, as they do not submit to his government and laws, nor are satisfied with his priesthood, but have devised for themselves numberless patrons and advocates, it is quite evident that, notwithstanding the great splendor of the Papacy, it is nothing but an abomination before God. Let us, then, learn to begin with the kingdom and the priesthood, when we speak of the state and government of the Church.

Now we know that in David was promised a spiritual kingdom, for what was David but a type of Christ? As God then gave in David a living image of his only-begotten Son, we ought ever to pass from the temporal kingdom to the eternal, from the visible to the spiritual, from the earthly to the celestial. The same thing ought to be said of the priesthood; for no mortal can reconcile God to men, and make an atonement for sins; and further, the blood of bulls and of goats could not pacify the wrath of God, nor incense, nor the sprinkling of,water, nor any of the things which belonged to the ceremonial laws; they could not, give the hope of salvation, so as to quiet trembling consciences. It then follows, that that priesthood was shadowy, and that the Levites represented Christ until he came.

But the Prophet here speaks according to the circumstances of his own time, when he says, Cut off shall not be from David a man, who may sit on the throne of the house of Israel; and then, cut off shall not be from the priests, the Levites, a man who may kindle burnt-offerings burn an oblation, etc. fF92 Why does he not speak in general of the whole people? Why does he not promise that the twelve tribes would be saved? for this would be, a matter of greater moment. But as we have said, we ought to understand this principle, that every kind of blessing is included here, so that men are always in a miserable state unless they are ruled by Christ and have him as their priest.

But it may be asked here, how does this prophecy agree with facts? for from the time Jeremiah promised such a state of things, there has been no successor to David. It is true, indeed, that Zerubbabel was a leader among the people, but he was without a royal title or dignity. There was no throne, no crown, no scepter, from the time in which the people returned from their Babylonian exile; and yet God testified by the mouth of Jeremiah that there would be those from the posterity of David, who would govern the people in continual succession. He does not stay that they would be chiefs or leaders, but he adorns them with a royal title. Some one, he says, will ever remain to occupy the throne. I have said already that there has been no throne. But we must bear in mind what Ezekiel says, that an interruption as to the kingdom is not contrary to this prophecy, as to the perpetuity of the kingdom, or continued succession, (<262127>Ezekiel 21:27) for he prophesied that the crown would be cast down, until the legitimate successor of David came. It was therefore necessary that the diadem should fall and be cast on the ground, or be transverted, as the Prophet says, until Christ was manifested. As, then, this had been declared, now when our Prophet speaks of kings succeeding David, we must so understand what he says as that that should remain true which has been said of the cast down diadem. God, then, did cast down the diadem until the legitimate successor came. Ezekiel does not only say, “Cast ye it down transverted,” but he repeats the words three times, intimating thereby that the interruption would be long. There was, therefore, no cause of stumbling, when there was no kind of government, nor dignity, nor power; for it was necessary to look forward to the king, to whom the diadem, or the royal crown, was to be restored.

We now then see how it was that there have been always those of David’s posterity who occupied the throne; though this was hidden, yet it may be gathered from other prophetic testimonies. For Amos, when he speaks of Christ’s coming, makes this announcement,

“There shall come at that time one who will repair the ruins of the tabernacle of David.” (<300911>Amos 9:11)

It was therefore necessary that the kingdom should be, as it were, demolished when Christ appeared. We further know what Isaiah says,

“Come forth shall a shoot from the root of Jesse.” (Isaiah 11:l)

He does not there name David, but a private person, who was content with a humble, retired, and rustic life; for a husbandman and a shepherd, as it is well known, was Jesse the father of David. In short, whenever the Prophets declare that the kingdom of David would be perpetual, they do not promise that there would be a succession without interruption; but this ought to be referred to that perpetuity which was at length manifested in Christ alone. We have said elsewhere, how the time of return ought to be connected with the coming of Christ. For it is not necessary nor expedient to introduce an anagogical sense, as interpreters are wont to do, by representing the return of the people as symbolical of what was higher, even of the deliverance which was effected by Christ; for it ought to be considered as one and the same favor of God, that is, that he brought back his people from exile, that they might at length enjoy quiet and solid happiness when the kingdom of David should again be established.

As to the priesthood, the same difficulty might be raised, for we know that the priesthood became corrupted; nay, that for the most part the priests not only became degenerate, but altogether sacrilegious. Hence the sacerdotal name itself became nothing else but a base and wicked profanation of all sacred things. But it was God’s purpose in this manner to shew that another priest was to be expected, and that men were not to look on figures and types, but were to raise their thoughts higher, even to him who was to be the only true Mediator to reconcile God to men.

By saying, who may kindle a burnt-offering, etc., he specifies certain things, or some parts of the priest’s office, because the Prophets accommodated their discourses to men of their own age and time, and described the kingdom and priesthood of Christ under those external symbols, which were then in use. It is hence proper to take the ceremonies of the Law as denoting the reality, or what they signified. For Christ offered no calves, nor any incense, but fulfilled all these things which were then set forth to the people under symbols. And he speaks of burning, or perfuming the oblation, hjnm, meneche, for though the oblation remained entire, there was yet a perfuming made by frankincense, and a small portion of the flour was burnt. It is then a mode of speaking, when a part is stated for the whole. It now follows —

<243319>Jeremiah 33:19-21

19. And the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, saying,

19. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam, dicendo,

20. Thus saith the Lord, If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season;

20. Sic dicit Jehova, Si irritum feceritis foedus meum diei et foedus meum noctis, ut non sint dies et nox suis temporibus;

21. Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.

21. Etiam foedus meum abolebitur (hoc est, irritum fiet) cum Davide servo meo, ut non sit ei filius, qui regnet supra solium ejus et cum Levitis sacerdotibus ministris meis.

 

He confirms the same thing, but by introducing a similitude; for he shews that God’s covenant with the people of Israel would not be less firm than the settled order of nature. Unceasing are the progresses of the sun, moon, and stars; continual is the succession of day and night. This settled state of things is so fixed, that in so great and so multiplied a variety there is no change. We have now rain, then fair weather, and we have various changes in the seasons; but the sun still continues its daily course, the moon is new every month, and the revolving of day and night, which God has appointed, never ceases; and this unbroken order declares, as it is said in Psalm 19, the wonderful wisdom of God. The Prophet then sets before us here the order of nature, and says, that God’s covenant with his Church shall be no less fixed and unchangeable than what it is with mankind, with regard to the government of the world.

We now perceive the purpose of the Prophet in saying, If void ye can make my covenant respecting the day and the night, then abolished shall be my covenant with David and the Levites. Now he indirectly touches on the wickedness of the people; for the Jews did, as far as they could, overthrow, by their murmurs and complaints, the covenant of God; for in their adversities they instantly entertained the thought and also expressed it, that God had forgotten his covenant. This want of faith then is intimated by the Prophet, as though he had said, “Why are these complaints? It is the same thing as though ye sought to pull down the sun and the moon from the heavens, and to subvert the difference between day and night, and to upset the whole order of nature; for I am the same God, who has settled the succession of day and night, and has promised that the Church shall continue for ever: ye can, therefore, no more abolish my covenant with David than the general law of nature.” We now then understand the Prophet’s object: for this was not said without conveying reproof; because they were very wicked and ungrateful to God, when they doubted his truth and constancy, respecting the promise as to the perpetual condition of the Church. He in short intimates that they were carried away, as it were, by a blind madness, when they thus hesitated to believe God’s covenant, as though they attempted to subvert the whole world, so that there should be no longer any difference between light and darkness.

Hence he says, There shall be abolished my covenant with David my servant, that he should not be my son, etc. He repeats what he had said, even that it could not be but that the posterity of David should obtain the kingdom, which we know has been fulfilled in Christ. The throne of David he now calls what he had named before as the throne of the house of Israel; but he means the same thing. It is called the throne of the house of Israel, because the king and the people are relatively connected, and also because the posterity of David ruled for the public good, not for their own sake.

He adds, and with the Levites, the priests, my ministers. He had called David his servant, he now calls the Levites his ministers. The word tr sheret, is commonly known, and is used often by Moses, when speaking of the Levitical priesthood. Its meaning is to serve. He adds —

<243322>Jeremiah 33:22

22. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured; so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.

22. Sicut non numeratur exercitus coelorum, et non mensuratur (in futureo tempore ponuntur hoec verba, sed ira resolvi debent, sicutli non potest numerari exercitus coelorum, et non petest modum habere; ddm significat metiri; mensurare non est Latinum verbum, qualiquam cogimur uti; sicut ergo non mensuratur) arena maris; sic multiplicabo semen Davidis servi mei, et Levitarum ministrorum meorum (non dicit sicuti proximo versu, uno verbo, ytrm, sed dicit ytwa ytrm, hoc est, qui ministrant mihi, sed idem est sensus)

 

There is an omission at the beginning; the particle of comparison is left out, for ra asher, cannot be taken for rak caasher: As the hosts of the heavens cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea, so God promises that he would multiply the seed of David, and also the Levites. This promise, as given to Abraham, referred to the whole body of the people; for when Abraham was bidden to go out, and to look on the heavens, God made this promise to him, “Number the stars, if thou canst, and the sands of the sea, so shall thy seed be.” We hence see that this blessing was extended to the whole seed of Abraham, and especially to the twelve tribes. And now it is confined to the family of David, and to the Levitical tribe.

But what we have already touched upon ought to be borne in mind, — that the safety of the people was grounded on the kingdom and the priesthood. As then kings ruled not for themselves, nor had the sacerdotal dignity been given to the Levites for their own private advantage, but for the sake of the people, so now the Prophet, stating a part for the whole, intimates that the whole people would be secure and safe, when the royal and sacerdotal dignity flourished. There is not, then, anything diminished from God’s promise, as though the other tribes were not to multiply; but what Jeremiah testifies respecting the family of David and the Levitical tribe, is to be extended, without any difference, to the whole Church. It is yet not without reason that an especial mention is made of David and Levi; for, as it has been said, the Church must have been in a miserable state, without a head, and without a Mediator. There is, however, no doubt but that Jeremiah alluded to that passage which we have already quoted, (<011505>Genesis 15:5; <450418>Romans 4:18) and thus he reproved the want of faith in the people; for they could not have doubted the restoration of the Church without impugning the truth of God, as though he had given only vain words to Abraham, when he said,

“Number the stars of heaven if thou canst, and the sands of the sea, so shall thy seed be.”

He therefore shews that God would be true and faithful in that promise, so as to multiply his Church like the stars of heaven, and the sands of the sea. It follows —

<243323>Jeremiah 33:23-24

23. Moreover, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying,

23. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam, dicendo,

24. Constrictest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the Lord hath chosen, he hath even east them off? Thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them.

24. An non vidisti quomodo populus hic loquantur? Duas familias quas elegit Jehova in ipsis, reprobavit eas (sed abundat particula hb deinde copula etiam supervacua est, nisi vertatur in adverbium temporis, nunc; nunc ergo objecit eas) et populum meum spreverunt, ut non sit amplius gens in conspectu ipsorum (hoc est, ipsorum judicio)

 

He now assigns a reason why he had so largely spoken of the deliverance of the people and of their perpetual preservation, even because the blessing promised by God was regarded as uncertain by the unbelieving. Farther, God not only reminds his Prophet why he bade him to repeat so often the same thing, but speaks also for the sake of the people, in order that they might know that this repetition was not in vain, as it was necessary to contend against their perverse wickedness; for they had so filled their minds and hearts with despair, that they rejected all God’s promises, and gave no place to faith or hope.

There are some who explain this passage of the Chaldeans, who regarded the people with great contempt. But this explanation is cold and unmeaning. I have no doubt but that God here expostulates with the Israelites, because they relinquished the hope of a deliverance; for Jeremiah would not have spoken thus of the Chaldeans, Hast thou not seen this people? He expostulates with Jeremiah, because he had not moved from the city. He then shews, according to what I have already observed, that there was a necessity why he should so often confirm what had been said so plainly before of the return of the people, Hast thou not seen, he says, how this people speak? saying, Jehovah now rejects the two families whom he had chosen, even the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah.

It was indeed an unhappy event, that the people had been divided into two parts; for they ought to have been one nation. But though it had happened through the defection of the ten tribes that the body of the people had been torn asunder, yet the Prophet, according to the usual way of speaking, says, that the two families had been chosen. The election of God was indeed different, even that the seed of Abraham might be one: for as there is but one head, so there ought to be but one body. But God had not wholly cast away the ten tribes, though they had wickedly and impiously revolted from the family of David. He then says, according to the language which prevailed, that the two families had been rejected, that is, the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Now the people said, that both were rejected, which was true, but not in the sense they intended; for as it has been before said, they thought that there was no hope remaining, as though the covenant of God had been wholly abolished, while yet the rejection was only for a time.

We hence see what God reproved in the common language of the people, even because they entertained no hope of mercy and pardon; for being struck with amazement, they had cast aside every thought of God’s promises, when they saw that they were to go into exile. For as before they had hardened themselves against threatenings, so now despair immediately laid hold on their minds, so that they could not conceive any idea of God’s goodness and mercy. He adds, that the people were contemptible in their eyes, so as not to be a nation any more. Thus in the third place he teaches what we have before observed.

<243325>Jeremiah 33:25-26

25. Thus saith the Lord, If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinantes of heaven and earth;

25. Sic dicit Jehova, Si non foedus meum diei et noctis, leges coelorum et terrae non posuero (repetendum est a si, si non posuero leges, vel, statuta, coelorum et terrae:)

26. Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.

26. Etiam semen Jacob et Davidis servi mei reprobabo, ut non assumam ex semine ejus qui dominetur super semine Abrahae, Isaac et Jacob; quia reducam captivitatem eorum, et miserabor eorum.

 

Here God opposes the constancy of his faithfulness to their perverse murmurings, of which he had complained; and he again adduces the similitude previously brought forward: lf, then, I have not fixed my covenant, or if there is no covenant as to the day and the night, — if there are no laws as to heaven and earth, then I shall now cast away the seed of Jacob and the seed of David: but if my constancy is ever conspicuous as to the laws of nature, how is it that ye ascribe not to me my due honor? For I am the same God, who created the heaven and the earth, who fixed all the laws of nature which remain unchangeable, and who also have made a covenant with my Church. If my faithfulness as to the laws of nature changes not, wily should it change as to that sacred covenant which I have made with my chosen people?”

We now see the reason why God so often confirmed a thing in itself sufficiently clear, even because the contest with the obstinate hopelessness of the people was difficult. For they thought that they were rejected without any hope of deliverance, when God punished them only for a time for their wickedness, as they deemed their exile to be without a return.

He mentions the seed of Jacob first, because it had been said to Abraham, For thy seed, and the same promise was repeated to Jacob. (<012604>Genesis 26:4; <012814>Genesis 28:14) He afterwards adds the seed of David, because an especial promise was afterwards given to David, (<100712>2 Samuel 7:12, 13:) Then also the seed of David, he says, will I reject, that I should not take of his seed to rule over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: he now fitly joins together what might have seemed unconnected; for he says, that there would be always some of David’s posterity to rule over all the tribes. God, therefore, thus preserved his Church when he set a king over his Church; or a kingdom, as we have said, is inseparable from the safety of the people.

He lastly adds, For I will restore their captivity. This obviated the diffidence of the people: for an objection was ready at hand, “What can this mean? for the ten tribes have been already led away into distant regions, and are scattered; a part also of the kingdom of Judah has been cut off; and what remains is not far from entire ruin.” Hence God calls their attention to the hope of deliverance, as though he had said, that they were acting foolishly, because they were thus hasty, for their expectation ought to have remained in suspense until the time prescribed, that is, till the end of the seventy years, according to what we have before seen, when the Prophet spoke against impostors who boasted of a quick return. He therefore tells them that they ought patiently to bear their exile, until the full time of their deliverance came. And he points out the fountain or cause of their deliverance when he says, I will have mercy on them, as though he had said, that the very salvation whieh he promised to the people depended on his gratuitous mercy.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou settest before us daily, both in the heavens and on the earth, an illustrious example, not only of thy power and wisdom, but also of thy goodness and faithfulness, — O grant, that we may learn to raise up our thoughts still higher, even to that hope which is laid up for us in heaven, and that we may so suffer ourselves to be agitated by the various changes of this world, that yet our hope may remain fixed in thee, and that whatever may happen, we may be fully persuaded that thou wilt be in such a way our Father, that we shall at length enjoy that blessed rest, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth

CHAPTER 34

<243401>Jeremiah 34:1-2

1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, (when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities thereof) saying,

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam a Jehova, cum Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis et totus excreitus ejus et omnia regna terrae, quae sub dominatione marius ejus erant, et omnes populi pugnarent contra Jerusalem (hoc est, oppugnarent Jerosolymam) et cunctas urbes, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him; Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Vade et dices Zedechiae regi Jehudah, dices, inquam, illi, Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego trado urbem hanc in manum regis Babylonis, et incendet eam igni.

 

It is no wonder, nor ought it to be deemed useless, that the Prophet so often repeats the same things, for we know how great was the hardness of the people with whom he had to do. Here, then, he tells us that he was sent to King Zedekiah when the city was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army. The Prophet mentions the circumstances, by which we may understand how formidable that siege was, for Nebuchadnezzar had not brought a small force, but had armed many and various people. Hence the Prophet here expressly mentions the kingdoms of the earth and the nations who were, under his dominion.

Zedekiah was then the king at Jerusalem, and there remained two other cities safe, as we shall hereafter see; but it is evident how unequal he must have been to contend with an army so large and powerful. Nebuchadnezzar was a monarch; the kingdom of Israel had been cut off, which far exceeded in number the kingdom of Judah; and he had subdued all the neighboring nations. Such a siege then ought to have immediately taken away from the Jews every hope of deliverance; and yet the Prophet shews that the king was as yet resolute, and there was still a greater obstinacy among the people. But Zedekiah was not overbearing; we find that he was not so proud and so cruel as tyrants are wont to be: as then he was not of a ferocious disposition, we hence see how great must have been the pride of the whole people, and also their perverseness against God, when they made the king to be so angry with the Prophet. Yet the state of things as described ought to have subdued his passion; for as ungodly men are elevated by prosperity, so they ought to be humbled when oppressed with adversity. The king himself, as well as the people, were reduced to the greatest extremities, and yet they would not be admonished by God’s Prophet; and hence it is expressly said in <143616>2 Chronicles 36:16, that Zedekiah did not regard the word of the Prophet, though he spoke from the mouth of the Lord, by whom he had been sent.

The sum of this prophecy is as follows: — He first says that the word was given him by Jehovah; and secondly, he points out the time, for what reason we have already stated. For if he had reproved Zedekiah when there was peace and quietness, and when there was no fear of danger, the king might have been easily excited, as it is usual, against the Prophet. But when he saw the city surrounded on every side by so large and powerful an army, — when he saw collected so many from the kingdoms of the earth, — so many nations, that he could hardly muster up the thousandth part of the force of his enemies,wthat he could not and would not, notwithstanding all this, submit to God and acknowledge his vengeance just, — this was an instance of extreme blindness, and a proof that he was become as it were estranged in mind. But God had thus blinded him, because his purpose was, as it is said elsewhere, to bring an extreme punishment on the people. The blindness, then, and the madness of the king, was an evidence of God’s wrath towards the whole people; for Zedekiah might have appeased God if he had repented. It was then God’s will that he should have been of an intractable disposition, in order that he might by such perverseness and obstinacy bring on himself utter ruin.

He mentions Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army; he afterwards describes the army more particularly, with all the kingdoms under his dominion, and all nations. When Jerusalem was in this condition, the Prophet was sent to the king. The substance of the message follows, even that the city was doomed to destruction, because God had resolved to deliver it into the hand of the enemy. This was a very sad message to Zedekiah. Hypocrites, we know, seek flatteries in their calamities; while God spares them they will not bear to be reproved, and they reject wise counsels, and even become exasperated when God’s Prophets exhort them to repent. But when God begins to smite them, they wish all to partake of their misfortunes; and then also they accuse God’s servants of cruelty, as though they insulted their misery by setting their sins before them.

This is what we are taught by daily experience. When any one of the common people, at the time when God does not chasten them either by disease or poverty, or any other adversity, is admonished, the petulant answer is, “What do you mean? in what respect am I worthy of blame? I am conscious of no evil.” Thus hypocrites boast as long as God bears with them, and though his kindness spares them. But when any adversity happens to them, when any one is laid on his bed, when another is bereaved of a son or a wife, or in any way visited with afltietion, — if then God’s judgment is set before them, they think that a grievous wrong is done to them: “What! have I not evils enough without any addition? I expected comfort from God’s servants, but they exaggerate my calamities.” In short, hypocrites are never in a fit condition to receive God’s reproofs.

There is then no doubt but that Jeremiah knew that his message would be intolerable to King Zedekiah, and to his people. However, he boldly declared, as we shall see, what God had committed to him. And we further perceive how stupid and hardened Zedekiah must have been, for he hesitated not to cast God’s Prophet into prison, even at the time when things were come into extremity. It was the same thing as though God with a stretched out arm and a drawn sword had shewn himself to be his enemy; yet he ceased not to manifest his rage against God; and as he could do nothing worse, he cast God’s servant into prison; and though he did this, not so much through the impulse of his own mind as that of others, he yet could not have been excused from blame.

Now the Prophet says, Behold, I will deliver this city into the hand of the king of Babylon. Had he simply said that the city would in a short time be taken, it would have been a general truth, not effectual but frigid. It was therefore necessary to add this, — that the ruin of the city was a just punishment inflicted by God. And Zedekiah was also thus reminded, that though he were stronger than his enemy, yet he could not effectually resist him, for the war was carrid on under the authority of God, as though he had said, “Thou thinkest that thou contendest with men; it would be difficult enough for thee and more than enough, to contend with the eastern monarchy and so many nations and kingdoms; farther than this, God himself is thine enemy; have regard to him, that thou mayest learn to dread his judgment.” And that the words might be more forcible, God himself speaks in his own person, Behold, he says, I will deliver this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it with fire. This last sentence was a dreadful aggravation; for it often happens that cities are taken, and the conquerors are satisfied with the spoils. When, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar came against the city of Jerusalem with so much rage that he burnt it, it was a proof of the dreadful vengeance of God. It now follows —

<243403>Jeremiah 34:3

3. And thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon.

3. Et tu non liberaberis e manu ejus, quia comprehendendo comprehenderis et in manum ejus traderis; et oculi tui videbunt oculos regis Babylonii, et os ejus loquetur ad os tuum (vel, eum ore tuo) et Babylonem migrabis.

 

As Zedekiah saw the people still doing their duty he despised his enemy; for as the city was very strongly fortified, he hoped to be able to preserve it a little time longer. Hence was the false hope of deliverance; for he thought that the enemy being wearied would return into Chaldea. He was deceived by this expectation. But the Prophet forthwith assailed him, and declared that he would become a captive, which Zedekiah indeed deserved through his ingratitude: for Nebuchadnezzar had put hint in the place of his nephew, when Jeconiah was led away into Babylon and had made him king. He afterwards revolted from the king of Babylon, to whom he had pledged his faith, and to whom he became tributary. But the Prophet did not regard these intermediate causes, but the primary cause, the fountain, even because the people had not ceased to add sins to sins, because they had been wholly untameable and had rejected all promises, and had also closed their ears against all wise counsels. Then God, resolving to inflict extreme punishment on a people so perverse and desperate, blinded their king, as we have before said, so that he revolted from the king of Babylon, and thus brought destruction on himself, and the city, and the whole country. Thus God overruled the intermediate causes which are apparent to us; but he had his hidden purpose which he executed through external means.

He then says, Thou shalt not be freed from his hand, for thou shalt be taken; and then he adds, Thou shalt be delivered into his hand. What he says in many words might have been expressed in one sentence: but it was necessary to rouse the king’s sottishness, by which he was inebriated, so that he might be awakened in order that he might dread the punishment which was at hand, which, however, was not the case; but he was thereby rendered more inexcusable. Thus the threatenings which God repeats by his servants are never useless; for if the ears of those who are reproved are deaf, yet what God declares will be a testimony against them, so that every excuse on the ground of ignorance is removed.

He says afterwards, Thine eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon. And this happened; but his eyes were afterwards pulled out. He met, indeed, with singular disgrace, for he was taken to Riblah and tried as a criminal. He was not treated as a king, nor did he retain any of his former dignity; but he was taken before the tribunal of the king of Babylon as a thief or a miscreant. Then after he was convicted of ingratitude and treachery, the Chaldean king ordered his children to be slain before his eyes, and also his chief men and counsellors, and himself to be bound with chains and his eyes to be pulled out; and he brought him to Babylon. It was, then, a most cruel punishment which the king of Babylon inflicted on Zedekiah. And the Prophet seems to have indirectly referred to what happened, Thine eyes, he says, shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon: he was forced to look with his eyes on the proud conqueror, and then his eyes were pulled out; but he had first seen his own children slain.

He adds, and his mouth shall speak to thy mouth, that is, “Thou shalt hear the dreadful sentence pronounced upon thee, after thou shalt be convicted of a capital offense; the king himself shall degrade thee with all possible disgrace.” Now, this was a harder fate than if Zedekiah had been secretly put to death. He was dragged into the light; he then underwent many terrible things when led into the presence of his enemy. This, then, the Prophet related, that Zedekiah might understand that he in vain defended the city, for its miserable end was near at hand. He afterwards adds, —

<243404>Jeremiah 34:4-5

4. Yet hear the word of the Lord, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus saith the Lord of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword;

4. Tamen audi sermonum Jehovae, Zedechia rex Jehudah, sic dicit Jehova de to, Non morieris gladio;

5. But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odors for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord.

5. In pace morieris, et combustionibus patrum tuorum regum superiorum, qui ruerunt ante re, sic comburent to, et, Heus domine, plangent super to, quia sermonum ego locutus sum, dicit Jehova.

 

Here Jeremiah adds some comfort, even that Zedekiah himself would not be slain by the sword, but that he would die in his bed, and, as they commonly say, yield to his fate. It was indeed some mitigation of punishment, that God extended his life and suffered him not to be immediately smitten with the sword. And yet if we consider all circumstances, it would have been a lighter evil at once to be put to death, than to prolong life on the condition of being doomed to pine away in constant misery. When the eyes are pulled out, we know that the principal part of life is lost. When, therefore, this punishment was inflicted on Zedekiah, was not death desirable? And then he was not only deprived of his royal dignity, but was bereaved also of all his offspring, and was afterwards bound with chains. We hence see that what remained to him was not so much an object of desire, he might have preferred ten times or a hundred times to die. God, however, designed it as a favor, that he was not smitten with the sword.

A question may be here raised, Ought violent death to be so much dreaded? We indeed know that some heathens have wished it. They tell us of Julius Caesar, that the day before he was killed, he disputed at supper what death was the best, and that he deemed it the easiest death (eujqanasi>an) when one is suddenly deprived of life, — the very thing which happened to him the day after. Thus he seemed to have gained his wish, for he had said, that it was a happy kind of death to be suddenly extinguished. There is, however, no doubt but that natural death is always more easy to be borne, when other things, as they say, are equal; for the feeling of nature is this, that men always dread a bloody death, and it is regarded a monstrous thing when human blood is shed; but when any one dies quietly through disease, as it is a common thing, we do not feel so much horror. Then time is granted to the sick, to think of God’s hand, to reflect on the hope of a better life, and also to flee to God’s mercy, which cannot be done in a violent death. When, therefore, all these are duly weighed, it ought not to be deemed strange, that God, willing to mitigate the punishment of Zedekiah, should say, Thou shaft not die by the sword, but thou shall die in peace. To die in peace is to die a natural death, when no violence is used, but when God hhnself calls men, as though he stretched forth his hand to them. It is indeed certain, that it is much better for some to be slain by the sword, than to pine away through disease: for we see that many are either seized with frenzy on their bed, or rage against God, or remain obstinate: there are, in short, dreadful examples, which daily occur, where the Spirit of God does not work nor rule. For there is then no tenderness in man, especially when he has the fear of death; he then kindles up as it were into rage against God. But, on the other hand, many who are brought into affliction, acknowledge themselves to be justly condemned, and at the same time acknowledge the punishment inflicted to be medicine, in order that they may obtain mercy before God. To many, then, it is better to die a violent death than to die in peace; but this happens through the fault of men: at the same time, natural death, as I have said, justly deserves to be much preferred to a violent and bloody death, and I have briefly stated the reasons. The subject might indeed be more fully handled, but it is enough to touch shortly on the chief point as the passage requires.

In peace, he says, shalt thou die, and then adds, with the burninjs of thy fathers shall they burn thee, and lament over thee, “Alas! Lord.” Here is added another comfort, — that when Zedekiah should die, there would be some to bury him, not only in a humane, but also in an honorable manner. And burial in many places is reckoned as one of God’s favors, as in life God shews himself kind and bountiful to us when we are in health and in vigor. For as health and food sufficient for the necessities of life, are evidences of God’s love, so is burial after death; for burial distinguishes men from brutes. When a wild beast dies, his carcase is left to putrify. Why are men buried, except in hope of the resurrection, as though they were laid up in a safe place till the time of restoration? Burial, then, as it is a symbol of our immortality, makes a distinction between us and brute animals after death. In death itself there is no difference; the death of a man and the death of a dog, have no certain marks to distinguish the one from the other. Then it is God’s will that there should be some monument, that men might understand how nmch more excellent: is their condition than that of brute animals. Hence then it is, that when God favors us with a burial, he shows his paternal care towards us. On the contrary, when the body of any one is cast away, it is in itself a sign of God’s displeasure, as it appeared before, when the Prophet said of Jehoiakim that his burial would be that of an ass, (<242219>Jeremiah 22:19) As then Jehoiakim was threatened with the burial of an ass, so now he promises an honorable burial to Zedekiah.

I said that this is true, when the thing is in itself considered. For it sometimes happens that the most wicked are buried with honor and great pomp, when the children of God are either burnt or torn by wild beasts. Known is that complaint of the Psalmist, that the bodies of the saints were cast away and became food to birds and wild beasts. (<197902>Psalm 79:2) And it is said of the rich man, who lived in splendor, that he died and was buried, but there is no mention made of the burial of Lazarus. (<421622>Luke 16:22) We ought not then simply to conclude, that those are miserable who are not buried, and that those are blessed who obtain the honor of a burial. As the sun is said to rise on the children of God and on strangers, so also after death, as burial is a temporal benefit, it may be considered as belonging indiscriminately to the good and to the bad. It may on the contrary be, that God should deprive his children of a burial; yet still that truth remains fixed, that burial in itself is an evidence of God’s favor; and that; when any one is cast away and denied a burial, it is a sign of God’s displeasure. When yet we come to individuals, the Lord turns a temporal punishment into a benefit to his own people; and makes his temporal blessings to serve for a heavier condemnation to all the reprobate and ungodly, hence they were barbarous who dared to deride burial, as the Cynics did, who treated burial with contempt. This was inhumanity.

But we ought to hold these points, — that as God supplies us with bread, wine, and water, and other necessaries of life, in order to feed us, and to preserve us in health and rigor, so we ought to regard burial; but when the faithful are exposed to hunger, when they die through cold or nakedness, or when they are made subject to other evils, and when they are treated ignominiously after death, all this turns out for their salvation, for the Lord regards their good even when he seems to afflict them with adversities.

This, then, is the reason why the Prophet now in some measure mitigates the sorrow of Zedekiah, by saying,. They shall bury thee, and with the burnings of thy fathers shall they burn thee. This was not a common but a royal mode of burial. He then promises, that after many degradations and reproaches, God would at length shew him, when dead, some favor. But one may say, what would this avail Zedekiah? for his body would then be without sense or feeling. But. it was well to hear of this kindness of God, for he might thereby conclude that God would be at length merciful to him, if he really humbled himself. There is then no doubt but that a hope of pardon was promised to him, though he was to be sharply and severely chastised even until he died. God then intended that this symbol should ever be remembered by him, that he might not wholly despair. We now then understand why the Prophet promised this to Zedekiah, not that it might be a matter of interest to him to be buried with honor, but that he might have some conception of God’s kindness and mercy.

Now we know that the dead bodies of kings were burnt at a great expense; many precious odors were procured, a fire was kindled, and the bodies were seared; not that they were reduced to ashes, (for this was not the custom, as among the Romans and other nations, who burnt the bodies of the dead, and gathered the ashes) But among the Jews, the body was never burnt; only they kindled a fire around the dead body, that putrefaction might not take place. The bodies of the dead were dried by a slow fire. This was not indeed commonly done, but only at the burials of kings, as it appears from the case of Asa and of others. (<141614>2 Chronicles 16:14)

Then he says, With the burnings of thy fathers shall they burn thee, and they shall lament thee, “Alas! Lord,” it may be asked, whether these lamentations were approved by God? To this there is a ready answer, — that the Prophet does not here commend immoderate mourning, and cryings, and ejaculations, when he says, they shall lament thee, but that he took the expression from what was commonly done, as though he had said, “They shall perform for thee this office of humanity, such as is usually done over the remains of kings in full power, in the day of their prosperity.” God, then, in speaking here of lamentation and mourning, does not commend them as virtues, or as worthy of praise, but refers only to what was then commonly done. But we know what Paul especially teaches us, — that we are so to moderate our sorrow, as not to be like the unbelieving, who have no hope, (<520413>1 Thessalonians 4:13) for they think that death is the death of the soul as well as of the body: they therefore lament their dead as for ever lost; and they also murmur against God, and sometimes utter horrid blasphemies. Paul then would have us to be moderate in our sorrow. He does not condemn sorrow altogether, but only requires it to be moderate, so that we may shew what influence the hope of resurrection has over us.

And yet there is no doubt but that men, in this respect, exceed moderation. It has commonly been the case almost in all ages to be ostentatious in mourning for the dead. For not only are they without genuine feeling in lamenting for their friends or relatives, but they are carried away by a sort of ambition, while burying the dead with great noise and lamentation. When they are alone they contain themselves, so that at least they make no noise; but when they go out before others, they break forth into noisy lamentations. It hence appears that, as I have said, mourning is often ostentatious. But as men have from the beginning gone astray in this respect, greater care ought to be taken by us, that each of us may check and restrain himself. Still it is natural, as I have said, to weep for the dead; but doubtless, it may be said, the ejaculations mentioned by the Prophet cannot be approved; for to what purpose was it to cry, “Alas! Lord; our king is dead,” and things of the same kind? But we ought to bear in mind, that eastern nations were always excessive in this respect, and we find them to be so at this day. The warmer the climate the more given to gestures and ceremonies the people are. In these cold regions gesticulations and crying out, “Alas! Lord, alas! father,” would be deemed impertinent and foolish. But where they tear off their hair, and also cut themselves and tear their cheeks not only with their nails, but also with knives, — where they do these things, they also utter these ejaculations spoken of by the Prophet.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as it is ever expedient for us to be often chastised by thine hand, — O grant, that we may learn to bear thy scourges patiently, and with quiet minds, and so acknowledge our sins, that we may not at the same time doubt but that thou wilt be merciful to us, and that we may with this confidence ever flee to seek pardon, and that it may avail also to increase our repentance, so that we may strive more and more to put off all the vices of the flesh, and to put on the new man, so that thine image may be renewed in us, until we shall at length come to partake of that eternal glory, which thou hast prepared in heaven for us, through Christ thy Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh

<243406>Jeremiah 34:6-7

6. Then Jeremiah the Prophet spake all these words unto Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem,

6. Et loquutus est Jeremias Propheta ad Zedechiam, regem Jehudah, omnes sermones istos in Jerusalem.

7. When the king of Babylon’s army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah.

7. Et exercitus regis Babylonii pugnabant (hoc est, oppugnabant) Jerusalem et onmes urbes Jehudah quae residuae erant, nempe Lachis et Azekah, quoniam ipsae restabant in urbibus Jehudah urbes munitionis (id est, minutiae)

 

Here Jeremiah only relates that he had delivered the message committed to him; and here is seen the Prophet’s magnanimity, for as it appeared yesterday, he was an unwelcome messenger; and though there was danger, yet Jeremiah performed his office, for he knew that God would not suffer the king to do anything to him unless it were for some benefit. There is then no doubt but that he deposited his life in God’s hand, and offered himself, as it were, a sacrifice, when he dared openly to threaten the king, which could not have been done without offending him; and

“the wrath of a king,” as Solomon says,
“is the messenger of death.” (<201614>Proverbs 16:14)

Here, then, the firmness of the Prophet is deserving of praise; for he dreaded no danger when he saw that necessity was laid on him by God.

He again repeats that Jerusalem was then surrounded by the army of the king of Babylon, as well as the other cities of Judah, which he names, even Lachish and Azekah. He seems, therefore, indirectly to reprove the arrogance of Zedekiah, for he still retained his high spirits, when yet he was reduced to such straits. All the cities of Judah, — how many were they? Two, says the Prophet. This, then, was no unsuitable way of indirectly exposing to ridicule the vain confidence of the king, who still thought that he could overcome the enemy, though he was master only of three cities, that is, Jerusalem, Lachish, and Azekah. But the Prophet gives a reason why these cities did not immediately fall into the hands of the king of Babylon, because they were fortified. It hence follows, that the other cities were taken without trouble, or that they surrendered of their own accord. Zedekiah the king was then deprived of his power, and yet he had not relinquished the ferocity of his mind, nor was he terrified by the threatenings of the Prophet; and this was a proof of extreme madness. For he hence appears that he was alienated in mind; for. the dreadful hand of God was put forth against him, and yet he rushed headlong to his own ruin as a wild beast destitute of reason. Let us proceed, —

<243408>Jeremiah 34:8-17

8. This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people whichwere at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them;

8. Sermo qui factus est ad Jeremiam a Jehova, postquam percussit rex Zedechias foedus cum toto popalo, qui erant in Jerusalem, ad promulgandum ipsis (hoc est, inter ipsos) libertatem;

9. That every man should let lfis man-servant, and every man his maid-servant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.

9. Ut dimitteret quisque servum suum, et quisque ancillam suam (vir, vir, ad verbum, sed significat quisque indefinite) Hebraeum vel Hebraeum liberos, ut ne ultra servirent ipsis (vel, transitive, ut alii malunt et bene quadrat, ut non haberent cos servos) inter Judaeos vir fratrem suum.

10. Now, when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his man-servant, and every one his maid-servant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more; then they obeyed, and let them go.

10. Et audierunt omnes principes et torus populus, qui venerant ad foedus, ut dimitteret servum suum et ancillam suam liberos, ut ne servirent amplius ipsis (vel, ut ne dominarentur) et obedierunt et dimiserunt.

11. But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.

11. Et reversi aunt (hoc est, mutarunt concilium) postea, et reduxerunt servos suos et ancillas suas quos dimiserant liberos et subegerunt cos in servos et ancillas.

12. Therefore the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

12. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo, (hoec necessario contexere oportet)

13. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,

13. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Ego percussi foedus cum pattibus vestris die quo eduxi ipsos e terra Egypti, e domo servorum, dicendo,

14. At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.

14. A fine septem annorum dimittetis quisque fratrem suum Hebraeum, qui venditus tibi fuerit et serviret tibi sex annis, et dimittes liberum abesse tecum (hoc est, ut non sit amplius tecum, vel apud to) et non audierunt patres vestri me, et non inclinarunt aurem suam.

15. And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbor; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:

15. Et conversi estis vos hodie, et fecistis quod rectum erat in oculis meis, promulgando libertatem quisque proximo suo, et pepigistis foedus coram facie mea in domo super quam invocatum est nomen meum:

16. But ye turned, and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.

16. Et reversi estis (hoc est, mutastis consilium) et profanastis nomen meum, et reduxistis quisque servum suum, et quisque ancillam suam, quos dimiseratis liberos animae suae, (hoc est, ad arbitrium suum) et subegistis ipsos ut essent vobis in servos et ancillas.

17. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

17. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Vos non audistis ad promulgandum libertatem quisque fratri suo, et quisque proximo suo, ecce ego pro-mulgo contra vos libertatem, dicit Jehova, gladio et pesti et fatal, et dabo vos in commotionum (vel, con-cussionem) cunctis regnis terrae.

 

Though we do not read that what the Prophet relates here was done by God’s command, yet we may easily gather that Zedekiah the king had been admonished to liberate the servants according to the Law, as written in <022102>Exodus 21:2. It was God’s will that some difference should be between the people he had adopted and other nations; for God had chosen the seed of Abraham as his peculiar treasure, and other nations were in this respect aliens. It was therefore his will to establish this law among the people of Israel, that servitude should not be perpetual, except one bound himself willingly, of his own accord, through his whole life, according to what we read in <051516>Deuteronomy 15:16, 17; for when one of an ignoble mind deprived himself of the benefit of this law, his master bored his ear with an awl; and having this mark, he could no longer become free, except, perhaps, he lived to the jubilee year. By the words of the Prophet we learn that this command of the Law had been disregarded, for at the end of the seventh year the servants were not made free. Hence the King Zedekiah, having been warned on the subject, called the people together, and by the consent of all, liberty was proclaimed, according to what God had commanded. But this was done in bad faith, for soon after the servants were remanded, and thus treachery was added to cruelty. They had before unjustly oppressed their brethren, but now perjury was heaped on wickedness. We hence see that they not only wronged their own brethren, by imposing on them perpetual servitude, but they also wickedly profaned the sacred name of God, having thus violated a solemn oath.

Now, Jeremiah says that he was sent at the time when, by a wicked perjury, the people began to oppress again their servants and their maids. He therefore says, that the word of Jehovah came to him after the covenant was made. A covenant he calls that solemn agreement when God’s Law was revived, that servitude should not be perpetual among the people of Israel. And he expresses the same thing when he says, that a covenant was made with all the people who were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty to them. Some take “to them,” hl, laem, as referring to the servants and maids, but we may take it as meaning among them, so that the Law should be in force, not only for the present, but perpetually. Then follows what sort of liberty it was to be, even that every one should let free his servant, and every one should let free his maid, a Hebrew or a Hebrewess, so that they should not serve. Some take the verb rb[ ober, in an intransitive, and others in a transitive sense, as we say in French, Qu’ils ne leur fussent plus serfs, ou, Qu’ils ne se servissent plus d’eux. As to the main point there is not much difference. If we take rb[ ober, in the sense of serving, we must read thus, “That they may not serve,” or, “That they may not be their servants.” But if we take rb[ ober, in the sense of ruling, it must be read thus, That no man, that is, that no one may rule over them, that is, over his Jewish brother, or, That no man among them should serve, that is, his Jewish brother. fF93

Here a question arises, Is perpetual servitude so displeasing to God, that it ought not to be deemed lawful? To this the answer is easy, — Abraham and other fathers had servants or slaves according to the common and prevailing custom, and it was not deemed wrong in them. Before the Law was given, there was nothing to forbid one who had servants or maids to exercise power over them through life; and then the Law, mentioned here, was not given indiscriminately and generally, but it was a peculiar privilege in favor of the chosen people. Hence it is without reason that any one infers that it is not lawful to exercise power over servants and maids; for, on the contrary, we may reason thus, That since God permitted the fathers to remain servants and maids, it is a thing lawful; and further, as God permitted the Jews also, under the Law, to bear rule over aliens, and to keep them perpetually as servants, it follows that this cannot be disapproved. And still a clearer evidence may be adduced; for since the Gentiles have been called to the hope of salvation, no change has in this respect been made. For the Apostles did not constrain masters to liberate their servants, but only exhorted them to use kindness towards them, and to treat them humanely as their fellow-servants. (<490609>Ephesians 6:9; <510401>Colossians 4:1) If, then, servitude were unlawful, the Apostles would have never tolerated it; but they would have boldly denounced such a profane practice had it been so. Now, as they commanded masters only to be humane towards their servants, and not to treat them violently and reproachfully, it follows that what was not denied was permitted, that is, to retain their own servants. We also see that Paul sent back Onesimus to Philemon. (<570112>Philemon 12) Philemon was not only one of the faithful, but a pastor of the Church. He ought, then, to have been an example to others. His servant had fled away from him; Paul sent him back, and commended him to his master, and besought his master to forgive his theft. We hence see that the thing in itself is not unlawful.

Our servitudes have been abolished, that is, that miserable condition when one had no right of his own, but when the master had power over life and death; that custom has ceased, and the abolition cannot be blamed. Some superstition might have been at the beginning; and I certainly think that the commencement of the change arose from superstition. It is, however, by no means to be wished that there should be slaves among us, as there were formerly among all nations, and as there are now among barbarians. The Spaniards know what servitude is, for they are near neighbors to the Africans and the Turks; and then those they take in war they sell; and as one evil proceeds from another, so they retain miserable men as slaves throughout life. But as no necessity constrains us, our condition, as I have said, is better, that is, in having hired servants and not slaves; for those called servants at this day are only hired servants.

When heathens commended humanity and kindness towards servants, they said, Let them not be treated as servants, but as those who are hired. So also Cicero said. (Off. 1) he distinguished between servants and such as were hired, he calls the first slaves, that is, those who were under the power of another, and those hired servants who undertook to work for hire, as the case is with us.

But as I have already said, the practice among the chosen people was peculiar. For it was the Lord’s will that those whom he had redeemed should remain free and enjoy in this respect the benefits of freedom. That there might then be a memorial of God’s favor among the people of Israel, it was the Lord’s will that servitude among them should be temporary, even for six years only. And as the law had been disregarded, Zedekiah exhorted the people to set free their servants. But there is no doubt but that God at the same time made it known, that external enemies justly exercised cruelty towards the people, because they themselves shewed no commiseration towards their own brethren. For when they ruled over their servants according to their own wantonness, they in vain complained of the Chaldeans or of the Assyrians, they in vain proclaimed that they were unjustly oppressed, or that the people of God were harassed by the violence of a tyrannical power; for the first originators of cruelty were themselves, and not the Chaldeans or the Assyrians. It was then on this account that Zedekiah was induced to call the people together, and that by a public act all the servants were set free.

He says, that all the princes and all the people heard, who had come to the covenant, that every one should let his servant free, etc.; and then he adds, And they obeyed. The verb [m, shemo, is to be taken in a twofold sense; at the beginning of the verse it refers to the simple act of hearing, and at the end of the verse, to obedience. Then he says that they obeyed, and that every one set free his servant. By saying that the princes, as well as all the people, heard, he took away every pretense as to ignorance; so that they could not make an excuse, that they relapsed through want of knowledge or through inconsideration. How so? because they had heard; nor is it to be doubted, but that the Law of God to which we have referred, had been set before them, that they might be ashamed of the iniquity and tyrannical violence which they had exercised towards their servants. The hearing then mentioned here, proves that the Jews were wholly inexcusable, for they saw that God’s Law had been long disregarded by them. And hence we learn, that each of them had sinned the more grievously, as he had been taught what was right, and had, as it were, designedly cast off the yoke. So also Christ teaches us, that the servant who knows his master’s will and does it not, shall be more severely punished than one who offends through ignorance. (<421247>Luke 12:47)

He then adds, And they afterwards turned, that is, after they had heard and obeyed. The turning refers to a change of purpose, for they immediately repented of what they had done. They had felt some fear of God, and then equity and kindness prevailed; but they soon turned or changed. The word is taken sometimes in a good, and sometimes in a bad sense. He says that they turned, or returned, because they receded or turned back after having commenced a right course. And they remanded; there is a correspondence between the verbs wbwy ishibu, they turned, and wbyy ishibu, they remanded, or made to return the servants and maids whom they let go free, and brought them under as servants and maids. There is no doubt but that the Jews alleged some excuse when they thus remanded their servants, and robbed them of the privilege of freedom: but God designed that they should act in sincerity and without disguise. Whatever, then, subtle men may contrive as an excuse for oppressing the miserable, and however they may disguise things before men, yet God, who requires integrity, does not allow such disguises, for he would have us to deal honestly with our neighbors, for all craftiness is condemned by him.

Now follows the message: The Prophet had, indeed, said that the word of God had been committed to him, but he interposed this narrative, that we might know for what reason God had sent this message to the Jews. For if he had thus begun, “The word came to Jeremiah from Jehovah,” and then added, “Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, I have made a covenant,” etc., the passage would have been more obscure. It was therefore necessary that the narrative should come first, and with this the Prophet’s message was connected, even that the Jews had added perjury to cruelty, and thus had committed a heinous iniquity. The Prophet now then comes to close quarters with them, and introduces God as the speaker, I made a covenant with your fathers the day I brought them up from the land of Egypt, from the house of servants.

God reminded the Jews of their own law; and though he might have justly required whatever he pleased, yet he proved that the Israelites were bound to him, because he brought then, out of the house of servants. Who can dare to arrogate to himself dominion over others, who is himself a servant? for there cannot be dominion where there is no liberty. Any one may be free, though without a servant; but no one can be a master except he be free. So God declares that the Israelites were not once free, for they were in a miserable state of servitude, when he stretched out his hand to them. Whence then came liberty to the Israelites? even from the gratuitous mercy of God, who made them free, who brought them forth from tyranny in Egypt. It hence follows, that they could not be masters over others, since they themselves were servants. This is the reason why he says that he made a covenant the day he brought them up from the house of servants, as though he had said, that they came forth from their prisons, because he had been pleased to draw them out, not that they might domineer for ever over their brethren, but only for a time. He relates here the law given by Moses in Exodus 21, as we have stated. At the end of seven, years fF94 every one shall set free his brother, a Hebrew, who had been sold to him, and him who has served him six years he shall let free from him, that is, that he should not be with him; but your fathers hearkened not to me, nor inclined their ear. The Israelites at first, no doubt, submitted to what God had commanded, but shortly after the law was disregarded. When, therefore, he complains here that his voice was not hearkened to, it ought not to be so generally understood, as that the Law had been at all times disregarded; but it is the same as though he had said, “Your fathers formerly were disobedient, because they did not set free their servants within the prescribed time, at the end of the sixth year.”

This passage, as many others, clearly shews the great perverseness of the people. Certainly the Law spoken of here ought to have been well approved by the Jews, for they found that they were by a privilege exempted from the common lot of men, and had been preferred before all nations. As, then, they saw that it was a signal evidence of God’s bounty towards the seed of Abraham, this ought to have allured them to observe the Law, inasmuch as they found in it what was especially suitable to them; but as every one became addicted to his own private advantage, the poor were oppressed, and a temporary servitude was changed into what was perpetual. There is no wonder then that men soon forgot what was right, though they seemed to have hearkened for a short time to God. It has been the common vice of all ages that the laws of God became soon forgotten and disregarded; so the law of freedom, though especially excellent, became, as we see, neglected.

He adds, Nor inclined their ear. We have stated elsewhere that this phrase is emphatic, when added to the expression of not hearkening; for it is a proof of deliberate wickedness, when men close up their ears, and listen not to what is right. It is possible for one to neglect what is said, or not to understand it; but when one intentionally closes his ears, it is a proof of hopeless obstinacy. God, then, is wont to express by this mode of speaking, the perverseness and hardness that prevailed in the ancient people, through which they rejected all sound doctrine. And this ought to be carefully noticed; for where the word of God is made clearly known, in vain we excuse ourselves for not following what he commands, for he speaks not obscurely, as he says by Isaiah. (<234519>Isaiah 45:19) How comes it, then, that doctrine does not produce fruit in us? even because we wilfully reject it, closing our cars and disregarding God himself when he speaks. Now the reason why God brings a charge against the fathers is, that the comparison might enhance the wickedness of their children, who, after having professed that they had some regard for religion and some feeling of mercy, soon returned to their old ways, according to what follows —

And ye now turned, and did what was right in my eyes, by proclaiming liberty every one to his neighbor: God seems at first to commend the people; and no doubt it ought to have been deemed praiseworthy, that the people, after having been reminded that they had perversely disregarded God’s law, willingly engaged in doing their duty; but as they gave but a false proof of repentance, and did not really perform what they had promised, it was, as I have said, a great aggravation of their crime. So then God commended the repentance of the people, in order to shew how detestable is hypocrisy; for they shewed for a short time some feeling of humanity, but soon after proved that it was nothing but dissimulation. He therefore says, that they did what was right by proclaiming liberty. And hence it also appears that they had not gone astray through ignorance, for God had required this kindness from them, that is, to restore what had been wickedly taken away from servants and maids, and to let them free again: except they had been constrained by the clear testimony of the Law, they would have never thus given up their private advantages. But after having made a pretense that they wished to obey God, they again soon remanded their servants and their maids. It hence appears evident that they trifled with God, and that it was a mere fraud to set free their servant only for a short time.

He says that they made a covenant in the house on which his name had been called, and also, that they had profaned his name. All this added to their wickedness; for not only liberty had been proclaimed and confirmed by an oath, but this had also been done in the Temple. Hence he aggravates the sin of the people by this circumstance, — that they had made the covenant which they afterwards violated in the presence of God. For though the eyes of God penetrate into the most hidden recesses, yet the wickedness of the people became greater, and it was an evidence of men lost to all shame, that they dared to violate their pledged faith, and thus to shew no regard for the Temple, as though they had lost all reverence for God and all fear. It is hence evident how profane they were become, that they dared to come to the Temple and to make an oath before God, and then immediately to forfeit their faith.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we have been redeemed by thine only-begotten Son, not only from temporal servitude, but also from the miserable tyranny of the devil and death, — O grant, that we may acknowledge thee as our Deliverer, and so wholly devote ourselves to thee, that we may also labor to serve one another, and by mutual acts of kindness so cherish among ourselves brotherly love, that it may appear that thou indeed rulest among us, and that we are subject to thee through the same thy Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-Eighth

<243416>Jeremiah 34:16

16. But ye turned, and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.

16. Et reversi estis et polluistis nomen meum, et reduxistis quisque servum suum, et quisque ancillam suam, quos dimiseratis liberas animae suae (id est, arbitrio suo) et subegistis eos, ut essent vobis in servos et in ancillas.

 

The Prophet expostulates here with the Jews, as we said in the last Lecture, with regard to their perjury; for they had made in a solemn manner a covenant in the Temple of God, to set free their servants according to what the law prescribed. There would have been no need of such a ceremony, had they observed what they learnt from the Law; but neither they nor their fathers observed the equity prescribed to them by God. Hence there was a necessity for a new promise, sanctioned by sacrifice. The Prophet commended them for obeying God’s command. But he now shews, that they were the more inexcusable, because they soon after returned to their old ways. But ye turned, he says, that is, they soon repented of the obedience they had promised to render to God. Their promptitude was worthy of praise, when they promised that they would willingly obey; but by doing this in bad faith, they treated God with mockery.

He adds that God’s name was polluted. We hence learn that whenever we misuse God’s name, it is a kind of sacrilege; for nothing is deemed more precious by God than truth; yea, as he himself is truth, and is so called, (<431406>John 14:6) there is nothing more adverse to his nature than falsehood. It is then an intolerable profanation of God’s name whenever it is falsely appealed to; and thus perjury is allied with sacrilege. God’s name is indeed polluted in other ways than by perjury, that is, when God’s name is taken in vain rashly, thoughtlessly, and without reverence. But the most heinous pollution of it is, when the truth is changed into a lie. This passage then contains a useful doctrine, which teaches us to act faithfully, especially when God’s name is interposed.

He afterwards adds, Ye have remanded every one his servant and every one his maid, whom ye have set free, etc. The crime was doubled by this circumstance, — that they had emancipated their servants, and then remanded them. For had they not dissembled, their obstinacy could by no means have been tolerated; but their rebellion became still more base, when they had pretended to obey God, and it became shortly known that they had perfidiously promised liberty to their servants. He says that they were set free to their own soul, that is, to their own will; for we call men free when it is in their power to choose what they please, for when they are under the power of another, they have no will, no choice of their own. fF95 And indignity is increased, when servants who have been made free are afterwards deprived of so great a privilege; for nothing is more desirable than liberty, as even heathens have declared. He adds that this was done by force, Ye have made them subject. The verb bk cabesh, means to subject and to oppress. The Prophet then shews, that those who had been made free, were not willing to return to their miserable condition, and that they were not constrained to submit to the yoke in any other way than by tyranny. fF96 It hence appears that their masters not only employed deceit, but also cruel and tyrannical violence; so that to perjury they added inhumanity, which more increased their crime. It now follows, —

<243417>Jeremiah 34:17

17. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

17. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Vos non audistis me ad promulgandam (hoc est, ut promulgaretis) libertatem quisque fratri suo, et quisque proximo suo (vel, propinquo, vel, sodali suo) ecce promulgo contra vos libertatem, dicit Jehova, gladio, pesti et fami, et dabo vos in commotionum cunctis regnis terrae (alii vertunt, ecce promulgo vobis libertatem ad gladium et ad pestera et ad famem; quantum ad summam rei pertinet, non multum est discriminis utrumvis legamus, nempe, promulgo vobis libertatem ad, etc., vel, promulgo contra vos libertatem gladio, etc., ut videbimus)

 

Here the Prophet shews that a just reward was prepared for the Jews, who robbed their brethren of the privilege of freedom, for they also would have in their turn to serve after the Lord had made them free. But he alludes to the way then in use in which they had granted freedom, and says, Ye have not proclaimed liberty. They had indeed proclaimed it, as we have seen; but not in sincerity, for they who had been for a short time made free, were soon afterwards constrained to serve. God then makes here no reference to the outward act which the Jews had performed, but shews that faithfulness and integrity are so pleasing to him, that he makes no account of what is merely done outwardly. Hence the promulgation of liberty is not before God the verbal one, but that which is carried into effect. With men it is enough to profess a thing, but God regards as nothing all false professions. He therefore complains that the Jews did not obey his word. We have already said that it was not right according to the law to retain servants longer than six years; for in the seventh year the law ordered those who had given themselves up to servitude to be set free. But God restored this law as it were by way of recovery, as it had become almost obsolete. And this is the reason why he says that they hearkened not. For he had not only taught by Moses what was right, but had also shewn by Jeremiah that the Jews impiously and wickedly disregarded this humane command. We hence learn what it is to obey God’s word, even when we not only embrace what he declares, but also persevere in obedience to him: for it is not enough to exhibit some kind of a right feeling for a short time, except we continue to obey God. The Jews had with their mouth made a profession, and gave some evidence of a disposition to obey; the servants were allowed their liberty; but as the masters shortly after returned to their previous injustice, we see the reason why God says that they had not hearkened to him.

It is added, that he would proclaim liberty to them, that is, against them. If we read, “Behold, I proclaim liberty to you,” then the meaning is, “I will emancipate you,” that is, “I shall have nothing more to do with you; go and enjoy your own liberty; but ye shall immediately become a prey to other masters, even to the sword, to the pestilence, and to famine.” This meaning is not unsuitable; for it was the happiness of the ancient people alone to be under the protection of God: but when they became disobedient, he dismissed them, and would not have them under his guardianship. But nothing can be more miserable than such emancipation, that is, when God rejects those over whom he had been pleased to rule, and whose patron he had for a time been; for all kinds of evils will soon come upon them, and God will not interpose his hand. This, then, is the liberty of those who are not willing to bear, as it becomes them, the yoke of obedience to God, even to be exposed to all evils, for it is only by him we can be defended. We hence see that the meaning is very suitable, when we read “Behold, I proclaim to you liberty, but it is to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine.”

We may, however, take another view, “Behold, I proclaim liberty for you,” that is, against you; for l, lamed, has this sense: “I proclaim liberty against you,” — how? to the sword, etc., that is, “I order the sword to exercise power against you, and I will permit also the same right to the pestilence, and I will permit a like dominion to the famine: the sword, then, and the pestilence, and the famine, shall rule over you, for ye cannot bear my authority.” For though the Jews boasted that they were God’s chosen people, yet as they were so refractory as to despise the Law and the Prophet, it is quite evident that what they wished was unbridled licentiousness. God then renounces here his own right, and says that it was their fault that they were not free, for he would no more defend them, as an advocate his clients, or as a master his servants. So also it is said in the Psalms,

“Behold, our eyes are to God, as the eyes of servants who look to their masters, as the eyes of a maid to her mistress.”
(
<19C301>Psalm 123:1, 2)

We indeed know that servants formerly were exposed to all sorts of wrongs; they dared not move a finger, when grievously treated; but if any servant was wronged by another man, his master would undertake his cause and defend him. Then the Psalmist compares the people to servants and slaves, and says that their whole safety depended on the help of God. But God now declares that he will be no longer their guardian; and when he dismissed them, all kinds of evils, as we have said, would come upon them, even the sword, the pestilence, and the famine.

He at length adds, And I will give you for a commotion to all the kingdoms of the earth. The words may mean two things. Some take them as though God threatened that they should become unsettled, and vagrants through all the kingdoms of the world; and others, that they would be for a commotion, for every one either seeing or hearing of their miserable state would tremble. The passage is taken from <052825>Deuteronomy 28:25, where we read,

“I will give thee for a commotion.”

The latter meaning is what I mostly approve, — that the Jews would be for a commotion; for the vengeance which God would take on them would be so dreadful, that all would be greatly moved or affected, according to what is said by Isaiah,

“The, commotion shall be for amazement.” (<232819>Isaiah 28:19)

We then perceive what the Prophet means, — that God would so severely punish perjury and treachery, that the Jews would become an example to all people; for it would be a sad spectacle for all nations to see the children of Abraham, whom God had adopted, the most miserable of human beings. Their condition, then, would be an object of horror; and this is what the Prophet now declares and threatens. It follows, —

<243418>Jeremiah 34:18-19

18. And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the part thereof,

18. Et dabo viros qui transgressi sunt foedus meum, qui non stabilierunt sermones foederis, quod inciderunt coram me, vitulo quem conciderunt in duo, et transierunt inter partes ejus,

19. The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf;

19. Principes Jehudah et principes Jerusalem, proceres (eunuchos) et sacerdotes, et totum populum terrae, qui transierunt inter partes vituli.

