Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Calvin's Commentary on the Bible Calvin's Commentary
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ cal/ jeremiah-11.html. 1840-57.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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Here the Prophet teaches us, that the Jews, though they continued to profess God’s holy name, were yet wholly perfidious, and had departed altogether from the law. The import of this discourse is, that the Jews gloried in the name of God, and yet were violaters of his covenant, for they had broken their faith pledged to God, and wholly cast aside the doctrine of the law. The Jews, no doubt, were often greatly exasperated against Jeremiah, as though he was pleading his own cause: it was therefore necessary to set before them their departure from the law, so that they might feel assured that their contention was not with Jeremiah but with Moses, and with God himself, the author of the law. They were doubtless exasperated with his doctrine; but Jeremiah could not spare them when he saw that they were so perverse.
We may understand this better by an example: Though the Papists at this day openly repudiate everything adduced from the law, and the prophets, and the gospel, yet they dissemble on this point, and even affirm that they receive whatever proceeds from God. As they then shuffle and do so shamelessly, he who seeks to restore the pure worship of God and true religion, may deal with them in the same manner. As for instance, when any one of God’s servants meets the Papists, he may thus address them: — “Let not the dispute be now between us individually, but hear what God commanded formerly by Moses, and what he has more fully confirmed by his prophets, and at last by his only — begotten Son and his apostles; so that it is not right to do anything any longer against his word: now then attend to the law and the prophets.”
We now understand what was God’s design in bidding his servant Jeremiah to speak these words. For, except we duly consider the unfaithfulness of that people, we shall feel surprised that the word covenant is so often mentioned, and it will appear unmeaning to us. But the Prophet, as I have said, when he saw that the Jews by their cavils made evasions, could not deal with them in any other way than by shewing that, they had violated God’s covenant and had thus become apostates, having wholly departed from the law. And he says that this was commanded them by God: nor is there doubt but that God not only suggested this to his servant, but dictated also to him the way and manner of speaking.
Rightly then does Jeremiah begin by saying, that this word was given to him. By using the plural number in the second verse, he no doubt shews that he had a few assistants remaining, whom God addressed in connection with him, that they might unite together in delivering his message. For though there were very few good men, yet Jeremiah was not wholly deprived of colleagues, who assented to and confirmed his doctrine. Baruch was one of them, and there were a few like him. These, then, God addresses in the second verse, when he says, Hear ye the words of this coveant, and say ye (30) to the men of Judah and to the citizens of Jerusalem Jeremiah indeed knew, and also those who were with him, that they brought forward nothing but what was in the law: but however conscious they were of their own sincerity, and could testify before God and his angels that they drew nothing from puddles but from a pure fountain, yet God intended to strengthen them against the contumacy of the people; for they had this objection ready at hand, “Ye indeed boast that whatever it pleases you to bring forward, is the word of God; but this we deny.” Since then the prophets had to undergo such a contest, it seemed good to God to strengthen their hands, that they might first be themselves assured, and then become fit and bold witnesses of his truth to others, having good authority, as it was derived from the law itself, and not from the devices of men.
And we see to whom God intended this to be proclaimed, even to the men of Judah and to the citizens of Jerusalem The ten tribes, as it has elsewhere appeared, were now driven into exile; and here was the flower, as it were, of the chosen people; and having survived so many calamities, they thought that they had been preserved by Divine power, because religion and God’s worship prevailed among them. Thus they were inebriated with false notions and self — flatteries. Hence the Prophet, and those who were with him, are expressly bidden to declare, what we shall hereafter notice, to the citizens of Jerusalem and to the inhabitants of the land who remained, and thought that they were the chosen of God and would continue safe, even if all others were to perish.
(30) So the Vulgate and the Targum, but the Septuagint, the Syriac, and Arabic, have the verb in the singular number, “and thou shalt say.”
at the end of the verb may be rendered “them;” so Blayney regards it. We may consider the end of this verse and the following as parenthetic; otherwise the particle “this” seems singular. It will thus appear to be “this covenant which I commanded your fathers.” Still the whole passage seems not to run well. I am disposed to render ם , “even these,” and to put a part in a parenthesis, thus, — הזאת
2.Hear ye the words of the covenant, even these, (and thou shalt speak them to every man of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
3.and thou shalt say to them, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel,)
4.“Cursed is the man who hearkens not to the words of the covenant, even these, which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them up from the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, “Hearken to my voice, and do ye according to all that I shall command thee; and ye shall be to me a people,
5.and I shall be to you a God; that I may confirm the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day.” — And I answered and said, Amen, O Jehovah.
The Prophet afterwards shews more clearly that the command was especially given to him, for he uses the singular number, Thou shalt say to them Nor is it inconsistent that at first he joined others with himself; for God might have united the suffrages of the few who wished the restoration of pure religion among the people, while yet Jeremiah, who was superior to the rest, sustained the chief part. There is no doubt but that others were anxious by their consent to confirm his doctrine: but there was no emulation among them; and though he excelled them, he yet winingly admitted into a connection with himself all those whom he found to be united with him in so good and holy a cause. God then, in the last verse, spoke of them in common, for he wished all his servants to add their testimony to that of his Prophet; but now he addresses the Prophet alone, for his authority was greater.
It follows,Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, cursed the man who does not hearken to the words of this covenant As often as the word covenant is mentioned, Jeremiah no doubt cuts off every pretext for all those evasions to which the Jews, according to what we have said, had recourse: for they never winingly allowed that they took away anytiling from the law, though they yet despised Jeremiah, who was its true and faithful interpreter, who had blended with it nothing of his own, but only applied what had been taught by Moses to the condition of the people at that time. There is then to be understood an implied contrast between the word covenant and the doctrine of Jeremiah; not that there was any difference or contrariety, or that Jeremiah had anything apart from the law, but that he formed his discourse so as to suit the condition of the people. And there is a kind of concession, as though he had said, “I do not now demand to be heard by you, but hear only the law itself: I have hitherto brought forward nothing but what God has commanded; and I have taught nothing at variance with Moses; there has been nothing additional in my doctrine: but as I cannot convince you of this, I now give over speaking to you; Moses himself speaks, hear him.”
By adding the pronoun demonstrative, “Hear ye the words of this covenant,” it is the same as though he had openly shewed them as by his finger, so that there was no room for any doubt. (31) He then upbraided them by pointing out the covenant, as though he had said, “What avails you to feign and to pretend that what we say is ambiguous, and to hold it as uncertain whether we are or not the servants of God? whether we speak by his Spirit? whether he himself has sent us? The thing is clear; this is the covenant.” We now perceive the force of this pronoun.
But in referring to the curse, his purpose, no doubt, was to bend the stubbornness of the people. Had the Jews been teachable and submissive, God would have used a milder strain, and allured them by words of kindness and love: but as he had to do with perverse minds, he was under the necessity of addressing them in this manner, in order to strike them with terror, and to render them more attentive, and also to make them to hear with more reverence, as they usually treated with contempt what he had spoken before. We hence see why he began with mentioning a curse. God followed in the law another order; for he first introduced the rule of life, and added also promises to render the people wining to obey; and then he subjoined the curses. But Jeremiah here begins by saying, Cursed are all those who hear not the words of this covenant Why was this done? Even because he had already found out the hardness and the obstinate wickedness of the people. He then does not propound a simple doctrine, but before all things he sets before them the curse of God; as though he had said, “It is very strange that you have not hitherto been moved, since God’s curse has been so often denounced on you: as then ye are so stupid, before I begin to speak of God’s commands, his curse shall be mentioned to awaken your torpidity.”
But we learn from the Prophet’s words that he alluded to the form prescribed in the law: for after Moses rehearsed all the precepts, he added, “Cursed is every one who turns aside to foreign gods;” and he commanded the people to respond, Amen; and, “Cursed is every one who curses father and mother,” and he bade them to respond, Amen; and after having narrated all the precepts, he added, “Cursed is every one who fulfils not all the words of this law,” and the people responded, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27:15) The same form does Jeremiah now adopt when he says,
“Declare then to the people, that they are all accursed who obey not my precepts;”
and then the Prophet adds, I answered and said, Amen, O Jehovah But it must be observed, that the Prophet here personates as before the whole people; as though he had said, “I subscribe to God’s judgment, even though ye should be all gainsayers, as ye really are. Though then ye think that ye can escape from God’s hand, as though it were easy to elude the curse which is pronounced in his law, yet I subscribe with my own name, and answer before God, Amen, O Jehovah
But we must notice also the other words, Cursed, he says, is every one who hears not the words of this covenant To hear, in this place, and in many other places, is to be taken for obeying. He then speaks of the words or of the covenant itself; for the expression may be taken in either sense, as God had made a covenant with the Jews and at the same time expressed words. I am inclined to consider the covenant itself as intended. God then says that he had made a covenant with them. There is yet a fuller explanation, The words which I commanded your fathers, he says, in the day when I brought them up from the land of Egypt, God shews here by a circumstance as to the time how inexcusable the Jews were; for he says that he gave the law to their fathers at the very time when they were extricated from death; as they were drawn out of the grave, as it were, when God made them a passage through the Red Sea. That redemption ought to have made such a deep impression as to convince them wholly to devote themselves to God; yea,, the memory of such a benefit ought to have been deeply fixed in their hearts.
