his prophecy no doubt preceded the vision which we have just explained, and which had just been presented to Jeremiah when Jehoiakim died, and when Zedekiah reigned in the place of Jeconiah; who, being the last king, was substituted for his nephew Jeconiah. But related now is the prophecy which Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and he reigned, as we shall hereafter see, eleven years. We hence conclude that his book is composed of various addresses, but that the order of time has not always been preserved. Now the sum of the whole is, that when God found that the people could not be amended and restored to a right mind by any warnings, he denounced final ruin both on the Jews and on all the neighboring nations: but why he included the heathens we shall hereafter see.
He then says, that this prophecy was committed to him in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and he adds, that the same year was the first of King Nebuchadnezar This seems inconsistent with other places, where the third of Jehoiakim is mentioned for the fourth year; and hence a long time is allotted for the first year of Nebuchadnezar. But a solution of this is not difficult, if we consider that Nebuchadnezar suddenly returned into Chaldea to settle his affairs at home, when the report of his father’s death was brought to him; for he feared, lest in his absence a tumult should arise, as it often happened. He was therefore anxious to secure his own affairs; and having settled things at home, he brought Jehoiakim into subjection, and in the fourth year of his reign he compelled him to open his treasures, and also led away captive those whom he wished. And it was at this time that Daniel and his companions were led away into exile, and the precious vessels of the Temple were removed. As to the first year of Nebuchadnezar’s reign, he reigned first with his father; and then when he reigned alone, the beginning of a new reign is justly mentioned as the first year. Though then he was made king, yet as he did not exercise the chief power until his father’s death, it was not until that event that he was really king; this is the reason why mention is made of his first year. But we ought especially to notice what the Prophet says, — that the word came to him, not for his own sake, but that he might be the public herald of God. It now follows, —
He shews more clearly in this verse what he had just said, — that he was not taught from above, that he might suppress what he had heard, but that he might proclaim it as from the mouth of God; and hence he gives himself the honorable title of a Prophet, as though he had said, that he came furnished with the indubitable commands of God, and was at the same time honored with the office of a Prophet; and he came thus, that no one might dare despise his doctrine. Now follows his sermon, —
Jeremiah now expostulates with the Jews, because they had not only perfidiously departed from the true worship of God, and despised the whole teaching of his Law, but because they had shaken off the yoke, and designedly and even obstinately rejected all warnings, being not moved by reproofs nor even by threatenings. He does not then simply charge them with impiety and ingratitude, but adds the sin of perverseness, that they were like untameable wild beasts, and could by no means be corrected.
He says, that from the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah, to that year, which was the twenty-third year, he had not ceased faithfully to perform the office committed to him, but had effected nothing. It hence appears how incorrigible was their wickedness. We have seen, at the beginning of the book, that he was called by God to be a Prophet in the thirteenth year of King Josiah; and he had now been engaged in his calling, as he declares, for twenty-three years.
He had spent his time in vain, he had consumed much labor without any fruit. It is then no wonder that he now accuses them of perverseness, and that in the name of God; for he pleads not his own cause, but shews what the Jews deserved, considering how much God had labored in reclaiming them, and that they had rejected all his warnings and refused all his remedies. Then from the thirteenth year of Josiah, he says, to this day; and afterwards in a parenthesis he adds, that he had already discharged his office for twenty-three years.
We learn that the Prophet spoke thus seventeen years before the destruction of the City and Temple; for he had accomplished forty years before the people were driven into exile, and before they who thought themselves safe, miserably perished. He continued to the death of Josiah; and afterwards about twenty-two transpired; for Jehoiakim reigned eleven years; and without reckoning the short time of Jeconiah, Mathaniah, called also Zedekiah, was in the eleventh year removed, and disgracefully and reproachfully put to death. Thus it appears that the Prophet constantly labored for forty years.
Hence, also, we learn how diabolical was the madness of that people in rejecting so many admonitions. And if we connect another thing, to which I lately referred, that they had been taught by many examples, it will appear still more evident that the disease of impiety as to that people was altogether incurable.
