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Calvin's Commentary on the Bible Calvin's Commentary
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ cal/ jeremiah-15.html. 1840-57.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 15". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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God again repeats what we have before observed, — that as the impieties and sins of the people had arrived at the highest pitch, there was no more room for pardon or for mercy: and though God seems to have rejected altogether the prayer of his servant, we are not yet to think that it was without any benefit. Jeremiah wished indeed to deliver the whole people from destruction; but he did not thus pray inconsiderately and uselessly; for he distinguished between the titular church, as they say, and the chosen seed, for he knew that many were become the degenerated children of Abraham: nor was he unacquainted with what is said in the Psalms,
“Who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, and who shall stand on the mount of thy holiness?
He who is innocent as to his hands, and is of a pure heart.” (Psalms 15:1)
The Prophet there distinctly shews that hypocrites glory in vain, because they had a free entrance into the Temple, and sacrificed together with the faithful; for a clean heart and pure hands are required. Jeremiah no doubt fully understood this.
Though then he extended his solicitude to the whole body of the people, he yet knew that there was a chosen seed. So at this day, when we pray, we ought, according to the rule of charity, to include all, for we cannot fix on those whom God has chosen or whom he has rejected; and thus we ought, as far as we can, to promote the salvation of all; and yet we know, as a general truth, that many are reprobate for whom our prayers will avail nothing; we know this, and yet we cannot point out any one as by the finger. So then the prayer of Jeremiah was not useless; but in its very form, as they say, it was not heard, for he wished the whole people to be saved; but as God had resolved to destroy the ungodly, such as were beyond the reach of hope on account of their untamable obstinacy, Jeremiah obtained only in part what he prayed for, — that God would preserve his Church, which then was in a manner hidden.
But it is now said, If stand before me did Moses and Samuel, (126) my soul would not be towards this people The meaning is, that though all intercessors came forth in their behalf, they could do nothing, for God had rejected them. Moses and Samuel are here mentioned, but in another place Job and Daniel are named, and for the same reason. (Ezekiel 14:14) Moses is mentioned here, because we find that he offered himself, and wished to be, an anathema for his people.
“Blot me out of the book of life, or spare this people.” (Exodus 32:32)
As then God’s wrath had been so often pacified by Moses, he is here mentioned; for when it was all over with the people, he delivered them as it were from eternal death, and this was well and commonly known to the Jews. As to Samuel, we know how celebrated he was, and that God had been often pacified by him for the preservation of the whole people; but at length, when he prayed for Saul, God did indeed restrain his immoderate zeal, and forbade him to pray any more, (1 Samuel 16:1) and yet he ceased not to pray. As then there was so great a fervor in Samuel, that he in a manner struggled with God, he is here joined with Moses: “If, then, stand before me did these two, my soul, or my heart, would be alienated from this people, for I shall be no more pacified towards them.”
But he speaks of the perverse multitude, which had so often wilfully sought their own destruction; for, as it has appeared elsewhere, the people had never been rejected; and yet we must distinguish between the chaff and the wheat. Judea was, as it were, the threshing — floor of God, on which there was a great heap of chaff, for the multitude had departed from true religion; and there were a few grains found hid in the rubbish. Hence the heart of God was not towards the people, that is, towards the degenerated children of Abraham, who were proud only of their name, while they were covenant — breakers; for they had long ago forsaken the true worship of God and all integrity. Therefore the heart of God was not towards them. At the same time he preserved, in a wonderful and in a hidden manner, a remnant.
Now this passage teaches us what James also mentions, that the prayer of the righteous avails much with God; and he brings forward the example of Elijah, who closed heaven by his prayer, so that it rained not for a long time; and who afterwards opened heaven by his prayer, so as to obtain rain from God. (James 5:16) He hence infers that the prayers of the righteous avail much, not only when they pray for themselves, but also when they pray for others; for Elijah had no particular regard for himself, but his object was to gain relief for the whole people. It is indeed certain that the intercession of the saints is highly appreciated by God; and hence it is that we are bidden winingly and freely to make known to one another our necessities, so that we may mutually help and pray for one another. But we must at the same time observe, that they who think themselves to be commended to God by others in their prayers, ought not on that account to become more secure; for it is certain, that as the prayers of the faithful avail the members of Christ, so they do no good to the ungodly and the hypocrites. Nor does God indeed bid us to acquiesce in the confidence, that others pray for us, but bids every one to pray, and also to join their prayers with those of all the members of the ChurJeremiah Whosoever then desires to profit by the prayers of the saints must also pray himself.
It is true, I allow, that the prayers of the saints sometimes benefit even the ungodly and aliens; for it was not in vain that Christ prayed,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34)
nor did Stephen pray in vain when he offered up a similar prayer,
(Acts 7:60) and I am disposed to agree with what Augustine says, that Paul, among others, was the effect of Stephen’s prayer. (Serm. 1, de Sanctis) But I am speaking now of what we must do when we find that we are helped by the prayers of the saints, that is, that we are strenuously to perform our part, and strive to shew for our brethren the same solicitude and care as we expect from them. It is then certain beyond a doubt, that each is not only heard when he prays for himself, but that the prayers of the saints avail in behalf of others.
But extremely ridiculous are the Papists, who apply this passage to dead saints: Moses and Samuel, they say, were dead, when God declared what is here said; it is then true that they prayed. The inference is worthy of such teachers, which is as good as the braying of an ass. There is here a supposition made, as though God did say, “If Moses and Samuel were now alive and interceded for them, I would yet remain implacable.” But Ezekiel mentions Daniel, who was then living, and he names also Job. We hence see that he makes no distinction between the dead and the living. Therefore the Papists are extremely foolish and stupid when they thus idly prate that the dead pray for the living, on the ground of what is here said of Moses and Samuel. It is not then worthwhile to refute this ignorant assertion, as it vanishes almost of itself: a brief warning, lest ally one should be deluded by such a cavil, is sufficient. (127)
He afterwards bids the Prophet to east away the people; cast them away, or banish them, he says, from my presence He doubtless speaks here in a strong manner, “Let them be gone from me.” But yet God shews what he had commanded his Prophet; as though he had said, “Fulfil thou thine office, remember what burden I have laid on thee.” Jeremiah had been ordered to denounce exile on the people? he was the herald of divine vengeance. As then he sustained this office, it was his duty to execute the commission which God had given him. We now then apprehend what these words mean, cast them away (128)
But we must again notice here what we have before seen, — that God commends the efficacy of prophetic doctrine, according to what has been said,
“I set thee over nations and kingdoms, to plant and to root up, to build and to destroy,” (Jeremiah 1:10)
Then God intimates, that so great a power would be in the mouth of his servant, that though the Jews mocked at his predictions, as if they were vain threatenings to frighten children, they would yet be like thunderbolts; so that Jeremiah would drive away the people, as though he was furnished with a large army and great forces, according to what Paul declares, — that he had power given him to cast down every height that exalted itself against Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) As then God claims so great an authority for his prophetic doctrine, when threatening the unbelieving with punishment, let us know that the same extends to all the promises of salvation. Therefore, whenever God offers grace to us by the gospel, and testifies that he will be propitious to us, let us know that heaven is in a manner open to us; and let us not seek any other ground of assurance than his own testimony: and why? because as to the prophets was given the power of binding and loosing, so now the same power is given to the Church, that is, to invite all to be saved who are as yet healable, and to denounce eternal ruin on the reprobate and the obstinate in their wickedness, according to what is said by Christ,
“Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
For he gave his Apostles the power not only of binding, but also of loosing. And Paul, after having spoken in high terms of the former power, adds,
“When your obedience shall be accomplished,”
(2 Corinthians 10:6)
as though he had said, that the gospel was not preached only for this end, to pronounce death on the reprobate, but that it was also a pledge of salvation to all the elect, to them who embraced by true faith the promises offered to them.
(126) Noticed here may be an identity of idiom in Hebrew and Welsh: The verb “stand” is in the singular number, though followed by two nominative cases. So it is in Welsh: and were the nominative cases before it, the verb would be in the plural number.
This is the Hebrew, word for word. Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate retain the singular number of the verb; but they are not grammatically correct. — Ed.
(127) Venema, referring to this notion of the Papists, says, “The words are not that they stood, but that if they stood; he speaks not of them as dead, but as living, intimating, that if they were alive and interceded for the people, they would not succeed in delivering them.” We shall add an observation of Scott —
“This passage fully proves that departed saints do not intercede for us; for it evidently implies that Moses and Samuel did not then stand before the Lord in behalf of Israel or of any in Israel.”
(128) The verb means more properly to send; he was to send them from God’s presence by his doctrine, intimating that God disowned and rejected them: and they were to go forth or to go out, that is, from his presence. The allusion is to the sending away a divorced woman, —
Send them from my presence, and let them go forth:
2.And it shall be, when they say to thee, “Where shall we go forth?” that thou shalt say to them — Thus saith Jehova, — “Those for death, to death; And those for the sword, to the sword; And those for the famine, to the famine; And those for captivity, to captivity.”
It is observed by Venema and Blaney, that “death” was that by pestilence. See Jeremiah 14:12, Jeremiah 18:21. Some were destined for death by pestilence, to this they were to go forth: and so as to the other evils.
The Rabbis say that there are gradations in the evils mentioned here: death by pestilence is the less grievous than the sword; the sword than the famine; the famine than captivity; the last being more grievous than all the other evils. See 2 Samuel 24:13; Lamentations 4:9; and Leviticus 26:39. The “sword” being the principal weapon, is put here for any violent death inflicted by enemies. — Ed.
He now confirms the previous sentence, If they shall say, Whither shall we go forth? then shalt thou say to them, Those for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for the famine, to the famine; those for exile, to exile; as though he had said, “In vain do they complain of their own miseries.” For God, no doubt, had in view the clamorous complaints which prevailed everywhere among the people on account of their very heavy calamities. Thus indeed were hypocrites wont to do; for whenever God spared them, they haughtily insulted the prophets, and boastingly alleged their subsidies and fortresses; but when God’s hand pressed hard on them, they became very eloquent in their complaints: “Alas! how far will God go at length? is there to be never an end? and what does all this mean? why does he so severely afflict us? and why does he not at least relieve us in some measure from our ntiseries?” As then the hypocrites were so querulous in their calamities, God anticipates all these expostulations, and says, “If they say to thee, ‘Where shall we flee?’ say to them, ‘Either to death, or to famine, or to the sword, or to exile;’ it is all one with God, and it matters not; for there is no hope of mercy for you any longer, since God has rejected you: know then that it is all over with you, for there is no deliverance for you from God: either the sword, or famine, or some other kind of death will overtake you; ye are in every way past hope.”