We hence see how aggravated here is the sin of ingratitude; for the law was given to the Israelites when they had before their eyes the many deaths to which they had been exposed, and from which the Lord had miraculously delivered them. For the same reason also he mentions their miserable state as an iron furnace, according to what we find in the third chapter of Exodus and in many other places, he then compares their Egyptian bondage to a furnace; for the Jews were then like wood and straw in a burning furnace; and he calls the furnace iron, as it could melt and reduce to nothing things harder than wood, evcn gold or silver or any other metal. In short, the deplorable state of the people is here set forth; and the Prophet, by the comparison, magnifies the favor shewn to them — that God, beyond all hope, had delivered them from death. Since then the authority of the law was sanctioned by so great a benefit, it became evident how much was the impiety of the people, and how unbecoming and wicked their ingratitude; for they did not winingly suffer God’s yoke to be laid on them.
He says that God commanded these things This expression, as I have said, is to be applied to the words of the law, and not to the covenant. But the Prophet speaks indiscriminately, now of the covenant, then of the things it embraces, that is, of all the precepts it includes. In other words, he expresses how inexcusable was the sin of the people; for God, in substance, required of them no other thing but to hear his voice: and what can be more just than that they who have been redeemed should obey the voice of their deliverer? and what could have been more detestable and monstrous than for the Israelites to refuse what God had a right to demand? We now then perceive the design of the Prophet in saying, that God commanded this only to his redeemed people, even to hear his voice, and to do what he commanded. (32)
He further adds a promise, which ought to have softened their stony hearts, Ye shall be, he says, to me a people, and I will be to you a God God might have positively required of the Jews what is implanted in all by nature; for they who have never been taught acknowledge that God ought to be worshipped; and the right way of worshipping him is when we obey his precepts. God then might have thus commanded them according to his supreme aufilority. The commands of kings, as it is said, are brief, for they are no soothing expressions, nor do they reason, nor employ any persuasive language. How much greater is the authority of God, who can intimate by a nod what he pleases and what he demands? But as though he descended from his high station, he seeks by promises to attach people to himself, so that they may winingly obey him. Thus God recommends his law by manifesting his favor, and does not merely assert his own authority. Since then God thus kindly addresses his people, and promises so great a reward to obedience, how base and abominable is the contumacy of men when they repudiate his law. Hence the Prophet shews here more clearly why he began by saying, Cursed is every one who obeys not, etc.: for kindness had profited nothing; friendly and tender words, the paternal invitation of God, produced no effect; as though he had said, “God could not, doubtless, have treated you more gently and kindly than by reminding you in a paternal manner of your duty, and by adding promises sufficient to soften even the hardest hearts; but as this has been done without effect, what now remains for God to do but to thunder and announce only his curses?”
We now understand what the Prophet had in view. But it may be here objected, — that all this was useless and without any benefit, for the Jews could not have undertaken the yoke of the law, until it was inscribed on their hearts. To this I answer, that of this very thing they were here at the same time reminded: for though the teaching of the letter could do nothing but condemn the people, and hence it is said by Paul to be what brings death, (2 Corinthians 3:6) yet the faithful knew that the Spirit of regeneration would not be denied them, if they sought it of God. Then, in the first place, it was their fault that the law was not inscribed on their hearts; and, in the second place, a free promise of forgiveness was added; for why were those sacrifices and expiations under the law, and so many ceremonies, which had respect to their reconciliation to God, but in order that the people might feel assured that God would be propitious and appeasable to them, though they could not satisfy the law? This teaching then was not useless as to the faithful; for God, when he required from the Israelites what they ought to have done, was at the time ready to inscribe the law on their hearts, and also to forgive their sins. But when through obstinate wickedness they rejected the whole law, the Prophet justly declares here that the curse of God was on them; because they basely rejected God’s promises, by which he testified his paternal kindness towards them.
(31) Gataker says, “It is not unlikely that the Prophet held out the book or volume of the law, wherein the covenant was engrossed and recorded, then in his hand.” — Ed.
(32) There is no need of any alteration in the text, as proposed by some: the literal rendering is, “Hearken to my voice, and do ye according to all that I shall command you.” The
“ye,” after “do,” seems to be placed there instead of with “hearken.” Some MSS. have אתם , which is evidently wrong. It is only the Targum that countenances this reading: all the versions read according to the meaning given above. — Ed. אותם
He adds, That I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them a land abounding in milk and honey, according to what it is at this day Here he does not refer to the chief part of their happiness; but only the land of Canaan is mentioned as the pledge or the earnest of God’s favor; for his promise had regard to something much higher than to the land of Canaan. God had indeed promised this as an inheritance to the Israelites: but when he says, that he would be their God and they his people, the promise of eternal life and of celestial glory is included, according to what is said elsewhere, that he is not the God of the dead but of the living. (Matthew 22:31) And we must ever bear in mind what is said by the Prophet Habakkuk,
“Thou art our God, we shall not die.” (Habakkuk 1:12)
God then promised to the Israelites something far greater than the possession of the land, when he said, that he would be their God But that land was a symbol, an earnest and a pledge of his paternal favor. All these things well agree together.
And to the same purpose is what the Prophet adds, that God had formerly sworn to their fathers, that he would give them that land by an hereditary right: and this promise had been fulfined to their posterity. Were any to lay hold on this only, — that God’s favor was seen in the land of Canaan, because they had obtained it through the expulsion of the heathens by God’s kindness, the view would be frigid, and the Prophet would diminish much from that promise which far exceeds all that man can conceive. Hence, as I have said, in speaking of the land of Canaan, he accommodates himself no doubt to the comprehension of a rude and ignorant people, and mentions the earnest and the pledge, that they alight see by their eyes, exhibited to them even in this world and in this frail life some evidence of that favor, which far surpasses all that can be desired in the world.
Now, when he says, That I may establish (33) the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, God doubtless shews that though the Jews should obey him, they had not yet deserved by their obedience the inheritance promised before they were born. God then here proves that it was through his gratuitous kindness that; they became heirs of the land. How so? because they were not created when God sware to Abraham that he would give that land to him and to his posterity. As then the promise had been given long before, it follows that it could not be ascribed to the merits of the people, that they had at length in due time obtained the land. As to the oath, God by referring to it extols his favor; for he not only promised the land for an heritage to the children of Abraham, but he also added an oath, that the covenant might appear more sure. But the Prophet at the same time intimates, that they, if ungrateful to God, might justly be deprived of the promised inheritance; as though he had said, “There is no ground for you to expostulate with God, as though he defrauded you, were he to cast you out of the land; for God himself does not disinherit you, but your own wickedness; and ye are now unworthy, for God regards you not as his children.” While then the Prophet takes away every ground for boasting, that the Jews might not think that they possessed the land as a reward for their merits, he also reminds them that they might be justly deprived of their land, and that on account of their own fault, as they rendered not to God the service they owed to him. Hence he says, that I might establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers
A land, he says, flowing with milk and honey: this mode of speaking was often adopted by Moses, (Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24) The land was no doubt from the beginning very fertile; but it is probable that it became more fruitful after the people entered into it, for it was in a manner renewed; and it was God’s design to shew in a visible manner how great; Was the efficacy of his covenant. It was not then to no purpose that Moses said so often that it was a land flowing with milk and honey.
He afterwards adds, According as it is at this day He produces witnesses; as though he had said, “God has dealt faithfully with you, for he has performed the faith pledged to your fathers, and has fulfined his oath: but now since ye have polluted this land, and the memory of God’s favor is as it were buried among you, and ye even tread under your feet his law — since then such great impiety averts his blessing from you, what remains for him to do, but to drive you away into exile?” We hence see that there is here to be understood an implied threatening, when he says that God had performed what he had promised to the fathers, and promised with this condition — that they were to obey his commands.
We have already spoken of the Prophet’s answer. When he answered, Amen, he did not wait for what the people would say; for the greater part no doubt made a clamor and sought to make shifts with God. So great was their effrontery, that they often rose up insolently against the Prophets. Then as he knew that they were so refractory, he subscribed to the curse in his own name. It follows —
(33) “Establish —
,” is the Septuagint; “awaken — στήσω suscitem,” is the Vulgate; “perform,” is the Syriac; “confirm,” is the Targum. “To make to stand” is the literal meaning of the verb. Hence the most correct word is “confirm.” The connection of this verse is not with the immediately preceding words, but with “Hearken” and “do,” etc., at the middle of the former verse. Hearken and do, that I may confirm the oath, etc. — Ed.
Here the Prophet explains more clearly why he had been commanded to promulgate the words of the covenant: for the greater part of the people were no doubt ready boldly to object and say, “What dost thou mean? Are not we the disciples of Moses? Thou, forsooth! thinkest that thou hast to do with a barbarous people. Have we not been from our childhood taught the law of God? Is it not daily enjoined on us? We are sufficiently instructed in this doctrine of which thou pretendest that we are ignorant. Be gone hence; and go either to the Chaldeans or to the Assyrians or to the Egyptians; for we understand what the law teaches.”
There is then no doubt but that Jeremiah had been repulsed by this kind of insolence: he therefore shews that he had a just cause to set before them the law of God; for so great an oblivion had prevailed, that they did not know what God had formerly taught in his law: and besides, they and their fathers had been always rebellious, so that they had ever need of being taught, according to what is said by Isaiah, that the people were to be treated like children and taught, A, A; B, B, and that though the same things were repeated, they yet stopped at the rudiments and never made any progress. (Isaiah 28:10) As then Isaiah reproached the people with tardiness in learning the law, so Jeremiah shews now that they were not to think it strange that God commanded his law to be proclaimed to them, because it had been hitherto despised by them. The rest we shall defer.