But this passage deserves special attention; for we here learn that we ought immediately to return to God when he invites us; for faith is known by its promptitude. As soon then as God speaks, it behoves us to be attentive, so that we may immediately follow him. But if God ceases not for a whole year to warn and exhort us, while at the same time his doctrine is despised, we become guilty of intolerable sin. Let us then remember that days are here in a manner mentioned as well as years, that the Jews might consider how many days are included in every year; and let us also know that years are mentioned by Jeremiah, that they might, understand that they had no excuse, inasmuch as God had for so long a time ceased not to promote their welfare, while in the meantime they persisted in their impiety, and continued obstinate to the last. This is the reason why the Prophet relates again when it was that he began to discharge his prophetic office, even from the thirteenth year of Josiah.
He then adds, that it was their own fault that they had not repented; spoken, he says, has Jehovah to me, and I to you. By saying that the word of God was deposited with him, he no doubt intended to assert his authority against the unbelievers, who clamored that he presumptuously pretended God’s name, and that he had not been sent by God. For we have elsewhere seen that the Church was then miserably torn, having intestine broils, and many were boasting that they were prophets; and we shall hereafter find the same thing in other places. Thus, then, Jeremiah was not received by the whole people, and his authority was disputed. Since then he had to contend with many ungodly men, he here testifies that he came not of himself, but that the prophetic office had been committed to him.
After having asserted the authority of his call, he adds, that he had faithfully promoted the welfare of the whole people; for he declares how faithful and diligent he had been when he says, that he had spoken and rose up early; for to rise up early means that he had been assiduous in his work. The Prophet then shews that he had not been tardy or idle, and that he had not spoken carelessly as many do, who seem to do what God commands, but display no fervid zeal and no sedulity. The Prophet then, after having declared that he had been sent from above, adds that he had exercised fidelity and diligence, that he had strenuously served God and his Church. I have spoken to you, he says, as the Lord had spoken to me, — how? rising up early
He then adds, I have spoken, and ye heard not He complains here that his work had been useless, and at the same time shews that the whole fault was in the people. He confirms the same thing in other words, Jehovah has sent to you all his servants the prophets, rising. up early, etc He enhances their sin, — that they had not only rejected one Prophet but even many; for God had not employed Jeremiah alone to teach them, but had joined others with him, so that they were less excusable. We hence see that their sin is in this verse exaggerated; for the Jews had not only despised God in the person of one man, but had also rejected all his servants. He might, indeed, have simply said, that God had sent his servants, but he adds the word prophets, in order that their ingratitude might appear more evident. It was, indeed, very wicked to neglect God’s servants; but as prophecy was an invaluable treasure, and a singular pledge and symbol of God’s favor, it was a double crime when they thus despised the prophets, whose very name ought to have been held sacred by them.
He afterwards applies to God what he had said of himself, rising up early It is certain that God does not rise up, as he sleeps not in the night; but the language is much more expressive and forcible, when God himself is said to rise up early. And it, was not without reason that the Prophet spoke so emphatically; for though the Jews were sufficiently convicted of ingratitude for having disregarded God’s servants, it was yet a monstrous impiety to shew no regard for God. But when the unbelieving are proved guilty, they ever fix their eyes on men, “He! it is with a mortal that I have to do; far be it from me ever to rise up against God; but why is this so much blamed, since I do not immediately perish? since I am not suddenly cast down at the nod of man? what! am I not free to inquire, and to discuss, and to examine every part of what is said? why do the prophets so imperiously treat us, that it is not lawful to doubt any of their words?” Thus, then, did the ungodly speak. But God on the other hand answered them and said, that he was despised, as also Christ said,
“He who hears you hears me,
and he who despises you despises me.” (Luke 10:16)
So also the Prophet sets forth God himself as rising up early, exhorting the people and manifesting every care for their wellbeing. This, then, is the design of the metaphor, when he says, that God had sent to them and rose up early; he rose up early while sending his servants.
Now as God fulminates against all despisers of his doctrine, so from these words we may gather no small consolation; for we certainly conclude that God watches over our safety whenever sound and faithful teachers go forth: it is the same as though he himself descended from heaven, rose up early, and was intent in securing our salvation. This we learn from the very words of the Prophet, when he says, that God rose up early. But as this testimony of God’s favor and paternal care towards us is delightful, so to the same extent dreadful is the vengeance that awaits those who neglect this favor, who sleep when God is watching, who hear not when he is speaking, who continue in their sloth and torpor when God of his own accord meets them, and kindly and gently invites them to himself.