Jeremiah proceeds with the same subject. He said yesterday that the people were no longer cared for by God, and so that nothing remained for them but in various ways to perish, and that the last punishment would be exile. He now confirms the same thing, and says, that God would prepare against them ravenous birds as well as wild beasts, the sword and dogs (129) as though he had said, that all animals would be hostile to them, and be the executioners of God’s vengeance.
Some render the verb
,pekod, to visit, but improperly, as I think; for they must give this version, “I will visit four families upon them;” but there is no sense in this, nor can any sense be elicited from it. The meaning most suitable here is to set over, (130) “I will set over them four kinds;” which he calls “four families.” And there is to be understood here a contrast: as they thought it hard to obey God, they were now to have over them dogs and wild beasts, and the birds of the air, and the sword. The meaning is, that there would be no end to God’s vengeance, and to various punishments, until the Jews were wholly destroyed. He further intimates, that he would have in readiness many to execute his wrath, as he had all creatures under his control. As then he would employ in his service dogs, and birds, and animals, as well as men, it behoved the Jews to feel assured that they in vain had recourse to this or that refuge. We indeed know that men impiously confine the power of God, both with regard to their salvation and the punishment of their sins, for when he passes by any evil they think that they have escaped, and promise themselves impunity, as though God indeed were not able every moment to inflict many and various scourges. This then is the reason why the Prophet speaks here of four kinds of judgments. It follows — פקד
(129) Our version ascribes tearing to dogs, but the verb means to draw or drag about, as rendered by Calvin. It is more descriptive of what is done by dogs, and conveys a more horrid idea, and intended doubtless to terrify the Jews. Blayney renders it “to drag about,” and no doubt correctly. Our version is the Vulgate: the Syriac is to draw or drag about. — Ed.
(130) So Gataker, “I will set over them, etc., as in Leviticus 26:16; a borrowed speech from officers set over people.” The Syriac expresses the idea, “I will punish them with four scourges.” Blayney’s version is —
And I will commission against them four species.
But the best rendering is that of Calvin, which is also adopted by Venema. I give the following version —
And I set over them four kinds, saith Jehovah, — The sword to kill, and dogs to drag about, And the bird of heaven and the beast of the earth To devour, and to pull to pieces.
The “devouring” refers to “the beast of the earth,” and the “pulling to pieces” to the bird of heaven, according to the usual style of the Prophets, the order being reversed. — Ed.
Jeremiah speaks now of exile. He had hitherto spoken of the sword and famine, and mentioned also other punishments, that their carcases would be dragged about by dogs, and also devoured by wild beasts and ravenous birds; but he now refers to one kind of punishment only — that God would drive them into exile. And he seems to have taken these words from Moses, for so he speaks in Deuteronomy 28:0, except that
, vau, is placed before ו , ain, in the word “commotion,” but such a change is common. In other respects there is a perfect agreement. ע
I will set them, he says, for a commotion to all the kingdoms of the earth; that is, I will cause them to wander in constant fear and trembling. He amplifies the grievousness of exile by the circumstance that they should have no safe rest. They who leave their country for exile do at least find some corner where they take breath; but God declares that the Jews would be everywhere unsettled and wanderers, so that no place would receive them. And hence God’s vengeance became more fully manifest, for these miserable men never found an asylum when scattered through various countries. Though they had habitations in those parts allotted to them by the king of Babylon, they were yet everywhere without any rest. It was not therefore in vain that Moses threatened them with such a punishment, nor was it to no purpose that Jeremiah repeated what had been said by Moses. (131)
He adds the cause, On account of Manasseh But Manasseh was now dead, why then did God transfer the vengeance which he merited to posterity? And this seems inconsistent with another passage found in Ezekiel,
“The soul that sinneth it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:8)
But doubtless God justly punished the wickedness of the people even after the death of that ungodly king, for they ceased not to accumulate evils on evils; as however their impiety appeared especially at that time, he particularly noticed it, that the Jews might understand that they had been long worthy of destruction, and that punishment was not delayed except through the great mercy of God, who had not immediately treated them as they deserved. The Prophet therefore commends the long forbearance of God because their ruin was suspended until that time. And, on the other hand, he shews that they were not so severely treated but that they were worthy of greater and more atrocious punishment; for such had been their obstinacy that they did all they could to draw upon themselves destruction many times.
But another question arises: Manasseh pretended repentance, and God seemed to have forgiven him and the whole people, (2 Kings 21:0:2 Chronicles 33:12) why does he now declare that he would take vengeance on sins which had been already buried? But the answer is evident, for the Jews from that time had been in no way better. As then they had continued to pursue the same sinful courses with Manasseh, it was right that they should at length be rewarded as they deserved; for, had they become really changed, there would have been a change in God’s dealings with them, but inasmuch as their impiety had ever remained the same, and as they gave themselves up to the same vices, a heavier judgment was nigh them, and justly so, because they had abused God’s forbearance, who had spared the king as well as themselves on the condition of receiving the pardon offered to them. But since they had hardened themselves, it was riglit to take such account of their ingratitude and perverseness as to treat them with greater severity.
Farther, Manasseh is called the son of Hezekiah, and that for the purpose of enhancing his crime. For as religion had been reformed in the time of Hezekiah, and as that pious king, with great labor and toil, exerted all his powers to restore the true worship of God, it was the duty of Manasseh to follow his example. But he not only built altars to idols, and polluted the whole land with superstitions, but also defiled the very Temple of God. It was thus a horrible, and wholly a diabolical madness in the son, when the right way of worshipping God had been delivered unto him, to be of such a reprobate mind as immediately to overthrow what his father with great labor has so faithfully established. This then was the reason why Jeremiah mentioned to his dishonor the name of his father. And hence we learn that they are worthy of a heavier punishment, who have been religiously brought up from their childhood, and become afterwards degenerated, who, having had pious and godly parents, afterwards abandon themselves to every wickedness. Hence a heavier judgment awaits those who depart from the examples of godly fathers. And this we gather from the very words of the Prophet, who here, by way of reproach, calls Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, which yet would have been to his honor, had he been like his father and followed his piety.
And at the same time there is no doubt but that the Prophet indirectly condemns the whole people; for we know how great opposition pious Hezekiah met with, and how he contended for the faithful worship of God, as though he had been among the Assyrians or the Egyptians. But the perverseness of the people appeared then extreme, when he was put in jeopardy as to the kingdom, because he endeavored to cleanse the land of Judah from its filth and pollutions; their impiety and ingratitude then shewed, and openly discovered themselves. Afterwards Manasseh overturned as it were in an instant the worship of God, and they all, with great exultation, went immediately after superstition. We hence see that the mouths of the Jews were thus closed, so that they could not object and say, that they obeyed the command of their king; for they winingly followed wicked superstitions. They assented to the king of their own accord, while yet they hardly, and with great unwiningness, were led to obey when God’s worship was restored in the time of Hezekiah.
But Manasseh added cruelties to superstitions; for we know that he not only covered the streets of the city with blood, but made it also to flow in streams, as sacred history relates. As, then, the Prophets were so cruelly treated in the time of Manasseh, and as he was not the sole author of this barbarity, but the true servants of God were persecuted to death by the consent of the people, it was hence evident that it was the crime of the whole community. And hence he mentions Jerusalem, in order that the Jews might know that the holy city, in which they gloried, had been for a long time the den of robbers, and that the Temple of God had been polluted by wicked superstitions, and even the whole city by unlawful and barbarous slaughters. It now follows —
(131) Blayney rightly observes that the word rendered “to be removed,” in our version, has no such meaning. The verb means to move, to agitate, to disquiet, but not to move from one place to another. The noun as found here is rendered “vexation” in Isaiah 28:19, and “trouble” in 2 Chronicles 29:8. The idea of removing is not given in any of the versions, nor in the Targum. It is used in two other places by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18). In both places “vexation, trouble, or disquietude,” would be the best rendering. This sentence may be thus translated —
And I will render them a vexation to all the kingdoms of the earth.
Literally it is, “I will give them for a vexation,” etc. And so they became, they were a trouble and a disquietudewherever they were; and hence they became, as it is said in Jeremiah 29:18, a curse, a hissing, and a reproach among all nations.
Venema gives this rendering —
And I will give them for a shaking to all the kingdoms of the earth.
Which he understands to mean, that they would be given to be shaken, agitated, and disquieted in all the kingdoms of the earth.
Blayney’s version is —
And I will give them up to vexation in all kingdoms of the earth.
But this is what the original will hardly bear; the preposition before “kingdoms” is not in, but to. — Ed.
The Prophet shews here that the severe punishment of which he had spoken could not be deemed unjust, according to what those men thought who were querulous, and ever expostulated with God, and charged him with too much rigour. Lest, then, the Jews should complain, the Prophet says briefly, that all the evils which were nigh at hand were fully due, and so deserved, that they could find no pity, even among men. We know that the worst of men, when the Lord punishes them, have some to condole with them. There is no one so wicked that relatives do not favor him, and that some do not console him. But the Prophet shews that the Jews were not only inexcusable before God, but that they were undeserving of any sympathy from men.
He first says, Who will pity thee? and then, Who will console with thee? The verb.
, nud, means properly to give comfort by words, as when relatives, and friends, and neighbors meet together for the purpose of mourning; they hear lamentations, and join in them. But he says that no one would perform this office towards Jerusalem. He adds, in the third place, And who will turn aside? or, strictly, change place — Who will change place to enquire? or, as some render it, to pray. The verb נוד shal, means properly to ask, and hence sometimes to pray. So, many give this meaning, that there would be no one to pray for the Jews. But if we consider the construction of the sentence, we shall see that the Prophet speaks of that duty of kindness which men cultivate and observe towards one another, by enquiring of their welfare, — “Are all things well with thee?” How dost thou do? Are all things well with thee and thine?” When we thus enquire of the state of any one we shew some concern for him, for love is always solicitous for the welfare of others. The Prophet then says, “Who will turn aside to thee to enquire of thy welfare?” that is, that he may know how thou art, and what is thy state and condition. שאל
We hence see that the Jews are here divested of every complaint, for the whole world would acknowledge them to be unworthy of any commiseration. But the Prophet does not mean that all would act cruelly towards Jerusalem, but rather shews, that such were their crimes that there was no room for courtesy, or for those acts of kindness which men of themselves perform towards one another. (132)
(132) There is a general agreement as to the two first clauses of this verse, but not as to the last. The Syriac and the Targum give the meaning advocated by Calvin, with whom Gataker, Grotius, and Blayney agree. But the Septuagint and the Vulgate seem to take the other view, that to “pray for peace” is what is meant; and this has been adopted by Montanus, Castalio, and Venema. But the former is no doubt substantially the right view, though the phrase used, “to salute,” or “to enquire of one’s welfare,” or “how thou doest,” is too general. In 1 Samuel 25:5 (see also 1 Samuel 10:4) we have the same form of words too loosely rendered, “greet him in my name,” in our version. The following verse shews that the rendering ought to be, “wish (or bid) him peace in my name.” Literally it is, “Ask for him in my name for peace.” So here the literal rendering is, —
Or who will turn aside to ask for peace for thee?
or, in our language, “to bid thee peace.”
