Though the Prophet does not distinctly express that what had not yet happened was divinely revealed to him, yet it may be easily gathered that it was a prophecy with reference to what was future. Of this sterility nothing is recorded in sacred history: there is, however, no doubt but God had in an unusual manner afflicted the Jews, as previously in the days of Ahab. As then a drought was near at hand which would cause great scarcity, his purpose was to forewarn the Jews of it before the time, that they might know that the dryness did not happen by chance, but was an evidence of God’s vengeance. And we know that whenever any adversity happens, the causes of it are sought in the world, so that hardly any one regards the hand of him who smites. But when there is a year of sterility, we consult astrology, and think that it is owing to the influence of the stars: thus God’s judgment is overlooked. As then men contrive so many expedients by which they throw aside the consideration of Divine judgment, it was necessary that the Prophet should speak of the sterility mentioned here before it happened, and point it out as it were by the finger, though it was yet not made manifest.
He therefore says that the word of God came to him respecting the words of restraints (103) Though דבר, deber, signifies a thing or a business or concern, yet, what seems here to be intended is the contrast between דבר, deber, the word of God, and דברים deberim, the words of men; for he says, על דברי הבצרות ol deberi ebetserut, because the Jews, as it is usual, would have many words of different kinds among themselves respecting the sterility: when anything uncommon or unexpected happens, every one has his own opinion. But the Prophet sets up the word of Jehovah in opposition to the words of men; as though he had said, “They will inquire here and there as to the causes of the scarcity; there will yet be but one cause, and that is, God is punishing them for their wickedness.”
He calls sterility prohibitions or restraints: for though God could in an instant destroy and mar whatever has come to maturity, yet, in order to shew that all the elements are ready to obey him, he restrains the heavens whenever he pleases; and hence he says,
“In that day the heavens will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn, and the corn will hear men.” (Hosea 2:21)
For as this order of things is set before us, it cannot be otherwise but that, whenever we are hungry, our eyes turn to the corn and bread; but corn does not come except the earth be fruitful; and the earth cannot of itself bring forth anything, and except it derives moisture and strength from the heavens. So also, on the other hand, he says,
“I will make for you the heaven brass and the earth iron.” (104) (Leviticus 26:19)
We hence see the reason for this word, prohibitions, by which the Prophet designates the dryness of the heavens and the sterility of the earth; for the earth in a manner opens to us its bowels when it brings forth food for our nourishment; and the heavens also pour forth rain, by which the earth is irrigated. So also God prohibits or restrains the heavens and the earth, and closes up his bounty, so as to prevent it to come to us. It now follows —
The Prophet intimates in these words, that so great would be the scarcity as to appear to be a manifest and remarkable evidence of God’s vengeance; for when God punishes us in a common way, we for the most part refer the event to some fortuitous circumstances, and the devil also ever retains our minds in the consideration of secondary causes. Hence the Prophet declares here that an event so unusual could not be ascribed to natural causes, as that the earth should become so sterile, but thai; it was the extraordinary judgment of God. This is the reason wily he employs so many figurative expressions. He might indeed have said, in one sentence, that there would be in the land a most grievous famine; but hardly one in a hundred would have been moved by words so simply expressed. Therefore the Prophet, in order to arouse their stupor, uses terms the most forcible.
Hence he says, Mourned has Judah Though he speaks of what was future, yet, according to his own usual manner and that of others, he uses the past time in order to shew the certainty of what he said. He then declares that there would be mourning in Judah. He afterwards says, His gates have been weakened, or scattered. In mentioning gates, he takes a part for the whole, for he means the cities: but as judgments were wont to be administered at the gates, and as men often assembled there, he says that the gates would be reduced to solitude, so that hardly any one would appear there. He in the third place adds, They have become darkened to the ground, or, in plainer words, they became overwhelmed with grief; but the proper meaning of the word is to become darkened: and he says, to the ground, as though he said that they would be so cast down as to he in the dust, and would not dare to raise up their heads, nor would be able to do so, being worn down by want and famine. We hence see what he means, even this, — that the scarcity would be so great that men would be down on the ground, and in a manner seek darkness for themselves, as it is the case with us when we flee as it were from the light and he on the ground; for we then shew that we cannot enjoy the light, it being disagreeable to us: and hence we see more clearly what I have stated, — that the Prophet uses very strong terms to produce an impression on the Jews, that they might know that the earth was so sterile, not through any natural or common cause, but through the judgment of God. (105)
He afterwards adds, The cry of Jerusalem has ascended Here he sets forth their despair: for in doubtful matters we are wont to deliberate and to devise remedies; but when we are destitute of any counsel or advice, and when no hope appears, we then break out into crying. We hence see that it was an evidence of despair when the cry of Jerusalem ascended; for they would not be able to complain and to disburden their cares and griefs by pouring them into the bosoms of one another, but all of them would cry and howl.
Mourned hath Judah, And her gates, they have languished; Grieved have they for the land; And the cry of Jerusalem hath ascended.
In the gates was the court of justice; there the chief men or governors assembled. The languishing belonged, not to the gates, but to those who attended them, and so the grief or lamentation. The first meaning of the verb is to be dark, to be black, but it is used to signify extreme grief or lamentation. See Psalms 35:14. As light denotes joy, so darkness is a symbol of grief or mourning. We use a similar kind of metonymy, when we say, “The court is in mourning.” The Septuagint render the verse thus, —
Mourned hath Judah, And her gates have been emptied, And have become dark for the land; And the shout of Jerusalem hath ascended.
Blayney’s version of the third line is as follows, —
They are in deep mourning for the land.
The Targum paraphrases the verb thus, — “Their faces are covered with blackness.” — Ed.
It is then added, Their chiefs will send the common people to the waters The Prophet’s object was again to point out something extraordinary, — that the great, possessing authority, would constrain and compel the common sort to draw water. They have sent them, he says, that is, by authority; they who could command others sent them to the waters. (106) They came, he says, to the cisterns By the word גבים gabim, he means deep ditches, or pits; but some render them cisterns. With regard to the subject in hand, it signifies not; for the Prophet no doubt meant that they would come to the deepest wells or pits, as it is usually done ia a great drought; for many springs become often dry, and pits also, situated in high places; but in valleys some water remains, and there it may be had: there are also some wells ever full of water, where its abundance never fails. It was therefore the Prophet’s design to refer to such wells. They came, he says, to the wells, where they thought they could find a sufficient supply; but he adds, They found no waters; they returned with their empty vessels (107)
We now perceive what I have said, — that the Prophet here reproves the Jews for their stupidity in not understanding that God was angry with them when the order of nature, which ought ever to continue the same, thus failed. Droughts indeed often happen when there are no waters in most places; but when no well supplies any water, when there is not a drop of water to be found in the most favorable places, then indeed it ought to be concluded that God’s curse is on the people, who find nothing to drink; for in nothing does God deal more bountifully with the world than in the supply of water. We do not speak now of wine; but we see fountains everywhere pouring forth waters, and rivers also flow through countries: moreover, pits are dug through the labors of men; there are also cisterns in which the rain is preserved in places that are commonly dry: but when in cisterns no water remains, and when the fountains themselves refuse any supply, we may hence surely know that it is the special judgment of God; and this is what Jeremiah intended here to shew; and therefore he says that they were confounded and ashamed, and that they covered their head It now follows —
3.When their nobles sent their menials for water, They came to the reservoirs, they found no water; They brought back their vessels empty: They were ashamed and confounded, And they covered their heads.
The word I render “reservoirs” means literally arches or vaults. They were places arched over to preserve water. Parkhurst thinks that the reservoirs made by King Hezekiah are intended, 2 Chronicles 32:30. That the verb שב has the meaning of bringing back is evident from Isaiah 52:8; and this is according to the Vulgate and the Septuagint in this place. Gataker and Venema think that the shame and confusion refer to the nobles, and not to the servants. This verse speaks of Jerusalem, the last mentioned in the former verse; and what follows refers to Judea, spoken of in the former part according to the usual manner of the prophets. — Ed
The Prophet had said, that though the whole common people were sent to the waters, yet none would be found. He now adds the same firing respecting the husbandmen. Ashamed, he says, shall be the husbandmen, for the ground shall be turned into dust, and God will pound it small. When the heavens supply moisture, the earth retains thus its solid character; but in a great heat we see the earth dissolving into dust, as though it was pounded in a mortar.