 

He pursues the same subject, — that perjury would not be unpunished. But here is described the manner of making an oath, even that they cut a calf into two parts, and passed between these parts. Now we know that this was the custom in the time of Abraham, for it is said that he offered a sacrifice to God as a symbol of the covenant, and cut the victim, and passed between the parts. Historians also relate that the Macedonians in mustering an army observed the same ceremony; and it was probably a custom which prevailed among all nations. When the Romans made a covenant, they sacrificed a sow; they did not divide it into parts, but killed it with a stone; and this was the form of execration, — “So may Jupiter smite him who will violate this covenant; if I violate this covenant, may Jupiter thus smite me, as I now kill this sow.” But we see that among the Orientals, the victims were cut in two, and there was another form of execration, even that he might be thus cut asunder, who unjustly and in bad faith violated the given promise or engagement.

It is to this custom the Prophet refers here, and says, I will give the men who have transgressed my covenant, which they made before me by the calf which they cut into two parts, and passed between the parts, etc. But God assigns a reason why he resolved to inflict so dreadful punishment on perjury: he said before, that his name was profaned, and now he adds, that his covenant was violated. He does not speak here of the Law; the covenant of God is called the law for the most part in Scripture; but Jeremiah takes it here in a different sense, even the covenant in which God’s name was interposed, or what was sanctioned by an appeal to God, as by way of excellence, marriage is called by Solomon the covenant of God, because it is the principal contract among men. But as the Jews had promised in God’s presence that they were ready to obey, when Jeremiah commanded the servants to be made free, and as the agreement was confirmed by a solemn rite, hence the promise given to men is said to be the covenant of God, even on account of the sanction which we have mentioned.

Let us then remember, that whenever we perform not what we have pledged, not only wrong is done to men, but also to God himself, and that it is a sacrilege, and what is much more atrocious than theft, or fraud, or cruelty. Let us, therefore, learn from this passage to act in good faith, especially when the name of God is invoked, when he is appealed to as a witness and judge.

He adds afterwards, that they had transgressed his covenant; and he immediately explains himself, because they have not confirmed the words of the covenant which they had made before him. To confirm or establish the words, was to persevere in what they had promised. For the Jews gave a proof of humanity for a short time; but it was a mere falacious show and pretense. It was for this reason, then, that the Prophet says that they had not confirmed or ratified the words of the covenant which they had made. Then follows the outward ceremony, the calf which they had cut into two parts; and they passed between them, in order that this very passing might produce a deep impression on their hearts, and make them dread the violation of their faith. For we know that external signs are intended for this end, — that men may be kept awake, who would otherwise be tardy and slothful. The same also is the use of sacred symbols, by which God intends to touch and move all our senses. It hence appears how great must have been the insensibility of the people, when they afterwards disregarded that awful protest, for they had passed between the parts, and imprecated such a death on themselves if they failed in what they promised. They afterwards hesitated not to violate their promise. We hence see that they were under the power of a diabolical madness, when they disregarded God’s judgment. fF97

He adds, The princes of Judah and the princes of Jerusalem, etc. He does not here name them as though they were different persons, but he speaks by way of amplifying. He then says that he would punish these chief men, lest they should think themselves to be exempted, because they were superior to others in rank and honor; for we know that those who are elevated in the world are so filled with pride, that they deem themselves as free from all laws. This, then, is the reason why God expressly names the princes and the eunuchs. But he does not mean by the eunuchs those who had been emasculated, as we have stated already in several places. The chief men were called by this name, ysrs serasim. fF98

He mentions the princes of Jerusalem, because they were especially proud, on account of their privileges as citizens; for in Jerusalem was the royal residence and the sanctuary of God. But the Prophet declares that their lot would be nothing better than that of the common people, because God would not suffer his holy name to be a mockery and all equity to be violated, and especially the covenant made in his name to be deemed as nothing, and rendered wholly void. At length he names the whole people; whosoever, he says, have passed between the parts of the calf, shall be punished. It follows —

<243420>Jeremiah 34:20

20. I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.

20. Et dabo illos in manum inimicorum ipsorum, et in manum quaerentium animam ipsorum: et erit cadaver ipsorum in cibum avi (hoc est, avibus) coelorum, (est heterosis numeri) et bestiae ( hoc est, bestiis) terrae.

 

He confirms and explains what he had before said, and expresses how the punishment would be executed, — that he would deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and he adds, who seek their life, in order to shew that their enemies would not be content with the spoils, or with a moderate punishment, but would be their inveterate enemies, who would not be satisfied until they destroyed them. Now this passage teaches us also that the ungodly are God’s scourges, for the punishment he resolved to inflict on the transgressors of his law, he executed through them. Though then the Chaldeans had another object than to be God’s ministers in punishing the Jews, yet they performed God’s work as though they were his hired servants, subject to his own will and pleasure. Nor is there a doubt but that their minds had been greatly exasperated against the Jews, so that they shed blood indiscriminately withoat mercy: for as God often says,

“I will give you favor in the sight of your enemies,”
(
<020321>Exodus 3:21; 11:3)

so also on the other hand, he declares, that when enemies raged cruelly against them, it was through hls secret influence, he having resolved severely to punish them. This is the reason why he now says, that he would deliver the Jews into the hand of those who sought their life, that is, who were not intent on prey or spoils, and would not be satisfied with moderate punishment, but would be implacable enemies, until they destroyed the people.

Another kind of punishment follows, Their carcases shall be for food to the birds of heaving, and to the beasts of the earth, as though he had said, that God’s vengeance on the Jews would be made evident even after death. We said last week, that it would be no loss to us were we to he unburied, for burial brings no advantage to us; but yet it is a sign of God’s vengeance. As then famine, and nakedness, and cold, and diseases, and other evils, are evidences of God’s wrath against men, so also it is when the body of a dead man is cast forth, and is either torn by wild beasts, or eaten by birds. If any one objects and says, that this has sometimes happened to the best and holiest of God’s servants; to this we answer, that temporal punishment happens in common to the good and the bad; but when God by famine and want, by diseases also, or by exile, or by prison, or by any other evils, tries and chastises his servants, all this is to them as a help to their salvation. Yet this special mercy of God towards the faithful, which is a peculiar privilege, is no reason why all miseries should in themselves be deemed evidences of God’s wrath, for they are everywhere called curses. And we also know that from the same fountain flow all the evils which men suffer in this life, even from God’s judgment, who in this manner executes punishment. It is not then without reason that the Prophet here declares, that so severe and dreadful would be God’s judgment towards the Jews, that it would extend beyond death itself, for they would become meat to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth. It follows —

<243421>Jeremiah 34:21

21. And Zedekiah king of Judah, and his princes, will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which are gone up from you.

21. Et Zedechiam regem Jehudah, et principes ejus dabo in manum inimicorum ipsorum, et in manum quaerentium animam eorum, et in manum exercitus regis Babylonii, qui ascenderunt e vobis.

 

He repeats almost the same words, but yet he comes closer to the subject, for he names the enemies of whom he had spoken indefinitely before. He had indeed said that they would be cruel, and would seek their death, and would not be otherwise satisfied. He repeats again the same for the sake of confirmation; but he afterwards adds, that these enemies would be the soldiers of the king of Babylon, even the Chaldeans. He then shews, as by the finger, to the Jews, their calamity, lest they should, as usual, indulge themselves with the hope of security. He does not then declare generally, that they would be punished, and that enemies would come cruelly to destroy them; but he points out the army of the king of Babylon, and says that the Chaldeans would come, being armed by God and fighting under his banner, and would take the city, and destroy the whole kingdom.

But as the Chaldeans had departed, the confidence and the security of the Jews had increased, for they thought that they were now freed from danger. The cause of this departure was, that the Egyptians had gathered an army to help the Jews, or rather to provide by anticipation, for their own safety. There was an alliance, we know, at that time between the Jews and the Egyptians; and the object of both was to fortify themselves against the king of Babylon. The Egyptians had no great care for the Jews, but another reason influenced them; for it was well known, that as soon as the Chaldeans finished the Jewish war, they would make an attack on Egypt. Now they thought that it would be an advantage to them to engage with the Babylonian army in connection with the Jews; for they would have had to fight alone, had Nebuchadnezzar gained the victory; nay, the Jews themselves would have been compelled to assist in subduing Egypt. Hence the Egyptians, having well weighed these things, gathered a large army. The Babylonians, having heard the report, went forth to meet them. Thus the siege of the city was left. The Jews exulted as though they had escaped all danger. Hence the Prophet derides their folly in thinking that they would now be in peace and quietness, because the Chaldeans had gone up from them, because they left for a time the city, and went up towards Egypt. Though then, he says, (the particle is to be taken adversatively) they have ascended from you, yet God will deliver you into into their hand.

We now see that Jeremiah spared neither the king nor the princes; and thus we ought to notice the power of the Holy Spirit, which prevailed in the hearts of the Prophets, for they boldly addressed, not only the common people, but also kings and princes. As then we find the Prophet denouncing, with so much courage, the judgment of God on the king and the chief men, let us know, that none are fit to bear rule in the Church, except they be endued with so much firmness as not to fear any, and not to be disheartened by the power of any, so as not to reprove boldly the highest as well as the lowest. It follows —

<243422>Jeremiah 34:22

22. Behold, I will command, saith the Lord, and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it, and take it, and burn it with fire: and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant.

22. Ecce ego praecipio, dicit Jehova, et reducam cos ad urbem hanc, et expugnabunt cam, et capient eam (vel, oppugnabunt eam, et capient eam) et comburent eam igni; et urbes Jehudah ponent vastitatem absque habitatore.

 

He shews the same thing in other words, but the repetition was not in vain, for what we read here seemed incredible to the Jews. For they raised up their horns when they saw the King Nebuchadnezzar departing from the city. Lest then this vain confidence should deceive them, he again declared to them that God conducted the war, as though he had said, that the Chaldeans had not thoughtlessly taken up arms, but as God had determined, and as he had commanded them. He does not indeed speak of an open command, for it was not the purpose of the Chaldeans to obey God, or to render service to him; but he speaks of his hidden providence. God is said to command, when the ungodly are guided by his secret impulse, for he can tuae them as he pleases, according to what is said in other places, “I will hiss for the Egyptians,” or for the Assyrians, or for the Chaldeans. The same is the meaning here, when he says, Behold, I will command, etc. In short, God commands the wicked, he commands diseases, he commands the sword, he commands the famine and the pestilence; and yet there is no reason or understanding in the sword, in the pestilence, or in the famine: but Scripture thus teaches us that all things are under his control, so that nothing can touch us, except as far as God intends by these to chastise or humble us.

And for the same purpose are these words, Behold, I, ynnh, enni, etc. God shews that he was present, though the Chaldeans were not now seen in the land of Judah. The manner of his presence he sets forth by saying, I will bring them back to this city, and they shall attack it, and take it, and burn it with fire. These things have been elsewhere explained, I shall therefore now pass them by.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not continually to provoke thy wrath against us, — O grant, that we, being terrified by thy warnings, may obey thy wise counsels, and that thus by anticipating thy vengeance, which would otherwise remain on us, we may labor to be so reconciled to thee, that we may really find thee to be our Father and the guardian of our salvation, until we shall at length, having finished our course here, come to that blessed rest, which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-Ninth

We saw in the last Lecture what the Prophet denounced on the Jews, — that as they had acted perfidiously towards their servants, God would punish them by making them servants perpetually. When Nebuchadnezzar went forth to meet the Egyptians, there was some appearance of freedom being granted; for the Jews thought that theywere afterwards to be free: but as they had deceived their servants, so the Prophet says, that they were greatly mistaken in thinking that they were to be perpetually free, because Nebuchadnezzar would soon return. So he declares that they were doomed to servitude, so that the liberty in which they gloried would prove illusory. Now follows, —


CHAPTER 35

<243501>Jeremiah 35:1-7

1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,

1. Sermo qui factus fuit ad Jeremiam a Jehova diebus Jehoiakim filii Joziae regis Jehudah, dicendo,

2. Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.

2. Vade ad domum Rechabitarum, et dices illis, (et loquere cum ipsis) et adducas eos in domum Jehovae ad unum cubiculorum, et popina illis vinum.

3. Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;

3. Et sumpsi Jaazaniah filium Jeremiae, filii Habazaniiae, et fratres ejus, (hoc est, cognatos) et omnes filios ejus, totam domum Rechabitarum;

4. And I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door.

4. Et adduxi eos in domum Jehovae ad cubiculum filiorum Chanan filii Igdaliae, viri Dei, quod erat juxta cubiculum principum, quod erat e super cubiculo Maassaiae filii Selum custodis thesauri (alii vertunt, liminis, sed sine ratione, ut milhividetur)-

5. And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups; and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.

5. Et posui in conspectu filiorum domus Rechabitarum (vel, coram filiis domus Rechabitarum) scyphos plenos vino, et calices, et dixi, Bibite vinum.

6. But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

6. Et dixerunt, Non bibimus vinum, quia Jonadab filius Rechab, pater noster (vel, patris nostri) praecepit nobis, dicendo, Non bibetis vinum, vos et filii vestri, usque in seculum;

7. Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.

7. Et domos non aedificabitia, et semen non seretis, et vitem non plantabitis, et non erit vobis quicquam, quia (hoc est, quin potius) habitabitis in tabernaculis, cunctis diebus vestris, ut vivatis dies multos in superficie terrae in qua vos peregrini estis.

 

It must be first observed, that the order of time in which the prophecies were written has not been retained. In history the regular succession of days and years ought to be preserved, but in prophetic writings this is not so necessary, as I have already reminded you. The Prophets, after having been preaching, reduced to a summary what they had spoken; a copy of this was usually affixed to the doors of the Temple, that every one desirous of knowing celestial doctrine might read the copy; and it was afterwards laid up in the archives. From these were formed the books now extant. And what I say may be gathered from certain and known facts. But that we may not now multiply words, this passage shews that the prophecy of Jeremiah inserted here did not follow the last discourse, for he relates what he had been commanded to say and to do in the time of Jehoiakim, that is, fifteen years before the destruction of the city. Hence what I have said is evident, that Jeremiah did not write the book as it exists now, but that his discourses were collected and formed into a volume, without regard to the order of time. The same may be also gathered from the prophecies which we shall hereafter see, from the forty-fifth to the end of the fiftieth chapter.

The power of the kingdom of Judah was not so weakened under King Jehoiakim, but that they were still inflated with pride. As, then, their security kept them from being attentive to the words of the Prophet, it was necessary to set before them a visible sign, in order to make them ashamed. It was, then, God’s purpose to shew how inexcusable was their perverseness. This was the design of this prophecy. And the Prophet was expressly commanded to call together the Rechabites, and to offer wine to them, in order that the obstinacy of the people might appear more disgraceful, as they could not be induced to render obedience to God, while the Rechabites were so obedient to their father, a mortal man, and who had been dead for nearly three centuries. The Rechabites derived their origin from Obad and from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. There are those indeed who think that Obad and Jethro were the same; but this conjecture seems not to me probable. However this may be, interpreters think that, the Rechabites were the descendants of Obad, who followed Moses and the Israelites. And their opinion seems to be confirmed, because it is said here that they were commanded by Jonadab to live as sojourners in the land. An inheritance was indeed promised them, but as it appears from many parts of Scripture, they were unfaith-fifily dealt with, for they were scattered here and there throughout the tribes. They then did not enjoy an inheritance as it was right and as they deserved. And we see also that they lived among other nations.

With regard to Jonadab, of whom mention is made, we read in <121015>2 Kings 10:15, that he was a man of great name and influence, for when Jehu began to reign, he had him as his friend, though he was an alien. He must, then, have been in high esteem, and a man of power and wealth among the Israelites. And it is certain that it was the same Jonadab of whom sacred history speaks of there, because he is called the son of Rechab; and yet three hundred years, or nearly so, had elapsed from that time to the reign of Jehoiakim. As to the origin of this family or people, the first was Obad; from him came Rechab, whose son was Jonadab, who lived in the time of King Jehu, and was raised up into his chariot to be, as it were, next to him, when Jehu had not as yet his power firmly established. But they went afterwards to Jerusalem on account of the continual calamities of the land of Israel, for it was exposed to constant plunders, and this we shall hereafter see in the narrative. Then the sons of Rechab did once dwell in the kingdom of Israel; but when various incursions laid waste the land, and final ruin was at hand, having left their tents they went to Jerusalem; for they were not allowed to cultivate either fields or vineyards, as we shall hereafter see. The Rechabites, therefore, dwelt in the city Jerusalem, which protected them from the incursions and violence of enemies; but they still retained their ancient mode of living in abstaining from wine, and in not cultivating either fields or vineyards. They thought it indeed right for them to dwell in buildings, because they could not find a vacant place in the city where they might pitch their tents: but this was done from necessity. In the meantime they obeyed the command of their father Jonadab; and though he had been dead three hundred years, they yet so venerated the memory of their father, that they willingly abstained from wine, and led not only a frugal but an austere life.

The Prophet is now bidden to bring these to the Temple, and to offer them wine to drink. I have briefly explained the design of God in this matter, even that he purposed to lay before the Jews the example of the Rechabites, in order to shame them; for that family obeyed their father after he was dead, but the Jews could not be induced to submit to the command of the living God, who was also the only Father of all. The Prophet then was bidden to bring them to the Temple, and to lay before them cups full of wine, that they might drink. He says that they refused to drink, and brought as a reason, that Jenadab their father forbade them to do so. We shall hereafter see how this example was applied; for the whole cannot be explained at the same time.

Let us consider the Prophet’s words, he says that the word came to him in the days of Jehoiakim, that is, after he had found out by the trial of many years how untameable the Jews were, and how great was their ferocity. Much labor then had the Prophet undertaken, and yet they were not so subdued as to submit to the yoke of God. When, therefore, they had now for many years given many proofs of their obduracy, God summoned the Rechabites as witnesses, who, by their example, proved that the Jews were inexcusable for being so rebellious and disobedient to the commands of the Prophet.

Go, said he, to the house of Rechab, (we have said that they dwelt then at Jerusalem, and this will appear hereafter) and bring them unto the house of Jehovah. But we must inquire why the Prophet was ordered to lay wine before them in the Temple rather than in a private house. The reason, indeed, is evident; for God’s purpose was to shew how wicked and perverse the Jews were, for not even the priests abstained from wine except when they were performing their duties. The Law commanded them to abstain then from wine; but the Levites, who took care of the Temple, and also the priests, when not engaged in the discharge of their office, were fully allowed to drink wine. As, then, the priests were permitted to drink wine even in the Temple, that is, in the chambers adjoining the priests’ court, what excuse could have been made when the Rechabites, who were yet of the common people, and even aliens among the Jews, refused wine according to the command of their father Jenadab? Had God forbidden the whole people the use of wine, the Law might have appeared too rigid; but God not only permitted the people to drink wine, but also the priests; nay, no religious reverence prevented them from drinking wine close to the Temple when they were not engaged in their duties. We now, then, perceive why the place has been mentioned, that is, that the Prophet relates that he brought the Rechabites into the Temple.

Go, then, and bring them into the house of Jehovah, into one of the chambers, and offer them wine to drink. We have said that the chambers were nigh the priests’ court; for many of the Levites were always keeping watch, guarding the Temple, and also some of the priests. The priests, while serving their turn, alone abstained from wine; but a permission was given by the Law to the Levites to drink wine, and in those very chambers, which were on both sides a sort of appendages to the Temple.

Now the Prophet adds that he took Jaazaniah, who was a chief man, and as it were the head of the family. And he names his father, even Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah; and he then says, his whole house. It is added, that he brought them into the Temple, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God. The Prophet no doubt chose a well-known place, that the report of this might spread through the whole city, and even throughout Judea, and also that the dignity of the place might add credit to the report; for we know that when a thing is done in an obscure corner, it may be regarded as doubtful or fabulous. But the Prophet brought the Rechabites into an honorable place, even into the chamber of the sons of Hanan. And he afterwards says, that he was the son of Igdaliah, a man of God. Doubtless such was the reverence in which this man was held, that no one dared to call into question what had been done there. Then he adds that the chamber was nigh the chamber of the princes, which was over the chamber of the keeper of the treasury. Some render the last word, “the entrance,” fF99 the word means a vessel; and it signifies here the sacred furniture; and there is a change of number, for this word included all the vessels of the Temple. We hence see that the place was select, superior to other places, so that it might be as a notable theater, and that the prophecy might thus gain more credit among all the Jews.

He says, that he set wine before them and requested them to drink when full cups were placed before them. Then he adds that they refused, We will not drink wine, because Jonadab our father commanded us, saying, Drink ye no wine, nor build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, nor have any such thing as your own. We see that four things were commanded the Rechabites by their father, to drink no wine, to cultivate no fields, and to plant no vineyards, — these were three; and the fourth was, not to build houses, but to be content with tents. Here is also added a promise, that ye may live long in the land where ye are strangers. Then Jonadab promised to his sons and his posterity a long life, if they obeyed his precepts, that is, to live without wine all their life, and not to possess anything, nor build houses. Their saying that they had obeyed their father’s precept, shall be hereafter considered, for we cannot take in everything at once.

But let us now see whether Jenadab did what was right in forbidding his posterity to drink wine and to cultivate land. Agriculture is in itself a mode of living not only honest and innocent, but also remote from ambition, fraud, and plunder: in short, it seems to be of all kinds of living the simplest and the most innocent. Then the advice of Jenadab to keep his sons from agriculture might in this instance be blamed and condemned. But the probability is, that when he saw the Jews and the Israelites despising the Law of their God, he thought of the vengeance, which, though it followed not for a long time, yet ought then to have been dreaded. He also saw the sources of vices, even that the Israelites especially gave themselves up to luxuries, and indulged themselves, as it clearly appears from the Prophets, in all manner of excesses. When, therefore, he saw, on the one hand, the corruptions of the land, and that on the other he dreaded punishment, he wished his posterity to accustom themselves to an austere mode of living, so that they might more easily move here and there, and also that they might with more tranquil minds endure any adversity that might happen, being neither rich nor used to delicacies. Jenadab then did not condemn agriculture, nor the use of wine, nor commodious habitations, when he commanded his posterity to be contented with tents and water, and wished them to buy wheat and to follow only a pastoral life; but as we have said, he had another object in view. This, then, is what we are, in the first place, to bear in mind.

But we must observe, at the same time, that the posterity of Jenadab did not live on plunder, nor spend their time in idleness; for they were shepherds, who with great labor and many watchings gained their own living. But it was their father Jonadab’s wish that they should in a manner be separated from the common affairs of life, on account of the corruptions which prevailed, and which he saw rampant before his eyes; so that he had no doubt as to what was to be, when the Israelites abandoned themselves more and more to all kinds of excesses, and when all integrity was disregarded. This then was the reason why Jenadab restrained his posterity from following the common way of living.

His counsel is, however, not commended, but the obedience which his sons rendered; and this is here proposed as an example, in order to make the Jews ashamed, because they so perversely rejected the Law of God and the doctrine of the Prophets: and it is an argument from the less to the greater; for if the authority of a mortal man prevailed so much with his posterity as to cause them to abstain from wine, and not only to live frugally, but also to endure cold and want and other hard things, how much more it behoved the Jews to do what was right and easy, when God commanded them: This is one thing, even a comparison between God and mortal man. And then there is another, — that this precept continued in force for three hundred years, and kept posterity from neglect; but the Law of God, which continually sounded in the ears of the people, had no power to influence them. Here is another comparison. The third is, that God acted equitably, and did not press too much on the Jews, so as to make the rigor of the law odious and wearisome: as then God used moderation in his Law, so as to require from the people nothing but what was easy to be borne, he says that Jonadab was rigid and austere, for he forbade the use of wine and did not allow his posterity to cultivate fields, nor to dwell in houses.

This threefold comparison ought then to be borne in mind, and these three parts of the contrast ought to be well considered, even that God had not obtained from his people what Jonadab had from his posterity; and also that God, continually admonishing, prevailed nothing, when a regard for a dead man retained posterity in their duty; and further, that the Law of God, which required nothing but what might be easily done, had been perversely rejected by the Jews, when the Rechabites, in honor to their dead father, suffered themselves to be deprived of all luxuries, and dreaded not an austere, rustic, and, as it were, a savage kind of life; for they not only abstained from wine, but also dared not to shelter themselves from cold by dwelling in houses, and were forbidden all the comforts of life.

Now that. the Prophet was ordered to offer them wine, and that they refused, a question here arises, Was their continency in this respect laudable? They seemed thus to prefer Jonadab to God, for they knew that Jeremiah, who offered them wine, was sent by God. But the Rechabites, no doubt, modestly excused themselves, when they said that it was not right for them to drink wine, because they had been forbidden by their father. It was not then their purpose to give more honor to their father than to God or to his Prophet, but they simply answered for the sake of excusing themselves, that they had abstained from wine for three hundred years, that is, that the whole family had done so. This, then, is the solution of the question. But what the Papists do in bringing against us the Rechabites, first to support their tyrannical laws, and secondly, in order to torment miserable consciences at their pleasure, is frivolous in the extreme. As I have already said, the advice of Jonadab is not commended, as though he had rightly forbidden his sons to drink wine; but only his sons are spoken of as having reverently and humbly obeyed the command of their dead father. Then this passage gives no countenance to the Papists, as though the object of it was to bind the consciences of the faithful to their laws; for what is here spoken of is, that the Rechabites proved by their obedience how base and wicked was the obduracy of the people, as they shewed less reverence and honor to God than these did to a man that was dead.

But the Papists, however, dwell much on another point, — that whatever has been handed down from the fathers ought to be observed; and thus they reason, “The authority of the whole Church is greater than that of a private man; now the Rechabites are commended for having followed the command of a private individual, much more then ought we to obey the laws of the Church.” To this I answer, that we ought to obey the fathers and the whole Church: nor have we a controversy with them on this subject; for we do not simply say, that everything which men have delivered to us ought to be rejected; but we deny that we ought to obey the laws of men, when they bind the conscience without any necessity. When, therefore, a religious act is enjoined on us, men arrogate to themselves what is peculiar to God alone; thus the authority of God is violated, when men claim so much for themselves as to bind consciences by their own laws. We must then distinguish between civil laws, such as are introduced to preserve order, or for some other end, and spiritual laws, such as are introduced into God’s worship, and by which religion is enjoined, and necessity is laid on consciences. — But I cannot now finish, for I see that the hour has already passed.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to adopt us for thy children, and also to shew to us what pleases thee, — O grant, that we may in all things be obedient to thee, and never turn aside either to the right hand or to the left; and as thou exhortest us also continually, and stirrest us onward, grant that we may, in quiet meekness of spirit, so surrender ourselves to be ruled by thee, as to prove ourselves to be thy children, and to glorify thee as our Father, until we shall enjoy that eternal inheritance, which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fortieth

We said in the last Lecture that the example of the Rechabites is brought forward, not for the purpose of commending their obedience, as though it were some great virtue, but only that the Prophet might reprove the Jews for rendering less honor to the living God, than the Rechabites did to their dead father. And, doubtless, this comparison must have exhibited the Jews as acting very disgracefully, for they could not be induced to render obedience, though they had before their eyes the Rechabites as an example. We have also said, that Jenadab did not forbid his posterity to drink wine, to sow fields, and to plant vineyards, in order to set up something new in God’s worship; but that he did so, because he deemed it good for his posterity thus to sojourn in the land, so that they might not become attached to their possessions, and that amidst various changes they might be less anxious, and be prepared, as it were, to move elsewhere. We have hence shewn that the Papists ignorantly pervert this passage in order to support their tyrannical laws, in which they pretend to include the spiritual worship of God, and by which they also distress miserable souls; for there is no likeness nor affinity between the command of Jenadab and those laws which are introduced for the purpose of establishing the spiritual worship of God.

For it was not primarily the object of Jonadab’s precept to demand from his posterity an abstinence from wine as a necessary thing, but it had a regard to what was quite different. Now, what is commanded for another end, as it is not necessary, so it is not opposed to the word of God; for their liberty of conscience is not taken away: nor was it Jonadab’s design to claim for himself the right and authority of God, as though he were a spiritual lawgiver; but his precept only referred to what was civil or social. It hence appears how unlike was his command to the tyrannical laws by which liberty is destroyed under the Papacy. Were it allowable to speak jocosely, we might say, that it is a wonder that the Papists make so much of this example, which yet none of them follow; for though the monks have among them rigid and severe laws, as to eating and drinking, yet the most holy among them have never observed them; and there has not been a Carthusian or a Celestian, who submitted to the obligation of abstaining from wine. If then this virtue of the Rechabites pleases them so much, why do they not discontinue the use of wine? But this I have not said seriously.

With regard to the subject itself, the solution is certain and easy, — that the Rechabites are not commended as though they had obeyed their father as God, but that they obediently received what their father had commanded them, because it was only a civil precept: he therefore had in view an ulterior object; and he did not require abstinence from wine and other things for its own sake. And Paul, even by one sentence, has settled this controversy; for when he exhorts children to obey their parents, he modifies his exhortation by saying,

“In the Lord.” (<490601>Ephesians 6:1)

We then see that Paul commands children to obey their parents, not in everything, or without limitation, but so that God, who is the Sovereign and the only Father of all, may still retain his authority, and that earthly parents may not claim for themselves so much authority as to ascend the throne of God, as though they were lawgivers to souls. Let us now proceed —

<243508>Jeremiah 35:8-10

8. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jenadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;

8. Et audivimus in voce (hoc est, obedivimus voci) Jenadab, filii Rechab, patris nostri, secundum omnia qute mandavit nobis, ne biberemus vinum cunctus diebus nostris, nos, uxores nostrae, filii nostri, et filiae nostrae;

9. Nor to build houses for us to dwell in; neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:

9. Et ne, aedificaremus domes in quibus habitaremus, et ne vitis vel ager vel semen nobis esset (ad verbum, et vitis et ager et semen non erunt nobis)

10. But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.

10. Et habitavimus (quin potius, est enim copula resolvenda in adversativam particulam, quin potius habitavimus) in tabernaculis, et obedivimus, et fecimus secundum omnia quae praecepit nobis Jonadab pater noster.

 

Jeremiah explains at large what might have been expressed in few words, in order to amplify the constancy of the Rechabites. For one may obey his father, and yet be not so fixed in his purpose, but that he might on some slight occasion fail in his duty. Jeremiah here shews that such was the prompt perseverance of the Rechabites, that they could not be enticed by having wine set before them; but that as though no temptation had been presented to them, they kept the commandment of their father, who, at the same time, had been dead, as it has already appeared, some ages before.

They then said, that they hearkened to the voice of Jonabab the son of Rechab, their father; and also added, according to all the things which he has commanded us. tle again relates what Jonadab had commanded, and to this belongs the sentence, According to all things, etc. For had he ordered them only to be abstemious, to obey would not have been difficult or hard; he designed to bind them to a wandering life, that they might be covered only by tents, and that they might not possess anything. As then Jonadab did not in one thing only try the obedience of his family, it appears more clearly how great was their promptitude and perseverance in obeying.

They then said, first, that they were not to drink wine; and also added, all their days. We indeed know that the Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine, but it was only for a time, until they had performed their vow; we also know, that when the priest was discharging his duty, he was not allowed, for that time, to take wine. But afterwards the priests as well as the Nazarites, resumed their common mode of living. But to taste no wine throughout life was a thing far more difficult. The Prophet, no doubt, detailed these particulars, that he might load the Jews with greater disgrace, who, in a matter the most just, and by no means hard, were not, as we shall see, obedient to God. They said, We, our wives, our sons, our daughters, as though they had said, “This precept has ever been observed in our family; and what has been delivered to us, by our fathers, we have followed to this day, as also our fathers, who obeyed the command of a dead man, because his will had been explained to them.”

They added, that they were not to build houses, literally, to inhabit them, that is, to dwell in them. It was then lawful for the Rechabites to construct houses, that is, to build them for others; but they were to be contented with tents, and to live in them. They might then assist others in building splendid palaces, and thus by their labor gain a livelihood; but they were not allowed to inhabit them, as this was one of their precepts. They farther added, And a vineyard and a field and a seed we have not. If we duly consider how hard was their condition, we shall see reason to commend the constancy of the Rechabites, for they were not frightened from their purpose when they saw that they were brought into miserable straits. But, however, we ought especially to attend to the object the Prophet had in view, even to shew how shameful was the perverseness of the Jews, who dared to despise and regard as nothing the precepts of God, when yet the authority of a mortal man, and one that was dead, was so great with his posterity. They then said, that they dwelt in tents, and did according to all the things which Jonadab their father had commanded them. It follows —

<243511>Jeremiah 35:11

11. But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem.

11. Et factum est cum ascendit Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis in terram, tunc diximus, Venite, ingrediamur Jerusalem a facie excreitus Chaldaeorum, eta facie excreitus Assyriorum (alii vertunt, Syriae, sed ra quamvis aliquando restringatur ad Syriae, comprehendit tamem Mesopotamiam et alias regiones) et habitavimus Jerusalem.

 

It hence appears that it proved advantageous to the Rechabites to observe what their father had commanded them: for had they been fixed to their possessions, they must have been driven into exile with the rest when the kingdom of Israel was destroyed; what happened to the ten tribes nmst have happened to the Rechabites. But as they had nothing as their own, they were freer to move elsewhere; nor had they the trial of leaving possessions, for they had none. We know that many are so tied to their own houses, fields, vineyards, and meadows, that they would rather be killed a hundred times than to be torn away from them. Then Jenadab consulted well the benefit of his posterity, when he ordered them to dwell in tents; for thus they could collect together in one day all that they had, according to the known saying of Bias. Hence poverty was a great advantage to them: their austerity of life was also a benefit to them; they could without difficulty dwell at Jerusalem, for they had no need of many luxuries. Had they been accustomed to wine and to other delicacies, they might have discussed the point, whether it would have been better for them at once to die than to suffer want in a besieged city. Moreover, as they had lived frugally and had also been accustomed to an austere life, no anxiety prevented them to come with confidence to Jerusalem; for they thought that they could gain a sparing and sordid subsistence by their own labor.

It hence then appears what Jenadab had in view, when he forbade his posterity the use of wine as well as the possession of fields and vineyards; for he could then foresee what dreadful revolutions were at hand. It was therefore his purpose thus to train up his posterity, that when difficulties came they might not succumb under the burden, but patiently bear want or any other inconvenience, which to others would be intolerable, whenever their former delicacies came to mind. We they said, Come, and let us enter into Jerusalem from the face of both armies. When therefore the Israelites were detained by their fields and domestic possessions, the Rechabites went to Jerusalem, and thus were freed from danger. It now follows, —

<243512>Jeremiah 35:12-15

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

12. Et fuit serum Jehovae ad Jeremiam, dicendo,

13. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Go and tell the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the Lord.

13. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Vade et dic viro Jehudah et incolis Jerusalem, Annon recipietis disciplinam (vel, correctionum) ad obediendum sermonibus meis, dicit Jehova?

14. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: not withstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.

14, Stabiliti sunt sermones Jonadab filii Rechab, quos mandavit filiis suis, ne biberent vinum, et non biberunt usque ad hunc diem; quia obedierunt mandato patris sui; ego autem loquutus sum ad vos, mane surgens (vel, mane surgendo) et loquendo, et non obtemperastis mihi:

15. I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.

15. Et misi ad vos omnes servos meos Prophetas, mane surgendo et mitttendo (mane surgens et mittens) dicendo, Convertimini agedum quisque a via sua mala, et bonas facite actiones vestras, et ne ambuletis post deos alienos ad serviendum ipsis (ut serviatis ipsis) et habitabitis in terra quam dedi vobis et patribus vestris, et non inclinastis aurem vestram, et non obedivistis mihi.

 

Here Jeremiah applies the example which he had related; for subjoined is God’s complaint, — that he was less regarded by his people than Jonadab was by his posterity. He then says, Go and speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants ofJerusalem. To make the reproof the more effectual, the Prophet introduces God as the speaker. It was therefore God’s purpose to convey the reproof to the Jews in his own name, and as it were in his own person. Will ye not receive instruction, he says, so as to obey me? The word rswm musar, means sometimes ruling or governing, and sometimes correction. But God here no doubt reprehends that madness of the Jews in which they had long hardened themselves, as though he had said, “You never think it right to return to a sound mind.” Since, then, they had been for a long time incorrigible and wandered after their own lusts like unbridled wild beasts, a reproof is here given, as though he had said, “Will this people be always ungovernably wanton so as never to submit to the yoke?” And he says, so as to obey me. God shews that he required nothing unjust from the Jews, so that a true excuse could be pretended, as though he was too rigid: “I require only,” he says, “that ye obey me: this is all my severity, for lovely is the rule of meekness which I use towards you. Since, then, I demand nothing but what children ought willingly to render to their fathers without being admonished, how is it that this mederation is so displeasing to you, and can by no means be approved by you?”

It is then added, confirmed have been the words of Jonadab by his children; but my people do not obey me. But as we have said in the last lecture, the Prophet touches particularly on this circumstance, — that the Rechabites obeyed the command of their father in not drinking wine: this was hard; they did not drink even to that day. But what did God require from his children? only to receive his Law, and not to go astray, as it is here added, after alien gods. There is, then, a contrast between the hard precept of Jonadab and the equity of the Law; for God required nothing from his people except to render him pure worship, he says, They have drunk no wine to this day — and why? because they obeyed; that is, there was no scruple of conscience to prevent them, but the authority of a man who was dead so far prevailed witIt them, that they willingly gave up the use of wine. “As then simple obedience, that is, piety or respect for their father, produced such influence on the Rechabites, how is it that I am not heard? for I have spoken,” he says, “so that the sin of the people is not excusable on the ground of ignorance.”

Then he adds, Early rising and speaking. Here assiduity and diligence are mentioned. Jonadab only once gave his command to his children; that command, which might have been forgotten, remained perpetually in the hearts of his sons, so that they taught the same to his grandsons. But God commanded what was right not only once, but rose up early, that is, he sedulously anticipated them; for by this metaphor he intimates that he did not wait until after a continued licentiousness they became more addicted to their vices; for we know that those who have for many years been without restraint, are not easily brought into order, but they become habitually refractory. And hence, also, it comes to be necessary to form those from infancy who are to be ruled by us; for if they be allowed to act as they please, their wantonness cannot afterwards be restrained by any laws. God then says, that he rose up early, that is, that he anticipated the Jews, so that together with their milk they might imbibe religion.

He afterwards adds, that he was assiduous in teaching them, rising early and speaking. By speaking, he intimates that he had daily repeated the same things, so that forgetfulness might not be pleaded by the Jews as an excuse: I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking, and ye obeyed me not. Then follows an explanation,wthat God had sent the Prophets: the Jews would have otherwise been ready to object and say, that God had never appeared to them. Hence he says, that he had spoken to them by his Prophets. I have sent, he says, and indeed manyI have sent all my servants, etc.; for if Moses only had commanded the Jews what was right, they might have pretended that the Law was buried and forgotten, and that they had no recollection of what Moses had taught. Hence to meet such evasions, he says shortly, that he had sent all his servants, that is, that he had sent many Prophets, and so many, that he continually proclaimed in their hearing the doctrine of the Law. He again repeats the words, rising early and sending, so that he never ceased to warn and exhort them. Now they who are otherwise tardy and also refractory, yet become gentle when they are recalled to their duty every day and hour. Since God then thus urged them by his Prophets, their mad obstinacy became more evident when they still refused to obey.

Now follows that easy requirement, which still more aggravated their sin, Turn ye now, every one from his evil way, and make right your doings, (literally, make good) Here God shews the difference between his Law and the precepts of Jonadab; for he simply required of the Jews what they ought willingly to have done; for had no Law been written, natural light was sufficient to teach the Jews that it was their duty to obey God; for the law of obedience is so written on our hearts, as a testimony, that no one can justly plead ignorance as an excuse. God then here declares that he required nothing but what nature itself dictated, even that the Jews should repent and form their life according to the rule of obedience; though no Prophet were among them, yet every one ought to have been in this respect his own teacher.

It follows, And walk not after alien gods to serve them. This admonition still more clearly proves how moderate was what God required; for he souhlt nothing more than to retain the Jews under his authority and protection, that he might be a Father to them. Jonadab might have demanded obedience from his posterity, and yet have allowed them the free use of wine, and also the possession of fields and vineyards; but he wished to cut them off as it were from mankind, so that their condition became worse than that of all the nations and people among whom they dwelt; for they became, no doubt, objects of ridicule to their neighbors, endured many reproaches, and were grievously harassed. God shews that he had abstained from exercising rigid authority, and from requiring unbearable servitude, and demanded nothing from his people, but that he might be acknowledged by them as a Father. As, then, he did not tyrannically force the Jews to render him service, and his Law was moderate in its demands, it hence appears still more clear, as I have said, how incorrigible was the wickedness and depravity of that people.

He further adds a promise, which ought by its sweetness to have allured them, so as to become more disposed and prompt to obey. Though he might by authority have commanded, “Turn ye from your superstitions, and faithfully serve me,” it would yet have been a command just and equitable; but when he is pleased to add a promise, which ought to have disposed the Jews to obedience, and yet gains nothing from them, their wickedness is rendered again by this circumstance still more detestable. We hence see that there is something important in every clause, and that it is not without meaning that he here adds, Ye shall dwell in the land which I gave to you and to your fathers. God here sets forfth his own bounty, and then promises a perpetual fruition of it, provided the Jews obeyed. He says that he gave that land to them, and before to their fathers, had they never partaken of God’s bounty, yet the promise alone ought to have induced them to submit to his authority. But God had been already liberal to them. Then experience ought to have convinced them, for they knew that they had obtained the promised land by no other right than by a promise made by God; they knew that the nations, into whose place they had entered, had been cast out by God’s mighty hand. As, then, they had by experience found God to be bountiful, and as he had promised to be in future the same, how great and how monstrous nmst have been their madness when they would not turn to obedience? Then it is also a circumstance of weighty importance, when God reminded them that it was he who gave the land to them and to their fathers.

He adds, Ye have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed me. We have stated elsewhere the import of these words, “Not to incline the ear:” they removed the plea of ignorance or of the want of knowledge. God, then, charges the Jews here with deliberate wickedness; for they had obstinately rejected the doctrine of the Law, and all the warnings given by the Prophets; for when doctrine is set before any people, and God is pleased familiarly to teach them, and nothing is effected, their perverseness is thus more fully made known. God then intimates here that the Jews had not gone astray through ignorance, for they sufficiently understood what was right. Whence, then, was there so great a hardness? even because they had designedly closed their ears, that is, they had wickedly denied obedience to God, and had been refractory, as it were, through a long-cherished resolution, so that they could never be brought to a sound mind. It afterwards follows again, —

<243516>Jeremiah 35:16

16. Because the sons of Jenadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:

16. Quoniam stabilierunt filii Jonadab, filii Rechab, mandatum patris sui, qued mandaverat ipsis, populus antera hic non audierunt ad me, (hoc est, non obediverunt mihi)

 

The Prophet says nothing new here, but confirms what has been said before; and this he did, that the indignity of the people’s conduct might more fully appear, inasmuch as, on one hand, a mortal man, and he now dead, retained authority over his posterity, having once laid on them a restraint in a matter hard and difficult; while God, on the other hand, effected nothing, though he had constantly addressed and exhorted his people, had sent prophets, and ceased not to invite them to himself, and had not only invited them, but also kindly allured them by setting before them his favors, and gave them hope as to the time to come. Since God, then, had tried all means, but without any success, the hopeless depravity of the people became hence evident. This is the import of the whole.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast made known to us by thy servants, not only once, and even often, the way of salvation, but hast sent also thine only-begotten Son to be to us a teacher of perfect wisdom, — O grant, that we may so submit to thee and so consecrate to thee our whole life, that he who died for our salvation and rose again, may peaceably rule us by the doctrine of his gospel; and that we may strive to glorify thee in this world, so that we may at last be made partakers of that celestial glory which the same thy Son our Lord has obtained for us. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-First

<243517>Jeremiah 35:17

17. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.

17. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Deus exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego adducam super Jehudah, et super incolas Jerusalem omne malum quod pronuntiavi contra cos; quia loquutus sum ad eos, et non audierunt; et vocavi eos et non responderunt.

 

The Prophet, after having shewn that the Jews were so condemned by the example of the Rechabites, that there was no defense for them, now adds, — that as the word of God had been to them useless, it would now be efficacious against them. This is the purport of the verse.

I have spoken to them, says God; I will now speak to them no more, but I will speak against them, that is, I will command the Chaldeans, and they shall be my ministers and the executioners of my vengeance. We hence see the order which the Prophet has observed: he did not bring forward this final sentence, which is like a thunderbolt, until he had proved the Jews guilty. For this purpose was the comparison he made, when he said that the Rechabites had obeyed their father, and that the Jews had disregarded God’s Law and all the warnings given by the Prophets. I will bring, he says, upon Judah, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all the evil which I have spoken against them; for I have spoken to them, and they heard not.

Here the Prophet distinguishes between two sorts of speaking. For God had spoken to the Jews, but he had also spoken against them. Here are two prepositions, not very unlike, the one begins with an a aleph, and the other with [, oin. By the one the Prophet denotes doctrine, exhortations, and whatever may lead to repentance, so that men may either be recalled to their duty or retained in it. This, then, is one mode of speaking, that is, when God addresses us and invites us to himself. The other mode is that which refers to threatenings, that is, when God, after having found that he can do nothing by teaching, has recourse to threatenings, and shews what vengeance awaits us. This passage, then, is especially worthy of observation, because we hence learn, that when men reject the word of teaching, they cannot escape the other word, which denounces the judgment of God. Teaching appears useless when not received by men; but whosoever despises his word, will find at last, to his own ruin, that the denunciations by which God confirms and ratifies the authority of his word, cannot possibly be made void: as, then, they heard not the word which I had spoken to them, come upon them shall all the evils which I have pronounced against them.

By adding, I have called and they answered not, he amplifies the atrocity of their sin; for God had not simply shewn what was necessary for their salvation, but had also called them to himself, and had even loudly called them; but he spoke to the deaf, for they answered not. It follows, —

<243518>Jeremiah 35:18-19

18. And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you;

18. Domui autem Rechabitarum dixit Jeremias, sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Propterea quod audistis (vel, obedivistis) mandato Jonadab patris vestri, et servastis omnia ejus mandata, et fecistis secundum omnia quae praeceperat vobis,

19. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.

19. Propterea sic dick Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Non excidetur vir ex Jonadab filio Rechab, quin stet coram facie mea cunctis diebus.

 

Here the Prophet, that he might affect the Jews more deeply, promises a reward to the sons of Jonadab, because they obeyed their father; and he promises them a blessing from God. Nor is it to be wondered at, for this commandment, as Paul says, is the first to which a promise is annexed. (<490602>Ephesians 6:2) God promises generally a reward to all who keep the Law, for every command has in general connected with it the hope of reward; but this is in a special manner added to the Fifth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest prolong thy life,” etc. It is, then, nothing strange that God promised a reward to the Rechabites, because they followed the command of their father, for he had promised that in the Law.

But what the Papists allege, that the obedience rendered to the Church is on the same account pleasing to God, may, as we have said, be easily confuted; for if the Rechabites had followed the command of their father in a thing unlawfill, they would have been worthy of punishment; but as this precept, as we have shewn, was not inconsistent with God’s Law, God approved of their obedience. But the laws which are made for the purpose of setting up fictitious modes of worship are altogether impious, for they introduce idolatry. God has prescribed how he would have us to worship him; whatever, therefore, men bring in of themselves is wholly impious, for it adulterates the pure worship of God; and further, when necessity is laid on consciences, it is, as we have said, a tyrannical bondage. Such was not the object of Jonadab; for what he commanded his posterity was useful, and referred only to things of this life; and it did not bind their consciences; for when it was necessary they moved to Jerusalem and dwelt as others in houses; for they did not erect tents at Jerusalem, but lived in hired dwellings; and yet they obeyed their father’s command, for his purpose in ordering them to dwell in tents, was, that they might remain unincumbered, so that they might be always ready to move. We hence see how foolishly the Papists pervert this passage in order to support their tyrannical laws.

And thus this truth may stand, that the obedience of the Rechabites pleased God, because nature itself requires that children should obey their parents; and we also know that God often rewards the shadows of virtues in order to shew that virtues themselves are pleasing to him. fF100 But there is no doubt but that this promise, as I have before said, was designedly given, in order to stimulate the Jews, according to what is said in the Song of Moses,

“I will provoke them by a foolish nation, because they have provoked me by those who are no gods; and I will take vengeance on them, for I will bring forth nations which were not before.” (<053221>Deuteronomy 32:21)

So then God now, in order to excite and rouse the Jews, promises to bless the Rechabites, because they had been obedient to their father, There shall not be cut off a man from Jonadab, that is, from the offspring of Jonadab, standing (literally) before my face; but as the conciseness of the verse renders it obscure and ambiguous, I have introduced an addition, — but that he may stand before my face. And he says that they would stand before his face, not that they were to be priests or Levites, as some of the Rabbins have said, who have applied this passage to the priesthood, because it is often said in Scripture both of the Levites and the priests, that they stood before the face of God. They, therefore, think that the same thing is meant here when spoken of the Rechabites. But this is a strained meaning. God simply intimates, that some of Jonadab’s offspring would be always living, and that through his special favor, that their obedience might not appear to be without its just reward. This is the meaning. Now follows, —


CHAPTER 36

<243601>Jeremiah 36:1-2

1. And it came to pass, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,

1. Et fuit anno quarto Joakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah (fuit inquam) sermo hic ad Jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,

2. Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day.

2. Sume tibi volumen libri, et scribe in eo cunctos sermones quos loquutus sum ad to contra Israel et contra Jehudah, et contra eunctos gentes a die quo loquutus sum ad to, a diebus scilicet Josiae usque ad hunc diem.

 

The Prophet relates in this chapter a history worthy of being remembered, and very useful to us; for he says that he wrote down by God’s command what he had previously taught in the Temple, and also that he sent that summary by Baruch to be recited in the Temple, that the report of this spread, and that the king’s counsellors called to them Baruch, and that when they heard what was written in the volume, they brought word to the king, having, however, first admonished Baruch to conceal himself, together with Jeremiah, lest the king should be exasperated against them. And so it happened, for the king, being instantly filled with indignation, ordered Jeremiah and Baruch to be taken, that they might be put to death; but they were hidden and protected through God’s favor. We shall hereafter see what the king by his obduracy had effected, even to cause the Prophet to speak more boldly against him.

The Prophet then says at the beginning, that the word of Jehovah came, by which he was ordered to write in a volume of a book whatever he had previously spoken. By the volume of a book he means the volume in which he was to write; for rps sepher, does not here mean a written book, for the volume was without any writing. Then the Prophet must have dictated to his servant Baruch. And this mode of speaking occurs also elsewhere, as in <194007>Psalm 40:7. But the Hebrews, according to an ancient custom, called a volume hlgm, megele; for they had no books in a compact form, such as we have in the present day, but had volumes or rolls; and the same word, volume, is also used in Latin. For as the Hebrews called what is folded up hlgm, megele, which comes from llg, gelal, to fold up, or to roll; so the Latins also have derived it from a verb (volvo) which means to roll, and we call it rolle; and in Gaul they used the same form of writing; for all ancient documents and also judicial proceedings were wont formerly to be written on rolls, and in the old archieves there is nothing found but what is so written. God then ordered his Prophet to take a roll, and then he commanded him to write all the words which he had heard from the mouth of God, and which he had pronounced against Israel, and against Judah, and against all other nations.

We see here, in the first place, what is the benefit of having the Scripture, even that what would otherwise vanish away or escape the memory of man, may remain and be handed down from one to another, and also that it may be read; for what is written can be better weighed during leisure time. When one speaks only, every one takes in something according to his capacity and his attention; but as words from man’s mouth glide away, the utility of Scripture does hence appear more evident; for when what is not immediately understood is repeated, it brings more light, and then what one reads to-day he may read tomorrow, and next year, and many years after. As then God saw that he had been, as it were, beating the air when he had spoken by his Prophet, his purpose was that those things which Jeremiah had in vain spoken, should be written down. In this manner he, no doubt, intended to condemn both the king and his counsellors, and also the whole people, not only for their idleness, but also for their insensibility, even because all his teaching had been without fruit, though Jeremiah had labored much among them, and had been assiduous and faithful in the discharge of his office as a teacher.

We now perceive the design of God in saying, Take a volume and write in it; and he says, all the words which I have spoken to thee. This was said in order that the Jews might understand that Jeremiah did not bring forward his own fictions, but faithfully delivered what he had heard from God’s mouth. He adds, against Israel and affainst Judah. For Jeremiah at the beginning had prophesied against the ten tribes; but after the kingdom of Israel was cut off, he performed his office only towards the remaining people, so that his doctrine referred especially to the Jews. It is added, against all nations; and this we shall presently see; and it hence appears that his prophecies were not written according to the order of time, as I have before reminded you, but that the volume was written without regard to order. It was yet so far preserved that this book contains a summary of all the doctrine taught by Jeremiah during the whole course of his ministry. He says, from the day in which he began to speak, even from the days of Josiah, he says, to this day. And the Prophet had been performing his duty as a teacher, not for ten, or twenty, or thirty, but for forty years. It follows, —

<243603>Jeremiah 36:3

3. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

3. Si forte audiant domus Jehudah omne malum quod ego cogito ad faciendum (hoc est, facere) ipsis, ut revertantur quisque a via sua mala; et propitius sim iniquitati eorum et peccato eorum.

 

Here God explains the object he had in view, even to make another trial whether the Jews were healable, so that the teaching of the Prophet might be conducive to their salvation. But he uses the particle ylwa auli, “it may be,” which implies a doubt; because they had so often, and for so long a time, and in such various ways, shewed themselves to be so obstinate that hardly a hope could be entertained of their repentance. God, however, shews that he was not wearied, provided there remained in them still the smallest particle of religion. It may be then, he says, that the house of Judah will hear all the evil, etc.

We have seen how the Prophet labored, not only to terrify his own nation by threatenings, but also sweetly to allure them to the service of God; but God speaks here of them as of perverse men, who were almost intractable, according to what is said in <191826>Psalm 18:26, that God would be severe towards the perverse; for God deals with men according to their disposition. As the Jews then were unworthy that God should, according to his gentleness, teach them as children, this only remained for them, to repent under the influence of fear. It may be, he says, that they will bear all the evil, etc. We now see why God touches only on threatenings, for this alone remained for men so obstinate.

He says, The evil which I think to do, etc. God here transfers to himself what belongs to men; for he does not think or deliberate with himself; but as we cannot comprehend his incomprehensible counsel, he sometimes assumes the person of man; and this is what is common in Scripture. But he says, that he thinks of what he pronounces in his word; for as long as God exhorts men to repent, he holds, as it were, his hand suspended, and allows an opportunity to repent. He then says, that he is, as it were, in the midst of his deliberations: as when one wants to know whether an offender will submit, so God transforms himself, in a manner, into what man is, when he says, I think; that is, let them know that vengeance is not in vain denounced in my word; for I will perform whatever I now threaten, except they repent.

He says, That they may turn every one from his evil way. This is to hear, previously mentioned, even when men become seriously touched, so as to be displeased with their vices, and to desire from the heart to surrender themselves to God. He joins a promise, for without the hope of pardon it cannot be, that men will repent, as it has been often said; but it must be repeated, because few understand that faith cannot be separated from repentance; and a sinner can never be induced to return truly to God, unless he entertains a hope of pardon, for this is a main truth, according to what is said in <19D004>Psalm 130:4,

“With thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared.”

Then, according to what is commonly done, the Prophet says, that if the Jews turned to God, he would be propitious to them, as though he had said, that men would not be disappointed, if they repent, because God would readily meet them, and be reconciled to them: for this one thing alone, as I have said, is what can encourage us to repent, that is, when we are convinced that God is ready to give us pardon. He mentions iniquity and sin. The Prophet, no doubt, referred to these two words, in order to shew that we ought by no means to despair, though sins be heaped on sins. It follows —

<243604>Jeremiah 36:4-6

4. Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.

4. Et vocavit Jeremias Baruch fillium Neriae; et scripsit Baruch ex ore Jeremiae cunctos sermones Jehovae, quos loquutus est ad ipsum, in volumine libri.

5. And Jeremiah commanded Baruch, saying, I am shut up; I cannot go into the house of the Lord:

5. Et praecepit Jeremias ipsi Baruch, dicendo, Ego detineor (vel, sum conclusus) non potero venire in domum Jehovae (hoc est, in Templum:)

6. Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the Lord, in the ears of the people, in the Lord’s house upon the fasting-day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities.

6. Tu autem vade, et lege in volumine quod scripseris ex ore meo, sermones Jehovae in auribus populi, in domo Jehovae, in die jejunii, atque etiam in auribus totius Jehudab, qui venerint (hoc est, omnium Judaeorum qui venerint) ex urbibus suis, tu leges ipsis.

 

Here the Prophet declares that he dictated to Baruch, a servant of God, whatever he had previously taught. But there is no doubt but that God suggested to the Prophet at the time what might have been erazed from his memory; for all the things which we have some time ago said, do not always occur to us. Therefore the greater part of so many words must have escaped the Prophet, had not God dictated them again to him. Jeremiah then stood, as it were, between God and Baruch; for God, by his Spirit, presided over and guided the mind and tongue of the Prophet. Now the Prophet, the Spirit being his guide and teacher, recited what God had commanded; and Baruch wrote down, and then proclaimed the whole summary of what the Prophet had taught.

He therefore says, that he called to him Baruch the son of Neria, who wrote from his mouth, and he wrote all the words of Jehovah. Jeremiah repeats again that nothing came from himself. We hence see that he did not dictate, according to his own will, what came to his mind, but that God suggested whatever he wished to be written by Baruch. It is added, that he commanded Baruch to recite in the Temple what he had written, because he himself was detained. Some think that he was shut up in prison; and he used the same word before, when he told us that he was cast into prison by Zedekiah. But as sacred history does not say that he suffered any such thing under Jehoiakim, I am inclined to think that he was prevented by God; I do not, however, ascribe it to a divine oracle; for it might have happened either through God’s command, or through some human impediments. fF101 If we believe the Prophet to have been in prison, and that he might have gone out, he yet abstained; for the more liberty was given him, the more bound he felt himself to continue in prison, lest he should violate public authority. But the other supposition is more probable, that he was detained by God’s hand. However this may have been, he says that he could not go forth; and he mentioned this, lest it should appear that he was only careful as to himself, and that through fear of danger, he devolved this duty on Baruch. He then shews that he did not shun his office, because it exposed him to hatred, but that he was not at liberty to go forth.

Go thou, then, he says, and read in the volume. The Prophet, in this case, was ready to incur any odium which might be, for he did not bid Baruch to relate by memory what he had heard from him, but ordered him to take the volume, and to read, as we shall hereafter see, what he had written. The Prophet then did not, in this instance, avoid danger, and put Baruch in his own place, but he expressly told him to read from the volume: What thou hast written, he says,from my mouth, and, what Jehovah has spoken, these things read thou to the people in the Temple, on a fasting day. This day was chosen, first, because there was then a greater concourse of people, according to what immediately follows, for he was to read these things in the ears not only of the citizens, but also of the whole people; and on fast-days they were wont, as it is well known, to come in great numbers to the city for the purpose of sacrificing. It was then God’s purpose that these threatenings should be proclaimed, not only to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also to all other Jews, that the report of them might spread to every part of the land. In the second place, such a day was much more suitable to the message conveyed; for why was a fast enjoined, except humbly to supplicate God’s mercy, and to deprecate his wrath? As then this was the design of a fast, the Jews ought to have been then, as it were, in a submissive state of mind, prepared calmly to receive these threatenings, and to profit by them.

We then see that there were two reasons why the Prophet, by God’s command, fixed on this day, — first, because there was a larger number of people, — and, secondly, because a fast ought to have rendered them teachable, so that they might more readily submit to God, acknowledge their sins, and, being terrified, might also flee to God’s mercy, and thus loathe themselves on account of their sins. The rest tomorrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not continually to provoke thine anger against us, we may at length return to thee, and that every one may so examine his life, that being prostrate under a sense of thy wrath, we may betake ourselves to the only true remedy, even to implore thee, and to seek forgiveness; and do thou also so graciously meet us, that we may in sure faith call on thee, and, in the meantime, find really, by experience, that our prayers are not in vain, until we shall at length have a perfect enjoyment of thy mercy, in thy celestial kingdom. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Second

<243607>Jeremiah 36:7

7. It may be they will present their supplication before the Lord, and will return every one from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the Lord hath pronounced against this people.

7. Si forte cadat precatio ipsorum coram facie Jehovae, et convertantur quisque a via sua mala; quia magna est excandescentia et magna iracundia quam locutus est Jehova contra populum hunc.

 

Jeremiah, after having dictated to the scribe Baruch what he had before preached to the people, repeats what the object was, which we have previously observed; for it was God’s will to make the trial, whether the people could by any means be restored to a sound mind. This had, indeed, been in vain attempted for a long time; but God was yet willing to proceed to the utmost extent in his mercy. Hence Jeremiah now declares the purpose for which he wished the book to be read to the people. Nor is there a doubt but that Baruch had been thus admonished, that he might exhort the people to repentance as it were from the mouth of Jeremiah.

Now, there are two things mentioned as necessary in order to obtain pardon, — prayer, and turning or conversion. For if any one only in words seeks to be reconciled to God, he will not succeed. Turning or conversion cannot be separated from prayer. But then were a sinner to repent a thousand times, he would still remain exposed to God’s judgment; for reconciliation, by which we are absolved, does not depend on repentance, but on the gratuitous favor of God; for God does not receive us into favor because he sees that we are changed to a better mind, as though conversion were the cause of pardon; but he embraces us according to his gratuitous mercy. This, then, is the reason why Jeremiah joins together these two things — prayer, and conversion or repentance; for as I have said, hypocrites confess in words their sins and seek pardon, but it is with a feigned or a double heart. Hence that prayer may be genuine, repentance must be added, by which men shew that they loathe themselves. And then, ou the other hand, it is not enough for us to turn or repent, except the sinner flees to the mercy of God, for pardon flows from that fountain; for God, as it has been said, does not forgive us for any merit in us, but because it seemeth him good to bury our sins. The sum of the whole is, that God would have the prophecies of Jeremiah to be recited before the whole people, as they were conducive to their safety and salvation. The manner is described, — that the people were humbly to pray and also really to repent.