The word “turn aside” seems clearly to favor this meaning. In the other case its import does not appear. The intimation is, that no one would deem it worth his while to turn out of his way to express a good wish in behalf of Jerusalem. — Ed.
Then follows the reason — For thou hast forsaken me, saith Jehovah Since, then, God had been rejected by the Jews, did not such a defection bring its deserved reward, when they were deprived of every human aid? He afterwards adds, Backward hast thou gone He intimates that there was a continuance in their wicked defection; for they not only forgot God for a time, but departed far from him, so as to become wholly alienated.
It then follows — And I will stretch out, etc.; that is, “therefore will I stretch out,” etc.; for the copulative is to be taken here as an inative. This may be viewed as in the past or the future tense; for God had in a measure already afflicted the people; but heavier judgments awaited them. I am inclined to regard it as a prediction of what was to come, as it immediately follows, I am weary with repenting, that is, “I have so often repented that I cannot possibly be induced now to forgive; for I see that I have been so often deceived, that I camlot hear to be deceived any longer.” Some, indeed, give this version, — “I am weary with consoling myself,” and
, nuchem, means both; but the other sense seems to me the most suitable. I doubt not then but that the Prophet means repentance. We indeed know that God changes not his purpose; for men repent because their expectation often disappoints them, when things happen otherwise than they had thought; but no such thing can happen to God; and he is said to repent according to our apprehensions. God then repents of his severity whenever he mitigates it towards his people, whenever he withdraws his hand from executing his vengeance, whenever he forgives sins. And this had been often done to the Jews; but they had made a mock of such mercy, and the oftener God spared them the more audaciously did they provoke his wrath. Hence he says, “I am weary with repenting so often;” that is, that he had so often spared them and suspended his judgment. (133) נחם
In short, he deprives the Jews of every excuse, and shews that they acted impiously when they murmured against God, for they allowed no place to his mercy; nay, whenever they found him recentliable they abused his forbearance with extreme indignity and perverseness. It follows —
(133) The verse may be thus rendered, —
6.Thou hast broken loose from me, saith Jehovah; Backward dost thou walk; But I will stretch my hand over thee and destroy thee; I have become wearied with repenting.
The verb here used, commonly rendered “forsake,” means to loose oneself from restraints: the Jews were bound, as it were, to God by covenant; they broke loose from this bond, they freed themselves from this tie, and went back to idolatry. “Walk,” though future, is to be taken here as present. The last line in the Septaugint is as follows — “I will no longer release them;” and in the Syriac, “I will no longer spare them.” The verb
seems to have been taken as coming from הנחם with an נח affixed, and put here in Hiphil — “I m wearied with causing them to rest,” or, “with forbearing,” as rendered by Blayney. But our version, which is that of Calvin, seems preferable, and is adopted by Piscator, Grotius, and Venema. The last indeed proposes the joining of this line with the next verse, which Blayney has adopted, and in that case he prefers the reading of the Septuagint and Syriac. Then the passage would be, — ם
I am wearied with forbearing them, or, with suffering them to rest;
7.And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land.
He truly says that there is a kind of contrast between the suffering of them to rest quietly, and the fanning of them in the gates of land for the purpose of dispersing them. — Ed.
He confirms here the same truth. The verb which I have rendered in the future may be rendered in the past tense, but I still think it to be a prediction of what was to come. But as to what follows, I have bereaved, I have destroyed, it must, I have no doubt, be referred to time past.
He then says, I will fan or scatter them, for the verb.
zare, means to scatter, but as with a fan follows, (the word is derived from the same root) I wish to retain the repetition. Then it is, I will fan them with a fan through all the gates of the earth Many give the meaning, “through the cities,” which I do not approve, as it seems a frigid explanation. On the contrary the Prophet means by “the gates of the earth,” all countries, for the Jews thought that they should be always safe and quiet in their own cities. By taking a part for the whole, gates do indeed, as it appears elsewhere, signify cities; but as the Jews trusted in their own defences, and thought that they could never be drawn out from these quiet nests, the word gates is in a striking manner transferred to signify any kind of exit; I will fan you, says God, but where? through all gates of the earth, or through all countries and through all deserts; wherever there is a region openfor you there you must pass through. Ye are wont to pass in and out through your gates, and ye have there your quiet homes, but there shall be hereafter to you other cities, other gates, even all countries and all deserts, all ways, and, in short, every sort of passage. (134) זרה
Then follows, I have bereaved, I have destroyed my people; they have not returned from their own ways Here no doubt he condemns the Jews for their sottishhess, because they had not repented after having been warned by grievous judgments, which God had executed partly on them and partly on their brethren. For the kingdom of Israel had been cut off: when they saw the ten tribes driven into exile ought they not to have been terrified by such an example? Hence also another Prophet says,
“There is no one who mourns for the bruising of Joseph.” (Amos 6:6)
God had set before their eyes a sad and dreadful spectacle; they ought then to have acknowledged in the destruction of Israel what they themselves deserved, and to have turned to God. It is then this extreme hardness that God upbraids them with, for though he had bereaved his people, the ten tribes, and destroyed them, and though also the kingdom of Judah had been in a great measure depressed, yet they returned not from their own ways. It hence appeared more fully evident that they deserved the severest judgments, as they were become wholly irreclaimable. He then adds —
(134) Though Calvin has many on his side in his view as to “the gates,” yet the most suitable meaning is that presented in our version. God is represented as a fanner, standing in “the gates of the land,” that is, in the gates of the cities of the land, and thence fanning or scattering the inhabitants to all parts of the world. — Ed.
He says first, Multiplied have been his widows; because the men had been almost all kined, in battle. If the Prophet is the speaker, the particle
li, is redundant, but if the words be referred to God, we know that the people were in such a way under the government of God that he calls the widows his, as he calls the children his who were born Israelites. But in this there is no great importance, only that if we consider God to be speaker the sense will be this, “Behold, it is by no means unknown to me how numerous his widows are: as then I am merciful I have not heedlessly and without reason suffered such slaughters among the people.” The Prophet intended to shew that so great was the obstinacy of the Jews that they struggled against all the judgments of God; and it is a proof of dreadful impiety when men rush on heedlessly and pay no attention to any punishments. And this is what the Prophet means when he says that the widows were multiplied. And he adds, More than the sand of the sea This was surely a strange thing; so many slaughters were presented to their view that their great perverseness might become more evident, and yet he says that they were not moved. לי
What follows must be applied to God, I have made to come to them, on the troop of youths, a waster (135) This is an explanation of the former clause, as though he had said, “The reason why there are so many widows is, because God has destroyed all the men.” As the Jews might have ascribed this to their enemies, God declares that he was the author of all the slaughters which they had suffered. He then shews that these slaughters were not fortuitous as men suppose who think that fortune prevails mostly in war, for they do not ascribe so much to the wisdom and valor of men as to fortune, being ignorant of the Providence of God. Here then God shews that the whole of the flower of the people had been indeed cut off by the swords of enemies, but that the Chaldeans or the Assyrians had not come of their own accord, or by an impulse of their own, but by a hidden impulse, and that of God, who had resolved to punish that irreclaimable people. This then is the reason why God not only speaks of a waster, but also intimates that the enemies were impelled by his influence, and carried on the war as it were under his banner, authority, and guidance.
He says, at mid-day, even when the Jews might have exercised greater watchfulness. But he shews that he was against them, for they were not taken by the craft of their enemies, as had often been the case, nor were they surprised by secret designs, but their enemies attacked them openly and boldly, even at the time when many of their cities were fortified, and the people thought that they had sufficient defences. As the enemies then dared to assail them in the middle of the day, (for such is the meaning of the Hebrew word) and during the clearest light, it was certainly a fuller proof of God’s vengeance; for under such a circumstance the contrivance and counsel of men were not so evident, but the hand of God, which he stretched forth from heaven as it were in an open and visible manner.
He afterwards adds, And I have cast, or caused to fall, upon them suddenly; some say, the city; others, the enemy; and
oir, means a city, and sometimes an enemy; but another explanation seems more probable, that God had sent on them a tumult and terrors, for the word עיר , oir, conms from the verb עיר , our, which signifies to excite. It may therefore be taken for tumult, and this sense I prefer, for they who render the word city, are constrained to adopt a forced and far-fetched explanation, “To fall have I made suddenly the city,” that is, cities, “upon them.” There is first a change of number, and then, to fall have I made cities, that is, the ruins of cities, upon them, seems an unnatural phrase; but the sense would be most suitable were we to render the word tumult, for what immediately follows is, and terrors Some however render the word עור , belut, adverbially suddenly, and consider that the same thing is said twice. He had said just before, “I have cast upon her suddenly;” but now he says, “hastenings.” Such is the version, but not suitable, for the two words בהלות oir, and עיר , belut, are joined together. I therefore give this simple explanation — that the Jews were suddenly smitten with despair because they thought that their enemies were afar off, and that they had to apprehend no danger. Then it is, suddenly have I sent upon them a tumult and terrors (136) He then adds — בהלות
(135) This rendering is the Targum; “the mother (and) the youths,” is the Septuagint; “the mother of a youth,” the Vulgate; “both mother and youths,” the Syriac; “the mother and the youths,” the Arabic, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, and Gataker take the “mother” for the chief city, the metropolis, and consider the “youth,” or “the chosen one,” to be the “waster,” signifying Nebuchadnezzar, — “And I will bring to them, against the mother-city, a chosen one, a waster at mid-day.” So Blayney substantially, only he renders the verb in the past tense. — Ed.