So he says, On account of the chapt ground, because there is no rain, ashamed shall be the husbandmen, and they shall cover their heads; for sorrow shall not only seize on them, but also fin them with such shame as to make them to shun the light and the sight of men. These things were intended for the same purpose, even to make the Jews to know that they were not by chance deprived of water, but because God had cursed their land, so that it yielded them no water even for the common wants of nature. It follows —
Jeremiah now comes to animals: he said before, that men would be visited with thirst, and then that the ground would become dry, so theft husbandmen would be ashamed; he now says that the wild asses and the hinds would become partakers of this scarcity. The hind, he says, has brought forth in the field, which was not usual; but he says that such would be the drought, that the hinds would come forth to the plains. The hinds, we know, wander in solitary places and there seek their food, and do not thus expose themselves; for they have a natural timidity, which keeps them from encountering danger. But he says that hinds, big with young, shall be constrained by famine to come to the fields and bring forth there, and then flee away: and yet they prefer their young to their own life. But the Prophet here shews that there would be something extraordinary in that vengeance of God, which was nigh the Jews, in order that they might know that the heavens and the earth and all the elements were armed against them by God, for they had so deserved. But he says, Bring forth shall the hind, and then he adds, and will forsake its young: but why will it bring forth in the field? even because it will not find grass in the mountains, and in the woods, and in the usual places.
The same thing is said of the wild asses, And the wild asses, he says, stood on the rocks: and yet this animal, we know, can endure want for a long Lime. But the Prophet, as I have said, intended to shew that there would be in this scarcity some remarkable evidences of God’s vengeance. Stood then did the wild asses on the rocks, and thence drew in wind like serpents: for great is the heat of serpents; on account of inward burning they are constrained to draw in wind to allay the heat within. The Prophet says, that wild asses were like serpents, for they were burning with long famine, so that they were seeking food in the wind itself, or by respiration. He then adds, Failed have their eyes, for there was no grass (108)
We now understand the object of this prediction: It was God’s purpose not only to foretell the Jews what was soon to be, but also to point out, as it were, by the finger, his vengeance, that they might not have recourse, as usual, to secondary causes, but that they might know that they suffered punishment for their sins; for the scarcity would be so extraordinary as far to exceed what was usual. It now follows —
4.On account of the ground being cracked, As there has been no rain in the land, Ashamed were the husbandmen, They covered their heads:
5.When also the hind was in the field, It brought forth young, and it was forsaken, Because there was no grass:
6.And the wild asses, they stood on the cliffs; They drew in the wind like serpents; Fail did their eyes, Because there was no herbage
The Prophet, no doubt, intended here to exhort the Jews by his own example to seek pardon; nor does he so assume the character of others, as though he was free himself from guilt; for he was not more righteous than Daniel, who, as we find, testified that he confessed before God, not only the sins of the people, but also his own sins. (Daniel 9:4) And Jeremiah, though not one of God’s despisers, nor of the profane, who had provoked God’s wrath, was yet one of the people; and here he connects himself with them; and he did this in sincerity and not in dissimulation. But he might have prayed silently at home; why then did he make public his prayer? What was his purpose in consigning it to writing? It was that he might rouse the people, as I have already said, by his example, so that they might flee as suppliants to God’s mercy, and seek forgiveness for their sins. This then was the Prophet’s object. Thus we see that the prophecy concerning the scarcity and the famine was announced, that the people might through repentance escape the wrath of God; for we know that when God has even taken his sword he may possibly be pacified, as he is in his nature merciful: and besides, the design of all such predictions is, that men, conscious of their sins, may by faith and repentance escape the destruction that awaits them. We now then understand the design of the Prophet in this passage.
He says first, Even though our iniquities testify, etc. The verb ענה, one, properly means to answer; but it means also to testify, as in this place. O Jehovah, (109) he says, there is no reason now to contend with thee, or to expostulate, or to ask why thou denlest so severely with us; let all such excuses be dismissed, for our sins testify against us; that is, “Were there no angels nor men to accuse us, our own conscience is sufficient to condemn us.” But when do our iniquities testify against us? Even when we know that we are exposed to God’s judgment and are held guilty by him. As to the reprobate, their iniquities cry to heaven, as it is said of Sodom. (Genesis 18:20) But the Prophet seems here to express something more, — that the Jews could not make evasions, but must confess that they were worthy of death.
For he says, For thy name’s sake deal with us. We see that the Prophet first condemns himself and the whole people; as though he had said, “If thou, Lord, summonest us to plead our own cause, we can expect nothing better than to be condemned by our own mouths, for our iniquities are sufficient to condemn us. What then remains for us?” The Prophet takes it as granted that there was but one remedy, — that God would save his people for his own name’s sake; as though he had said, “In ourselves we find nothing but reasons for condemnation; seek then in thyself a reason for forgiving us: for as long as thou regardest us, thou must necessarily hate us and be thus a rigid Judge; cease then to seek anything in us or to call us to an account, but seek from thyself a reason for sparing us.” He then adds, For multiplied have our defections, and against thee have we done wickedly (110) By these words the Prophet shews that he did not formally, like hypocrites, confess sins, but really acknowledged that the Jews would have been found in various ways guilty had God dealt with them according to justice.
As we now perceive the import of the words, let us learn from this passage, that there is no other way of being reconciled to God than by having him to be propitious to us for his name’s sake. And by this truth is refuted everything that has been invented by the Papists, not less foolishly than rashly, respecting their own satisfactions. They indeed know that they stand in need of God’s mercy; for no one is so blinded under the Papacy, who does not feel the secret misgivings of his own conscience: so the saintlings, who lay claim to angelic perfection, are yet self — convicted, and are by necessity urged to seek pardon; but in the mean time they obtrude on God their satisfactions and works of supererogation, by which they compensate for their sins, and thus deliver themselves from the hand of God. Now this is a remarkable passage to confute such a diabolical delirium, for the Prophet brings forward the name of God; as though he had said, “This is the only way by which we can return to God’s favor and obtain reconciliation with him, even by having him to deal with us for his name’s sake, so that he may seek the cause of his mercy in himself, for in us he can find none.” If Jeremiah said this of himself, and not feignedly, what madness is it for us to arrogate so much to ourselves, as to bring anything before God by which he may be induced to shew mercy? Let us then know that God forgives our sins, not from a regard to any compensation, but only on account of a sufficient reason within himself, that he may glorify his own name. Now follows a clearer explanation and a confirmation of this verse.
Verily, our perversities, they have responded against us.
The word עון means perverse or headstrong wickedness. There is an allusion in responding to a trial. “They have stood against us,” is the Septuagint. See Job 15:6. — Ed.
Jehovah! deal with us for thy name’s sake: For many have been our defections,
Against thee have we sinned.
The Syriac renders fitly the first line, —
O Lord, spare us on account of thy name.
I have said that the former verse is confirmed by these words; for since the Prophet mentions to God his own name, we must consider the cause of the confidence with which he was supported, which was even this, — because God had chosen that people, and promised that they should be to him a peculiar people. It is then on the ground of that covenant that the Prophet now prays God to glorify his name; such a prayer could not have been made for heathen nations. We hence perceive how the Prophet dared so to introduce God’s name, as to say, Deal with us for thy name’s sake
He calls God, in the next place, the hope of Israel; not that the Israelites relied on him as they ought to have done, for the ten tribes had long before revolted from him, and so great a corruption had also prevailed in Judah, that hardly one in a thousand could be deemed faithful. Hope then among the people had become extinct; but the Prophet here regards the perpetuity of the covenant, as though he had said, “Even though we are unworthy to be protected by thee, yet as thou hast promised to be always ready to bring us help, thou art our hope. In short, the word hope or expectation, is to be referred to God’s promise, and to the constancy of his faithfulness, and not to the faithfulness of men, which did not exist, at least it was very small and in very few.
To the same purpose he adds, His Savior in time of trouble He had in view the many proofs by which God had manifested his power in the preservation of the faithful. And he expressly mentions trouble or distress, as though he had said, that the aid of God had been known by evidences sufficiently clear; for had the people never wanted his help, his favor would have been less evident; but as they had been often reduced to great straits, the bounty and the power of God had become more manifest by delivering them from extreme dangers.