As to the expression, It may be, a prayer will fall, fF102 we have elsewhere explained its meaning. The Scripture speaks of prayer, that it rises and that it falls. Both expressions are suitable, though to be understood in a different way; for prayer cannot be rightly offered except man ascends and falls. These two things seem contrary, but they well agree together; nay, they cannot be separated. For in prayer two things are necessary — faith and humility: by faith we rise up to God, and by humility we lie prostrate on the ground. This is the reason why Scripture often says that prayer ascends, for we cannot pray as we ought unless we raise upwards our minds; and faith, sustained by promises, elevates us above all the world. Thus then prayer is raised upwards by faith; but by humility it falls down on the earth; for fear ought to be connected with faith. And as faith in our hearts produces alacrity by confidence, so also conscience casts us down and lays us prostrate. We now understand the meaning of the expression.

He adds, Because great is the wrath and indignation which Jehovah hath pronounced, or hath spoken, against this people. By wrath and indignation we are to understand God’s vengeance, the cause being put for the effect. But the Prophet intimates, that except men are wholly blinded, and as it were estranged in mind, they ought to be very deeply touched, when God sets before them some dreadful judgment. When God chastises some slight fault, and when he does not so very grievously threaten us, we ought to feel alarmed; but when God shews his wrath to be so kindled that final ruin ought to be dreaded, we must be stupid indeed, if such a threatening does not terrify us. Then the Prophet says that there was no hope of relaxation, for God had pronounced no light or common judgment on the people; but he shews that he was prepared to destroy the whole nation, as the Jews had deserved extreme punishment.

<243608>Jeremiah 36:8

8. And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the Lord in the Lord’s house.

8. Et fecit Baruch filius Neriae secundum omnia quae praeceperat ei Jeremias Propheta, legendo in libro sermones Jehovae in domo Jehovae.

 

Here the promptitude of Baruch is commended, for he did not disobey God’s Prophet, but willingly undertook the office deputed to him. His office, as we have said, was not without danger. As then his message was by no means popular, but on the contrary very disagreeable, hence is seen the devotedness of Baruch. He made no refusal, for he knew that this burden was laid on him for some purpose. Jeremiah then says, that he did as he had been commanded, and read in the Temple the words of Jehovah. fF103 He calls them a little farther on the words of Jeremiah, but the same thing is meant; for as God is, as it were, represented by his ministers, so he often transfers to them what belongs peculiarly to himself. (<450216>Romans 2:16; 16:25; <550208>2 Timothy 2:8) That is called the doctrine of Jeremiah, which yet, properly speaking, has no other author but God. So Paul called that Gospel, of which he was the preacher and witness, his Gospel; and yet he himself had not devised the Gospel, but had received it from Christ, and faithfully delivered it as from his hand.

We ought, therefore, to notice this mode of speaking, which occurs everywhere in Scripture, — the same thing is ascribed to God and to his servants. Thus we find what may seem strange, — the Apostles are said to forgive sins, they are spoken of as bringing salvation; but the reason is, because they were ministers of God’s grace, and exhorted men in Christ’s name to be reconciled to God. They then absolved, because they were the testifiers of absolution. So also the words which God dictated to his servant were called the words of Jeremiah; yet, properly speaking, they were not the words of man, for they did not proceed from a mortal man, but from the only true God. It follows —

<243609>Jeremiah 36:9-10

9. And it came to pass, in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the Lord to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.

9. Et fuit anno quinto Jehoiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah, mense nono, indixerunt jejunium coram Jehova toti populo (qui erat, subaudiendum est) Jerosolymae, et toti populo qui venerunt ex urbibus Jehudah Jerosolymam:

10. Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the Lord’s house, in the ears of all the people.

10. Et legit Baruch in libro sermones Jeremiae in domo Jehovae (hoc est, in Templo) in cubiculo Gamarliae filii Saphan scribae, in atrio superiori, in introitu (vel, ingressu) portae novae domus Jehovae (portae novae Templi) in auribus totius populi.

 

Here is added a fuller explanation; for the Prophet relates nothing new, but according to what is common in Hebrew he expresses at large what he had before briefly stated: for he had said, that Baruch read in the Temple the words of God as he had been commanded; but he now relates when and how this was done, even in the fifth year of Jehoiakim, and when a fast was proclaimed in the ninth month. fF104 We now then see the design of this repetition, even to point out more clearly the time. He then says that the book was read and recited when a fast was proclaimed in the fifth year of Jehoiakim. The Jews, no doubt, knew that some grievous calamity was at hand, for this proclamation was extraordinary. And we know that when some calamity was apprehended, they usually betook themselves to this remedy, not that fasting in itself was pleasing to God, but because it was a symbol of humiliation, and it also prepared men for prayer. This custom did not creep in without reason, but God designed thus to habituate his people to repentance. When, therefore, God manifested some tokens of his displeasure, the Jews then thought it necessary, not only to seek forgiveness, but also to add fasting to their prayers, according to what we find in the second chapter of Joel as well as in other places. It was then a solemn confession of sin and guilt; for by fasting they acknowledged themselves to be exposed to God’s judgment, and also by sackcloth and ashes; for they were wont to throw aside their fine garments and to put on sackcloth, and also to scatter ashes on their heads, or to lie on the ground: and these were the filth as it were of the guilty: and in this state of debasement they sought pardon of God, thus acknowledging in the first place their own filthiness by these external symbols, and secondly, confessing before God and angels that they were worthy of death, and that no hope remained for them except God forgave them.

As, then, Jeremiah writes here that there was a fast proclaimed, there is not the least doubt but that some tokens of God’s vengeance then appeared. And though Jehoiakim had provoked the King Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay tribute, yet the idea prevailed always among the Jews that nothing happened except through the just vengeance of God. As, then, they knew that they had to do with God, they thought that it behoved them to pacify him.

He afterwards adds, that a fast before Jehovah was proclaimed; not that it was meritorious, or that an expiation would thereby be done, as the Papists imagine, who think that they can redeem their sins by fastings, and hence they call them satisfactions; but the Prophet says that the fast was proclaimed before Jehovah, as an addition to prayer. As, then, it was a solemn meeting for prayer, fasting was, as it were, a part added to it, that they might by this external symbol more fully humble themselves before God, and at the same time testify their repentance. And he says that it was proclaimed to all the people who were at Jerusalem, and to the other Jews who came from other cities to the Temple to pray. And we hence conclude that fasting in itself is of no moment, but that it was an evidence of repentance, and therefore added to prayer. And Christ, having mentioned prayer, added fasting, (<401721>Matthew 17:21) not that fasting ought not to be separated from daily prayers; for we ought always to pray; but we are not to fast morning and evening; nay, we pray when our table is prepared for us and meat are set before us; and then when we dine and sup, we pray to God. But this is to be understood of more serious prayers, when, as we have said, God summons us, as it were, before his tribunal, and shews manifest tokens of his displeasure. And for this reason also, Paul, in <460705>1 Corinthians 7:5, when bidding husbands to dwell with their wives, adds this,

“Except it may be for a time”

 — for what purpose? even that they might give themselves wholly to prayer and fasting. We hence see that fasting was not an ordinary thing, but when required by some urgent necessity.

Then, this also is to be noticed, that the fast was proclaimed to the other Jews who had come to Jerusalem; for why was it necessary for them to come to Jerusalem, except humbly to supplicate God’s favor.

He says that the roll was then read in the Temple, in the chamber of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe. The chambers, as we have before said, were annexed to the court of the priests; for the Levites were the guardians of the Temple; and every priest also, while performing his duty, remained in the Temple. As to Shaphan, he is called a scribe, not the king’s chancellor, who is afterwards called by the same name; for I regard him as being an actuary. For they called the scribes yrps, sepharim; but sometimes by this name are meant the interpreters of the Law, and sometimes the actuaries, whose office it was to collect the prophecies, or who were engaged in collecting public acts. Then Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe, had his chamber in the Temple; and he says, in the higher court. Hence we conclude, according to what I have already said, that these chambers were parts of the court. And he adds, In the entrance of the new gate of the Temple. Some think that this was the eastern gate, and that the greatest concourse of people was usually there. We hence see that Baruch boldly performed his duty in reading the roll, though the reading of it must have greatly exasperated the minds of the whole people. It follows, —

<243611>Jeremiah 36:11-13

11. When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the Lord,

11. Et audivit Michas filius Gamariae filii Saphan onmes sermones Jehovae de super libre (hoc est, ut recitabantur ex libre)

12. Then he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber: and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of hananiah, and all the princes.

12. Et descendit in domum regis ad cubiculum scribae; et ecce illic omnes principes sedentes (hoc est, sedebant) Elisama scriba, et Dalaiah filius Semaiah, et Elnathan filius Achobor, et Gamarias filius Saphan, et Zedechias filius Chananiae, et omnes proceres;

13. Then Michaiah declared unto them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people.

13. Et nuntiavit (indicavit) ipsis Michas omnes sermones quos audierat cum legeret Baruch in libre (hoc est, recitaret ex libre) in auribus populi.

 

It is not known with what design this Michaiah came to the princes and the king’s counsellors, he may have been an informer, who intended to create ill-will to the Prophet, and to ingratiate himself with the princes, as courtiers usually do. If this was the case, we may learn from this example, that not all who hear are so teachable and ready to obey as to make proficiency in the knowledge of good and holy doctrine: we see that many patiently hear and give some evidence of docility, and yet cherish perverseness in their hearts, and afterwards calumniate what they have heard. Such may have been the character of Michaiah, spoken of here. But his case may have been different, — that being filled with wonder, he conveyed to the king’s counsellors what he deemed new and, as it were, incredible. I leave this without offering an opinion, for we have nothing certain on the subject.

It is said that he came into the king’s palace, where all the princes sat, and into the chamber of the scribe. It is probable that this scribe was the king’s chancellor, with whom were all the princes of the court. Some he names, and then says, that they were all there, and that Michaiah read to them the words which he had heard from the mouth of Baruch when he read to the whole people.

Now it was not without the wonderful purpose of God that the king at length came to know what had passed in the Temple, in order that his perverseness against God might be detected, as we shall hereafter see. This messenger, indeed, was the means of bringing danger to Jeremiah as well as to his servant Baruch; but the Lord protected them. However, the impiety and the obstinacy of the king were discovered; for when they were all terrified, he despised God and became enraged against his Prophet. He burnt the book, and wished also to destroy its author. It now follows, —

<243614>Jeremiah 36:14

14. Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, unto Baruch, saying, Take in thine hand the roll wherein thou hast read in the ears of the people, and come. So Baruch the son of Neriah took the roll in his hand, and came unto them.

14. Et miserunt omnes proceres ad Baruch, Jehudi fillium Nathaniae, filii Selemiae, filii Cussi, dicendo, Volumen in quo legisti in auribus populi sume in manum tuam, et veni. Et sumpsit Baruch filius Neriae volumen in manum suam, et yenit ad ipsos.

 

They ought indeed to have gone up immediately into the Temple; but though they were not wholly irreligious, yet they shewed some pride, as they commonly do who are surrounded with splendor, being not disposed to humble themselves. We see that all courtiers are so inflated with pride, that they think it a disgrace to mingle with the common people. They wish some special honor to be reserved for themselves. This was the reason that they did not go up into the Temple that they might learn the message, but sent for Baruch to come to them. Now it was this that prevented them from the heart to repent.

We shall indeed see that they were smitten with fear, and filled with amazement; and we shall also see that they brought the matter before the king, and yet wished to provide for the safety of the Prophet and his servant; but they ought to have gone farther, even to join the people in the Temple, and make a public confession of their repentance. Why they did not we have explained: pride, vanity, and ambition always accompany wealth and power.

Baruch was then sent for, but in an honorable manner; for they did not send an obscure man; and hence his genealogy is given, and not only the name of his father is mentioned, but that of his grandfather and of his great-grand-father; and hence we conclude that he was a man of some eminence. They commanded him to come, and it is added, that having taken the roll he came to them; by which he manifested his firmness. His promptitude previously was commendable, that he ventured to go forth to the Temple and publicly to recite what tended to kindle the rage of the whole people. As in the beginning, he promptly undertook the office deputed to him, so now he persevered in the same course. He came to the princes; and he did not hide the roll, though he might have been carrying with him his own death, but he boldly went forth to them, for he knew that the whole business was under the direction of God. It follows, —

<243615>Jeremiah 36:15-16

15. And they said unto him, Sit down now, and read it in our ears. So Baruch read it in their ears.

15. Et dixerunt, sede agedum, et lege ipsum (volumen) in auribus nostris; et legit Baruch in auribus ipsorum.

16. Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they were afraid, both one and other, and said unto Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words.

16. Et factum est cum audirent cunctos sermones, expaverunt quisque ad propinquum suum, et dixerunt ipsi Baruch,Indicando indicabimus Regi omnes hos sermones.

 

We see that there was some regard for religion in the princes, for they submitted to hear, and respectfully received the Prophet’s servant. Had Jeremiah himself come, he would, no doubt, have been received as God’s Prophet, as such honor was given to his servant, that the princes ordered him to be seated, which was certainly a favor. It hence appears that they were not profane despisers of God. Then follows another thing, — that they were moved with fear. Then as to the king’s counsellors, we see that they were in such a state of mind, that they readily listened to, and dreaded the threatenings of God. But it was a fear that no doubt soon vanished; and what he says, that they feared each as to his neighbor, was a sign of a change; for he who fears as he ought, thinks of himself, and examines himself before God; but when the mind wavers, eyery one looks to another. It was then a sign of repentance not real and genuine, so to fear as to look to one another, for they ought, each of them, to look to God, that they might from an inward consciousness acknowledge their sins, and thus flee to the true remedy.

It follows, that they said, Declaring we shall declare to the king, etc. We hence learn, that their fear was such, that they did not yet wish to offend the king. They then referred the matter to him, being anxious to gratify him. This is the religion of the court, even so to fear God as not to lose favor, but on the contrary, so to perform one’s duty, as not to be liable to the charge of not being sufficiently attentive and devoted to the king’s interest. In short, the Prophet thus represents to us, as in a glass, the religion of the king’s counsellors, and shews to us at the same time that their minds were corrupted by ambition, and that ambition so prevailed, that they paid more regard to a mortal king than to the only true King of heaven.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art pleased to invite us daily to thyself, we may respond to thy call in the spirit of meekness and obedience; and do thou also so seriously impress our minds, that we may not only confess our sins, but also so loathe ourselves on account of them, that we may without delay seek the true remedy, and, relying on thy mercy, may so repent, that thy name may hereafter be glorified in us, until we shall at length become partakers of that glory, which thy Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Third

<243617>Jeremiah 36:17-18

17. And they asked Baruch, saying, Tell us now, How didst thou write all these words at his mouth?

17. Baruch autem interrogarunt, dicendo, Indica agedum nobis quomodo scripseris cunctos sermones istos ex ore ejus?

18. Then Baruch answered them, he pronounced all these words unto me with his mouth, and I wrote them. with ink in the book.

18. Et dixit illis Baruch, Ex ore suo pronuntiavit mihi cunctos sermones istos, et ego scripsi super librum cum atramento.

 

The king’s counsellors were, no doubt, so astonished when they heard that these threatenings had been written as the Prophet had dictated them, that they were agitated by different thoughts, as the unbelieving are wont to be; and not receiving as they ought to have done, the heavenly doctrine, they vacillated, and could not pursue a uniform course. Such, then, was the uncertainty that possessed the minds of the princes; for they could hardly believe that these words had been delivered by memory, but had suspicion of some trickery, as the unbelieving imagine many such things respecting God’s servants; and they seem to act thus designedly, that they may obscure God’s favor, which appears before their eyes. For this purpose, then, they are said to ask Baruch how he took the words from the mouth of Jeremiah. fF105

He simply answered, that Jeremiah had pronounced these words to him. They might hence have concluded, that Jeremiah had no roll laid before him, and that he had been not long meditating on what he communicated to his scribe Baruch. And though he seems to have said no more than what might satisfy the princes, yet the purport of the whole is, that Jeremiah did not produce the roll from a recess or his desk, but promptly gave utterance to what God’s Spirit suggested to him. Their astonishment, then, must have increased, when the king’s counsellors knew that these commands did not proceed from a mortal man, but that, on the contrary, God spoke them by the mouth of Jeremiah, and by the hand of Baruch. It follows, —

<243619>Jeremiah 36:19

19. Then said the princes unto Baruch, Go, hide thee, thou and Jeremiah; and let no man know where ye be.

19. Et dixerunt principes ipsi Baruch, Vade et absconde to, tu et Jeremias, et vir nesciat (hoc est, nesciat quisqaam) ubinam sitis.

 

We see that these courtly princes changed, when they perceived that it was indeed God’s hand, and yet they remained in a state of insensibility. God often thus terrifies profane men, and yet they return to their own indifference. They seemed, indeed, to be for a moment awakened, and seriously to acknowledge God’s judgment; but these thoughts presently vanished away. It thus happened, that they allowed that God had spoken, but it was, as it were, to the deaf, for it was in vain, as we shall shortly see.

Then the king’s counsellors derived no benefit; but they were not cruel, for they wished the Prophet to be hidden, lest the king should deal severely with him. We see many such men at this day who are not influenced by divine truth. They nod, indeed, as asses who move their ears; for they confess with their mouths that what is propounded to them is true and right; but as I have said, they either close their eyes, or at least do not attend, so as to know that it is God who speaks. It appears that such were the king’s counsellors, of whom the Spirit of God has declared what we shall presently see. They then counselled Baruch to hide himself, and also Jeremiah to do the same; for they saw that there was danger to them, except they took themselves to flight. It afterwards follows, —

<243620>Jeremiah 36:20-21

20. And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.

20. Et venerunt ad regem in atrium, et volumen deposuerunt in cubiculo Elisamae scribae, et nuntiarunt in auribus regis omnes sermones.

21. So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll; and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber: and Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king.

21. Et misit Rex Jehudi ad tollendum volumen, et accepit ex cubiculo Elisama scribae, et legit illud Jehudi in auribus regis et in auribus cunctorum principum, qui stabant a conspectu regis.

 

The Prophet now relates that the princes went to the king, after having first deposited the roll with Elishama the scribe; for as the king’s ears were tender, they were unwilling to perform at once so odious an office. And thus they who are with kings, and engage their attention, fascinate them with their flatteries; for there is in courts no independence, for the greatest flatterer is the highest in favor. As, then, all courtiers seek eagerly to find out how they may please kings, so they carefully beware lest they should offend them. This was the reason why the princes deposited the roll with Elishama. We hence learn that their regard for God was small and frigid; for if they believed that Jeremiah had dictated to his scribe what he had received from the Spirit of God, the offending of the king ought not certainly to have been deemed by them of so much moment. Why, then, did they not venture immediately to bring forward the roll, and to exhort the king to hear, except that adulation, as I have said, is always timid. Hence then it was that they ventured not to shew the roll to the king, but only told him that they had read some dreadful things, so that the king did not find fault with them, as they had not too boldly brought before him what he was unwilling to hear. This, then, is one thing.

It now follows, that the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll from the chamber of Elishama the scribe. In the person of Jehoiakim we see how the unbelieving shun and seek God at the same time, but with a confused mind, as they know not what they seek. The king might have heedlessly despised what had been related to him, for if he wished to be free from all trouble, why did he order the roll to be brought to him, and a part of it to be read? We hence see that the unbelieving, though they wish to go as far as possible from God, yet run to him in a sort of blind manner; but this they do not of their own accord; for God by his secret impulse draws them to himself, so as to render them more inexcusable. Hence it comes, that curiosity leads many to hear the truth, and some madly ask, what is the truth to them? like wild beasts when they run against swords. Such was the disposition of Jehoiakim, for he wished all the prophecies of Jeremiah to be buried; and yet he could not restrain himself, but would know the substance or some part of them. He therefore sent Jehudi to fetch the roll.

It is then added, that Jehudi read the roll before the king and before his counsellors. Hence it was that his impiety became more evident, as he was not moved by the predictions read to him. He could not indeed endure the recitation, but after some chapters had been finished, he became so enraged, as we shall see, that he threw the roll into the fire and burnt it. It was, however, God’s purpose to take away from the king as well as from his counsellors every pretext, that they might not afterwards allege that they had fallen through ignorance, for after the roll had been presented to them, it was their own fault if they were not restored to that state of safety from which they had fallen. He now adds —

<243622>Jeremiah 36:22-23

22. Now the king sat in the winter-house, in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.

22. Rex autem sedebat in domo hyemali, mense nono; et focus coram facie ejus accensus (vel, ardebat)

23. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

23. Et factum est, cum legisset Jehudi tres paginas et quatuor (hoc est, tres vel quatuor) scidit cultello scribae (vel, graphio) et projecit in ignem qui crat in foco, usque dum consumeret volumen totum super ignem qui erat in foco.

 

Here Jeremiah shews how little he had effected; for the king not only cast aside but tore the roll into pieces, and after having torn it, he wished its memory to perish, for he cast it into the fire. This trial must have grievously affected the mind of the Prophet; he had dictated that roll by God’s command; he saw now that all his labor had been in vain. He might then have complained to God that so much labor had been spent without fruit. For why had God bidden the roll to be written, except for the purpose of leading the king and his counsellors to repentance. As to the people, the Prophet could not know whether it had answered the end for which he sent his scribe Baruch to them, for no account is given as to the attention paid by them. But Baruch was led to the king’s palace, so the minds of all were kept in suspense: what was now the issue? The king burnt the roll. There is no doubt then but that the mind of the Prophet was much affected. But God thus exercises his servants when he bids them to speak to the deaf or to bring light to the blind.

Let us then learn simply to obey God, though the labor he requires from us may seem to be useless. And hence Paul rises above all the ingratitude of the world and says, that the ministers of the Gospel are a sweet odor to God, whether for death or for life, (<470215>2 Corinthians 2:15, 16) for though the greater part are rendered worse by hearing the Gospel, yet the obedience rendered to God by ministers is acceptable to him, nor is the event to be looked to. Jeremiah then saw that the king’s mind was exasperated, but he did not on that account repent of his obedience, for he knew that the event was to be left with God and to his will. The duty of men is to execute whatever God commands, though no fruit may appear to proceed from their labors. This then is one thing.

Now as to the king, we see in him as in a glass how monstrous is their blindness who are the slaves of Satan. Surely the king, when God so thundered in his ears, ought to have been terrified. He could not indeed treat the word with ridicule, but he became enraged, and acted violently like a rabid wild beast, and vented his rage against the roll itself! If he thought Jeremiah to have been the author, why did he not disregard him as a man of no authority in public affairs? for Jeremiah could not have lessened his character as a king. There is then no doubt but that he perceived, though unwillingly, that he had to do with God; why then did he become thus enraged? what could he hope to gain by such madness towards God? But this, as I have said, was that dreadful blindness which is found in all the reprobate, whose minds the devil has fascinated; for on the one hand they perceive, willing or unwilling, that God is present, and that they are in a manner summoned to his tribunal; and on the other, as though they were forgetful of God, they rage madly against him.

It is then said of King Jehoiakim, that while he was in his winter-house and sitting before the fire, fF106 when three or four pages had been read, he cut the roll with an iron pen, or with the small knife of a scribe. The word r[t tor, means often a razor, but is to be taken here for the knife used by scribes, un canivet. The king, in the first place, did not wait until Jehudi finished the roll; after he had heard three or four leaves, or pages, as we call them, he seized the roll and cut it; and in the second place, being not content with this sacrilege he burnt the roll, as though he could abolish God’s judgment together with the book. But we shall hereafter see what he gained by this intemperate spirit in burning the roll until the whole was consumed in the fire. It now follows —

<243624>Jeremiah 36:24

24. Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

24. Et non timuerunt et non sciderunt vestes suas rex et cuncti servi ejus, cum audissent cunctos sermones istos.

 

The Prophet now connects doctrine with the narrative, for what we have hitherto seen would be frigid were no instruction added. The Prophet then shews why he had related what we have read of the king’s impious obstinacy. But there is more force in a simple statement than if the Prophet in high-sounding words inveighed against the king and his counsellors; for he speaks here as one astonished; They rent not, he says, their garments, nor feared when they heard threatenings so dreadful. And doubtless it may be justly deemed as the most monstrous of things, that miserable men should with such contempt disregard the threatenings of God, which yet they ought to have dreaded no less than instant destruction. That mortals then should not be moved when God fulminates by his threatenings against them, but on the contrary become more hardened — this is an evidence of a diabolical madness. It is hence not without reason that the Prophet says, as one astonished, that neither the king nor his counsellors feared nor rent their garments.

Now, we are taught in this passage that it is a sign of reprobation when we are not terrified when God threatens and declares that he will become our judge, and when he brings forward our sins, and also shews what we deserve. When, therefore, all those things produce no effect on us, it is a sure sign of hopeless madness. This is what the Prophet means when he says, they feared not, for his object was to shew that all, as well as himself, ought to stand amazed, that the king and his counsellors could thus fearlessly withstand the threatenings of God.

As to the garments, the sign is put for the thing itself; and then a statement of a part is made for the whole: in the first place, to rend the garments is of no great moment, unless the heart be first rent, as Joel says in the second chapter; but though hypocrites make a shew of repentance by fallacious signs, yet when true and sincere repentance is treated of, the sign is put in the place of the thing signified, as in this passage, they rent not their garments, that is, they manifested no fear. And as the rending of garments was usually done, he says that they rent not their garments, when God by the mouth of Jeremiah and by the hand of Baruch fulminated against them. There is, in the second place, a part stated for the whole, because they were wont to put on sackcloth, and to sprinkle ashes on their heads. There is here a mention made only of garments; but other signs were also included.

He says, When they heard all these words; not that the king heard the whole volume, but three or four chapters were sufficient to condenm him; for there is no doubt but that he was abundantly convicted, and that he threw himself into such a rage as to cut the roll and not to rend his garments, because he dreaded God’s judgment. And there is a striking alliteration in the words [rq koro, to cut, and arq kora, to read, the first ending with [, oin, and the other with a, aleph,. He had previously said, that when Jehudah read a part of the roll, the king cut it; the one read and the other cut; and he says here, that the king did not cut (it is the same word) or rend his garments. The king had before cut the roll and torn it in pieces, when, on the contrary, he and the rest ought to have cut or torn their garments, and were it lawful, even themselves, when God terrified them with such dreadful threatenings. It follows —

<243625>Jeremiah 36:25

25. Nevertheless Elnathan, and Delaiah, and Gemariah, had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll; but he would not hear them.

25. Quinetiam Elnathan et Dalaia et Gainaria, intercesserunt regi (vel, prohibuerunt regem, vel rogarunt; ham [np omnia hcec significat, occurrere, vel deprecari, vel prohibere, et se interponere; illi ergo conati sunt regi occurrere) ne combureret volumen, et non audivit ipsos.

 

The Prophet aggravates the wickedness of the king by this circumstance, that three men opposed him, though they thereby subjected themselves to great danger. They saw that the king was carried away by the violence of his temper; and when he resisted God in a manner so insolent, what would he not have dared to do to them? That they notwithstanding hesitated not to intercede with him, was an instance of great courage. But it hence appears, that as the king did not attend to their counsel, his impiety was extreme.

The particle gw ugam, is to be rendered nevertheless. Many interpreters have not attended here to what is emphatical, and have therefore perverted the meaning of the Prophet, or at least have extenuated it so as not to represent faithfully the object of the Prophet; for there is, as I have said, a very emphatic exaggeration in the word Nevertheless. And let us learn from this passage, that when God draws us back from wicked designs, we are less excusable if we persevere in executing what he clearly shews ought not to be done. Conscience will indeed always be to us in the place of thousand witnesses; and though no one be present as a witness or an adviser or a monitor, yet we shall in vain try to escape before God by pretending ignorance or mistake or want of thought: but when the Lord by the instrumentality of men calls us back, so that we may not go on in evil ways, if we are not persuaded to desist, then discovered more fully is our incorrigible perverseness, according to what the Prophet intimates here. In short, let us know that any one sins the more grievously, the more means God employs to draw him back from his evil course.

Since, then, we see how obstinate Jehoiakim was, there is no reason for us to wonder, that many at this day go on presumptuously in their course, though God as it were checks them, or at least sends men to restrain them. Let us, then, know that it is an old evil, so that we may not be disturbed by such a presumptuous contempt of the ungodly.

Let us also notice the example given here of a bold admonition: for it is something like a miracle to find those at this day in the courts of princes, who are bold enough to remonstrate when there is much danger; for, as it has been before stated, every one is ingenious in devising means to flatter; and as this is the best and shortest way to elevation, all apply themselves assiduously to this art. The Prophet had indeed said that the king and his counsellors did not rend their garments, and yet he tells us now of three who openly professed that they feared God: but when he spoke before of all the princes, we must understand him as speaking of them as a body. Then the three, mentioned now, must be excepted; nor is there a doubt but that they incurred the displeasure of all the courtiers, as they had them opposed to them, since they must have been ashamed of their own negligence; but they dared to draw on themselves the displeasure both of the king and of all the rest, for they saw that it was God’s cause. It follows —

<243626>Jeremiah 36:26

26. But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe, and Jeremiah the prophet: but the Lord hid them.

26. Et praecepit rex Jerameel filio Hamelek (vel, regis, sed existimant esse nomen proprium, et est probabile) et Seraiae filio Abdeel, et Selemiae filio Abdeel, ut acciperent Baruch seribam et Jeremiam Prophetam; sed abscondit eos Jehova.

 

Here is described the madness of the king, which was so great, that he vented his rage against the Prophet and his scribe; and he chose no doubt those whom he thought to be most ready to obey him. He would have never taken such ministers as Elnathan or Delaiah or Gemariah, for he knew how much they abhorred such a nefarious deed; but he sent those whom he thought most adapted for such a service as that of killing Jeremiah and Baruch.

It is not improperly conjectured from this passage and a previous one, that Jeremiah was not detained in prison, but that he had been restrained by God from proclaiming his prophecies to the king and from reading thmn to the people. But as the word rwx[, otsur, is taken elsewhere for a captive or one bound, we may indeed draw a different conclusion. However, I will not contend on such a point. I have already explained what I most approve, — that Jeremiah was prohibited by a secret revelation, as Paul was forbidden to go to Bithynia. (<441607>Acts 16:7) It is certainly not probable that he could escape from the king’s prison, except it be said, that he was not so confined but that he thought himself free to escape when he saw that it was God’s will, or that though Jeremiah would not have departed from prison, he yet privately escaped from the present rage of the king, because he was forced.

However this may have been, we ought to notice the words, that God hid them. Jeremiah no doubt accepted the counsel given to him, to take care of his life; he however now acknowledges that he had been preserved by God’s kindness, as though he had said, that though there may be many ways by which we may escape from our present dangers, yet our life is in God’s hand, so that he hides and conceals us; for we ourselves would run headlong unto death, were we not covered by the shadow of his hand. But the rest to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou dost daily invite us kindly to thyself, and dost also terrify us in order to correct our tardiness and sloth, — O grant, that we may not obstinately resist thee and thy word, but be so allured by thy condescension and subdued by thy threatenings, that in real fear we may flee to thy mercy, and never hope for any other remedy, except we obtain salvation through being reconciled to thee, and that we may so seek thee in true penitence and by true faith, that thou mayest come to our aid, and be propitious to us through thine only-begotten Son our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and forty-Fourth

<243627>Jeremiah 36:27-28

27. Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, (after that the king had burnt, the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah) saying,

27. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam postquam combusserat rex librum et sermones quos scripserat Baruch ex ore Jeremiae, dicendo,

28. Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burnt.

28. Conversus accipe tibi volumen aliud, et scribe in ipso cunctos sermones prioris, qui fuerunt in volumine priori, et quod combussit Joiakim rex Jehudah.

 

By these words the Prophet shews what the ungodly gain by contending against God; for however hard and refractory, they must necessarily be broken down by God’s power. This happened to King Jehoiakim. We saw in yesterday’s Lecture how furious he was when he cut and burned the volume, and also ordered the Prophet to be slain. But it now follows, that another volume was written.

Now God deals in different ways with the rebellious. For at one time he passes by or leaves timre, when he sees that he spends in vain his labor in admonishing them. He then sends no more his Prophets to reprove or threaten, but silently executes his judgments. And for this reason it is said,

“My Spirit shall no more contend with man, because he is flesh.” (<010603>Genesis 6:3)

And similar examples everywhere occur, that is, that when God saw that the prophetic doctrine was despised, he raised his hand against the ungodly, and at the same time ceased to speak to them. But here he purposed in a different way to break down the violence of Jehoiakim, for he caused another volume to be written. He foolishly thought that God’s power was in a manner cut off, or extinguished by fire, because the book was reduced to ashes. But God shews that his word cannot be bound or restrained. Then he begins anew to threaten, not because he hoped for any benefit from this repetition, but because it was necessary to expose to ridicule the madness of the king, who had so presumptuously dared to despise both God and his holy Prophet.

The first thing then is, that the Prophet was bidden to write another roll, after the King Jehoiakim vented his rage against the roll read before him; and hence he carefully repeats the words, Take to thee another roll, and write in it the same words which were in the first book; as though he had said, “Let not a syllable be omitted, but let that which I once proclaimed by thy mouth, remain unchanged; and let thus all the ungodly know that thou hast faithfully delivered what thou didst receive from my mouth.” It follows —

<243629>Jeremiah 36:29-30

29. And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the Lord, Thou hast burnt this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?

29. Et ad Joiakim regem Jehudah dices, Sic dicit Jehova, Tu combussisti librum hunc, dicendo, Quare scripsisti in ipso, dicendo, Veniendo veniet rex Babel (Babylonis) et perdet ex ea hominem et animal (vel, bestiam?)

30. Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah, He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David: and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.

30. Propterea sic dixit Jehova ad Joiakim (vel, de Joiakim) regent Jehudah, Non erit ei qui succedat super solium Davidis, et cadaver ejus projectum erit in aestum per diem et in gelu per noctem.

 

We now see what reward Jehoiakim brought on himself, by his impiety and perverseness. But there are two clauses; in the first, God reproves him for having insolently dared to impose silence on the Prophet; and in the second, he adds a punishment.

Thou shalt say to Jeholakim. We are to take l[ ol, here for la, al, as it appears from the context; it indeed properly means concerning, or upon, as in the next verse, God thus speaks of Jehoiakim. But as the Prophet is here bidden in the second person to address him, the other meaning, to, is better, even that he was bidden to address the king, and to address him by name: Then it is, “Thou shalt speak to Jehoiakim, the king of Judah.” The word king, is mentioned not so much for honor’s sake, as to shew that he in vain gloried in honor, or in a title of dignity; for as we have elsewhere seen, the Prophet had been sent to reprove mountains and hills, and not to spare kings or kingdoms. (<330601>Micah 6:1; <240110>Jeremiah 1:10) It had then been said to him,

“I have set thee over nations and kingdoms.”

As then Jehoiakim could not be so filled with pride as to think that everything was lawful to him, God intimates that there was no reason that royal splendor should dazzle his mind and his senses, for he made no account of such masks, and that no elevation in the world could intercept the course of prophetic truth. In a word, Jeremiah is here encouraged to persevere, lest the high position of the king should terrify him, or enervate his mind, so as not to declare faithfully the commands of God.

A twofold admonition may be hence gathered. The first belongs to kings, and to those who are great in wealth or power on the earth; they are warned to submit reverently to God’s word, and not to think themselves exempted from what is common to all, or absolved, on account of their dignity, for God has no respect of persons. The other admonition belongs to teachers, and that is, that they are, with closed eyes, to do whatever God commands them, without shewing any respect of persons; and thus they are to fear no offenses, nor even the name of a king, nor a drawn sword, nor any dangers.

The crime is in the first place mentioned, Thou hast burnt the book, saying, Why hast thou written in it, By coming come shall the king of Babylon, and shall destroy this city. Here God shews what especially was the reason why Jehoiakim cast the book into the fire, even because he could not endure the free reproofs and the threatenings contained in it. When God spares hypocrites, or does not touch their vices, they can bear prophetic teaching; but when the sore is touched, immediately they become angry; and this was the continual contest which God’s Prophets had with the ungodly: for if they had flattered them and spoken smooth words to them, if they had always promised something joyful and prosperous to the ungodly, they would have been received with great favor and applause; but the word of God was unpleasant and bitter; and it exasperated their minds when they heard that God was displeased and angry with them.

This passage then ought to be carefully noticed; for the Spirit of God points out, as by the finger, the fountain of all contumacy, even because hypocrites wish to agree or to make a covenant with God, that he should not deal severely with them, and that his Prophets should only speak smoothly. But it is necessary that God’s word should correspond with the nature of its author. For, as God knows the heart, he penetrates into the inmost recesses; and so also his word is a two-edged sword, and thus it pierces men even to the very marrow, and discerns between the thoughts and the affections, as the Apostle teaches us. (<580412>Hebrews 4:12) Hence it is, that hypocrites become mad, when God summons them to judgment. When any one handles gently a man full of ulcers, there is no sign of uneasiness given; but when a surgeon presses the ulcers, then he becomes irritated, and then also comes out what was before hidden. Similar is the case with hypocrites; for as it has been said, they do not clamor against God, nor even make any complaints, when the simple truth is declared; but when they are urged with reproofs and with threatenings, then their rage is kindled, then they manifest in every way their virulence. And this is set forth here, when the Prophet says, that the book was burnt, because it was written in it that the king of Babylon would come to destroy or lay waste the land, and to remove from it both man and beast.

So we see that the prophecy of Micah exasperated all the Jews, when he said that Jerusalem would be reduced into heaps of stones. (<330312>Micah 3:12)

But the Prophet immediately shows that the ungodly in vain resist God, when they kick against the goad; they must necessarily be torn in pieces by the stone with which they contend, because their hardness cannot hinder God from executing his judgments. It is therefore added, Thus saith Jehovah of the king Jehoiakim, Be shall have no one to succeed him on the throne of David. By saying, that he should have no successor, he means that he should have none of his own posterity; for though his son Jeconiah was made king in his stead, yet as he reigned only for three months, this short time was not counted. Then Jeremiah declares, by God’s cmnmand, that King Jehoiakim should not have a legitimate successor, for his son Jeconiah was led into exile at the end of three months; and Zedekiah was not counted as a legitimate successor, because he was the uncle. And there is also no doubt but that Nebuchadnezzar, from ill-will and hatred, set him on the throne, for he thus raised him in order to degrade Jehoiakim and Jeconiah.

We now then perceive in what sense God threatened that there would be none to succeed King Jehoiakim; for it is not simply said, “There shall be none to sit on the throne of David;” but, “There shall be none to him,” wl hyhy al la ieie lu, that is, “There shall be none of his children, or of his offspring, to succeed him on the throne of David.” For the last king was Zedekiah, and he, as I have said, was the uncle; so that the whole royal seed were cast off, for no one after this time ever succeeded to the throne.

But it may be asked, How can this prophecy agree with the promise, that the posterity of David should continue as long as the sun and moon shone as faithful witnesses in the heavens? (<19D903>Psalm 139:37, 38) God had promised that the kingdom of David should be perpetual, and that there would be some of his posterity to rule as long as the sun and moon shone in the heavens; but what does our Prophet mean now, when he says, that there shall not be a successor? This is, indeed, to be confined to the posterity of Jehoiakim; but yet we must bear in mind what we have seen elsewhere, and that is, that he speaks here of an interruption, which is not inconsistent with perpetuity; for the perpetuity of the kingdom, promised to David, was such, that it was to fall and to be trodden under foot for a time, but that at length a stem from Jesse’s root would rise, and that Christ, the only true and eternal David, would so reign, that his kingdom should have no end. When, therefore, the Prophets say, that there would be none to sit on David’s throne, they do not mean this strictly, but they thus refer only to that temporary punishment by which the throne was so overturned, that God at length would, in his own time, restore it, according to what Amos says,

“For come shall the time when God shall raise up the fallen tabernacle of David.” (<300911>Amos 9:11)

We now perceive in what sense hath stood firm the promise respecting the perpetuity of the kingdom, and that the kingdom had yet ceased for a time, that is, until Christ came, on whose head was placed the diadem, or the royal crown, as Ezekiel says. (<262126>Ezekiel 21:26) There is yet no doubt but this great inconsistency was made an objection to Jeremiah:

“What! can it be that the throne of David should be without a legitimate heir? Canst thou draw down the sun and moon from the heavens?”

In like manner, when the Prophets spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, they said:

“What! Is it not said, ‘This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell?’ (<19C301>Psalm 123:14)

Can it be that God will be without his habitation on earth, especially when he calls it his rest?” But the answer to all this was not difficult, even that God remained faithful to his promises, though his favor was, for a time, as it were, under a cloud, so that the dreadful desolation both of the city and of the kingdom might be an example to all.

There is no doubt, then, but that they shewed to the Prophet that the kingdom would be hid, as though it were a treasure concealed in the earth, and that still the time would come when God would again choose both the city and the kingdom, and restore them to their pristine dignity, as the Papists say, who boast in high terms of everything said in Scripture respecting the perpetual preservation of the Church:

“Christ promises to be with his people to the end of the world, that he will be where two or three meet together in his name, that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.” (<402820>Matthew 28:20;  <540315>1 Timothy 3:15)

They heap together all these things, in order to shew that God is in a manner tied and bound to them. But we can easily dissipate these frivolous objections; for God does wonderfully and invisibly preserve his Church in the world; and then the outward face of the Church does not always appear, but it is sometimes hid, and afterwards it emerges and recovers its own dignity, which, for a time, might seem to have been extinguished. Hence we give now the same answer to the Papists as the Prophets formerly did to the ancient people, — that God is a faithful preserver of his Church, but not according to the perception of the flesh, for the Church is in a wonderful manner sustained by God, and not in a common way, or as they say, according to the usual order of things.

He says that the dead body of Jehoiakim would be cast out, to be exposed to the cold in the night, and to the heat in the day. This might seem unimportant, like what we threaten children with, when we mention some phantoms to them; for what harm could it have been to Jehoiakim to have his dead body exposed to the cold in the night? for no injury or feeling of sorrow can happen to a dead body, as a dead man as to his body can have no feeling. It seems then that it is to little purpose that the Prophet says, that his dead body would be exposed to the heat in the day, and to the cold at night. But this is to be referred to the common law of nature, of which we have spoken elsewhere; for it is a sad and disgraceful thing, nay, a horrid spectacle, when we see men unburied; and the duty of burying the dead has from the beginning been acknowledged, and burial is an evidence of a future resurrection, as it has been before stated. When, therefore, the body of man lies unburied, all men shun and dread the sight; and then when the body gets rigid through cold, and becomes putrid through the heat of the day, the indignity becomes still greater. God then intended to set forth the degradation that awaited Jehoiakim, not that any hurt could be done to him when his body was cast out, and not honored with a burial, but that it would be an evidence of God’s vengeance, when a king was thus cast out as an ass or a dog, according to what we have seen elsewhere, “With the burial of an ass shall he be buried,” that is, he will be deemed unworthy of common honor; for as it falls to the lot of the lowest of men to find a pit where their bodies lie buried, it was a rare and unusual proof of God’s vengeance, that a king should he exposed as a prey to birds and wild beasts. We know what Jehu said of Jezebel,

“Let her be buried, for she is a king’s daughter.”
(<120934>2 Kings 9:34)

She was worthy to be torn to pieces a hundred times. She had been cast out from a chamber, and the dogs licked her blood; yet an enemy ordered her to be buried — and why? because she was a king’s daughter, or descended from a royal family, (<112123>1 Kings 21:23:) then, he said, let her be buried.

We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit, that it would be a remarkable proof of God’s vengeance, when the body of King Jehoialdm should be exposed at night to the cold, and in the day to the heat. This has also happened sometimes to the saints, as we have before said; but it was a temporal punishment common to the good and to the bad. We ought yet always to consider it as God’s judgment. When a godly man is left without burial, we must know that all things happen for good to God’s children, according to what Paul says, whether it be life or death, it is for their salvation. (<450828>Romans 8:28) But when God gives a remarkable proof of his wrath against an ungodly man, our eyes ought to be opened; for it is not right to be blind to the manifest judgments of God; for it is not in vain that Paul reminds us that God’s judgment will come on the ungodly; but he would have us carefully to consider how God punishes the reprobate in life and in death and even after death. It follows —

<243631>Jeremiah 36:31

31. And I will punish him, and his seed, and his servants, for their iniquity; and I will bring upon them, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and upon the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them: but they hearkened not.

31. Et visitabo super eum et super semen ejus, et super servos ejus iniquitatem eormn, et evenire faciam illis (super eos, ad verbum) et super habitatores Jerusalem, et super virum Jehudab omne malum quod pronuntiavi adversus cos, et non a udierunt.

 

Here a reason is given for what the former verse contains; for if the Prophet had only said, that the dead body of the king would remain unburied and cast out in dishonor to be exposed in the night to the cold and in the day to the heat, the narrative would not have produced the effect intended; but God shews here the cause, which was this, that he had forewarned King Jehoiakim and all his counsellors, (called here servants)and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all the Jews universally: as then they had been in due time clearly told what calamity was near at hand, and yet no one had repented, for this so great an obstinacy God says now that he would take vengeance, I will visit him and his seed and the whole people for their iniquitywhat was the iniquity? even that they had so grievously and in so many ways provoked God, and had not returned to a sound mind, though reproved by the Prophet, but had become more and more hardened.

The extremity of their iniquity the Prophet thus points out, because they hearkened not to the threatenings, by which God had endeavored to rescue them from the coming ruin: for there would have been some hope of deliverance, had they deprecated God’s wrath; but as his threatenings had been despised, it was, as I have said, an extreme iniquity. And we see elsewhere how much God abominates this diabolical presumption of men,

“I have called to sackcloth and ashes; but ye have called to the harp and to joy, and have said, ‘Let us feast and drink, for to-morrow we shall die:’ as I live, this iniquity shall not be blotted out.”
(<232212>Isaiah 22:12, 13)

God swore by himself, that this sin should not be expiated, for the Jews repented not when he kindly invited them to himself, and declared to them that they could not escape extreme punishment. It is therefore no wonder that God in this place also represents their obstinate wickedness as being the greatest, the Jews having not hearkened to the reproofs conveyed to them by the mouth of Jeremiah. It follows —

<243632>Jeremiah 36:32

32. Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son ofNeriah; who wrote therein, from the mouth of Jeremiah, all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burnt in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

32. Et (tunc) Jeremias scripsit volumen aliud, et dedit Baruch filio Neriae, qui scripsit in ipso ex ore Jeremiae cunctos sermones libri, quem combusserat Joiakim rex Jehudah igne, et adhuc additi sunt cum illis sermones multi similes illis.

 

Here the Prophet tells us that he faithfully obeyed God in writing another volume; and his constancy in this affair deserves no common praise; for he had lately fled in fear, he knew that the king was his enemy, as he had already ordered him and Baruch to be slain. As then he knew that the king burned with so much rage and hatred, how came he to be so bold as to exasperate him still more? But we see that the Prophets were not exempt from the influence of fear, and were often anxious about their own safety; and yet they ever preferred the duty imposed on them by God to their own life. The Prophet, no doubt, trembled, but as he felt bound to obey God’s command, he disregarded his own life, when he had to make the choice, whether to refuse the burden laid on him, or to provide for his own safety. Thus then he offered his own life as a sacrifice, though he was not free from fear and other infirmities. This is one thing.

But Baruch, I doubt not, again proclaimed these words; how was it then that the king abstained from cruelty? Had his madness been by any means mitigated? It is certain that he did not become changed, and that he did not through kindness spare God’s servants; but God restrained his cruelty; for when it is not his will to soften the hearts of the ungodly, he yet bridles their violence, so that they either dare not, or cannot find the way, to execute with their hands what they have intended in their minds, however much they may strive to do so. I therefore consider that the King Jehoiakim was restrained by the hidden power of God, so that he could not do any harm to Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch; and that in the meantime the magnanimity of the Prophet and also of his scribe remained invincible; for it was God’s will to fight as it were hand to hand, with this impious king, until he was ignominiously cast from his throne, which happened, as we shall see, soon after.

PRAYER

Grant, Omnipotent God, that since thou warnest us by so remarkable examples, that the ungodly by obstinately resisting thee, do nothing but aggravate their own ruin, — O grant, that we may receive with meek hearts the admonitions of thy Prophets, and submit to thee, and be so humbled by thy threatenings and tremble at thy word, that being touched with the feeling of true repentance, and reconciled to thee by faith, we may find thee to be the best and the kindest Father to obedient children, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Fifth

CHAPTER 37

<243701>Jeremiah 37:1-2

1. And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah.

1. Et regnavit rex Zedechias, filius Josiae, pro Choniah (Jechania) filio Joiakim, quem constituit regem Nebuchadnezer, rex Babylonis, in terra Jehudah:

2. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

2. Et non audivit, neque servi ejus, neque populus terrae sermones Jehovae, quos loquutus est per manum Jeremiae Prophetae.

 

The Prophet tells us here, that after Jeconiah the king had been led into exile, the Jews had not on that account repented, though God had as it were forced them to return to him; for it was so severe a chastisement, that to become worse was an evidence of monstrous stupidity. Jeremiah, however, says that they were not reformed by that punishment; for Zedekiah, who had succeeded Jeconiah, rejected sound doctrine, and did not obey the counsel of the Prophet.

But we must bear in mind the history of that time, that we may understand the meaning of the Prophet: the Jews made Jeconiah king in the place of his father, but in the third month the army of the king of Babylon came. Then Jeconiah surrendered himself to them of his own accord. Now the Prophet had said, that there would be no legitimate successor to Jehoiakim; and this was fulfilled, though his son was set on the throne, for a three months’ reign was so unimportant that it was deemed as nothing. And when Nebuchadnezzar saw that the people could hardly be kept in order without a king, he made Mattaniah king, whom he called Zedekiah. And he immediately revolted to the Egyptians and made a treaty with them, in order that he might shake off the yoke of the king of Babylon. Hence the Prophet says, that though Zedekiah had been taught by the example of Jehoiakim and of his nephew Jeconiah, he yet became nothing the better, he does not shnply blame his ingratitude: it is indeed certain that he had been severely reproved by the Prophet for having acted perfidiously towards the King Nebuchadnezzar, for he ought to have kept faith with him to the last. He feigned a reason of his own for revolting from him; no new cause had occurred; but it was only that he might be exempt from tribute, and also lest the malevolent should object to him that he reigned by permission, and that. he was the slave of another king. As, then, he saw that his reign would be exposed to many reproaches, except he revolted from the king of Babylon, he made a treaty with the Egyptians. This deserved reproof: but the Prophet speaks here generally of his obstinate wickedness, and also of that of the whole people.

King Zedekiah, he says, the son of Josiah, reigned instead of Coniah. Here the word, Jeconiah, is curtailed, as it is probable, for the sake of degrading him; and we have seen that this has been the common opinion. He is then called Coniah by way of reproach, when yet his full name was Jeconiah. He says that Zedekiah was made king by Nebuchadnezzar: hence his perfidy and ingratitude became manifest. It is added, that he hearkened not to the word of Jehovah, nor his servants, nor his people. I have said that Zedekiah was condemned, not simply because he obeyed not the Prophet by keeping faith with the King Nebuchadnezzar, but also because he retained the superstitions of his fathers, and corrupted the true worship of God, and would not be called back to the doctrine of the Law.

The disobedience then, mentioned here, extended to the whole Law of God, or to the two tables; for the Jews had then become degenerate together with their king; they did not purely worship God, but polluted themselves and the Temple by impious and filthy superstitious, and they were also libidinous, avaricious, cruel, violent, and dishonest, and had thus cast off the whole teaching of the Law. And this was a proof of strange blindness, as they had before their eyes the calamities of the city and the reproach to which their king had been subjected; for as we have already said, his sons had been slain in his presence, his own eyes had been pulled out, and he was bound with chains, after having been judged guilty of a capital offense. Such an example ought surely to have terrified Zedekiah and all the rest, so as to make thenl at length wise, and to seek reconciliation with God. But the Prophet says, that they did not hearken to the word of Jehovah.

He mentions the king, then his counsellors, and in the third place, the whole people; as though he had said, that this madness was found not only in the king, but also in his counsellors and in the whole community, so that no one was excusable. He then begins with the head, even the king himself, and shews also that his counsellots were nothing better, and afterwards adds the common people, in whom the fault seems to have been less; for we know that the lower orders go astray through want of wisdom and ignorance. But the Prophet here shews that even the lowest of the people were disobedient to God.

We ought to notice especially the words, that they hearkened not to the word of Jehovah which he had spoken by Jeremiah. For he intimates, that though God did not appear from heaven, it was sufficient to condemn the unbelieving, that he spoke by his Prophets. There was, then, no reason why the wicked should make evasions and say, that it was not their purpose to reject God and his doctrine, but that they only refused deference to mortals, and would not regard the words of men as heavenly oracles. This evasion availed them nothing, for God would have them to hearken to his servants. Though he did not shew himself from heaven, nor addressed them in a visible form, it was yet enough that he had once for all testified, that after the promulgation of the Law, there would always be Prophets among the people, and had commanded them to be reverently attended to. Nor could the Jews avail themselves of that evasion, which the ungodly commonly resorted to, that they could not distinguish between true and false Prophets; for if they had examined the doctrine of Jeremiah, they would have found that it had certain marks by which they could have easily seen that it was altogether consistent with the Law. That they then rejected the Prophet and his heavenly doctrine, was a proof of their obstinacy and contempt, but not through ignorance. It follows, —

<243703>Jeremiah 37:3-8

3. And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us.

3. Et misit rex Zedechias Jucal filium Selemiae, et Zephaniam filium Maassiae sacerdotem (vel, sacerdotis) ad Jeremiam Prophetam, dicendo, Ora agedum pro nobis Jehovam Deum nostrum.

4. Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people; for they had not put him into prison.

4. Et Jeremias (autem) ibat et egrediebatur in medio populi; necdum posuerant eum in domum clausurae (vel, carceris)

5. Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem.

5. Et exercitus Pharaonis egressus erat ex Egypto, et audierant Chaldmi qui oppugnabant Jerusalem famam de illis, et ascenderant a Jerusalem.

6. Then came the word of the Lord unto the prophet Jeremiah, saying,

6. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam Prophetam, dicendo,

7. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to enquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land.

7. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Ita dicetis regi Jehudab, qui misit vos ad me ut me interrogaretis, Ecce exercitus Pharaonis, qui egressus est vobis in auxilium, reversus est (revertatur, potius)in terram Egypti;

8. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire.

8. Et redibunt Chaldaei et oppugnabunt hanc urbem (proeliabuntur contra urbem hanc) et capient eam et comburent eam igni.

 

Jeremiah had briefly explained what was the state of the city and the land, that though they had been already severely chastised by God’s scourges, they yet remained obstinate in their wickedness. He now adds, that messengers were sent to him by King Zedekiah, when danger arose from the Chaldeans; and it is probable that this message came to Jeremiah when the siege was raised, or if the siege still continued, it was at a time when the Jews, no doubt, flattered themselves with the hope of receiving some aid, while yet they saw that the power of the king of Babylon was very great. For though they hoped for some help from the Egyptians, they were yet perplexed, and fear constrained the king to send messengers to the Prophet Jeremiah. But it appears from the answer that the Egyptians were already in arms, and had also come out for the purpose of raising the siege, and driving the Chaldeans from Judea. We hence see that the king was, in a measure, elated with vain confidence, seeing that the Egyptians were coming with a strong army to assist him, and yet he was full of anxiety, as the ungodly must ever be: while they seek to confirm themselves in a state of security, they are still tossed here and there, for God’s judgment is upon them. They are fearful, though they try to shake off fear. Hence Zedekiah, though he thought that he should soon be freed from all danger, yet could not wholly divest himself of anxiety, and therefore sent to Jeremiah: for the ungodly are wont to seek God, but not in earnest; they wish to discharge the outward duty, but they bring neither faith nor repentance, by which alone access to God is opened.

But Jeremiah tells us that he was then at liberty, coming in and going out among the people. It may be that he had been in prison, but that after the rage of the king and of the people had cooled, he might have been set free. It is hence said that he was among the people, that is set at liberty, and at his own disposal, so that he could safely walk through the city; for to come and to go implies that he was free to follow his own business. He is said to come and to go who undertakes this or that concern as he pleases; for men, we know, are not engaged always in the same thing, but do various things as necessity requires. Such, then, was the condition of Jeremiah; he enjoyed common liberty. It is then added, that he was not as yet cast into prison, as it happened soon after. It is further said, that the army of Pharaoh was come out from Egypt to give aid to the Jews, and that thus the siege was raised, for the Chaldeans went forth to meet the Egyptians. At this time, then, Jeremiah received an answer from God. It seems not, therefore, probable that the messengers were sent, when the report spread through the city of the coming of the enemy, but rather when the city was relieved, for the condition of the people was still doubtful, as the liberty of the city and the land depended on the uncertain issue of the war. The Chaldeans had not yet come unto an engagement with the Egyptians. A victory gained by Pharaoh would have given the prospect of peace and safety to Zedekiah and the whole people; but if the Chaldeans gained the day, they saw that the greatest danger was at hand, for they would then be deprived of every assistance.

It was in this state of things that Zedekiah sent messengers to Jeremiah, to solicit his prayers. Thus we see that hypocrites are driven by the fear of God, whom yet they proudly despise, to seek his aid when forced to do so; nor is this done, that they may appear to do so before men, but because God brings them to such straits, that they cannot but feel that they stand in need of his help. They wish, indeed, as I have said, to obliterate every recollection of God, and were they also able to do so, they would rob him of all power and authority; but as they are forced, willing or unwilling, to know that God so reigns in heaven that the whole world is subject to his power, necessity constrains them formally to pray, and, in a manner, to conciliate his favor, or, at least, to try to do so. But as I have already said, they ought to begin with repentance and faith. Hypocrites withdraw themselves as far as they can, both from the promises of God and from the duty of repentance. They so seek God that they at the same time shun him.

We must also observe, that Zedekiah felt himself so guilty, that he could not pray himself. As, then, he was conscious of his own unworthiness, he put the Prophet, as it were, between himself and God, that he might suppliantly intercede for him. This also is what the faithful often do, for they seek aid here and there that they may be more readily heard by God; and this they do according to God’s command. But there is a great difference between the godly and hypocrites. The true worshippers of God, as I have said, are not content with their own prayers, but ask others to join them, while, at the same time, they pray God themselves. But hypocrites, what do they do? As they think that an access is forbidden them, and know that they are unworthy of being heard by God, they substitute others in their place to pray for them. Thus they do not seek themselves to know whether God will be propitious to them; and though they wish the whole world to pray for them, they do not yet pray themselves. Such, then, was the sottishhess of Zedekiah, who asked the holy Prophet to pray for him to God, while he himself was lying torpid in his own dregs; for he did not acknowledge that he was suffering a just punishment, nor had he recourse to the true remedy, that is, to return to God’s favor, to embrace his mercy and the promises of salvation. All these principal things he omitted, and only attended to what is, as they say, accessory.

Now as to the time, we ought carefully to notice that it was when the Egyptians came to raise the siege. Thus God for a time permitted hypocrites to be deceived by a fortunate event; for the Jews then began to praise their own prudence in forming a league with the Egyptians, for that kingdom, as it is well known, was powerful, and at the same time populous, so that a large army could be raised. As, then, they saw that their treaty turned out beneficially to them, they, no doubt, assumed to themselves great credit, and thus their boldness increased. But God, however, so touched their liearts, that they continued in suspense, and, by turns, greatly feared: for Zedekiah would not have sent to Jeremiah, except, constrained by some great necessity; and yet, as it has been said, success might have inebriated him; but God rendered him anxious, so as to feel that the prayer of the Prophet was needed.

Now follows the answer: Jeremiah says that the word of Jehovah came to him, and that he was to tell the messengers of Zedekiah, that the Chaldeans would shortly return. He then says, Behold the army of Pharaoh, which has come forth to deliver you, shall return to their own land; that is, being compelled to do so, the Egyptians being either conquered in battle or smitten with fear, and returning of their own accord to secure themselves in their own cities. The Prophet says, that no advantage could be expected from the Egyptians, for the soldiers of Pharaoh would return to their own land; and then he adds, and the Chaldeans shall return and fight against this city, until they take and burn it. This was a hard answer, and Zedekiah was, no doubt, greatly exasperated at hearing the message, and also very angry with the Prophet, who thus dared plainly to threaten the city and the people with final ruin. But here the Prophet disregarded the pride of the king, for it was necessary for him to obey God’s command, he therefore boldly performed his office; and, at the same time, he touched the king Zedekiah to the quick, say to the king who sent you to inquire of me, etc.

The word rd daresh, means indeed to ask in general, but the Prophet means here that he was to inquire; and yet this was not said before; for he only told us that messengers had been sent to ask him to pray for the safety of the king and the people. But Scripture, we know, often omits one of the two things that are included; and we may easily conclude, that the king had not only sent to Jeremiah to pray, but also to bring some favorable prophecy from the Lord. For why did he apply to him rather than to the chief priest or some others, except that he knew him to be the true Prophet of God? Then Zedekiah requested Jeremiah to pray, but he tried also to draw from him some favorable prophecy, by which he might be relieved. Hence Jeremiah indirectly reproved him, because he feignedly sent to him as though he was ready to hear whatever God might declare by the mouth of his servant, — “He sent you to inquire of me; he is mistaken, for he will not get what he seeks; for thus saith God, ‘The Egyptians shall avail you nothing, and the Chaldeans shall return and take and burn the city.’”

We now perceive that when hypocrites pretend in a circuitous way to seek God, they do not obtain what they wish; for God justly disappoints them, inasmuch as they do not come to him with sincere hearts and desires; for they wish to transform God into their own nature and character, and they bend not themselves to his service nor submit to his word. Thus it comes that God will not answer their prayers; but the faithful, who seek God sincerely and from the heart, always find him propitious; and though he may not hear them immediately, yet he really shews that he cares for their safety. But hypocrites, whose confidence God regards with disdain, deserve that it should be empty and vain. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet gave such a severe answer to Zedekiah and his messengers. It now follows, —

<243709>Jeremiah 37:9-10

9. Thus saith the Lord, Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart.

9. Sic dicit Jehova, Ne efferatis animas vestras (vel, cum puncto diverso, Ne decipiatis, quia duoe sunt lectiones,] wat aut, wayt Ne ergo efferatis vos, vel, Ne decipiatis animus vestras) dicendo, Proficisicendo proficisicentur Chaldaei, quia non proficisicentur:

10. For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.

10. Quia si percusscritis totum exercitum Chaldaeorum, qui praeliantur vobiscam (vol, qui vos oppugnant) et residui, fuerint ex illis viri transfixi (hoc est, vulnerati) quisque e tabernaculo suo consurgent (hoc est, singuli ex tabernacalo suo) et exurent hanc urbem igni.