We observed in the last Lecture the complaint which God made against his people, — that, he had tried every means to reconcile them to himself, but all in vain. But there is great weight and emphasis in these words, — that by protesting he protested, etc.; as though he subjected himself to the judgment of a third party; for we are wont to protest against those who do not winingly come before the tribunal of a judge. God then takes this figure from the common practice of men, and says that he protested, and that not only once, but repeatedly. He afterwards adds that he had done this not only in one age, but from the time their fathers came forth from bondage to that day. It was then extreme perverseness, when God ceased not to call them to himself, and yet spoke to the deaf. But what follows is still more emphatical, — that he rose early: for to take this transitively as some do, is what I do not approve. God then says, that he was so solicitous about their welfare, that he rose early to call them. There is no doubt but that God applies here to himself what properly belonged to his Prophets, as he also concedes to his servants what rightly belongs to him, and what cannot be applied to men, except by way of concession.
But God does here extol the authority of his word, when he says that he rose early; and at the same time he amplifies their ingratitude, inasmuch as they had despised him, when they saw that he, like the head of a family, provided for their welfare. We hence then learn how much God values his word; for he testifies that there is no difference between him and his servants, whose labors he employs in teaching his ChurJeremiah We also hence learn how inexcusable is our wickedness when we reject God speaking thus familiarly to us. We now then perceive the import of this passage. But it may, in the third place, be observed, that God’s name is in vain pretended, except when he himself speaks. The Papists of this day would have whatever they say, according to their own fancies, to be received without any dispute; but God shews in this place that he is not offended except when he is himself despised; and he at the same time declares that he is so connected with his prophets, that they bring nothing of their own, nor anything else except what proceeds from him.
He now adds, that this only he required from his chosen people, to obey his voice The justness of this precept shews how base and wicked was the impiety of the people; and God also shews that they had not the pretext of error or of ignorance; for the only way of evading was to pretend that they wished no other thing than to render to God the worship due to him; but the rule he had prescribed in his law was such as could not be mistaken. It hence follows that they wilfully went astray after superstitions, for they were sufficiently taught in the law what God approved. This then is the reason why he so often repeats that he required nothing from the children of Abraham except to hear his voice.
It afterwards follows, Yet they heard not, and bent not, or inclined not their ear Here the Prophet does not accuse a few men of perverseness, but says that, from the time they had been redeemed, they had been rebellious against God: and he exaggerates their sin by saying that they inclined not their ear; for this was no doubt added for the sake of emphasis, as though the Prophet had said, — that it was only their own fault that the right way was not quite evident to them, for they deigned not to give ear to God. Now, it is a proof of extreme contempt, when we not only repudiate what God says to us, and refuse to obey his authority and advice, but when we close up every avenue, and, as Tar as we can, forbid him to speak to us; this is surely an extremity of insolence. It may indeed be, that one will hear another speaking, and yet will not do what he says; he still will shew some courtesy, lest a complaint of inattention be made; but it is an intolerable barbarity when we do not listen to the words of another. God here complains that the Israelites had not only been disobedient to him, after having been instructed, but that they had been so refractory, that they insolently rejected all the words of the prophets; which was not only a proof of base impiety, but also of barbarous perverseness. We now then understand what the Prophet means.
He says, that they walked every one in the wickedness of his own evil heart (34) As he had before shewn that they had been in due time warned, it is clear that they followed not through mistake their impious superstitions, but because they rejected the true worship of God, and hearkened not to the teaching of the prophets. By saying that they walked every one, etc., the Prophet doubtless intended to include them all as it were in one bundle; as though he had said, that they had not been drawn away by a sudden impulse, as it is often the case when an agitation is made by a few, and when the most follow, being driven as it were by a storm, and think not what they do; for thus some terror often seizes on the minds of the many, so that they go here and there without knowing where they are going. But the Prophet here teaches us that every one followed his own counsel; as though he had said that the worship of God had not been thus rejected by the influence of the multitude, but that each one had his own object, and had concocted the wickedness and the great sin of rejecting God. There is then more meaning and force in this way of speaking, than if he had said that they all walked in the wickedness of their own hearts. He further shews that they were all, from the least to the greatest, implicated, as they say, in the same impiety.
He afterwards adds, that God had brought upon them the words, that is, the threatenings of the covenant By the words of the covenant he means not here the doctrine or precepts of the law. He indeed mentioned before the words of the covenant for the commands of God; but now, on finding that he had to do with refractory men, who were not capable of receiving any doctrine, he comes to threatenings. But God prescribes first in his law what he wins to be done, and then adds not only kind invitations, but also what is alluring, in order to conciliate the minds of men: but when there is no attention to obedience, and no care for it, he then comes to threatenings. Though the Prophet had omitted the promises, he had yet spoken previously of the law itself; but he says now that God had executed what he had denounced on them.
He further says, Which I have commanded to be done; and they did them not There seems indeed to be a confusion here; for by the words of this covenant, h e no doubt means threatenings, as I have stated: then he immediately adds, which I have commanded to be done, and they did them not But, as I have already reminded you, the Prophet had previously, with sufficient clearness, taught them that the rule of a godly and holy life was set forth in the law; but he now refers especially to threatenings. It is then not strange that he speaks thus indistinctly, for the people had in a manner perverted the law. There were indeed in the law these two distinct things — doctrine, or a rule of life; and threatenings, which were added as stimulants to rouse the sloth of men, or rather to subdue their perverseness. But as the Israelite,and the Jews had not attended to the voice of God, the Prophet here blends threatenings with precepts. (35)
We now understand what the Prophet means in this passage, when he says that he was sent by God to cry, Hear ye the words of this covenant; for they were forgetful of true religion; and such was their oblivion and impious’ contempt of the whole law, that they had need of being taught its first rudiments. This is one thing. He then shews how solicitous God had been about their welfare, so that he had not neglected any of the duties of the best of fathers, and that yet his labor had been all in vain; for they had not only been led away by their own lusts, but their inward wickedness had closed their ears, so that they deigned not to listen to God’s voice; and this had not been in one age only, but from the time they came out of Egypt to that day. It hence follows that they were justly punished, for God had tried all means before he had recourse to severity; but since he had adopted all kinds of ways to reform them, and all in vain, the only thing that remained was to punish them as men past all remedy. This is the import of the whole. He now adds —
(34) On the meaning of these words, see a note in vol. 1.
(35) There is certainly an incongruity in taking the expression, “the words of the covenant,” in two different senses. The verse is omitted in the Septuagint, but retained in the other versions and the Targum. This clause, in the Vulgate and Syriac, is thus given: “I have brought on them the words of this covenant.” The Targum is, “I have brought vengeance on them, because they undertook not the words of this covenant.” To bring words on one, seems to mean to enforce, to enjoin them. I cannot find the phrase anywhere else. Taken in this sense, the expressions will be wholly suitable to the rest of the passage, which I render thus:
6.Then said Jehovah to me, Proclain these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, — Hear the words of the covenant, Even these, and do them:
7.Verily, testifying I testified to your fathers In the day I brought them from the land of Egypt; And to this day, early-rising and testifying, Saying, “Hearken to my voice:”
8.Yet they hearkened not, nor bent their ear, But walked, every one, according to the resolutions Of their own wicked heart; Yea, I urged on them all the words of the covenant., Even these, which I commanded them to do; But they did them not.
To “testify,” rather than to “protest,:’ is the meaning of the verb, when followed by
, as here. To this testifying was added that of urging or pressing on them the duty of attending to all the words of the covenant; but all was to no purpose. To introduce punishment here comports not with the passage. — Ed. ב
Here the Prophet joins closer battle with the men of his age, and says, that they were worse than their fathers; for this is the meaning of the word, banding or joining together. For when the Israelites concurred in a body in ungodly superstitions, it was more excusable at the beginning, for they had not yet struck deep roots in true religion; but when God by his prophets had endeavored many times, and in various ways, to restore them to the right way, and when his diligence and assiduous efforts had proved fruitless, it was an evidence of confirmed and hopeless obstinacy. He then says, that this had been discovered; for this is what he means by saying, that it had been found out This verb is often used in Scripture in another sense, but it means here the same, as though he had said, that the conspiracy of the people had been discovered or proved, as it is said of thieves when found out, that they are caught in the very act. So God says here, that it was no matter of dispute whether the people had designedly and from sheer wickedness perverted his true and lawful worship; the conspiracy, (36) he says, is sufficiently notorious
We then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, — that not a part of the people was implicated in impiety, but that all, from the least to the greatest, were together defiled, and that this was done, not by some foolish impulse of the moment, but designedly, for they banded together; and further, that this was sufficiently evident, so that they could no longer contend as to the fact, for their wickedness was sufficiently manifest.
And he says between Judah and Israel (37) There is here implied a sharp reproof; for we know that these two kingdoms had not only entertained a hidden grudge, but fiercely contended with one another, Since then the discord had been such between the ten tribes and the tribe of Judah, that it was as it were an insane hatred, so that they wished wholly to destroy one another, for the Jews sent for the Egyptians when the Israelites had called to arms the Syrians and the Assyrians for the destruction of Judah. Since then they so inimically treated one another for so many ages, what did this now mean? What a monstrous thing it was, that they conspired together to subvert the worship of God, to overturn everything true in religion, and to set up their own idols! We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet; he intimates, that they had in all other things been enemies, and that they only united in this one thing, that is, in carrying on war against God, in subverting his worship, and rendering void his law. We hence see what the Spirit of God had in view in saying, that a conspiracy was found out; which was, that the Prophet might not use many words, as though the matter was doubtful! God then bids him positively to declare this fact, like at scribe who records the sentence of a judge; and thus God shews that he dealt with the Jews, as men deal with those who are condemned.