It is then added, Why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land? as a traveler, who turns aside for a short time in his journey to pass the night? Here must be noticed a contrast between a stranger and one that is stationary, spoken of afterwards. God would have his name to be invoked in Judea; it was therefore necessary that his favor should continue there; and hence he called the land his rest, and he had also promised by Moses that he would ever be in the midst of his people. The Prophet no doubt had taken from the law what he relates here, Thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah, thy name is called on us He therefore reasons from what seemed inconsistent, that he might obtain pardon from God; for if he was inexorable, his covenant would have failed and perished, which would have been unreasonable, and could not indeed have been possible. Hence he says, “Lord, why shouldest thou be as a stranger and as a traveler, who seeks only a lodging for one night, and then goes forward?” God had promised, as I have already said, that he would rest perpetually in the land, that he would be a God to the people; it, was not then consistent with the covenant that God should pass as a stranger through the land. As he had then formerly defended the Jews, and made them safe and secure even in the greatest dangers, so the Prophet now says, that it was right that he should he consistent with himself and continue ever the same.
As to the words which follow, Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished or terrified? I take “terrified” for an uncultivated person, as we say in our language, homme savage (111) It is then added, As a giant who cannot save; that is, a strong helper, but of no skin, who possesses great strength, but fails, because he is rendered useless by his own bulk. And so the Prophet says, that it would be a strange thing, that God should be as a strong man, anxious to bring help and yet should do nothing.
After having said these things, he subjoins the contrast to which I have referred, But thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah, thy name is called on us, forsake us not We now see that the Prophet dismisses all other reasons and betakes himself to God’s gratuitous covenant only, and recumbs on his mercy. Thou art, he says, in the midst of us God had bound himself by his own compact, for no one else could have bound him. Then he says, Thy name is called on us Could the people boast of anything of their own in being thus called? By no means; but that they were so called depended on a gratuitous covenant. As then the Prophet did cast away every merit in works, and every trust in satisfactions, there remained nothing for him but the promise of God, which was itself founded on the free good pleasure of God. Let us hence learn, whenever we pray to God, not to bring forward our own satisfactions, which are nothing but filthy things, abominable to God, but to allege only his own name and promise, even the covenant, which he has made with us in his only — begotten Son, and confirmed by his blood.
As in the former instance, “the sojourner” and “the traveler” are the same, only what is said of the latter is more specific; so it seems to be here: the man, taken by surprise, is only farther described as one who is not able on that account to save. The two verses may be thus rendered —
8.The hope of Israel! his Savior in time of distress! Why art thou like a sojourner in the land? Or like a traveler turning aside to pass the night?
9.Why art thou like one taken by surprise — Like a man who is not able to save? Yet thou art in the midst of us, Jehovah; And thy name, on us is it called: Do not forsake us
The Prophet goes on with the same subject; but he reproves the Jews more severely and shews what their sins were. He says then that they were given to inconstancy; but by saying, “to wander,” לנוע lenuo, which means to move here and there, he no doubt mentions this inconstancy as a contrast to that quiemess and rest, of which Isaiah speaks, when he says,
“Behold the Lord hath commanded, In returning and in confidence shall be your strength, in quietness and tranquillity.”
He then wished the Jews to adopt different counsels, and not to run here and there when any danger was at hand, but to wait until he, according to his promise, came to their aid. Hence Jeremiah now accuses them of inconstancy, because they would not rely on God’s help and remain firm in their purpose, but run here and there for vain helps; besides a diabolical frenzy led them after idols, as Isaiah says in another place,
“Thou hast wearied thyself in thy ways and without profit,”
This fact is often mentioned by the prophets, — that they were like roving strumpets who seek paramours everywhere; for their confederacies with the Egyptians and the Chaldeans cost them much, and yet they spared no expenses. They might have waited quietly for the aid of God, which had been promised; but they did not.
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet when he says, that they loved to wander, (112) or to move here and there, and that they restrained not their feet At the first view, indeed, this seems to have been but a small offense; but if we consider its source, that they distrusted God and his power, and placed their safety in the Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, it will appear to have been a shameful and an intolerable sacrilege. Unbelief, then, is here condemned; for the Jews looked around for foreign aids, and made no account of God.
Now this passage, is worthy of being especially noticed, for unbelief is here painted to the life. It is indeed true that even the children of God are not so tranquil in their minds that they never fear, that they are never solicitous or anxious, that they dread no danger; but yet, though the faithful are disturbed by many inquietudes, cares, anxieties, and fears, still God ever preserves them; and the firmness of their faith within continues, though it may happen that they are apparently not only shaken, but even stagger and fall. But God gives to the unbelieving their just reward, who derogate from his power, while they place their safety on men or on idols, for they never find where they may safely stand. They therefore weary themselves without any advantage. On this account he says, Therefore Jehovah will not be pleased with them, that is, God will not give them courage: nay, he says, he will now remember their iniquities and visit their sins In short, he teaches us, that so grievous was the wickedness of that people, that there was no place for the mercy of God. He afterwards adds —
Thus saith Jehovah of this people, — “So have they loved to wander, Their feet have they not restrained.” And Jehovah has not been pleased with them; He will now remember their iniquity, And he will visit their sin.
God first forbids the Prophet to pray for the people, as we have before seen, (Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14) But we must remember what I have said before, that this prohibition is to be understood as to their exile; for as God had already decreed that the people should be banished from the promised land, the Prophet was forbidden to pray, inasmuch as that decree was immutable. It is not, therefore, a general prohibition, as though the Prophet was not allowed to ask God’s forgiveness in behalf of the whole people, or at least in behalf of the godly who still remained. The Prophet might indeed pray in a certain way for the whole people, that is, that God, being satisfied with their temporal punishment, would at length spare the miserable with regard to eternal life: he might have also prayed for the remnant; for he knew that there was some seed remaining, though hidden; nay, he was himself one of the people, and he not only knew that some true servants of God were still remaining, but he had also some friends of his own, whose piety was sufficiently known to him. God, therefore, did not strictly exclude all his prayers, but every prayer with regard to the exile which was soon to be undergone by the people.
Except we bear in mind this.circumstance, the prohibition might seem strange; for we know that it is one of the first duties of love to be solicitous for one another before God, and thus to pray for the wellbeing of our brethren. (James 5:16) It is not then the purpose of God to deprive the Prophet of this holy and praiseworthy feeling, which is necessarily connected with true religion; but his design was to shew, that it was now in vain to implore him for the remission of that punishment which had been determined.
We hence see first, that under the name of people every individual was not included, for some seed remained; and we farther see that this prohibition extended not to eternal life, but on the contrary to temporal punishment. And the demonstrative pronoun this indicates contempt or disdain, as though he had said, “What! why shouldest thou pray for a people wholly unworthy of mercy; let them perish as they deserve.” So when he says, for good — לטובה lethube, it ought also to be referred to their exile, by which he intimates, “Hope not that what has been once fixed by me respecting this people can be changed by any prayers; they must therefore suffer the punishment which they have deserved, for I will banish them from the land.”
He afterwards adds, Even when they fast, I will not hear their cry, and when they present a sacrifice and an oblation, I will not be pleased with them He doubtless touches the hypocrites, who, though void of all sincerity, yet professed to be the true worshippers of God, and by sacrifices and fastings and other external rites wished to prove themselves to be so. He therefore says that he would not be propitious or appeasable, though they fasted, and prayed, and offered all kinds of sacrifices. The words, as I have said, were especially addressed to hypocrites; for we know that that declaration remains unchangeablesthat God is nigh to all those who call on him in sincerity. (Psalms 145:18) Whosoever, then, calls on God with a true heart, infallibly obtains his favor; for in another place it is ascribed to God as a thing necessarily belonging to him, that he hears prayers. Whenever then God is invoked, he cannot divest himself of what essentially appertains to himshis readiness to hear prayer. But here he intimates that there was no sincerity in the people; for even when they fasted and prayed, and offered sacrifices, they did not truly worship him; for, as it was said before, they could no more put off the wickedness which adhered to their marrow than the Ethiopian could change his skin or the panther his spots, (Jeremiah 13:23) He then shews, in this place, that though they wearied themselves, in pacifying God by an external profession, they did nothing but act falsely, and that therefore their efforts would be all in vain; for they profaned the name of God when they thus grossly dissembled with him. This is the meaning.
Fasting is expressly mentioned, and it hence appears, that when there is nothing wanting as to outward appearance, God still ever regards faith, as we have seen in the fifth chapter. Hence God values not what is highly esteemed by men, and excites their feelings: why? because he regards the faith of the heart, and faith is taken for integrity. So then God abominates a double and a false heart; and the greater the fervor hypocrites display in external rites, the more they provoke him.