 

The Prophet confirms the former verse, and it was indeed necessary that this should be added, for though Zedekiah might not have divested himself of all anxiety and fear, he must yet have been moved by that prophecy, and thus he might have become more hardened in his obduracy, as it is the case with hypocrites; who, when they find that they can gain nothing, become furious against God, and run on headlong in their course. This might then have been the case with Zedekiah and also the Jews; hence Jeremiah adds, by way of confirmation, Elate not your hearts, or, Deceive not yourselves; that is, on account of the report respecting the Egyptian army. Thus he told the Jews that they had no reason to expect any alleviation. And the reason is added, For if, he says, ye had smitten, the Chaldeans so that few remained, yet they would rise up every one from his tent, and burn this city.

The Prophet shews how foolishly and absurdly the Jews acted, in casting their eyes on fortunate events, and thus forming their opinions. He therefore exhorts them to cease to rely on such a confidence as would deceive them; for he says, that though they gained many battles, and the war turned on their side, yet they could not escape final ruin, for they had to do with God. It was hence the same thing, as though he had said, that they were not to judge by their state at that time, as to what it would be, because God was at war with them; and therefore if God had resolved to destroy them, though there were no enemy, yet he could by one breath slay them all. And for the same reason he concludes that he could employ the Chaldeans, Though few in number remained, and even wounded, yet riley would rise up from their tents, and set the buildings of Jerusalem on fire. This city, therefore, shall be burnt; ask not by whom or when: God will in this work employ the Chaldeans, for he hath so determined.

We may hence conclude, that the Jews had been for a time victorious, at least had successfully repelled their enemies in their attacks on the city; for the Prophet would not have said this, had he not seen that the Jews entertained hope of deliverance on account of some success they had in the war. He therefore says, that all this was of no importance, for their city was to perish by fire. But the principle which I have mentioned must be borne in mind, for Jeremiah took it as granted that the destruction of the city Jerusalem was not to be effected by the forces of the King Nebuchadnezzar, neither by the power or number of his army, nor by the valor of his soldiers, but by the judgment of God. Since it is so, he says, though few remained, and they wounded, even lying as half dead, yet they will rise up every one from his tent, that is, not together, nor in a regular order, nor under a banner, as soldiers are wont to do, but each one, though no comrade were near, though scattered here and there, would yet rise up from his tent. He intimates, in short, that though the contest were only with shadows, they yet could not escape that extreme vengeance which God had threatened. Hence he says, they shall rise up every one from his tent, and burn this city.

Now he says not that the Chaldeans would take possession of the city, he speaks not of the assault, but only of the burning, he hence intimates, that though the Chaldeans might have in themselves no power to hurt them, yet it was sufficient that they were armed by God, for the purpose of setting fire to the houses, like women and children, who often burn whole cities and villages; for in this case there is no need of valor or of any great skill. So then God declares, that though the Chaldeans might not be prepared to fight, yet they were strong enough, yea, even though they were lying down and half-dead after having been wounded. This is the meaning.

PRAYER

Grant, omnipotent God, that as thou hast been pleased kindly to invite us to thyself, and settest before us the reconciliation which is through thine only-begotten Son, — O grant, that we may not proceed in our wickedness so as to provoke thee more and more against us, and to kindle the fire of thy vengeance on our own heads, but that we may so suhmit ourselves to thee, as to flee in sincere repentance and true faith to thy mercy, that we may find thee to be propitious to us, and that thou mayest thus afford us reason to give glory to thy name, having shewn mercy to us, through the same, thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Sixth

<243711>Jeremiah 37:11-14

11. And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army,

11. Et aceidit postquam ascenderat exercitus Chaeldmorum ab Jerosolyma propter exercitum Pharaonis;

12. Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.

12. Tunc egressus est Jeremias Jerosolyma, ut proficisceretur in terram Benjamin, ut divideret illinc in medio populi.

13. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fullest away to the Chaldeans.

13. Quum esset in porta Benjamin, illic erat magister custodiae, cujus nomen liria, filius Selemiae, filii Chananiae, qui apprehendit Jeremiam Prophetam, dicendo, Ad Chaldaeos tu cadis (aut, dilaberis, hoc enim significat verbum lpn)

14. Then said Jerenfiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.

14. Et dixit Jeremias, Mendacium, non dilabor ad Chaldaeos; sed non audivit eum, et apprehendit Iiria Jeremiam, et deduxit eum ad principes.

 

Here Jeremiah tells us how, and on what occaision, he was cast into prison. He had said shortly before, that he was in the middle of the people, or among them; but now he gives an account of the cruelty of the princes, that they not only cast him into prison, but even into a grave, for they put him, as we shall see, in a dungeon, so that it was a miracle that he did not die there; and this was not done only once; but we shall hereafter see, before the end of the chapter, that he was unhumanly treated, so that he was afraid to return to the same place, lest it should prove fatal to him. He mentions the time when this was done, that is, when the Chaldean army went forth to meet the Egyptians. He was then free to leave the city: no one before could have gone out, because the gates were closed, and the city was also surrounded by enemies. It was then, he says, that he went out, that he might go to the land of Benjamin, where, as it has elsewhere appeared, he was born.

But he then adds, that he was intercepted by the prefect of the ward in the gate of Benjamin. That gate had its name from its situation, for a part of Jerusalem belonged to the tribe of Benjamin; and hence it was not strange that the gate which led to the heritage of the tribe of Benjamin was so called. There then was Jeremiah intercepted by Irijah, the prefect of the ward, and not without a grievous charge, that he was escaping to the Chaldeans. The Prophet attempted to clear himself, but with no effect; for an opinion had prevailed, that he was already in league with the enemies. He thus gained nothing by defending himself, but was taken to the princes, the king’s counsellors.

This passage teaches us that God’s servants cannot escape without being exposed to many calumnies and false suspicions. Jeremiah might at the beginning have evaded this, and according to the perception of the flesh, his exemption or immunity might have been viewed as lawful, for there was now before his eyes the danger, not only of losing his life, but also of his name and reputation, which, to ingenuous and wise men, is of much more value. Had Jeremiah then chosen to evade, he might have made this pretense, — “I am indeed ready to offer my life as a sacrifice a hundred times, but what will it avail me, if I am to be regarded as a revolter?” For he must have thus exposed the very name of God to many blasphemies: they might have said,” This is the Prophet who boasted that he had been sent from above, but he is now become perfidious and a traitor to his own countw, and has tried to deliver up the city into the hands of enemies.” Jeremiah then might have shaken off this burden laid on him; but it was nccessary for him to bear this reproach, with which he was falsely charged. Faithful teachers ought indeed to remove, as far as they can, all calumnies, and to check the wicked and malicious, so that they may not have the occasion to speak evil; but when they have done all, they will not yet exempt themselves from calumny; for their words and their deeds will be misconstrued. Thus Jeremiah was loaded with false charges; for all had persuaded themselves, that as he had so much extolled the power of King Nebuchadnezzar, he had been hired by him for the purpose of depressing the people by fear; and it may be that the violent among them did wilfully and knowingly make his case to appear worse to the ignorant, even by false reports. As then this conviction respecting him prevailed everywhere, he was apprehended as a revolter, as he was going out of the city.

But he says, that he intended to go into the land of Benjamin, so as to separate himself. The verb qlj, chelak, means to divide, to scatter, to dissipate; and hence some have given this meaning, that he went into the land of Benjamin in order to divide his heritage; but this seems harsh and forced. They add, “In the midst of the people,” as though Jeremiah wished to make his land common, and to give it to the people: but in this explanation there is nothing probable or suitable. I therefore doubt not but that Jeremiah sought this as a quiet place, as it is understood by most interpreters, he then went forth towards the land of Benjamin, that he might separate himself; that is, that he might be secluded there in the midst of his people. It is, indeed, a brief mode of speaking, but the meaning is not ambiguous, — that he might be there, where he might separate himself from the people, as the places were distant from one another. fF107 For he was tired with the city, because he saw that he spent his labor in vain. Some think that he was afraid of being cast into prison, because he had just announced a command greatly disliked; but it is more probable that, he was worn out with weariness, because he saw that he made no impression on men so hard and refractory. Hence then it was, that he wished to withdraw from the presence of the whole people.

Then follows what we have already mentioned, that he was taken in the gate by the keeper Irijah, as though he were revolting to the Chaldeans. We have stated how this suspicion arose, even because he had faithfillly proclaimed the commands of God. We hence see how God tried his servant, when he thus constrained him to speak, so that his words became suspected. And hence also we may gather how thoroughly fixed in the minds of men was that false opinion, for Jeremiah was not heard in his own defense. He indeed said openly that he was not fleeing away, nay, that this was a false charge. It is a lie, he says, I am not fleeing to the Chaldeans.

I have already reminded you that the verb lpn nuphal, found here, means properly to fall, but it is to be taken here metaphorically, as signifying to fall away, or to incline to another side. Thou then fallest away or inclinest to the Chaldeans, which was the same thing as to revolt. We see that the Prophet was not charged with a common offense, for it would have been the highest to forsake his own country and to pass over to the enemies: it would have been better for him to die a hundred deaths. But, as I have already said, the servants of God ought to be so courageous as to despise the slanders of the unprincipled, and, when it so pleases God, to prepare themselves for patience whenever any reproach is to be undergone, only let their conscience be always clear before God and angels; and let also their integrity confute all slanders, and let them disprove them too, provided there be those who can bear to hear them: but if a defense be not always admitted, let them patiently bear this indignity. And this also we ought to notice, that God’s servants, though ready to clear themselves of crimes ascribed to them, and to defend their innocence at the peril of life, are yet often repelled and condemned unheard. This is, indeed, a great indignity; but yet as Jeremiah met with such a treatment, it ought not at this day to appear to us unendurable or new. It now follows —

<243715>Jeremiah 37:15

15. Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison, in the house of Jonathan the scribe; for they had made that the prison.

15. Et ebullierunt (iracundia) principes (nam xq; hoc significat, vel, efferbuerunt principes) contra Jeremiam, et percusserunt eum (alii vetunt transitive, percutere fecerunt, sed proprie est percutere, vel verberare, percusserunt ergo eun) et posuerunt ipsum in domum carceris, in domum Jonathan scribae, quia ipsam fecerant (id est, constituerant) in domum carceris.

 

Here Jeremiah pursues the same narrative, and shews how unjustly he was treated, for he found no equity at the hands of the princes any more than in the keeper of the ward. He was no doubt prepared to defend himself before them, and sufficient proof was ready at hand, only he would have had to speak to the deaf. But here he shews by one word that the liberty of speaking was precluded, for a furious madness seized them that they would not hear him. And here we may notice how much opposed is wrath to just and peaceable decisions; for if we wish to be right and equitable judges, self-government is especially necessary. When, therefore, our minds are inflamed with anger or wrath, it is impossible that any rectitude or humanity should prevail. So Jeremiah complains that he was oppressed, because the princes boiled with rage, so that they suffered him not to give the explanation which he had prepared.

He then adds, that they smote him. They no doubt ordered their servants to smite him; for it would have been more than strange, had the princes themselves risen up to strike the Prophet with their fists, or to smite him with their hands. It is then probable that he was smitten by their orders and at their bidding. This is the reason, if I mistake not, why some have given this rendering, “They caused him to be smitten.” But he is often said to have killed a man, who has ordered him to be killed, while he himself had not touched him with his finger. Even so Jeremiah was smitten by the princes, because they had commanded him to be smitten. And this passage shews also, as in a glass, how miserable would be the condition of God’s servants, were he not to sustain them by the power of his Spirit. For here is a holy Prophet overwhelmed with unjust accusations and also reproaches, and the princes abstained not from stripes, and at last he was cast into a pit. Whenever, then, such, a thing happens to us, let us cast our eyes on Jeremiah, and let it not be grievous to us to follow the steps of the holy Prophet; nor let us think it hard to endure the trials with which God was pleased to exercise him. They put him, he says, in the house, and then the word is changed, the prison, rwsah easur, but; the same thing is meant. It now follows what sort of prison it was —

<243716>Jeremiah 37:16

16. When jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and jeremiah had remained there many days,

16. Et quo venit Jeremias in domum lacus, et ad mansiones, et sedit ibi Jeremias diebus multis.

 

The particle yk, ki, is to be taken here as an adverb of time, as I think, though interpreters have not observed this, When Jeremiah, he says, came into the house of the pit or dungeon, or of the prison. The word rwb means also sometimes the grave, but is to be taken here for a pit or a deep place: he means that it was a dark and filthy prison. And he adds, and to the dwellings. I know not why some have rendered it, “victualling houses;” for the word twynjh, echeniot, means narrow prisons, which we call at this day cachots:  fF108 he was therefore cast into a dungeon, where there were narrow places, that, the holy man had no space either freely to rise or to stand or to sit down, or to he down. Then the Prophet shews that he was so confined by the straitness of the place, that he could hardly sit or lay down or stand erect.; and he says that he was there many days. fF109

We must notice the circumstances of the case: It was a thing cruel enough in itself, that an innocent man, after having been beaten, should be thrust into prison: but when a dark and deep prison was chosen, and when he was confined to a narrow place, as though he was in fetters, it was a great addition to the indignity offered to him. Since then the holy Prophet was so atrociously treated, let us not think it strange, when the same thing at this day is endured by God’s children, and for the same cause, even for bearing testimony to celestial truth. When the length of time is added, it increased the evil; for he was not retained in prison for a few days or for a month, but until the city was taken; not indeed in that prison, for the king, as we shall presently see, removed him into the ccurt of the prison. He was, however, the second time cast into a filthy prison, as though he was destined to die; thence he was afterwards removed also by the order of the king. But the Prophet says, that he was in that dungeon many days. It now follows —

<243717>Jeremiah 37:17

17. Then Zedekiah the king sent, and tookhim out; and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.

17. Et misit rex Zedechias et sustulit cum; et interrogavit eum rex domi suae secreto loco (hoc est, seorsum) et dixit, Estne sermo a Jehova? Tunc dixit Jeremias, Est; et cixit, In manum regis Babylonis traderis.

 

From these words we learn, that King Zedekiah, though he had not obeyed good and wise counsels, nor even God and his truth, was not yet one of the worst, for of his own self he called the Prophet to him, and wished to find out whether he could in any way appease God. There is here, in short, a description given of the character of Zedekiah: he was unwilling to submit to God and his word, and yet he was not so cruel as to become enraged against the Prophet; nor had he wholly cast away all fear of God, all concern for religion, and all regard for prophetic teaching. For he no doubt sent for Jeremiah as God’s true servant, and in some degree honored him, and wished God to be propitious to himself. But this is usually the case with hypocrites: they would willingly be reconciled with God, but at the same time they wish to remain free, that is, to retain their own sinful dispositions; in short, they wish so to live as that God should give place to them, and allow them to sin as they please. Such was Zedekiah, and yet he had not reached to the highest pitch of impiety, for as yet he had some regard for the Prophet; nor was he so savage and cruel as his counsellors. He then called him to himself and asked him privately, that he might not depart, as we shall see in another place, in any measure from his royal dignity: for he simply asked the Prophet not to speak openly, because he would thus lose his own authority.

He then asked him in secret, because he had been perplexed. He wished indeed for some favorable answer, but he hardly dared to hope for it; and therefore he led the Prophet to a secret place, and asked him without any being a witness, Is there, he said, a word from God? Some explain this, as though Zedekiah had asked whether the prophecies of Jeremiah were true, as though he had said, “What thou hast hitherto spoken, has it come from God?” but this is no suitable explanation; on the contrary, he asked, Whether the Prophet had lately received any word from God? He wished then for some new message, and to hear something respecting the future deliverance of the city: for he was no doubt persuaded that Jeremiah had been hitherto discharging the office of a Prophet, as it became him; for he did not ask him as a common man, nor did he regard him as an impostor, but inquired whether there was a word from God. True is what I before stated, that hypocrites always seek God’s favor in a foolish way; for they would have God to gratify their sinful lusts, but God cannot deny himself. Hence Zedekiah, though he shewed apparently some regard for religion, yet foolishly asked, Whether there was a word from Jehovah? that is, Whether any message had been lately made known to Jeremiah? He answered, There is, even this, Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the Chaldeans.

Here we may notice the boldness of the Prophet; he had not been broken down by all the evils he had met with, but ever faithfully performed the office committed to him. He therefore answered the king honestly, though not without danger, Thou shalt be delivered, he said, into the hands of the Chaldeans: for he had hardly come out of prison, where he had been buried as in a grave, and we shall see that the prison had been to him like death; and the Prophet was not divested of infirmity and fear, as he will presently shew; yet fear did not prevent him from faithfully performing the office committed to him. Though the Prophet dreaded the sufferings of the prison, though he also feared death, he yet overcame all these feelings, and presented his life as a sacrifice, when he openly and boldly answered the king, that the Chaldeans would shortly be conquerors, and make him a captive. Then follows the expostulation which the Prophet made to the king —

<243718>Jeremiah 37:18

18. Moreover, Jeremiah said unto king Zedekiah, What have I offended against thee, or against thy servants, or against this people, that ye have put me in prison?

18. Et dixit Jeremias regi Zedechiae: Quid peccavi tibi et servis tuis? (hoc est, quid sceleris in to admisi et in servos tuos) et populum hunc, quod tradidistis me in domum carceris.

 

Though the Prophet had spoken what was displeasing to the king, he yet complains that wrong had been done to him, as he had been cast into prison; and thus he shews that he had been unjustly condemned for having threatened ruin to the city and destruction to the kingdom, because he was constrained to do this by the obligations of his office. Hence the Prophet shews that he had not sinned in this — that he had proclaimed God’s commands, however bitter they were to the king and to the people.

This passage deserves special notice: earthly princes are so proud, that as soon as they order anything, they wish every dispute about their authority to be suspended; for they will have their own ordinances to be counted laws, and their own decrees to be sacred and authoritative; and yet we know, that by following their own wills, they decree often what is wholly unjust and inconsistent with everything that is reasonable. This passage then, as I have said, deserves special notice; for Jeremiah boldly declares that he had not sinned, because he had threatened the king, displeased his counsellors, inveighed against the impiety of the people, and denounced utter ruin on the city and the Temple. He then denies that in all this he had done anything wrong. So also Daniel said,

“Against God and the king have I not sinned,” (<270622>Daniel 6:22)

and yet he had disregarded the king’s decree, and firmly refused by an impious flattery to put the king in the place of God: he however denied that he had done anything wrong against the king, because his decree was unjust and wicked. Let us then bear in mind, that though princes may in bear their decrees to be disregarded by us, they are yet not absolved before God and his angels, and also that we can boldly, openly, and with a full mouth, as they say, assert our innocence, when religion constrains us, and when it is not lawful to obey the impious and unjust edicts of kings. He afterwards adds —

<243719>Jeremiah 37:19

19. Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?

19. Et ubi prophertae vestri, qui prophetarunt vobis, dicendo, Non veniet rex Babylonis contra vos et contra hanc terram?

 

Here Jeremiah, taking confidence, advances to a higher ground; for he reprobates the folly of Zedekiah, because he had given ear to the false prophets and their flatteries. But this he did, that he might more fully confirm his own innocence, as though he had said, “I indeed am grievously blamed, because I threatened ruin to the city and the Temple; but what if the Lord had constrained me to do so? and it is evident that I was commissioned by God, and that I alleged nothing without authority; for I have always declared what has happened, and events have proved that I was sent from above, when I announced to you what was to be. But where are your prophets? for they have been always flattering you; and it has happened through their falsehoods, that ye have not returned to the right way. It was yet in your power to be reconciled to God, when I at first warned you; and all my labor and endeavors were for this end, that you might anticipate God’s wrath by a willing repentance. Since then your prophets have deceived you, and the event now clearly proves this, know, O king, that I have been sent from above.”

We thus see that Jeremiah was not so anxious about his life, but that he always remained stedfast to his purpose; and thus he turned not aside from making an honest profession of the truth, so as to provide for his own safety, as they do, who are fearful and think that they act prudently, when they are compliant and try to please men opposed to them at the expense of truth. This was not done by Jeremiah. He had indeed a regard for his life, as we shall now see; but he went on in the discharge of his office, and valued the truth communicated to him from above more than hundred lives. It is then with reference to this that he says, Where are your prophets? as though he had said, “You see that you have all been deceived by their false prophecies.” It follows —

<243720>Jeremiah 37:20

20. Therefore hear now, I pray thee, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray thee, be accepted before thee; that thou cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there.

20. Et tu audi obsecro (vel, nunc, vel agedum) domine mi Rex; cadat precatio mea coram facie tua, ut ne (ad verbum, et non sed, potius, ut ne) remittas me (v.el, redire me facias) in domum Jonathan scribae, neque moriar lilic.

 

This verse shews that Jeremiah was not destitute of human feelings, for he, as other men, dreaded death. But yet he could so control himself, that no fear made him to turn aside from his duty. Fear, then, did not dishearten him, as the boldness which we have noticed was a manifest proof of his constancy. The Prophet therefore overcame, as to his work, every anxiety and the fear of death; and yet he did not disregard his life, but sought, as far as he could, deliverance from his evils. He asked for some alleviation from the king. We hence see that the Prophets were not logs of wood, nor had iron hearts; but though subject to human feelings, yet they elevated themselves to an invincible courage as to their work, so as to fulfill their office.

As to the words, Let my prayer fall before thee, they mean a humble supplication; it is a mode of expression derived, as we have before seen, from what was done by men in prostrating themselves in prayer, and is transferred here from God to mortals. The Prophet then humbly asked, that he might not be cast again into that horrid prison where he had been confined — and why? that he might not die. We see that he shunned death, for this was natural; and yet he was prepared to die, whenever necessary, rather than to turn aside in the least from discharging the duty imposed on him by God.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we must in various ways carry on a warfare on earth, we may be animated by the power of thy Spirit, so as to go on through fire and water, and be ever so subject to thee, that relying on thine aid, we may never hesitate to face all perils of death, all troubles, all reproaches, and all the terrors of men, until having at length gained the final victory, we shall come to that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son hath procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and forty-Seventh

<243721>Jeremiah 37:21

21. Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

21. Et praecepit rex Zedechias, et posuerunt Jeremiam in atrio custodiae, et dederunt ei frustum panis quotidie e platea pistorum, usque dum consumptus esset totus panis ex urbe; et habitavit Jeremias in atrio custodiae.

 

The Prophet tells us, that God regarded the miseries to which he had been unjustly exposed: and the king no doubt became humane towards Jeremiah, because God turned his heart towards what was just and right. We said, indeed, yesterday, that the king was not in disposition cruel or sanguinary; yet he would not have been so easily eritreated by the Prophet, had he not been influenced by the hidden working of God’s Spirit. We hence see how God favors his servants and has regard for their infirmity when necessary. We yet see also that the Prophet was not so kindly dealt with as to be allowed to return free to his own house, but that he was removed to another prison, where his condition was more tolerable. He was then in the court of the prison.

He says, that a crust of bread was given to him daily, or every day. The word rkk, kekar, is by some rendered “mass,” or lump, and means sometimes a large loaf; but it is probable, that during so much scarcity the Prophet had but a scanty living. He had then a crust or piece of bread every day. We see how mean was his food; but God often tries his servants in this way, withholding from them all the delicacies of this world. It is added, from the street of the bakers; by these words is meant, I think, that it was coarse bread, not made of fine flour, such as rich men did eat, for their mouths could not endure what was rough and course. Then God’s holy Prophet was content with the common bread. The king and his counsellors had their own bakers; but it is said that bread was brought to the Prophet from a common place, the street of the bakers. And the bread then sold during such a scarcity was no doubt black bread. We hence see what kind of bread it was, because it was sold for the common use of the people.

Thus the Prophet shews, that though some relaxation was allowed him, he was still confined in prison, and also that no meat nor any delicacies were given him, but a crust of bread only. He however commemorates the favor of God, inasmuch as in so great a scarcity he was not without bread. He had, then, his daily bread until all provisions failed.

And hence we learn, that God often so provides for his servants, that he appears to have forsaken them; and yet he then especially takes care of them and supplies them with what is needful for their support. Had Jeremiah been at home, he might have been at any time stoned by the people; for there were not wanting those disposed to stir up famished men against him. He might then have been every moment in danger of his life at home. But now in prison, he was safe, and no one could do him any harm. Besides, had he been at home, many might have robbed him, so as to leave him nothing to preserve life; but in prison he had his daily allowance. Thus, then, God often conducts his servants in a manner that is wonderful and beyond what we can conceive, and in the meantime acts as the head of a family, in supplying their wants. In short, the Prophet here intimates that he was cared for by God, so that during the famine and scarcity among the whole people, his bread was yet given to him, when he could not have begged it. When he could not have procured bread for himself either by labor, or by industry, or by begging, or by money, he shews that God took care of him so as to feed him during that distress.

He however adds, that he was in the court of the prison, in order to shew that God tried his patience, for a prison was a place of degradation. The Prophet was exposed to the reproaches of all; and then the princes might have often threatened him with danger, and might have also transferred him to another place, as we shall hereafter see. Therefore, in a measure only did God bring aid to his Prophet, for it was not his pleasure wholly to deliver him, and yet he suffered him not to be reduced to extremities. Now follows —


CHAPTER 38

<243801>Jeremiah 38:1-4

1. Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shele-rajah, and Pashur the son of Mal-chiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying,

1. Et audivit Saphatias fillus Matthew tam, et Guadalias filius Passhur, et Juchal filius Selemiae et Passhur filius Malchiae, sermones quos Jere-mias loquutus fuerat ad toturm popu-lum, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the Lord, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Qui manebit in urbe hac morietur gladio, fame et peste; qui autem egressus fuerit ad Chaldaeos, rivet et erit ei anima sua in spolium et vivet.

3. Thus saith the Lord, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.

3. Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce tradendo tradetur haec urbs in manum exer-citus regis Babylonis, et capiet eam.

4. Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death; for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city; and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.

4. Et dixeunt principes ad regem, Moriatur nunc (vel, agedum, est hor-tantis particula an) vir iste, quoni-am propterea (vel, hoc modo) solvit manus virorum bellicosorum, qui residui sunt in urbe hac, et manus totius populi, loquendo ad ipsos se-cundum istos sermones; quoniam hic vir non quaerit pacem (hoc est, non spectat ad pacem) populo huic (populi hujus) quin potius ad malum.

 

The Prophet now shews that he was again dragged from the court of the prison to the inner part, which was dark, filthy, and like a grave. The cause of this he states: it was because four of the princes had heard his words. It is probable that many of the people had come there for the purpose of hearing the Prophet, and that he, having received a message, delivered it to every one that came to him. Though then he was shut up in prison, yet the word of God could not be bound, as Paul says, who gloried in the fact, that though he was in chains, yet the truth spread far and wide. (<550209>2 Timothy 2:9.) Such was the case as to Jeremiah; though he was retained as a prisoner, he yet ceased not to discharge his office; and yet there is no doubt but that the purpose of the king was in this way to restrain him. The prison was, as it were, the captivity of prophetic truth. But the king and his counselors were mistaken; for Jeremiah was not less free in the court of the prison, than if he had walked through the city all the day, nay, he had many heralds.

But the four princes mentioned here watched him, even Shephatiah, Gadaliah, Jucal, and Pashur. Then the four princes he names, having insidiously watched what he said, immediately made a commotion. They had, no doubt, contrived the ruin of the Prophet before they came to the king; for the unprincipled and wicked, we know, discuss matters together when intent on mischief, and their courtly arts must be taken to the account. As, then, the four were in authority, they must, doubtless, have influenced the greatest part of the king’s council, and led astray easy men, or such as were not of themselves bent on evil. The matter was at length brought before the king; and therefore he adds, that they came to the king. But he first explains the doctrine, on account of which these unprincipled men created so much ill-will to him, and endangered his life. Hence he says that the accusation was, that he had not only threatened with ruin all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but that he had also pro-raised life to all that would go out to the Chaldeans: Every one who abides in the city shall die by the sword, famine, or pestilence; but every one who goeth out to the Chaldeans shall live. This was the accusation.

We have seen elsewhere that the Prophet had before said the same; it was not, then, a new thing, for he had thirty years before that time dearly pronounced the same in the Temple, and it was then written as a prophecy and fixed to the doors of the Temple. It was, therefore, nothing new to hear all this from the mouth of Jeremiah. But as I have already said, the king and his couriers thought that he was so subdued by evils that he could hardly open his mouth. In short, they thought that the holy man had, in a manner, lost his tongue since he had been in prison. This, then, was the reason why they now accused him so gravely to the king, and declared him worthy of death. He had deserved death many years before, if he had now committed a capital offense. But as I have already stated, they regarded the Prophet as having designedly despised the king’s authority, and they were indignant because he could not be subdued, when yet he was a prisoner and might see danger at hand every hour. This, then, was the reason why they regarded as a new thing what Jeremiah said, Whosoever abides in the city shall perish, etc.

As to these threatenings, we have elsewhere said, that all those who expected help from the Egyptians were willful despisers of God; for the Prophet had often exhorted them all, quietly and submissively to bear that temporary punishment which God had resolved to inflict on them. They wished in their perverseness to drive to a distance God’s judgment, and then when they saw that God was their enemy, they deemed it enough to have the Egyptians as their friends. It was then no wonder that the Prophet allotted to them the sword, and famine, and pestilence.

He then adds, Whosoever passeth over to the Chaldeans shall live. The condition, however, was very hard; his soul, he says, shall be for a prey, as though he had said, “He who flees to the Chaldeans shall only save his life, but must suffer the loss of all his property,” as when a shipwreck is dreaded, there is no one who is not ready to save his life at the loss of all his goods; and, therefore, in extreme danger the merchants are wont to cast into the sea all that they have, for they prefer to escape to the harbor empty and destitute of everything, than to perish together with their riches. It was, then, a hard condition; but the Prophet shews that they could not otherwise escape; they were to give up their own country, and all other things, and could only preserve their life. For this reason he says, that their life would be for a prey to them, as when anything is snatched from the fire, or as when one is exposed to plunder, he were content to take something away by stealth, for otherwise, if he sought to take away many things, he would have to contend with many enemies. The Prophet then intimates that the Jews could not save themselves from death in any other way than by casting away all they had, and by being solicitous only to save life. He again repeats, he shall live. By this repetition he more pressingly urged them, and with more earnestness exhorted them to save their life.

Then follows a confirmation, Given up shall be this city into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon, and they shall take it. The Prophet shews the reason why he exhorted the Jews to flee, because the city would at length be taken. This is substantially what he says.

Now the princes add, Die let this man, because in this manner, or therefore, that is, on account of his bad counsel, he weakens the hands of the men of war, etc. Here hand is to be taken for valor, for deeds are mainly performed by the hands. Hence to loosen or weaken the hands means the same as to render men inert, or so idle as not to move a finger. Then the princes accused Jeremiah on this account, that he terrified the men of war and thus rendered them listless. It was a specious charge; but the slander had nothing to support it; for Jeremiah could not have been condemned as a public enemy to his country, when he earnestly exhorted them to flee and gave no hope to the people, in order they might all, despairing of deliverance, willingly surrender themselves to their enemies.

A question may be raised here, whether it is lawful for a private individual to persuade subjects to violate their oath of allegiance to their king or prince. I now call Prophets private persons; for I have in view civil order. Jeremiah, indeed, sustained a public character, for he was God’s Prophet; but as to the government of the city he was a private individual, one of the people. It seems, then, that the Prophet had passed over the limits of what is right, when he persuaded the people to revolt, for that could not have been done without forfeiting allegiance to the king. To this I answer, that the Prophet was invested with a special command, and that, therefore, he did nothing presumptuously or rashly. Though, then, the people had pledged to the end their faith to the king, yet as God had now delivered the city to the Chaldeans, the obligation of the oath ceased; for when governments are changed, whatever the subjects had promised is no longer binding. As, for example, when any country has a prince, he binds the whole people to himself by an oath, so that they may all abide in their allegiance. When any one invades that country, the subjects incur the charge of perfidy if they come not forward and assist their prince, as they had promised; but when a foreign enemy takes possession of the whole land, the obligation of the oath ceases; for it is not in the power of the people to set up princes, because it belongs to God to change governments as he pleases. Since, then, this power belongs to God alone, while a prince rules, the people ought resolutely to continue obedient to him, as their legitimate prince, set over them by God. But this was not at that time the case with the Jews; for though the Chaldeans had not yet entered the city, yet God had declared that they were its masters. The people, then, were not to wait until the Chaldeans broke in into the city, burnt its houses, and killed all they met with; but it ought to have been sufficient for them that the prediction of the Prophet was the decree or sentence of God, by which they were given up to the Chaldeans.

The question as to Jeremiah and all others in similar circumstances, is now answered: for when any one sees only some danger at hand, he ought not, on that account, to persuade the people to forsake their prince; but every one who seeks to be God’s faithful servant, will risk his own life in the defense of his king. When called to his council, he will advise what is useful and right; but he will not stir up commotions and tumults: on the contrary, he would rather die a hundred times than cause the people to revolt either by his counsels or by his influence. But the case of Jeremiah, as it has been said, was peculiar; for God had made known his purpose as to the Chaldeans. Hence Jeremiah did not only prudently persuade the people to do what he deemed necessary, but he also discharged faithfully his office as a Prophet: nor did he give any other counsel than what he had been commanded to give: nay, he commanded them, by authority, to pass over to the Chaldeans, for it was according to God’s will.

The princes, however, brought this charge against him, that he weakened the hands, etc.; and added, In this manner he seeks not the good of the people, when he thus speaks, (peace here is to be taken for what is good or useful,) but he seeks evil. This they slanderously added, for Jeremiah, as far as he could, consulted the public good, he wished the city to continue safe; had it been in his power, he would have put to flight all the Chaldeans; but he could not carry on war with God, under whose banner the Chaldeans fought. Jeremiah then sought the good of the people, but he could not resist God, and therefore he gave way to the divine decree: he saw no other remedy than this, that the Jews should undergo a temporary punishment, and be chastised by an exile, so that they might return afterwards into their own country. Had it been possible, as I have said, he would have kept the people from every injury; but this was not now practicable; for God had pronounced that it was all over with the kingdom and the city, until the Jews were punished by an exile of seventy years. There was then a second good or benefit, so that exile might be: more tolerable to the miserable, or captivity become milder: and this good was, to come of their own accord to King Nebuchadnezzar, and to suffer themselves to be led forth to the Chaldeans. This was the second good.

Jeremiah then, seeing that the city, the kingdom, and the Temple were not to stand, was anxious to urge with all his might what remained to be done, in order that the city might at least continue as it was, while the inhabitants migrated into another land, so that afterwards they might return to it. This was the best thing for the people, because God had determined to drive them all into exile. It was then absurd to bring against him this unjust charge, that he sought not the good of the people, but their ruin.

But as we said yesterday, all the sayings and doings of the saints have been always unjustly condemned. And if the same thing happen to us at this day, let us patiently bear it. We also see that it has been always objected to the Prophets and faithful teachers, as a crime, that they did not consult the public good, as all ungodly men at this day bring the same charge against us, especially the couriers, who take it as granted, that were anything changed, it would be the cause of all kinds of disturbances; and hence they think, that their religion could not possibly fall without ruin to the public good. Hence it comes, that the free preaching of the Gospel is disliked by them, as though it brought with it some public calamity. Therefore they call us turbulent; and they say that we go astray through ignorance: though we are not avowedly enemies to the public good, yet we do not understand how kingdoms are to be governed; and hence we rashly stir up the greatest tumults. All these reproaches we have to bear, as Jeremiah did, when, with a quiet mind, he endured the hatred which the princes unjustly produced against him, on account of his doctrine, which yet he had announced by God’s command, and which was necessary for the safety of the city and people; for the Jews could not, against God’s will, remain in their city, from which God had resolved to remove them. When, therefore, Jeremiah saw that the city could not be defended against the Chaldeans, even had he been the only counselor of the king, and not God’s Prophet, what could he have advised better or more beneficial, than to anticipate the extreme cruelty of their enemies, and at least to do all they could, that the city might not be burnt with fire, and that the slaughter of the people might not be universal, but that they might continue alive, with the loss only of their property? He could not then have brought a better counsel. But, as I have already said, nothing is deemed good or useful by the ungodly, except liberty perversely to resist God. This was the reason why they so unjustly accused God’s Prophet. It follows —

<243805>Jeremiah 38:5

5. Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.

5. Et dixit rex Zedechias, Ecce ipsc in manibus vestris; quia rex non potest erga vos quicquam.

 

Zedekiah doubtless knew that wrong was done to the holy Prophet; for though he wished him to remain as he was, yet he knew that the Prophet had not threatened the people from ill-will or a hostile mind; and he was thus conscious that he had to do with God rather than with a mortal man. However this may have been, he knew that Jeremiah was not an enemy to the public safety according to the charge brought by the princes. He might then have wished to deliver the Prophet from their hands, but he submitted to their fury; for he was divested of all regal power, and was become, as it were, a slave to his own counselors, on whom depended the government of the kingdom.

They wrongly explain this verse, who think that the king spoke honorably of his counselors, as though he had said, that such was their prudence and dignity, that nothing could be denied them. They pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for the king, on the contrary, acknowledges here, that he was reduced to such a condition, as though he were a private individual, he, in short, confessed that he was the servant of servants; “Now I see,” he says, “that I am no king, but that ye so rule, that, willing or unwilling, I am forced to yield to you, even in the best cause.” There is then no doubt but that it was the bitter complaint of the king when he said, The king can do nothing against you. fG1

But Zedekiah deserved this degradation: for he ought to have been from the beginning more teachable, and to submit to God. But in the first place, as we have seen, he had despised prophetic doctrine, and hearkened not to the voice of God; and in the second place, he revolted perfidiously from the Chaldean king, and became thus guilty of ingratitude, for when his nephew was dethroned, that is, Jeconiah or Coniah, he obtained the regal power through the favor of the king of Babylon. He had therefore been ungrateful in denying tribute to him. But his impiety was the main cause of all evils. As then he had been such a rebel against God, he deserved that the princes should prove rebels to him. He then degraded himself, and deprived himself of royal authority, when he refused submission to the word of God, and also when he denied tribute to the king of Babylon. It was no wonder, then, that God made him subject to the princes and counselors, who were yet his servants.

As to these couriers, their arrogance was inexcusable in daring to condemn Jeremiah; for this was to take away from the king his own right; Die let this man, for he is worthy of death. Why was it that they were not content with accusing him, without assuming also to be his sole judges? As, then, they treated the king so disrespectfully, there is no doubt but they were despisers of God, when they deemed as nothing the royal dignity. But as to the king, he reaped, as I have said, the fruit of his own impiety, for he had not given to God his due honor in embracing the truth taught by the Prophet. It was therefore necessary, that he should be unworthily and contumeliously treated, so that he dared not to say even one word in behalf of a just and good cause. This was the reason why he said, He is in your hands, for the king can do nothing against you.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou invitest us daily to thyself with so much kindness, and givest us also time to repent, and then offerest to us the hope of mercy and salvation, if we return to thee, — O grant, that we may not pass by such benevolent warnings with deaf ears, but in due time attend to thee, and with true and sincere acknowledgment of all our sins so surrender up ourselves to thee, that we may find thee to be merciful; and that when we return to thee we may so continue in obedience to thee, that we may be capable of receiving thy constant kindness, until the full fruition of it shall be given us in thy celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Eighth

<243806>Jeremiah 38:6

6. Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hamelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.

6. Et tulerunt Jeremiam, et demiserunt eum in puteum Malchiae filii Hammalech (in lacum, proprie,) qui erat in atrio custodiae; et (itaque) demiserunt Jeremiam funibus; et in lacu non erat aqua, sed coenum; et demersus fuit Jeremias in coeno.

 

HERE is narrated the extreme presumption as well as cruelty of the princes; for they cast the holy Prophet into a pit, where he sank in the mire. It was a proof of hardened impiety not to spare so excellent a servant of God; and it was also a savage cruelty, when they had no cause of being so filled with rage, except that Jeremiah had obeyed God, and faithfully performed the office committed to him.

Let us at the same time learn from this example, whenever it pleases the Lord to try our patience, to bear with resignation what we see to have been borne by the holy Prophet. If, then, we shudder at any time at the horrors of the cross, so that it may seem hard to us to bear persecution, let us remember this example of the Prophet. In a word, there is here, on the one hand, shewn to us, as in a picture, the wickedness of the world; and on the other, the wonderful constancy and also the singular meekness of God’s servant shine forth gloriously.

Jeremiah then says, that he was taken by the princes and cast into a pit, which was in the court of the prison; and in that part, where one of the counselors dwelt, even Malchiah the son of Hamelech. And at the same time he describes the state of the place, that it was a miry pit, so that he sank down in the mud. He does not mean that he was covered with mud, but that he was fixed in it, as the Hebrew word intimates; and we may thus rightly render the words, “He lay fixed in the mud.” It now follows —

<243807>Jeremiah 38:7-9

7. Now, when Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon, (the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin,)

7. Audivit autem Ebedmelech Aethiops vir eunuchus (vel, unus ex numero procerum, ysrs enim ut alibi dictum fuit, non tanturn eunuchos vocant, sed etiam proceres et consiliarios regis) ipsc autem erat in domo regis (per parenthesin hoc legendum est, audivit ergo) quod posuissent Jeremiam in lacum; rex autera sedebat in porta Benjamin:

8. Ebed-melech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying,

8. Et egressus est Ebedmelech e domo (vel, palatio) regis, et loquutus est ad regem, dicendo,

9. My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have (tone to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.

9. Domine, mi Rex, perverse egerunt viri isti in onmibus quae fecerunt Jeremiae Prophetae, quando eum demiserunt in foveam (vel, lacum,) uti subtus se morietur a fame (hoc est, prae fame,) quia nullus panis amplius est in urbe.

 

Jeremiah relates here how he was delivered from death; for he could not have lived long in the mire; partly, because he must have died through want; and partly, he must have been starved through cold and suffocated with the filth of the dungeon. But God rescued him in a wonderful manner through the aid of Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian. He was an alien, and this is expressly said, that we may know, that among the king’s counselors there was no one who resisted so great a wickedness. But there was one found, an Ethiopian, who came to the aid of God’s Prophet.

There is then implied here a comparison between an Ethiopian, an alien, and all the Jews, who professed themselves to be the holy seed of Abraham, who had been circumcised, and boasted loudly of God’s law and covenant; and yet there was not one among them, who would stretch forth his hand to the holy servant of God! It may be there were some who pitied him, but courage was wanting; so that no one dared to open his mouth, for it was a reproach to patronize the holy man. They, then, preferred the favor of the ungodly to their own duty. But there was an Ethiopian so courageous, that he dared to accuse all the king’s couriers and the other princes. There is, then, no doubt but that the Spirit by the mouth of the Ethiopian brought a perpetual disgrace on the king’s princes, who passed themselves as the children of Abraham, and boasted in high terms of God’s covenant. A similar case is represented by Christ in a parable, when he says that a Levite and a priest passed by a wounded man and disregarded him, but that help was brought to him by a Samaritan. (<421030>Luke 10:30-35.) His purpose, no doubt, was to condemn the Jews, even the Levites and the priests, for their barbarity in caring nothing for the life of a miserable man in his extremity. So also, in this place, the Ethiopian is set forth to us as an example, for he alone had the feeling of kindness and humanity, so as to bring help to the holy Prophet, and to rescue him, as it were, from immediate death and the grave: but we see all the king’s couriers either wholly torpid or influenced by the same spirit of rage and cruelty, as to be mortal enemies to the holy man, because he freely and openly declared to them the command of God.

And Jeremiah says that Ebed-melech heard, etc. We may hence conclude, that he was anxious about the safety of the holy Prophet, and that he had his friends who watched the proceedings. It is then added, that he was in the palace, but that the king was sitting in the gate of Benjamin; for kings were wont to administer justice in the gates, and to have there their tribunal; and it was there that the people held their regular assemblies. The king, then, was sitting in the gate of Benjamin. But, in the meantime, his palace was a place of execution and the den of robbers. We hence see that the sloth of the king is here denoted, for he apparently performed the proper office of a king, but neglected the principal part of it, for he suffered a holy man to be east into a pit. As, then, he thus exposed the Prophet’s life to the will of the princes, it is evident that he was but an empty shadow, though he stood there as the judge of the people, and had there a sacred tribunal.

It now follows, that Ebed-melech went forth from the palace and came to the king’s tribunal, that he might there plead the cause of the Prophet. It is right to notice this circumstance as well as the former. For if Ebedmelech had met the king accidentally, he might have spoken to him in passing; but as he went forth from the palace, it is clear that he had been meditating on what he was going to do, and that he had not felt only a sudden impulse of compassion: but that when he might have rested quietly in the palace, he came of his own accord to the king to make known his complaint. And further, he did not address the king in a room or in some private corner of the palace, but he spoke to him in the gate, that is, in a public assembly. We hence see that the previous circumstance commends to us the perseverance of this man, for he was not only suddenly moved, but persevered in his holy purpose; and the second circumstance commends to us his magnanimity, for he did not shun ill-will, but openly and boldly spoke for Jeremiah before the people; and he amplified the excellency of the Prophet by bringing an accusation against the princes. He no doubt knew that he was bringing himself into danger, but he exposed his own life that he might aid the Prophet.

He then said, that the king’s counselors had done wickedly in all the things which they had done against Jeremiah the Prophet, because they had cast him into the well: and he added, There he will die under himself, or as some render it, and rightly, “in his own place.” But the expression is striking, but cannot be fully expressed in our language: for Ebedmelech meant that Jeremiah would die, though no one molested him, though no evil or harm were done to him by another. He will, then, die in his own place, that is, he will die, if left where he is; because he lay, as it has appeared, sunk in mire. And then he said, He will die through famine; for he had been cast into the pit as into a grave. And as scarcity prevailed among the whole people, Jeremiah could not have hoped for any aid; and bread, as we shall hereafter see, could not have been thrown to him. Then Ebedmelech says here first, that Jeremiah had been unworthily treated, because he was God’s Prophet; for he honors him with this title, that he might expose the impiety of the princes; and secondly, he shews how miserably he lay in the pit, because no one could supply him with food, and there was no more bread in the city. It now follows —

<243810>Jeremiah 38:10

10. Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die.

10. Et praecepit rex ipsi Ebed-melech Aethiopi, Sume ad manum tuam hinc triginta viros, et educas Jeremiam Prophetam e fovea antequam moriatur.

 

We here see, what I have already said, that; the Prophet’s deliverance was wholly from above. The king, smitten with fear, had lately given over the holy Prophet to the cruelty of his princes; and had confessed that he had no longer any authority: “for it is not the king,” he said, “who now governs you.” As, then, the king had not dared resolutely to contend against his princes:, how was it, that he now ventured to extricate Jeremiah from the pit? We hence see that the king’s mind had been changed; because he was lately so stunned with fear, that he dared not to plead the cause of the holy man; but now he commands the Ethiopian to take him out from the pit. It then appears that this was over-ruled by a divine power.

But let us hence learn to be courageous, when necessity requires, though there may not be a hope of a favorable issue. Ebedmelech might have thought within himself that his attempt would be in vain, however strenuously he might have pleaded for Jeremiah. He might, then, have thus relinquished that purpose which he had so boldly undertaken; for thus they who are over-wise are often led, as it were, into inertness: “What can you effect? thou art but one, and they are many; and then the thing is done. If the king himself has been forced to yield to their fury, and thou being a private individual, with what. confidence can you resist them? and further, a tumult will be raised, and thou wilt perish in it; and in the meantime they will perhaps stone with stones that unhappy man, whom thou seekest to help.” All these things might have occurred to Ebedmelech, and thus he might have desisted. But we see that he rested in confidence on God’s favor. Let us, then, remembering his example, hope beyond hope, when God requires us to do a thing, that is, when faith, the obligation of duty, demands anything from us, and which may be done, if we close our eyes to all obstacles and go on in our work; for events are in God’s hands alone, and they will be such as he pleases. In the meantime it is simply our duty to proceed in our course, though we may think that our labors will be in vain and without any fruit. Ebedmelech happily succeeded, and how? because he performed the part of a pious and upright man. Thus God will extend his hand to us; whatever difficulties may meet us, we shall overcome them all by his power and aid.

Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, Take hence thirty men with thee and extricate Jeremiah from the well. Ebedmelech might even then have relinquished his undertaking; for he might not have been able with thirty men to overcome so great a power; for all the king’s counselors had united together, and no doubt they had enlisted many others. We thus see that Ebedmelech did not rely on human aid, but that being strengthened by invincible confidence he undertook this office, so that he dared to draw Jeremiah out of the pit. It hence follows —

<243811>Jeremiah 38:11

11. So Ebed-melech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts, and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah.

11. Et sumpsit Ebedmelech homines illos in manum suam (hoc est, sub sua potestate,) et venit in domum regis, nempe in locum sub thesauris; et sumpsit illinc veteramenta tractorum, et veteramenta (ad verbum) corruptorum, et demisit ad Jeremiam in lacum per funes.

 

Here Jeremiah goes on with the history of his deliverance. The courage of Ebedmelech ought ever to be noticed by us, for he went immediately to the holy Prophet. And it is said, that he took from some bidden place old tatters, De vieux haillons, as we call them. It is properly a noun substantive. But if its harshness be displeasing, we may give this rendering, “old tatters which had been dragged, and old tatters which were rotten.” Yet some render the words thus, “Worn out clothes and rotten clothes.” But the former is more properly the meaning; for bjs, sacheb, means to drag, and it may be rendered in French, Vieux haillons trainez, ou, qui avoyent traine Then we have yjls, salechim, corrupted or marred, usez; for jls, salech, means to salt; but it is a verb in Hophal, and in that form it means to corrupt. They were torn or rotten garments, des vieux haillons a demi pourris. It is said then that Ebedmelech took these old, torn, and rotten garments, and which had been used. This ought to be carefully noticed; for it appears that Ebed-melech was afraid of the violence of the princes, not so much on his own account, but lest he should be hindered in effecting his purpose.

For if he had provided other things, he might have been apprehended; report might have been brought to the princes, who would have immediately assembled and put a stop to his efforts. There is then no doubt but that Ebedmelech, being very confident, prudently considered what might prevent him in his attempt of bringing help to the holy Prophet. Hence it was, that he stealthily took from a hidden place these worn-out and marred garments. This is one thing. Then we see the miserable state of the holy Prophet; he lay half buried in mud, and he was to be drawn out by ropes or cords, and to have these torn and worn-out garments under his arms. And we are afterwards expressly told for what purpose these clothes were sent down to him.

<243812>Jeremiah 38:12

12. And Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said unto Jeremiah, Put now these old cast clouts and rotten rags under thine arm holes under the cords. And Jeremiah did so.

12. Et dixit Ebedmelech Aethiops Jeremiae, Pone nunc veteramenta tractorum et corruptorum sub axillis manuum tuarum subtus funes: et fecit Jeremias sic.

 

We find the same words here as before, Put now the old tatters, dragged or torn and rotten, fG2 under the pits of thy hands underneath the cords. This is an improper mode of speaking in Latin, but not in Hebrew. Then it is, “Put them under thine armpits underneath the cords.” This was to be done, lest the Prophet should receive any hurt; for he was to be drawn up by the cords, and he was fixed in the mud: and this could not have been done without lacerating his skin and injuring his armpits, for that part, we know, is tender. Then Ebedmelech ordered the Prophet to take these old tatters and to put them under the cords, so that he might be drawn up by the men with the least injury. This was the advice of Ebedmeleeh, and Jeremiah did as he was bidden.

God thus delivered his Prophet in a wonderful manner from death: but we hence see how miserable was his condition; for the Prophet could not have otherwise escaped than by using these worn-out and rotten tatters and by being drawn up by cords. There is no doubt but that he had thought of the difficulty; for he had been there now some time; and he was not so strong that he could trust to his own arms, and he knew that his hands were not strong enough to hold fast the cords. But he doubtless east all his cares on God and his providence. Though then he does but briefly tell us that he did as he was bidden, he yet has left us to consider how much confidence he had, when he immediately obeyed, and did not decline what he might have justly feared, that he was feeble and weak; nor did he know whether his hands were strong enough to hold the cords, nor how the cords were to be applied to his shoulders. He therefore did what Ebedmelech had told him, for he knew that the advice came from God. It afterwards follows —

<243813>Jeremiah 38:13

13. So they drew up Jeremiah with cords, and took him up out of the dungeon: and Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

13. Et extraxerunt Jeremiam funibus, et extulerunt ipsum e fovea (vel, lacu;) et habitavit Jeremias in atrio custodiae.

 

We here see that the Prophet was rescued from death, not however that he might be set at liberty, and sent home, for that would not have been for his benefit, as he would have been taken again by the king’s counselors. Ebedmelech could not, therefore, save his life otherwise than by having him confined in another part of the prison. He could have wished, no doubt, to have him as a guest in his own house: he doubtless wished to do for him more than he did. But his prudence deserves to be commended, that he placed the Prophet again in prison; for otherwise the fury and cruelty of the princes could not have been mitigated. Then Jeremiah dwelt in the court of the prison.

He was evidently led there by Ebedmelech. If one were to object and say that this was a proof of too much timidity; to this the answer is, that Ebedmelech was not fearful on his own account, but because he saw that he had to do with wild beasts; and he saw that their rage could not otherwise be calmed than by having Jeremiah confined in the prison. Indeed, the whole city was then like a prison, as it is well known; for they were oppressed everywhere with want, and no one could hardly go out of his house. This state of things was then wisely considered by Ebedmelech, for he had not only his own business to attend to, but he also labored to preserve God’s Prophet.

When God at any time relieves our miseries, and yet does not wholly free us from them at once, let us bear them patiently, and call to mind this example of Jeremiah. God, indeed, manifested his power in delivering him, and yet it was his will that he should continue in prison: even thus he effects his work by degrees. If then the full splendor of God’s grace does not shine on us, or if our deliverance is not as yet fully granted, let us allow God to proceed by little and little; and the least alleviation ought to be sufficient for comfort, resignation, and patience. It now follows, —

<243814>Jeremiah 38:14

14. Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the Lord: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me.

14. Et misit rex Zedechias et tulit (hoc est, accersivit) Jeremiam Prophetam ad se ad ingressum tertium, qui erat in domo Jehovae (hoc est, in ipso Templo,) et dixit rex ad Jeremiam, Ego interrogo to verbum, ne celes a me verbum (hoc est, Ego rem unam abs to quaero, ne quicquam celes.)

 

Here is added another narrative, — that King Zedekiah again sent for Jeremiah to come to him in the Temple, that is, in the court of the Temple; for it was not lawful for the king to enter into the Sanctuary, and the court is often called the Temple. But there were, as it is well known, many entrances. The largest gate was towards the east, but there were gates on the other sides. The court also had several parts, separated from each other. Then Zedekiah, that he might speak privately to Jeremiah, came to the third entrance of the court, and there he asked the Prophet faithfully to explain to him what he had received from God.

There is no doubt but that Zedekiah in course of time entertained a higher regard for Jeremiah as God’s faithful servant. Yet he was not, as we have said, really attentive to the teaching of the Prophet. Hence the mind of the king was in a dubious state, like those hypocrites, who, having some seed of God’s fear remaining in them, fluctuate and continually change, and have nothing solid and fixed. They dare not, indeed, to despise either God or his servants; nay, they acknowledge that they are under God’s authority, and that his word is not evanescent; and yet they make evasions as much as they can, and seek to change, as it were, the nature of God. Such was the character of Zedekiah. For he was not one of those who grossly and openly despise God, as we see at this day, the world being full of Epicureans, who regard religion as a fable. Such, then, was not Zedekiah, but he retained some fear of God; nay, he even shewed regard for the Prophet; and yet he was unwilling to submit to God, and to follow the counsels of the Prophet. He was, therefore, suspended, as it were, between two opinions. But it is probable that he entertained some hope, because he had saved the life of Jeremiah. he might, then, have thought that God was pacified, or that he would remit in some degree his severity, as hypocrites always flatter themselves. For if they do the least thing, they think that they merit some favor, I know not what, at God’s hand. Hence Zedekiah, when he had relieved the holy Prophet, and fed him during the greatest scarcity, thought that this service was acceptable to God; and it was in part acceptable; but he was mistaken in thinking this to be a kind of expiation. Hence then it was that he sent for the Prophet; he expected some favorable answer, even that God’s wrath was pacified, or at least mitigated. But we must defer the rest till to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, omnipotent God, that since the life of thy servants ought to be deemed precious by us, each of us, according to his ability may strive to do his part in this respect, and, in the meantime, so cultivate mutual love as to assist one another in time of necessity, and that we may also be so solicitous respecting thy servants, as to consecrate all our efforts, all our labors, and all our services to thee, and strive thus to please thee, so that all our doings may be directed to this end, until, having at length finished the course of our present warfare, we shall come to that rest in thy celestial kingdom, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Forty-Ninth

<243815>Jeremiah 38:15

15. Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?

15. Et dixit Jeremias ad Zedechiam, Si annuntiavero tibi, an non interficiendo interficies me? et si consilium dedero tibi, non auscultabis mihi (non audies ad me, ad verbum.)

 

THE Prophet seems here to have acted not very discreetly; for when he ought of his own accord to have announced to the king the destruction of the city, being asked he refused to answer, or at least he took care of his life, and secured himself from danger before he littered a word. And the Prophets, we know, disregarding their own life, ought to have preferred to it the commands of God, as we find was often the case with Jeremiah, who frequently at the risk of his life proclaimed prophecies calculated to rouse the hatred of all the people, and to create the greatest danger to himself. It seems, then, that he had made no good progress, since he now fails, as it were, in this hazardous act of his vocation, and dares not to expose himself to danger.

But it ought to be observed, that the Prophets had not always an express command to speak. For had God bidden Jeremiah to declare what we shall hereafter meet with, he would not have evaded the question; for he had been so trained up for a long time, that he feared not for himself so as to turn aside from the straight course of his office. That he now, then, seems to draw back, this he did because God had not as yet commanded him to explain to the king what we shall presently see. For he would have done this without benefit: and he had often admonished the king, and had seen that his counsel was despised. No wonder, then, that he was unwilling to endanger his life without any prospect of doing good. If any one brings this objection, that it is then lawful for us to do the same; to this I answer, that we are not thoughtlessly to cast pearls before swine; but until we try every means, we ought to hope for the best, and therefore to act confidently. But Jeremiah had fully performed his duty: for the king could not have pleaded mistake or ignorance, since the Prophet had so often testified that there was no other remedy for the evil but to pass over to the Chaldeans.

As then the Prophet had so often warned the king, he might now be silent, and thus excuse himself, “Thou wilt kill me, and at the same time thou wilt not believe me, or, thou wilt not obey, if I give thee counsel.” These two clauses ought to be read together; for if Jeremiah had seen that there was a prospect of doing good, he would doubtless have offered his life a sacrifice. But as he saw that his doe-trine would be useless, and that his life was in danger, he did not think it right rashly to expose his life, when he could hope for no benefit. The Prophet then did not regard only his own danger, but was also unwilling to expose heavenly truth to scorn, for it had often been already despised. He then did not answer the king’s question, because he was convinced that he would be disobedient, as he had ever been up to that very time. It follows —

<243816>Jeremiah 38:16

16. So Zedekiah the king swore secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.

16. Et juravit rex Zedechias Jeremiae in secreto, dicens, Vivit Jehova, qui fecit nobis animam hanc, si interfecero te, et si tradidero te in manum istorum qui quaerunt animam tuam.

 

The king, desirous of having a new revelation, promised safety to the Prophet by an oath. He then swore that he would not take revenge, though he might be displeased with the Prophet’s answer he might indeed have conjectured, though Jeremiah had not expressly said anything, that the answer would be unfavorable, and by no means agreeable to his wishes. For if some pleasant and joyful oracle had been given to the Prophet, he would not have made a preface respecting his own danger, and the wrath of the king, and also respecting his obstinacy. Zedekiah then could have concluded, that nothing but what was sad could be expected. For this reason he made an oath, that whatever might be the answer, he would not be so offended as to cause any harm to the Prophet.

He said, I will not kill thee, nor deliver thee into the hand of those who seek thy life, that is, who are enemies to thy life: for to seek life is the same thing as to pursue man to death. It is a way of speaking that often occurs, especially in the Psalms. (<193812>Psalm 38:12; <194014>Psalm 40:14, 15.) Then he refers to the mortal enemies of Jeremiah: and he promises at the same time that he would, with undisturbed mind, receive whatever he might hear from the Prophet.

Let us notice the form of the oath, Live does Jehovah, who made for us this soul. He first made an oath by the life of God, that is, by the immortal God. The word yj, chi, when applied to God, denotes a life different from what is in men or in brute animals; for men live by the will of another, that is, while God gives them life. It belongs then to God alone to live, for we do not live, nor move, nor have any being but in him, as Paul says, in <441728>Acts 17:28; and hence he teaches us in another place, that God alone is immortal. (<540616>1 Timothy 6:16) At the same time comprehended in this word is everything that peculiarly belongs to God; for God does not live to enjoy ease and indulge in idleness, but to govern the universe, to exercise his power throughout heaven and earth, to judge men, to render to every one his own just reward. Then life in God is not an idle life, as ungodly men imagine, but includes his infinite power, justice, wisdom, and all that peculiarly belongs to him. Whenever then we speak of the life of God, let us know that we do not live but through him, and also that he does not sit idly and carelessly in heaven, but that he governs the whole world, and is the judge of men.