(36) Rendered “
, binding together,” by the Sept., — “ σύνδεσμος conjuratio, confederacy, or conspiracy,” by the Vulg. and Arab., — “rebellion,” by the Syr. and Targ., — “combination,” as given by Gataker and Blayney, would express better the meaning of the original word. — Ed
(37) There is here an oversight. “Israel” is not mentioned here, but the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “Israel” is mentioned at the end of the next verse, as having with “Judah” annulled the covenant. — Ed.
He also adds, that they had returned, etc. He shews for what purpose they had conspired, even to return to the vices of their fathers, who had been before them Some render the word “ancestors;” but the meaning of the Prophet is not thus sufficiently expressed, for what he means is, that the Israelites had been refractory from the very beginning, so that God could never subdue their wayward dispositions. It must however be observed, that he speaks not of the most ancient, as
, erashnim arethe ancient who were before them; (38) but as there had been a continued succession or series of impiety, the Prophet calls them here, the former fathers, who had first begun to shake off the yoke of God even to that day. And he again mentions what we have before noticed, that they were unwining to hear Though ignorance does not wholly clear or absolve us, it yet extenuates a crime; but God shews that the Israelites had been disobedient from the beginning. Though he had by Moses sufficiently taught them, we yet find that they often rose up against Moses. If we inquire of their origin, it appears to have been marked with resolute impiety; they were unwining to obey God. הרשנים
He then adds, that they walked after alien gods that they might serve them There is ever an implied contrast between God and idols. God had given them evidences enough of his power and glory, and we may justly say, that he had sufficiently proved himself to he the only true God. How then was it that the; Israelites had given the preference to fictitious gods? Doubtless no unwining error could have been pretended. We hence see that they had rejected the true God and wilfully followed their own devices. He then says, that they might serve them But God had already bound them to himself, as he had redeemed them; when, therefore, they devoted themselves to alien gods, was not their ingratitude thus most fully proved?
He at length subjoins, by way of explanation, Therefore the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dissolved my covenant He confirms what I have just said, — that they had not erred because the way was unknown, but because they were refractory and untameable in their disposition, and would not bear to hear God, thought he kindly shewed to them what they were to do. But the word covenant expresses more than this, — that God had not only delivered them his precepts by Moses, but had also adopted them as his own people, and at the same time pledged his faith to them,
“I shall be your God, be ye my people,” (Jeremiah 11:4)
Since then God had so kindly allured them to himself, how monstrous was their rebellion, When they refused to hear his voice! With reference to this the word
, berit, is used; for God had not only delivered to them a rule of life, but also adopted them as his people, that they might be obedient to him. ברית
By saying that he made a covenant with their fathers, he refers to that time when he brought the people out of Egypt, for then was the race of Abraham united. They were indeed twelve distinct tribes; but there was one head over the people, there was one priesthood, and they formed afterwards one kingdom. God then shews, that though the ten tribes made for themselves in after time another king, and the tribe of Judah was then divided, and there were in this separation some special causes of enmity, they yet had always been of the same disposition, and proved how like their fathers they were, as though he i had said, “They were formerly one people, they are now two, yet they have conspired together; their iniquity is the same, in this they are united; and there is among them a binding together.” It follows —
(38) The Sept. have “
— who were before:” the Vulg. improperly joins it with “iniquities,” — “the former iniquities of the fathers;” the Syriac renders it “ancient,” and the Targum, “former,” both connecting it with “fathers.” The word means the “first,” rather than the “former.” If we take it as connected with “fathers,” then the first fathers with whom the covenant, after they came out of Egypt, was made, are meant; but it may be taken as in apposition with “fathers;” then the first who refused to hear God, are referred to. Taking this view, we may render the verse thus — τῶν πρότερον
10.They have turned to the iniquities of their fathers — The first who refused to hearken to my words; And they have walked after alien gods to serve them: Annulled have the house of Israel and the house of Judah My covenant, which I made with their fathers.
The word for “iniquities” means perversions, distortions, the turning of things to purposes not intended. These are the kinds of iniquities which are meant. Perverting the truth rather than denying or renouncing it, had ever been the sin of the Jews. Instead of worshipping God himself, they worshipped him by means of idols, and through the mediation of inferior gods. This was the perversion. Alien gods were mediators; hence they never renounced God’s worship. But God deemed this as an annulment of his covenant, by which they were required to worship him alone. — Ed.
The Prophet now denounces on them a calamity; for it is probable that for many years he had been as their teacher threatening them, but all in vain. Hence he now confirms what we have before observed, — that their impious conspiracy was fully known and proved, so flint they were not now to be called or drawn before the judge’s tribunal, as they had so openly procured for themselves their own ruin.
He then says, that God was, as it were, armed to take vengeance; I will bring, he says, upon them an evil from which they shall not be able to go away (39) Then he adds, and they shall cry to me, but I will not hear them By this latter clause he shews that no hope remained, as they could get no pardon from God, for he would no longer be entreated by them. The import of the whole is, — that they were so given up to destruction, that it was in vain for them to expect God’s mercy. God had indeed often promised in his law that he would be reconciled to them; but the Prophet says now that every hope was cut off, because they had rejected God’s covenant. Hence, whatever God had promised respecting his kindness and mercy, belonged to them no longer.
Let us now learn also how to accommodate this doctrine to ourselves. And, first, we may remark, that there is a great difference between us, who have been plainly, and for a long time, taught what is the true and lawful worship of God, and those miserable people who were blind in darkness; hence much more atrocious is our sin and worthy of much heavier punishment. Then we may also add this, — that though God may for a time bear with us, the whole time of his forbearance will have to be accounted for. There is no day in which God does not accuse us; and thus he rises early, and thus he shews us what concern he has for our salvation; but if we remain asleep in our sloth, a threatening this day is suspended over our heads, and especially when we consider that God comes nearer, as it were, to us than to his ancient people. And hence we may also learn how much less tolerable is our ingratitude. It ought, therefore, to be carefully noticed, that God is armed against those before whom he has set his word, not only for one day but for many years, when he has found that he has labored in vain; and that when he is offended with their obstinate wickedness, there is no more any remedy.
But it may be asked here, How is it that God declares here that he would not be propitious to the Israelites, though they even cried to him, when yet this promise so often occurs,
“Call on me, and I will hear thee?” (Psalms 50:15)
Though God does not everywhere use such words, yet in many places he makes this promise. But still it may appear inconsistent that he closes up the door of mercy against those who flee to his mercy. But in the next verse he shews what this cry would be; for had they from the heart repented, doubtless his pardon would never have been denied: but we shall presently see that these cries would be rambling, vagrant, and confused; so that they would not direct their prayers to God, nor observe the way which is made known to us all; for they would cry Without repentance and faith, according to what follows; for the Prophet says —
(39) The literal rendering is as follows: —
11.Therefore thus saith Jehovah, — Behold, I will cause to come on them an evil, From which they shall not be able to go forth: And they shall loudly cry to me, But I will not hearken to them.
The third line in Welsh is literally the Hebrew, —
Which they will not be able to go forth from it.
is not merely to cry, but to cry loudly, or vehemently, or clamorously; the effect of great distress impatiently endured.Our version and Blayney are wrong in rendering זעק And thought It is not what may have been, is meant, but what would be. It is expressly foretold what they would do; and corresponding with this are all the versions and the Targum. — Ed. ו
The Prophet then shews in these words that they were not touched by a true and sincere feeling of repentance who cried thus indiscriminately to God and to idols. (40)
But another question may be here raised, How could they flee to God and to foreign gods too? The ready answer is this, that the unbelieving, in a turbulent state of mind, turn here and there, so that they lay hold of nothing certain, or sure and fixed. This we see in the Papists — they cry to God and at the same time to a great number of gods. Let us therefore know, that there is in all the unbelieving a spirit, as it were, of giddiness, which turns them into different expedients, so that now they call on God, then they flee to their idols. Men naturally are led to God when any distress holds them bound; hence they call on God: but afterwards, being not satisfied with him alone, they betake themselves to their own devices, and heap together, as I have said, a vast multitude of gods. Since then we see this to be done under the Papacy in our day, we need not wonder that it was done formerly, and that the Jews were on this account condemned.
The Prophet now addresses the Jews only; he had before spoken of the Israelites, but he now speaks especially to his own people, Go shall the cities of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, etc. What shall they do? They shall cry to their gods We hence see that their prayers were rambling, as though they poured them unto the air: therefore God could not have heard them. For whenever God promises to be propitious and appeasable he requires faith and repentance: but there was in this people an impious wantonness, and no faith, for they were entangled in their own superstitions.
The meaning is, that the Jews, when oppressed by calamities, would make their prayers to the true God, but without understanding, without any discrimination, but on the contrary, in a confused state of mind: and that this would be sufficiently evident, for they would at the same time seek the aid of various idols, but that they would gain no help, either from God or from their idols; and why? because they would be unworthy to be heard by God, as they would not call on him in a right spirit, not with faith and repentance; and their idols would not be able to bring them any help. It hence follows that they would be altogether in a hopeless state.
(40) But the most obvious meaning of the passage is, that the Jews would first cry to God, and that being not heard, they would then cry to alien gods. Hence our version renders the
at the beginning of this verse, “Then,” and rightly too: so does the Syriac, though the other versions render it “And,” as Blayney does: and if so rendered, the connection would appear the same, — ו
And go shall the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, And they shall loudly cry to the gods, To whom they burn incense; But saving they will not save them At the time of their calamity.