We pray to God daily, it may be said, and yet we do not fast daily. It is indeed true that prayer is more intent when we fast; but yet God requires not daily fastings, while he enjoins prayer both in the morning and in the evening, yea, he would have us to implore his grace continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) But when fasting is joined to prayer, then prayer becomes more earnest; as it is usually the case when there is any danger, or when there appears any evidence of God’s wrath, or when we labor under any heavy affliction; for we then not only pray but we also fast that we may be more free and more at liberty to pray. Besides, fasting is also an evidence that we are deprecating the wrath of God, while we confess that we are guilty before him; and thus also they who pray stimulate themselves the more to sorrow and to other penitential feelings. It is therefore the same as though he had said, “Even if they pray in no common manner and every day, and add fasting, so that greater fervor may appear in their prayers and extraordinary attention, yet I will not hear their cries, even because their heart is false.”
We further gather from this passage that fasting is not in itself a religious duty or exercise, but that it refers to another end. Except then they who fast have a regard to what is thereby intended — that there may be a greater alacrity in Prayer — that it may be an evidence of humility in confessing their sins — and that they may also strive to subdue all their lusts — except these things be regarded, fasting becomes a frivolous exercise, nay, a profanation of God’s worship, it being only superstitious. We hence see that fastings are not only without benefit except when prayers are added, and those objects which I have stated are regarded, but that they provoke the wrath of God as all superstitions do, for his worship is polluted.
But under the Papacy the reason given for fastings is, that they merit the favor of God. The Papists seek to pacify him by fasting as by a sort of satisfaction; they will have fasting to be a work of merit. I will not now speak of the numberless trifles which also pollute their fasting; but let us suppose that they are not superstitious in their choice of meats, in their hours, and in other childish follies, which are mere trumperies, nay, mockeries also to God — let us suppose them to be free from all these vices, yet the intention, as they call it, is nothing else but a diabolical error, for they determine that fasting is a work of merit and of satisfaction, and a kind of expiation. Let us then know, that though Jeremiah speaks of hypocrites, yet he briefly points out the design of fasting by mentioning prayer. So also Christ, when recommending fasting, makes mention of prayer. (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29) The same is done by Paul. (1 Corinthians 7:5.) But it ought to be noticed here, that though hypocrites joined before men prayer with fasting, they were yet rejected, for there was no sincerity in their hearts, but only an outward profession, a mere disguise. But God, as we have, seen, regards the heart, and sincerity alone pleases him.
The same thing is said of sacrificing, When they present sacrifices, or burnt — offerings, and an oblation, מנחה , meneche, that is, the daily offerings, I will not hear them, or, as he says in the second clause, I will not be pleased with them Sacrifice without prayers were no doubt vain and worthless, for as pr ayers were not acceptable to God without a sacrifice, so when sacrifice was without prayers it was only a vain shew these two things are then united as by an indissoluble knot, to offer sacrifices and to pray.Prayers, as I have said, cannot be acceptable to God without a sacrifice; for what can proceed from mortal man but what is abominable before God? Our prayers must therefore be sanctified in order that they please God; and the only way of sanctification is through the sacrifice of Christ. When they offered sacrifices under the law they also joined prayers; and by this ceremony they who made any request professed themselves unworthy except a sacrifice was offered. The Prophet then mentions here what God had commanded under the law, but he shews that hypocrites separated the principal thing from the external signs. God indeed neither disregards nor rejects signs, but when what they signify is separated from them, there is then an intolerable profanation. Let us then know, that though nothing may be wanting in the external worship, yet whatever we seek to do is abominable to God except it be accompanied with sincerity of heart.
But I will consume them, (113) he says, with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence I render the particle כי ki, “but.” He refers here to three modes of destruction, that the Jews might surely know that they were to perish, according to what is said elsewhere, “He who escapes from the sword shall perish by the famine, and he who survives the famine shall perish by the pestilence.” God shews, in short, that he was armed with various kinds of punishment, so that they who had so provoked him as wholly to lose the hope of pardon, could by no escapes deliver themselves from destruction. God might indeed have consumed the Jews by one punishment, he might have also threatened them in general terms without specifying anything, but as the unbelieving ever promise themselves some way of escape, so his purpose was to hold them bound in every way, that they might know that they were shut up on every side, and that no way of escape could be found. This is the meaning. It follows —
But with the sword, and with famine, and with pestilence,
Will I cause them to be condemned.
The Prophet no doubt relates what he had expressed in prayer to God; but yet he has a reference to the people. He then prayed in the manner he now relates; but he renders public the prayers he offered by himself and without a witness, in order that he might restore the Jews from their impiety. Now Jeremiah’s colloquy with God availed not a little to touch the Jews; for as though they themselves had been present, he set before them what he had heard from God’s mouth. We now then understand why he made known his secret prayers; it was not for the sake of boasting, but for the sake of doing good to the Jews. It was then his object to consult their benefit, when he declared to them what he had previously poured forth without any witness into the bosom of his God.
And I said, Ah, Lord Jehovah! He uses an expression of grief, Ah! and thus he shews what concern he felt for his people, being not less anxious on account of their ruin than on account of his own. It may yet be an expression of astonishment, as though the Prophet was fined with surprise, “What can this be, O Lord?” And doubtless an expression of astonishment is not unsuitable, so that the Jews might feel horrified together with him, when they saw that they had been led astray by the false prophecies, by which they had been deceived. He then says, “How is this, O Lord? for the prophets say to them, etc. (114)
Here the word, prophets, is emphatic, as though he had said, They are not thus mad wilfully in promising to themselves peace, contrary to thy will, but these prophets who profess and boast of thy name, these are the authors of this so gross a security; for they say, Ye shall not see the sword, famine shall not happen to you; nay, I will give you, etc. Here they assume the person of God; for it is not said, “God shall give you sure peace,” but “I will give you,” etc. We hence see that the Prophet here expresses his horror, while he compares false prophecies with the oracle which he had received from the mouth of God. The prophets, he declares, say, etc. They assumed an honorable title, and one connected with the power and authority of God himself. “Even the prophets then, who seem endued with the authority of heaven, and seem to have been sent by thee, as though they were angels, — even these promise men peace, not in a common manner, but in a way the most imposing, as though they had thine authority, and brought from thy mouth their fallacies, I will give you.”
We now then understand the design of the Prophet; for it was necessary to shake off from the Jews that false confidence, by which the false prophets, who pretended to have been sent from above, and boasted that they were God’s servants, the agents of the Holy Spirit, had inebriated them. As then it was necessary to take away from the Jews this confidence, the cause of their ruin, because they hardened themselves in contempt of God, and despised all his threatenings; he therefore says, “What! the false prophets speak thus, I will give you sure peace (115) in this place.”
We hence learn that Jeremiah had almost a continual contest; for the fiercest antagonists immediately presented themselves, whenever he threatened the people either with exile or with famine, or with any other judgment of God. “What! be secure, for God has chosen this place where he is worshipped. It cannot be that he will banish his Church from its quiet rest. There is no reason then to fear that he will ever suffer this kingdom to perish or his Temple to be destroyed.” Hence the complaint of the Prophet, not that he himself was affected by such falsehoods, but he regarded the good of the people, and sought to recover those who were as yet healable from these deceptions. Hence it follows —
We now see more clearly why the Prophet related his own complaint, and also his astonishment, of which God alone had been the witness, and that was, that the people might be more attentive to his warning. For had he only said, “The prophets deceive you, and God would have this to be made known to you,” his address would not have been so powerful, as when this question precedes, “Lord God, what is this? the prophets promise peace to this people, and forbid them to fear pestilence and war.” As then the Prophet had set forth this according to his own view and the common view of the whole people, the answer, as I have said, becomes more forcible, and more easily penetrates into the mind. God then gives this answer, Falsehood do the prophets prophesy in my name
In my name, is emphatical; for God reminds us, that we ought to beware of every appearance of falsehood, that we ought not easily and rashly, and without discrimination, to believe all prophecies; for not everything boasted of as being divine is really so. We then see that this is a remarkable passage; for God reminds us, that we ought to exercise judgment as to prophecies, so that we may not be inconsiderately led away by anything brought forward under the pretext of his name. He would have us therefore wisely to distinguish between things; and hence I have said that this passage deserves to be specially noticed the Papists at this day vainly boast of their titles, and say that they are the real Church, that they are the pastors, and that the Church of God is the pinar of the truth; and thus they astonish and confound the simple, so that every discrimination is taken away, and whatever it pleases them to determine is to be received as an oracle. But God shews here, by the mouth of Jeremiah, that we are not rashly to believe every kind of prophecy. In my name, he says, the prophets prophesy, as though he had said, “My name is often impiously profaned by men. As then there are many who pass themselves as my servants and prophets, and who also occupy a place of dignity and exercise the ordinary office, yea, as there is such depravity in men, that they are not ashamed to abuse my name, wisdom and discretion ought to be exercised.” This is the first thing; for God intimates, that it is not enough for men to claim the prophetic office, except they also prove that they are true and faithful prophets.