According to this meaning, then, Zedekiah said, Live does Jehovah, and then he added, who made for us this soul. He expresses more clearly what I have already stated, and it is the same as though he had offered his own life before God as a pledge. He then prayed for the punishment of perjury on himself; for when he made an oath by God, the giver of life, it was the same as though he had said, “Let my life be forfeited, if I deceive thee, or turn false.” We hence see what is the end of an oath, even that God’s sacred name may be for us a pledge, that our word may be relied on. It hence follows, that God’s name, whenever we swear, cannot be taken with impunity: for we expose our life to his judgement, that he may revenge the wrong done to him; for his name, as it is sufficiently known, is profaned by perjuries. It now follows —

<243817>Jeremiah 38:17

17. Then said Jeremiah unto Zedekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, if thou will assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burnt with fire; and thou shalt live, and thine house:

17. Tunc dixit Jeremias ad Zedechiam, Sic dicit Jehova, Deus exercituum, Deus Israel, Si egrediendo egressus fueris ad proceres regis Babylonis, vivet anima tua, et urbs ista non consumetur (non incendetur) igni, sed vives  tu et domus tua.

 

A question may be raised here, Whether God had again bidden his Prophet to repeat what he had so often spoken in vain? To this we cannot say anything certain, except that the probability is, that the Prophet did not open his mouth without being guided by the Holy Spirit. For though he had not received any new command, yet the Spirit of God influenced him, and ruled his tongue as well as his heart. We shall indeed presently find, that what was nigh at hand had been revealed to him; not what he had before, but it was added as a new confirmation of former doctrine. But this is only a probable conjecture; let then every one take his own view of the question.

That he might now gain credit to his answer, he prefaced it by saying, that he did not speak except from God’s mouth. He had often declared this, having testified that what he said was made known to him by God. But it is not now known whether he had been bidden to repeat the same things; though it is certain that he did not make a wrong use of God’s name, nor did he, without authority, assert that it was God’s word. The Spirit, therefore, as I have said, was his guide and ruler, though we may grant that he did not receive any divine command.

He calls God, the God of hosts, and the God of Israel. By the first title he denotes the omnipotence of God; and by the second, the covenant which he had made with the Jews. He then did set forth the immeasurable power of God, that he might make Zedekiah to fear; for hypocrites, though they are constrained to dread God’s name, yet afterwards do, in a manner, become hardened: it is therefore necessary to rouse them, as the Prophet did here. He then touched on the impiety of Zedekiah; for he not only professed himself to be one of God’s elect people, but he was also the king and head; he ruled over the heritage of the Lord. And yet he did not believe any of the prophecies. There is therefore implied a reprobation, when the Prophet says, the God of Israel.

A mitigation of punishment is added, provided Zedekiah willingly put his neck under the yoke. And it was no common mercy from God, that he could yet escape extreme punishment; for he was unworthy to be regarded by God, since for some years he had not attended to what he had heard from the mouth of Jeremiah, that he was to surrender himself, his people, and the city to the Chaldeans. he had refused, nay, he had been refractory and obstinate against God. We hence see, that he was unworthy of any alleviation; and yet God was still ready to forgive him, as to his life, provided he passed over, of his own accord, to the Chal-deans. And thus he was made more inexcusable, inasmuch as when he heard that God would be propitious if he submitted to due punishment, he was still unwilling to obey, as afterwards we shall see. And thus we see that Jeremiah had not said without reason, “If I give thee counsel, thou wilt not hear nor obey me;for the event proved this. This is one thing. Then he said, Thou shalt live; and in the first place, he said, Thy soul shall live; and then, This city shall not be burned, and thou shalt live; and he repeated the words, Thou shalt live, thou and thy house. Now follows the threatening —

<243818>Jeremiah 38:18

18. But if thou wilt not go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then shall this city be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and thou shalt not escape out of their hand.

18. Si vero non egressus fucris ad proceres regis Babylonis, tradetur urbs ista in manum Chaldaeorum, et exurent eam igni, et tu non evades e manu ipsorum.

 

The Prophet gave to the king the hope of pardon; not that he promised impunity, but that the king might at least hope that God would be merciful to him, if he anticipated his extreme vengeance. But as hypocrites are not easily moved when God allures them by the sweetness of his promises, hence a threatening is added, “Except thou deliverest thyself up,” says the Prophet, “to the. Chaldeans, thou shalt not escape, and the city shall be taken and burnt by the Chaldeans.”

Zedekiah might have had hope in part, and thus have found the mercy which God offered to him. As he had profited nothing in this respect, it was necessary, in another way, to arouse him, by setting before him the destruction of the city, and his own death. But he was not prevailed upon either by fear or by hope, to obey the advice of the Prophet. We hence see, that though he did not avowedly despise God, he was yet neither cold nor hot, but wished to be wholly spared. Hence then it was, that he rejected the favor offered to him by the Prophet. However his excuse follows —

<243819>Jeremiah 38:19

19. And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.

19. Et dixit rex Zedechias ad Jeremiam, Ego metuo (vel, crucior) ob Judaeos qui defecerunt ad Chaldaeos (vel, solitus sum, vel, timeo, et metuo Judaeos ipsos,) ne forte tradant me in manum ipsorum, et contumelia me afficiant (alii vertunt, illudant mihi.)

 

Zedekiah seems, here to have had a good reason why he should not immediately obey the Prophet. And often the best of the faithful openly set forth their anxieties, and we have seen that even the Prophet, when any apprehension of danger was entertained, sometimes mentioned it. It was not then a thing to be blamed, that Zedekiah ingenuously confessed that he was prevented by the fear of those who had revolted to the Chaldeans. For we know that subjects, having once cast off the yoke, and violated their pledged faith, conduct themselves in an insolent way; for they know that those to whom they have not performed their duty would be implacable to them. Zedekiah then was justly anxious, and his simplicity in explaining to the Prophet his fear, seemed worthy of an excuse, for he seemed to give some sign of obedience. But the event at length will shew us, that he was so bound by fear, that he refused the counsel of God and the Prophet. It often happens, as I have just said, that the faithful also fear, and thus vacillate or stand still, when God commands them anything hard and difficult, and they would willingly withdraw from the contest, but they at length obey God, and surrender their own thoughts, and submit in obedience to God. But Zedekiah so feared, fG3 that he could not partake of God’s goodness promised to him.

We hence see what the faithful have in common with the reprobate, and also how they differ from one another. At first the faithful fear as well as the unbelieving; they are anxious, they vacillate, and make known their perplexities: the unbelieving at the same time indulge themselves, and become hardened in their perverse purposes; but the faithful fight with themselves, and subject their thoughts to the will of God, and thus overcome fear by faith; they also crucify the flesh, and give themselves up wholly to God. We have seen the same thing before in the Prophet. But we shall now see the obstinacy of King Zedekiah, to which we have referred. Then Zedekiah feared lest the Jews, who had revolted to the Chaldeans, should treat him with insolence. The Prophet thus answered him —

<243820>Jeremiah 38:20-22

20. But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.

20. Tunc dixit Jeremias, Non tradent te, audi agedum vocem Jehovae quam tibi profero (quam ego loquar ad te,) et tibi erit bene (tibi bene cedat,) et vivet anima tua:

21. But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the Lord hath shewed me:

21. Quod si tu abnueris ad egrediendum (hoc est, recusaveris egredi,) hic est sermo quem ostendit mihi Jehova;

22. And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee; thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back.

22. Et ecce omnes mulieres, quae relictae fuerint in domo regis Jehudah egrediuntur ad proceres regis Babylonis, et ecce ipsae dicent, Suaserunt tibi (alii, deceperunt te, vel, subduxerunt) et praevaluerunt tibi viri pacis tuae; defixi sunt in luto pedes tui, conversi sunt retrorsum.

 

Here again Jeremiah strengthens Zedekiah, that he might not hesitate to make the trial, since God would yet give him pardon, so that at least his chastisement would be paternal and light He then promised to Zedekiah that he would be safe from all the insults about which he was anxious. They will not deliver thee, he says; as though he had said, “Leave this to God’s providence, resign thyself to God, and doubt not but that he will keep thee safe.” God, in his kindness, as I have said, allows the faithful to cast their cares into his bosom: but at the same time, if any disobey, when he confirms them, it is a sign of deliberate wickedness, and such perverseness extinguishes all the light of grace. Such was the stupidity of Zedekiah, that he did not accept of this second promise. He might indeed have confessed his fear, but he ought also to have received the remedy. The Prophet assured him that his life would be safe in God’s hand; what more could he have wished? But this was said to no purpose, because fear fully occupied his mind, so that there was no entrance for the promise. Now this ought to be carefully noticed; for there are none of us whom many cares do not disturb, and many fears do not perplex; but a place ought to be given to a remedy. God succors us when he sees us distressed by anxious thoughts; but if fear so prevails, that all the promises by which God raises us up avail nothing, it is a sign of hopeless unbelief.

It afterwards follows, Hear the voice of Jehovah, which I utter to you, that it may be well with thee, and that thy soul, may live. The promise is again added, to lead Zedekiah to submit more willingly to God. For though we know that we cannot escape his power, it will yet be dreaded by us, except he favors us with the promises of grace. In this way, then, the Prophet endeavored to lead Zedekiah to render obedience to God: Hear, he says, the voice of Jehovah, that it may be well with thee. He shewed that it was yet in the power of Zedekiah to provide for his own safety, if on]y he obeyed the word of God. And this passage teaches us, that the Prophet had not spoken thoughtlessly and in vain, but under the guidance and teaching of God’s Spirit For though it may not have been, that he had received a new command, he yet knew that it was God’s will, that he should confirm and reassert the previous oracles; for he did not falsely assume God’s name, when he bade Zedekiah to hear God’s voice which he had made known.

Now, though this discourse was especially directed to Zedekiah, we may yet conclude, that it is always for our good to embrace whatever God declares to us, though it may apparently be hard and unpleasant, as it was to Zedekiah; for it was by no means an agreeable thing to him to deliver up himself to his enemies, to be deprived of his regal power, to be drawn into exile, and from a king to become a slave; and yet nothing was better for him, in order to save his life, than to obey God. Though, then, the words of God contain what is contrary and grievous to our flesh, yet let us feel persuaded that God always speaks what is good for our salvation. It would then have been well for Zedekiah, had he obeyed the counsel of the Prophet; for he would have found in captivity that God would be propitious to him, and this would have been an invaluable comfort; and then he might have been brought back from exile, at least he would have preserved the city and the Temple: but by his obstinacy he betrayed the city to his enemies, and hence it was also that the Temple was burnt.

He then adds, If thou refuse to go forth, this is the word which God hath shewed to me. Jeremiah again declares that Zedekiah resisted in vain, because he kicked, as it is said, against the goad, for he could not possibly escape from coming into the hand of his enemies; which, when done, then neither the city nor the Temple would be spared. But the Prophet repeats again, that it had been shewn to him what to speak, he then spoke not in his own name, but by God’s command; which, it may be, was not then given him: but the Prophet knew that God’s decree, of which he had been the herald, could not be abolished. He then says, that this word had been shewed to him by God, even what follows —

Behold, the women who as yet remain in the palace of the king, shall go forth to the princes of the king of Babylon, that is, having left the city they will betray thee to thine enemies; and they shall say, The men of thy peace have deceived thee, or persuaded thee, and have prevailed; thus fixed in the mire are thy feet, and they have turned backward. There is here a part stated for the whole, for under one thing is included the whole calamity of the city. We indeed know that the female sex do not stand in the ranks to fight, and that when a city is taken, women are commonly spared. When, therefore, the Prophet says, Go forth shall women who are yet remaining in the king’s palace, it is the same thing as if he had said, “Even the women shall be compelled to go forth to the enemies, and give themselves up into their power; what then will become of the men, when such shall be the hard condition of the women?”

We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet: Go forth then shall women, that is, when the city is taken, the women in the palace shall be drawn forth from their hiding-places, and be constrained to appear before their enemies. And then he adds, and, behold, they shall say, etc. He used the particle hnh, ene, twice, in order to lead Zedekiah into the very scene itself; for it is necessary thus to rouse those who are torpid in their apathy. And, behold, he says, they will say. Here Jeremiah declares that women would be witnesses to bear testimony to the folly of the king, and also to the wickedness and obstinacy of the princes, as though he had said, “Thou wilt not obey me to-day, and thy counsel-lors also pertinaciously resist; God has already pronounced judgment on you: ye despise, and regard it as nothing: God will at length rouse up women, who will openly proclaim thy folly, O king, and the perverseness of thy counselors, for having despised all the prophecies.”

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou daily invitest us to repentance by constant exhortations, we may seriously reflect on thy goodness, and in due time return to thee and submit to thy will, and never refuse to undergo the punishment thou layest on us; and that we may not in the meantime so provoke thy extreme vengeance, as to find thee a rigorous judge, but ever experience, even under punishment, thy paternal mercy, until we shall at length come to the fullness of that joy which is laid up in heaven for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fiftieth

We, were obliged yesterday to break off where the Prophet said to King Zedekiah that women would be his judges, and that for a heavier reproach to him, because he refused to believe the oracles of God. Though the Prophet had often exhorted him to repent, he had yet refused all his admonitions. Therefore Jeremiah here declares that he would have to bear the punishment he had deserved, even that the very women would openly speak of his folly and of the perfidy of all the princes. They shall then say, They have persuaded or seduced thee, as some read, and others, “have driven thee,” which I should prefer, were it the common meaning, for it immediately follows, and have prevailed over thee; but we may simply take it in its proper sense, because they had perfidiously persuaded the king.

He calls them the men of peace, from whom acts of kindness might have been expected. We indeed know that friends and associates were thus called by the Hebrews. Peace does not only mean unity, but what is more, even friendship, such as ought to be between a king and his counselors. Jeremiah, no doubt, sought in this case to try whether Zedekiah was yet capable of being recovered; for he foretells that women would announce this as from a judicial throne; but as I have said yesterday, and as we shall hereafter see, he spoke to the deaf.

It is then added, Fixed are thy feet in the mire. This is to be taken metaphorically. He might have secured his own life, had he passed over to the enemy, and thus a willing surrender might have been, as it were, the price for his liberation; but he chose rather to live in his own nest: and the Prophet says that this torpor would be like clay, in which he would he fixed. What follows, turned are they backward, is, in my judgment, improperly applied to the princes. I read the words in connection with the former, Fixed are thy feet in the clay, turned backward; for everything happened to the king contrary to what he hoped. fG4 It follows —

<243823>Jeremiah 38:23

23. So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon; and thou shalt cause this city to be burnt with fire.

23. Et omnes uxores tuas et filios tuos deducent ad Chaldaeos, et tu non evades e manu eorum, quia in manu regis Babylonis comprehenderis, et urbem hanc combures igni.

 

Jeremiah pursues the same subject; but he sets forth at large the calamity, that the king being at least frightened with horror, might submit to a right counsel; for when we hear that death is at hand, this indeed fills us with horror; and when many evils are mentioned, we must necessarily be roused; and this, no doubt, was what the Prophet looked for. Then he says that Zedekiah would come into the hands of his enemies, hut he adds other indignities, which would bring greater bitterness, They shall draw out, he says, all thy wives and thy children, etc. Had Zedekiah been right-minded, he would have preferred to die a hundred times, and thus to have died for them all, than to have been the cause of so many evils. For we know that many have boldly exposed themselves to danger in defending the chastity of their wives; and doubtless such a reproach is far harder to be endured by ingenuous minds than a hundred deaths. We hence see what was the design of the Prophet; for he saw that Zedekiah could not be sufficiently roused by merely setting his own death before him, hence he added other circumstances, calculated to affect him still more, They shall draw out, he says, thy wives and thy children.

We hence learn how conjugal fidelity was then with impunity violated. It was, we know, an ancient evil, but it had now passed into general practice, so that it was, as it were, the common law: and yet what God had once established continued unchanged, even that every man should have only his own wife. As, then, polygamy had so prevailed and had become so licentious among the Jews, we see that the fear of God was in fact extinguished and all regard to purity. More liberty was indeed allowed to kings, but they were not on that account to be excused, because their life ought to have been an example to others, a mirror of uprightness and chastity. When, therefore, they married a number of wives, it became an intolerable evil. And now when mention is made of all the wives, we conclude that the king had not only three or four wives or concubines, but a large number, that he might gratify his lust. hence then we learn how great was the corruption of that age. It is also a wonder that the king was thus given to his lusts, and not brought back to some degree of moderation when necessity itself constrained him. We hence see that he must have been extremely insensible in retaining so many concubines, when his only city was hardly safe, and the whole country in the possession of enemies. But thus perverse men despise God and his scourges. For though all confess, according to the common proverb, that necessity is a mistress whom all are forced to obey, yet the greater part struggle with necessity itself, as we see was the case with Zedekiah, who refused to bend or turn, though very poor and miserable, and who suffered nothing of his royal pomp and splendor to be diminished. Hence it was that he had a large number of wives or concubines, as mentioned here.

It then follows, This city shalt thou burn with fire. It is certain that the torch was not applied by Zedekiah, nor was he the agent in the burning. But the Prophet reminded him that the cause of all the evils might justly be attributed to his obstinacy; as though he had said, that the Chaldeans would indeed be the authors of the burning, as they would with their own hands set the houses on fire, and yet that the first and the chief fault would be in Zedekiah himself, because he obstinately resisted God. fG5

But as to the women, this brief notice must be added: other kings, indeed, had been very dissolute; but God now applied the remedy when the court was purged from all its old filth. For with Jeconiah, we know, the royal dignity ceased; and the city was exposed to plunder; and yet some concubines remained; and these passed as by hereditary right to other kings, as they succeeded to the wives as to the kingdom. But when wickedness became incorrigible, all the concubines were taken away also. It was then a sign of final destruction. It follows —

<243824>Jeremiah 38:24

24. Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die.

24. Et dixit Zedechias ad Jeremias, Vir nesciat (hoc est, nemo sciat) de sermonibus istis, et non morieris (hoc est, ne moriaris.)

 

Here is seen the miserable condition of the king. Had he no faith in the answer of Jeremiah, he would not have thus feared. But he acknowledged that what he had heard from the mouth of the Prophet was true. In the meanwhile he delayed and extended time as far as he could, and chose rather to spend his life in trembling than to be immediately freed from all care and anxiety. This was by no means to act like a king; for had he any courage, he would not have waited to the last hour. We indeed know that men of courage boldly meet death, when they see no hope of honor remaining. Zedekiah had lost his authority; he held indeed the title of a king, but he was without power; for he was compelled servilely to obey his counselors; and now he feared his own shadow, and yet protracted time, as I have said, as much as he could; and on this account he requested the Prophet, that this conversation might remain as buried.

By saying, thou shalt not die, he did not threaten the Prophet, but intimated that silence would not be less a benefit to Jeremiah than to himself: “Thou wilt rouse the fury of all against thyself, if thou speakest of this interview, for no one can bear to hear anything of the ruin of the city: if then thou consultest thine own benefit, say not a word of this, and let it not come to the people nor to my counselors.” Under the color of an advice then he said to Jeremiah, See lest thou die. fG6 He therefore did not speak threateningly.

<243825>Jeremiah 38:25-26

25. But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee:

25. Et si audierint proceres quod loquutus fuerim tecum, et venerint ad te, et dixerint tibi, Expone (vel, narra) nunc nobis quod loquutus fueris ad regem, ne celes a nobis (hoc est, ne celes nos quicquam,) et non occidemus te, et quid locutus sit tecum rex:

26. Then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house, to die there.

26. Et tunc, (copula enim resolvi debet in adverbium temporis, tunc) dices illis, Prostravi ego preces meas coram facie regis (hoc est, suppliciter deprecatus sum regem,) ne reduceret me in domum Jonathan, ut morerer illic.

 

Here again Zedekiah shews his anxiety, lest Jeremiah should be apprehended, were the princes unexpectedly to assail him; for he might in this respect have stumbled, though admonished. Then the king intimated to him what to answer, in case the counselors came to him and made inquiry respecting their intercourse. He then advised him simply to say, that he entreated him not to send him back to the filthy pit, where he almost perished. The miserable servitude of the king appears now still evident; for he feared his own counselors, lest they should revolt from him. he might easily have made a spontaneous surrender of himself, but he dared not, lest he should be killed by them in a tumult; and yet, on the other hand, he feared lest the princes should despise him, and so redeem themselves by the sacrifice of his life.

We see in what straits he was, but God rendered to him a just recompense for his obstinacy. It was indeed a miserable thing to hear that the king’ was thus oppressed on every side, but the cause of all this ought ever to be borne in mind; which was, that he had despised God and his Prophet. He then deserved to be in this state of anxiety, to fear death on every side, and not to be able to extricate himself from those cares and perplexities which tormented him.

Let us then learn to cast all our cares on God, so that our life may be safe, and that we may have calm and tranquil minds: otherwise what is written in the Law must necessarily happen to us,

“Our life will hang on a thread, so that we shall say in the morning, Who will give us to see the evening? and in the evening, How can we live to the morning?” (<052866>Deuteronomy 28:66, 67)

Lest then the same thing happen to us as to this miserable king, let us learn to re-cumb on God, for this is the only way to obtain peace.

For though Zedekiah set before Jeremiah the danger which he might bring on himself, if he confessed what took place between them, he yet had a regard no doubt to his own safety, for his care for the Prophet was not very great. If, then, he says, the princes will hear that I have spoken to him, etc. We see here, that as kings very curiously inquire into the sayings and actions of all, so they in their turn are exposed to innumerable spies, who observe all their secret proceedings. Zedekiah, as we have already seen, left his palace, sought some secret place, and at the third entrance called to him Jeremiah. This place might be deemed in some measure secret, yet he knew that he was observed even by his own servants.

Thus kings, while they seek immoderate splendor, renounce the main good, which ought to be preferred to all other things. For it is commonly said that liberty is an invaluable gift, and it is very true: but were we to seek for liberty among mankind, we should by no means find it in courts; for all there are slaves, and slavery begins with the most elevated. Kings, then, while they thus seek from their height to look down on all mankind, are placed, as it were, in a theater, and the eyes of all turn to them, so that no liberty remains for them; and they who hang on their favor are also in constant fear. This, then, ought to be noticed by us; for there is no one who does not seek splendor; but yet we know how anxious is the life of princes. Their external appearance is indeed very flattering; but we do not see what inward torments harass them. When, therefore, it is said of Zedekiah, that he could not have a secret conference, it hence appears that kings are by no means free.

He says, “Though they promise thee impunity, trust them not.” Zedekiah feared lest the Prophet should be too credulous, and should freely relate to the counselors what he had said. But he no doubt had reflected on the fact, that the Prophet had already announced the destruction of the city. He then could have hardly hoped for the silence which he required. Hence then it was, that he so earnestly bid him to be careful; and though the counselors should promise that there would be no danger to him, he yet bade him to be silent. Say to them, he said, I humbly prayed the king not to send me back to the house of Jonathan, that I might not die there. It was not indeed a falsehood, but this evasion cannot be wholly excused. The Prophet justly feared, and, as we have before seen, he was perplexed and anxious, for that prison was horrible, and it would have been better at once to die than to have been thus buried alive in the earth. But it is certain that he did not come to the king for this purpose, for he had been sent for. Though, then, the Prophet did not expressly or in so many words say what was false, yet it was a kind of falsehood; and what follows, in reference to himself, cannot be excused.

<243827>Jeremiah 38:27

27. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him: and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they left off speaking with him; for the matter was not perceived.

27. Et venerunt cuncti proceres ad Jeremiam, et interrogarunt ipsum; et annuntiavit illis (hoc est, narravit illis) secundum sermones istos, quemadmodum praeceperat rex, et siluerunt ab eo, quia sermo non fuit auditus.

 

Here, indeed, the Prophet confesses that he did as the king had commanded him; but he does not commend what he had done. There is no doubt but that on the one hand he placed before his eyes the timidity of the king, who, being forgetful of plain dealing, slavishly feared his own counselors; and that., on the other hand, he manifested that he was not sufficiently discreet, for when the princes came, even if he wished not to deceive them, he yet concealed the main thing, and said that he went to the king to pray for his own life, which was not true. Though then what he said was in part true, that he prayed not. to be sent back to prison, yet he could not by this evasion be wholly exempted from blame.

In short, we see that even God’s servants have sometimes spoken evasively, when oppressed with extreme fear; and thus we are reminded to seek of God magnanimity of mind and resolute firmness; for he alone can strengthen and sustain us when we are terrified by any fear of danger.

He says, that he did as the king had commanded him; but he ought rather to have hearkened to God’s word, in which simplicity is enjoined. It is also said, that the princes were silent, that is, departed in silence; for no one had been a witness to the conference, and the matter had not spread farther; for the king was silent through fear, and the Prophet also had not made known the secret interview. Hence it was that the princes departed, and thought that the matter was as represented. In short, Jeremiah intimates that they were deceived by this pretext. It follows at last, —

<243828>Jeremiah 38:28

28. So Jeremiah abode in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken: and he was there when Jerusalem was taken.

28. Et habitavit Jeremias in atrio custodiae, usque ad diem quo capta fuit Jerusalem; et accidit secundum quod capta fuit Jerusalem.

 

Some render the last words simply thus, “And it happened that Jerusalem was taken;” and others, “It happened accordingly that Jerusalem was taken;but this seems unnatural. Others take the relative as a demonstrative pronoun, and of this I approve, “For it happened that according to this Jerusalem was taken.”

He first says that he dwelt in the court of the prison. It hence appears that he was not even then at liberty; for though the king wished him to be free, yet he dared not to release him. This is one thing. Then he says, that he was there until the day the city was taken. We shall hereafter see that he was saved by the king’s command, and was brought out of prison. He was, then, until that day in the court of the prison, as though he had said, that he was a prisoner until the king was taken prisoner, together with his counselors, and also until the day the whole city was taken. And here we may see, as in a vivid form, the wonderful judgment of God. As long as the Jews boasted that they offered sacrifices to God, they kept Jeremiah shut up in prison, so that he was not a free man until the king was taken, the city perished, and almost all were driven into exile. I have no doubt but that he added the following by way of explanation, And it happened that according to this Jerusalem was taken; that is, he reminds readers in these words, that he had not been a false Prophet, but a true and faithful witness as to God’s judgment, for all his prophecies were verified by the event. fG7 He then says that the city was taken, not by chance, but because God had so declared. He now begins to narrate historically the destruction and the burning of the city. He therefore says, —


CHAPTER 39

<243901>Jeremiah 39:1-2

1. In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.

1. Anno nono Zedechiae regis Jehudah, mense decimo venit Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis et totus exercitus ejus Jerosolymam, et obsiderunt eam.

2. And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.

2. In undecimo anno Zedechiae, mense quarto, nona mensis, disrupta fuit urbs.

 

Jeremiah seems here indeed to undertake the office of an historian rather than that of a Prophet; but he seals his previous prophecies, and at the same time shews that he had brought forward nothing rashly or thoughtlessly. There is, then, here a proof of a]l his former doctrine; he brings before us the reality, and shews that whatever he had predicted was accomplished by God’s hand, and in a manner almost incredible. We now understand what this chapter contains.

he says that King Nebuchadnezzar came, though he soon departed from the siege, for, as we shall presently see, he went to Riblah, which, as some think, was the Antioch of Syria; but of this we shall speak in its proper place. When, therefore, the king came with his army, he soon departed, and his purpose was to live at leisure, and in the enjoyment of pleasures as long as the city was besieged, he was not disposed to undertake the trouble and weariness of a long warfare; but yet, in order to spread more terror, he came himself to the City and gave instructions to his army.

We must notice the time: he came in the ninth year, in the tenth month, that is about the end of the year. Zedekiah, no doubt, entertained a good hope, though reports were flying as to the coming of the Chaldean army; for the king had not so soon prepared for the war as he ought to have done. he thought that his revolt from the king of Babylon would be passed by unpunished. But the Prophet here reminds us that it was a false confidence; for though God spared him for a time and suspended his judgment, he yet at length punished the impiety of his revolt, to which was also added ingratitude, as it has been before stated. Thus much as to the ninth year and the tenth month.

It then follows, In the eleventh year, in the fourth month, the city was broken up. We hence see that the city was besieged for a year and half; for there was the whole of the tenth year, and then added must be two months of the ninth year and four months of the eleventh year; and thus a year and half was the whole time. Here also we must remember how much the Jews must have suffered; for were a city at this day to bear a siege for a few months, it would appear a rare instance of valor; but Jerusalem was besieged for a year and half. Let us now consider what number of people must have been there, and we have seen that the Prophet threatened them with famine. And how much scarcity there was in the city, the Prophet has not only testified elsewhere, but in the book of Lamentations he has shewed most fully. (<250410>Lamentations 4:10.) And there was not only famine, but it was followed by pestilence. We hence learn how ferocious must have been the character of the king, that he could see miserable men perishing by scores, and yet persist in his obstinacy. Nor is there a doubt but that the people were also on their part obstinate, and became at length stupefied through their sufferings; for there was hardly one, from the least to the greatest, who did not despise what the Prophet taught; and thus they were all blinded by madness and stupidity.

It ought to be noticed that they bore a siege for a year and six months, and that they were not even then persuaded to surrender themselves, until the city was broken up, that is, until the walls were beaten down by battering-rams and other warlike engines; for the city was broken when the wall, beaten by the engines, fell down. In short, the city was gained by storm; this is what is meant, and will hereafter be more fully expressed. But I cannot proceed further now.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are surrounded by so many dangers, and bring on ourselves daily, through our sins, so many miseries, — O grant, that we may at least yield to thy threatenings, and learn in due time to seek thy favor and to anticipate thy judgment, and so to humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, that we may find thee propitious to us miserable sinners, who flee to thy mercy, until, having at length been freed from all our sins, we shall appear before thy tribunal, and there receive the reward of our faith, even that blessed immortality, which thine only-begotten Son, our Lord, has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-First

<243903>Jeremiah 39:3-4

3. And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergal-sharezer, Samgar-nebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.

3. Et ingressi sunt omnes duces regis Babylonis, et sederunt in porta media, Neregal, Sarezer, Samegar, Nebusarzechin Rabsaris, Neregal, Sarezer, Rabmag, et residuum ducum (hoc est, et alii duces) regis Babylonis.

4. And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king’s garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.

4. Et factum est cum vidisset eos Zedechias rex Jehudah, et omnes viri militares, tunc aufugerunt, et egressi sunt ex urbe noctu per viam horti regis ad portam inter duos muros, et egressus est per viam deserti.

 

IT is proved here that the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled; so that it became really evident that he had not spoken unadvisedly, but from the mouth of God. And thus was fulfilled also what is said as a common proverb, that fools become wise too late; for they never obey good and wise counsels while they may, but at length they are made to know by their own miseries and their teacher, experience, that what they despised is true, but without any benefit. This happened to Zedekiah, who had been often exhorted by the Prophet to surrender himself to King Nebuchadnezzar. As, then, he had obstinately refused the yoke, he was at length constrained to reap the fruit of his obstinacy.

Now Jeremiah says, that the princes of King Nebuchadnezzar, that is, those he had set over his forces, entered the city, the wall being broken down, and sat in the middle gate; for it was necessary for them to be wary, lest there should be ambushes; and even conquerors do not immediately penetrate into every part when a city is taken, but search whether all the places be free from enemies. This then was done by the leaders of the army, for they stood in the middle gate, that they might exercise authority over the city, and yet be safe from all ambushes. Jeremiah mentions some of them by name, but it is uncertain whether he adds a surname to some of them. But as this is doubtful and is of no great moment, it is enough for us that the chief of the leaders are named, in order to accredit the narrative.

he then adds, After Zedekiah saw them, etc.; not that he came to that part, but after he understood that that part of the city was occupied by the enemies; for matters then had come to an extremity. Then he fled with his men of war. And here is set before us a sad spectacle: men in no way trained up for war were left in the city, women also and children were left there, while the men of war fled, inasmuch as their condition was worse, because they had delayed the taking of the city. It was then according to what is commonly done, that they fled. We yet see that ungodly men, after having long despised heavenly truth, flee in time of danger, and are so filled with terror, that they cast themselves headlong into many perils. This is a just reward to those who are not terrified by the threatenings of God, but become so hardened, that they too late acknowledge that they ought to have feared; and being, as it were, stunned, they see not what is expedient, and cannot follow any fixed course.

The Prophet adds, that they fled in the night, and that they went out by the way of the king’s garden, and lastly, that they came to the gate which was between the two walls. There is in this passage nothing superfluous; for he meant to shew us, that though the king thought that he could escape from the hands of his enemies, he was yet taken, as God had predicted. For, if after the city was taken, he had come as a suppliant, of his own accord, he might probably have obtained mercy; and this counsel, we know, was given while the state of things was not yet desperate; but he put no faith in God’s word. In the meantime he thought that he could disappoint his enemies, if he quickly fled through some secret way. Some think that there was a subterranean passage, which had a door in the middle of the garden, and had also an egress at the other end in the plain of Jericho, as we shall hereafter see. And that region was barren, and therefore solitary. Hence the king entertained confidence; but he found, at length, how certain was prophetic truth; for it is said afterwards, that the Chaldeans followed and took him. But this circumstance, as I have said, ought to be carefully observed, that the king, as the Prophet tells us, fled. through a secret way, during the darkness of the night, and escaped. It now follows —

<243905>Jeremiah 39:5

5. But the Chaldeans’ army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah, in the land of Ha-math, where he gave judgment upon him.

5. Et persecuti sunt exercitus Chaldaeorum ipsos, et apprehenderunt Zedechiam in desertis Jericho (alii vertunt, in planicie, et fuit planicies; coeterum ut dixi, inculta, et squalida et vacua etiam incolis;) et tulerunt ipsum, et adduxerunt ad Nebuchadnezer regem Babylonis Riblathah (urbem) in terra Chemath, qui locutus est cum ipso judicia.

 

The Chaldeans pursued the fugitive king, no doubt, through a hidden impulse from above. It is, indeed, probable that he was betrayed by his own people; and this often happens in a disturbed state of things; but however, he might have escaped, had he not been given up by the hand of God. These things are therefore narrated, that we may know that the ungodly, by their evasions, gain no other thing than really to acknowledge that God is true ill his threatenings as well as in his promises. They believe not his word, it is therefore necessary that they should be convinced by actual experience. Zedekiah then is here set before us as an example, so that we may know that as soon as God announces any calamity, we ought to tremble and to humble ourselves under his mighty hand, for he holds us on every side completely shut up, so that if hiding places and refuges be open before us, they can yet avail us nothing.

The Prophet then tells us, that he was taken in the deserts of Jericho. This circumstance also is important, for he had gone forth beyond the sight of men, even into solitude; for that plain was not so fruitful as to support many inhabitants, but it was as it were a desert. It is then a wonder how the Chaldeans found him in that solitude, but they had God, as it were, as their guide. Hence then it was, that Zedekiah fell into the hands of the Chaldean army. The Prophet adds, that they brought him into Riblah, which is thought to have been Antioch. It is also called Hemath; but this name designated the country and not the city. And yet in <300602>Amos 6:2, it means the city, when it is said,

“Go to Calneh, go to Hemath the great.”

But it may be, that the dignity of the city was the reason why the country was so called; and no doubt Pliny, in his fifth book, calls that part of Syria Antiochean; and as to what he says shortly before, that Antioch was that part of Syria toward Cilicia, that place seems to me to have been corrupted. I rather read thus, that it was a part of Syria, for, as I have said, he calls it Antiochean. And it was not unsuitable that the city should be called Hemath and Riblah, and that the name of the city should be given to the country. Interpreters indeed agree, that Riblah was Antioch. Jerome says, that in his day, the first station towards Chaldea still retained its ancient name, though, by changing some letters, they called it Emmaus. But he doubts not but it was Antioch, which was formerly called Epidaphne, and had also the name of Hemath. There then Zedekiah was brought to Nebuchadnezzar, who spoke judgments with him, that is, who brought him as a criminal before his tribunal, that he might pronounce sentence upon him; for to speak judgments means the same as to minister justice or to pass judgment.

Now this was very inconsistent with royal dignity, for though, as a conqueror, he was angry with his enemy, he might yet have been content with his death alone. Kings are not wont to deal in this way with kings, for they respect themselves, and are not disposed to degrade royal dignity. But Jeremiah says, that Zedekiah was by no means dealt with royally; for he was constrained to plead guilty, and was condemned by a solemn sentence. Then to speak judgments is the same as what we call in French former proces criminel. And this indignity increased the weight of his calamity and his punishment; for Zedekiah not only had to bear many reproaches, while the king of Babylon expostu-lated with him, but he was also brought to judgment, so that punishment, according to the common practice, was allotted to him. For Nebuchadnezzar had made him king, and imposed tribute on him. He therefore condemned him as guilty of perfidy and perjury. This is the degradation which the Prophet points out, when he says, that he spoke judgments with him, or acted towards him judicially; and he repeats the same expression in the last chapter. It follows —

<243906>Jeremiah 39:6

6. Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.

6. Et occidit rex Babylonis filios Zedechiae in Riblathah coram oculis ejus; et omnes nobiles Jehudah occidit rex Babylonis.

 

It is probable that Nebuchadnezzar continued in that pleasant city while Jerusalem was attacked, for he would not endure the weariness of a long siege, and he also wished to be far away from danger. It was enough for him that his generals, of whom mention is made, fought under his banner. Nebuchadnezzar then was beyond the reach of danger, and yet he filled the Jews with terror, because he did not return home, or to the principal seat of government, but remained in the neighborhood; for the Antioch of Syria was not far from Judea.

The Prophet now tells us how cruelly Nebuchadnezzar acted towards Zedekiah. It was surely a sad spectacle to see a king, who had been before in repute, who was of a noble family, who was a type of Christ, lying prostrate at the feet of a proud conqueror. But much more bitter to him than this, was to see his own sons killed before his eyes. It would have been better for him to die a hundred times than to be compelled to witness that slaughter. He was, however, compelled to do so. And then, that all hope might be cut off, all those who excelled in dignity and power were slain. For under the name princes, Jeremiah generally in-eluded the chief men; so that all who had any name among the people were killed. It was a horrible carnage! not only the king’s sons were slain, but all who were capable of restoring the city and the land to a better condition. Thus Nebuchadnezzar wished to take away every hope, by putting to death the royal family and all the nobles. It afterwards follows —

<243907>Jeremiah 39:7

7. Moreover, he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.

7. Et oculos Zedechiae excaecavit, et vinxit eum cathenis (in duali numero, duabus cathenis,) ut adduceret ipsum Babylonem.

 

Here was an accumulation of misery: the king had his eyes pulled out, fG8 after having been a spectator of the slaughter of his own sons! He then saw heaped together the dead bodies of his own offspring and of all his nobles. After that slaughter he was made blind. His life was, no doubt, prolonged to him, that he might die, as it were, by little and little, according to what a notorious tyrant has said. And thus Nebuchadnezzar intended to kill him a hundred and a thousand times, and not at once to put him to death, for death removes man from all the miseries of the present life. That Zedekiah remained alive, was then a much harder condition.

And this has been recorded that we may know, that as he had been so long obstinate against God, the punishment inflicted on him was long protracted; for he had not sinned through levity or want of thought, or some hidden impulse, but hardened himself against every truth and all counsels. It was therefore just that he should die by little and little, and not be killed at once. This was the reason why the king of Babylon pulled out his eyes.

The Prophet says in the last place, that he was bound with chains, and that he was in this miserable condition led into Babylon. This reproach was an addition to his blindness: he was bound with chains as a criminal. It would have been better for him to have been taken immediately to the gallows, or to have been put to death in any way; but it was the design of Nebuchadnezzar, that he should lead a miserable life in this degraded state, and be a public example of what perfidy deserved. It follows, —

<243908>Jeremiah 39:8

8. And the Chaldeans burnt the king’s house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.

8. Et domum regis et domum populi combusserunt Chaldaei igni, et muros Jerusalem diruerunt.

 

Here also the Prophet shews that whatever he had predicted was fulfilled, so that nothing was wanting to render faith sure and fixed. He had said, as we have seen, that if Zedekiah surrendered himself of his own accord, the houses in the city would not be burnt. Zedekiah thought this all vain, or at least he closed up his ears. He now heard, though he was blind, that God had declared nothing in vain by the mouth of Jeremiah; for his palace was burnt, and also all the other houses.

He put tyb, bith, in the second clause, the singular for the plural; and so there is here an enallage, for it was not only one house of the people that was burnt, but the fire consumed all the houses. We at last come to the walls, which were beaten down; and thus the city was destroyed as Jeremiah had predicted. It follows, —

<243909>Jeremiah 39:9

9. Then Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard carried away captive into Babylon the remnant of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to him, with the rest of the people that remained.

9. Residuum vero populi qui superstites erant in urbe, et elapsos (hoc est, defectores,) qui defecerant ad ipsum (nempe, ad Nebuchadnezer,) et residuum populi qui relicti fuerant (qui fuerant superstites, idem nomen repetitur) transtulit Nabuzardan princeps interfectorum Babylonem.

 

The Prophet now relates also what happened to others, even those who remained in the city, and whom Nebuchadnezzar and his army had spared: he says that they were brought to Babylon. There were those who had fled and went over to the Chaldeans before the city was taken; for we have seen that so great was the despair of many, that they revolted, and those were they whom Zedekiah chiefly feared, lest he should be, as we have seen, an object of mockery to them, had he gone to the Chaldeans and made a willing surrender. Jeremiah now says that those also were led into Chaldea. Nebuchadnezzar might have removed them on this account, because he could not confide in traitors. He had found out their inconstancy, for they had revolted from their own real and legitimate king. As then they had. thus once violated their faith, he could not but regard them with suspicion, and therefore removed them, lest they should afterwards attempt something new, and create disturbance; or, it may be, that it was done according to their request, because they feared lest, after the departure of the Chal-deans, the common people should rage against them, as they had helped the enemies, and thus had become perfidious and ungrateful towards their own country. It might then be, that they themselves had made this request, and that it was granted them: they might then live quietly in a far country, but they could not be safe in Judea. However, whatever may have been the reason, Jeremiah tells us, that they were led with the rest into Babylon and Chaldea.

he afterwards names the head or general of the army, even Nebuzaradan, whom he calls the prince of the killers, or of the cooks. The Greek translators have rendered it ajrcima>geiron, the prince of the cooks, who at this day is called Grand Master in the courts of princes. But their opinion is more probable, who render the words, the prince of the killers. The verb jbf, thebech, means to slay, to kill, and to kill men as well as to slay beasts; and for this reason some have applied it to cookery. But as Nebuzaradan is mentioned here as the chief among military men, the probability is that he was the judge of all capital offenses in the army. fG9 Hence Jeremiah names him when he says that they were removed who remained in the city.

But there seems to be here an unnecessary repetition, as he mentions twice, the rest of the people which remained. There is, however, a difference, for in the first clause he says, in the city. He then means those who had been besieged, and whom Nebuchadnezzar had pardoned so as not to put them to death. The last clause embraces more, even all the inhabitants of the land; for there were many scattered abroad, on whom Nebuchadnezzar might have vented his rage, but he removed them as slaves into Chaldea. Then our Prophet speaks here of these two parties, for he says that there were some remaining in the city, and that others were remaining, even those who were found scattered through various parts of the country, and had not been besieged by the Chaldean army. He afterwards adds, —

<243910>Jeremiah 39:10

10. But Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard left of the poor of the people, which had nothing, in the land of Judah, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

10. Et ex populo pauperes, quibus nihil quicquam erat, reliquos fecit Nabuzardan, princeps interfectorum, in terra Jehudah, et dedit illis vites et agros in die isto.

 

He now adds, that some were left to inhabit the land, even the poor and those who had nothing. He says that these were made, as it were, the lords of the land when the Chal-deans returned into their own country. We here see that poverty is often an advantage, for the nobles, as we have seen, were killed, and many also of the middle class were killed in the siege of the city, and some of them were treated a little more humanely. Still the exiles were miserable, and driven to a distant land without any hope of return. The land was now left to the poor alone; and those who possessed not’ a foot of ground before, lived now very comfortably; for they were not so large a number, but that each of them had some extent of land, as we shall hereafter see. While then these miserable men, who before lived very scantily, and perhaps begged their bread, while these remained secure in the land of Judah, the possessors of the land were torn away and driven into exile; and as Nebuzaradan had assigned to each of them vineyards and fields, it hence appears how much better it was for them to have suffered hunger for a time, to have been in an ignoble condition, and to have been trodden as it were under foot by others, than to have lived in pomp and splendor. Thus often God shews his care for us, when he suffers us not to rise high, but keeps us in an obscure and humble condition; and the issue at length proves that he thus had a regard for our salvation.

At the same time there is here set before our eyes a woeful change. The king is led bound in chains, and is also blind; and all the rest having left their own, are driven into exile; and, on the other hand, the poor alone, and needy men who had nothing, dwell at large, as it were, in their own possessions. As, then, they had their quiet habitations and large fields, and enjoyed a land so fertile and rich, there is no doubt but that Nebuzaradan meant thus to rouse the envy of the exiles; for they saw that needy and worthless men dwelt in that land from which they had been banished. Hence their indignation was increased when they saw that they were more severely and cruelly treated than those lowest of men. It follows, —

<243911>Jeremiah 39:11-12

11. Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard, saying,

11. Praecepit autem Nabuchad-nezer rex Babylonis de Jeremia per manum Nabuzardan principis interfectorum, dicendo,

12. Take him, and look well to him, and do hint no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.

12. Tolle ipsum et oculos tuos pone super eum, et ne facias ei quiequam mali; sed prout loquutus fuerit tecum fac cum eo.

 

The Prophet now sets forth the paternal care of God, which he had experienced in the preservation of his life and safety. The innocent, we know, are often killed in a tumult, and the storming of cities is turbulent, so that many things are done without any thought; nay, even the leaders are not able to moderate the excesses of the victorious. When, therefore, the Chaldeans burnt the palace, Jeremiah might have perished at the same time, being suffocated by the very smoke of the fire. We know what happened at the taking of Syracuse. Marcellus did not wish that Archimedes should perish, nay, he commanded that he should be preserved; for he wished to save that man on account of his singular industry and noble genius. However, while he was drawing circles on the ground, he was killed by a common soldier. If no one had come to Jeremiah, he might, as I have said, have been buried under the ruins of the palace, when the king’s court was burnt down. But he says that he had been wonderfully preserved, for Nebuchadnezzar had given a command respecting him, that he might not be exposed to any trouble, but that Nebuzaradan as well as the whole army should secure his safety.

It is indeed probable that the king of Babylon had heard of Jeremiah; and though he was in prison, yet the Word of God, which he boldly proclaimed, was not bound. Then the report of this might have reached the king of Babylon: and hence it was, that he was disposed to preserve him; for he had given a faithful counsel to Zedekiah. But Nebuchadnezzar no doubt regarded only his own advantage; and hence we ought to bear in mind the wonderful goodness of God in preserving, as it were, by his own hand, the life of the Prophet; so that in extremities no one touched him, but he remained free and quiet, as we shall hereafter see. But we must put off the rest until to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, omnipotent God, that since thou hast once given us so awful a proof of thy wrath in the destruction of that city, which thou didst choose, and in which thou hadst had thy holy habitation, — O grant, that we may learn so to submit to thee in true humility and obedience, that we may not provoke thy extreme displeasure, but on the contrary anticipate it by real repentance, and that being terrified by thy threatenlugs, we may so submit ourselves to thee as to obtain thy mercy, and thus to regard thee as a Father, ever propitious to all those who flee to thee through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Second

<243913>Jeremiah 39:13-14

13. So Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rab-saris, and Nergal-sharezer, Rab-mag, and all the king of Babylon’s princes;

13. Et misit Nabuzardan, princeps interfectorum, et Nebusazban, Rabsaris (diximus quosdam has voces interpretari, quod sit princeps eunuchus, sed aliis magis placere esse proprium nomen, quos ego sequor) et Neregal, Sarezer, Rabmag, et alii principes Regis Babel (Babylonis:)

14. Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Sha-phan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.

14. Miserunt (inquam) et tulerunt Jeremiam ex atrio custodiae, et dederunt eum (hoc est, commiserunt eum) Godoliae filio Achikam, filii Saphan, ut deduceret eum domum; et ita habitavit in medio populi.

 

Here Jeremiah completes what we began yesterday to expound, even that by the command of King Nebuchadnezzar he was delivered from prison. But we have said, that though that heathen king had regard to his own interest, yet his mind was ruled by the secret power of God, who thus designed to rescue his servant from death; for God is wont thus to work even by the ungodly, who have another thing in view. It is not always by a voluntary act that men serve God, for many execute what God has decreed when they have no intention of doing so: and he so turns and drives them here and there, that they are constrained, willing or unwilling, to obey his authority. Thus, then, it was that Nebuchadnezzar liberated Jeremiah.

And yet the Prophet fully believed that he did not owe his life to King Nebuchadnezzar, but that he had been in a wonderful manner preserved by God’s favor; and to shew this is the design of the whole narrative.

He says, that the king had sent all-the leaders of the Chaldean army to take him out of the court of the prison, and that he was then delivered to the care of Gedaliah, not that he might be watched as usual, but because the princes knew that the people had entertained hatred towards the holy Prophet, and therefore wished him to be preserved safe from all violence. This then was the reason why they committed him to the keeping of Gedaliah, who, as we shall hereafter see, was in favor with the Chaldeans and highly esteemed.

he adds in the last place, that he dwelt in the midst of the people: by which expression is set forth complete liberty, as we say in our language, aller et venir. He then says that he was in the midst of the people, because he had been before shut up in prison. It now follows —

<243915>Jeremiah 39:15-18

15. Now the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah, while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,

15. Ad Jeremiam vero fuit sermo Jehovae, quum adhuc esset clausus in atrio custodiae, dicendo,

16. Go and speak to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring my words upon this city for evil, and not for good; and they shall be accomplished in that day before thee.

16. Vade et dic Ebedmelech Aethiopi (hoc est, alloquere Ebed-melech, dicendo,) Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce adduco sermones meos super urbem hanc in malum, et non in bonum; et erunt coram facie tua in die illo:

17. But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord; and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid.

17. Et eripiam te in die illo, dicit Jehova, et non traderis in manum hominum, a quorum facie tu expavescis (ad verbum est, quos tu expavescis ab eorum facie;)

18. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy Fife shall be for a prey unto thee; because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord.

18. Quia liberando liberabo te, in gladium non cades, et erit tibi anima tua in spolium, quia sperasti in me, dicit Jehova.

 

The Prophet tells us here that God was not unmindful of that Ethiopian, by whom he had been preserved, though he was an alien and from a barbarous nation. We have seen, however, that he alone undertook the cause of the Prophet, when others, being terrified by fear, did not exert themselves, or were avowedly enemies to God’s servant. Ebedmelech then alone dared to go forth in a case so hopeless, and undertook the defense of the holy man. The Prophet says now that this service was so acceptable, that it would not be without its reward. We have said that Ebedmelech had thus manifested his concern for the Prophet’s life, but not without evident danger; for he knew that the princes were united against him, and that these ungodly men had drawn to their side the greatest part of the court and also of the common people. Then Ebedmelech roused against himself both high and low; but God aided him, so that he was not overpowered by his adversaries. In his very danger he experienced the favor of God, and was protected and delivered from danger.

But now he finds that he had not ill employed his exertions; for he had not only been humane and merciful towards a mortal man, but had also done service for God; for whatever we do for God’s servants, he acknowledges as done to himself, and will have it to be laid to his account, according to what Christ says,

“He who gives a cup of cold water to one of the least of my disciples, shall not lose his reward.” (<401042>Matthew 10:42)

There is then no doubt but that the Spirit of God intended by the example of Ebedmelech to rouse us to the duties of humanity, even to teach us to sue-coup the miserable, and to give them help as far as we can, and not to shun the hatred of men or any dangers, which we may thereby incur. And as we are torpid and negligent in doing good, the reward given to the Ethiopian is set before us, so that we may know, that though nothing is to be hoped from men, when we are kind and liberal, yet we shall not lose our labor, for God is rich enough, who can render to us more than can be expected from the whole world. This then is the lesson conveyed here.

But the circumstances must be noticed: the Prophet says, that he was commanded to promise deliverance to Ebedme-lech, while he was yet confined in prison. This, at the first view, seems strange; for the Prophet might have objected and said, “Thou biddest me to go forth; why, then, are not the gates of the prison opened for me? and then thou wouldst have me to be the herald of thy favor; but my present miserable condition will prevent any credit to be given to my words: for how can Ebedmelech believe that I have been sent. by thee? for I am here confined and surrounded by many deaths.” But let us hence learn not to bring down God’s word to our judgment, when anything is promised beyond our expectation, and all our conceptions. Though, indeed, God seemed, as it were, to mock his servant, when he ordered him, a prisoner, to go to Ebedmelech; and yet the Prophet received and embraced this command, and performed it, no doubt, though this is not expressly mentioned.

This is the reason why he says, that a word came to him from Jehovah, while he was in the court of the prison.

The word Ethiopian is now repeated, because God intended, in the person of an alien indirectly to reprove the Jews; for no doubt they despised him, because he was not of the holy seed of Abraham. But God shews that he peculiarly regarded him, while he rejected the masked and hypocritical children of Abraham, who were only born of him according to the flesh, but had, by their impiety, renounced him, so that they were wholly unworthy of so high an honor.

And he says, Go and say, Behold, I am bringing my words on this city for evil and not for good; and they shall be before thee in that day. We conclude, from these words, that this was spoken to Ebedmelech before the city was taken by the Chaldeans, in order that he might remain quietly at home, and not flee away with the king, who, as we have seen, tried to escape. God then intended to strengthen the confidence of Ebedmelech, so that he might not fear and tremble like others, and expose himself to death, in trying to secure his safety. For this is the design of all God’s promises, even to keep us from being disturbed, to give us quietness of mind, and to cause us to look for the help promised to us. For we know that when fear lays hold on our minds, there is no settled purpose, but we are harassed by disquietude, and, as it were, tossed to and fro. It was therefore God’s design to bring aid beforehand, so that Ebedmelech might not, with others, be hurried into despair. He says, Behold, I am bringing, etc. God here confirms Ebedmelech in the truth, that he would be the author of the calamity; for had Jerusalem been taken by chance, Ebedmelech might justly have feared; but when he was taught that it was to happen through God’s just judgment he would feel sure of his safety; for it would be in the power of the same God to save one man and even many, while he was destroying the whole people. This, then, is the reason why God declared that he was bringing his words for evil and not for good; for except Ebedmelech had been convinced that the city and its inhabitants were in God’s hand and power, he could never have been led to entertain good hope; but when he knew that the city would perish through the righteous vengeance of God, he would then be fully confident as to his own safety; for God promised to preserve him in the midst of the common ruin.

He says, Thou shalt see, my words shall be before thee, as though he had said, “Thou shalt be an eye-witness of my power.” It was indeed necessary, as I have said, that Ebedmelech should see God’s hand in the destruction of the city and people; for he would ever have vacillated, and would have known no rest, had he not before his eyes the hand and the vengeance of God, This is one thing. But as to the words, I am bringing my words for evil and not for good, we have explained them elsewhere. The word evil does not mean sin here, but according to a common usage, evil is said to be whatever men regard as adverse to them; so all punishments inflicted by God are called evils, as we find in Isaiah,

“I am God, who create light and darkness, life and death,
good and evil.” (<234507>Isaiah 45:7)

He then adds, But I will deliver thee in that day, and thou shalt not be given up into the hand of the men whose face thou fearest. Here God promises that Ebedmelech would be saved through a special privilege; and the Prophet shews that this prophecy had not been without reason announced. For though Ebedmelech had, with an intrepid mind, undertaken the cause of Jeremiah, and boldly and perseveringly fronted all reproaches, he yet was not divested of all the feelings of nature, but he had his fears, especially when he saw the cause of fear set before him. Hence the Prophet says, that he feared the face of enemies: and this might, at the same time, avail to rouse him to receive with more alacrity, the promise offered to him; for we know that the blessings of God are, in a manner, deemed of no value by us, when we do not know how necessary to us they are. The prophecies and the promises, by which God comforts us and animates us to patience, are for the most part viewed as of no worth, until God really shews to us how miserable we must be, except he thus succors us. Then the Prophet wished to remind Ebedmelech of this, when he said that he feared. Thou fearest, he says. For if Ebedmelech had no fear, he might have disregarded this prophecy as being superfluous. But being reminded of his fear and anxiety, he became more ready to receive what God promised to him.

Then he says, that he would be safe, because the Lord would deliver him in that day. And, again, he confirms the same thing, For delivering I will deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword. The Prophet again calls the attention of Ebedmelech to God himself; for we know how all things are in a confusion when cities are taken by storm. Except then Ebedmelech had his mind fixed on God, he could never have retained any hope of deliverance. Hence the Prophet assures him again, that God would be his deliverer. And he adds, Thy soul shall be for a prey. This mode of expression has been elsewhere explained. The comparison is taken from those who deem that a great gain which is yet but small, if they get it beyond their expectation, as when a man finds a prey which he had by no means hoped for: he becomes suddenly rich, or increased in his goods; and though the gain may not be great, he yet greatly rejoices. So they who escape alive from present death, have no small reason to be joyful, because their life has been preserved. In the meantime God alludes to those who regard it enough to escape from death, though they may be deprived of all other things. As those who, in shipwreck, cast forth their mer-chandize, and their money, and all they have, deem it enough if they can reach the harbor, and they prefer to beg their bread all their life rather than to sink in the midst of the sea, so he who escapes with his life; though poverty is bitter, yet the horror of death is so great, that he deems his life a great, gain, though stripped of all that he had.

The reason follows, because he trusted in God. Another reason might have been assigned, even because he had not been wanting in his kindness to a holy man, but had extended his hand to him in his extreme misery; but as that office of humanity proceeded from faith and piety, God does here express the chief cause. As then the mercy which Ebedmelech exercised towards the Prophet was an evidence of his piety and faith, here is found the fruit in its own tree, or in its root: and certain it is, that Ebedmelech would have never been so humane towards the Prophet, had he not relied on God and his aid; for unbelief is always timid. There is then no doubt but that the vigor which appeared in Ebedmelech, when he regarded his life in bringing aid to the Prophet, made manifest that faith which is now commended: because then thou hast trusted in me, therefore delivering I will deliver thee, says God. There is now then no doubt but that Ebedmelech had some of the elements of faith and piety. If then God has allowed us to make farther progress, we may feel the more assured that he will be our deliverer; for his grace and his power will ever exceed our faith, how much so ever it may be. Now follows —


CHAPTER 40

<244001>Jeremiah 40:1-4

1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after that Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him, being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon.

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam a Jehova, postquam dimisit eum Nabuzardan, princeps interfectorum, e Ramah, quum sustulisset ipsum: et ipse vinctus erat cathenis (vel, manicis,) in medio captivitatis (hoc est, multitudinis captivae) Jerusalem et Jehudah, qui transferebantur Babylonem.

2. And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place.

2. Et sumpsit princeps interfectorum Jeremiam, et dixit ad eum, Jehova Deus tuus loquutus est malum hoc super locum hunc;

3. Now the Lord hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you.

3. Et adduxit et fecit Jehova sicut loquutus fuerat, quia peccastis Jehovae, et non audiistis vocem ejus; et fuit vobis res haec (hoc est, accidit vobis haec res.)

4. And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come, and I will look well unto thee; but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.

4. Et tu ecce (hoc est, quantum ad te,) ego ecce solvi te hodie a manicis (vel, cathenis, sed potius, a manicis, quoniam addit) quae erant super manus tuas (ideo perperam alii, vertunt, compedes, quia non ligantur compedibus;) si bonum in oculis tuis fecerit, ut venias (hoc est, si tibi placuerit venire) Babylonem, venias; ego autem ponam oculum meum super te; si autem malum in oculis tuis fuerit, ut venias Babylonem, desine (cessa, veI, supersedeas:) ecce tota regio coram facie tua est, ad bonum et rectum in oculis tuis, ad proficiscendum (hoc est, quod fuerit bonum et rectum in oculis tuis,) ut illic eas, eas.

 

Here Jeremiah pursues more at large what he had briefly touched upon before; for the Hebrews were wont, in a few words, to state the substance of the whole, and then to explain more diffusely what, they had briefly said. Jeremiah had before told us that some of the Babylonian generals had been sent to release him from prison; and he added that he had been committed to the care of Gedaliah, who had been set over the poor of the land. He now tells us, that he, as yet bound with chains, had been brought forth to Ramah in that miserable condition. These things appear inconsistent, but, as I have said, we must bear in mind, that there is an omission in that summary, which we have noticed. For, in the first instance, Jeremiah only said, that he had been freed from his chains; but he now states the manner more distinctly, and, as it were, the different parts of the transaction. Then this order ought to be especially noticed.

Moreover, this chapter so begins, that he seems throughout the chapter to have forgotten the introduction. He says, that a word came to him; he afterwards declares historically, how he had been brought to Ramah, and then that he had been released there, and also that Gedaliah was set over the remainder of the people: in short, there is not in this long’ passage any mention made of any prophecy; but there is inserted a whole historical narrative before the Prophet expresses what God had committed to him, after the city was taken, and after he had been restored to his former liberty. When, therefore, he says here, that a word came to him, we must wait until he has completed what we find in this chapter; for he will then return to this prophecy.

Let us now consider the words. After Nebuzaradan, he says, dismissed him from Ramah, etc.; into which place he had been brought by the guards, when he was as yet bound with chains. There is then no doubt but that the leaders of the army had ordered Jeremiah to be brought there, after he was taken out of the court of the prison, and that he was brought there in the presence of all the people; for it is probable also that all the Jews, who were to be led into exile, were brought there too, and that they were there mustered, that none might escape, for they would have slipped off here and there, had they not been delivered to guards. When, therefore, all the captives were there, Nebuzaradan ordered Jeremiah to be brought forth, not for the sake of degrading him, for, as we have seen, the king had been solicitous about his life; and no doubt this coutier wished to gratify his king in every way: but it was, on the contrary, for the purpose of an indirect reproof to all the people, as though he would honor the servant of God, who had so faithfully warned them, and for so long a time, even above forty years, and would set before them their wickedness, and also their ingratitude, for having so cruelly treated God’s servant.