The Prophet shews here that the dews were not only polluted with one kind of superstition, but that they sought for themselves fictitious gods from all quarters, so that the land was fined and, as it were, deluged with innumerable superstitions. He says, that in proportion to the number of cities were the gods in the kingdom of Judah, and that in every city, in proportion to the number of streets, altars were built, that they might burn incense to Baal
There seems, however, to be some inconsistency in the words; for if they all worshipped Baal, where could be found the multitude of gods which the Prophet condemns? It then follows, that there was everywhere the same form of superstition, or that they did not in every place burn incense to Baal. But from this place and from others we may gather that this is a common name; for though all idols had their distinctive names, yet this name was applied indiscriminately, and all idols had it in common. For what does Baal mean but a patron, or an inferior god, who procured the favor of the supreme God? The prophets often use the word in the plural number, and call the lesser or inferior gods Baalim, who were regarded as mediators or angels; and farther, they often mean all kinds of idols by Baal. There is to be understood here a figure, by which a part is taken for the whole; for the Prophet intended by the word to include all those gods which the Jews had devised for themselves, though their names were different.
But what the Prophet condemned in the people was, as we see, daily practiced. For there is no end, when men once depart ever so little from the pure worship of the only true God: for when anything is blended with it, one error immediately produces another; so various errors will cumulate, tin men fall into a labyrinth from which there is no exit. This is clearly seen under the Papacy. At first Satan, by spurious pretences, led men away from the simple worship of God and his pure doctrine; and as there is in all an inbred curiosity, every one had a desire to add something of his own. Hence then it happened that so great a mass of errors and superstitions has prevailed. It is nothing strange, then, that the Prophet condemned the Jews, not only for having departed from the true and lawful worship of God, but also for having as many idols as cities, and for having so many forms of worship as there were streets in their cities. And we hence also learn that all the superstitions among the whole people had the same root; for though they differed in particulars, they all yet proceeded from the same principle; for every one wished to have his own God. It hence happened, that every city had its patron, and every family also devised a god for itself; for no one was satisfied with the common worship. It is then wholly necessary that we should faithfully worship the one true God; otherwise the Devil will immediately bring in strange gods and a mixed multitude of gods: so that it hence evidently appears, that we thus justly suffer for our impious levity in forsaking the fountain of living waters.
He says that altars were built for reproach. (41) This may be referred to God, because they offered to God a heinous effrontery in setting up their profane altars in opposition to that one true altar which God had commanded to be built for him in the temple. But this is a strained interpretation. It is more suitable to refer this to the people, because they erected altars for themselves to their own shame, as though he had said that the Jews were themselves the authors of all their evils, so that they ought to consider them as due to their impiety, being the punishments inflicted by the Lord. It is the same as though he had said, “God will indeed chastise you, as ye are worthy of being so treated, but ascribe the whole fault to yourselves; for the altars, raised by your own hands, will be to you for reproach and shame.”
He at length adds, To offer incense to Baal They sought doubtless the favor of the supreme God; but as they devised for themselves patrons, as mediators between them and God, according to the Platonic figment, which has prevailed in all ages, the Prophet here declares that their gods were as many as their cities, and even as many as their streets; for God does not admit those sophistical subtleties by which hypocrites seek to escape; for whenever his glory is transferred to others, he complains that new gods are introduced. (42) It follows —
(41) The word is
. “Bosheth, shame,” says Lowth, “was a nickname for Baal. (See Hosea 9:10.) So Jerubbaal is called Jerubbosheth in 2 Samuel 11:21.” The word is left out in the Septuagint; the other versions and the Targum render it differently; its meaning was evidently not understood. It may be rendered here “baseness,” or a base thing; the last clause is explanatory of this, — בשת
Ye have set up altars for a base thing —
Altars to burn incense to a Baal.
By putting the indefinite article we avoid the contrariety which Calvin refers to. It is given in the singular number in all the versions except the Vulgate, which has Baalim. — Ed.
(42) The connection of this verse has not been pointed out by Calvin. It begins with “For,” or because; so that a reason is given for what has been said previously, and that is not found in it he immediately preceding verse, but at the end of the 11th, “I will not hearken unto them;” then what is said here is given as a reason. But if we render
“though,” as it is often done, and not “For,” the connection is with the next preceding verse; their gods would not save them, “though” they were as many as their cities, etc. This seems to be the most natural connection. — Ed כי
That the Jews might understand that a sore calamity was nigh, and that God would not be appeasable, the Prophet himself is forbidden to intercede for them. There is no doubt but that even when he reproved the people in the severest strain, he made supplications to God for them; for he sustained a twofold character: when he went forth as the herald of celestial vengeance, he thundered against the ungodly and the despisers of God; but at the same time he humbly supplicated pardon in behalf of lost and miserable men; for had he not been solicitous for the salvation of the people, had he not diligently prayed, it would not have been necessary to prohibit him to pray. It hence appears that the Prophet was diligent in these two things, that he severely reproved the people according to God’s command, and that he also was a suppliant in seeking God’s favor to the unworthy. This is one thing.
Now then that God prohibits Jeremiah to pray, this was not done for his sake only, but he had a regard also to the whole people, that they might know that a sentence was pronounced on them, and that there was no hope left. We hence see that God positively declares that it was his purpose to destroy the people, and that therefore there was no room for prayer.
But it may be asked, Whether the Prophet, by going on in praying, offended God? for we shall see that he was still so anxious for the welfare of the people that he ceased not to pray: and what is said of Jeremiah is true also of all the other prophets; and the faithful have ever prayed for pardon, though the state of things had been brought to an extremity. But we must observe, that God, when he thus issues a simple prohibition, often stimulates the prayers of his people, according to what we read of Samuel; for though he knew from God’s own mouth that Saul was rejected, he yet from love ceased not to seek his good and to intercede God for him. (1 Samuel 15:35; 1 Samuel 16:1) But the prophets doubtless paid regard to God’s counsel in this case: yet as God did not speak for the sake of Jeremiah, but of the people, the Prophet is not to be charged with rashness or presumption, or foolish obstinacy or inconsiderate zeal, for having afterwards prayed; for he knew that this was not so much for his sake as on account of the people.
But there is another thing to be observed, — that Jeremiah was not forbidden to pray for the remnant, that is, for the elect, and for the seed from which the Church was afterwards to arise; but he was forbidden to pray for the whole body of the people: and no doubt he felt assured from that time that no remedy could be applied, and that the people would be driven into exile. This then is to be understood of the whole mass of the people; Jeremiah might still pray for the elect, and also for the new Church, that is, for the renewal of the Church: he was not indeed to pray that the Lord would not execute the vengeance which had been already decreed, for that could not be turned aside by any prayers.
We now then understand the meaning of this passage, — that Jeremiah prayed daily for all men, and also for the renewal of the Church; but that he was to look for the calamity of exile as a certain thing, for this had been fixed by God.
As to the words, Raise not for them a cry or a prayer, we have said elsewhere that there are two ways of speaking, which though different in some respects, are yet the same in meaning — to raise up and to cast a prayer. Hence the saints are said sometimes to cast their prayers: “Let my prayer be cast in thy presence.”’For no one is rightly prepared to call on God, except he is cast down in himself and laid prostrate. Hence the prayers of the saints are said to be cast on account of their humility; they are also said to be raised up on account of the fervor of their zeal, and also on account of their confidence. And that he repeats the same thing in different words is not without a meaning; for it is the same as though he had.said, “Thou wilt do nothing by beseeching, praying, interceding and supplicating.” God then confirms by these several words that he would not hereafter be reconciled to the people.
It follows, For I will not hear them at the time when they shall cry to me There seems not to be a suitable reason given here, for God might have conceded to the Prophet what had not been denied to the ungodly and the rebellious: but he simply means that he would be a severe Judge in executing punishment, so that there would be no room for mercy: I will not then hear them; that is, “If even they cry, I will not hear them, (it is an argument from the greater to the less) much less then will I hear thee for them.” But why was not God propitious to his servant? To this I answer, that God is more ready to shew mercy when any one himself calls on him, than when he is supplicated by others. The meaning is, that whether they themselves prayed or employed others to pray for them, God would not be reconciled to them.
What might be objected here has been elsewhere answered; for if they had from the heart and sincerely prayed, God would have no doubt heard them; for that promise never disappoints any,
“Nigh is God to all who call upon him;” (Psalms 145:18)
but it is added, “in truth.” As then hypocrites are here spoken of who poured forth rambling and false prayers, and blended the worship of the true God with that of their own idols, it is no wonder that. God rejected their prayers, for our prayers are sanctified by faith and repentance. When, therefore, unbelief prevails, and when the heart cleaves perversely to wickedness, our prayers are polluted and presumptuous; for then the name of God is profaned. It is therefore not strange that God rejects those who call on him hypocritically. (43) It follows —
(43) See a note in vol. 1. — Ed.
As the words are concise, this passage is in various ways perverted by interpreters: brevity is commonly obscure. But the explanation almost universally received is this, — that the Prophet in this sense, think also that the Temple is called his house, on account of his concern for religion, for which he was very zealous. As then he had preferred God’s Temple to all earthly things, they think that he thus spoke, What has my beloved to do in mine house? But Jonathan much more correctly applies the words to God; and doubtless, whoever wisely considers the Prophet’s words will wonder that so many learned men have been mistaken on a point by no means doubtful. God then, no doubt, speaks here; and he calls his people beloved on account of their adoption.