(136) Trembling and haste, (
,)” is the version of the Septuagint; “tumult and trembling,” of the Syriac; “terror and trembling,” of the Arabic; the Vulgate retains only the word “terror.” Various have been the explanations of the word σπουδην , which Calvin renders “tumult,” consistently with the general tenor of the ancient versions. Gataker renders it “watcher;” Blayney, “enemy;” and others “city;” but the most suitable to the passage is “tumult,” or commotion. — Ed עיר
He proceeds with his narrative; he says, that fruitful women had been weakened, not as we see to be often the case, for by frequent child — bearing we know the strength of women is diminished; but here he speaks of the strength which mothers derive from their children; for a numerous offspring is the support of mothers. She then who has many children seems strong, as she is by so many shields defended. As then mothers were wont to place much dependence on their offspring, he says that they were weakened as to their strength when they were bereaved of all their children, as though they had been barren.
He afterwards adds, that the soul, the people, had expired; for he speaks not here of women, but of the whole people. For it afterwards follows, Set hath her sun while it was yet day; that is, when prosperity seemed certain, God suddenly involved them in adversity, and as it were surrounded them with darkness, when they thought that prosperous fortune was slhining on them. He at last says, that they were confounded and ashamed; and at the same time he declares, that he would give all who remained to the sword before their enemies; as though he had said, “They have not yet suffered all the punishment allotted to them, for they are not subdued, though I have heavily and severely chastised them; as then they are incurable, the sword shall destroy the remainder; for my vengeance shall not cease to pursue them, until I shall utterly consume them. (137)
(137) The whole passage, including the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses (Jeremiah 15:7) presents difficulties as to the time intended. The verbs, from the middle of the 7th to the last clause in verse the 9th, are all in the past tense, and are so given in the Septuagint, Vulgate, and the Targum; but in the Syriac in the future tense. Our version is not uniform. It is better to give the tenses as they are, for the reference seems to be to God’s past judgments; and at the end of the 9th verse, God speaks of what he would do, —
7.And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land. I have bereaved, I have destroyed my people; From their ways have they not turned:
8.Increased to me have their (people) widows More than the sand of the sea; I brought on them, on the mother of they youth, A disaster at mid-day; I caused to come upon her suddenly Tumult and terrors:
9.Languish did she who gave birth to seven, Pant for breath did her soul, Set did her sun during the day time, Ashamed has she been and confounded: And the remainder of them to the sword will I give, In the presence of their enemies, saith Jehova.
As he speaks of bereavement, of widows, and of giving birth to seven, it seems evident, that “the mother of the youths,” or of young men. Whether mother is to be taken here metaphorically for Jerusalem, is another question; but I think otherwise. The loss of mothers as to their children is what is spoken of. And from having mentioned the case of mothers in their bereavement, the Prophet in the next verse refers to his own mother, and to his own unhappy condition, — Ed.
The Prophet, when he saw that his labor availed nothing, or was not so fruitful as he wished, no doubt felt somewhat like a man, and shewed his own weakness. It must however be observed, that he was so restrained by the secret power of the Holy Spirit, that he did not break forth intemperately, as is the case with many; but, he kept the right end so in view, that his sorrows had ever a regard to his object, even to render his labor useful to the people. A clear example of which is seen in these words.
But he addresses his mother, as though he counted his own life a curse; what does this mean? “Why,” he says, “hast thou begotten me, my mother? Woe to me, that I have been born a man of strife and of contention!” We learn from these words, that the Prophet was not so composed and calm in his mind, but that he felt angry when he saw that he effected less than he wished; and yet it is evident from the context, that all this was expressed for the benefit of the public, even that the Jews might know, that their hardness of heart in despising God’s devoted servant, yea, in maliciously opposing him, would not turn out to their benefit. This is the purport of the whole.
He calls himself a man of strife, not only because he was constrained to contend with the people, for this he had in common with all prophets. God does not send them to flatter or to please the world; they must therefore contend with the world, for no one is brought to a right state, so as to undertake the yoke of God winingly and submissively, until he is proved guilty. Hence men will never obey God, they will never submit to his word, until they know that they are in a manner condemned; and for this reason have I said, that this evil is common to all prophets, — that they have to contend with the world. But Jeremiah calls himself a man of strife and contention, because he was slanderously spoken of throughout Judea, as one who through his moroseness drove the whole people to contentions and strifes. This then is to be referred to the false judgments formed by the people; for there was hardly any one who did not say that he was a turbulent man, and that if he was removed, there would have been tranquinity in the city and throughout the whole land. The same objection is at this day made by the enemies of the truth and godliness; they say, that we needlessly create disturbances, and that if we were quiet, there would be the most delightful peace throughout the whole world, and that dissensions and strifes arise only from us, that we are the fans by which the whole world is kindled into contentions. It was then for this reason that Jeremiah complained that he was born a man of strife and contention; not that he was contentious — not that that he gave any occasion to the people to speak so slanderously of him; for the subject here is not respecting the character of the Prophet, as he knew that his courage was approved by God; but as he saw that he was urged and charged with these false accusations, he calls himself a man of strife and a man of contention; the last word is from
, den, which means to contend. דן
But as to the exclamation respecting his mother, I have already reminded you that it was an evidence of an intemperate feeling; for had he spoken in a composed state of mind, what had he to do with his mother, so as to make her an associate in the evil he complains of? He indeed seems to ascribe a part of the blame to his mother, because she had given him birth. Now this appears unreasonable. But it may at the same time be easily gathered, that the Prophet was not led away by so great a vehemence, except for the sake of promoting the public good, and that it was for this end that he uttered his complaint; for it was not his purpose to condemn his mother, though at the first view it appears so; but though she was innocent, he still shews that he was unjustly loaded with such calumnies, as that he was a man of strife and contention; as though he had said, “Enquire of my mother, who hath begotten me, whether I was contentious from the womb? has my mother been the cause why ye say that I am a turbulent man and the author of strifes? Doubtless nothing can be imputed to my mother; and I am as innocent as she is.” We now then see that the Prophet indirectly condemns the wickedness of the people, because they calumniated him, as though he moved tumults and strifes through the whole land; and this he more fully confirms by the words which follow: —
I have not given on usury, nor have they borrowed of me on usury; (138) yet every one curses me He shews here that it was not for a private reason that he was hated by the whole people and loaded with calumnies: for whence come hatreds, and strifes, and complaints, and quarrels, and contentions among men, except through unfair dealing in their intercourse with one another? When, therefore, every one is bent on his own private advantage, he in bears anything to be taken from him. It is indeed a rare thing in the world, that they who carry on business with one another are really friends, and that they wholly approve of each other’s conduct; for, as I have already said, covetousness so prevails, that justice and equity disappear among most men. Hence the Prophet says, that he had not lent on usury Under one kind he includes all transactions of life, as though he had said, Je n’ay point traffique, I have had no contention about money affairs, for I have neither lent nor borrowed money, so that I have had no contention with the people on a private concern, nor have they quarrelled with me as though I had injured them or defrauded them, as though they had suffered any loss on my account: yet they all curse me.” (139)
We see that the Prophet here testifies that he had not incurred the displeasure of the people through his own fault, or on account of any private concern, but because he had faithfully discharged his duty to God and to his ChurJeremiah He then brings against the people a most awful accusation, that they carried on war, not with a mortal man, but rather with God himself. We now understand what the Prophet had in view.
But all faithful teachers are here reminded, that if they perform their office strenuously and wisely, they will surely be loaded with many calumnies, and be called tumultuous, or morose, or disturbers of the peace. They ought then to be fortified against such stumbling — blocks, so that they may persevere in the course of their calling. They ought at the same time to take heed lest they create enemies through any private concerns. For when the pastors of the Church abstain from every public business, yet when they contend, as they ought with the world, all immediately cry out that they are contentious and turbulent; but if the other be added, if they quarrel with this or that man about worldly things, then it cannot be but that the word of God will be evil spoken of through their fault. Hence great care ought to be taken that those who sustain the office of public teaching should not engage in worldly business, and be thus exposed to the necessity of contending about worldly things: they have enough to do, and more than enough, in the warfare in which the Lord has engaged them.
Now when the Prophet says that they all cursed him, it was a sad instance of impiety; for he speaks not of heathens but of the seed of Abraham. There was no Church then in the world but at Jerusalem, and yet the Prophet was regarded there as contentious and a man of strife. It ought not then to appear strange to us, that not only professed enemies of Christ load us with reproaches, but that they also curse us who deem themselves to be members of the ChurJeremiah It now follows —
(138) Not one of the versions, except the Vulgate, mentions “usury,” and Parkhurst says that the verb does not include the idea. Then the rendering ought to be,
I have not lent, nor have they lent to me.
There had been no money transactions between them, which are commonly the causes of disputes and contentions. — Ed.
(139) Literally it is —
The whole of it (the land) is reviling (or cursing) me.
As there is something anomalous in the form of the participle, Blayney proposes an emendation, and thinks the right reading to be
, “All of them curse me.” The versions and the Targum favor this reading, which is also adopted by the commonly too venturous Houbigant, and approved by Horsley, one equally venturous and bold. By dropping the כלהם קללונו , as in many copies, the anomoly is removed. — Ed ו
God at the beginning of this verse no doubt intimates that he would be propitious to his servant, and grant him what he asked. We then conclude that the Prophet’s prayer was heard; and hence also becomes manifest what I have stated, that the Prophet was not so led away by the force of grief, but that he chiefly regarded the benefit of the people. God then was so propitious to his request, that he said that it would be well with his remnant, that what remained would be blessed.
Interpreters differ as to the second clause: some apply what is said to the people, I will make the enemy to meet thee in the time of evil, and in the time of trouble: and so they take this view, that God at the beginning of the verse answers the Prophet, and intimates that his request was accepted, so that there would be a better and happier end than what then appeared; and they think that God then turns his discourse to the people, “With regard to you, I will make the enemy to meet you in the day of affliction.” But this explanation seems forced. I prefer to regard the whole verse as addressed to the Prophet. God promises first that his remnant would be prosperous; and by remnant he means the remaining time or the end of life, as though he had said, “I will at length have pity on thee, so that the things which cause thee the greatest grief shall turn into joy: thine end then shall be more prosperous than thou thinkest.” Then the words which follow confirm the previous sentence: for the Prophet might have objected and said, “Then either the people shall be delivered from all trouble, or I shall not escape a part of the calamity.” To this God replies and says, “Thou and others nmst suffer many things, but I will make the enemy to meet thee, that is, I will make the enemy to be propitious to thee, and even of his own accord to anticipate thee.