This then was the reason why Nebuzaradan wished Jeremiah to come bound with chains, and to be released in the presence of all the people; it was that the Jews might at length be ashamed of their pride and impiety against God, and of their ingratitude towards the holy Prophet. Nebu-zaradan then did not treat Jeremiah reproachfully; but he brought him forth in chains, that he might publicly expose the wickedness of the whole nation.

He says, that an option was given him by Nebuzaradan; so that if he wished, he might remain in his own country, and choose the best place for himself, and the situation which was most agreeable to him; but if he chose rather to go to Babylon, there he might go. This, certainly, was a liberal offer. The Prophet was not only freed from prison and loosed from His chains; but liberty was so given him, that he alone was free, while the whole nation was reduced to bondage. For they who remained had no liberty to go elsewhere. But Nebuzaradan gave here a free option to Jere-mime, so that he was at liberty either to live in Chaldea, or to remain in any place he wished, or in any part of the earth.

But before he says this, he administers reproof to the people, and says, Jehovah thy God hath spoken evil on this city; and he hath brought it, and made it to come. Here Nebuzar-adan undertook the prophetic office, and spoke in high terms of God’s righteous vengeance on the people. There is no doubt but that God had raised up such a teacher to the Jews; for they had for forty years and more obstinately rejected celestial truth. God had not ceased kindly to invite them to repentance, and to promise them pardon and salvation, provided they repented. As then God had not ceased for so long a time, and continually to address them according to his paternal goodness, and at the same time had spoken to the deaf, they deserved to hear such a preacher as Nebuzaradan, who now contumeliously upbraided them, that they had brought this evil on themselves, because they had been disobedient and rebellious against God, as they had not obeyed his word.

There is here a remarkable example set before us, so that we may learn, that when God addresses us by his servants, we ought immediately to render obedience to him; let us learn to fear when he threatens us, and learn to entertain hope when he offers his favor to us. For if we reject the Prophets when they are sent to us, other teachers will arise, who will deride us, and though they may be themselves ungodly, they will yet upbraid us with our impiety. This then is the doctrine we ought to gather from this passage, in which we see that Nebuzaradan, as though gifted with the prophetic spirit, severely rebuked the people. He, indeed, addressed Jeremiah, and seems to have included him with the people, when he said, Thy God hath spoken — because ye have sinned and have been rebellious. But Nebuzaradan, no doubt, thus highly commended the faithfulness of Jeremiah, because he had been true and faithful in his vocation and office, he then did not make him as one of the people, nor did he mean that he had sinned with others, or had been rebellious against God. But, in the first, place, he addressed Jeremiah, Thy God, he said; and this was expressed by way of honor, even that God was the God of Jeremiah; for though the people boasted that they were holy, yet Nebuzaradan here indirectly condemned their foolish boastings, since he inti-mated that Jeremiah alone was worthy of being deemed one of God’s servants, as though he had said, that the Jews were unworthy of the honor of glorying in God’s name, or of professing it: Thy God then hath spoken. The rest tomorrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast promised that we shall be to thee as the apple of the eye, — O grant, that we may ever flee under the shadow of thy mercy, and that this alone may be our tranquillity in times of confusion and misery: and may we, at the same time, recumb in confidence on thy help, that we may, in sincerity, perform what thou commandest us, and that which is our duty to do, so that we may, by experience, find, that all they who obey thy voice are really sustained by thine hand, and that those are never disappointed who look for the certain reward of their obedience from thee; and may we carry on the warfare so perseveringly in this life, that we may know that there is a reward laid up for us in heaven, when Christ thine only-begotten Son shall appear. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Third

WE began yesterday to explain the words of Nebuzaradan which he spoke before all the Jews. We have said that though he directed his words to Jeremiah, yet what he said referred to the whole people; for he spoke in praise of Jeremiah, and subscribed to his prophecies: he hence concluded that the people deserved their extreme punishment. he says that God had spoken, not that he had faith in the words of Jeremiah, but as far as he saw, that they were serviceable to his purpose. He-gladly laid hold on what he approved, as ungodly men do, who embrace what is useful for them in God’s Law and the Prophets, though they do not regard them with much reverence; and yet they pretend a great concern for religion. Such was the case with Nebu-zaradan; when he had got the victory over the Jews, he boasted that he was the minister of God; Jehovah, he says, has spoken, as though he had said, that the Jews suffered such punishment as they deserved, because God had long before declared that he would punish them.

And then he adds, that God had done as he had spoken, because they had sinned and hearkened not to his voice. He was nothing better; but as I have already said, he boldly reproved others. And this is a common thing with hypocrites and all despisers of God; they are judges in another’s cause, but look not, as one has said, on the other side of the wallet. Thus all are keen and ready enough to condemn others; and of this we have an example here in Nebuzaradan, for, as though he was the lawful judge of the people, he declared that the destruction of the city and Temple had not happened by chance, but that it was a just punishment inflicted by God on the wicked, because they had obstinately rejected the prophetic doctrine, and had been intractable and disobedient.

Nor is there indeed a doubt, as we hinted yesterday, but that God, in order to expose the Jews to greater shame, raised up for them this prophet; for when Jeremiah addressed them, and that for their safety, while yet there was time to repent, they had perversely rejected that favor of God. They then deserved to be addressed with no benefit by a foreign teacher, who exulted over them, as this unbelieving heathen did in the present instance.

As to the option given to Jeremiah, we said yesterday that it was openly made in the presence of the Jews, in order that Nebuzaradan might wound them the more. But at the same time it was God’s purpose to make the perseverance of his servant an example, as we shall hereafter see. Let us now proceed, —

<244005>Jeremiah 40:5

5. Now, while he was not yet gone back, he said, Go back also to Ge-daliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people; or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go.

5. Adhuc autem non reversus erat (hoc per parenthesin legendum est) et revertere ad Godoliam filium Achikam filii Saphan, quem praefecit rex Babylonis urbibus Jehudah, et habita cum eo in medio populi, vel ad quemcunque locum qui visus erit in oculis tuis ad proficiscendum illuc proficiscere; et dedit illi princeps interfectorum cibum et munus (est enallage numeri, munera) et demisit eum.

 

Jeremiah goes on with the same discourse, that Nebuzar-adan dealt bountifully with him, and permitted him to go wherever he wished. We hence conclude that Nebuchadnezzar was fully convinced of the honesty and uprightness of Jeremiah. For he knew how he was regarded among his own people, and that he might rouse great disturbances, except he was upright and quiet. As, then, Nebuchadnezzar had no doubt respecting’ the character of Jeremiah, he wished to grant him free liberty to choose his own habitation in any city he pleased, or to remove wherever it seemed good to him. Invitation was given him to go to Babylon, and a promise of favor was added; but it was further permitted to him to remain in his own country.

I have said that this was done according to the divine purpose, that the Prophet might give a proof of his religion. For if he had gone to Chaldea, it might have been that the confidence of many would have failed them, and that faith in the promises would have vanished: for they might have thought it a sign of hopeless despair, had the Prophet gone there. That he might not then disturb weak minds, he thought it his duty to remain in his own country. And hence God inclined the mind of Nebuchadnezzar and the minds of his leaders to grant liberty to the holy Prophet to remain in Judea, as though for the purpose of raising a standard for the captives, and of accomplishing their return after seventy years. We shall, however, see presently that he was led away elsewhere; but that in no degree frustrated his prophecies, because violent men led him away as a captive, and he at length died in Egypt. But he did not willingly remove from Judea, though he found there nothing but grief and sorrow; for he did not gratify himself, nor could he indulge in any pleasures, in the abundance of meat and drink, but he was ever lamenting the overthrow of his own nation, and especially the destruction of the Temple. As, then, he preferred Judea to all other countries, and submitted to be a constant spectator of so many miseries, he gave a remarkable proof of his faith and patience, and thus strengthened the faith of the miserable exiles, so that they might know that God would be yet merciful and propitious to his people.

He goes on with the words of Nebuzaradan, but he introduces this clause, He was not yet gone back, that is, because he was not yet gone back. Then Nebuzaradan said, Return to Gedaliah, that is, if thou preferrest to live here rather than to follow me, then go to Gedaliah.” Here Nebuzaradan shews how he would have Jeremiah to live in safety in that land, which was as yet like a den of robbers, even that he should be with Gedaliab. And we see how solicitous Nebuzaradan was to preserve the life of the Prophet, for he wished that Gedaliah should be his guardian, as he had briefly said before; but he now sets the matter more fully and more at large before him, Return, he says, to Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon hath set over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him. he intimates that Jeremiah would be without danger if he dwelt with Gedaliah, because he had been set over Judah by the king of Babylon. Repeated at the same time is what we have before observed, that it was in the Prophet’s power, either to go to Gedaliah or to go anywhere else; Whatever place, he says, it seems right in thine eyes to go to, go there. He did not then assign to him any certain place, but gave him leave to go anywhere; so that the Prophet was to choose for himself an habitation either in Judea or out of Judea.

It follows, that he gave him food; for so I render the hjra, areche, though some, “a present;” but it means food, as we shall hereafter see in the fifty-first chapter, where Jeremiah speaks of daily bread. The second word, ham, meshae, I regard as meaning a gift or a present. Then Nebuzaradan bestowed on God’s servant food and other gifts. As to food, the Prophet might have well accepted it, for after the city was taken we know that he must have been in want of everything. Even before, he lived very scantily and miserably, having only a piece of bread daily. And now, when Nebuzaradan supplied him with food, there was no reason why the holy man should not in such want receive what was given him. But as to the presents, Jeremiah may seem to have forgotten himself; for it was a disgrace to him to receive from an enemy of God’s people, a present or gifts for his doctrine; for whence proceeded this benevolence and bounty to the Prophet, except that Nebuzaradan knew that his prophecy referred to the destruction of his own nation? It seems, then, that for this reason he wished to reward the holy man; he ought then to have refused these presents. But it is probable that he was not enriched by a large sum of money, or by costly things; Nebuzaradan only gave him some token of benevolence; and the Prophet might without suspicion have received the present, not as a reward for his doctrine, but rather as a confirmation of it offered by God, because the Jews had been enemies to him as long as he had been faithfully spending his labors among them; for when he bitterly reproved them, he had no other object but to secure their safety. But as he had been so inhumanely treated by the Jews, God intended that more humanity should be shown to him by a heathen and barbarous nation than by the children of Abraham, who boasted that they were the holy people of God. It was, then, for this reason that Jeremiah received gifts from the hand of Nebuzaradan. It follows, —

<244006>Jeremiah 40:6

6. Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah, and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

6. Et venit Jeremias ad Godoliam filium Achikam in Mispath; et habitavit cum eo in medio populi, qui residui erant in terra.

 

Here is shown to us the firmness of the Prophet, that he hesitated not to reject, what Nebuzaradan kindly offered to him, and yet he might have committed a great offense in making light, as it were, of Chaldea. It was, as we know, a very pleasant country, and very fertile; and tyrants cannot bear their bounty to be despised; for when they are pleased to honor any one, however little may be what they offer, if he refuses, they regard it as a dishonor done to them. The Prophet, then, might have been overcome by modesty and fear, so as to remove to Chaldea. That he dared simply to refuse the offer, and to ask that he might dwell in his own country, was a proof and evidence that he had more concern for religion, and more care for God’s Church, than for all the favors of men, and all that he might have hoped from the wealth of Babylon and Chaldea.

We hence see that the Prophet in receiving presents, accepted of nothing but what he knew would be for the benefit of God’s Church. At the same time he made light of the offense he might have given, when he chose to remain in his own country; for as we have said, it was as though he erected a standard to invite the Jews to return, and thus to prove the truth of his prophecy respecting their exile being temporary, the end of which was to be hoped for after seventy years. For this reason he says, that he went to Gedaliah, and dwelt in the midst of the people, even Of those who remained in the land. It follows, —

<244007>Jeremiah 40:7-8

7. Now, when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon;

7. Et audierunt omnes principes exercituum qui erant in agro, ipsi et viri eorum, quod praefecisset rex Babylonis Godoliam filium Achikam in terra; et quod commiserat ei viros et mulieres et parvulum (hoc est, parvulos, sed fere in singulari numero hoc nomen legitur tam singulari quam pluralisignificatione,) et ex paupertate terrae ex his qui non fuerant translati Babylonem;

8. Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.

8. Et venerunt ad Godoliam in Mispath Ishmael filius Nathaniae et Jochanan (Joannes) et Jonathan filii Chareah et Seraiah filius Thanekumeth et filii Ophi, qui erat Nethophites, et Jazanias filius Maachati, ipsi et viri eorum.

 

Mention has been before made of Gedaliah. We have seen that the Prophet was once rescued from death through his kindness, for he interposed for him when almost all with one consent doomed the holy Prophet to death. fG10 And God bestowed on him no common honor, that while he was seeking nothing, Nebuchadnezzar should set him as governor over the land. He did not, indeed, enjoy power for any length of time; but it was yet God’s will to extend his hand to the pious man, so that he might have, at least for a time, some evidence of his favor. He was at length, as we shall see, killed by treachery.

The Prophet now tells us, that the leaders of the forces, before scattered together with their troops, were now come to him. When the Prophet says that they were in the field, I do not think as some, that they were those who fled when the city was taken. But probably they were those who were forced to flee from the cities at the first entrance of the Chaldean army. Nor does it seem probable that they escaped, when all the companions of the king were overtaken and caught in the plain of Jericho, as we have already seen. I then think that they were those who had been scattered here and there, having deserted the cities committed to them at the first approach of their enemies. As then they had been wanderers from their own country and exiles, they now returned to Gedaliah. By saying that the leaders of the forces had heard, he does not mean that they had now an army, but that they had been set over cities and towns in Judea together with their troops. They then and their men, came to Gedaliah, when they heard that the king of Babylon had set Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, over Judea, and that men, women, and children were committed to his power or keeping. And then he adds, from the poverty of the land, that is, from the dregs of the people, even from those who had not been removed to Babylon: they came, even Ishmael, etc.; who, as we shall hereafter see, became a traitor. He was, as the Prophet says, of the royal family. His spirits were still very high, and influenced by envy, he killed Gedaliah, though he had been kindly received by him. He had, at the same time, received a reward for his treachery from the king of Amon. But all these things we shall see in what follows.

He names here the fugitive chiefs, the first of whom was Ishmael, and among them were the sons of Kareah; who had pledged their faith to Gedaliah; but he was too credulous, and, at the same time, closed his ears to wise counsels and warnings. The Prophet proceeds to tell us how Geda-liah dealt with his own nation, —

<244009>Jeremiah 40:9-10

9. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, swore unto them, and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.

9. Et juravit illis Godolias filius Achikam et viris eorum, dicendo, Ne metuatis a serviendo (hoc est, ne metuatis servire, ne impediat vos timor quo minus serviatis Chaldaeis;) sed subjicite vos et servite regi Babylonis; et bene erit vobis.

10. As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans which will come unto us; but ye, gather ye wine, and summer-fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.

10. Et ego, ecce ego manebo in Mispath, ut stem coram facie Chaldaeorum (hoc est, ut occurram Chaldaeis) qui venient ad nos; et vos colligite vinum et fructus aestivos (≈yq significat oestatem, sed transfertur metaphorice ad oestivos fructus,) et oleum; et reponite in vasis vestris, et habitate in urbibus quas apprehenderitis.

 

Here, as I have hinted, is explained the great humanity of Gedaliah, and also his pious solicitude for his own nation, in order that the perfidy and cruelty of the son of Nethaniah might appear the more detestable, who slew a man so well deserving in his conduct to him and to others, having been led to do so by reward.

The Prophet says that he swore to them; nor was it strange to interpose an oath in a state of things so disturbed. Hardly could Ishmael and the rest have any confidence, since the Chaldeans had been so extremely hostile to them; they must, indeed, have been in the greatest trepidation. There was, therefore, need of a remedy, even that Gedaliah should assure them of his integrity. This was the reason why he made an oath; for had it been in times of tranquillity, an oath would not have been necessary. But as their life hung, as it were, on a thread, and they saw many dangers on every side, there was need of a confirmation; nor did Gedaliah receive them without some danger; for it was not pleasing to the Chaldeans that such men should continue in the land. For we have seen that the princes had been on this account killed, and then all the chief men among the people had been removed to Chaldea, lest any of them should attempt some new commotions. It was, therefore, the object of Nebuchadnezzar to keep the country quiet; and this was the best way to prevent any disturbance. Gedaliah then, no doubt, saw that this would not be very agreeable to the Chaldeans, and yet his humanity prevailed, and his concern for his own nation, that he not only hospitably received them, but also promised them by an oath, that there would be safety for them. He therefore exhorted them to be confident, and also to serve the Chaldeans. It was, indeed, especially expected of them, that they should surrender up themselves, as their case was hopeless. Then Gedaliah promised that the Chaldeans would be content with a voluntary submission; and he promised them also, that there would be a safe dwelling for them in the land.

And he ordered them to gather wine, and corn, and fruit, and to store them up, as there would be no danger from war. He also ordered them to dwell in the cities which they had taken, or to which they had been driven. The verb here is ambiguous; but I prefer its most literal meaning, which ye have taken. They could not, indeed, have taken a city by force and arms, as they had only a few men, and could never have been equal to their enemies. Then the forcible taking of cities is not what is meant; but Gedaliah’s meaning was, that they might safely remain wherever they were, or that they might dwell in any city they came to. But it was a great ‘thing when he said to them, that he would stand for them; for he thus laid down his own life, as though he had said that he would be a surety that nothing grievous should happen to them. And hence it is more clearly seen that he did not regard himself, but that he used the power given him for the public good; for if he had ambition, he would have been, doubtless, more careful to ingratiate himself with the king of Babylon, and he would have resolved to deal no less cruelly with a people so hard and refractory, than their enemies. But when he extended his wings as the hen, to gather under them the residue of his own nation, it appears quite evident that he had no care for his own private safety, but that whatever power had been given him by King Nebuchadnezzar, he employed it wholly for the public good.

Then these words ought to be especially noticed, And I, behold, I will dwell in Mizpah, that I may stand, etc., that is, that I may meet the Chaldeans who may come to us, that is, lest they should come upon you for some hostile purpose. It afterwards follows —

<244011>Jeremiah 40:11-12

11. Likewise, when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites. and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahi kam, the son of Shaphan;

11. Atque etiam omnes Judaei qui erant in Moab (hoc est, apud Moabitas) et apud filios Ammon, et apud ldumaeos (et in Edom,) et quicunque erant in omnibus terris (hoc est, qui dispersi erant per varios regiones,) audierunt quod dimisisset rex Babylonis reliquias (residuum aliquod) Jehudah, et quod praefecisset illis Godoliam filium Achikam filii Saphan;

12. Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer-fruits very much.

12. Et venerunt omnes Judaei (venerunt ergo omnes Judaei) ex cunctis locis ad quae expulsi fuerunt et venerunt (reversi sunt) in terrain Jehudah ad Godoliam in Mispath; et collegerunt vinum et fructus aestivos multos valde (hoc est, in magna copia.)

 

The Prophet shews here, that except intestine wickedness had arisen, the condition of the people would have been endurable until the time of exile had elapsed. God had pre-fixed, as it has been before stated, seventy years. Nebuchadnezzar had already so withdrawn the flower of the people, that still some inhabitants remained, that the land might not be wholly naked and forsaken. For besides the poor who had been left, he has already told us, that some chief men came with their troops. He now adds that all the Jews, who had fled to neighboring nations, came to Geda-liah; some had taken refuge among the Ammonites, and some among the Moabites; these came and dwelt in the land. Then God did thus moderate the rigor of his vengeance, so that some remnants continued in Judea until the restoration of the whole people. But the perverseness of those who had before despised his favor, is on the other hand most clearly shewn. God no doubt designed to make manifest their extreme wickedness; for they not only despised the kindness of King Nebuchadnezzar, but rushed headlong to their own ruin; for their fury and madness led them on to kill their own leader, and thus all things were thrown into confusion, as this might have provoked the indignation of the conqueror to obliterate the very name of the people by slaying the captives as well as those who had been left in the land. To point out this was the object of the Prophet in this part of the chapter.

He says that all the Jews; he puts in the particle g, gam, for the sake of emphasis, and even all the Jews, who had fled either to the Moabites or to the children of Ammon, or to the Idumeans, or to other parts in other countries. There is no doubt but they made up a considerable number. Then the whole land must have had many inhabitants; and though it was not populous, yet the desolation that might have been feared, was not extreme. We hence conclude, that there was no over-statement made, when Gedaliah promised security to the leaders of the forces and their companions. As he then made an oath that they would all be safe, he did not deceive them, for he really proved his faithfulness, because these miserable exiles, who returned into Judea, dwelt in safety, and God also gave them a rich abundance of fruits, so that they lived comfortably in their own country. Before the city was taken these were wanderers, and no doubt they must have suffered great poverty and want. But now the Lord gave them relief, and supplied them with plenty.

But we hence know more fully how great must have been the impiety and wickedness of Ishmael and his companions, who not only had the liberty to dwell comfortably in their own country under the care and protection of Gedaliah, but who also enjoyed abundance of blessings. For as the most miserable of them gathered great abundance of fruits, they might have had a large portion of all good things. Hence then the more and the more detestable appeared their ingratitude. And it further appears how extreme and incurable was their perverseness, that they were not moved and affected, when they saw Jerusalem destroyed, the temple burnt, and the horrible slaughter which had taken place; and especially when they knew what Nebuzaradan had preached respecting God’s vengeance, and had performed the office of a prophet in reproving them. That they thus so obstinately rejected the blessings of God and resisted what he did for them, was an evident proof that they were monstrously stupid; and this is what the Prophet intended to shew, as we shall hereafter see. But I must make an end here.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are not sufficiently attentive in considering thy judgments, we may learn to become wise by the examples of others, and so to reflect on what thou teachest us by thy servants the Prophets, that we may apply it to our own use, and thus render ourselves teachable and obedient to thee, and that especially when thou chastisest us with thy scourges, we may not resist thy power, but so submit to thee, that we may at length be raised up and comforted by thy mercy and be restored to a complete salvation, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Fourth

<244013>Jeremiah 40:13-14

13. Moreover, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah,

13. Et Johanan (Joannes) filius Chareah et omnes duces copiarum qui fuerant in agro, venerunt ad Godoliam in Mispath;

14. And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not.

14. Et dixerunt ei, An sciendo scis, quod Baalis rex filiorum Ammon misit Ismael filium Nathaniae qui percutiat to in anima? Sed non credidit illis Godolias filius Achikam.

 

A sad history is here given, from which we may conclude, that God’s wrath against the people had not been appeased by the destruction of the city and the burning of the Temple. It was some token of mercy, when Gedaliah was set over the remnant of the people and the poor, who had been allowed to dwell in the land. But now Gedaliah is slain, and a miserable scattering must have ensued. The wrath also of the king of Babylon was kindled, because the Chaldeans, who had been given as guards, were at the same time killed. It was then God’s purpose to execute his judgment also on these remnants.

But the Prophet shews how it was that Gedaliah was killed, even because Ishmael had been hired and advised by the king of Ammon. he says, however, that he had been warned by the sons of Kareah, of whom mention has been made, but that he had no faith in them. And hence the Prophet begins by saying, that John the son of Kareah and the other leaders came to him. He had, as we have seen, received them before, and had sworn to them that he would be their defender, so that no one would hurt them; he had undertaken to face all danger, and offered his head as a pledge that the Chaldeans would not attempt anything against them. They came then to him, because with safety was connected public benefit, he had, then, bound them to himself by no common benefit, and it was for their good that he should be safe and secure, who was in favor with the king of Babylon. They therefore came and said, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah was suborned by the king of Ammon. It may have been that the king of Ammon had hoped to be the king of Judea, or to have all that land as his own after the departure of the Chaldean army. But as his expectation was disappointed, he began to attempt another tiling, to render the land desolate by creating disturbances. Such then seems to have been the reason why he induced Ishmael to undertake the impious and abominable act of killing Gedaliah.

As to Gedaliah having no faith in their words, a question may be here raised, How was it that God suffered this holy man, endued with such rare virtues, to be basely killed by a traitor and an assassin? In the first place, we must hold it as true, that God’s judgments are just, though they correspond not with our notions. It seems indeed, at the first glance, very unaccountable, that Gedaliah should have been slain, who yet had emerged, as it were, from death, and had obtained favor with the Chaldeans; but it was God’s purpose to take him to himself, and at the same time to execute his vengeance to the utmost on the people; for we shall see that those who had been left were wholly unworthy of God’s favor; and we shall also see, that as mad wild beasts they ran headlong to death, and never ceased to provoke God’s wrath against them.

Let us then learn from this passage, that when God calls his servants from this world, he regards their salvation, so that death is for their good. For Gedaliah might have seen, that had he lived longer, things more bitter than hundred deaths would have happened to him. It was then God’s will to take him in time, before he was overwhelmed with sorrows. For it was no small cause of grief to see the people obstinately struggling against the goodness of God, until their final ruin came. This obstinacy then might have been the cause of incredible sorrow to the holy man: hence the Lord removed him in due time. In the meantime, as I have said, he opened a way for his wrath, so that after it became evident that the remnant that had been saved were wholly unworthy of mercy, they were destroyed together with the rest.

But, in the second place, we see that there was a fault mixed with virtue in Gedaliah. Love, indeed, is not suspicious, as Paul says, and ought not easily to admit an accusation. (<461305>1 Corinthians 13:5.) But he ought to have been circumspect, not only for his own sake, but because his death brought with it the ruin of the whole people. He ought then to have been more cautious. But we hence learn how difficult it is even for the best of men, endued with peculiar virtues, so to conduct themselves, as not to deviate on either side. It was a. praiseworthy simplicity that Gedaliah did not suspect that Ishmael would be so perfidious and so wicked; but as in this instance he shewed no regard for himself nor for the public safety, he was to be blamed. But, as I have said, it was God’s purpose to remove him to his rest, for had he lived, he would have been a hundred times overwhelmed with troubles. Ungodly men may blast the memory of the holy man, because he had been so stupid: but as I have already said, that as he must have deviated either on this or that side, it was better that Ishmael should not be accused until he was found guilty. Gedaliah’s only mistake was, that he disregarded the treachery of which he had been warned. It now follows —

<244015>Jeremiah 40:15-16

15. Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?

15. Et Joannes filius Kareah dixit ad Godoliam in secreto in Mispath, dicendo, lbo nunc (vel, agedum eam) et percutiam Ismael filium Nathaniae ita ut nemo sciat: quare percutiet to in anima, fG11 et dissipabuntur totus Jehudah, qui congregati sunt ad te (hoc est, dissipabuntur qui congregati sunt ad te ex toto Jehudah,) et peribit residuum Jehudah?

16. But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing; for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

16. Et dixit Godolias filius Achikam Joanni filio Kareah, Ne feceris hanc rem, quia merdacium tu loqueris contra Ismael.

 

We here see that the holy man was blinded, so that he not only disregarded the counsel given to him, but also rejected the help offered to him. It is again a thing worthy of praise, that he was unwilling that Ishmael should be rashly killed, the cause being not known; but he ought to have carefully inquired, and the thing being found out, he might have defended himself, and put to death a wicked man and a public pest. He was armed with the sword; and he might have justly punished Ishmael, if he had only been attentive to the matter, that is, if he had taken the trouble to ascertain the fact. As then he had been endued with authority, for Nebuchadnezzar had set him over the land, he was to be blamed in this, that he abstained from taking’ vengeance, (for he was not a private man,)but he did not believe that there was so great a treachery in Ishmael, whom he thought to be an honest and upright man, and friendly to him. Nevertheless, there is a medium between simplicity on the one hand, and cruelty on the other. Had he immediately become incensed against Ishmael, it would have been blamable cruelty; for we ought not to be carried away headlong to condemn innocent men; for if we indiscriminately receive all sorts of calumnies, no man can remain innocent. But as I have said, Gedaliah might have so acted as not to wrong Ishmael by believing every idle report, and yet he might have taken care of himself. He might have done this, had he inquired, and having known the case, determined accordingly; but he willfully closed his eyes, and thus committed a great mistake.

But we hence see, that when in other things he was not without judgment and foresight, he was in this instance, as it were, destitute of a sound mind; for it was God’s purpose to open a way for his judgment, so that he might destroy the remnant of the people. And at the same time we see how difficult it is not to do wrong, when we desire to be just, tolerant, and unsuspicious. We are, in short, taught, how difficult a thing it is, and how rare is the virtue to exercise moderation. Ishmael might have been immediately convicted of perfidy and wickedness; this was what Gedaliah was unwilling to do; and why? because he was unwilling to suspect anything wrong in a man whom he thought to be sincere and faithful. Well, but at the same time he did wrong to John, the son of Kareah, and to the other leaders of the forces. They came to him, not one man or two men, but the chiefs who had been set over the soldiers by King Zedekiah. These came to him, so that their charge was probable. What did Gedaliah say? Thou speakest falsely, he said. he reproachfully repelled John, the son of Kareah, who yet was well disposed towards him, and wished to save him from his danger. We hence clearly see that the best of men never so act, but that under the color of equity and humanity they often fall into sloth and neglect; and that when they wish to be humane towards one, they act unkindly and reproachfully towards many. So it is ever necessary to flee to God, that he may rule us by the spirit of discretion. Now follows the murder of Gedaliah.


CHAPTER 41

<244101>Jeremiah 41:1-3

1. Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the seed-royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.

1. Et accidit mense septimo, ut venerit (et venit) Ismael filius Nathaniae filii Elisamae, e semine regio, et proceres regis et decem viri cum eo ad Godoliam filium Achikam in Mispath, et comederunt illic panem simul in Mispath.

2. Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

2. Et surrexit Ismael filius Nathaniae, et decem viri qui cum eo erant, et percussit Godoliam filium Achikam tilii Saphan gladio; et occidit eum quem praefecerat rex Babylonis in terra.

3. Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.

3. Et Judaeos qui erant cum eo, cum Godolia, nempe, in Mispath, et Chaldaeos qui inventi sunt illic, viros bellicosos percussit Ismael.

 

It was a detestable cruelty and barbarity in Ishmael to kill Gedaliah who entertained him, and whom he found to possess a paternal regard towards him. Heathens have ever deemed hospitality sacred; and to violate it has been counted by them as the greatest atrocity; and hospitable Jupiter ever possessed among them the right of taking vengeance, if any one broke an oath given when at table. Now Ishmael had sworn, as we have seen, that he would be faithful to Gedaliah. He was again received by him, and was treated hospitably; and from his table he rose up to slay the innocent man, who was his friend, and had acted towards him, as it has been stated, the part of a father. And hence he became not only a parricide, but also the traitor of his own country; for he knew that it could not be but that Nebuchadnezzar would become more and more incensed against that miserable people, whom he had spared: but he made no account of his own fidelity, nor shewed any regard for his own brethren, whom he knew he exposed to slaughter and ruin.

But the cause of this madness is here indirectly intimated; the Prophet says, that he was of the royal seed. The royal seed was then, indeed, in the greatest disgrace; the king’s children had been slain; he himself had been taken away bound to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar had made him blind. But we see, that those who had been once in any dignity, can hardly relinquish those high notions by which they are inflated. So that when those of the royal seed are reduced to extreme poverty and want, they still aim at something royal, and never submit to the power of God. The fountain then of this madness the Prophet points out here, as by the finger, when he says, that Ishmael was of the royal seed: for he thought that it was by no means an honor to him, that Gedaliah was set over the Jews. He, no doubt, imagined that the kingdom was to be perpetual, since God had so often promised, that the throne of David would stand as long as the moon continued in the heavens. (<198908>Psalm 89:87) But mere ambition and pride led him to commit this abominable murder: and thus it was, that he suffered himself to be persuaded by the king of Ammon.

He then came together with the princes of the king, even those who were in the first rank when Zedekiah reigned. Then the Prophet adds, that they did eat bread. This phrase intimates that they were received hospitably, and were admitted to the table of Gedaliah. And this kindness and benevolence ought to have induced Ishmael and his associates to spare their host. But it follows, that they rose up. This circumstance, as to the time, enhanced their crime; for it was at the time they were eating that Ishmael slew Gedaliah; and thus he polluted his hands with innocent blood at the sacred table, having paid no regard to the rights of hospitality. Now the Prophet shews that this was fatal to the miserable remnant, who were permitted to dwell in the land. For, first, it could not have been done without exciting the highest indignation of the king of Babylon, for he had set Gedaliah over the land; and it was not expressed without reason, but emphatically, that this slaughter roused the displeasure of the king of Babylon, because the murder of Gedaliah was a manifest contempt of his authority. And then there was another cause of displeasure, for the Chal-deans in Mizpah, who had been given as protectors, were killed. For the Prophet tells us, that they were men of war, that no one might think that Chaldeans were sent there to occupy the place of the Jews, as it is sometimes the case when colonists or some such men settle in a land: they were military men, who had been chosen as a guard and protection to Gedaliah. Thus then was the wrath of the king of Babylon provoked to. vent his rage on the remnant to whom he had shewed mercy. It now follows, —

<244104>Jeremiah 41:4-5

4. And it came to pass, the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,

4. Et factum est die postero ex quo occiderat Godoliam, ut nemo sciret,

5. That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord.

5. Et venerunt viri ex Sichem, e Silo et Samaria octoginta rasi barba (vel, rasa barba,) et laceris vestibus, et scissi (vel, laniati) in cute sua; oblatio autem et thus in manibus ipsorum, ut offerrent in domo Jehovae.

 

The Prophet skews here, that after Ishmael had polluted his hands, he made no end of his barbarity. And thus wicked men become hardened; for even if they dread at first to murder innocent men, when once they begin the work, they rush on to the commission of numberless murders. This is what the Prophet now tells us had happened; for after Gedaliah was killed, he says, that eighty men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, who brought incense and offering, to present them in the Temple, and that these were led by treachery to Mizpah, there killed and cast into a pit, as we shall hereafter see.

It is not known by what cause Ishmael was induced to commit this cruel and barbarous act, for there was no war declared, nor could he have pretended any excuse for thus slaying unhappy men, who apprehended no such thing. They were of the seed of Abraham, they were worshippers of God, and then they had committed no offense, and plotted nothing against him. Why then he was seized with such rage is uncertain, except that wicked men, as we have said, never set any bounds to their crimes; for God gives theta the spirit of giddiness, so that they are carried away by blind madness. It is, indeed, probable, that they were killed, because Ishmael thought that they carne to Gedaliah, that they might live under his protection, and that he could not have gained anything by the murder of one man, except he obtained authority over the whole land. It was then suspicion alone, and that indeed slight, which led him to such a cruelty. And the atrocity of the deed was enhanced by what the Prophet says, that they came to offer to God incense and offering, hjnm, meneche: and he says also, that they had their beards shaven, and their garments torn. Such an appearance ought to have roused pity even in the most inveterate enemies; for we know, that there is an innate feeling which leads us to pity wretchedness and tears, and every mournful appearance. The fury then of Ishmael, even if he had before determined to do some grievous thing to these men, ought to have been allayed by their very sight, so as not to be even angry with them. According then to every view of the case, we see that he must have been divested of every sense of equity, and that he was more cruel than any wild beast.

But it may be asked, How did these men come for the purpose mentioned, since the report respecting the destruction of the Temple must have spread everywhere? for they are not said to have come from Persia, or from countries beyond the sea; but that they came from places not afar off. They who answer that the report of the Temple being destroyed had not reached them, only seek to escape, but the answer is not credible, and it is only an evasion. The Temple was burnt in the fifth month; could that calamity be unknown in Judea? And then we know that Shiloh was not far from Jerusalem, nor was Samaria very distant. Since then the distance of these places cannot account for their ignorance, it seems not to me probable, that these came, because they thought that the Temple was still standing, nor did they bring victims, but only incense and oblation. I then think that they came, not to offer the ordinary sacrifice, but only that they might testify their piety in that place where they had before offered their sacrifices. This conjecture has nothing inconsistent in it; nor is there a doubt, but that before they left their homes, they had put on their mean and torn garments. These were signs, as we have elsewhere seen, of sorrow and mourning among the Orientals.

But here another question is raised, for the Prophet says, that they were torn or cut; and this has been deemed as referring to the skin or body: but this was forbidden by the Law. Some answer that they forgot the Law in their extreme grief, so that they undesignedly tore or lacerated their bodies. But the prohibition of the Law seems to me to have had something special in it, even that God designed by it to distinguish his people from heathens. And we may gather from sacred history, that some artifice was practiced by idolaters, when they cut their bodies; for it is said, that the priests of Baal cut their bodies according to their usual manner or practice. God then, wishing to keep his people from every corruption, forbade them to imitate the rites of the heathens. And then there is no doubt but that God designed to correct excess in grief and mourning. I therefore do not think that anything contrary to the Law was done by these men, when they came to the ruins of the Temple with torn garments and lacerated skin, for there was in them nothing affected, for so lamentable a calamity drew forth such grief, that they spared neither themselves nor their garments.

Jeremiah says, in the first of these verses, that the death of Gedaliah was concealed, so that no one knew it; yet such a deed could have been hardly buried; for many of the Jews were killed together with Gedaliah, and also the guarding soldiers, whom Nebuchadnezzar had given to Gedaliah. But the Prophet means that it was hid, because the report had not yet gone forth. He then speaks comparatively, when he says that it was known to none. We have already stated the purpose for which the eighty men came from Samaria and other places; it was not that they might offer sacrifices, as when the Temple was standing, but only lament the destruction of the Temple and of the city; and that as they had brought from home the greatest sorrow, they might, on their return, humble themselves, after having seen so grievous a punishment inflicted on the people for their sins.

PRAYER

Grant, omnipotent God, that since our life is exposed to innumerable dangers, and thou settest before our eyes what happened to the best and choicest of thy servants, — O grant, that we may flee to thee, and resign ourselves wholly to thy will, that we may know that thou art the guardian of our life, so that not a hair of our head can fall without thy hidden permission, and that we may also learn to ask of thee the spirit of wisdom and discretion, so that thou thyself mayest guide our steps, as it is not in us to defend our life from those many intrigues by which we are on every side surrounded, the whole world being opposed to us, so that we may proceed in the course of our pilgrimage under thy care and protection, until we shall be removed into that blessed rest, which is laid up for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Fifth

<244106>Jeremiah 41:6-7

6. And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.

6. Et egressus est Ismael filius Nathaniae obviam ipsis e Mispath, ambnlans ambulando et fiens; et factum est cum occurrisset illis, tune dixit illis, Venite ad Godoliam filium Achikam.

7. And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him.

7. Et factum est cum venissent in medium urbis, tunc jugulavit (vel, mactavit) eos Ismael filius Natha-niae ad medium fossae, ipse et viri qui erant cum eo.

 

Here Jeremiah relates another circumstance in the nefarious conduct of Ishmael, that by flatteries he enticed simple men, who feared no evil, and while pretending kindness, slew them. The slaughter was in itself very detestable, but added to it was the most abominable deceit, for he pretended to weep with them, and offered an act of kindness, to bring them to Gedaliah, and then he traitorously killed them! We hence see that it was an act of extreme wickedness. In saying that he wept, it was no doubt a sign of feigned piety, fG12 He saw these good men in torn garments and in tears on account of the Temple being destroyed, he therefore pretended that he had the same feeling. This was falsely to pretend a regard for God, and his tears were those of the crocodile; for he shed tears as though he lamented the ruin of the Temple and of the city. He thus gained the confidence of the unwary men, and then after having led them into the middle of the city, he slew them. The place also is mentioned, nigh to the middle of the pit, for so I render it, rather than in the middle, for it is not credible that he killed them in the pit itself; but when led to the pit they were killed and were cast into it, as we shall see. fG13 He then slew them at the outside of the pit, and immediately cast them in.

It may, however be asked, Whether he could with so few attack with success so many men? for it seems strange, that as they were eighty men they did not resist; they might at least have frightened their enemies. But we must, in the first place, recollect that they were, as we have seen, unarmed; for they had brought only a sacred offering with incense; but the others were armed and well trained for war; they had also been reduced to a state of hopeless despair, so that they had doubtless contracted great ferocity, as those who are continually in danger accustom themselves to acts of cruelty. Ishmael, then, and his companions were armed, but the others were without any arms, and were also simple men and in no degree accustomed to war. Hence it was that they were killed like sheep, while Ishmael and his associates were like wolves, altogether ferocious. It now follows, —

<244108>Jeremiah 41:8

8. But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not; for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.

8. Decem autem homines inventi sunt in ipsis qui dixerunt (et dixerunt, copula resolvi debet hoc modo; dixerunt ergo) ad Ismael, Ne interficias nos, quia sunt nobis opes reconditae in agro, triticum et hordeum (sunt pluralis numeri, sed durum esset Latine dicere, tritica et hordea) et oleum et mel: et cessavit (vel, destitit,) et non occidit eos in medio fratrum suorum.

 

We here see that the barbarity of Ishmael was connected with avarice, he was indeed inflamed with ferocious madness when he slew simple and innocent men; but when the hope of gain was presented to him, he spared some of them. Thus then we see that he was a lion, a wolf, or a bear in savageness, but that he was also a hungry man, for as soon as he smelt the odor of prey, he spared ten out of the eighty, who, it is probable, thus redeemed their life and returned home. So in one man we see there were many monsters; for if he hated all those who favored Gedaliah, why did he suffer these to escape? even because avarice and rapacity prevailed in him.

It is then added, that he slew them not in the midst of their brethren, that is, when they were exposed to death and were mixed with the others, so that their condition seems to have been the same. The Prophet says, that they were spared, even because Ishmael sought nothing else but gain. And it is probable that in a state of things so disturbed he was not furnished with provisions and other things. As, then, want urged him, so he became moderate, lest his cruelty should cause a loss to him.

Here also is set before us the inscrutable purpose of God, that he suffered unhappy men to have been thus slain by robbers. They had left. their houses to lament the burning of the Temple. As then the ardor of their piety led them to Jerusalem, how unworthy it was that they should become a prey to the barbarity of Ishmael and his associates? But as we said yesterday, God has hidden ways by which he provides for the salvation of his people. He took away Gedaliah; his end indeed was sad, having been slain by Ishmael whom he had hospitably entertained. Thus God did not suffer him to be tossed about in the midst of great troubles. For John, the son of Kareah, who yet was a most faithful man, would have become soon troublesome to the holy man; for he became soon after the head and ringleader of an impious faction, and ferociously opposed Jeremiah. Had then Gedaliah lived, he would have been assailed on every side by his own people. It was then God’s purpose to free him at once from all these miserable troubles. The same thing also happened to the seventy who were slain; for the Lord removed them to their rest, that they might; not be exposed to the grievous evils and calamities which afterwards soon followed; for none could have been in a more miserable state than the remnant whom Nebuchadnezzar had spared. We have then reason in this instance to admire the secret purpose of God, when we see that these unhappy men were killed, who yet had gone to Jerusalem for the sake of testifying their piety. It was, in short, better for them to have been removed than to have been under the necessity of suffering again many miseries. It now follows, —

<244109>Jeremiah 41:9

9. Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men (whom he had slain because of Gedaliah)was it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.

9. Fovea autem in quam projecit Ismael illuc (sed abundat fG14 ) omnia cadavera hominum, quos percussit in plaga Godeliae (vel, propter Godoliam, ut alii vertunt) ipsa est quam fecerat rex Aza propter Baaza regem Israel; hanc replevit Ismael filius Nathaniae interfectis.

 

The Prophet tells us by the way that the trench was made by King Asa, when he fortified the city against the attack of Baasha, as it is related in the sixteenth chapter of Second Chronicles. For Baasha, having collected an army, made an attack on the land of Judah and began to build the city, that he might thus keep the Jews as it were besieged, and make thence daily incursions, and where he might safely take his forces together with the spoils. Asa then hired the king of Syria, and induced him to break the treaty which the two kings of Syria and Israel had made with one another. Thus Baasha was forced to leave the work unfinished, and thence Asa is said to have carried away the gathered stones, that thereby the trench might be formed. There is indeed no mention of the trench; but we may conclude that it was then formed, in order that it might interpose between the enemy and the city. But it may seem strange that the trench was in the midst of the city, except perhaps that Asa built a fortress within the town, that if he was overcome by his enemy, he might take refuge there with his men of war, as we know that citadels are often built in the middle of cities as fortresses, as places of refuge. Asa then built this trench, that should the king of Israel take the city, he might not penetrate farther, but be kept back by the interposing trench. But only in things uncertain are conjectures to be allowed.

But the Prophet increases the indignity of the deed, when he says, that the trench was filled with the slain. It was formed for a very different end and purpose, even that the king of Judah, when reduced to the greatest straits, might have the trench as a defense against the violence of his enemies, so that he might protect his kingdom and his subjects. But now the slain were cast into the trench, not the Syrians nor the Israelites, but Jews themselves and God’s pious worshipers. What then had been made for the public benefit of the people, was made by Ishmael a place for the slaughter of good men. And hence, as it has been said, the atrocity of the deed was more enhanced. It afterwards follows, —

<244110>Jeremiah 41:10

10. Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.

10. Et captivum cepit Ismael quod residuum erat populi, quod erat in Mispath, nempe filias regis, et totum populum qui relictus fuerat in Mispath quem commiserat Nabuzardan princeps interfectorum Godoliae filio Achikam (vel, cui residuo populi praefecerat Godoliam, eodem sensu, filium Achikam:) accepit ergo Ismael filius Nathaniae, et profectus est ut transiret ad filios Ammon.

 

It is not known whether Ishmael had this design at the beginning, or whether, when he saw that he had no power to stand his ground, he took the captives with him, that he might dwell with the king of Ammon. It is, however, probable that this was done according to a previous resolution, and that before he slew Gedaliah, it was determined that the remnant should be drawn away to that country. Perhaps the king of Ammon wished to send some of his own people to dwell in Judea; thus he hoped to become the ruler of Judea, and also hoped to pacify the king of Babylon by becoming his tributary. It was, however, a great thing to possess a land so fertile. However this may have been, there is no doubt but that the king of Ammon hoped for something great after the death of Gedaliah. And it is probable that for this reason the people were drawn away, to whom an habitation in Judea had been permitted.

The Prophet now tells us, that Ishmael took the remnant of the people captives. And it appears that in a short time he had a greater force than at the beginning; for he could not with a few men collect the people, for the number of those who had been left, as we have seen, was not inconsiderable: and they were dispersed through many towns; and Ishmael could not have prevailed on them by his command alone to remove to the land of Ammon. But after he had killed Gedaliah, his barbarity frightened them all, and no doubt many joined him; for an impious faction ever finds many followers when any hope is offered them. All then who were miserable among the people followed him as their leader; and thus he was able to lead away the whole people as captives.

But here again a question arises, that is, respecting the daughters of the king; for the poor and the obscure, who were of the lowest class, had alone been left; and the royal seed, as we have seen, had been carried away. But it is probable that some of the king’s daughters had escaped when the city was besieged; for Ishmael himself was of the royal seed, but he had escaped before the city was taken. Nebuchadnezzar then could not have had him as a captive. The same was the case with the daughters of the king, whom Zedekiah might have sent to some secure places. And Ge-daliah afterwards brought them together when he saw that it could be done without danger or hazard of exciting suspicion: he had indeed obtained this power, as we have before seen, from Nebuzaradan. Though then Gedaliah ruled over the poor and those of no repute, yet the daughters of the king, who had been removed to quieter places, afterwards dwelt with him; and so Ishmael, and John the son of Kareah, and other leaders of the army, came to him: the reason was the same.

But it is again repeated, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan had committed to Gedaliah, or, over whom he appointed Gedaliah, as we have before seen. But the repetition was not made without reason; for Jeremiah expressed again what was worthy of special notice, that the fury and violence of Ishmael were so great that he did not see that the mind of Nebuchadnezzar would be so exasperated as to become implacable; but his madness was so furious that he had no regard for himself nor for others.

He then says that he took away captive the people, and went that he might pass over to the children of Ammon. Thus their condition was much worse than if they had been driven into exile; for the Ammonites were in no degree more kind than the Chaldeans; nay, they were exposed there, as we shall hereafter see, to greater reproaches; it would indeed have been better for them and more tolerable, had they been at once killed, than to have been thus removed to an exile the most miserable.

It hence appears that Ishmael was wholly devoid of all humane feelings, having been thus capable of the impiety of betraying the children of Abraham. For where there is ambition, it often happens that a lust for empire impels men to deeds of great enormity; but to draw away unhappy people to the Ammonites was certainly an act more than monstrous.

As to the people, we shall hereafter see that they deserved all their reproaches and miseries; and this calamity did not happen to them except through the righteous providence of God. For though they were freed, as we shall see, by the son of Kareah, yet they soon went into Egypt, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the Prophet, and his severe denunciations in case they removed there. Though then the base and monstrous cruelty of Ishmael is here set before us, let us yet know that the Jews deserved to be driven away into exile, and to be subjected to all kinds of miseries.

Oh, miserable sentence! when it is said, that there were slain seventy men in the hand of Gedaliah. fG15 Some render “hand,” as I have noticed, “on account of Gedaliah;and others, “in the place of Gedaliah.” But as this explanation seems forced, we may take hand for stroke or wound; and this seems the most suitable meaning, as hand is often so taken in Scripture. They were then slain in the wound of Gedaliah, that is, they were slain in like manner with him, as it were in addition to the wound he received. Let us now proceed, —

<244111>Jeremiah 41:11-12

11. But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done,

11. Et audivit Joannes filius Kareah et omnes duces copiarum, qui cum eo erant, omne malum quod perpetraverat Ismael filius Nathaniae;

12. Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.

12. Et sumpserunt omnes homines, et profecti sunt ad proeliandum cum Ismael filio Nathaniae, et invenerunt (vel, assecuti sunt) ipsum ad aquas magnas (alii vetrunt, multas, sed non placet) quae sunt in Guibeon.

 

Here the Prophet informs us, that Ishmael did not attain his wishes; for he had resolved to sell; as it were, the people to the king of Ammon, but he was intercepted in his course. But he says first, that John the son of Kareah had heard the report, and that he, together with other leaders, went to meet him in order to intercept him in his journey. He says also that he collected all the men, even those who had been dispersed. All then they could have got, they enlisted, and went to fight with Ishmael. And the Prophet adds, that they found him at the great waters. And I think they were so called because they were either a lake or a pool. I doubt not, then, but that it was a common name. Some say that the waters were then abundant, because there had been constant rains. But this conjecture is not probable. The simpler meaning is, that these waters were thus called, because in that part the abundance of water was not great in comparison with the lake. fG16 Ishmael then was found there. It is now added by the Prophet, that the captives rejoiced when they saw John, and immediately came over to his side. he therefore says, —

<244113>Jeremiah 41:13-14

13. Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad.

13. Et accidit cum vidisset populus, qui erat cum Ismael, Joannem filium Kareah, et omnes duces copiarum, qui erant cum eo, tunc laetati sunt.

14. So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about, and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.

14. Et conversus est totus populus quem abduxerat Ismael e Mispath, et reversi sunt et profecti sunt cum Joanne filio Kareah.

 

The people readily passed over to John and his army, because John, and other leaders of the forces, came to them sufficiently armed, and they were, as we have before seen, men trained up for war. And Ishmael could not have been equal to them, when the people went over to John and his associates. Thus we see that the impious man failed in his base purpose, for he thought to render himself very acceptable to the king of Ammon by bringing so many captives to dwell in his land, that he might take possession of Judea. He had then formed many plans for himself, but God frustrated them. But it was God’s will that he should remain alive; for he fled, as it appears from what follows, —

<244115>Jeremiah 41:15

15. But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Jo-hanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.

15. Et Ismael (Ismael autem) filius Nathaniae servatus est (vel, evasit) cum octo hominibus a facie Joannis, et pro-fectus eat ad filios Ammon.

 

He indeed met with bad success; he fled before his enemy, when the whole people forsook him, when he lost his soldiers; and he could not come without the greatest disgrace before the king of Ammon. It seems, however, very strange that he was allowed to flee away; for how was it that God did not execute those well-known sentences, —

“He who smites with the sword shall perish by the sword;” “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed?” (<402405>Matthew 24:52; <661310>Revelation 13:10; <010906>Genesis 9:6)

Ishmael had not only killed a man, but the governor of the people, and that governor by whose protection and favor a remnant had been preserved as a seed; and he had also killed all whom he had found with him; and lastly, he had killed seventy men, with whom he had no strife, no war, no quarrel. As, then, Ishmael had so polluted himself with innocent blood, and with so many murders of good men, how was it that he was suffered to escape?

As we have before said, God does not now observe an equal, or the same course in his judgments; for he often extends the life of the most wicked, that they may be exhibited, as it were, as a spectacle; nor does the truth of the words, “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed,” become evanescent; but God has various ways by which he renders a just reward to murderers and assassins. And we ought to notice what is said in the book of Psalms,

“Slay them not, lest my people should forget.”
(<195911>Psalm 59:11)

The Psalmist there asks God not to destroy immediately the wicked; for an oblivion of a remarkable punishment might easily creep in, if God executed it suddenly and instantly. But when God impresses a mark of his curse on the impious and the wicked, and prolongs their life, it is the same as though he placed them in a theater to be looked on leisurely and for a long time. Conspicuous, then, are the marks of God on the impious, when God pursues them slowly and by degrees, and summons them, in a manner, day by day before his tribunal. There is, therefore, no doubt but that God thus executed vengeance on the barbarity of Ishmael.

For how was it that he killed Gedaliah? even because he was of the royal seed, and foolish pride still filled his heart, though God by his powerful hand had broken down whatever dignity that once belonged to the royal seed, sea, he had completely torn it to pieces; and yet this man cherished his own ferocity. Hence God executed on him a two-fold punishment, by depriving him of his company; for he went to the king of Ammon, whom he had no doubt flattered with great promises, and from whom he also expected no common rewards, — he went there a fugitive with his eight companions, and also filled with confusion, and he saw no hope of a return. Thus, then, it happened that he was despised and reprobated; and this was, no doubt, more bitter to him than if he had suffered ten deaths.

Let us then learn not to form our judgment according to the present appearance of things; but let us patiently wait while God makes openly known to us the various ways he adopts in punishing the wicked; nay, this ought especially to serve as a confirmation to our faith, when we see the godly cruelly slain, and the wicked remaining in security; for it hence follows that we are to look for another judgment of God, which does not yet appear. For if God rendered to each his just reward, then the Sadducees would have some ground to boast that there is not another life; but when things are thus in a state of confusion in the world, we know that God’s judgment is suspended and deferred to another time. Then this variety or confusion, if you please, confirms our minds in the hope of the last judgment, and of a blessed resurrection. I cannot now proceed further.

PRAYER

Grant, omnipotent God, that as this world is filled with the filth of the wicked, and as we are on every side surrounded with enemies, — O grant, that we may learn to flee under thy protection, and so hide ourselves under the shadow of thy wings, that we may look nowhere else for safety but from thy defense; and that we may also know that as to everything that happens to us, our life and our death are so ordered by thy wonderful providence, that all events help forward our salvation, so that we may go onward, not only through many calamities, but, if need be, through the midst of slaughters, until we shall come to that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Sixth

<244116>Jeremiah 41:16-18

16. Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, (after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam,) even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:

16. Et sumpsit Joannes filius Kareah et cuncti principes (duces) copiarum qui erant cum eo omnes reliquias populi, quas reduxerant ab Ismaele filio Nathaniae e Mispath, postquam percusserat Godoliam filium Achikam, viros fortes, viros belli (hoc est, bellicosos,) et mulieres et pueritiam et eunuchos quos reduxerat a Guibeon:

17. And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Beth-lehem, to go to enter into Egypt,

17. Et profecti sunt et sederunt (vel, substiterunt) in Geruth-Chimcham, quae est prope Bethlehem, ut proficiscerentur ad ingrediendum in Aegyptum,

18. Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid Of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon and inade governor in the land.

18. Propter Chaldaeos, quia timebant ab ipsis (ad verbum, a facie ipsorum,) quia percusserat Ismael filius Nathaniae Godoliam filium Achikam, quem praefecerat rex Babylonis in terra.

 

The Prophet now shews, that though some kind of virtue appeared in John the son of Kareah, he was not yet of a right mind. He was an energetic and a discreet man, but he discovered his unbelief, when he led the remnant of the people into Egypt, while the Prophet was forbidding such a thing. He already knew that this was not lawful, but his obstinacy was two-fold more, when the Prophet repudiated his project, as we shall see. This passage then teaches us, that though the leaders of the forces, who had put Ishmael to flight, and avenged his perfidy, were men of courage, and shewed regard for the public good, they were destitute of faith: there was thus wanting in them the chief thing, that is piety and the fear of God.

Then the Prophet says, that John and the rest took the remnant of the people whom they had recovered from Ishmael, from Mizpah, not that they were recovered from that place, but that Ishmael had brought the unhappy people captives from Mizpah, as we have seen; but they had all been recovered at Gibeon, according to what is said at the end of the verse. But he says that they were valiant men, yrbg, geberim, (he so calls them on account of their courage, for an explanation follows,) and men of war, yna hmjlmh, anushi emelecheme. He then calls them valiant or brave, and afterwards he explains what that virtue was, even because they were warlike men. He says further, that there were women mixed with them, and children, and eunuchs, who once lived in the king’s court; and as we have before seen, there were among them the king’s daughters. Gedaliah then had collected together a considerable number of men, not only from the lower orders, but also from the higher class, whose wealth and rank were not common while the kingdom was standing.

But the Prophet immediately adds what the purpose was which they had all formed. They dwelt, he says, in Geruth; some render it, “in the peregrination;but it seems to me to be a proper name, and I agree with those who so render it. fG17 But it is called the Geruth of Chimham, of whom mention is made in <101931>2 Samuel 19:31, 37. he was the son of Barzillai, who entertained David when a fugitive from his kingdom, and entertained him bountifully. When David wished to remunerate his kindness, the good man made his age as an excuse, and said, that he was old, so that he could not enjoy the things of this life; but he presented his son to David, and it is probable that this place was given to the son as a reward. It was hence called Geruth-Chimham, the name of its possessor being attached to it. And he says that it was nigh Bethlehem. It is also probable, that when David wished to remunerate his host, he chose a place nigh his own city, where he was born.

It is added, to go, etc. Then the Prophet shews that this was not a settled habitation, but that they intended to go into Egypt. They knew that this was forbidden by the Law of God, and the Prophets had often pronounced a curse on such a design. Notwithstanding God’s prohibition, they prepared themselves for the journey. Fear was the cause; but how much so ever they might have justly feared, they ought yet to have considered what God permitted: for if a sick man takes poison instead of medicine, he must suffer the punishment that necessarily follows his own presumption and madness; so they who seek to provide for themselves contrary to God’s will, gain only their own destruction. This was done, as the Prophet tells us, by the remnant of the people.

He then says, that they were there for a time, but that they looked forward to Egypt, on account, he says, of the Chaldeans, because they feared them, and for this reason, because Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had set over the land. This fear was not without reason; but they might have sent persons to the king of Babylon, and have thrown the blame on the right person, and cleared themselves; and the matter might have been settled. They might then have easily obtained pardon from King Nebuchadnezzar; but as no fear of God prevailed in them, they did not consider what was lawful, and were by a blind impulse led into Egypt. Thus fear was no alleviation to their crime, for there was another remedy at hand, which God would have blessed. But when they disregarded God’s word, and followed what their own feelings dictated to them, they contrived in a very bad way for themselves. But far worse is what follows.


CHAPTER 42

<244201>Jeremiah 42:1-3

1. Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Ka-reah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshai-ah, and all the people, from the least even unto the greatest, came near,

1. Et accesserunt cuncti duces copiarum, et Joannes filius Kareah, et Jezaniah filius Ozamae, et totus populus a parvo usque ad magnum,

2. And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us;)

2. Et dixerunt ad Jeremiam prophetam, Cadat Agedum precatio nostra coram facie tua, et ores pro nobis Jehovam Deum tuum pro omnibus reliquiis istis, quia relicti sumus exiguum e magno, sicuti oculi tui vident nos;

3. That the Lord thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.

3. Et annuntiet nobis Jehova Deus tuus viam, per quam ambulemus, et rem quam faciamus.

 

I have said that John, and his associates, and the whole people acted much more culpably by coming to the Prophet, than if they had not done so, and had gone directly to Egypt: for they either came dissemblingly, and thus designedly spoke what was false, or they were extremely stupid, and hypocrisy had wholly deprived them of their understanding. They came to the Prophet to ask counsel; nay, that he might be to them God’s interpreter, and that thus they might know what to do; and they promised to obey, as we shall hereafter see. However this may have been, they sought an oracle in which it was their duty to acquiesce, except they resolved openly to shake off the yoke and to show themselves to be gross and profane despisers of God. They came to the Prophet, when yet it was their fixed purpose, as we shall see, to go to Egypt.

He who asks counsel, ought first to see that he bring no prejudice, but be free and honest: but it is, however, a fault too common, that men deliberate and ask counsel, when they have already settled what to do; nay, nothing is more common than this; for those who consult do not, for the most part, wish to learn what is right, but that others should fall in with their own inclinations. He who has resolved on this or that point, pretends that he is in doubt, and held in suspense; he asks what ought to be done: if the answer be according to his wishes, he embraces what is said; but if he who is consulted, disapproves of what he has already resolved to do, he rejects the counsel given. Such was the dissimulation described by the Prophet, when the leaders of the forces and the whole people came to him.

He mentions, first, the leaders of the forces, and then John the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshiah. He adds these two last; but it was to give them honor, as when the angel said,

“Go and tell his disciples and Peter.” (<411607>Mark 16:7)

He did not put aside Peter, as though he was inferior to all the rest; but for the sake of honor he mentions his name, after having spoken generally of them all. So also here, the Prophet names generally the leaders, but as John the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah were the chief men, he expressly gives their names. He adds, the whole people, from the least to the greatest. This does not refer to age; but what he means is, that all, of every grade, came with one consent to Jeremiah. It was not then the conspiring of a few men, but all from the least to the greatest had resolved to go to Egypt; and yet they came, as though with an honest purpose, to the Prophet; wherefore? They wished their own perverse design to be approved by God, and thus to subject God to their own will and humor; for they did not suffer themselves to be ruled by his Spirit, but audaciously disregarded his word. The Prophet then shews that they were all implicated in the same sin.