But the expression is ironical: we cannot think otherwise when we consider how great was the impiety of the people, and how unworthy they were of such an honor on account of their ingratitude. It is yet not strange that they were called beloved, as in other places, for they had been chosen by God. They were in a similar way called “upright” in the song of Moses; and yet Moses, in that very song, declared how wickedly they had departed from their God. (Deuteronomy 32:15) But he called them “upright” in reference to God; for though men do not answer to their vocation, yet the counsel of God remains firm, and can never be changed by the wickedness of men. Though then all had then become apostates, yet God did not suffer his covenant to be abolished, Hence Paul, in speaking of the Jews, in Romans 11:28, when almost all had become the bitterest enemies to the gospel, and had, through their unfaithfulness, wholly forfeited their privileges, so as to become aliens, yet says that they were beloved on account of their fathers:
“For you,” he says, “they are indeed for a time enemies;”
which means, that God designed to give their place to the Gentiles, and to adopt them; and yet that, on account of his covenant, they remain, and will remain beloved, that is, with regard to the first adoption.
I shall quote no other similar passages, for it is enough to understand the real meaning of the term: What then has my beloved to do in my house? which means, “Why do the Jews now pretend to come to the Temple to sacrifice to me? Why do they profess themselves to be my people? What have they to do with my house?” that is, “What have they to do with anything like holiness?” Hence he indirectly touches the Jews in two ways, — that they bad precluded themselves from the advantage of offering sacrifices in the temple, — and that it was an increase of their crime, that while they were God’s friends, that is, when he bestowed on them his favor, and embraced them as a father his own children, they yet carried on war with him as his avowed enemies, according to what is elsewhere said,
“Ah! I will take vengeance on mine enemies.” (Isaiah 1:24)
We now see that this meaning is the most suitable. God shews that his temple was polluted by the Jews, when they thoughtlessly rushed there to offer their sacrifices; What have you, he says, to do with my house? Nearly the same thing is said in the first chapter of Isaiah; for God there contemptuously reproves the Jews because they trod the pavement of his temple: “I truly do not owe you anything; ye indeed come to my courts, but for what purpose? Ye only wear out the pavement of my temple: Stay then at home, and think not that I am bound to you because ye come to the temple.” So also in this place, What has my beloved to do with my house? He concedes to them the title Beloved, as though he had said, “Ye are, it is true, beloved, and ye think that God is bound to you; for, relying on the covenant which I made with your father Abraham, ye always continue to make this boasting — ‘We are the people of God and his heritage; we are a holy nation and a royal priesthood’ — Beloved ye are,” he says, “but what have you to do with my Temple?”
Then he adds, For she has done abomination with many The gender is here changed, for the relative is feminine: but this mode of speaking is everywhere common, as the people are represented to us under the character of a woman. Then he in effect says, “Behold the daughter of my people hath done abomination with many.” The Jews were not to enter the Temple except they remained as it were fixed in its pure worship; for as it was the only true Temple, and had in it the only true altar, so they ought to have worshipped none but the only true God, and also to have observed one rule only in worshipping him. But he says here that they had done abomination; and thus he charged them with those impious devices, those spurious forms of worship which they had adopted, and thus departed from what had been prescribed to them; for abomination is set here in opposition to the law. He says further, that they did this with many. We hence see that the gate of the Temple was closed against them, for the Temple could not be separated from the law, nor yet from God, to whom it was dedicated The Jews, having forsaken the law, and adopted innumerable idols, thrust themselves into the Temple; and hence we see the reason why God complains that they still came to the Temple: “As then they have done abomination, and done it with many, they have no more anything to do with my law.” The Temple was a visible image of the one true God, and also the holy receptacle of his law. They despised the law, and gloried in innumerable gods: they sought thus to blend the sanctity of the Temple with a multitude of gods, and with their own depravations and devices.
He says afterwards, that the flesh of the sanctuary had passed away from them: The flesh of the sanctuary have passed away Some apply this to all the faithful, according to that saying,
“Silent before God let all flesh be,” (Habakkuk 2:20)
but this is forced, and without meaning. He speaks no doubt of sacrifices, and says, that the flesh of the sanctuary, that is, sacrifices, had departed from the people. They no doubt still offered sacrifices very regularly; but God did not accept their sacrifices, because they had corrupted his true worship. This then is the reason why he says that the flesh of the sanctuary had departed from the people, as in other places he denies that it was offered to him. At the same time the Jews wished sacrifices to be regarded as offered to him, and doubtless they boldly referred to them in opposition to the prophets. But God did not accept them, though they sought thus to render him as it were a debtor. “It is not to me,” he says, “that ye offer your sacrifices, but to idols.” So also in this place he says, The flesh of the sanctuary is taken away from them; for their sacrifices had become polluted. They were then nothing but putrid carcases; for victims, ought to have been offered in the Temple; but they had polluted the Temple, so that it had become a den of robbers, and like a dunghin, in short, a brothel, as Scripture speaks elsewhere. There was then now, doubtless, no flesh of the sanctuary; (44) that is, no lawful sacrifice, such as God approved.
Let us then know that hypocrites, as soon as they depart from the true worship of God, do nothing that can avail them, though they may busy themselves much, and even weary themselves in worshipping God, for all that they offer is abominable. If then we desire to render to God such services as he will accept and approve, let us regard this truth — that obedience is more valued by him than all sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22)
He adds another complaint, — that when they did evil, they gloried in it. And there is a causal particle introduced, Because, he says, thou gloriest when thou hast done evil The Prophet no doubt means, that they had by no means a right to contend, because they had not only corrupted true religion, but were also proud of their superstitions, and despised God, and set up their own devices against his law. But it was an intolerable thing for men to attempt to subject God to their own will, or rather to their own fancies. Indeed, the faithful do not so purely and so perfectly sacrifice to God, but that some vices are mixed with their offerings; but God nevertheless receives what they offer, though there be some mixture of defilement. How so? Because they acquiesce not in their own performances, but, on the contrary, aspire after purity, though they do not attain it; but when hypocrites exalt themselves against God, and proudly despise his teaching, and prefer their own inventions, and dare even to set up these against his authority, it is doubtless a diabolical presumption, such as contaminates what would otherwise be most holy. (45) It follows —
(44) “Holy fleshes,”
, κρέα ἅγια carnes sanctae, is the version of the Septuagint and Vulgate, and “holy flesh” is the Syriac; but the Targum has “the worship of my sanctuary.” Blayney renders it “holy flesh.” The word means holy, or holiness, and קדש is the sanctuary. — Ed מקדש
(45) This verse has been variously rendered and explained. The versions all differ, and the Targum too; and none of them seem to render the original correctly. Blayney, following the Septuagint, has introduced corrections, but not authorized by any MSS. There is no different reading of any consequence. The literal rendering I consider to be as follows: —
15.What, as to my beloved, is in my house her doing? Is not her plotting with many? — Yea, the holy flesh do they take away from thee; When thou doest evil against me, then thou exultest.
The word for “plotting” does not mean “lewdness,” or “abomination,” as rendered by all the versions, but devising, contriving, scheming, machinating; the reference is to the scheme of uniting the worship of God with the worship of idols. The Targum gives the idea, “they have taken counsel to sin greatly.” All the versions agree in giving a Hiphil meaning to
, cause to pass from — to remove or take away. The “many” who advocated the worship of idols took away the holy flesh — the sacrifices, and took them away from her, “the beloved,” as, when given to idols, they would be of no benefit. The words, יעברו , are literally, “when thy evil is against me.” It is a similar mode of expression with כי רעתכי , “those who rise up against me,” (2 Samuel 22:40.) Though it was an evil against God, yet they exulted in what they did. — Ed קמי
The Prophet says first that the Jews had indeed been for a time like a fruitful and a fair olive; then he adds, that this beauty would not prevent God from breaking its branches and entirely eradicating it. He afterwards confirms this declaration, and says, For God who had planted it, can also root it up whenever it pleases him. This is the import of the two verses.
The Prophet no doubt derides here the vain confidence by which he knew the Jews were deceived: for they were so inebriated with their privileges that they dared to despise the very giver of them. Hence the Prophet thus addressed them, “Do ye think that so many vices will be unpunished? Ye omit nothing to kindle God’s wrath against you, — ye have polluted his Temple, ye have corrupted the whole of Divine worship, ye have despised the law; and can you think that the Lord will perpetually spare you?” But when the prophets thus assailed them, they had this answer, “What! will God leave his own Temple, concerning which he has sworn, This is my rest for ever? Is not this the Holy Land? And is not this also his heritage and his rest? And further, are we not his flock? Are we not his children? Are we not a holy people?” What then the Jews were wont arrogantly to claim, the Prophet concedes to them. “So,” he says, “ye are a green olive, a fair and tall olive, a fruitful olive; all this I grant; but cannot God kindle a fire to burn the branches and to reduce to nothing the whole tree?” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.
But the next verse must be joined, For Jehovah of hosts, who hath planted thee, etc.; as though he had said, “Your beauty and whatever that is valuable in you, is it from you? Surely, all your dignity and excellency have proceeded from the gratuitous kindness of God: know ye then that nothing comes from you, but from God and from his good pleasure. Then Jehovah, who has planted you, can, when he pleases, pull up by the roots a tree which he has himself planted.”