He afterwards adds, I have not sent them, nor have I commanded them, neither have I spoken to them; a vision of falsehood, etc He here takes away authority from the false prophets; for he had not sent them, nor commanded them to speak, nor spoken to them. The latter clause is more general than the rest: but these three things ought to be carefully noticed, for they serve to distinguish true from false prophets. It was then God’s purpose to mention here certain marks by which the difference between true and false prophets may be known.
He says first, that they were not sent, for they obtruded themselves. Hence a call is necessary, for God would not have disorder and confusion in his ChurJeremiah It is indeed true that the call of Jeremiah was extraordinary; for when the state of the Church was rightly formed, the chief priest was the teacher of religion and true doctrine, who was now the adversary of God’s faithful servant. There were indeed some, like Amos, who were taken from the common people; yet there were none more fit for the prophetic office than the priests, for they were, as Malachi says, the messengers of the God of hosts. (Malachi 2:4) But when they became degenerate, God, in order to reproach them, raised up other prophets from obscure vinages and from the common people. It was then sometimes an interior call only; but when the Church was duly formed, a regular outward call was also necessary. However this may have been, it is certain that such as were not called by God, falsely and wickedly pretended to have his authority, being both without the outward call and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the first thing.
It then follows, I have not commanded them Here is the second mark of distinction; for God testifies that no credit is due to the prophets, except as far as they faithfully deliver, as it were from hand to hand, what has been committed to them. If then a prophet mingles anything of his own, he is proved to be false and is not worthy of any credit. Let us hence know, that prophets are not endued with any other power, but to deliver faithfully what has been committed to them from above.
But the third mark, which is added, is still more clear: God says, that he had not spoken to them; for he thus intimates that no voice but his ought to be heard in the ChurJeremiah Why then does he bid honor and reverence to be payed to his prophets? Even because they bring nothing but what he has delivered. We hence see how God allows men no power of their own to rule in his Church; but he will have obedience to be rendered to himself, so that their duty is faithfully to declare what he has committed to them. Therefore as to the command, it refers to what was particular; but when he says, I have not spoken to them, what was general is intended; it is the same as though he had said, that it was not lawful nor right for prophets and teachers to bring forward anything but what they had received from heaven.
Hence he concludes, that they spoke falsehood and impostures, and divination and vanity, and the deceit of their own heart. (116) We hence see that as soon as men depart even in the smallest degree from God’s word, they cannot preach anything but falsehoods, wmities, impostures, errors, and deceits: and all who thoughtlessly give credit to men, without considering whether they have been sent by God, and faithfully deliver what he has committed to them, wilfully perish. But on this subject more shall be said.
14.And Jehovah said to me, — Falsehood do the prophets prophesy in my name; I have not sent them, nor given them a command, Nor have I spoken to them: A vision of the fidsehood and divination, And vanity and delusion of their own heart, Do these of themselves prophesy to you.
God had not sent them, the final act; he had given them no command or commission, the preceding act; he had not spoken to them, the first act. God first speaks, then gives a commission, and afterwards sends forth his servants. The vision the false prophets had was that of the falsehood of their own heart, of the divination, of the vanity, and of the delusion of their own heart. Such seems to be the meaning given by the Septuagint and the Vulgate. It was the lying vision of their own heart, it was the divination or the presage, the vanity, and the delusion of their own heart. The word for “prophesy” in the last line is in Hitthpael; and hence “of themselves” is added.
Blayney gives a different view; his version is, —
A false vision, and divination, and vanity, And the guile of their own heart, do these prophesy unto you.
He considers “a false vision” to be an imaginary revelation; “divination,” to be something discovered by that art; “vanity,” to be the oracular response of an idol; and “guile,” to be the fraudulent suggestion of their own heart.
But the simplest exposition is what I have stated: The vision, being that of their own heart, was false; it was their own divination or prognostication; it was worthless, vain, and empty; it was the effect of their own delusion. This was the character of what they prophesied. We may render the words thus, —
The false vision and the divination And the vanity and the delusion of their own heart, Do these of themselves prophesy to you.
Jeremiah, after having declared to the false prophets, that as they had by their flatteries deceived the people, they would have to suffer the punishment they had deserved, turns now his address to the people themselves. God might, however, have seemed to deal with them rather hardly, that he inflicted so severe a punishment on men who had been deceived; but the answer to this is evident; for it is certain that except the world winingly sought falsehoods, the power of the devil to deceive would not be so great. When men therefore are led astray by impostures, it happens through their own fault, inasmuch as they are more ready to embrace vanity than to submit to God and his word. And we must remember that saying of Paul, that all the reprobate are blinded and given up to a reprobate mind, because they wilfully seek falsehood, and will not obey the truth. (Romans 1:28) And on this account God declares that he tries the hearts of men, whenever false prophets come abroad; for every one who really fears God shall by no means be led away by the deceits of Satan and of impostors. Hence, whenever men are too credulous and readily embrace deceptions, it is certain that their hypocrisy is thus justly punished by God. And it was well known to the Prophet, that the Jews ever wished for such prophets as soothed their ears and promised them an abundant harvest and a fruitful vintage. (Micah 2:11) As then they had itching ears, a liberty was justly given to Satan to deluge the whole land with falsehood; and so indeed it happened. There is then no wonder that the Lord was so severe in chastising the people; for they had not been deceived except through their own fault. The same thing happens at this day. Though we are touched with pity when we see the ministers of Satan prevail in deceiving the common people: yet we must remember that a reward is rendered by heaven for the impiety of men, who either extinguish or smother the light of God as much as they can, and seek to plunge into darkness.
This then was the reason why God so severely visited the Jews, who had been deceived by false teachers: it was owing to their previous impiety and ingratitude. And on this account also he adds at the end of the verse, I will pour forth upon them their wickedness Some think that the word רעה,roe, may denote punishment as well as wickedness, as עון,oun, also is taken for both. But the Prophet seems to give a reason why God had resolved to execute so dreadful a judgment on the Jews; and the reason was, because they were worthy of such a reward. I am therefore inclined to render the word wickedness, as though he had said, “A dreadful calamity indeed awaits this people; but that they may not complain of my severity, they shall receive the reward of their own wickedness.” However this may be, the Prophet no doubt wished here to close the mouths of the Jews, that they might not proceed in their evasions, as though God treated them with too little kindness. Hence then it appears, that God does not heedlessly execute his vengeance on the innocent; but that the teachers and the whole people, who approved of them, were involved in the same punishment. (117)
And he says, They shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem by the famine and the sword, or on account of the famine and the sword. They shall then all of them, that is, their carcases, be cast out; for their carcases are evidently meant, as he immediately adds, and no one shall bury them; and he mentions their wives and children. And these had no excuse for themselves, for we have seen in the seventh chapter that this charge was brought against them, rothat the children gathered wood, that the parents kindled the fire, and that the women kneaded the dough to make cakes for their idols. The Prophet then intimates, that no one would escape, because they were all implicated in the same wickedness, some more and some less, but so far, however, that the children were not to go unpunished, because they followed their fathers, nor the wives, because they followed the example of their husbands. It follows —
15.Therefore, thus saith Jehovah, — As to the prophets who prophesy in my name, (Though I have not sent them, yet they say, — The sword and the famine shall not be in this land) By the sword and by the famine shall they perish:
16.These prophets, and the people, to whom they prophesy, Shall be cast out into the streets of Jerusalem, On account of the famine and the sword; And there will be none to bury them — Neither them, nor their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters; Thus will I pour upon them their own wickedness.
The preceding connection is favored by the Septuagint and the Arabic, but the other versions do not join the “prophets” and the “people” together. “Their own wickedness” is “their own evils” in the Septuagint, — “their own evil” in the Vulgate, — and “their own wickedness” in the Syriac. If rendered “wickedness,” then it is a metonymy for the fruit or effect of wickedness; if “evil” then the meaning is, the evil due to them. — Ed.