It is added, that they said, as though they were ready to obey, Let our prayer fall before thee. This, as we have said, when addressed to God, is an evidence of humility; but it is applied here to man; and when the Hebrews make a humble request, they say, “Let my prayer fall before thee,” that is, Hear what I suppliantly and humbly ask. Pray, they said, to Jehovah thy God for us. They called him the God of Jeremiah, not that they intended to exempt themselves from his authority; they did not mean that they were alienated from God; but in this way they extolled Jeremiah, and acknowledged him to be God’s true and lawful Prophet. In short, this saying refers to the prophetic office, as though they had said, that Jeremiah had hitherto confirmed his vocation, so that it was clearly evident that he had been sent from above.

We hence see why they called Jehovah the God of Jeremiah, not as though they had rejected God, and as though he was not their God in common with Jeremiah, but they allowed that the Prophet possessed a higher honor, and that his faithfulness and integrity were beyond controversy.

But this admission justly recoiled on their own head; for if Jeremiah was God’s Prophet, why did they not instantly obey him, after knowing that what he faithfully told them he had received from God? and why did they insolently and ferociously resist him and accuse him of falsehood? Their own admission then was not sincere, but a fallacious flattery, as is the case with all hypocrites, who never speak in sincerity and truth.

They afterwards added, Pray for all this remnant, for we are left, a few from many. This they added to produce pity, in order that they might more easily obtain from Jeremiah what they asked; nor was that difficult; but as they felt conscious of wrong, they sought the favor of the Prophet by flatteries, Had they asked him without disguise, they knew that he was of himself disposed to seek the well being of the people; but as they were of a double mind, they set before him their miserable state, which might; have roused the Prophet still more to make intercession to God for them. And for this reason they added, as thine eyes see us. And they set before him this sad spectacle, to create sympathy in the Prophet. And it then follows, And may Jehovah thy God shew us the way in which we are to walk. They now explained more clearly why they wished prayer to be made for them, even that God might answer and shew what he wished them to do.

They came then, as it has been stated, as though they were ready to obey; and then they professed humility, because they did not wish to do anything rashly, but only to follow where God called them. Had they spoken from the heart, it would have been a rare virtue thus to-have fled in perplexities to God, and to have allowed themselves to be ruled by his word; but we shall see that it was all a pre-tence. We have then here set before us the hypocrisy of that people, so that we may learn that whenever we ask what pleases God, we should bring a pure and sincere heart, so that nothing may prevent or hinder us immediately to embrace whatever God may command us. But their hypocrisy is discovered to have been still baser, when the Prophet adds,

<244204>Jeremiah 42:4

4. Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.

4. Et dixit illis Jeremias Propheta, Audivi, ecce ego orabo Jehovam Deum vestrum secundum sermones vestros, et erit quemcunque sermonem responderit Jehova vobis, annuntiabo vobis, non celabo a vobis quicquam.

 

In order to prepare them to obey, he testified that he would be a faithful messenger of God; for there is no doubt but that the Prophet, as we shall see, regarded them with suspicion. That he might therefore have them teachable and obedient to the answer expected from God, he said beforehand, that he would honestly and faithfully perform his office as a Prophet.

I have heard, he says; here he shews how ready he was to attend, and how he neglected nothing conducive to their well being. I have heard, he says, Behold, I will pray according to your words. There is no doubt but that he thus intimated that he wished well to them; and it might have rendered them more attentive to the oracle to know that the Prophet was influenced by love. Nor is there a doubt but that the Prophet testified his love towards them, that his doctrine might afterwards have more weight with them.

By saying, Whatever your God will answer, he did not mean that the oracle would be revealed to all, for the words could not be otherwise explained than through the Prophet, who would openly make known to the whole people what he heard from God’s mouth. But he says, that the answer would be given to them, because God would give the answer which was to be communicated to all, as it is said that God spoke to Moses, and also to all the people, for the doctrine was intended for all. Moses did not receive the law, nor its interpretation, in his own private character, but in order that the people might know what was right. So Jeremiah did here; the answer he received from God he made known as belonging in common to all the people.

But in calling God their God, he did not mean to flatter them or to praise their piety, but to exhort them to surrender and devote themselves wholly to God, as though he had said, that they had to do with God, who had bound them to himself when he adopted them as his peculiar people, and then favored them with so many blessings. Since then God had made himself known to them, they could not reject his counsel with impunity, for there was no pretext of ignorance. We hence see what weight there is in this, your God; for Jeremiah reminded them that they could not with impunity trifle with God, for they were not their own, but had been chosen to be God’s people, and on this condition, to be wholly subject to his authority. Then the sum of the whole is this, that the Prophet would faithfully convey to the Jews the answer God would give them; and he said this that his doctrine might have a greater authority among them. It now follows, —

<244205>Jeremiah 42:5-6

5. Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us.

5. Ipsi antem dixerunt ad Jeremiam, Erit Jehova inter nos in testem (vel, testis) fidei et veritatis (testis fidelis et verax,) nisi secundum omnem sermonem quem miserit (id est, pro quo miserit) Jehova Deus tuus ad nos, sic facturi sumus;

6. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.

6. Sive bonum, sive malum, voci Jehovae Dei nostri, pro qua nos mittimus te ad ipsum, obediemus (audiemus vocem, ad verbum, sed tantundem valet, audire vocem atque obedire voci,) ut bene sit nobis, cum obediverimus voci Dei nostri.

 

It hence appears that the people understood for what purpose Jeremiah, before he consulted God, assured them of his faithfulness and sincerity; for it was not without reason that they promised to be obedient to God; but as they saw that they were suspected as being not sincere by Jeremiah, and as he had promised to be a true and faithful teacher, they on the other hand declared that they would be sincere disciples, and would receive whatever God might command them. But they soon betrayed their perfidy, for when they heard that what they had resolved to do did not please God, they not only rejected the counsel of God and the Prophet, but treated him insolently, and even loaded the holy man with reproaches, as though he had told them what was false. Their hypocrisy ought at the same time to be a lesson to us, so that when God is pleased through a singular favor to shew us the way of acting rightly by faithful instructors and competent teachers, we may not be like them, but be teachable and ready to obey, and prove this not only by the mouth but also by our deeds.

The Prophet then says, that they spoke thus, Let God be a faithful and true witness between us. Being not content with a simple affirmation, they dared to interpose the name of God; and thus we see how blind is hypocrisy. For if men duly weigh what it is to profane God’s name, surely they would dread and abominate all perjury. As then they rushed on so audaciously to swear, it is evident that they were as it were stupefied; and there is no inebriety which so confuses the minds of men and all their senses as hypocrisy.

They then added, According to whatever word which Jehovah thy God shall send to us, so will we do, that is, whatever Jehovah shall command us by thee; for God is said to send to men, when he sends a messenger in his name to bring his commands. Jeremiah then was, as it were, a middle person to address the people in God’s name, as though he had been sent from heaven. They therefore said, that they would do whatever God commanded. A stronger expression follows, Whether good or evil, we will obey the voice of Jehovah our God. They did not here charge God’s word with being wrong, as though it had anything unjust in it; but they used good in the sense of joyful, and evil as meaning what is sad or grievous, as though they had said, that they asked for no other thing but that God should declare what pleased him, and that they were so submissive as to refuse nothing though contrary to the flesh. Had this declaration proceeded from the heart, it would have been a testimony of true piety; for the minds of the godly ought to be so framed as to obey God without making any exception, whether he commands what is contrary to their purpose, or leads them where they do not wish to go; for they who wish to make a compact with God, that he should require nothing but what is agreeable to them, shew that they know not what it is to serve God. Hence the obedience of faith in an especial manner requires this, that man should renounce his own desires, that he should not set up his own counsels and wishes against the word of God, nor object and say, this is hard, that is not quite agreeable. Whether then it be good or evil, that is, though it may be contrary to the feelings of the flesh, we ought still to embrace what God requires and commands: this is the rule of true religion.

As the Jews spoke feignedly by assuming a character not their own, they profaned God’s name. But if we desire to prove our fidelity to God, the only way of acting is, to regard his word as binding, whether it be agreeable or otherwise, and never to murmur, as the ungodly do; for when God would have a yoke laid on them, they complain that his doctrine is too hard and burdensome. Away, then, with all those things which can render God’s word unacceptable to us, if we desire to give a sure proof of our fidelity. Hence they said, Whether it be good or evil, what God will lay down we will obey his voice.

They afterwards added, For which we send thee to him. fG18 Here they still further cast themselves into toils. Jeremiah did not in express words require them to make an oath; they yet did make an oath; and then in various ways still more bound themselves over to punishment, if they became perjurers. They now shew that it would be a two-fold crime, should they disobey God; how? Had the Prophet been sent to them, they might have made excuses; though vain, they might yet have something to allege; but when they of their own accord asked God, when they offered of themselves to do this, and promised to be obedient in all things, it is evident that unless afterwards they acted according to their pledged faith, they must have been more inexcusable, because they tempted God: for who induced them to come to the Prophet? We hence see that God extorted from them what doubled their crime. But the more hypocrites attempt by disguises to conceal their impiety, the faster they bind themselves, and the more they kindle God’s wrath against themselves.

They then added, That it may be well with us when we obey the voice of Jehovah. By this circumstance also they aggravated their crime. For if the Prophet had promised them a prosperous issue, they might not have believed; in that case they would have indeed sinned; but their wicked-ness would have been more tolerable than when they themselves had spoken, as though they were the organs of the Holy Spirit; they said themselves, It shall be well with us; it will be our chief happiness to follow the voice of God and to obey him. As, then, they thus protested to God and the Prophet, that they might appear to be God’s faithful servants, the greater condemnation they brought on themselves; for if they believed that not]ting would turn out happily, except according to God’s command, how was it that they did not submit to God? why did they despise what was afterwards said by the Prophet? But as we have already said, as they deceived themselves by dealing falsely with God and profaning his holy name, let us learn and know that we can in no other way expect a happy issue in all that we do, but by obeying the voice of God; for whatever men may attempt of themselves, it will be accursed before God. This, then, is our only sure hope, that when we attempt nothing but what is according to God’s word, there will be a good and happy issue, though many things may happen otherwise than we hope or think.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are here tossed to and fro, being uncertain and doubtful, except we are ruled by thy word, and are blind in thick darkness, — O grant, that while thou shinest on us by thy Law and by thy Gospel, we may be illuminated as to our minds by thy Holy Spirit, so that we may wholly surrender ourselves to thee, and never deviate from the right way which thou hast made known to us, but so pursue our course through life, that at length we may come to that blessed life, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Seventh

<244207>Jeremiah 42:7-10

7. And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah.

7. Et fuit a fine decem dierum datus est sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam.

8. Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people, from the least even to the greatest,

8. Et vocavit Joannem filium Kareah et omnes duces copiarum, qui cum eo erant, et totum populum a parvo usque ad magnum,

9. And said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him;

9. Et dixit illis, Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, ad quem misistis me (ad verbum, ad quem misistis me ad ipsum,) ut prosternerem preca-tionem vestram coram facie ejus, —

10. If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down; and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.

10. Si habitando habitaveritis in terra hac, tunc, aedificabo vos, et non diruam, et plantabo vos et non evellam; quia poenitet me mali quod intuli vobis (vel, satiatus sum malo.)

 

Here Jeremiah declares what answer he received from God; and he gave it in his name to the leaders of the forces and to the whole people. The answer was, that they were to continue in the land; for this would be for their good. We shall hereafter see, that they had falsely asked counsel of God, whom they had resolved not to obey, as it has been already stated. But the Prophet shews again more clearly how perversely they acted after God had commanded them to remain quiet, and especially not to proceed to Egypt.

Now he says, that at the tenth day God answered him. He might have done so immediately, but he deferred, that the prophecy might have more weight. Had the Prophet been asked any question respecting the common rule of life, as a faithful expounder of the Law, he might have explained to them what their duty was; but as he had been asked on a special subject, he could not have immediately answered them. And God, as I have said, kept them for a time in suspense; not only that the Prophet’s answer might be made without ostentation, but also that. the people might embrace as coming from God what the Prophet would say; for his doctrine could not have been doubted, for he did not instantly bring forth what had arisen in his own head, but prayerfully waited to know what pleased God, and at length announced his commands. We now then perceive the cause of delay, why God did not immediately convey to his servant the answer required.

Let us at the same time learn from this passage, that if God does not immediately extricate us from all perplexity and doubt, we ought patiently to wait, according to the direction of Paul, who, when speaking of doctrine, admonished the faithful to remain contented until what they knew not should be revealed to them. (<500315>Philippians 3:15.) Much more should we do so, when we ask counsel as to any particular thing. When God does not immediately make known to us what we ask, we ought, as I have already said, to wait with calm and resigned minds for the time and the season when it shall be made known to us.

Jeremiah says, that he called John and the other leaders of the forces and all the people, from the least to the greatest. This is expressed that we may know that it happened, not through the fault of one or two, that this prophecy was disregarded, but that all the people were united together. The people themselves, then, could not have pretended that they were free from blame; for we see that they were all implicated. The leaders are particularly mentioned, and on the other hand the people, so that the leaders could not object and say that they were forced by a popular tumult, nor could the people throw the blame on the leaders. The Prophet then shews that they all rebelled against God, and that there was no exception.

He then says that he faithfully related to them what God had commanded, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me. By this circumstance he shews that they were more bound to obey; for if God had sent his Prophet to them,’ they ought to have obeyed his voice; but when they of their own accord came to him and prayed for a favor, and wished God’s will to be made known to them, they became doubly culpable when they refused the answer given them in God’s name. And he adds, That I might prostrate, or make to fall, your prayer before God. We have stated what is meant by this mode of speaking; but there is a difference to be noticed, for he had been requested sup-pliantly to ask God; and he says here that he had not only prayed, but had presented the prayer of the whole people, because he acted for the public; and then he was a middle person between God and the people. On this account he says, that he had been seat to present the prayer of the people to God, for he asked nothing for himself, but acted for them all, and asked God to answer the people.

He now adds, If remaining ye will remain in this land, I will build you up and plant you, I will not pull you down nor root you up. Here the Prophet testifies that the counsel he gave them in God’s name would be for their good; and what is good or useful is deemed by men, when they theorize, as they say, to be of great value. The simple authority of God ought, indeed, to be sufficient; and had God only commanded them in one word to remain, they ought to have acquiesced. But God here accommodated himself to their infirmity, and was pleased, in a manner, to let himself down in order to promote their well being, and did not require obedience according to his authority and sovereign power, as he might have justly done. We hence see how kindly God dealt with this people, as he did not demand what he might, but gave his counsel, and testified that it would be good and useful to them.

Now when orators adduce what is useful in order to persuade, they have recourse to conjectures, they state human reasons; but the Prophet here promised in God’s name, that that if they remained it would be for their good. God’s promise, then, is brought forward here instead of conjectures and reasons. Therefore the obstinacy of the people was without excuse, when they rejected the authority of God; and then despised his counsel, and also disbelieved his promise. Then to the contempt of God was added unbelief: and we know that no greater reproach can be offered to God than when men do not believe him.

The metaphors here used occur often in Scripture. God is said to build up men when he confirms them in a settled state; and in the same sense he is said to plant them. This we have already seen, and it is especially evident from <194402>Psalm 44:2, where God is said to have “planted” in the land of Canaan the people he had brought out of Egypt. He then promised that the condition of the people would be secure, and safe, and perpetual, if only they did not change their place. When he adds, I will not pull down nor pluck up, he: follows what is done commonly in Hebrew. Neither the Latins nor the Greeks speak in this manner; but negatives of this kind in Hebrew are confirmations, as though the Prophet had said, “God will so plant you that your root will remain. There will then be no danger of being plucked up when you have been planted by God’s hand; nor will he suffer you to be subverted or pulled down when he has built you up by his own hand.” What then they ought to have especially sought, God freely promised them, even to be safe and secure in the land; for this especially was what the Prophet meant.

It afterwards follows, For I repent of the evil which I have brought on you. The verb jn, nuchem, sometimes means to repent, and often to comfort; but the former sense comports better with this passage, that God repented of the evil. If, however, we prefer this rendering, “For I have received comfort,” then the meaning would be, “I am satisfied with the punishment with which I have visited your sins;” for they to whom satisfaction is given are said to receive comfort. As then God was content with the punishment he had inflicted on the Jews, the words may be rendered thus, “For I have received satisfaction from the evil,” or, “I am satisfied with the evil,” etc. The other meaning, however, is more generally taken, that God repented of the evil. fG19 But this mode of speaking is, indeed, somewhat harsh, yet it contains nothing contrary to the truth; for we know that God often transfers to himself what peculiarly belongs to man. Then repentance in God is nothing else than that having been pacified, he does not pursue men to an extremity, so as to demand the punishment which they justly deserve. Thus, then, God repented of the evil which he had brought on the people, after having sufficiently chastised their sins, according to what we read in Isaiah, when God says, that he had exacted double for their sins. (<234002>Isaiah 40:2.) He called the punishment he had inflicted double, not that it exceeded a just measure, but he spoke according to his paternal feeling, that he had treated his people in a harder way than he wished, as a father, who is even displeased with himself when he has been very severe towards his children.

We now, then, perceive what is meant by the reason here given, that the Jews were not to fear if they dwelt in the land, because God had sufficiently chastised them, and that he was so pacified that he would not further pursue them with severity. Jeremiah at the same time reminds us, that whatever evils happen to us, they ought to be ascribed to God’s judgment, and not to adverse fortune. We hence see that by these words the people were exhorted to repent; for as they were bidden to entertain good hope, because their safety was in God’s hand, so also the Prophet shews that as to the time past they had suffered nothing by chance, but that they had been punished because they had provoked God’s wrath. It follows, —

<244211>Jeremiah 42:11-12

11. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.

11. Ne timearis a facie regis Babylonis, quem vos timetis a facie ejus (hoc est, a cujus facie vos timetis) ne timeatis ab ipso, dicit Jehova; quia vobiscum ego sum ad servandum vos, et ad eripiendum vos e manu ejus;

12. And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.

12. Et dabo vobis misericordias, et miserabitur vestri et habitare faciet in terra vestra.

 

The Prophet obviates the doubt which might have grieved or agitated the minds of the people. They ought, indeed, to have recumbed on God’s promise alone; but it was difficult to be without doubts in a state of things so uncertain and confused; for the king of Babylon, as it has been stated, was grievously offended when the governor of the land was slain. The king had received wrong from the people, and the heat of war since the late victory had not cooled. They then justly feared, being conscious of the evil that had been done; and then they had to do with a proud and cruel enemy. God therefore removed from them this doubt; and thus he confirmed the paternal care which he had shewn towards them by kindly freeing them from every fear, and taking away every ground of terror.

Though Nebuchadnezzar had been offended, and might avenge the wrong done to him, yet God promised to prevent this, and declared that he would not suffer him to do any evil to the Jews. “Ye fear,” he says, “Nebuchadnezzar, but cease to do so; let this fear be dismissed, for he will not hurt you.” And the reason is added, Because I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. Here he bade the Jews to entertain good hope, because, while relying on his protection they would be safe: for there is no more any reason for doubting, when God declares that he will stand on our side. For if he is ours, we may be confident, as David was, when he said,

“I will not fear what man may do to me; for thou, God,”
he says, “art with me;”

and also,

“I will not fear though hosts surrounded me oft every side.”
(<192304>Psalm 23:4; <192703>Psalm 27:3)

We ought then to feel wholly assured, that the help of God is above that of all creatures. Thus were the whole world to rise up against us, we might as from a secure and safe place look down with indifference on all attempts, forces, and preparations. This is then the sum of what is here said; and it is according to what Christ says,

“My Father, who has given you to me, is greater than all.”
(<431029>John 10:29)

Had there then been a grain of faith in the Jews, they would have laid hold on this promise; and then had they tenaciously held it, as though it were a plank in a shipwreck, it would have led them safe to the harbor. It ought then to be sufficient to shake off all cares, to drive away all fears, and to put to flight every diffidence, when God promises to stand on our side. I am, he says, with you to save you, and he adds, to deliver you. He expresses the way and manner of saving them; for they might still have objected and said, “What will be this salvation? for Nebuchadnezzar is like a furious lion; how then can we be saved, since we cannot think otherwise than that he will be enraged against us?” To this God answers, by pointing out the manner, for he would deliver them from his hand.

He confirms the same thing in other words, I will shew mercies to you. Some explain this as meaning, that God would be merciful towards them; and I allow that this is the first reason why they ought to have entertained hope; but I doubt not but that the Prophet refers here to Nebuchadnezzar, as though he had said, “I will turn the heart of the king of Babylon to mercy, so that he will deal mercifully with you.” For God is said to shew mercies, when he forgives, and when he reconciles those who have sinned to himself; but he is said also to shew mercies, when he inclines the hearts of men to mercy. For this reason Jacob says,

“God will shew you mercies before the man.”
(<014314>Genesis 43:14)

But I abstain from other proofs on a point which ought to be well known.

The sum of what is said then is, that Nebuchadnezzar would be humane and merciful towards the Jews, because it was in God’s power to change his heart. For we know that God turns as he pleases the hearts of men; and he often changes wolves into sheep. The meaning then is, that though Nebuchadnezzar boiled with hatred towards the people, and was prepared wholly to destroy the remnant, there yet would be a remedy in God’s hand, for he could soften his hardness, pacify his wrath, and from a savage wild beast make him a father, merciful, as it were, towards his children.

Now this passage teaches us, that the hearts and purposes of men are governed by a power from above, so that enemies, even the worst, while they rage against us, are moved not only by their own feelings, but also by the hidden working of God, and according to his counsel, as he would have them thus to try our faith. For if God moderates those who boil with anger and wrath, and renders them placable to us; so also he lets loose the reins to those who rage against us, and not only so, but he also stirs them up, when his purpose is to punish us for our sins, according to the doctrine taught us everywhere in Scripture. So in Psalm 106, it is said that God turned the hearts of the heathens to hate his people. But here, on the other hand, God promises, that Nebuchadnezzar would be kind and humane, so as to spare the Jews, because he would control his heart, and shew them mercy by inclining the king to forgive the people.

This then ought to be carefully noticed; for when we see ourselves surrounded on every side by the ungodly whom Satan drives to madness, so that they seek no other thing than to tread us under their feet, especially when they have the power to destroy us, except we feel fully assured, that their hearts, feelings, and all their thoughts are in God’s hands, we must necessarily be wholly disheartened. Hence to mitigate all our fears, it avails us much to hear that men’s hearts are turned and ruled according to the will of God. It now follows, —

<244213>Jeremiah 42:13-17

13. But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the Lord your God,

13. Quod si dixeritis vos, Non habitabimus in terra hac, non obediendo voci Jehovae Dei vestri;

14. Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell:

14. Dicendo, Non, quia (vel, sed) in terram Aegypti ibimus (nam yk potest adversative capi,) ubi non videbimus proelium, et vocem tubae non audiemus, et ad panem non esuriemus, et habitabimus illic:

15. And now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there;

15. Nunc propterea audite sermonem Jehovae, residuum Jehudah, quia sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Si vos ponendo posueritis facies vestras ad ingrediendum Aegyptum (ut ingrediamini in Aegyptum,) et ingressi fueritis illic ad peregrinandum;

16. Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.

16. Erit (accidet) ut gladius quem vos timetis ab eo (hoc est, a quo metuitis) illic apprehendat vos (vel, occurrat vobis illic, nempe) in terra Aegypti, et fames a qua extimescitis (hoc est, propter quam estis anxii, (vel, quam expaveseitis, nam gad utrunque significat) illic apprehendet vos (vel, adhaerebit vobis, sed ad verbum, apprehendet post vos, vel, persequetur vos, nempe) in terra Aegypti, et illic moriemini.

17. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt, to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.

17. Et erunt omnes viri qui posuerint facies suas ut veniant in Aegyptum ad peregrinandum illuc morientur gladio, fame et peste, et non erit illis superstes aut evasor (id est, qui evadat) a facie mali quod ego adduco super eos.

 

God having promised, that the counsel he gave to the Jews would be good and safe, now, on the other hand, threatens them, that if they disobeyed, everything they would attempt would end miserably. They had not expressly asked whether it would be for their good to go into Egypt, or whether it would be pleasing to God; but God, who penetrates into all hidden purposes, anticipated them, and declared that their going would be unhappy, if they fled into Egypt. We hence see how the Prophet, or rather God himself, who spoke by his servant, tried by all means to keep them in the way of duty.

He then says, If ye say, We shall not dwell in this land, it shall be ill with you, he says: but before he denounced punishment, he shewed that they deserved to be destroyed, if they went to Egypt; for had the thing been in itself lawful, yet to attempt such a thing against the express will of God was, as we know, an impious and a diabolical presumption and rashness. God had forbidden them specifically in his Law ever to set their hearts on Egypt, (<051716>Deuteronomy 17:16;) and he had often confirmed the same thing by his Prophets, (<233002>Isaiah 30:2; <233101>Isaiah 31:1;) and now again he seals the former prophecies, as he expressly forbids them to go to Egypt. The Prophet then sets this crime before their eyes: “If ye flee into Egypt, what is it that compels you? even because ye will not obey God.” There is then great weight in these words, Nor obey the voice of Jehovah your God; as though he had said, that they could not think of Egypt, except they designedly, as it were, rejected the authority of God, and resisted his counsel.

He adds, Saying, No; for we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war, etc. here the Prophet discovers the very fountain of rebellion, namely, that they paid no regard to God’s favor. They were indeed exposed to many dangers in their own land, which produced fear and trembling, and its desolation also might have filled them with horror and weariness; but as God had declared that their safety would be cared for by him, how great and how base an ingratitude it was to deem as nothing that aid which he had freely promised! The Prophet then, in condemning their disobedience, shews at the same time the cause of it, even that unbelief led them away from rendering obedience to God. If, then, ye say, No, — this word was a proof of their obstinacy; but he adds, We shall go into Egypt, where we shall not see war, where we shall not hear the sound of the trumpet, as though, indeed, the promise of God were false or void. But the Prophet here discovers their hidden impiety, that they did not recumb on God’s promise. They promised then to themselves a peaceable life in Egypt. Was it in their power to effect this? and God, what could he do? he had declared that they would be safe and secure in the land of Canaan. It was to charge God with falsehood, to hope for rest in Egypt, and to imagine nothing but disturbances in the land where God bade them to remain in quietness.

We now then see why he says, We shall go into Egypt, where we shall not see war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor hunger for bread. They promised to themselves an abundance of all blessings, for the land of Egypt was fruitful. But could not God afflict them with want? The Egyptians, we know, had also been sometimes visited with famine. We hence see why God so much condemned the design of the people as to their going into Egypt; for they entertained vain hopes, and at the same time charged God indirectly with falsehood.

He adds, Hear the word of Jehovah, ye remnant of Judah. Jeremiah, by thus addressing them, no doubt endeavored to lead them to obedience. We indeed know that men in prosperity are in a manner inebriated, so that they are not easily induced to obey sound counsels. For whence comes it that kings and princes of the world indulge themselves so much, and allow such license to their lusts? even because the splendor of their fortune inebriates them. So also private men, when all things succeed according to their wishes, they lodge in their own dregs; hence it is that they are difficult to be ruled. The Prophet, on the other hand, shews that there is no reason for them to be proud. Ye are, he says, a small number, and God has wonderfully saved you. Hear, then, ye remnant of Judah. In short, they are reminded of their humble and miserable condition, that they might be more teachable. But this also was done without any fruit, as we shall hereafter see.

This saith Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel. Of these words we have spoken elsewhere. God is often called the God of hosts on account of his power: so by this term God sets forth his own greatness. Afterwards when he is said to be the God of Israel, we know that the benefit of adoption was thus brought to the recollection of the people; for God had them especially as his people, and bound them as it were to himself. This ought then to have been a most holy bond of faithfulness and obedience. It was not, then, by way of honor that the Prophet thus spoke, but in order to reprove the Israelites for their hardness and ingratitude towards God. If, he adds, ye set your faces to go into Egypt, and ye enter in there to sojourn, it shall be that the sword which ye fear shall meet you, etc. Here is their punishment described, and there is nothing obscure in the words. God shows that they were greatly deceived, if they thought that they would be prosperous in Egypt; for no prosperity can be hoped except through the favor and blessing of God; and God pronounced a curse on all their perverse counsels when he saw that they would not be restrained by his word. If, then, we attempt anything contrary to the prohibition of God, it must necessarily end unsuccessfully; and why? because the cause of all prosperity is the favor of God, and so his curse always renders all issues sad and unhappy: and however prosperous at first may be what we undertake against God’s will, yet the end will be wretched and miserable, according to what the Prophet teaches here.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not once only shown to us the way and the end to which we ought to proceed, but art pleased daily to stretch forth thy hand to us, and dost by thy constant exhortations invite and stimulate us to go onward, — O grant, that we may attend to thy voice, and so renounce all the corrupt desires and lusts of our flesh, that nothing may hinder us wholly to submit to thee, and so to follow whithersoever thou mayest call us, that we may at length come to that blessed rest, which thou hast prepared for us in heaven through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Eighth

<244218>Jeremiah 42:18

18. For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, As mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more.

18. Quoniam sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Sicuti fusa est iracundia mea et excandescentia mea super habitatores Jerusalem, sic fundetur excandescentia mea super vos cum veneritis in Aegyptum; et eritis in execrationem et in stuporem et in maledictum et in probrum; et non videbitis amplius locum hunc.

 

The Prophet confirms what he had already said, by an example of God’s vengeance, which had lately been shewn as to the Jews; for though the destruction of the city and the Temple had been often predicted to them, they yet had become torpid as to God’s threatenings. God, however, after having delayed for a long time, at length executed what he had threatened. They had titan seen that dreadful example, which ought to have filled them, and also their posterity, with fear. Then the Prophet, as he saw that they were so tardy and stupid that they thoughtlessly derided God’s threat-enings, reminded them of what they had lately seen. “Ye know,” he says, “how God’s fury had been poured forth on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, such also will be poured forth on those who will flee into Egypt.”

Now Jeremiah was able to speak with authority, as he had been the herald of that vengeance now mentioned. If any other had declared in God’s name what had happened, they might have objected and said, that they had indeed been justly punished by God, but that it did not hence follow flint what he said was true; but as the Prophet had for forty years often and constantly denounced on them what at length they had really and by experience found to have been predicted to them from above, he was able to repeat a similar judgment of God with the highest authority, as he now does.

Thus saith Jehovah, he says, as my fury was poured forth, etc. The similitude is taken either from water or from metals: hence some give this rendering, “As my fury flowed down;” but the verb used by Jeremiah means proper]y to pour forth. It may, however, as I have said, be applied to water, which spreads when poured out, or to metals, which being liquid spread here and there. He then means, that all who should go to Egypt would be wretched and miserable; for wheresoever they might try to withdraw themselves, the vengeance of God would yet find them though exiles, for it would spread like a deluge over all the inhabitants, so that they would in vain seek hiding-places. We now see the design of the Prophet. The meaning is, that as the Jews had by their calamity known him to have been a true and faithful servant of God in foretelling the destruction of the city and Temple, so would they find now, except they repented, that the message by which he threatened a second destruction, had come also from God. Poured forth, he says, shall be mine indignation on you when ye come into Egypt.

He afterwards adds a passage from the Law, which often occurs in the Prophets, that they would be an execration, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach. The word hla, ale, which we have rendered “execration,” means properly an oath; but as imprecation is often added, when we wish to be believed, it is also understood as an execration. He then says that they would be an execration, that is, a formula of execration, as we have elsewhere explained. Whosoever then had a wish to express a curse, they would, as the Prophet says, use this form as a common proverb, “May God curse thee as he did the Jews,” — “ May I perish as the Jews perished.” In short, he intimates that the punishment would be so horrible that men would turn it to a common proverb, he adds, And an astonishment, that is, that God’s vengeance would be so dreadful, that all would be filled with amazement. He further adds, And a curse and a reproach. The sum of what is said is, that God would inflict on the Jews not a common punishment, but such as would be remembered among all the heathens, in order that it might appear that their wickedness in obstinately rejecting the prophetic word was not light.

He lastly adds that they should never see their own land; for it was not the design of the Jews to dwell perpetually in Egypt; for they pretended that they remained firm and constant in their dependence on God’s promise, and boasted that they had a hope of a return, because God had fixed seventy years for their exile. As they then thus foolishly gloried, that they hoped in God for the promised favor, he says that they were shut out as to any hope of a return; for though God would restore the other captives dispersed throughout the East, yet the Egyptian guests were doomed to die in their exile. This then was to cut off from them every hope, in order that they might know that they were wholly rejected, and would have a place no more among- God’s people, however they might wish to be deemed the first. It follows, —

<244219>Jeremiah 42:19-21

19. The Lord hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah, Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.

19. Loquutus est Jehova contra vos, reliquiae Jehudah, Ne eatis in Aegyptum; sciendo sciatis quod contestatus fuerim vos hodie:

20. For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord our God; and according unto all that the Lord our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.

20. Quoniam fefellistis animus vestras (aut, fallaces fuistis in animabus vestris) quando misistis me ad Jehovam Deum vestrum, dicendo, Ora pro nobis Jehovam Deum nostrum; et secundum omnia quae locutus Jehova Deus noster fuerit, sic annuntia nobis et faciemus.

21. And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.

21. Ego autem annuntiavi vobis hodie, et non audivistis vocem Jehovae Dei vestri, et secundum omnia propter quae misit me ad vos.

 

Here the Prophet explains more fully their sin; for their punishment might have appeared extreme, had not their impiety been more clearly unfolded. He then says that this punishment ought not to be regarded as too rigid, because God had not once only protested against the Jews and admonished them in a solemn manner and before witnesses; but they to the last not, only despised his counsel and warnings, but proudly rejected them. And he adds, that they dealt falsely and perfidiously with God, because they pretended that they would be obedient as soon as the will of God was known; but they shewed that in reality they had no such purpose; for their own vanity and deceit took full possession of them when the Prophet answered them in God’s name; nor had they a desire to obey God.

Let us now consider the words: Jehovah hath spoken against you, the remnant of Judah. He again calls them a remnant, in order that they might remember that they had no reason any more to be proud. We know how the Jews while in prosperity disregarded the Prophets; for they were inebriated with their good fortune. But God had dissipated this pride, with which they were previously filled. The Prophet had also set before them the favor through which they had been liberated, that they might learn hereafter to submit to God and his word. For this reason then he called them a remnant, even to render them more attentive and teachable. But it was done without any benefit; for though their affairs were nearly hopeless, and they were reduced almost to nothing, yet they had not laid aside their high spirits. They were then still swollen with false confidence. But this warning, however, availed to render them more inexcusable.

If ye enter into Egypt, he says, knowing know ye, or, knowing ye shall know. The verb is in the future tense, though it may be taken as an imperative. But the future tense is the most suitable, knowing ye shall know, that is, the event itself will teach you, but too late, as the foolish are never wise till after the evil has taken place. Knowing ye shall know that I have protested against you this day. God says that he had left nothing undone to bring the Jews to a right mind; for a protest is usually made in a solemn manner, witnesses being called in, so that no one can plead that. he has gone astray through ignorance. To take away then every ground of excuse, witnesses were wont to be called. Hence God speaks according to the common practice and in a forensic sense, and says that he had protested against the Jews, lest they should by chance offend through want of knowledge. It then follows, that they knowingly perished, as though they had sought their own destruction.

he now adds another circumstance, that they had sent him under the pretense of rare piety, as though they were in every way ready to render obedience to God. But he first says that they had deceived themselves, or had been deceived. The verb h[t, toe, from which the Hithpael comes, means to err or go astray. But interpreters do not agree; for some give this explanation, that they deceived the Prophet in their hearts, that is, that they craftily retained their perverse design of going to Egypt, and at the same time professed that they were ready to obey. But as the Prophet’s name is not mentioned here, this explanation seems unnatural. I therefore prefer the other explanation, that they deceived themselves; and b, beth, is here redundant, as in many places: Ye deceived, then, your own souls, when ye sent me, he says, to Jehovah. The Prophet intimates that when they sought to act craftily they were deceived; for God is wont to discover the astute, and when they devise this or that, they only weave snares and toils for themselves; and we see that craftiness ever brings the ungodly to ruin. The Prophet, according to this sense, derides that perverse affectation of astuteness, when the ungodly seek to deceive God; and he says that they deceived themselves, as we see also daily. Then he says that they themselves had been the authors of the evil, for they had brought themselves to ruin by their astute and crafty counsel, when they sent him to Jehovah. The yk, ki, is to be taken here as an adverb of time, When ye sent me to Jehovah your God, saying, Pray for us. fG20

He reproves them not only for perfidy, but also for sacrilege, because they wickedly profaned the name of God. For it. was not to be endured that they should pretend a regard for religion, and testify that they would be obedient to God, and should at the same time cherish in their hearts that perverse intention which afterwards they discovered. And hence he not only relates that he had been sent, but that he had also been solicited to intercede for them. It was then a twofold sacrilege, for they had asked what would please God, and afterwards disregarded the prophecy, — and then they offered a prayer, and when God gave them an answer by his servant., they counted it as nothing! We now perceive why Jeremiah so expressly mentioned these two things.

Pray for us to our God, and according to all which Jehovah our God shall say, relate thou to us: the people seemed to act with wonderful sincerity; they exhorted the Prophet to dissemble nothing, to add nothing and to diminish nothing’. What better can be wished than that men should lay aside all ambiguity and all evasions, and not wish God’s words to be corrupted? And this the Jews expressed in high terms, Whatever Jehovah our God shall answer, declare thou to us. Here they seemed to have more zeal than Jeremiah himself; for they enjoined a law, that he should add nothing and diminish nothing, but that he should be a faithful interpreter of God’s will. They seemed then to be half-angels. They afterwards testified that they would do whatever God should command them.

He at length adds, And I have this day declared it to you. Here he sets forth his own fidelity, not for the sake of boasting, but that their impiety might be reproved, who at length despised the oracle of God, which they had boasted that they would obey. Ye have not hearkened, he says, to the voice of Jehovah your God, and according to all the things on account of which he hath sent me to you. The Prophet again confirms the truth, that it was their own fault that the Jews did not follow what was right, and also what was for their good, for he had faithfully delivered to them what God had commanded. He now adds, —

<244222>Jeremiah 42:22

22. Now therefore know certainly, that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.

22. Et nunc sciendo scitote (hic w[dt imperative sumendum est sine controversia) quod gladio et fame et peste moriemini in loco ad quem appetitis ire, ad peregrinandum illic.

 

The Prophet at length concludes his discourse, after having mentioned the reasons why God would deal so severely with them, even because their perfidy, impiety, ingratitude, and obstinate contempt were unsufferable. After having then shewn that they had no reason to expostulate as though God were extremely rigid, he at length declares what end awaited them, even that they should die by the sword, famine, or pestilence, that is, that there would be no hope of safety to them, because if they escaped from the sword, they should be beset with famine, and if they evaded the famine, they should be destroyed by pestilence. It is a common mode of speaking with the Prophets, as it is well known, that when they intimate that the ungodly in vain hope for impunity, they represent God as having at his command all kinds of punishment.

Ye shall then, he says, die in that place which ye seek for your sojourn, he again shews the object of the people, for they did not intend to dwell perpetually in Egypt, but only for a time, until there was liberty to return to their own country. In short, they wished to be restored, as it were, against God’s will; and yet they ceased not falsely to put forward the name of God, as hypocrites, who mock God, always do. Now follows, —


Chapter 43

<244301>Jeremiah 43:1-3

1. And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the Lord their God, for which the Lord their God had sent him to them, even all these words.

1. Et factum est quum finiisset Jeremias loqui ad totum populum cunctos sermones Jehovae Dei ipsorum, pro quibus miserat ipsum Jehova Deus ipsorum ad ipsos omnes (inquam) hos sermones;

2. Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely; the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there.

2. Tune dixit Azarias filius Ozaiae, et Joannes filius Kareae, et omnes duces, et omnes viri superbi, dicentes Jeremiae, Mendacium tu loqueris, non misit to Jehova Deus noster ad dicendum, Ne eatis in Aegyptum ad peregrinandum illic:

3. But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon.

3. Sed Baruch filius Neriae incitat to contra nos, ut tradat nos in manum Chaldaeorum ad interficiendum nos et transferendum nos Babylonem.

 

Here the Prophet proceeds with the remaining part of the narrative. He says that the whole people obstinately persevered in their wicked design, so that he effected nothing by his warning and protest. Now this stupidity of the people was monstrous; for they had found out by experience the fidelity of the Prophet for many years; and further, they had gone to him because they believed that he was a faithful and an approved servant of God. He had not merely answered them in God’s name, but as he knew their hardness, he added protestations which might have moved even stones. But he addressed the deaf; and it hence appears that they were wholly fascinated by the devil. And thus let us learn not to mock God, nor bring a double heart when we inquire as to his will, but to suffer ourselves to be ruled by his word.

Now he says, that when he had finished speaking to the whole people, as God had commanded, then John the son of Kareah, and Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, being the first among them, spoke against him. As to Azariah, we cannot know with any certainty what he was. But we have here in John the son of Kareah an example deserving of notice. We have seen that he was a bold, wise, and prudent man, and also of an upright mind. In short, when we consider what the Prophet has before said of him, we cannot but think he was by nature a heroic man; nay, when he is compared with Gedaliah, who, at the same time, was an excellent man, and whom the Prophet has adorned with high commendations, he yet far excelled him. Gedaliah, indeed, had a kind disposition, he was courageous in protecting the people, he was a man of integrity; and, besides, he was a father to the people, and so conducted himself when things were in a hopeless state, that, beyond the expectation of all, he gathered together the remnant of the people; and we have also seen that by his efforts the Prophet had been delivered from instant death. But John the son of Kareah had been a remarkable helper to him, having come to him of his own accord, and offered to him his assistance; and further, he faithfully and prudently warned him to beware of the perfidy of that unprincipled man, by whom he was afterwards killed. Gedaliah fell through extreme credulity. John, then, the son of Kareah, had a greater appearance of excellency than Gedaliah had exhibited. But what does the Spirit of God now declare respecting him and his associates? They are said to have been proud and obstinate. We hence see that some men excel in greatness of mind, and are yet of a refractory disposition; and this is for the most part the case during’ a disturbed state of things. For some come forth wonderfully courageous; but when things do not fall in with their wishes, they become ferocious and rebel against God and men, and besides, they will never bear to be brought under submission. Such, then, was John the son of Kareah: at one time he manifested extraordinary virtue, but at length it appeared what he really was.

The Prophet, with the authority of a judge, declares that he and his associates were proud: then Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and John the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, said, A falsehood dost thou speak. This was extremely insolent and reproachful; for they had lately testified that they regarded Jeremiah as God’s faithful servant, and that they would receive whatever he might bring as God’s true oracle; but now they charge him with falsehood! how great was this presumption! But it hence appears how deep and various, and how tortuous are the recesses which are in the hearts of men; for at one time they announce honied words, and afterwards they utter nothing’ but virulence. So from the same mouth, as it were, almost in the same moment, comes forth what is sweet; and what is bitter.

Let us hence learn that the heart of man is full of every kind of deceit, until it be cleansed by the Spirit of God. We also see, when once impiety boils up, to what extremes it will proceed; for these men were not only insolent and reproachful towards Jeremiah, but also towards God himself. And they did not now make evasions as before, nor did they raise objections; but they openly raved against the Prophet. Thus hypocrisy has indeed for a time its coverings, but when the ungodly are urged by God, then they observe no bounds: Thou speakest what is false.

They afterwards throw the blame on Baruch, who had been the Prophet’s faithful servant. As they could not find out any reason why Jeremiah should speak falsely, they turned their fury against Baruch. They did not then spare Jeremiah for honor’s sake, but as they had no reason whatever to speak evil of him, they fixed the blame on Baruch, who yet was as innocent as Jeremiah. Baruch, they said, excites thee against us. Had Jeremiah so prophesied through the influence of another, yet his crime might have been at ]east extenuated. Now they said that he was mendacious, and brought forth nothing but impositions; but the ungodly do not regard what they say, for the devil drives them on headlong. And they charged Baruch with a very groat crime, that he wished to betray them to the Chaldeans, and then to expose them to slaughter, and to deliver them that they might be driven into exile. All this would have been the greatest cruelty.: But then if we consider what sort of man Baruch had been, and how innocently he had conducted himself, how he had endangered his life in defending the true worship of God and prophetic doctrine, there was surely no reason for loading him with so great a reproach.

But we see that God’s servants have been always exposed to extreme reproaches, even when they have exhibited the greatest integrity. If then, at this day, we hear of evil reports, after having labored to act uprightly, it ought not to appear to us a hard or a new thing to bear them with patience. We must, indeed, do what we can to stop the mouths of the malevolent and the wicked; nor ought we to give occasion, as Paul admonishes us, to the malignant. But when we have done our duty faithfully, if yet dogs bark at us, if we be loaded with many reproaches and crimes, let us learn patiently to endure them. This, then, ought to be done by us, since we see that Baruch was accused of extreme perfidy and cruelty.

What now had Baruch to do with the Chaldeans? Had he fled to them? Was he anxious to gain influence for himself? or to procure favor for himself? There was no such thing; he always followed Jeremiah wherever he went. Jeremiah had indeed obtained some favor; but this was to be attributed to the gratuitous kindness of God. Baruch, then, had got leave from the Chaldeans to remain with the Prophet; for the condition of both was the same. But yet he had not followed the Chaldeans, when his option was given to him. For when the Chaldeans offered quietness and rest to Jeremiah, Baruch might have also gone to that fertile country; but he chose to remain in the land. We hence see that he had removed from himself every suspicion, and yet he could not stop the mouths of the malevolent, but they slandered and. calumniated him. Let us then know that God’s servants prove their firmness and constancy, when they are assailed on every side by the calumnies of men, and yet are satisfied with the testimony of their own conscience, and go on in their course, and look forward to the judgment of God, and care not what men think or speak, provided God approves of them, and is their judge in heaven.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since we see what thou didst formerly threaten to all the despisers of thy word, we may learn to suffer ourselves to be ruled by thee, and so surrender all our powers and faculties to thy will, that we may receive immediately without any dispute whatever thou commandest, and so prove our sincerity, that our deeds may correspond with our words, and that our life may shew that we do not falsely profess thy holy name, but declare what we have in our minds and what thou thyself knowest, until the last day shall at length appear, when the books shall be opened, and all the thoughts of men shall be revealed, so that we may then appear upright in thy sight, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Ninth

<244304>Jeremiah 43:4

4. So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah;

4. Et non audivit Joannes filius Kareah, neque omnes principes (duces) copiarum, neque torus popu-lus, vocem Jehovae, ut habitarent in terra Jehudah.

 

The Prophet had sufficiently shewn that John the son of Kareah and the rest had not in good faith inquired of the Prophet what the will of God was; for when they saw that God’s counsel did not harmonize with their wicked and foolish desire, they rose up against the Prophet. But he now more clearly condemns their obstinacy in not obeying God; and it is said emphatically, that they did not obey the voice of God, because they denied that God had spoken. Though then they sought to evade, Jeremiah on the other hand declares, that he was a true interpreter of God’s will, that he had announced nothing but what had come from God. He then brings them all in as guilty, the leaders and the whole people, that no man might think it strange that innocent men, willing to submit to God, were driven into Egypt. Hence the Prophet shews here that they were all implicated in the same sin, since the leaders alone did not resist the oracle, but also the whole people. It now follows,

<244305>Jeremiah 43:5-7

5. But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah;

5. Et assumpsit Joannes filius Kareah et cuncti duces copiarum reliquias Jehudah, quae reversae fuerant e cunctis gentibus, ad quas illuc expulsae fuerant (sed abundat illuc) ad habitandum in terra Jehudah;

6. Even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah.

6. Nempe viros et mulieres (assumpsit tam viros quam mulieres,) et pueritiam et filias Regis, et omnem animam, quam reliquerat Nabuzardan, princeps interfectorum, apud Godoliam filium Achikaro, filii Saphan, et apud Jeremiam Prophetam, et apud Baruch filium Neriae:

7. So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord. Thus came they even to Tahpanhes.

7. Et venerunt in terram Aegypti, quia non obedierunt voci Jehovae, et venerunt usque ad Taphnees.

 

The Prophet now gives us a narrative of what he had briefly touched upon. He then says that John and the rest of the leaders took the remnant of the people, who were there alive, and those who had returned from various countries; for many had become fugitives among the Moabites and the Idumeans, when they saw the city surrounded by the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar. Then they fled here and there, as it usually happens, and waited for the issue of the war. But after Nebuchadnezzar had departed, and a permission had been given to Gedaliah to collect what remained of the people and to place them in cities and towns, many returned into the land, now desolate; for they had dwelt with aliens, and had been miserably treated. As then they could not settle out of their own land nor find any quiet habitation, they returned, as it is usual with men reduced to want, who have no settled dwelling. They then returned, that they might live under the protection of Gedaliah.

Now the Prophet says, that they were taken by John and brought into. Egypt. This then was the way in which they shewed their obstinacy. We hence see how audacious must these leaders have been, that they hesitated not to go into Egypt, though it was shewn to be a fatal step. There was not indeed at that time any army of Nebuchadnezzar in Judea, though his vengeance might have been dreaded. And then, having fled to: Egypt, they might have been ill-treated there, and not hospitably received.: But we hence perceive, that when men once shake off the yoke of God, they are hurried on by a diabolical madness, so that there is nothing insurmountable to them. Had they been asked whether they acted rightly, they might have raised a thousand arguments as excuses; but when they followed their own propensity, they in a manner, so to speak, leaped over the clouds. Impiety then is always full of rashness and audacity. But as we see that the ungodly thus rush headlong into ruin, even when God pronounces a curse on their counsels and proceedings, let us learn to take encouragement ever to obey God; for he promises a joyful and blessed issue at all times when we follow the ways pointed out by him. John then and the other leaders of the forces took the remnant of the people.

And then he shews how little those exiles consulted their own good, who had returned to dwell in the land of Judea; for they might have still rested in safety among the nations who had in kindness received them; but in Egypt God soon executed his judgments on the natives as well as on strangers. But they deserved such a reward, because they preferred to obey the command of the perverse and obstinate, rather than to obey the voice of God speaking by his Prophet.

The Prophet also mentions particularly who they were; they were men and women and children. Some render the last word “puberty,” which I do not approve, since Scripture speaks thus of children. Then John and his associates took childhood, or children; and he adds, the daughters of the king. We have before inquired who these daughters of the king were: the probability is that they were his daughters by his concubines; and that they had been put in some safe place, so that if any great evil happened, they might not fall into the hands of enemies. Then these daughters of the king had returned with the other exiles, but were afterwards carried into Egypt.

At last he adds, all the souls which had been left by Nebuzaradan with Gedaliah, with Jeremiah, and with Baruch. This had not been expressed elsewhere, that is, that Jeremiah and Baruch were joined with Gedaliah as rulers over the remnant of the people. But it was not the design of Jeremiah to relate everything that then took place. Now then, when an occasion occurred, he says that he and also Baruch were made governors in connection with Gedaliah. He then adds, that they all came into Egypt, or that they entered into Egypt,. For the word first used, wabyw, vaibau, may be rendered, “and they entered into Egypt;” and then he adds, sjnpjtAd[ wabyw, vaibau od-tachephnuches, “and they entered (or penetrated) as far as Tachephnuches.” It was formerly one of the chief cities of Egypt; but its name has perished together with is wealth; for in heathen writers hardly the name of this city is found. They indeed mention the city Taphnim, but speak not of Taphnees. It is then probable, as changes take place in a country, that this city became by degrees forsaken, so as to become obscure and mean, and that other cities were built which exceeded it in wealth. He then says that they came to Taphnees. It now follows, —

<244308>Jeremiah 43:8-10

8. Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying,

8. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam in Taphnees, dicendo,

9. Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brick-kiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah;

9. Sume in manu tua (accipe in manu tua) lapides grandes (vel, magnas,) et absconde eos in luto (vel, caemento,) in fornace laterum, (vel, lacuna, unde sumitur materia ad formandos lapides,) qui locus (vel, quae fornax) est in porta domus Pharaonis in Taphnees, in oculis hominum Judaeorum;

10. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.

10. Et dices ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego mitto (mittam,) et assumam Nabuchadnezer regem Babylonis, servum meum, et ponam solium ejus super lapides istos, quos abscondi, et extendet tenterium suum super ipsos.

 

This passage shews that the Prophet was by force drawn away with others, so that he became an exile in Egypt contrary to his own wishes; for he did not go there of his own accord, inasmuch as we have seen how strictly he forbade them all to go down to Egypt. he was, however, compelled to go there, as though he had been bound with chains. He did not then go there designedly, nor did he through despair follow those miserable men; for he would have preferred to die a hundred times through famine and want in the land of Judah rather than to have sought in this way the lengthening of his life. It then appears that he was driven there as it were by enemies.

But as nothing happens except through God’s purpose, so from this prophecy it appears that God ordered the going down of his servant, and that he was not so subjected to the will of the wicked, but that he was always guided by the hidden influence of God; for it was God’s will to have his herald even in the midst of Egypt, that he might declare to the Jews what, was to be. His doctrine, indeed, was not of any benefit to them; but it was God’s purpose to drive them as it were into madness, inasmuch as their wickedness was wholly irreclaimable; for it is a harder thing for the wicked to hear God’s voice when he threatens vengeance, than to feel his hand. When, therefore, the unbelieving avoid the word of God, they are still constrained, willing or unwilling, to hear what they willfully reject, even that God will be their judge. The Prophet then was sent, according to the hidden purpose of God, into Egypt, that he might there perform his wonted vocation and proceed in the discharge of his office, and there carry on his prophetic work.

But this prophecy was greatly disliked; for as the Jews had been already much exasperated, this threatening was still more calculated to kindle up their fury; and Jeremiah did also create danger to himself from the Egyptians, for he not only threatened the Jews, but also the whole kingdom of Egypt. We hence perceive how invincible was his courage, for he marched through certain deaths, and was yet terrified by no dangers, but performed the office entrusted to him by God. Some think that he was on this account stoned by the Jews; but this is not probable, nay, it may be gathered from other places that he died a natural death. However this may have been, his perseverance and firmness were wonderful, for he struggled to the end, and without weariness, with those wild beasts, whose savageness he had more than enough experienced.

Let us now see what this prophecy is: The word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah; and the sum of it is, that the Prophet was bidden not only to proclaim the vengeance of God, but also to confirm it by a visible symbol, as it was necessary to arouse unbelieving men. For so great was their stupidity, that unless God roused all their senses, they would have never attended; they were deaf. Then the Lord set before their eyes what they were unwilling and refused to hear. For this reason the Prophet was bidden to add an outward sign to his prophecy; according to what we have stated in other places, signs were often connected with the doctrine on account of the tardiness, or rather the stupidity of men.

He was then commanded to take great stones, and to hide them in the clay, or cement, in a brick-kiln, that is, in a kiln where bricks were burnt, or in a place where they were usually made, or where materials were taken to form them. And this place was not far from the palace of the king in the city of Taphnees, as the Prophet expressly declares; nay, he says that it was nigh the gate. As, then, this place was near the palace, the Prophet was bidden to hide there the stones, and in the sight of the Jews. This was the symbol. Now, it is shewn for what end God would have the stones to be fixed in the clay or cement; for if the stones were only rolled there with great labor by the Prophet, there would have been no instruction; and all signs we know are unmeaning and without any importance without the word. It is God’s word, then, that in a manner gives life to signs, and applies them for the benefit and instruction of men. Therefore God’s command is added, that he was to speak to the Jews: Thou shalt say to them, Thus saith Jehovah. He brings in God as the speaker, that the threatening might be more effectual, as it has been stated elsewhere; for if he had only related the words of God, he could not have thus arrested their attention, which was very tardy. This, then, is the reason why he speaks in the person of God himself.

Behold, I, — the particle demonstrative and the pronoun are both emphatical, ynnh, enni; Behold, I send, he says, to bring Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne on these stones. We now understand the drift of the whole, even that these stones were thrown into the cement, that God might build up a throne for Nebuchadnezzar. The time, indeed, for building the throne had not yet come; but God’s purpose was to lay the foundations, so that they might be hid until the time arrived. The Prophet, then, built a throne for Nebuchadnezzar, when he cast; these stones into the place of the brick-kiln.

We must now examine each particular in order. God says that he would send to bring Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. This mission must not be understood otherwise than that of the secret providence of God; for he had no attendants by whom he might send for Nebuchadnezzar, but he called him, as it were, by his nod only. Moreover, this mode of speaking is borrowed, taken from men, who, when they wish anything to be done, intimate what their object is; and then, when they give orders, they issue their commands. This is what earthly kings do, because they can by a nod only accomplish whatever comes to their minds. But God, who needs no external aids, is said to send when he executes his own purpose, and that by his incomprehensible power. And further, God intimates that when Nebuchadnezzar came, it would by no means be by chance, but to take vengeance on the perverse Jews, who hoped for a safe retirement in Egypt, when yet God promised them a quiet habitation in the land of Judah, had they remained there. Then God declares that he would be the leader of that march when Nebuchadnezzar came into Egypt, as though he had said that the war would be carried on under his banner. Nebuchadnezzar did not from design render obedience to God; for ambition and pride led him to Egypt when he came, and for this reason, because the Egyptians had so often provoked him, so that without dishonor to himself he could no longer defer vengeance. It was, then, for this reason he came, if we look to his object. But God declares that he overruled the king as well as all the Babylonians, so that he would arm them when he pleased, and bring them into Egypt, and by their means carry on war with the Egyptians.

For the same reason he calls him his servant; not that Nebuchadnezzar was worthy of so honorable a name, for he had nothing less, as we have said, than a design to serve God; but he is called God’s servant, because he executed what God himself had decreed: for the Scripture sometimes calls even the devils the servants of God; but in strict language, angels and the faithful are alone his servants. Kings and prophets are also, for a special reason, called God’s servants, to whom is committed the authority to rule or to teach. But in this place, as in many other places, the Scripture calls those God’s servants whom he employs to effect his purpose, even when they themselves have no such design. But the Prophet, no doubt, had also in view the Jews, so that they might know that this war was approved by God; for Nebuchadnezzar would not have come except he had been brought there by God.

It then follows, and I will set his throne. This, also, is what God claims for himself, even the erecting of the throne of the King Nebuchadnezzar before the palace of the king of Egypt. The king of Babylon, doubtless, thought that the war was carried on through his own efforts and valor, and the courage of his soldiers; moreover, he sacrificed to his own fortune, as heathens use to do; and hence it is said in Isaiah of the Assyrian,

“He will not think so.” (<231007>Isaiah 10:7)

But God designed this to be declared to the Jews before the time, that they might then know that the just reward of their obstinacy would be rendered to them, for they were to be taught, as we have said, for their good and benefit. But as they were already inexcusable, it was God’s purpose to shame them more and more, so that they might know that a just punishment would be inflicted on them, because they had so obstinately rejected all the counsel of God.

I will, then, erect his throne on the stones which I have hidden. The Prophet here speaks irregularly, now in God’s name, then in his own; but this was not done without reason. We have stated why he introduced God as the speaker, even that he might make the Jews more attentive; for he knew that all his threatenings would be derided except God’s majesty was set before them: but now he connects himself with God, as though he had said that he had nothing apart from God. This is the reason why he said, upon the stones which I have hid. God had not hidden the stones, but the Prophet speaks, nevertheless, in the person of God. But, as I have already said, this connection shews that the prophetic word is so connected with the hand and power of God, that when the Prophet speaks, it ought to be counted the same, as though God openly thundered from heaven. And this mode of speaking ought to be carefully noticed, so that we may learn reverently to receive whatever faithful teachers declare in his name, while performing the duties of their office; for they are not to be looked upon as men, for otherwise whatever proceeds from them may be disregarded; but we ought to receive the doctrine proclaimed by their mouth as though God himself had descended from heaven to speak to us.

He afterwards adds, and he shall extend his tabernacle or his tent; for ryrp, shepherir, is taken from a word which means beauty, and properly means here a royal tent. fG21 The hebrews do not give this name to the tents of shepherds, but only to those tents which excel in magnificence and splendor, according to what we say in French, Le pavillon du Roy. It now follows —

<244311>Jeremiah 43:11

11. And when he cometh he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death, to death; and such as are for captivity, to captivity; and such as are for the sword, to the sword.

11. Et veniet et percutiet terram Aegypti; qui ad mortem, ad mortem; et qui ad exilium, ad exilium; et qui ad gladium, ad gladium.

 

He confirms the former verse by what he says here and in the two following verses to the end of the chapter. As Egypt had cities well fortified and deemed impregnable, the Jews never thought that the Chaldeans could so easily penetrate into them. For, first, that country is situated in a plain; and, secondly, in the midst of lakes: and it is in part surrounded by the Nile and the Red Sea. As, then, Egypt was on every side so well fortified, they thought that there would be there a quiet nest for them. But God declares that King Nebuchadnezzar would become the conqueror of the whole land; and he removes all objections when he says, —

Those for death, to death; those for captivity, to captivity; those for the sword, to the sword; as though he had said, “Were Egypt ever so populous, yet the immense multitude of men will avail nothing, for they shall be conquered by their enemy; for some shall perish by the sword, and some by various kinds of death, and some shall be driven into exile; and Egypt shall be destroyed, as though no one stood up in its defense.” We hence see that this was added, that the Prophet might shake off the false confidence of the Jews. To the same purpose are the two following verses.

<244312>Jeremiah 43:12

12. And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace.

12. Et accendam ignem in aedibus deorum Aegypti; et comburet eas (vel, ipsos deos) et captivos abducet et involvet terram Aegypti, quemadmodum involvere solet pastor vestem suam; et egredietur illinc in pace.