Interpreters differ still farther respecting the verb
epegoti; some regard it in a transitive sense, “To meet thee will I make the enemy;” others render the sentence thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” The verb, הפגעתי pego, means sometimes to meet, either in a good or bad sense; as when one goes as an enemy against another, he is said to meet him; or, when one offers help and shews kindness to another, he is said to meet him. But the word has another meaning, and signifies sometimes to ask, and so some take it here, “I will cause the enemy to ask for thee.” But this is far — fetched: God did not send messengers to pacify the Babylonians towards his servant Jeremiah. I prefer to render the words thus, “I will meet the enemy for thee,” or, “I will cause the enemy to meet thee;” that is, “I will pacify him by my secret influence, so that he will of himself spare thee and treat thee kindly.” And we know that it so happened; for Jeremiah was loosed from his chains and was allowed his liberty, so that he was permitted to go wherever he wished. As then the enemies treated him with so nmch kindness, it appears evident that what God had before promised was fulfined. פגע
As to the main thing intended, there is no ambiguity in the words: God promised that the latter end of Jeremiah would be happy, and that though he was to suffer somewhat in the common calamity of the whole people, yet the enemy would treat him kindly, so that his condition would be better and more desirable than that of others. (140)
But why did Jeremiah make this public? why did he give this description? why did he commit it to writing? even that the Jews might understand that they who harassed him, when he had done them no injury, dealt unjustly with him. They had indeed been excited by him, but it was through what his office required, for he could not deny obedience to God. Jeremiah then made public what God only knew before, that he might produce an impression on them, provided any hope of repentance yet remained. And for the same reason also was the promise of God added; for the Jews ought to have been terrified, when they saw that such an end was promised by God to the Prophet; for what must have happened to them, except the curse of God to the utter-most? We hence see, that in the complaint of the Prophet, and in the answer given by God, the salvation of the people was regarded; for the complaint contains a most severe reproof and the answer of God threatens a most dreadful judgment to the rebellious people. It follows —
(140) This verse, and the three which follow, have caused considerable variety of opinion. Some, like Calvin, Grotius, Henry, and Scott, apply this to the Prophet and the rest to the people; but others, as Blayney, consider the whole as addressed to the people. But what appears the most probable is, that the Prophet is addressed, and in the 11th and 12th (Jeremiah 15:11) verses personally, and then as identified with the people in verses the 13th and 14th (Jeremiah 15:13). There is no change of person, and this makes it difficult to regard two parties as addressed.
This verse, the 11th, is in the past tense and not in the future, and may be thus rendered, —
Jehovah said, — Has not thy ministry been for good? Have I not interposed for thee in the time of evil, And in the time of distress, with the enemy?
There are various readings for the word I render “ministry,” which Parkhurst thinks comes from
, to serve. Very few readings favor the word which means a remnant,” and of the versions the Vulgate alone. The reading mostly countenanced (19 MSS.) is שרת , derived from שרותיך , to loose, or to let go, “Have I not happily let thee go?” In this case שרה must be rendered adverbially, happily, or fully. Blayney’s version is, — לטוב
Have I not brought thee off advantageously?
But the most natural meaning is what Parkhurst proposes, which is approved by Horsley, only he renders the sentence in the past tense, “Is not thy ministry for good?” while the only verb in the verse is in the past tense, and so ought this clause to be. — Ed.
This verse also has been taken in different ways by interpreters: some take the word iron, when repeated in a different case, “Will iron break iron?” but others think the subject wanting in the clause, and consider people to be understood, “Will the Jews break the iron, even the iron from the north, and not only the iron but the brass also, or, the the brass mixed with iron?” There is in reality no difference, but in words only. If we read, “Will the iron break the iron from the north?” the meaning will be, “Though there be great hardness in you, can it yet break that which is in the Assyrians? but ye are not equal to them: make your strength as great as you please, still the Chaldeans will be harder to break you; for if ye are iron, they are brass or steel, and so it will not be possible for you to sustain their violent attacks.”
As the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently evident, I will not insist on words, though the rendering I most approve is this, “Will iron break the iron (the repetition is emphatical) from the north and the brass?”
We here also see that the design of the holy man was, to divest the Jews of that false confidence in which they boasted: for how was it, that they were so refractory, except that they did not dread any misfortune? As then they were secure, predictions had but little weight with them. Hence the Prophet, in order to beat down this ferocity, says, that there would be greater hardness in the Chaldeans, for they would be like iron, yea, and steel also. (141) It follows —
(141) If we consider what is said to the Prophet in Jeremiah 1:18, and in the twentieth verse of this chapter (Jeremiah 15:20), we shall see the meaning of this verse: he was no doubt the iron and the brass: and the opinion of Blayney is probable, that the “enemy” in the previous verse (which is a poetical singular for the plural enemies) is the nominative case to the verb “break.” God, having before refered to what he had done for the Prophet, now says, —
Can he break the iron, The iron from the north and the brass?
God had made him an “iron pillar, and a wall of brass:” and he asks now, was it possible for his enemies to destroy him whom God had thus made. The hardest iron came from the north of Judea. The future tense is to be read here potentially. — Ed.
But, there is a difference among interpreters as to the word
gebul. I indeed allow that it means a border: but Jeremiah, as I think, when he intended to state things that are different, made use of different forms of speech; but as the construction is the same, I see not how the word can mean the borders of the land. I hence think that it is to be taken here metaphorically for counsels; as though he had said, “On account of all thy wicked deeds and on account of all thy ends, that is, of all thy counsels, I will make thy wealth and thy treasures a plunder.” For true is that saying of the heathen poet, גבול
There is something where thou goest and to which thou levellest thy bow. (142)
When we undertake any buiness, we have some end in view. Then the Prophet calls their adulteries, frauds, rapines, violencies and murders, wicked deeds; but he calls their counsels, borders, such counsels as they craftily took, by which they manifested their depravity and baseness.
Then, in the first place, he declares that God would be a just avenger against their wicked deeds, and against all the ends which the Jews had proposed to themselves; and at the same time he points out and mentions the kind of punishment they were to have, — that the Lord would give for a plunder all their wealth and treasures, and that without exchanging; some read, “without price,” and consider the meaning to be, — that the Jews would be so worthless, that no one would buy them: but this is too refined. I doubt not but that the Prophet intimates, that whatever the Jews possessed would become a prey to their enemies, so that it would be taken away from them without any price or bartering; as though he had said, “Your enemies will freely plunder all that you have without any permission from you, and will regard as their own, even by the right of victory, whatever ye think you have so laid up as never to be taken away.” (143) He afterwards adds —
Est aliquid quo tendis et in quod dirigis arcum. — Per. Sat. iii. 60.
(143) This verse and the following are said by Horsley to be “very obscure:” and there seems to be no way of understanding them, except we regard the Prophet as classed with the people; and the conclusion of verse fourteenth (Jeremiah 15:14) favors the idea, “On you,
, it shall burn.” The Prophet himself did not wholly escape the evils which came on the people. Then this verse and the following I would render thus, — עליכם
13.Thy wealth and thy treasures for spoil will I give, Not for a price, but for all thy sins, Even in all thy borders;
14.And I will make thine enemies to pass To a land thou knowest not; For a fire has been kindled in my wrath, On you it shall burn.
The “enemy” before is now “enemies.” The verb “make to pass,” has various readings, owing evidently to the similarity of two letters. The versions, except the Vulgate, have “I will make thee to serve thine enemies;” but the received text is the most suitable to the passage. Blayney’s rendering is, —
I will cause them to pass with thine enemies —
By “them” he understands “thy wealth and thy treasures;” but this sort of construction can hardly be admitted; and it seems incrongruous. — Ed.
He pursues the same subject. He had said, that they would be exposed as a prey to their enemies, so that all their wealth would be plundered with impunity: he now adds, I will deliver you to the enemy, that is, I will give you into the hands of your enemies, that they may remove you ejsewhere. He afterwards mentions a circumstance, which must have rendered exile much worse; for when any one changes his place and is not led to a distance, the evil is more tolerable; but when any one is carried beyond the sea, or into distant lands, there is a much greater cause for sorrow, as there is no hope of return to one’s own country. Then despair increases the grief. Add to this, that not to hear of one’s native Iand, as though we were in another world, is also a bitter trial.
The Prophet then adds, Because fire has been kindled in my wrath, and against you it shall burn He means that God would be implacable until they were consumed; for his wrath had been kindled on account of their perverse wickedness.
Now all these things were foretold to them, that they might know that God would execute a just vengeance by making the Chaldeans their conquerors: for they might have thought that this happened by chance, according to what has been said by heathen writers, that the events of war are uncertain, that Mars is indifferent (Cicero in Epist) Thus they ascribe to chance whatever happens through God’s providence. That the Jews then might know that they were chastised by God’s hand and by his just vengeance, it was necessary that this should have been declared to them: and therefore he speaks now of the Chaldeans and then of God himself, whose agents the Chaldeans were, for they were guided by his hand. He said before, “Will iron break the iron from the north?” This we, have explained of the Chaldeans: but now he turns to God himself, the author of the calamity brought on the Jews: for the Chaldeans could have done nothing, except through his guidance and direction.
Hence he says, I will cause them to pass over to the enemy, even to a land which they know not And the reason which follows ought to have availed to check all their complaints. We indeed know how clamorous the Jews were, for they often accused God of cruelty, as it appears from many passages. The Prophet then, in order to restrain them, says, that the fire of God’s wrath had been kindled, and that it could not be extinguished, but would burn on them, that is, would entirely consume them. At the same time he condemns their obstinacy, for they allowed no place to God’s mercy, though often warned. They might indeed have pacified him, had they repented. Hence the Prophet here condemns their sottishhess; for they increased their judgment by a continued progress in their evil ways. He afterwards adds —
The Prophet again turns to God, to shew that he had to do with the deaf. This breaking off in the Prophet’s discourse has much more force than if he had pursued regularly his subject. Had he spoken calmly and in uniform order to the people, his address would have been less forcible, than by speaking to them as it were angrily and by severely reproving them, and then immediately by turning from them and addressing God as though bidding adieu to men. Of this we have spoken elsewhere, but it is well to remind you of what we have before noticed. We now perceive the design of the Prophet, in thus abruptly turning from the people to God, and then again from God to the people, even because he indignantly bore the loss of his labor, when the ears of almost all were closed, and when they had become so hardened that they had no fear of God, nor any regard for his teaching. As then the Prophet indignantly bore so great a wickedness, he could not but speak in a hasty manner.