God shews here again how tardy, yea, how stupid the people were, whom no threatenings could induce to return to a right mind. When, therefore, they daringly neglected all threatenings, God bids a sad spectacle to be presented to them, justly calculated to fin them with fear and shame; he bids his Prophet to speak rims to them, “Behold, I shall be wholly dissolved into tears, and that on your account.” The Prophet, no doubt, wept sincerely when he saw his own people wilfully drawing upon themselves the wrath of God and their final dest, ruction; nor could he divest himself of his humane feelings: but he speaks not here only of his own solicitude, but God himself bids him thus to speak, in order that the Jews might be ashamed of their carelessness, as they ridiculed or despised, with dry eyes, the calamity which was nigh them, and the Prophet alone wept for them. We have spoken of this in the ninth chapter and in other places. There indeed the Prophet wished that his eyes were fountains of tears; but his object was, no doubt, not only to shew his concern for his own nation, but also thus to try whether they could be turned to repentance, their hardness being so great: and in this place the same thing is shewn still more clearly; for God bids the Prophet to weep, not in secret, but to declare this to the whole people, Behold, my eyes come down into tears, and there shall be no rest, no cessation.
We now perceive the design of the Holy Spirit; for as the obstinacy of the people was so great that they shed no tears, though God often terrified them with the most dreadful threatenings, it was necessary that this coming calamity should be set before their eyes, in the person of Jeremiah, as in a mirror, in order that they might at length learn to fear. Whenever such passages occur, let us remember that at this day also men are equally stupid, so that they ought not to be less sharply urged, and that, God in the gospel adds vehemence and sharp goads to the truth; for such is not only the sloth of our hearts, but also their hardness, that it is necessary to constrain those who will not suffer themselves to be drawn and led.
Some render the words, “Descend shall tears from mine eyes;” but more correct is the other version, “Mine eyes shall descend into, tears,” as ב,beth, is to be prefixed to דמעה damoe, or ל lamed; and it is added, night and day, because the daughter of my people is broken with a great breaJeremiah As yet the Jews were indeed existing as a nation; but the Prophet gives here a striking representation, as though the scene was present, that they might know that a sudden destruction was at hand, though they as yet trusted in their own auxiliaries; nor indeed could they have been led to fear God in any degree until, their quietness was disturbed. (118)
He calls them the virgin daughter of his people, not for honor’s sake, but because God had hitherto spared the Jews. Virgin is sometimes taken in a good sense; for God, when speaking of the holy marriage, by which he had bound the Jews to himself, compares his people to a virgin. But the daughter of Babylon is also often called a virgin, because the Chaldeans, through long peace, had accustomed themselves to delicacies. So also in this place the Prophet, by way of concession, says that his own nation were soft and tender, because they had been borne with through the indulgence of God. But as in war virgins are exposed to violations, and the lust of men rages without shame and beyond all limits, so God intended here to set forth the fierceness of his vengeance; as though he had said, “Now indeed ye are tender and delicate young women, but in a short time your condition will be changed; nor is there any reason why the constant happiness which ye have hitherto enjoyed should deceive you.”
And for the same purpose he adds, that the smiting would be very bitter It was indeed necessary by many words to exaggerate that vengeance, of which the people made no account. It now follows —
17.And thou shalt say to them this word, — Pour down shall my eyes the tear Night and day, and shall not cease; For great has been the breach, Broken has been the virgin of the daughter of my people; The smiting has been very grievous.
The event, though future, is represented as having past; for he relates a vision. The “daughter” is not in apposition but in construction with “virgin.” Vitringa says, that a state, or a kingdom, is often called a virgin in the prophets. It is rendered here “kingdom” by the Targum. See Isaiah 37:22.
“Those cities,” says Lowth, “are called virgins, which never came into a conqueror’s hands.” Jerusalem was in this sense a virgin. He says further, “The dissolution of the body politic is called a breach, in allusion to the breaking of the limbs of the human body.” The “smiting,” or the stroke, was “very grievous,” because the body politic, or the state, was shattered into pieces.” — Ed.
He confirms the same thing in other words, not on account of the obscurity of what he had said, but because he knew that he was speaking to the deaf, or that such was their sloth, that they needed many goads. He says, in short, that there would be in the city no defense for the people to shield them from the punishment that was at hand, and that if they went into the fields the whole land would be covered with enemies, who would destroy them. This is the sum of the whole.
But he speaks as though he saw the event with his eyes, If I go out into the field, he says, their carcases meet me; for the enemy destroys with his drawn sword all who venture to go forth. Then he says, If I go into the city, there famine kins those whom the enemy has not reached. (119) As he had said before, “Behold, all were east forth in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword.” But what he had said of the streets of Jerusalem he extends now to the fields; as though he had said, that there would be no place of rest to the Jews; for if they attempted to flee away, they met with the swords of enemies, and if they sought hiding — places, the famine would meet them, so that they would perish without being destroyed by any enemy.
The prophet, he says, as well as the priest shall wander, shall go round to the land and know not Some explain the last part of the verse as though the Prophet had said, When both the prophets and the priests shall be driven into exile, after many wanderings, they shall not understand that exile is a punishment due to their sins. They therefore take the words, ולא ידעו vela idou, and they shall not know, in a general sense, as though the Prophet here condemned that brutal blindness which possessed the minds of the people, nay, even of the priests, who did not consider that God punished them for their sins. Others explain the words more simply, — that they would go round to the land, that is, that they would come to Chaldea by various windings and by long circuits, and would come to a land they knew not, that is, which was before unknown to them. But I know not whether this was the meaning of the Prophet. Certainly a third view seems more suitable to me, though it has none in its favor, that is, that the priests and prophets would go round to seek subterfuges, as they would be destitute of all means of escape, not knowing what to do; and they shall not know, that is, they shall find that a sound mind is by God taken from them, because they had demented others. Hence I doubt not but that the Prophet had especially denounced this punishment on the wicked priests and the false prophets, because they thought that they would have some way of escape; but they would be mistaken; for their own conceit would at length disappoint them; and when they thought of this and of that, God would bring to nothing their crafty ways. And they were worthy of such a punishment, because they had fascinated the wretched people with their lies; and we also know that they were proud of their own crafts and wiles. The Prophet therefore derides this false confidence and says, They shall go round through the land and shall not understand, that is, all their counsels and plans shall be, without any fruit or benefit, though they may be long in forming them. (120) It follows —
If I go out to the field, Then behold the piercings of the sword;
And if I enter the city, Then behold the wastings of the famine.
Yet both the prophet and also the priest Go trafficking about the city and take no knowledge.
Meaning, that they went about with their false predictions, like pedlars, for gain, and paid no regard to the miseries of the country. This sense suits the passage, but the other is the most obvious and natural. — Ed.
The Prophet now turns to prayer and to complaints, that by his example he might at length rouse the people to lamentation, in order that they might humbly implore God’s forgiveness, and sincerely confess their sins and be displeased with themselves. At the same time he indirectly reproves that hardness of which we have before spoken. As then he effected nothing by teaching, he changed his manner of speaking, and leaving the people he addressed God, according to what we have before noticed.
He then asks, Repudiating hast thou repudiated Judah? Has thy soul abominated Sion? (121) Jeremiah seems to reason here from what is inconsistent, as though he had said, “Is it possible that thou hast rejected the tribe of Judah and Mount Sion?” For God had promised that he should ever have a lamp at Jerusalem. The ten tribes had already been overthrown, and their kingdom had not only been distressed, but wholly demolished: still there remained a seed, because the tribe of Judah continued, which was as it were the flower of the whole people; and from him the salvation of the world was to proceed. Hence the Prophet does here, as it were, expostulate with God, as though he had said, “Thou hast chosen the tribe of Judah for this end, that it might be safe perpetually; thou hast also commanded the Temple to be built on Mount Sion for thy name; thou hast said that it would be thy rest for ever: hadst thou then by rejecting rejected the tribe of Judah? does thy soul abominate Mount Sion?
There seems, however, to be a kind of irony implied: for though Jeremiah prayed sincerely, he yet intended to remind the people how foolishly they promised themselves impunity as to their sins, because God had his habitation in the Temple, and because Jerusalem was as it were his royal palace. It is indeed evident that the Prophet recalled to mind the promises of God; but yet he wished briefly to shew, that though God should apparently destroy the remnant, and suffer the Temple to be demolished, he would be still faithful to his promises. In asking therefore these questions, as in astonishment, he had partly a regard to God, and partly also he reminded the people, that though God delivered the body of the people to destruction, he would yet be faithful and constant in what he had promised.
He then says, Why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing? There is no doubt but that the Prophet in this place also wished to turn God to mercy for this reason, because he had promised to be merciful to the posterity of David, though sometimes he punished them for their sins; for there was this remarkable promise,
“If his children shall offend and violate my covenant, I will smite them with a rod and chastise their iniquities; yet my mercy will I not take from them.”