 

He goes on with the same subject; and he ascribes to God the kindling of the fire, that the Jews might know that the war would be conducted by a divine power, and that Nebuchadnezzar would not come except through God’s providence. For though, as it has been said, he had his own reasons, yet God, by his wonderful power, led him, as it were, by the hand, to punish the Egyptians. They, indeed, deserved such a destruction, because they had by their fiat-teries deceived the miserable Jews, and had corrupted them. Besides, their allurements had been very ruinous, for through them the aid of God had been despised, and all the prophecies rejected. As then they had been the authors of all kinds of evils to the Jews, we hence infer that they deserved a dreadful vengeance; and this had been in due time made known to the Jews, but they did not believe it. Then the Prophet fully confirms what had been declared in his former prophecies.

I will kindle a fire, says God, in the temples of the gods of Egypt. And he mentions temples, that the Jews might understand that no part of the land would be safe or secure from destruction: for it often happens that when the cruelty of enemies rages greatly, the temples are spared; for religion commands respect, and honor has been given also to idols, so that their temples have often remained untouched, when enemies have wholly overthrown all other things. But it is probable, that the Chaldeans had so great a presumption and pride, that they wished to destroy all the temples, that there might be no religion anywhere except among themselves. And some also among the Persians had this barbarity, as Xerxes, who, when he entered into Greece, and some parts of Asia, burnt and destroyed all the temples, and said also in derision, that all the gods in Greece were taken captive, and were shut up in the temples, and that he accomplished everything through his own valor. There is, indeed, no doubt but that Xerxes thus arrogantly triumphed over the gods of the Greeks; and such was probably the insolence displayed by the Chaldeans. However this may have been, yet God shews, that no place in Egypt would be held sacred: for the Chaldeans would even burn their temples. But at the same time he meant to cast a reproach on the obstinacy of the Jews, because they went down to Egypt, whose safety depended on idols. God then shews that they were more than blind, and wholly beside themselves, as though they were brute animals, when they hoped for a quiet port in Egypt, which was under the protection of false gods. God then says, that he would kindle a fire by which the temples of the gods of Egypt would be burned.

And he adds, and it or he will burn them. This may be applied to the fire; but he, no doubt, speaks of the King Nebuchadnezzar, for it immediately follows, and shall carry them captives, and shall roll up the land of Egypt, as a shepherd his garment. The verb properly means to cover, but it means also sometimes to gather up. It may be rendered here to roll up, as we say in French, trousser et entortiller. He intimates, that Nebuchadnezzar would, according to his own will, so rule in Egypt, that he would heap together all the wealth of the whole land: and as a shepherd, when he leads his flock to another place, collects his utensils, and rolls up his garments, or folds himself in them; so Nebuchadnezzar, says the Prophet, would gather together, or roll up the whole land of Egypt. He mentions land, as signifying the wealth which Nebuchadnezzar accumulated. At length he adds, and thence shall he depart in peace. He shews that the conquest would be complete, for the Egyptians would not dare to mutter, nor dare to follow their enemy on his departure; for he would be as though he were in a peaceable place, and in his own kingdom. fG22

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only once shewn to us the way in which we are to walk, but also daily exhortest us to continue in it, and ever to go forward towards the right mark, — O grant, that we may never turn aside, but suffer ourselves to be ruled by thy voice; and though temptations may drive us here and there, may we ever follow thy command, and so persevere in obedience to thee, that we may at length, by experience, find that it is our happiness to commit ourselves to thee, and to follow thee as our leader, until thou bringest us into that celestial kingdom, which has been prepared for us by thine only-begotten Son.-Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixtieth

<244313>Jeremiah 43:13

13. He shall break also the images of Beth-shemesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.

13. Et conteret statuas Beth-semes (vel, Heliopolios) quae est in terra Aegypti, et domos deorum.‑Aegypti (hoc est, templa) exuret igni.

 

WE stated yesterday why Jeremiah spoke especially of the temples of the gods, even that the Jews might understand that nothing would escape destruction: for even the cruel-est enemies have usually withheld their hands from the temples of gods. If sanctity and religion would not preserve the temples, what then would become of private houses? He intimates, in short, that such would be the ruin of Egypt, that no part would escape.

But as Heliopolis was then in the greatest repute, he says, that the statues of all the gods in that city would be broken, for there the gods were especially worshipped. All heathen writers call it Heliopolis, to which the Hebrew word corresponds; for Bethsemes means the city of the sun; and Heliopolis means the same. As then this was the chief place where the gods of Egypt were found, the Prophet, in order to shew that the ruin of the whole land would be extreme, says that no temple would be there inviolate. So also Isaiah says, when speaking of the ruin of Egypt,

“Behold, God will come into Egypt, and will cut down before him all the idols.” (<231901>Isaiah 19:1)

He spoke of God’s coming, because, under his guidance it was, that Nebuchadnezzar led there his army, as it has been stated. God did not, indeed, appear from heaven, but the army of Nebuchadnezzar was a living representation of God’s power, when he punished the Egyptians. Now, he says, that when God came there armed, and carried on a warlike expedition, all the idols would be destroyed; for God would thus shew that the gods in whom the Egyptians trusted were false, that they were mere fictions, which could give no help when things came to an extremity. Now follows, —


CHAPTER 44

<244401>Jeremiah 44:1-7

1. The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam ad omnes Judaeos qui habitabant in terra Aegypti, qui habitabant Magdali et in Taphneis et Memphi et in terra Pathros, dicendo,

2. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Vos vidistis omne malum quod adduxi super Jerusalem et super omnes urbes Jehudah; et ecce sunt (ipsae) vastitas hodie, et nullus in illis habitans,

2. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein;

3. Because of their wickedness which they have committed, to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.

3. Propter malitiam quam perpetrarunt ad irritandum me ut proficiscerentur ad offerendum suffitum et ad serviendum diis alienis, quos non cognoverant ipsi, neque vos, neque patres vestri.

4. Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.

4. Et misi ad vos omnes servos meos, Prophetas, mane surgens et mittens, dicendo, Agedum ne feceritis rem abominationis hujus quam odi:

5. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.

5. Et non audierunt et non inclinarunt aurem suam, ut reverterentur a malitia sua, et non offerrent suffitum diis alienis:

6. Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.

6. Et effusa est excandescentia mea et iracundia mea, et exarsit in urbibus Jehudah et in compitis Jerusalem, et fuerunt in vastitatem et in desolationem (sicuti) secundum diem hunc.

7. Therefore now thus saith the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain.

7. Et nunc dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Quare vos facitis malum hoc grande contra animas vestras ad excidendum vobis virum et mulierem et parvulum et lactantem e medio Jehudah, ut non faciatis residuas vobis reliquias.

 

Jeremiah had already prophesied against the Jews, who had taken refuge in Egypt, as though there would be for them in that rich and almost unassailable land a safe and quiet retreat. But he now speaks against them for another reason, and denounces on them something more grievous than before, even because they had not only gone into Egypt against God’s will, but when they came there they polluted themselves with all kinds of superstition. God, no doubt, designed, in due time, to prevent this, when he forbade them to go into Egypt; for he knew how prone they were to idolatry, and to false and adulterous modes of worship. He was therefore unwilling that they should dwell in that land, where they might learn to pervert his worship. And this had happened, as it appears from the present prophecy. As then they had cast aside every shame, and given themselves up to the superstitions of the heathens, the Prophet again testified, that God would take vengeance on them. But we shall see that he had to do with refractory men; for without shewing any respect for him, they attacked him with impetuous fury. The sum of what is said then is, that the Jews who dwelt in Egypt were unworthy of any pardon, because they had, as it were, designedly rejected the favor of God, and their obstinacy had become altogether hopeless. We shall now consider the words:

A word is said to have been given to Jeremiah to all the Jews. But God spoke to Jeremiah not in the same way as to the Jews; for he committed to him the words which he commanded him to deliver to others. Then the word was directly given to Jeremiah only; but as Jeremiah was God’s interpreter to the people, the word is said to be given in common to all, which yet at first, as it has been stated, was committed to Jeremiah alone. For he did not favor the Jews with such an honor as to speak to them, but he sent the Prophet as his messenger. He said then to the Jews who dwelt in Egypt, and afterwards he mentions certain places, first Migdol, then Tahpanhes, and thirdly, Noph. The first name some have rendered Magdal. That city was not so much known at the time when Egypt flourished, but it has been mentioned by heathen writers. Of Tahpanhes we spoke yesterday. Noph has been called Memphis; and it is generally agreed that what the Hebrews called Noph was that noble and celebrated city Memphis, which, as they suppose at this day, is called Cairo, Le Caire. He lastly mentions the country of Pathros, which is supposed by some to have been near Pelusia. But on such a matter as this I bestow no great labor; for even heathen writers have regarded this as an obscure country, of no importance. Pathros is elsewhere mentioned as a city, and some think it to have been Petra of Arabia. But the Prophet no doubt refers here to the country in which Memphis and other cities were situated, in which the Jews dwelt.

But he says these things for this reason, because a question might have been raised, “As the Jews dwelt in Egypt, so large was the land, that the Prophet could not have announced the commands of God to all. This, then, was the reason why he intimates that. they were not dispersed everywhere throughout Egypt, from one end to the other, but that they were in one part only, and that they were so collected that his word might come to all. This, then, was the reason why he mentioned the places where the Jews sojourned.

He now begins with reproof, because they were so stupid as not to remember the vengeance which God had executed on themselves and on the whole nation. They had been left alive for this end, that they might acknowledge God’s judgment, and thus return to a right mind. Here, then, the Prophet upbraids them with their insensibility, that they had profited nothing under the scourges of God. They commonly say that fools, when they are beaten, become wise. As then the Jews had not repented, after having been so grievously chastised, it was a proof of extreme perverseness; for if the remnant had a grain of a sound mind, they would have been humbled at least by the final destruction of their nation, and when the city and the temple were demolished. Since then they followed the same wicked courses, for which God had inflicted so grievous a punishment, it was evident that they were wholly irreclaimable and destitute of reason and judgment. This is the import of all the words of the Prophet which we have read.

He says first, Ye have seen what great evils I brought on you and the land. “Then ye know that you have justly suffered all the evils which have happened to you; for ye have not sinned through want of knowledge, but when I had sedulously warned you by my Prophets, ye continued ever obstinate; ye have therefore fully deserved such punishments. Now when God spared you, and wished that a small number should remain, to preserve as it were a seed, how is it that these evils which are still as it were before your eyes, are not remembered by you?” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.

But it may be well to examine every part; Ye have seen, he says, all the evil which I have brought (evil here means calamity) on Jerusalem, and on all the cities of Judah; and, behold, they are now a waste, and no one dwells there. There is here an emphatical comparison between Jerusalem and Memphis, between the cities of Judah and Heliopolis and the whole country of Pathros. If then God had not. spared the holy city which he had chosen, if he had not spared the cities of Judah which were under his protection, how foolish it was for the Jews to think that they would be safe in the cities of Egypt? By what privilege could these be secure, since the cities of Judah had been reduced to a waste? We now then perceive why the Prophet mentioned Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; it was, that he might expose the stupidity of the Jews, because they thought, themselves safe in Egypt, a land which God had ever held in abomination.

He afterwards adds, For the evil which they did to provoke me. He refers to the sins by which the Jews had provoked the wrath of God; for the people whom Jeremiah addressed had relapsed into those superstitions which had been the cause of their ruin. Had the Prophet spoken generally and said, that it was strange that the Jews had forgotten the punishment which had been inflicted by God on the whole nation, his doctrine would not have been so impressive. But when he now points out as by the finger how they had procured for themselves such calamities, he presses and urges them more forcibly to acknowledge their madness, because they thus continually provoked God, and sinned not through ignorance, but offended him by the same sins for which yet they had suffered punishment so grievous and dreadful. This is the reason why the Prophet says, For the evil which they did to provoke me, even to go, he says, to offer incense and to serve alien gods. To go here intimates the care and diligence they exercised in false worship. God had shewn to the Jews a certain way in his Law which they ought to have followed: had they then continued in the doctrine of the Law, they would have kept in the right way, and gone forward to the right end. But they are said to go, because they disregarded the Law and went here and there, as those who wander at random, and know not where they are going. There is then to be understood a contrast between going and remaining under the teaching of the Law. To go, in short, is to weary one’s self by an erratic course, when the word of God is neglected, and the way which it points out is forsaken. This is one thing.

Then he adds, to offer incense and to serve alien gods. Incense here is mentioned as a particular thing, then that which is general is added; for incense, as it is well known, was an evidence of worship. Then the Prophet under one thing condemns the idolatry of his own nation. But at length he shews that they were given to other abominations, that they had devoted themselves to the false worship of alien gods.

This passage, and those which are like it, are entitled to particular notice; for we hence learn that men depart from God and alienate themselves from the true worship of him, whenever they mingle with it something of their own, and dream of this and that according to their own will, the very thing intended, as we have said, by going as used by the Prophet. As soon, then, as men devise for themselves some new modes of worship, it is the same thing as though they turned backward or willfully wandered, for they keep not in the right and legitimate way. We also learn from the second clause that idolaters in vain adduce pretences to excuse themselves. For if they transfer to another what peculiarly belongs to God, and what he claims for himself, it is more than a sufficient proof of idolatry; and incense, as I have said, was a symbol of divine worship. As then they offered incense to their idols, they robbed the true God of his own honor, and chose new gods, and adorned them with the rights of the only true God.

In vain, then, and foolishly do the Papists at this day seek evasions when we object to them and say, that gross idolatries prevail among them: “He! it is not our intention to transfer the worship which peculiarly belongs to the only true God to saints, to images; but we apply all this to God.” Since they burn incense to saints, images, and pictures, since they offer incense even to the dead, there is surely no further need of disputing the point; and when they try to evade whatever they can bring forward, it is confuted by this one expression of the Prophet, for when he speaks of incense, he condemns the Jews for their idolatry.

But as I have said, he speaks afterwards generally, and says, and to serve alien gods. Then it follows, whom they knew not, neither ye nor your fathers. Here the Prophet amplifies the sin of his own nation, because they had devoted their attention to unknown gods. There is here again a contrast to be understood, that is, between God, who had revealed himself by his Law, by his Prophets, by so many miracles and blessings, and the fictitious gods, who had, without thought and without judgment, been invented and contrived by the Jews. Now, it was an evidence of a base and an intolerable ingratitude, that the Jews should have forsaken the true God after he had made himself known to them. For had the Law never been given, had God suffered them, as other nations, to be entangled in their own errors, their offense would have been lighter. But God had made himself to be so familiarly known to them, that he was pleased to give them his Law, to be a certain rule of religion; he had also exercised his miraculous powers among them. As, then, the knowledge of the true God had been made so remarkably clear to them, how great and how base was their ingratitude to reject him and to depart from him, in order to run after idols! when they contrived for themselves vain gods and nothing but fictions! Had any one inquired what sort of god was Baal, or what were their Baalim, they would have said, that they had Baalim as their patrons, who obtained favor for them with the supreme God. But whence had they derived their vain notion? It was nothing but superstition founded on no reason.

This ought to be carefully observed; for at this day were any one to ask the Papists by what right they have devised for themselves so various and so many modes of worship: devotion alone they say will suffice, or a good intention. Let us then know that religion, separated from knowledge, is not]ting but the sport and delusion of Satan. It is hence necessary that men should with certainty know what god they worship. And Christ thus distinguishes the true worship of God from that of vain idols,

“We know,” he says, speaking of the Jews, “whom we worship.” (<430422>John 4:22)

He then says that the Jews knew, even those who worshipped God according to what the Law prescribes, — he says that they knew whom they worshipped. He then condemns all good intentions in which the superstitious delight themselves, for they know not whom they worship. And I have said that religion ought not to be separated from knowledge; but I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, or what is by diligence acquired, but that which is delivered to us by the Law and the Prophets.

We now, then, understand why the Prophet says that the Jews devoted themselves to alien gods, whom they had not known, nor their fathers.

Now follows a circumstance by which their impiety was still further enhanced, that God had sent them Prophets who stretched forth their hands to them to draw them from their errors. For had they never been warned, their condemnation would have been just; for God had once shewn to them by his Law what was right. The teaching, then, of the Law ought to have been sufficient for all ages. But when God had never ceased to send Prophets, one after another, it was a sign of hopeless obstinacy to reject so many and so constant warnings. God then added this circumstance that it might appear that the Jews were wholly inexcusable, and worthy of a hundred and of a thousand deaths, because they had so perversely despised all the means of salvation.

But God says, that he had sent to them all his servants. What is universal has its own peculiar importance; for if one or two Prophets had been sent, the Jews would have been proved guilty; for the law does not require more than two or three witnesses to condemn those who have done wrong. (<051706>Deuteronomy 17:6.) But God shews here that there had been a vast number of those, through whom, had they been believed, the Jews might have been preserved in safety. They might, then, have been proved guilty, not only by three or four witnesses, but even by a great number; for the Prophets had continually succeeded one another. And thus had been fulfilled what God had promised in the Law,

“A Prophet will I raise up from the midst of thy brethren, him shalt thou hear; and every one who will not hear that Prophet shall be cut off from his people.” (<051818>Deuteronomy 18:18, 19)

For God shews in his proclaimed Law, that this would be one of his chief blessings, ever to keep the Jews in the knowledge of their duty, by never leaving them destitute of Prophets and faithful teachers, here then he shews that he had ever really performed what he had promised by Moses; for he does not say that he had only sent a few, but, as I have said, that there had been a copious abundance; for in every age there were several Prophets, and some, when it became necessary, succeeded others. But what had been the fruit? He afterwards complains that all the Prophets had been rejected.

But to render their sin still more heinous, he says, rising up early and sending. Of this kind of speaking an explanation has been elsewhere given. (<240713>Jeremiah 7:13; <241107>Jeremiah 11:7) It is a metaphorical language; for God rises not nor does he change places; but here he applies to himself what peculiarly belongs to men. For he who is attentive to business, does not wait till the sun rises, but anticipates the morning dawn. So also the Prophet says, that God had been vigilant, for he had been solicitous concerning the wellbeing of the people.

We further learn from this mode of speaking how invaluable is the benefit which God bestows when he raises up honest and faithful teachers; for it is the same as when the head of a family rises early from his bed, calls up his children, and takes care of them. Let us, then, know that teaching, when it is communicated to us, is an evidence of God’s paternal solicitude, because he would not have us to perish, but comes down to us and sees what is needful, as though he were present with us, and as a father towards his children, he takes care of us and of our affairs. This is the meaning.

He now adds the substance of his message, Do not the thing of this abomination which I hate. God intimates, in short, that it had not been through him that the Jews did not return from their errors to the right way, because he had stretched forth his hand to them, and had, as it were, sup-pliantly requested them to provide better for themselves, and not knowingly and willfully to seek their own destruction, ]laving acted as though he were a husband, who, being anxious to preserve the fidelity of his wife, might thus say to her, — “Behold, thou knowest that I cannot endure unchaste-ness; beware, then, lest thou shouldest prostitute thyself to adulterers.” So God shews here that he had testified by all his servants, that all kinds of idolatry were displeasing to him, in order that the Jews might keep themselves from idolatry.

And he adds, But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to alien gods. Here God charges the Jews with irreclaimable obstinacy, for the teaching of the Law did not retain them in obedience, nor did they attend to it, though often and at different times warned and admonished by the Prophets. And their perverseness he still more clearly sets forth by the second clause, when he says that they did not incline their ear. Had he said, “They have not hearkened,” it would have been quite sufficient; but when he adds, “They have not inclined their ear,” he expresses, as I have said, something worse than contempt, even that they designedly rejected the teaching of the Prophets, that they disdained to hear the Prophets or to listen to their admonitions, but became willingly deaf, nay, closed up their ears, as rebels do, who are said elsewhere to harden their heart. We now then understand the import of this verse.

Now he adds, On this account has my wrath and my fury been poured forth, and has burned through the cities of Judah, and through the streets of Jerusalem; and this day they are a waste and a desolation. The word hmm, shimme, sometimes means amazement, as it has been before stated; but when it is connected with hbrj, cherebe, as here, it means desolation. As at this day; a dreadful waste was then at that time apparent, he again refers to this truth, that the Jews ought to have been so touched by that remarkable and memorable instance of God’s displeasure, as not to abandon themselves afterwards to new idolatries; they ought to have remembered so recent an example of punishment. As, then, they still persevered in their hardness, it was an evidence of extreme impiety. The Prophet says that the perverseness of the Jews had not been unpunished, for God’s wrath had been poured forth against the cities of Judah, nay, against Jerusalem itself, the sanctuary of God, so that all things had been reduced to desolation. The Jews then ought, on the one hand, seriously to have considered how inexcusable had been their impiety in having so perversely despised God; and then they ought on the other hand, to have entertained fear and dread, since they saw that God had taken such vengeance on those who had despised his teaching and violated his worship.

He then adds, Why then do ye now this great evil against your own souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, from the midst of Judah, that nothing may remain for you? here at length the passage is finished; for what we have hitherto read would have kept the reader in suspense, had not this been added. He then says, “Since the sin of your fathers ought to have been detested by you, and since God’s judgment had been dreadful, and that punishment ought at this day to fill, you with fear, how is it, that ye seek to bring on yourselves again the vengeance of God?” Why then, he says, now, etc. This now is emphatical, that is, after so many and so remarkable examples, after so many admonitions, after the most grievous punishment inflicted on the obstinate. He says, against your own souls; and by this he touched them very sharply, reminding them that what they were doing would be to their ruin, as though he had said, that God would receive no loss from their wickedness, but that they would become the authors of their own destruction, he indeed intimates, as I have already said, that their impiety would not be without its punishment; but he shews at the same time that God could, if he thought proper, look down with indifference on their impieties; for he would remain perfect even if they were the worst. For when God is robbed by men of his just and legitimate worship, there is nothing taken away from his greatness; for he ever remains the same, and is neither advanced nor diminished through the will of men. Then the Prophet shews that the Jews were acting madly for their own ruin, when he says, that they did evil against their own souls.

And this he explains more fully by adding, To cut off man and woman, child and suckling, from the midst of Judah. He intimates that God still manifested his mercy, while there was any remnant. They might have remained in Judea, even in their own inheritance; and the country might have been inhabited till the time of seventy years had elapsed, which God had fixed for the exile. Now the Prophet shews that they fought as it were against the goodness of God, for they sought to extinguish their own name, so that nothing should remain of that people, to whom God had still left some seed, that they might not wholly perish.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou ceasest not continually to shew to us thy paternal love and care, — O grant, that we may not be so insensible as to turn a deaf ear to thy teaching and admonitions; but as thou watchest for our safety, may the constancy of our faith and obedience so respond to thee, that we may reverently receive thy word, suffer ourselves to be ruled by it, and follow the way which thou hast set before us, until we shall attain complete salvation, and enjoy that blessed inheritance which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-First

<244408>Jeremiah 44:8

8. In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?

8. Ad provocandum me in operibus manuum vestrarum, ad offerendum suffitum diis alienis in terra Aegypti, ad quam vos profecti estis, ut habitetis illic, ut excidium paretis vobis (vel, ut excidatis vos,) et ut sitis in maledictum et probrum inter cunctas gentes terrae.

 

I was in the last Lecture obliged to cut short the subject of the Prophet; for this verse depends on the foregoing, and is to be read together with it. The Prophet asked why the Jew’s willingly cut off from themselves every hope of safety, and were seeking their own ruin. He now expresses the matter more fully, even that they were provoking God’s wrath by their superstitions. He then points out the cause of all evils, — the pollution of God’s true worship by idolatries.

We here see that there is no end of sinning, when men despise God and allow themselves every license in doing evil: God was unwilling that the Jews should go to Egypt; for he had promised to cherish them as it were under his own wings; and thus he intended to shew them mercy, so that they might remain in safety, though in a country then miserable and desolate. But against his command they went into Egypt. When they came there, in order to gain favor with the Egyptians, they polluted themselves with vain superstitions. They might in the land of Judah have worshipped God in purity without any danger. Distrusting the favor of God they fled into Egypt; and the fear of men led them to deny their religion. We hence see how one evil proceeds from another; when the Jews coveted the favor of that heathen nation, they polluted themselves with many ungodly superstitions.

This is the sin which the Prophet now refers to, — To provoke me, he says, by the works of your hands. There is here to be understood a contrast between the works which God had commanded, and those which men had devised for themselves. The altar and the whole Temple were indeed works done by the hand and art of men; but as God had commanded the altar to be made and the Temple to be built, the Temple was not, properly speaking, a human but a divine work, it having been commanded. But whatever men devise of themselves for the purpose of worshipping God, is what is called the work of their hands; for they invent things themselves, and follow only their own fancies; they attend not to what pleases God, but give license to their own imaginations, so that according to their own will they mingle together any sort of worship they please. This, then, is the reason, and according to this sense it is, that the Prophet says, that the Jews provoked God by the works of their hands: they corrupted his lawful worship and departed from true religion, when they attached themselves to heathen Actions and corruptions.

He then adds, To offer incense to alien gods. Under one particular thing, as it has been already said, the Prophet includes what is general, for the Jews did not only sin by offering incense, but also through various other superstitions. But by stating a part for the whole, he clearly intimates that they denied the true God when they worshipped idols. And then he adds, in the land of Egypt, into which ye have entered, that ye might dwell there. he takes away the excuse which they might have made, that they were constrained by fear, because they were unhappy exiles, and saw that their own religion would not be tolerated by that proud nation. The Prophet says that they had come into Egypt when God commanded them to remain in the land of Judah. That plea, then, could not have been admitted, that being terrified by danger they sought to please the Egyptians, for they brought themselves into that bondage, when they might have been at liberty in the land of Judah to worship God in purity. This is the reason why he says that they came into Egypt to sojourn there.

He at length adds, to cut you off. The construction is indeed different, but the meaning is clear. He intimates, in short, as he said in the last verse, that they willingly, and as it were designedly, rushed headlong into their own ruin. He then adds, and ye shall be a curse and a reproach among all nations. By which words he means that their destruction would be memorable; and this was harder than if their memory was buried with their life. But the Prophet says that their death would be such an example as that they would be deemed execrable by all. In short, he declares that they would be exposed to all kinds of reproaches even after their death. It follows, —

<244409>Jeremiah 44:9-10

9. Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?

9. An obliti estis malorum patrum vestrorum, et malorum regum Jehudah, et malorum uxorum ejus, et malorum vestrorum, et malorum uxorum vestrarum, quae fecerunt in terra Jehudah et in cornpitis Jerusalem?

10. They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you, and before your fathers.

10. Et non humiliati sunt (vel, attriti) usque ad hunc diem, et non timuerunt, et non ambulaverunt in lege mea et in statutis meis, quae posueram coram facie vestra, et coram facie patrum vestrorum.

 

The Prophet now sets forth how extremely shameful was the insensibility of the Jews, in not acknowledging that God had most severely and grievously punished the superstitions to which they had previously been addicted. At the same time, if we regard the word used, he seems not to understand punishments by evils, but raffler the wicked deeds by which they had provoked God. And this ought to be observed, for some interpreters give this rendering, “Have you forgotten your evils and those of your fathers;that is, how severely God had afflicted you? But there is no doubt but that the Prophet means by tw[r, rout, their sins, by which they had exposed themselves to God’s judgment; for it immediately follows, which they did, or committed, in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem. But though he means by this word the sins of the people, there is yet no doubt but that he includes also the punishments by which they ought to have known that the impiety in which they continued most obstinately had displeased God.

When therefore the Prophet says, Have ye forgotten your evils and those of your fathers? he takes it for granted that it was sufficiently known that God had taken vengeance on them for their sins; for he does not address the Jews in their prosperity, but when they were fugitives from their own land and under the curse of heaven. As, then, they were evidently condemned by God, the Prophet justly asks them, “Have ye forgotten that you have been condemned for the sins of your fathers and those of your kings, even for those which they had committed?” This he asked, because it was a horrid stupidity, that though the city had been overthrown and the temple burnt, they did not yet leave off their superstitions, especially when so singular a vengeance of God ought to have retained their posterity in fear and obedience even for ten ages. Thus we see that punishment is linked with sins.

He says, of the kings of Judah and of their wives. The relative is singular, “his wives;but no doubt it refers to the people. Some read, “of every one of them;but there is no need, it being a singular number, referring to a collective noun, Judah. he afterwards adds, which they did. This ought not to be confined to the women, (nor is it suitable,) but it refers to all the Jews as well as to kings of Judah, and also to the women, — which then they did in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem.

When he mentions the streets of Jerusalem, he exaggerates their wickedness. For we know that city to have been as it were the earthly sanctuary of God. It, was then a most disgraceful impiety to pollute that place which God had consecrated for himself. The whole land of Judah was indeed under his authority and power, but he had favored the city, and especially Mount Sion, with singular privileges. Then the Prophet amplifies the greatness of their sin, when he says that Jerusalem had been polluted by their superstitions.

he afterwards mentions how great had been the perverseness of that people, They are not humbled, he says, to this day, though they had been most severely smitten by the rods of God. Even fools, when smitten, become wise, as the old proverb says. As the Jews then had been so grievously chastised by God’s hand, and had experienced extreme rigor, ought they not to have considered what they had deserved? But the Prophet shews that their wickedness was past remedy, for though broken down they were not yet humbled, like those who are of a perverse disposition, who could not be reformed were they broken down a hundred times. Then the Prophet upbraids the Jews with their obstinacy, for not even the greatest calamity had brought them to obedience.

They were not then humbled to that day, nor did they fear. Fear ought also to be referred here to the calamities which they had experienced, for God had sufficiently shewn that he had been grievously offended with their impiety. As then God’s dreadful judgment had been made conspicuous to all, the Prophet here condemns their dullness, because they had not been brought back to a sound mind so as to fear God. He now adds another instance of obstinacy, that they had not walked in the Law of God and in his commandments. Then he shows that their obstinacy was twofold, that they had profited nothing by his teaching, and that they had disregarded his punishments. The Law itself was to them a rule according to which they were to worship God, nor ought they to have sought elsewhere what they were to do. As, then, they had in the Law a revelation as to true religion, it was an intolerable contempt to depart from it of their own accord, and to abandon themselves to all kinds of errors. But the Prophet shews that they had been extremely unteachable, because they had not only cast aside every regard for the Law, but they had also despised God’s hand, and refused to be corrected by any punishments.

That he might shew still further that they had sinned through sheer wickedness, he says, They have not walked in my Law nor in my statutes. This second clause seems to be superfluous; but the Prophet here commends the clear teaching of the Law, as though God had said that he had not only shewn in a brief manner what was true and right, but that he had also by many statutes taught the Jews, so that they had no pretext for their ignorance. And he confirms the same thing in other words, when he says that he had put these statutes before their face; for by these words he intimates that there is nothing obscure in the Law, and that the Jews therefore had not gone astray through want of knowledge; for men always extenuate by evasions their sins, when their impiety is condemned. The Prophet then says that the Jews were inexcusable, because the rule of true religion had been set before their eyes.

Now this passage testifies that the teaching of the Law is not doubtful, as some profane men say, who hold that Scripture may be turned anyhow like a nose of wax. But God declares that he had not spoken ambiguously. Since, then, the Prophet affirms that the Law had been set before the eyes of the Jews, that they might surely know the will of God, we ought to maintain at this day, that in the Gospel, clearly discovered to us by the coming of Christ, there is nothing obscure, but that the treasures of all knowledge have been made known to us, as far as it is necessary, so that they who now go astray in vain pretend that they do so because the will of God is hid from them; for in no other way can they err than by dissembling and willfully closing their eyes, lest the brightness of the sun should reach them. Let us yet know that the more plainly God is made known to us, the more grievously we sin when we turn aside from his true worship and service; for he has omitted nothing in his word which is necessary in order to worship him acceptably. Since, then, we have before our eyes the rule of a godly life, except we follow it this reproof belongs to us, that God has set before our eyes his statutes. It now follows, —

<244411>Jeremiah 44:11-12

11. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah.

11. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego pono faciem meam contra vos in malum et ad excidendum totum Jehudah;

12. And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine; and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.

12. Et tollam reliquias Jehudah, quae posuerunt faciem suam ut venirent in terrain Aegypti ad peregrinandum illic, et consumentur omnes in terra Aegypti, cadent in gladio, fame consumentur a parvo usque ad magnum; in gladio et fame morientur, et erunt in execrationem et stuporem et in maledictum et in opprobrium.

 

He again denounces punishment on the obstinate; nor is it a wonder that these threatenings were so often repeated, since he had to do with men so ferocious and refractory. The reason then why he denounced on them God’s judgment, was because they boldly derided him; and it will become more evident from what follows how necessary was such vehemence.

And first, indeed, the Prophet briefly shews that all those would perish who had yet falsely imagined that they could not otherwise be safe than by fleeing into Egypt. Then Jeremiah here reproves and condemns their false and vain confidence. And then he explains the manner when he says, I will take away all the remnant of Judah, who have set their face to come to Egypt, etc. By these words and the following, God intimates that the Jews had in vain sought hiding-places in Egypt, because there he would inflict on them the punishment which they had deserved. He names the sword and the famine; the third kind he omits here, but he will mention it presently. Then he says that they were to perish, partly by the sword and partly by famine, and in order to speak more emphatically, he uses different words, They shall be consumed by famine, they shall fall by the sword, they shall all be consumed, and then he says, from the least to the greatest.

At length he adds, And they shall be a curse. We have said elsewhere that the word hla, ale, sometimes means a curse, though it properly signifies an oath; and the reason is, because men in swearing often introduce a curse, “Let God curse me,” — “Let me perish.” Then he says, that the Jews would become an example of a curse; for in making an oath this would be the common form, “Let God destroy me as he destroyed the Jews.” He afterwards adds, an astonishment, because all would be horrified at the very sight of their calamity. It follows in the last place, a curse and a reproach, of which we have spoken before. Let us now proceed, —

<244413>Jeremiah 44:13

13. For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.

13. Et visitabo super eos qui habitant in terra Aegypti, quemadmodum visitavi super Jerusalem, in gladio et fame et peste (hic exprimitur tertia species.)

 

He confirms in this verse what he had said in the last, that he would again take vengeance on impiety, as he had done previously. The Jews were before visited with a very grievous calamity, when inebriated with prosperity; but now, when God would have shaken from off them their torpor, the Prophet justly reminds them of the calamities which they had suffered: As, then, I visited Jerusalem, so will I visit those who dwell in Egypt. But the argument is also from the greater to the less; for if God had not spared the holy city, in which he had chosen a habitation, how should he spare Egypt? for Egypt was not worthy that God should regard it. We know that it was a profane and an accursed land. It was, then, the greatest madness for the Jews to hope to be safe in Egypt, when they could not have been so in the holy land, which was God’s sanctuary, which was their heritage, which was even God’s rest.

We now see the object of the Prophet; for he set before them the ruin of the city and of the land of Judah, that they might know that they could not escape the hand of God while they dwelt in Egypt contrary to his command, for God would be a severer judge to them there than he had been before in the land of Judah. It follows, —

<244414>Jeremiah 44:14

14. So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.

14. Et non erit qui evadat (qui sit residuus) inter reliquias Jehudah quae venerunt ad peregrinandum hic (nam erat Propheta in Aegypto) nempe in terra Aegypti, et ad revertendum in terram Jehudah, ad quam ipsi elevant animam suam (vel, elevant animas suas) ad revertendum ut habitent illic, quia non revertentur nisi qui evaserint.

 

The Prophet seems to be inconsistent with himself; for at the beginning of the verse he says that there would be no residue, but at the end he adds an exception, that there would be few alive, who would flee, and, by some miracle, escape from death. Some take this view, that none of the ungodly despisers would remain, but that some would yet be preserved alive, even those who had been drawn there against their own will, such as Jeremiah, Baruch, and such as were like them. But this explanation may seem forced at the first view; and yet if the Prophet is speaking of the Jews who had fled into Egypt, it is necessary so to take it; otherwise there would be a manifest inconsistency and contradiction. But we may also refer what he says at the end of the verse to the exiles in Babylon; for they who had concealed themselves in Egypt thought that it was all over with all others, because they had been led away into a distant country. As, then, a return to their country was closed up against them, they thought that they themselves would become the sole heirs of the land; for as Egypt was not far from the land of Judah, a return was easy, and also free, because they had made a treaty with the Egyptians; and further, they had gone to them as friends to partake of their hospitality. They, then, who dwelt in Egypt thought that the land of Judah would be their own.

But God says that none would return into that land except those who should escape, even those to whom permission to return would be given at the end of their captivity and exile. I take then the word yflp, pelethim, at the end of the verse, as referring to the remnant which God would at length gather, when liberty to return was granted to the Jews by the edict of Cyrus, at the end of the seventy years, which the Prophet had before mentioned. And this seems to me a simpler meaning, that. is, that none would remain of that remnant which had gone down to Egypt, who came, as it is expressed, to sojourn in the land of Egypt and to return to the land of Judah, for this was their purpose. fG23

He then adds, To which they lift up their souls to return there. The Prophet here exposes the confidence by which the Jews still deceived themselves; for the lifting up of which he speaks, means to aspire or to hope, and denotes pride and presumption. So by saying that they lifted up their souls, he reproves them, because they were still inflated with a foolish hope, and persuaded themselves that a return would soon be open for them, as the land was without any possessors. As, then, they were cherishing themselves with such delusions, they were to know that they were never to return there, They shall not return, he says. And then follows an exception, Except those who escape, even those of whom the Jews in Egypt despaired, who thought that they did well, and had taken a prudent counsel, because they had for a time a quiet hiding-place in Egypt. It now follows, —

<244415>Jeremiah 44:15-16

15. Then all the men which knew that their wives had burnt incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying,

15. Et responderunt Jeremiae om-nes viri, qui sciebant quod suffitum offerrent uxores ipsorum diis alienis, et omnes mulieres quae adstabant, coetus magnus, et totus populus qui habitabant in terra Aegypti, in Pathros, dicendo,

16. As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.

16. In sermone (subaudiendum est in, vel, quoad sermonem)quem locutus es ad nos in nomine Jehovae, nos audivimus to.

 

Here is more fully seen the irreclaimable obstinacy of that nation; for Jeremiah had given them more than sufficient evidences of his integrity. They ought then to have been fully convinced that he was a true Prophet of God. Though they had disregarded him for forty years and more, he had yet given full proof of his legation when he had constantly, even to the last, prophesied of the destruction of the city and the Temple. They had, then, learnt by their own calamities that Jeremiah was an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and a true interpreter of God’s will. And it hence appears how blind they were when they rejected all his admonitions, and counted his threatenings as fables. Thus, as in a mirror, the Holy Spirit of God sets before us how great the madness of men is when Satan once takes possession of their minds. But let us, at the same time, learn that this is the reward rendered to obstinacy, when God’s Prophets are despised. It was, indeed, a monstrous and most disgraceful thing, when they dared so insolently to repudiate the holy Prophet, while, at the same time, they had been reduced to the greatest extremities, and when spoiled of all things, had fled into Egypt, and lived there, as we have seen, in a servile and miserable condition. Inasmuch, then, as they were still ferocious and still arrogant towards God’s Prophet, it hence appears that they were untamable.

He then says, that all the men to whom the impiety of their wives was known, answered Jeremiah. By these words the Prophet intimates that the beginning of idolatry was from the women. Things then had not as yet gone so far that all the men openly worshipped idols; but the women had taken this liberty, and the men readily indulged them. But why then did the Prophet before reprove them, as though they all made incense to idols? We doubtless learn from this passage, that they are not only guilty before God who openly do what is wicked, but also those who by connivance tolerate them; for the men ought to have interfered so as to restrain their wives from polluting themselves with ungodly superstitions; but this they patiently endured. Then their consent was the same as the deed, as we may rightly conclude from the words of the Prophet. He then says, that the men offered incense, not indeed openly and with their own hands, but that they knew of their wives, and that this impiety was done by the women with their consent. The rest I cannot now finish, I will proceed with it to-morrow.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou wouldest prove our faith by many trials, we may constantly persevere in the pure worship of thy name, and in calling on thee in sincerity and truth, and that as we are surrounded and beset on every side by many pollutions, we may preserve ourselves pure and devoted to thee, both in body and soul, and thus proceed through the whole course of our life, so that at length we may appear unpolluted before thee, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-Second

WE began yesterday to explain what the Prophet says of the answer given him by the men and women. The sum of it was, that they would not do what the Prophet commanded them, though he spoke to them in the name of God. They did not answer distinctly, that the word of God or his oracle to them was of no account, but impeached the fidelity of Jeremiah, as though he had alleged the name of God falsely.

But he says that the men who knew that their wives burnt incense to alien gods, answered him; and he afterwards adds, and the women who stood by; some read, “In the great assembly.” But I have no doubt but that the Prophet means, that the answer was given in common by the men and by the women. He then says, that the women were at the same time present. He afterwards adds, a great assembly. What follows is an explanation, the whole people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, who dwelt in Pathros in the land of Egypt, and especially in that part. We have elsewhere spoken, of Pathros.

We see, in short, that God’s Prophet was rejected; and yet there is no doubt but the Jews pretended some religion, but they did not think that they were bound to obey the command of man. And whence was this contempt? even from nothing but perverseness; for however hypocrites may dissemble and say that they do not despise God and his word, and address their words to ministers, yet their impiety betrays them when, on the one hand, they pretend that they worship God, and on the other they repudiate those furnished with his commands whom he would have them to hear. But God will not and cannot have himself separated from his word. Let us now go on —

<244417>Jeremiah 44:17

17. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

17. Quirt potius (vel, quia, est par-ticula causalis, sed accipitur interdum adversative) faciemus quicquid (ad verbum, omnem sermonem) qui egredietur ab ore nostro, ut suffitum offeramus reginae (vel, machinae) coelorum, et libemus ei libamina, quemadmodum fecimus nos, et patres nostri, reges nostri et duces nostri in urbibus Jehudah, et in compitis Jerusalem, et saturati sumus panibus, et fuimus boni (hoc est, hilares, feelices,) et malum non vidimus.

 

Here they shew more openly their obstinacy; for having said that they had no faith in Jeremiah, as he had not been sent by God, they now add that they would indeed be the worshippers of God, but according to their own will. We have here discovered to us the fountain of all superstitions. This passage sufficiently proves whence these flow, and from what source proceed all the corruptions by which religion has been vitiated in all ages, even from the willfulness and pride of men. While therefore men arrogate so much to themselves as to make a law respecting the worship of God, all things must necessarily go wrong. It was for this reason I said that this is the origin of all errors. How then is religion to remain pure? even by depending on God’s mouth, by subjecting ourselves to his word, and by putting a bridle on ourselves, so as not to introduce anything except what he commands and approves. The right rule then as to the worship of God is, to adopt nothing but what he prescribes. On the other hand religion becomes vitiated and degenerates into superstition as soon as men seek to be legislators for themselves, when they say, Doing we shall do every word that cometh forth from our mouth.

This willfulness is indeed what humble men will condemn if they only consult common sense; but it is an evil innate in all, to seek to worship God as it seems good to them. But Jeremiah here paints for us as it were on a tablet the beginning of all superstitions: men set up their own will and fancies in opposition to the commands of God.

He afterwards adds, To offer incense to the frame-work of the heavens. Interpreters differ as to the meaning of this clause. We have stated some things already in the seventh chapter; but as a great part of you were not then present, it is necessary to repeat what was then said. Some derive the last word but one from ˚lm, melek, which means to reign; and hence they give this rendering, “to the queen of the heavens;” and this is the explanation of Jerome. But others derive the word from ˚al, lak, and render it “work;” and some more rashly, “ministry;” and others, “framework,” or, fabric, (machina.) There are also those deduce the word from ˚lh, elek, which is to walk; and they think that all the stars or planets are included in this term; and we indeed see that walking or motion is what belongs to all the stars. But if the word comes from the verb to reign, “the queen of the heavens” must be taken for the principal star, as the Chaldee paraphrase regards it.

But some consider that the sun is intended, and some the moon. The sun in Hebrew is of the feminine gender; therefore the sun may properly be called a queen in that language. But if we take it as meaning frame-work, one of the radical letters a, aleph, is wanting, as in the seventh chapter. The Prophet, however, seems to mention here the whole machinery of the heavens, as though the unbelieving had said, that as wonderful glory appeared there, their worship was doubtless pleasing to God, when his majesty was adored in the stars and in the whole frame-work of the heavens. I do not therefore consider that one starts meant, but the very heavens or all the stars; and though the word is in the singular number, yet it means what is commonly called the hosts of heaven.

They then said, “We shall go on in our usual manner; for we have hitherto offered incense to the fabric (or the frame-work) of the heavens, and poured libations; we shall not then desist from what we have usually done: “and they further said, “So have we done, we, and our fathers, and our kings, and our princes.” Here they set up the authority of fathers in opposition to the authority of God, as it was usually done.

We see also in our day that the Papists superciliously boast of the Fathers and the Catholic Church, when the plain truth is brought forward. They think that darkness overspreads the Word of God, and that whatever is adduced from the Law, from the Prophets, and from the Gospel, is reduced to nothing when they object and say that it is otherwise, that the fathers have spoken otherwise, that it was otherwise understood in old times. We hence see that the Papists of this day fight with the same weapons as idolaters formerly employed; and though the devil transforms himself in various ways, yet superstitious men ever adopt this principle, that whatever is handed down from our forefathers ought to be held sacred; and hypocrites do especially harden themselves in this error, when they can boast of kings and princes, as was the case in this instance; for they said, that they followed what had been done, not only by the common people, but even by kings and princes. They took it as granted that kings and princes could not have fallen into ignorance. The truth is, that greatness and splendor cover the ignorance and folly of kings. So when simple men speak of kings, their eyes are blinded or dazzled by the magnificence displayed, so that they think kings to be without dispute wise and endowed with the best understanding. Hence it is that Satan is wont often to use such masks for the purpose of deceiving men. Let us therefore learn to render to God altogether the honor of prescribing by his word the law as to religion; and thus let no altitude or dignity be allowed to overshadow the authority of God; but on the contrary, let kings and princes be constrained to submit when God appears.

They afterwards added, In the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem. And they mentioned these places in order to sanction their own superstitions; for the holiness of Jerusalem was to them a cover for all vices, as we see to be the case at this day with respect to Rome, which is boastfully extolled by the Papists, as though the hypocrisy which sends forth the most nauseous filth through the whole world, were the most perfect holiness. Whatever then comes from Rome, they would have to be counted as a heavenly oracle. In the same manner the wretched Jews dared to set up Jerusalem in opposition to God. Great, indeed, was the dignity of the city, not such is that of Rome at this day; for the Papists have not taken from God’s word the encomiums, by which they extol that city, which is really a foetid and an abominable brothel. Jerusalem had its dignity from God himself; but the Jews in their folly degraded Jerusalem when they corrupted the Law and instituted fictitious worship, according to their own will. And yet we see that they armed themselves with this name, as a weapon, against the Prophet, as though they brought God to fight against himself. Jerusalem had no dignity but that with which God himself had favored it; but they boasted that it was a holy city, that whatever was done in it was to be deemed holy and lawful, and not to be disputed, as though God’s Law had been lying buried under the dignity of the city. Now Jerusalem had derived its splendor and all the dignity it had from the Law only. But this, as I have said, was the wickedness of men, that they corrupted and perverted the benefits of God.

They then added, that they were satisfied with bread, when they burned incense to the work or workmanship of the heavens. It has ever been a common thing with the despisers of God, that they have been inebriated with earthly things, so as to disregard God himself, and to think that all their superstitions would go unpunished. But whence comes this error? even because men deceive themselves, when God patiently bears with them. God does not immediately take vengeance on the profanation of his name, he does not immediately punish hypocrites and idolaters, he does not immediately fulminate against ungodly and spurious modes of worship: his forbearance seems to be taken as an inducement to sin, as an excitement to licentiousness. When, therefore, the Jews adduced this defense, that they were satisfied with bread, it was the same thing as though they had said, “As long as God spared us, and suspended his judgment, it was well with us.” But they ought not to have abused the forbearance of God, and thus to have heaped on themselves judgment, as Paul says. Now there was also another cause of error, for when God drew men back from error by chastising them more severely, as they deserved, after seeing they were still obstinate, they then began so to regard God’s judgment, as foolishly to think that the cause proceeded from religion being changed. So, at the beginning of the Gospel we see that there were similar complaints among all the ungodly, as the ancients have recorded, and especially Tertullian, in his apologies: “If the Tiber inundated, if any calamity happened, if hail or frost, the fault was ascribed to the name of Christ and his doctrine. From the time religion has been changed, we have not ceased to be miserable.” But they did not consider as they ought to have done, that when they were blind and sunk in errors, God for a long time bore with them, and that after the doctrine of the gospel had shone forth, they still wickedly followed their accustomed impiety, which before might have been excused on the ground of ignorance: from the time God had shewn to them the way of salvation, they had resisted it, as it were designedly and willfully, so that they deserved a heavier punishment.

Such was the impiety of the ancient people according to this answer, We were satisfied with bread when we poured out libations to the frame-work of the heavens; that is, as God did not immediately punish their impiety, they were happy and saw no evil. And yet it is certain that they said what was untrue, for God had often chastised them, and at the time they were sedulous and devoted to their false worship. They had gone astray to idolatry before Jeremiah was born; nay, before Isaiah had commenced his office as a Prophet: and we know how severely at that time God punished them for their wickedness; for in the time of Isaiah the kingdom of Israel was distressed, and then wholly destroyed. Jerusalem, as Isaiah says, became like a cottage, and the whole country was laid waste; and at this time they poured out libations to the workmanship of heaven and burnt incense. We know how great was the zeal of Ahaz, and of other wicked kings. Hezekiah, indeed, and Josiah labored to restore the pure worship of God; but Manasseh, the son and successor of Hezekiah, immediately subverted everything. While then they were so fervid in their superstitions, did all things succeed according to their wishes, as they now boasted? By no means, for God pursued them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence.

What then did this boasting mean, that they were satisfied with bread, and were happy, and saw no evil, at the time they poured out libations? The truth is, that madness so drives on headlong the ungodly, that they perceived not God’s hand, when stretched forth against them. But even had they truly said, that they were happy at the time they pro-stituted themselves to idols, yet they could not have hence inferred, that their false worship was approved by God; for when he bears with men for a time, he does not yet cease to be their judge; for he will at length, in his own time, sum-. mort to his tribunal the ungodly whom he has long spared. In short, hypocrites at first trifle with God, and thus turn his mercy to an occasion of sinning, as though there were no punishment; this is one thing: and in the second place, they are not roused by the scourges of God, but remain stupid when God chastises them. It follows, —

<244418>Jeremiah 44:18

18. But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.

18. Ex quo autem desiimus suffitum offerre artificio coelo-rum et libare ei libamina, desti-tuti (vel, privati) fuimus omnibus, et gladio et fame sumus consumpti.

 

Here he enlarges on their ingratitude, that they attributed to God the fault of all their calamities, when yet God would have drawn them, as the Prophet will hereafter tell us, as it were out of darkness into light, had they been reclaimable. They ought to have been restored, by punishments, to their right mind. But this had been so far from being the case, that the effect of God’s scourges had been to render them more and more obstinate.

They then said, that from the time they left off to worship idols, they had been miserable, that they had labored under the want of everything, and had been consumed by famine and the sword. They had before been consumed, as it is well known, by the famine and the sword, and as we have said, they had before suffered many calamities. Why then did they not refer to these punishments which they had suffered for having so often, and for so long a time, rebelled against God? But they willfully covered over God’s judgments: and yet they said that they had been in every way miserable, since they had ceased from false worship. But was it for this reason they became miserable, because they no longer poured out libations to stars and idols? Nay, the reason was very different, as the Prophet will presently answer them. But we must repeat all their words; we shall come afterwards to the refutation given by the Prophet.

<244419>Jeremiah 44:19

19. And when we burnt incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink-offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink-offerings unto her, without our men?

19. Et quando nos suffitum fecimus artificio coelorum, et libavimus ei libamina, an absque viris nostris fecimus ei placentas ad exhilarandum illud (aliivertunt, simulaehrum,) et etiam libando ei libamina?

 

They brought forward another argument, that they were not a small portion, but the whole people, who then flourished in prosperity, when they offered incense to idols. We know that but a few remained of that large multitude, which lived when the kingdom as yet existed. They said then that they were not the sole authors of this superstition, but that it was practiced by a large number of men, even the whole people, when Jerusalem was full of inhabitants, and the whole country.

Some explain this of the women, but improperly, as I think. The masculine gender is sometimes applied to women, but seldom, and it is harsh, and then it agrees not with this passage, where the whole context shews that men are spoken of; but one reason only leads them to think so, and that is frivolous. It is said, Have we done this without our men? When, therefore, they said that they had not acted without the men, it has immediately occurred to inter-prefers that the women spoke; but the word is in the masculine gender. It is well known that yna, anushim, mean sometimes the aged, and also the princes who bear rule, as it is evident from other passages. But here that small band which remained brought forward the consent of a large multitude, as though they had said, “We here are many against thee who standest alone; but if thou comparest the ancient condition of the city and of the land with our miserable state, when the kingdom flourished, when the city remained in safety, when the whole country was full of inhabitants, did they not all then, with one consent, worship the stars and the workmanship of the heavens? Since, then, this religion has been approved by the consent of so many, what meanest thou in attempting to take it away from us?”

We now, then, perceive the design of the Prophet, or rather we understand the meaning of those whom he has introduced as the speakers. They then said that they did not offer incense and pour out libations without their men, that is, without that large multitude, which afterwards perished or was consumed; and thus they set up against him, as a cloud, a large number of men, as the Papists do at this day, who, by means of consent, only fight against the truth, of God for the purpose of overwhelming it. In like manner did these wretched men contend with Jeremiah; and this pretext was their shield, that the whole people, before the city was demolished, followed these superstitions: We have, then, not done this without our men, pouring out libations and offering incense. It now follows, —

<244420>Jeremiah 44:20-23

20. Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to an the people which had given him that answer, saying,

20. Et dixit Jeremias ad totum populum, ad viros et mulieres, et ad totum populum, qui responderant ipsi sermonem, dicendo,

21. The incense that ye burnt in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them, and came it not into his mind?

21. An non suffitus quem vos suffiebatis (vel, adolebatis) in urbibus Jehudah et compitis Jerusalem, vos et patres vestri, reges vestri et duces vestri, et populus terre, eorum (hoc est, ejus suffumigationis, vel, harum omnium superstitionum) recordatus est Jehova, et ascenderunt in cor ejus?

22. So that the Lord could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.

22. Et non potuit Jehova amplius ferre propter malitiam operum vestrorum, propter abominationes quas fecistis, et redacta est terra vestra in vastitatem et in stuporem et in maledictum (vel, execrationem,) ita ut nemo sit habitator, sicut dies haec (hoc est, sicut hodie apparet.)

23. Because ye have burnt incense, and because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.

23. Propterea quod suffitum fecis-tis et peccastis Jehovae (vel, impie gessistis contra Jehovam,) et non audivistis vocem Jehovae, et in lege ejus et statutis et testimoniis non ambulastis, propterea accedit vobis malum hoc, sicut dies haec (hoc est, sicut hodie apparet.)

 

The Prophet refutes the impious objections by which the Jews had attempted to subvert and to render contemptible his doctrine, he then turns against them all that they had falsely boasted. They had at the beginning said, “Our kings, our princes, and our fathers, had before used these rites; and they have been delivered to us, as it were, by their hands.” To this Jeremiah answers, “This is certainly true, and for this reason it was that God became so severe a judge of their impiety, when he took away your fathers from the world, when he wholly destroyed the kingdom itself, when he demolished the city, and when at length he afflicted you with all kinds of evils: for except your kings, and your fathers, and your princes, had been impious towards God, he would have never treated them with so much severity; for he has promised to be a Father to the children of Abraham. God, then, must have been grievously offended with you, and your fathers, and your kings, when his wrath thus burned against them.”

There is, then, here a retort; for as we see that the Prophet turns against them what they had adduced against him. This is the sum of what is said.

He says that he spoke to the whole people, both men and women, and he repeats the whole people, because all had subscribed to the impious calumny. Then God says, “For this reason have I destroyed your city and you, even because ye burnt incense to-your idols.” The truth of what they had boasted is allowed, but it is turned to a meaning different from what they thought. For, as their fathers and their kings had imbibed superstitions, they supposed that they were doing right in following them; for, as we have said, hypocrites consider use and custom as sufficient reasons for disregarding the Law. Then, as to the fact itself, the Prophet admits that what they said was quite true, that this had been the cause of all their evils; for had not the kings and the whole people provoked the wrath of God, the temple would not have been demolished, nor the kingdom destroyed; God, in short, would not have alienated himself from his own people whom he had adopted. This is the meaning.

The incense, he says, which ye have burnt in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, ye and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the whole people of the land, has not Jehovah remembered them? Whence, he says, has this dreadful calamity proceeded, which has destroyed all your race? Even from the wrath of God, for it has not happened to you by chance, for God had by his servants predicted what afterwards has been really fulfilled. It then follows, that your city has been destroyed through the righteous judgment of God. And what has been the cause of so great and so grievous a vengeance? Even your incense.

And hence he adds, Jehovah could not endure the wickedness of your works and the abominations which ye have done: therefore, he says, your land has been reduced to a waste. The Prophet, in short, shews that had they not been justly exposed to God’s judgment, they would not have been destroyed. For he assumes this principle, that God is not angry without reason; and then he assumes another principle, that as God had chosen the seed of Abraham, and had been always propitious even to the unworthy, they would have been made partakers of his kindness, had not God been wholly alienated from them. It then follows, that God’s vengeance had not been thus kindled by some slight offense, but by many and daily offenses, so that it could no longer be deferred: for the atrocity of punishment shews the atrocity of sin; and hence he says, Jehovah could not endure the wickedness of your works, and the abominations which ye have done: therefore, he adds, your land has been made a waste, an astonishment, and a curse, or execration, so that there is no inhabitant.

He at length explains more clearly, in other words, the same thing, on account of your incense, he says, and because ye have done wickedly, etc. By naming incense especially, stating a part for the whole, he refers to all false and corrupt modes of worship, as it was stated yesterday; but he declares all of them to have been abominable. Then he says, Ye have acted impiously against God. He now exaggerates their sin, for they had despised all godly admonitions, ye have not hearkened, he says, to the voice of Jehovah. I apply this to the discourses of the Prophets, by which God continued to exhort them to repentance; for he daily and constantly addressed them, in order to restore them to the way of salvation. Then the Prophet condemns them, because they hearkened not to the words of the Prophets.

Then he adds, Nor walked in his Law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies, he shews by these words, that even if Prophets had not been sent, one after the other, the Law ought to have been sufficient for them. But he was not content with mentioning the Law only, but added, statutes and testimonies: by which words he intimates, as we said yesterday, that the doctrine of the Law was clear and plain.

he at length adds, Therefore has all this evil happened to you, as it appears at this day. The Prophet, in short, intimates that their guilt was sufficiently proved, because God had been so angry with them, and they had been so severely afflicted; for if his judgments are right, it follows that the punishment he inflicted on the Jews was right. It may also be hence inferred, that they had been rebellious, because they had perverted and corrupted his true worship.

PRAYER

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only in thy Law prescribed to us what is right, and shewed to us the way of a godly life, but hast also more clearly revealed thy will to us by the light of thy Gospel, where Christ thy Son shines forth as the Sun of righteousness, — O grant, that we may submit ourselves wholly to thee, and from the heart render thee obedience, and to this apply all our efforts and direct all our doings, so that having finished the course of this life, we may at length come into that blessed rest which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-Third

<244424>Jeremiah 44:24-26

24. Moreover, Jeremiah said unto all the people, and to all the women, Hear the word of the Lord, all Judah that are in the land of Egypt;

24. Et dixit Jeremias ad totum populum et ad mulieres, Audite ser-monem Jehovae, omnis Jehudah, qui estis in terra Aegypti,

25. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.

25. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Dells Israel, dicendo, Vos et uxores vestrae locuti estis ore vestro, et im-plevistis manibus vestris, dicendo, Faciendo faciemus vota vestra, quae vovinus ad suffitum adolendum arti-ficio coeli et ad fundendum ei liba-mina, stabihendo stabilietis vota vestra, et faciendo facietis vota vestra:

26. Therefore hear ye the word of the Lord, all Judah that dwell in the land of Egypt; Behold, I have sworn by my great name, saith the Lord, that my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, The Lord God liveth.

26. Propterea audite sermonem Jehovae, totus Jehudah, qui habita-tis in terra Aegypti, Ecce juravi per nomen meum magnum, dicit Jehova, si erit posthac nomen meum invoea-tum in ore (per os) viri Judaei dicen-tis, Vivit Adohai Jehova in tota terra Aegypti.

 

Jeremiah pursues the same subject, and not only bitterly reproves the ungodly men who so pertinaciously despised his doctrine, but also shews that they could gain nothing by their audacity, because they would at length be violently broken down, as they could not bear to be corrected, he says at the beginning, Ye and your wives have spoken; the men are also included, Ye have spoken both men and women, and with your hands have fulfilled it; that is, your obstinacy is complete, for, as you have spoken insolently against God, so there has been a performance; for by hands he designates the work done. he then shews that they had advanced to the highest pitch of impiety, for they hesitated not to vomit forth these impious words, We will not obey God, and they joined their hands to their mouth, for they strenuously executed what they had said. The thought itself was sufficient to condemn them; but when they thus spoke with their tongues, and then employed their hands against God, it was a proof of desperate audacity, as though they willfully designed to provoke him.

But he shews what issue awaited these impious men, who so presumptuously rebelled against God. When he bids them to hear what God on the other hand had sworn, he compares God with themselves, as though he had said, “You may a hundred times increase in your madness, yet God will be the conqueror; for he is an adversary who will surely subvert all schemes and efforts.” But before he comes to this, he mentions what they said, Doing we shall do our vows which we have vowed, to burn incense, etc. Here Jeremiah relates what we have before seen, that the Jews, under the pretext of doing what had been before done, continued thus rebellious against God. We perceive this by the word vows; and the superstitious, when they are pressed, are wont always to flee to this pretext, that to persevere in one’s resolution is a great virtue. While, then, they avoid the charge of fickleness, they harden thems