According to this strain, he now says, Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of mine enemies The Prophet, however, seems here to have been more angry than he ought to have been, for revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God. How was it, then, that the Prophet was so indignant against the people that he desired revenge? We have said elsewhere that the prophets, though freed from every carnal feeling, might yet have justly prayed for vengeance on the reprobate. We must distinguish between private and public feelings, and also between the passions of the flesh, which keep within no limits, and the zeal of the Spirit. It is certain that the Prophet had no regard to himself when he thus spoke; but he dismissed every regard for himself, and had regard only to the cause of God: for inconsiderate zeal often creeps in, so that we wish all to be condemned of whom we do not approve; and such was the excessive zeal of the disciples, when they said,
“Lord, bid fire to descend from heaven to consume them, as was done by Elias.”
But it is necessary not only to be moved by a pious zeal, but also to be guided by a right judgment: and this second requisite was possessed by the Prophet; for he did not let loose the reins to his own zeal, but subjected himself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Since, then, these two things were united, — a right zeal, to the exclusion of any private feeling, — and the spirit of wisdom and a right judgment, it was lawful to ask for vengeance on the reprobate, as the Prophet does.
There is further no doubt but that he pitied the people; but he was in a manner freed from the influence of human feelings, and had put off whatever might have disturbed him and led him away from moderation. Though, then, the Prophet was thus emancipated and freed from every kind of perturbation, there is yet no doubt but that he prayed for final judgment on the reprobate; and yet, if there were any healable, he doubtless wished them to be saved, and also prayed anxiously for them.
In short, whenever the prophets were carried away by such a fervor as this, we must understand that they were fined by the Spirit of Christ; and we must know that, when they were thus fined, their whole zeal was directed against the reprobate, while they were at the same time endeavoring to gather together all that could be saved: and the same was the case with David; when he fervently implored destruction on his enemies, he no doubt sustained the person of Christ, as he was fined by his Spirit. (Psalms 35:4) Hence he turned and levelled all his vehemence against the reprobate; but, when there was any hope of salvation, David also, in the spirit of kindness, prayed for the restoration of those who seemed to have already perished. Now, then, when the Prophet says, “Thou knowest, Jehovah; remember me, and visit, me, and avenge me of my persecutors,” he doubtless does not mean all his persecutors, but those who had been given up and devoted to destruction, and whom he himself knew to be reprobates. (144)
He afterwards shews what he meant by these words — remember me, and visit me; for he says, Take me not away by deferring So they render the passage, “Whilstthou bearest with the impiety of this people, and for a time suspendest thy vengeance, let not thy wrath take me away.” The word
arek, means to defer, to protract, and also to prolong, to extend, and to continue. Hence this meaning is not unsuitable, “Take me not away in the protraction of thy wrath;” that is, “By protracting thy wrath, not only for one day, but for a long time, take me not away, involve me not in the same destruction with the reprobate.” David also prayed for the same thing, ארך
“When thou destroyest the wicked, involve me not with them.” (Psalms 26:9)
The sum of the whole is, that the Prophet asks a favor for himself, that God would make a difference between him and the reprobate while he was protracting his wrath; that is, while he was not only taking vengeance on the impiety of the people for a short time, but also while he was adding calamities to calamities, and accumulating evils on evils, and while thus his fire burned for a long time, until the whole land was consumed: and this is the meaning which I prefer, though all the interpreters agree in another. (145)
It must further be noticed that the Prophet, in this prayer, did not so much consult his own advantage as the good of the people, — that they might at length dread the dreadful judgment which was at hand. We have already stated how supine a security prevailed throughout Judea; and they also hoped, that if any calamity happened it would be for a short time, so that, having endured it, they might again live in pleasure and quietness. Hence the Prophet speaks of the protraction of God’s wrath, in order that they might know, as I have already said, that the fire which had been kindled could not be extinguished until they all perished.
(144) There are distinctions here made not allowed by the passage. To pray for vengeance on enemies was in accordance with the covenant made with Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee,” Genesis 12:3. See also Genesis 27:29; Numbers 24:9. As they were the enemies of God’s servant for delivering his word, they were the enemies of God himself; and they had already been wholly repudiated by God, and given up to judgment. — Ed.
(145) The versions favor another view. The Septuagint omit the verb, and connect “long-suffering” with the previous clause, “Defend me from me persecutors, not in thy long-suffering;” that is, without delay, as the Targum literally expresses it. The Vulgate is, “Do not in thy patience take me;” the Syriac, “Do not according to thy long-suffering bring me out;” the Arabic, “Without delay;” it omits the verb, and connects the words with the former sentence like the Septuagint. The words may be thus literally rendered, —
Not in (or, according to) thy long-suffering receive me;
that is, under they care and protection: he deprecated delay. This is the purport of all the versions, and also of the Targum.
Venema divides the clause, —
Let there be no lengthening of thy wrath; receive me;
Know that for thee I have borne reproach.
Blayney’s version is hardly intelligible, —
Within the length of thine anger comprehend me not.
The meaning of which he says is, “Lengthen not thy resentment as to comprehend me within its limits.”
Probably the rendering of Cocceius is the best, —
Do not through thy long-suffering take me away;
that is, “Do not bear long with my persecutors, and thus allow them to destroy me.”
The verb here used seems simply to take; but it signifies sometimes to take away, and sometimes to take into favor, to take under protection. The most intelligent rendering seems to be as follows: —
15.Thou knowest, Jehova; Remember me, and visit me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors; Through thy long-suffering towards them take me not away; Know that I have for thee borne reproach.
“Take me not away” means “Suffer me not to be taken away.” He feared for his life if the vengeance he denounced on the people was not soon executed. See Jeremiah 15:18. — Ed.
The Prophet had said in the last verse that he was loaded with reproach on God’s account; for in his intercourse with his own people he did not incur their hatred for any private affair, but for his faithfulness in the discharge of his duty: hence arose their reproaches and slanders. He now confirms the same thing in other words, and at the same time explains what might have appeared obscure on account of the brief statement which he had made. This verse, then, is explanatory; for the Prophet shews what he meant by saying that he was burdened with reproaches and calumnies on account of God’s name.
Found, he says, by me have been thy words, and I did eat them, and they turned to me for joy of heart Hence then it was that he was hated by the whole people, because he labored to obey from the heart and in sincerity the command of God, and to perform the office committed to him. But by saying that words had been found, he refers to his calling, as though he had said that he had not sought them as ambitious men are wont to do. We indeed see, with regard to many, that they busy themselves about many things, while they might be at ease and be troublesome to none; but a foolish ambition impels them to seek offices for themselves, and thus they excite against themselves the hatred of many. The Prophet therefore testifies here, that he did not ambitiously seek his office, but that it had been conferred on him from above. We may also take the word in another sense — that the Prophet felt assured that God had sent him; for the word, to find, is often thus taken in Scripture; that is, when anything is perceived and known it is said to be found. But the former view is what I approve, for it is more simple. Then the Prophet says that he was called and made a Prophet, when he expected no such thing; for when he in no way intruded himself, God met him, and in a manner anticipated him: and this we have seen in the first chapter; for he said, for the sake of excusing himself,
“Ah! Lord, I cannot speak.” (Jeremiah 1:8)
We hence see that the Prophet sought to decline the office rather than to desire it as a vocation of honor. So he now rightly declares that God’s words had been found by him, that is, that they had been gratuitously bestowed on him, according to what the Lord says by Isaiah,
“I have been found by them who sought me not, and I have manifested myself to them who asked not for me.” (Isaiah 65:1; Romans 10:20)
This indeed is to be applied to all; but as to the meaning of the term, to find, we see how suitable it is. the Prophet then did not hunt for this honor, nor did he desire any such thing, but the favor of God anticipated him.
He afterwards adds, I did eat them He here testifies that he from the heart, and with a sincere feeling, submitted to God’s command. We indeed know that many prattle about heavenly mysteries, and have the words of God on their tongues; but the Prophet says that he had eaten the words of God; that is, that he brought forth nothing from the tip of his tongue, as the proverb is, but spoke from the bottom of his heart, while engaged in the work of his calling. Well known and sufficiently common in Scripture is the metaphor of eating. When we are said to eat Christ, (Matthew 26:26) the reference no doubt is to the union we have with him, because we are one body and one spirit. So also we are said to eat the word of God, not when we only taste and immediately spew it out again, as fastidious men do, but when we receive inwardly and digest what the Lord sets before us. For celestial truth is compared to food, and we know by the experience of faith how fit the comparison is. Since then celestial truth is good to feed spiritually our souls, we are justly said to eat it when we do not reject it, but greedily receive it, and so really chew and digest it that it becomes our nourishment. This then is what is meant by the Prophet; for he did not act a fable on the stage when teaching the people, but performed in real earnest the office committed to him, not like an actor, is the case is with many who boast themselves to be ministers of the word, but he was a faithful and true minister of God. He then says, that the word of God had been to him the joy and gladness of his heart; that is, that he delighted in that word, like David, who compares it to honey. (Psalms 19:11; Psalms 119:103) The same manner of speaking is used by Ezekiel,(Ezekiel 2:8 and Ezekiel 3:1;) for the Prophet is there bidden to eat the volume presented to him; and then he says that it was to him like honey in sweetness, for he embraced the truth with ardent desire, and made privately such a proficiency in the school of God, that his labors became afterwards publicly useful. We hence see how similar was the case with Jeremiah and Ezekiel; for they not only recited, as is commonly done by those who seek to please the ear, what they had been taught, but they became the disciples of the holy Spirit before they became teachers to the people. (146)
It may however be asked, how could the word of God be so sweet and pleasant to the Prophet, when yet it was so full of bitterness; for we have seen elsewhere that many tears were shed by the holy man, and he had expressed a wish that his eyes would flow, as though they were fountains of water. How then could these things agree — the grief and sorrow which the holy man felt for God’s judgments, and the joy and gladness which he now mentions? We have said elsewhere that these two feelings, though apparently repugnant, were connected together in the Prophets; they as men deplored and mourned for the ruin of the people, and yet, through the power of the Spirit, they performed their office, and approved of the just vengeance of God. Thus then the word of God became joy to the Prophet, not that he was not touched by a deep feeling for the destruction of the people, but that he rose above all human feelings, so as fully to approve of God’s judgments. Hosea says the same thing —
“Right are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, but the ungodly will stumble and fall.” (Hosea 14:9)
The Prophet indeed speaks thus, not of the word itself, but of its execution; but yet the design is the same; for the Prophet Hosea checks the wantonness of the people, because they complained that God was too rigid and severe. Right, he says, are the ways of the Lord; the just will walk in them, that is, they will consent to God, and acknowledge that he acts rightly, even when he punishes for sins; but the ungodly will stumble, according to what the Lord says in another place —
“Are my ways perverse and not rather yours?”