He says that it was a green olive, fair in fruit and form How so? Because God had favored them with much honor. This similitude is found in many other places, but yet it is various as to its meaning. It might indeed with regard to God’s dealings be applied to the whole people; but as hypocrites deserved to be spoiled and stripped of their privileges, so that which was offered to all in common, could only be really applied to the faithful, according to what David says,
“I am a fruitful olive in the house of God.” (Psalms 52:8)
He then no doubt separated himself from hypocrites, as though he had said, “Even hypocrites seek to have a place in God’s Temple, and are as it were tall trees, but they are unfruitful: I shall then be a green olive in the house of God; but they will wither.” But the Prophet, as I have said, compares the Jews to a green olive on account of their adoption and the free favor shewn to them; for God had raised them unto a high state of excellency and honor.
But after having thus spoken by way of concession, he then adds, At the sound of a great tumult, or of a great word, he will kindle his fire upon it, and broken shall be its branches Some, as I have said, render the last clause, “and they have broken its branches.” As to what is intended, there is nothing dubious; but if we take the verb in an active sense, something must be understood, that is, that enemies, who will be like fire, shall break its branches. (46) Then follows what I have said to be a confirmation, — that Jehovah, who had planted it, had spoken of or pronounced an evil, or a calamity against it. He thus shews that there was no reason for them to trust in their present beauty; for they had it not from themselves, but possessed it only at the will of another; for God who had planted them, could also destroy them. But on this subject more shall be said.
(46) This clause is difficult. The versions give no assistance. The word
, or rather המולה , is rendered “circumcision” by the Septuagint, “speech’ by the Vulgate, “decree” by the Syriac, “tumult” by our version, and clamor by Blayney. It occurs only in one other place, Ezekiel 1:24; where it stands in apposition with the “voice of the Almighty,” which means there, and often elsewhere, “thunder:” and its meaning there is evidently the breaking of thunder or the thunderclap. It comes from המלה , to cut, to break, to shiver. Then the noun is literally breaking, or crashing; it is the bursting noise of thunder. The other difficulty is מל , rendered “upon it” in our version as well as in the early versions: but “it” is feminine in Hebrew, and “of it” after branches is masculine, the same gender with “olive.” None have accounted for this anomaly. Blayney has indeed made the word a participle to agree withfire, — “a fire mounting upwards;” but this can hardly be admitted. I would render the verse thus, — עליה
An olive, flourishing, beautiful in fruit, in form, Hath Jehovah called thy name: At the sound of a great thunderclap, — Kindled hath he a fire by it; And shivered have been its branches.
The verb for “kindled” is in Hiphil, and “by it” is the “thunderclap,” which is feminine, and “its” is the “olive,” which is masculine. Houbigant refers this passage to thunder.
The past tense is used for the future. He compares the nation to a flourishing tree, and then he speaks of its destruction by a fire kindled by the breaking of a thunder: the fire is the lightning. — Ed.
We know that they were all very wicked; and though they were proved guilty, yet they were not wining to yield, to acknowledge and confess their fault; but they raged against God and rose up against the prophets. And as they dared not to vomit forth their blasphemies against God, they assailed his servants and wished to appear as though their contest was with them. And this is not the vice only of one age, but we find that it prevails at this day; for when we boldly reprove hidden vices, immediately the profane make a clamor and say, “What! these divine; but who has made these things known to them? Have they this oracle from heaven?” As though, indeed, neither the word of God nor his Spirit can shew their power, except when children become judges! But the ungodly rise up against God’s servants for this end, that they may with impunity do this and that, and everything, except what may draw them before an earthly tribunal, and be proved by clear and many evidences
For this reason the Prophet says, that made known, to him had been the vices of his own nation; as though he had said, “I see that you will be ready to raise an objection, as ye are wont proudly to resist all reproofs and threatenings, as though you contended only with men; but I testify to you now beforehand, that I bring nothing of my own, nor divine of myself what any one of you thinks within: but know ye that God, who knoweth the heart, has committed to me my office. He has then appointed me to be the herald of his vengeance, he has appointed me as a herald to denounce war on you. So I do not come nor act in my own name: there is, then, no reason for you to deceive yourselves, according to your usual manner, as though I presumptuously reproved you, when yet your vices are concealed, it being peculiar to God to know what is hid in the hearts of men. The recesses of the heart are indeed intricate, and great darkness is within; but God sees more dearly than men. Cease then to make this objection which ye are wont to raise against me, that I am presumptuous in bringing forth to light what lies hid in darkness, for God has appointed me to bring these commands to you: as he knows the heart, and as nothing escapes him, and as he penetrates into our thoughts and feelings, so he has also designed by his word which he has put in my mouth to render public what ye think is concealed.”
We now see the design of the Prophet: but some take a different view, that God had made known to his servant Jeremiah the impious conspiracy of which he afterwards speaks, and thus connect the two verses. But I doubt not that the Prophet intended here to shew what and how much weight belonged to his doctrine, the credit and authority of which the Jews thought of detracting by boastfully alleging that he, a mortal man, assumed too much, and announced uncertain divinations. Hence, to repel such calum — nies, he wished to testify that he threatened them not inconsiderately, nor spoke what he supposed or conjectured, when he exposed their sins, but that he only declared faith. — fully what had been enjoined by God and revealed also by the Holy Spirit. This is what is meant. (48) It afterwards follows —
(48) Calvin connects this verse with the foregoing, but most with what follows. The first verb in the Septuagint is a prayer, “Lord, make known to me, and I shall know.” The Syriac and Arabic are the same. The Vulgate takes the verb in the second person, “O Lord, thou hast made known,” etc. Venema seems to agree in part with Calvin; he connects the first clause with the foregoing, and the second with the following verse; and this appears to be the best construction. Then the
is “when,” as it may be rendered when followed as here by ו , “then,” — אז
When Jehovah made me to know, so that I knew these things; Then thou didst shew me their doings.
That is, when Jehovah made known to him what he had previously related, he then shewed to him also the doings, or the purposes, of the men of Anathoth, which he afterwards more particularly mentions. — Ed.
The Prophet adds here, as I think, that he did not retaliate private wrongs: for the Jews might, under this pretext, have rejected his doctrine, and have said, that he was moved by anger to treat them sharply and severely. And doubtless, whosoever allows his own reelings to prevail in the least degree, cannot teach in sincerity; for he who prepares himself for the prophetic office, ought to put off all the affections of the flesh, and to manifest a pure, and, so to speak, a limpid zeal, and also a calm mind, so that he may seek nothing, and have no object but the glory of God and the salvation of those to whom he is sent a teacher. Whosoever then is under the influence of private feelings cannot act otherwise than violently, so that he cannot either faithfully or profitably discharge the office of a prophet or a teacher.
Hence the Prophet now adds, in the second place, that he did not plead his own cause, nor had respect, as they say, to his own person; for he knew not what the Jews had devised against him. They who join the two verses think that they have some reason for doing so, as they suppose that the Prophet now expresses more fully what he had before briefly touched upon: but if any maturely considers the whole passage, he will easily see that Jeremiah had another object in view, and that was, to secure authority to his doctrine. The Jews probably employed two ways to discredit the holy Prophet: “O, thou divinest! — the same thing, as we have said, is done now by many.” He therefore summons the Jews here before God’s tribunal, and shews that it was nothing strange, that he brought to light what they thought to be hidden, because it had been revealed to him by the Spirit of God. Even Christ said the same,
“The Spirit, when he comes, shall judge the world.”
The Spirit did not appear except in the doctrine of the Apostles; but he exercised by the Apostles his own functions. The Apostle also seems to have this in view in Hebrews 4:12, when he says, that the word of God is like a two — edged sword, which penetrates into the inmost thoughts and hidden feelings, even to the marrow and bones, so as to distinguish between thoughts and feelings.
Then the Prophet, in the first place, shews that it was nothing strange that he ascended above all human judgments, for he was endued with the authority of the Holy Spirit. And he adds, in the second place, that he was not influenced by carnal feelings, but by a pure zeal for God, for he knew not their wicked designs; and he says that he was like a lamb and an ox, or a calf. There is here no conjunction, and hence some join the two words, “And I am like a lamb a year old:” for the Hebrews, they say, call a lamb a year old
, cabesh, and then a ram; but this is, in my view, a forced meaning, and a copulative or a disjunctive may be supposed to be understood. I am then as a lamb or as a calf, which is led to the slaughter (to be sacrificed or kined) Here the Prophet intimates that he was not violent, as angry men are wont to be, who are excited either by indignation or great grief. He then testifies that he was moved by no such feeling, for he differed nothing from a lamb or a calf that is led to the slaughter. (49) כבש
For the sake of amplifying, he adds, I knew not that they devised devices against me, that is, this did not come to my mind. The Prophet, indeed, might have suspected or even have known this; but as he disregarded himself, and even his own life, he testifies here that he had acted with so much simplicity as not to regard what they planned and contrived.
He then adds, Let us spoil wood in his bread They think rightly, according to my judgment, who consider that there is here a change of case; for it ought rather to be, “Let us spoil with wood his bread:” for that exposition is too unmeaning, “Let us spoil or destroy wood,” as though they spoke of a thing of no value: for what has this to do with the subject? On the contrary, if we retain, as they say, the letter, the Prophet might think that wood would be spoiled in bread, as it would become rotten: but wood in bread, except by becoming rotten, would do no harm. But doubtless the Prophet speaks here metaphorically, as David does in Psalms 69:22, when he says,
“They have put gall in my bread, and vinegar in my drink.”
Jeremiah also, in Lamentations 3:15, complains that his food was mingled with poison. Similitudes of this kind often occur; for when the very food of man is corrupted, there is no more any support for life. The meaning then is, that his enemies had acted cruelly towards the Prophet, as they sought in every way to destroy him, even by poison.