(2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 89:31)
And to the same purpose is what he said in Jeremiah 10:24,
“Chastise me, O Lord, but in judgment,”
that is, moderately, “lest thou bring me to nothing.” There the Prophet, as we have said, reminded God of his covenant; and he does the same here, Why hast thou smitten, so that there is no healing? For the punishment which God inflicts on his Church would be, as he declares, a kind of medicine; but when there is no hope of healing, God seems to render void what he had promised. Hence Jeremiah goes on in drawing his argument from what is inconsistent, as though he had said, that it was not possible that God should so severely smite his people as not to allow a place for forgiveness, but that he would at length be intreated and heal the wound inflicted.
We have expected peace, and there is no good; and the time of healing, and behold trouble, or terror. (122) This latter part of the verse confirms what I just stated, that the Prophet had partly a reference to God in this mode of prayer, and that he partly reproved the Jews, because they thought, being deceived by false confidence, that they were beyond the reach of danger, inasmuch as God had consecrated Jerusalem, that his name might be there called upon, and that the Temple might be his perpetual habitation. As then he saw that his nation were inebriated, as it were, with this foolish notion, he intended briefly to shew to them that God would Ilave an unknown way by which he would retain his faithfulness, and yet punish the ungodly and the transgressors; for by saying, “We expected peace, and there is no good,” he certainly does not commend the fidelity of the people; for relying on God’s promises, they sought comfort in evils, and hoped that God would at length be exorable and propitious. The word expecting is not to be taken in a good sense; but he on the contrary reproves the Jews, because they put too much faith in false prophets. We hence see that he condemns that false expectation by which they had been deceived. Hence also we learn what has been before stated, that the Jews foolishly promised to themselves impunity, because God had chosen his habitation among them; for he shews that God had not in vain threatened their ruin by his servants. This then is also the meaning when he says, We expected the time of healing, and behold terror It now follows —
Despising, hast thou despised Judah? Has thy soul abhorred Sion?
Had he despised Judah as a worthless thing, and had he abhorred Sion as a filthy thing? — Ed.
Why hast thou smitten us, and there is for us no healing? Why has there been hope for peace, and there is no good? And for the time of healing, and behold terror?
The word for “hope,” or longing, or looking for, is a participial noun, but rendered by the versions as though it were a verb in the first person plural. As “smitten” is in the past tense, so has been is to be understood before “hope.” — Ed.
The Prophet here prescribes no doubt to the Jews the way of appeasing God. He before uttered a prayer, partly in order to reprove the people for their wicked obstinacy, and partly to shew to the godly and the elect that there remained some hope. But now he uses a simple form of prayer, when he says, O Lord, we know, etc Hardly one in a thousand then did know; but the Prophet does not assume the character of the whole people; and why not? He doubtless knew that the faithful among the people were very few; but he dictates for posterity a right form of prayer, so that they might iu exile know that this one thing only remained for them — to confess their sins, as otherwise they could not obtain pardon.
He therefore says, We know our wickedness and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have done wickedly against thee We have already explained the Prophet’s meaning in these few words, — that when God puts forth his hand against us, there is no hope of salvation, except we repent. But confession is here put for repentance. Hypocrites are indeed very free in confessing their sins; but the Prophet speaks here of real confession; and by stating a part for the whole, everything included in repentance, as I have said, is intended. But the object here is to shew, that they were humbly to seek forgiveness, which could not be done, except they condemned themselves before God, and thus anticipated his judgment.
He speaks of the iniquity of the fathers, not that the faithful seek associates, here and there, for the sake of extenuating their guilt; but it was an aggravation of their sins, when they confessed that they were not only guilty themselves before God, but that they had brought from the womb what was, as it were, hereditary, so that they deserved death because they were the descendants of ungodly parents. Whilst hypocrites allege the examples of fathers, they think themselves thus absolved, or at least not so culpable, because they had learnt what they practice from their childhood, because a bad education had led them astray. But the faithful are of a far different mind; for they confess themselves worthy of God’s vengeance, though he inquired not into the wickedness of their fathers; and they think also that God acts justly, when he executes vengeance on account of their fathers’ sins, being thus worthy of a twofold vengeance.
We now then understand what the Prophet means; and hence we learn how foolishly the Papists set up this shield against God; that is, by having the word fathers often on their lips; for they ought on the contrary to confess the wickedness and iniquities of their fathers, according to what is more fully enlarged upon in the ninth chapter of Daniel (Daniel 9:0), where he confesses that he himself and the fathers and kings had done wickedly. And in these words we may also notice, that it was not some slight fault that Jeremiah refers to when he said, “We acknowledge our iniquity and the iniquity of our fathers;” he mentions first the iniquity of the living; then the iniquity of their fathers, and adds, in the third place, “We have acted wickedly against thee.” We hence see that he did not formally acknowledge some slight faults, but he confesses most plainly, that they were all ungodly and transgressors of God’s law, and were worthy, not merely of a moderate chastisement, but of dreadful perdition, as they had thus provoked the wrath of God. (123)
We acknowledge, Jehovah, our wickedness, — The iniquity of our fathers;
For we have sinned against thee.
Their wickedness, the same with the wickedness or iniquity of the fathers, was, that they sinned against God. — Ed.
Jeremiah goes on with the same prayer; and he made it from love, and also for the purpose of encouraging the faithful, who remained among the people, to seek forgiveness; for he undertakes here to represent the true Church, which was then very small. All indeed boasted that they were the children of God, and gloried in the covenant made with Abraham; but hardly one in a thousand called on God in truth and from the heart. The Prophet then represented the common feeling of a very small number; and yet he proceeded, as I have said, with his prayer.
Hence he says, Reject not, overthrow not, the throne of thy glory; or the meaning of the two verbs may be the same, which seems to me more probable. (124) But the Prophet joined together two verbs, not so much for the sake of ornament as rhetoricians do, as for the purpose of expressing the intenseness of his concern and anxiety; for he saw that the kingdom of Judah was in extreme danger. He then did not in an ordinary way try to turn aside God’s vengeance, but he hastened as one to extinguish a fire; for the obtaining of pardon was difficult.
He calls Jerusalem the throne of God’s glory, because God had chosen that city where he was to be worshipped, not that he was confined to the Temple, but because the memorial of his name was there, according to what had been usually said, especially by Moses. (Exodus 20:24) Nor was the ark a vain Symbol of his covenant, for God really dwelt there; for the presence of his power and grace was evidenced by the clearest proofs. But as this mode of speaking is often found in the Prophets, it was sufficient for Jeremiah briefly to notice the subject. God indeed, as it is well known, fins heaven and earth, but he gives symbols of his presence wherever he pleases; and as it was his will to be worshipped in the Temple, it is called iris throne, and it is elsewhere called his footstool; for the Scripture describes the same thing in various ways. The Temple is often called the rest of God, his dwelling, his sanctuary, the place of his habitation; it is also called his footstool,
“We will worship at his footstool.” (Psalms 132:7)
But these various forms are used for the same purpose, though they are apparently different; for where the Temple is called the habitation of God, his palace or his throne, the presence of his power is set forth, as though God dwelt as a friend among his worshippers; but when it is called his footstool, it is for the purpose of checking a superstition which might have crept in; for God raises the minds of the godly higher, lest they should think that his presence is confined to any place.
We then perceive what the Scripture intends and what it means, whenever it calls Jerusalem or the Temple the throne or the house of God.
But we nmst carefully notice what is here mentioned by the Prophet, For thy name’s sake We know that whenever the saints pray to be heard for the sake of God’s name, they cast aside every confidence in their own worthiness and righteousness. Whosoever then pleads God’s name, in order to obtain what he asks, renounces all other things, and fully confesses that he is unworthy to find God propitious to him; for this form of speaking necessarily implies a contrast. As then the Prophet flees to God’s name as his only refuge, there is included in the words a confession, such as we have before noticed, — that the Jews, inasmuch as they had acted wickedly towards God, were unworthy of any mercy; nor could they pacify him by any of their own satisfactions, nor have anytiling by which they could obtain his favor. This then is the meaning; and as this doctrine has been elsewhere more fully handled, it; seems to me sufficient briefly to shew the design of the Prophet.
He calls it the throne of glory, to intimate that God’s name would be unknown and unnoticed, or even despised and exposed to reproaches, if he did not spare the people whom he had chosen. The genitive case is used in Hebrew, we know, instead of an adjective; and to enlarge on the subject is useless, as this is one of its primary elements. The Prophet then in calling the Temple the glorious throne of God, in which his majesty shone forth, in a manner reminds God himself not to expose his name to reproaches; for instantly the ungoldly, according to their evil dispositions, would vomit forth their blasphemies; and thus God’s name would be reproached.