For they said that the Lord’s ways were crooked, because they, being soft and delicate, could not endure those severe rebukes, which their own wickedness forced from the holy Prophets. God answers them, and says, that his ways were not crooked, nor thorny, nor tortuous, but that the fault was in the people themselves.
We now then understand the real meaning of this passage. The Prophet knew that nothing was better than to receive whatever proceeded from God; and he testifies that he found sweetness in God’s word.
He afterwards adds, Because on me is called thy name, O Jehovah, God of hosts This mode of speaking occurs often in Scripture, but in a different sense. The name of God is indeed called indiscriminately on all, who are deemed his people. As it was formerly given to the whole seed of Abraham, so it is at this day conferred on all who are consecrated to his name by holy baptism, and who boast themselves to be Christians and the sons of the Church; and this belongs even to the Papists. We are called by his name, because he has favored us with his peculiar grace, for the purity of true and lawful worship exists among us; errors have been removed and his simple truth remains; yet many hypocrites are mixed with the elect of God, so that in a true and well ordered church, the reprobate are called by the name of God; but the elect alone are truly called by his name, as Paul says,
“Let every one who calls on the name of the Lord depart from iniquity,”
(2 Timothy 2:19)
There is in this case a mutual connection; for to call on the name of the Lord, and to have his name called on any one, amounts to the same thing. We hence see that the name of God is only truly and really called on those, who not only boast that they are the faithful, but who have been also regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
But the Prophet here refers to his office when he says, that the name of God was called on him; for he had been chosen to his office of teaching; he was not only dignified with the title, but was really approved by God. We now then perceive in what sense he says that God’s name was called on him, even because God had laid his hand on him and resolved to employ him in the work of teaching the people. But there are many mercenaries in the Church, and though they do not openly corrupt or adulterate the truth of God, they yet, as Paul says, preach it for gain, (2 Corinthians 2:17) It must be observed, that God’s name was called on Jeremiah, because he was known to God as being true and faithful; and he had not only proved himself to be so to men, but he had been chosen by God to be his faithful messenger. (147)
There is emphasis in the words, O Jehovah, the God of hosts; for the Prophet no doubt refers here to the glory of God, that he might with an elevated mind look down, as it were, on so many adversaries, who proudly despised him, as it was difficult to carry on war with the whole people. This then was the reason why he spoke of God’s glory in terms so magnificent, by saying, O Jehovah, the God of hosts It follows: —
(146) The received text has “thy words.” Calvin has followed the Keri and the ancient versions, as well as our version; but “words” being mentioned in the previous line, the same thing being meant. It is more proper to use “words” here, —
And thy words were to me for exultation, And (or, even) for the joy of my heart.
It is no objection that the verb, which precedes in Hebrew the noun “words,” is in the singular number; it is the idiom of the language, which is exactly the same in Welsh. “Exultation” is the visible effect; “the joy of the heart” is the inward feeling, the hidden cause. It is common in Scripture to mention the effect first, and to go back to the cause. — Ed.
(147) The connection of this clasue is variously understood. It cannot be considered as a reason for the previous clause. Gataker, Grotius, and others render
, that, — “that thy name was called upon me,” regarding it as the cause of his joy, that he was called God’s prophet. Venema renders it when, which seems more suitable. But on viewing the whole passage, we may justly consider this as a reason for the prayer he offers in the previous verse, so that the latter part of that and the beginning of this verse are parenthetic. I would give this version, — כי
15.Thou knowest, Jehonah; Remember me and visit me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors; Through thy long suffering towards them take me not away; (Know that I have been for thee borne reproach;
16.Found have been thy words and I did eat them; And thy words were to me for exultation, Even for the joy of my heart;) Because called on me has been thy name, Jehovah thou God of hosts.
Here the Prophet more fully declares, that he was hated by the whole people because he pleased God. He indeed inveighs against the impiety of those who then bore rule; he does not here so much reprove the common people as the chief men, who exercised authority and administered justice; for when he speaks of the assembly of the ungodly, he no doubt refers to wicked rulers, as the word
, sud, which means a secret, means also a council. And David (or whosoever was the author of the sixty-ninth Psalm) says, not that he was a sport to the vulgar, but that he was derided by those who sat in the gate, (Psalms 69:12) which means, that he was reproachfully treated by wicked judges, who possessed the chief authority. So also in this place, Jeremiah says, that he did not sit in the council of mockers It is not the same word as in the first Psalm; and סוד , sud, is sometimes taken in a good sense, but here in a bad sense; for Jeremiah speaks of the profane despisers of God, who ridiculed everything that was announced in the name of God. (148) סוד
Now it was necessary for the holy man thus to exasperate these impious men, for they were in favor, credit, and authority with the people; and we know that they who were in power do in a manner dazzle the eyes of the vulgar with their splendor. As they then thus deceived the simple, the Prophet removed the mask, and exclaimed, that he did not sit in their council nor exulted with them. In denying that he was connected with them, he intimates what their conduct and manners were. He therefore shews, that whatever their dignity might be, they were still the impious despisers of God, and were only mockers. The same is the case with us at this day, we are under the necessity directly to expose those masked rulers, who are inflated with their own power and fascinate the people; for buffoons in tippling-houses and taverns do not so wantonly mock God as those courtiers, who, while consulting respecting the state of the whole earth, and deciding on the affairs of all kingdoms, seem as though they themselves possessed all the power of God; and we also know that they are profane mockers. Hardly any piety or reverence for God is to be found in the courts of princes; nay, especially at their councils, the devil reigns, as it were, without control. We are therefore constrained often to speak very strongly against such unprincipled men, who falsely assume the name of God, and by this pretense deceive the common people. By this necessity was Jeremiah constrained to declare, that he had not been in the assembly of such men.
He then adds, On account of thine hand (from the presence of thine hand) I sat apart, because with indignation hast thou filled me Here Jeremiah confesses that he had departed from the people; but he did so, because he could not have otherwise obeyed God. Some consider hand to mean prophecy, and others, a stroke; and so it is often taken metaphorically; but I am disposed to take it for command, “On account of thy hand;” that is, because I attended to what thou hast commanded, nor had I any other object but to obey thee. Hence, On account of thine hand, because I regarded thee and wished wholly to submit to thy will, I sat apart
This passage is especially deserving of notice; for the Prophet was at Jerusalem among the priests, and was one of them, as we found at the beginning of this book. Though then he was a priest, he was constrained to separate himself and to renounce all connection with his colleagues and brethren. As then this was the case with the holy Prophet, why do the Papists try to frighten us by objecting to us our separation, as though it were a most heinous crime? they call us apostates, because we have departed from their assemblies; truly if Jeremiah was an apostate, we need not be ashamed to follow his example, since he was approved by God, though he separated from the whole people, and also from the ungodly priests. Let us at this day openly and boldly confess that we have separated. There is then a separation between us, and one indeed irreconcilable; and accursed were we, if we sought an union with the Papists. We are therefore constrained plainly and openly to repudiate them, and to move heaven and earth rather than to agree with them. We see that there is a rule here prescribed to us by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Jeremiah. To refute then the ealumnies of those who object to us our separation, this very passage is sufficient.
“I sat apart,” and true it, was so; but no one can say this at this day; for the Lord has gathered to himself many teachers and many disciples. They then who now profess the gospel do not sit apart as Jeremiah. But though all had forsakert him, he yet hesitated not to separate himself from all. But were it necessary for every one of us to become separated and to live apart, were God to scatter each of us through all the regions of the world, so that no one were to strengthen and encourage another, yet we should still stand firm, under the conviction that we sat apart on account of God’s hand. Let the Papists then complain as they please, that we are proud, and that we disturb the peace of the whole world, provided we have this answer to give, — That we sit apart on account of God’s hand, because we seek to obey God and to follow his call: we can therefore boldly and safely despise and scorn all the reproaches with which they falsely load us.
He afterwards adds, For thou hast filled me with idignation (149) He confirms what he said in the last verse, — that he had eaten the word of God, that he had not been slightly moved, but had been inflamed with zeal for God: for we cannot really execute the commission given to us unless we be fined with indignation, that is, unless zeal for God burns inwardly, for the prophetic office requires such a fervor. He then adds —
(148) Gataker, and after him Blayney, consider the word, rendered “mockers” by Calvin and our version, as meaning “those who make merry;” and the word is so rendered in our version in Jeremiah 30:19, and Jeremiah 31:4. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Targum, favor this rendering; the Syriac and the Arabic, have “mockers.” Then the next line is, —
Nor did I exult on account of thy hand.
So all the versions connect the words. The “hand” means, as Blayney says, the impulse of the prophetic spirit. See 1 Kings 18:46; Ezekiel 1:3. He did not inconsiderately rejoice on account of his office, because he was made a prophet. — Ed.
(149) “Because all the prophecies thou hast given me are minatory.” — Grotius.
The meaning may be, “Thou hast filled me with indignant messages.” — Ed.
Before we proceed, we shall shortly refer to the meaning of the passage. Jeremiah has before shewn that he possessed an heroic courage in despising all the splendor of the world, and in regarding as nothing those proud men who boasted that they were the rulers of the Church: but he now confesses his infirmity; and there is no doubt but that he was often agitated by different thoughts and feelings; and this necessarily happens to us, because the flesh always fights against the spirit. For though the Prophet announced nothing human when he declared the truth of God, yet he was not wholly exempt from sorrow and fear and other feelings of the flesh. For we must always distinguish, when we speak of the prophets and the apostles, between the truth, which was pure, free from every imperfection, and their own persons, as they commonly say, or themselves. Nor were, they so perfectly renewed but that some remnant of the flesh still continued in them. So then Jeremiah was in himself disturbed with anxiety and fear, and affected with weariness, and wished to shake off the burden which he felt so heavy on his shoulders. He was then subject to these feelings, that is, as to himself; yet his doctrine was free from every defect, for the Holy Spirit guided his mind, his thoughts, and his tongue, so that there was in it nothing human. The Prophet then has hitherto testified that he was called from above, and that he had cordially undertaken the office deputed to him by God, and had faithfully obeyed him: but now he comes to himself, and confesses that he was agitated by many thoughts, which betokened the infirmity of the flesh, and were not free from blame. This then is the meaning.