Some take wood for poison, but I know not whether that can be done. They indeed imagine that a poisonous wood is what is here meant; but this is too refined. I take the meaning to be simply this, as though they had said, “Let us spoil with wood his food,” that is, “Let us give him wood instead of bread; and this, by its hardness, will hurt his teeth, ulcerate his throat, and cannot be digested so as to become nourishment.” To spoil this bread with wood is to cause the wood to spoil the food either by its hardness or by its putridity. In this sense there is nothing ambiguous.
The ancients perverted this passage in the most childish manner when they applied it to the body of Christ. The Papists too, at this day, boast wonderfully of this allegory, though they make the most absurd use of it; for they seek to prove by it that bread is converted, or, as they say, transubstantiated into the body of Christ; and they quote Origen and Irenaeus, and others like them: “Behold, explained is that passage of Jeremiah, let us send wood for his bread, (such is the meaning of the Vulgate) for the body of Christ has been crucified;” and then they add, “For he said, ‘Take and eat, this is my body.’”We see how extremely absurd this is; and it must appear ridiculous even to children. But so great is the dishonesty and wantonness of the Papists, that they cast off all shame, and only boastfully pretend the authority of the ancients; and whatever Origen may have foolishly and falsely said, they will have it to be regarded as something oracular, provided their errors are thereby confirmed. But if we grant that the Prophet was a type of Christ, what has this to do with the similitude of his body, since he speaks here only of food? It is as though he had said, that his aliment was corrupted, as it were, with poison, and that he was so cruelly treated by his enemies, that they sought to destroy him by the means of his food. (50)
It then follows, Let us cut him off from the land of the living This kind of speaking often occurs: the land or region of the living means the state of the present life. He at last adds, That his name may not be in remembrance any more In short, the Prophet meant in these words to set forth the extreme savageness with which his enemies were inflamed; for they were not content with intrigues or with open violence, but wished to destroy him by poison, and wholly to obliterate his name. it follows —
(49) All the early versions, and the Targum render
as a participle or an adjective, — “ אלוף , innocent,” by the Septuagint; “ ἄκακον mansuetus, meek,” by the Vulgate; simple, by the Syriac; and choice or chosen by the Targum. The word used as a verb means to teach, to train, to guide; and it seems here to be a passive participle, taught, trained, and may be rendered here docile, meek or innocent, —
But I — as a meek lamb led to be killed was I
And I knew not, that against me they had devised devices.
The Septuagint render the last words “they have thought an evil thought,” and, “I knew not,” is connected with the former line thus, —
But I, as an innocent lamb led to be slain, I knew not:
Against me have they thought an evil thought.
But the construction in the other versions, and in the Targum, is according to the former rendering. — Ed.
(50) But the best meaning is that given by the Syriac, and has been adopted in our version, and by Gataker, Venema, Henry, Horsley, Scott, and Adam Clarke, — “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit;” that is, the Prophet and his prophecy. “In this case,” says Horsley, “the man is the tree; his doctrine the fruit.” But there seems to be an allusion in the words to “the olive” mentioned in Jeremiah 11:16, which was threatened with destruction: and Jeremiah’s enemies, adopting his simile, by way of irony apply it to himself: “Well, thou comparest us to an olive devoted to ruin; we shall now deal with thee accordingly: thou art a tree, and we shall cut thee down and destroy thee and all the fruit thou bearest.”
The whole verse I would render as follows, —
19.And I — as a meek lamb led to be killed was I And I knew not that against me they had devised these devices: — “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, Yea, let us cut him down from the land of the living; And his name, let it be remembered no more.”
Here the Prophet, after having found that the impiety of the people was so great that he was speaking to the deaf, turns his address to God: O Jehovah of hosts, he says, who art a great Judge, who searchest the reins and the heart, may I see thy vengeance on them The Prophet seems here inconsistent with himself;, for he had before declared that he was like a lamb or a calf, as though he had offered, as they say, his life a wining sacrifice; but here he seems like one made suddenly angry, and he prays for God’s vengeance. These things appear indeed to be very different; for if he had offered himself a victim, why did he not wait calmly for the event; why is he inflamed with so much displeasure? why does he thus imprecate on them the vengeance of God? But these things will well agree together, if we distinguish between private feeling and that pure and discreet zeal by which the meekness of truth can never be disturbed. For though the Prophet disregarded his own life, and was not moved by private wrongs, he was nevertheless not a log of wood; but zeal for God did eat up his heart, according to what is said in common of all the members of Christ,
“Zeal for thine house hath eaten me, and the reproaches of those who upbraided thee have fallen on me.” (Psalms 69:9; John 2:17; Romans 15:3)
The Prophet then had previously freed himself from all suspicion by saying that he was prepared for the slaughter, as though he were a lamb or a calf; but he now shews that he was, notwithstanding, not destitute of zeal for God. Here then he gives vent to this new fervor when he says, “O Jehovah, who searchest the reins and the heart, may I see thy vengeance on them.”
The Prophet, no doubt, was free from every carnal feeling, and pronounced what we read through the influence of the Spirit. Since then the Holy Spirit dictated this prayer to the holy man, he might still have offered himself a voluntary sacrifice, while yet he justly appealed to God’s tribunal to take vengeance on the impiety of a reprobate people; for he did not indiscriminately include them all, but imprecated God’s judgment on the abandoned and irreclaimable.
It is indeed true, that we may regard the Prophet as predicting what he knew would happen to his people: and some give this explanation; they consider it as a prediction only and no prayer. But they are terrified without reason at the appearance of inconsistency, as they think it inconsistent in the Prophet to desire the perdition of his own people: for he might have wished it through the influ ence of that zeal, as I have said, which the Holy Spirit had kindled in his heart, and according to the words which the same Spirit had dictated.
He calls God the Judge of righteousness; and he so called him, that he might wipe away and dissipate the disguises in which the Jews exulted when they sought to prove their own cause. By this then he intimates that they gained no — thing by their evasions, for these would vanish like smoke when they came before God’s tribunal. He, in short, means that they could not stand before the judgment of God. He then adds, that God searches the reins and the heart He says this, not only that he might testify his own integrity, as some suppose, but that he might rouse hypocrites. For he intimates that they stood safe before men, as they concealed their wickedness, but that when they came before God’s tribunal another kind of account must then be given; for God would prove and try them, as the word
, bechen, signifies: he would search the ruins and the heart, that is, their most inward feelings; For the Scripture means by reins all the hidden feelings or affections. בחן
He says, For to thee have I made known my judgment The Prophet, no doubt, appeals here to God’s tribunal, because he saw that he was destitute of every patronage — he saw that all were against him. Few pious men indeed were left, as we have elsewhere seen; but the Prophet speaks here of the mass of the people. As then there was no one among the people who did not then openly oppose God, so that there was no defender of equity and justice, he turns to God and says, “I have made known my cause to thee;” as though he had said, “O Lord, thou knowest what my cause is, and I do not act dissemblingly; for I serve thee faithfully and sincerely, as thou knowest. Since it is so, may I see thy vengeance on them.” (51)
Now, we are taught in this passage, that even were the whole world united to suppress the light of truth, Prophets and teachers ought not to despond, nor to rely on the judgment of men, for that is a false and deceptive balance; but that they ought to persevere in the discharge of their office, and to be satisfied with this alone — that they render their office approved of God, and exercise it as in his presence. We may also learn, that the ungodly and hypocrites in vain make shifts and evasions, while they try to elude the authority of the Prophets; for they will at length be led before God’s tribunal. When therefore we find teachers rightly and sincerely discharging their office, let us know that we cannot possibly escape the judgment of God except we submit to their teaching. And Prophets and pastors themselves ought to learn from this passage, that though the whole world, as I have already said, were opposed to them, they ought not yet to cease from their perseverance, nor be changeable, but to consider it enough that God approves of their cause. It afterwards follows —
(51) The beginning of the verse is differently rendered: “O Lord,” in the vocative case, by the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac; “The Lord,” by the Arabic and Targum. All the versions agree as to the imprecation, “May I see —
— ἴδοιμι videam :” but the Targum has, “I shall see;” and so it is rendered by Gataker, Venema, Scott, and Adam Clarke. The verb is future, but the future in Hebrew has sometimes the meaning of the optative or the subjunctive, as well as of the imperative. But the future is the most suitable here; for the ו before “Jehovah” will not allow it to be in the vocative case. The verse then would be as follows, —
20.But Jehovah of hosts, who art a righteous judge, The trier of the reins and of the heart, I shall see thy vengeance on them; For on thee have I devolved my cause.
“Jehovah of hosts” is a nominative absolute — a form of expression very common in the Prophets. — Ed.
The Prophet here expressly denounces vengeance on his own people: for we have seen at the beginning of this book that he belonged to the town of Anathoth. Now it appears from this passage, that the holy man had not only to contend with the king and his courtiers, and the priests, who were at Jerusalem; but that when he betook himself to a corner to live quietly with his own people, he had even there no friend, but that all persecuted him as an enemy. We hence see how miserable was the condition of the Prophet; for he had no rest, even when he sought retirement and fled to his own country. That he was not safe even there, is a proof to us how hardly God exercised and tried him for the many years in which he performed his prophetic office.
As the citizens of Anathoth had grievously sinned, so he denounces on them an especial calamity. It is indeed certain that the Prophet was not kindly received at Jerusalem; nay, he met there, as we shall hereafter see, with enemies the most cruel: but when he hoped for some rest and relaxation in his own country, he was even there received as we find here. This is the reason why God commanded him to threaten the citizens of Anathoth with destruction. I cannot finish the whole today.