He afterwards adds, Remember, make not void, thy covenant with us Here also the Prophet strengthens his prayer by calling to mind the covenant: for it might have been said, that the Jews had nothing to do with the holy name of God, with his glory, or with his throne; and doubtless they were worthy of being wholly forsaken by God. As then they had divorced themselves from God, and were wholly destitute of all holiness, the Prophet here brings before God his covenant, as though he had said, “I have already prayed thee to regard thine own glory and to spare thine own throne, as thou hast favored the place with so much honor as to reign among us: now, though our impiety is so great that thou mayest justly cast us away yet thou didst not make a covenant with Mount Sion, or with the stones of the Temple, or with material things, but with us; render not void then this thy covenant.”
We hence see that there is great emphasis in the words of the Prophet, when he implores God not to make void, or not to undo, the covenant, which he had made with the people. For though God would have continued true and faithful, had he obliterated the name of the whole people, yet it was necessary that his goodness should contend with their wickedness, his fidelity with their perfidiousness, inasmuch as the covenant of God did not depend on the people’s faithfulness or integrity. It was, as it may be said, a mutual stipulation; for God made a covenant with Abraham on this condition — that he should walk perfectly with him: this is indeed true; and the same stipulation was in force in the time of the Prophets. Yet at the same time Jeremiah assumed this principle — that the grace of God cannot be wholly obliterated; for he had chosen the race of Abraham, from whom the Redeemer was at length to be born. But Jeremiah intended to extend God’s grace still farther, according to what has been already said, and we shall again presently see the same thing. However this may be, he had a just reason for praying, “Undo not thy covenant with us.” But God had hidden means of accomplishing his purpose; for he did, according to the common apprehension of men, abolish the covenant by which the Jews thought him to be bound to them; and yet he remained true; for his truth shone forth at length from darkness, after the time of exile was completed. It now follows —
Scorn not, for thy name’s sake, Abominate not, the throne of thy glory.
The same form is adopted in what follows; two verbs are used, which have the same objective case, —
Remember, break not, thy covenant with us.
Which means, Remember thy covenant, and break it not, or annul it not. Blayney renders the first two lines thus, —
Spurn us not for thy name’s sake.
Dishonor not the throne of thy glory.
But “us” is not in the original, nor do the versions give it, except the Vulgate; and dishonor has also been borrowed from that version, and is not the meaning of the verb. No doubt the two verbs refer to the throne. — Ed.
In order to conciliate the favor of God, Jeremiah says here, that with him is the only remedy in extremities; and it is the same as though by avowing despair he wished to turn God to mercy; as if he had said, “What will become of us, except thou shewest thyself propitious? for if thou remainest implacable, the Gentiles have their gods from whom they seek safety; but with us it is a fixed principle to hope for and to seek salvation from thee alone.” Now this argument must have been of great weight; not that God had need of being reminded, but he allows a familiar dealing with himself. For if we wish stoically to dispute, even our prayers are superfluous; for why do we pray God to help us? Does he not himself see what we want? Is he not ready enough to bring us help? But these are delirious things, wholly contrary to the true and genuine feeling of piety. As then we flee to God, whenever necessity urges us, so also we remind him, like a son who unburdens all his feelings in the bosom of his father. Thus in prayer the faithful reason and expostulate with God, and bring forward all those things by which he may be pacified towards them; in short, they deal with him after the manner of men, as though they would persuade him concerning that which yet has been decreed before the creation of the world: but as the eternal counsel of God is hid from us, we ought in this respect to act wisely and according to the measure of our faith.
However this may be, the Prophet, according to the common practice of the godly, seeks to conciliate the favor of God by this argument, — that unless God dealt mercifully with his people and in his paternal kindness forgave them, it was all over with them, as though he had said, “O Lord, thou alone art he, from whom we can hope for salvation; if now we are repudiated by thee, there remains for us no refuge: wilt thou send thy people to the idols and the inventions of the heathens? but we have looked for thee alone; thou then seest that there remains for us no hope of salvation but from thy mercy.”
But the Prophet here testifies in the name of the faithful, that when extremities oppress the miserable, they cannot obtain any help from the idols of the heathens. Can they give rain, he says? He states here a part for the whole; for he means that the idols of the heathens have no power whatever. Hence to give rain is to be taken for everything necessary to sustain mankind, either to bring help, or to supply the necessaries of life, or to bestow abundance of blessings. Paul also, in speaking of God’s power, refers to rain, (Acts 14:17) and Isaiah often uses this kind of speaking, (Isaiah 5:6)
He then says, Are there any among the vanities of the heathens? etc. He here condemns and reproaches all superstitions; for he does not call them the gods of the heathens, though this word is often used by the prophets, but the vanities of the heathens. Are there any, he says, who can cause it to rain? and can the heavens give rain? I may give a more free rendering, “Can they from heaven give rain?” for it seems not to me so suitable to apply this to the heavens. If, however, the common rendering is more approved, let every one have his own judgment; but if the heavens are spoken of, the argument is from the less to the greater; “Not even the heavens give rain; how then can vanities? how can the devices of men do this, which only proceed from their foolish brains? Can they give rain? For doubtless there is some implanted power in the heavens? but man, were he to devise for himself a thousand gods, cannot yet form one drop of rain, and cause it to come down from heaven. Since, then, the heavens do not of themselves give rain, but at the command of God, how can the idols of the heathens and their vain inventions send rain for us from heaven?” The object of the Prophet is now sufficiently evident, which was to shew, that, if God rejected the people, and resolved to punish their sins with the utmost rigor, and in an implacable manner, their salvation was hopeless; for it was not their purpose to flee to idols.
Art not thou, he says, Jehovah himself, or alone? Art not thou Jehovah himself, and our God? (125) He first mentions the name Jehovah, by which is meant the eternal majesty and power of God; and then he joins another sentence, — that he was their God, to remind him of his covenant. Then it is added, We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things
Here many, in my judgment, are mistaken, for they apply “these things” to the heavens and the earth, and to all the elements, as though the Prophet declared that God was the creator of the world, and that therefore all things are under his control. But I have no doubt but that he speaks of those punishments which God had already inflicted on the people, and had resolved soon to inflict; for he does not speak here of God’s power, whiich shines forth in the workmanship of the world; but he says, “We have looked to thee, for thou hast made all these things;” that is, from thee alone salvation will come to us: for thou who hast inflicted the wound canst alone heal, according to what is said in another place,
“God kills and brings to life, he leads to the grave and restores.”
(1 Samuel 2:6)
It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “We, O Lord, do now flee to thy mercy, for no one but thou alone can help us, as thou art he who has punished our sins. Since then thou hast been our Judge, thou also canst alone deliver us now from our calamities; and no one can resist thee, since the highest power is thine alone. Let all the gods of the heathens unite, yea, all the elements and all creatures, for the purpose of serving us, yet what will all that they can do avail us? As then thou hast made all these things, that is, as these things have not happened to us by chance, but are the effects of thy just vengeance — as thou hast been judge in inflicting these punishments, be now our Physician and Father; as thou hast heavily afflicted us, so now bring comfort and heal those evils which we justly suffer, and indeed through thy judgment.” We now understand the real meaning of the Prophet.
And hence may be learned a useful doctrine, — that there is no reason why punishments, which are signs of God’s wrath, should discourage us so as to prevent us from venturing to seek pardon from him; but, on the contrary, a form of prayer is here prescribed for us; for if we are convinced that we have been chastised by God’s hand, we are on this very account encouraged to hope for salvation; for it belongs to him who wounds to heal, and to him who kins to restore to life. Now follows —
22.Are there any among the vanities of the nations who bring rain? And do the heavens give showers? Art thou not he who givest them, Jehova, our God? So we will look to thee, For thou makest all these.
To introduce the word “can,” borrowed from the Vulgate, into the first questions, obscures the passage. “All these” refer, as it appears, to the rain and showers. The perfect tense in Hebrew often includes the past and the present, “For thou hast made and makest all these,” etc. So Gataker regards the meaning. The Syriac has “For thou makest,” etc. Calvin as far as I can find, stands alone in the sense he attaches to these words. If we take the verb strictly in the past tense, the meaning commonly given is, that God made the heavens, rain, and showers, and that, as he has made them, they are still under his control. But the other meaning is more suitable to the passage, — that God makes the rain and the showers. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 14". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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