He says, Why is my grief strong, or hard? He intimates that his grief could not be eased by any soothing remedy. He alludes to ulcers, which by their hardness repel all emollients. And for the same purpose he adds, And my wound weak, as some render it, for it is from
anesh, to be feeble; and hence is אנש anush, which means man; and it expresses his weakness, as אנוש adam, shews his origin, and אדם aish, intimates his strength and courage. Others render the words, “and my wound full of pain;” and others, “strong,” as he had before called his grief strong. He afterwards thus explains what he meant by the terms he used, It refuses to be healed There is no doubt, as I have already intimated, but that the Prophet here honestly expresses the perturbations of his own mind, and shews that he in a manner vacinated; the wickedness of the people was so great, that he could not so perseveringly execute his office as he ought to have done. (150) איש
He adds, Thou wilt be to me as the deception of inconstant waters I wonder why some render the words, “Thou wilt be to me deceptive as inconstant waters.” The word may indeed be an adjective, but it is doubtless to be rendered as a substantive, “Thou wilt be to me as the deception,” and then, “of unfaithful waters.” that is, of such as flow not continually: for faithful or constant waters are those which never fail; as the Latins call a fountain inexhaustible whose spring never dries; so the Hebrews call a fountain faithful or constant which never fails either in summer or in drought. On the contrary, they call waters unfaithful which become dry, as when a well, which has no perennial veins, is made dry by great heat; and such also is often the case with large streams. (151)
We now see the import of this comparison: but the words are apparently very singular; for the Prophet expostulates with God as though he had been deceived by him, “Thou wilt be to me,” he says, “as a vain hope, and as deceptive waters, which fail during great heat, when they are mostly wanted.” If we take the words as they appear to mean, they seem to border on blasphemy; for God had not without reason testified before, that he is the Fountain of living water; and he had condemned the Jews for having dug for themselves broken cisterns, and for having forsaken him, the Fountain of living water. Such, no doubt, had He been found by all who trusted in him. What then does Jeremiah mean here by saying, that God was to him as a vain hope, and as waters which continue not to flow? The Prophet, no doubt, referred to others rather than to himself; for his faith had never been shaken nor removed from his heart. He then knew that he could never be deceived; for relying on God’s word he greatly magnified his calling, not only before the world, but also with regard to himself: and his glorytug, which we have already seen, did not proceed except from the inward feeling of his heart. The Prophet then was ever fully confident, because he relied on God, that he could not be made ashamed; but here, as I have said, he had regard to others. And we have already seen similar passages, and the like expressions will hereafter follow.
There is no doubt but that it was often exultingly alleged that the Prophet was a deceiver: “Let him go on and set before us the words of his God; it has already appeared that his boasting is vain in saying that he has hitherto spoken as a prophet.” Since then the ungodly thus harassed the Prophet, he might have justly complained that God was not to him like perennial springs, because they all thought that he was deceived. And we must always bear in mind what I said yesterday, — that the Prophet does not speak here for his own sake, but raffler that he might reprove the impiety of the people. It therefore follows —
(150) It is better to retain throughout the figurative language, —
Why has my sore become perpetual, And my stroke incurable, refusing to be healed?
He mentions “sore” first, the effect; then the “stroke” which casued it. He refers doubtless to the state of his mind: therefor “the sore” and “the stroke” were the sorrow and the grief which he experienced. — Ed.
(151) The Septuagint and the Vulgate strangely refer to this stroke or the wound in the previous clause, “It has become like the deception of inconstant water:” but the gender of the infinitive added to the verb will not admit of this rendering. It is literally as follows, —
Becoming thou hast become like a deceiveer, Like waters which are not constant.
is not substantive, but an adjective, formed like אכזכ , violent. The quotation from Chardin, made by Blayney, respecting an illusion in the deserts of Arabia, occasioned by the sun’s rays on the sand, by which a vast lake appears, is here out of place, as unfaithful or inconstant waters, not unreal, is what is expressed. Calvin’s view is no doubt correct. — Ed אכזר
From this answer of God we may gather more clearly the design of the Prophet, for his purpose was, in order more fully to prove the people guilty, to set before their eyes as it were his own perverseness. Had he spoken only according to the heroic elevation of his own mind, so as not to appear touched by any human feeling, they might have derided him as hardhearted or a fanatic, for so we find that the proud of this world speak and think of the faithful servants of Christ. They call them melancholy, they consider them as unfeeling, and as they neither dread death, nor are drawn away by the allurements of this life, they think that all this proceeds from brutal savageness. Had then the Prophet only performed the duties of his office, the ungodly might have derided his insensibility, but he wished to set forth his own infirmity, his sorrows, his fears, and his anxieties, that he might thus lead the Jews to view things aright. This answer of God ought then to be connected with the complaint of the Prophet, and we may hence learn the meaning of the whole.
God gives this answer, If thou wilt be turned, I will turn thee, that thou mayest stand before me It is the same as though he had said, that he was reproved by the Lord because he fluctuated amidst the commotions of the people. A similar passage is found in the eighth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord there exhorts his Prophet to separate himself from the people, and not to connect himself with those who might have often easily disturbed him, because they continued not in his word; then he says,
“Seal my law for my disciples, sign the testimony,”
as though he had said, “Have now nothing to do with so perverse a people.” So also now the Lord speaks, If thou wilt be turned, that is, if thou wilt not be guided by the false judgments of the people, nor heed what they say of thee, but boldly despise them and persevere in thy separation from them, I will turn thee, that is, I will by my spirit so strengthen thee, that they may perceive at length that thou art my faithful servant. Then he adds, that thou mayest stand before me. We hence see more plainly what is the meaning of the word “turn” in the second clause, even that the Prophet would render his office approved of God, however clamorous the Jews might be; though they even rose up tumulmously against him, yet he says, thou shalt stand before me. There is implied here a contrast in the word “stand,” for though the Prophet should be most violently assailed by the false words of men, yet God would support and sustain him. The rest we defer until to-morrow.
As Jeremiah might have objected and said, that the burden was too heavy for him, if he only attempted to break down the contumacy of the people, for he was alone, and we have seen how great was the ferocity and also the cruelty of his adversaries, — as he might have shunned his commission, it being too much for his strength, hence God comes to his aid and bids him to take courage, for he was fortified by a help from heaven, I have set thee, he says, for a brazen fortified wall to this people The word for “fortified” is from
, betsar; were it בצר betsare, derived from בצרה tsur, to besiege, it would much better suit this place. I know not whether the passage has been corrupted: however, I will not depart from the common reading. As then interpreters agree in this, I will change nothing; and indeed the difference is not very material. (153) צור
We see then what God meant by these words: As the Prophet was almost alone, and God had bidden him to contend with many and powerful enemies, he promises to stand on his side; as though he had said, — “Though thou art defenceless and unarmed, and they are furnished with wealth and great power, thou shalt yet be like a well-fortified city; thou shalt indeed be impregnable, notwithstanding all their assaults and whatever they may attempt against thee.”
But God proceeds lay degrees; for he first declares that his Prophet would be like a brazen and a fortified wall, that is, like an invincible city: for by stating a part for the whole, a wall means a city that is impregnable. It then follows, They indeed will fight against thee. This warning was very necessary; for Jeremiah was doubtless willing to serve God in exercising authority over teachable and humble men, and in gently inducing them to render obedience to God; but he is reminded here that he would have many hard contests with a rebellious people, They will fight, he says, against thee We see how God does not promise ease to Jeremiah, nor gives him a hope of a better lot in future; but, on the centrary, he exhorts him to fight; and why? because the people would not bear the yoke of God, but kindled into rage against him. But another promise follows, They shall not prevail against thee, or overcome thee.
It was indeed necessary for Jeremiah of his own self to disturb the Jews; for nothing would have been more agreeable to them than his silence; and the object of all their attempts was to drive him to despair. But it is not without reason that they are said to fight with him; for it is contrary to nature for men to resist God and to set themselves against him when he invites them to himself; for what can be more natural than for the whole world to hasten to God? It is then something monstrous for men to oppose God, nay, furiously to rise up against hhn, when he kindly calls them to himself. Hence it is that God here makes the Jews the authors of all this disturbance. For since they loaded the Prophet with the most wicked calumnies, as we have seen, and said, that he was a turbulent man and confounded all things by his morosity, God here shews, on the other hand, that all the commotions and the rightings ought to be attributed to them, because they ought to have obediently received the doctrine set before them.
But though this was said only once to Jeremiah, yet the condition of all God’s servants is here set before us as in a mirror; for they cannot perform what God commands them without having to encounter many and grievous assaults; for the world is never so prepared to obey God, but the greater part furiously resists, and, as far as it can, stifles the word of God and checks his ministers.
He states the reason, For I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee (154) By these words God exhorts his Prophet to prayer; for we know how dangerous is self-security to all the children of God, and especially to teachers. As then they have at all times need of God’s aid, they are to be exhorted to have recourse to solitude and prayer. This is the import of the words which God uses, I am with thee; as though he had said, “Thou indeed wilt not stand by thyself, or through thine own painstaking, nor wilt thou be a conqueror by carrying on war thyself; but thou must learn to flee to me.” It afterwards follows —
(153) All the ancient versions are in favor of the common reading, and there are no MSS. favorable to the proposed emendation. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Targum, render it “strong;” and the Arabic “fortified.” “A strong wall of brass,” is the version of Blayney. — Ed.
(154) The words here used are remarkably precise and significant. I render the verse thus, —
20.And I will make thee to this people A wall of brass, fortified; And they will fight against thee, But they shall not prevail over thee; For with thee will I be, To save thee and to rescue thee, Saith Jehovah.
To “save” was to preserve him from the hands of his enemies; but if he fell into their hands, he would rescue him. And this latter idea is more fully expressed in the following verse, —
Yea, I will rescue thee from the hand of the malignant, And free thee from the grasp of the terrible.
This verse contains nothing new, but is a confirmation of the promise which we have seen. God had promised to be with the Prophet; he now shews that there was sufficient strength in his hand to deliver him. How much soever then the Jews might oppose him, God declares here that he alone would be sufficient to break them down. We hence see that there is more expressed in these words than in what he had said before, I will be with thee to deliver thee; he now shews the act itself as by the finger. I will deliver thee He had promised his aid; he now says, that his aid would be strong enough to deliver him from the hands of his enemies.
He says first, from the hand of the wicked, that the Jews might know that all their disguises would avail them nothing, for they were condemned by the mouth of God. In the second place, he calls them strong, that the Prophet might not be terrified by their power, as was usually the case. For it is very difficult for us not to be disturbed, when we are assailed on every side, and when threats and dangers are in our way. God then here reminds Jeremiah in time, that he would have to fight with the strong and valiant, but that all their strength in opposing him would be unavailing, for divine aid would be much stronger. Now follows —