He afterwards explains what God required them to do, Turn ye, I pray, every one from his evil way and from the wickedness of your doings, and dwell in the land which Jehovah has given to you and your fathers from age even to age What God required was doubtless most just; for he demanded nothing from the Jews but to repent. There was also a promise added; God not only exhorted them to repent, but wished also to be reconciled to them, and having blotted out all memory of their sins, to shew them kindness: had they not been harder than stones, they must have been turned to his service by so kind a treatment. God might have indeed sharply reproved them, he might have threatened them, he might, in short, have cut off every hope of pardon; but he only required them to repent, and at the same time added a promise of free forgiveness. As then they had despised so great a favor, it follows that they must have been men of reprobate minds and of irreclaimable habits.
When they were bidden to repent of their evil way and of the wickedness of their doings, it was done for sake of amplifying; for the Prophet wished to take away from them every pretense for evasion, lest they should ask what was the wickedness or what was the evil way. He then intimates that they were fully proved guilty; and for this purpose he made the repetition. By way is designated a continued course of life; but as they had fully shewed themselves perverse in many ways, he refers to their fruits, as though he had said, that they in vain contended with God, by inquiring what had been their evil way, for their whole life sufficiently testified that they were wholly given to wickedness.
Now there is a striking alliteration in the verbs שבו and ושבו : the verb שבו, shebu, means sometimes to rebel, it means to return to the right way, and it means to rest or dwell in. He uses the same verb, though the sense is different when he says, “Return ye,” and “ye shall dwell.” (128)
He also emphatically uses the word איש , aish “every one:” it means properly “man;” but it is taken in Hebrew for every one or each one, “each one from his evil way.” The Prophet exempted none, lest they thought that their fault was extenuated, had not the evil been universal. He hence says, that every one was given to wickedness; as though he had said, that impiety not only prevailed among the whole people, as the case commonly is, but that every one had become corrupt, so that there was not one sound or upright among the whole people.
And this is what ought to be observed; for we are wont, in a cold manner, to confess our sins, and to pray to God when we are proved guilty, except when each one is touched with the sense of his own guilt, and owns himself to be justly exposed to God’s judgment; for while every one mingles with the multitude, it so happens that no one acknowledges the heinousness of his own sins. Therefore, for true and sincere repentance this peculiar examination is necessary, so that every one may repent and not regard his friends.
When he says, Dwell ye in the land, though it be the imperative mood, yet it is a promise, by which God declared that he was ready to receive the Jews into favor, provided they returned from the heart to him: he proposed to them, as a symbol of his paternal layout, the possession of the land; for that land was as it were the pledge of their adoption; and the Jews, while they dwelt there, might have felt assured that God was their Father. He adds, From age even to age; as though he had said, “I am prepared to do you good not only for one day, or for a short time, but also to shew you kindness from age to age. It will then be your fault if ye be not happy, and if this happiness will not pass on from you to your children and grandchildren.” But the more delightful the invitation was, the more detestable became the impiety of the people, as it will be stated hereafter. He now adds, —
The Prophet mentions here one kind of sin; for though the Jews in many, and even in numberless ways kindled God’s wrath, yet they especially procured a heavy judgment for themselves by their superstitions. They indeed manifested their contempt of God by adultery, theft, and plunder, but in a way not so direct; for when they abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles, they thus shook off the yoke of God, as though they openly testified that he was no longer their God. And we know that nothing is so much valued and approved by God as a sincere attention to real piety; hence the Church is taught in the first table of the Law how he is to be worshipped. This is the reason why the Prophet especially reminds the Jews here that they had, in this respect, been rebellious against God, because he could not bring them back from their corrupt superstitions. He does not at the same time absolve them of other sins; but he mentions this one kind, in order that they might understand, that they were not only in part, but altogether rebellious against God; for they wholly departed from him when they vitiated his worship with wicked superstitions. We must then bear in mind, that the Jews were not condemned for some small offenses, but accused of the most heinous of sins; for they had become covenant-breakers and apostates, and had forsaken God himself and his law.
He says, Walk ye not after foreign gods to serve them and to worship them He pointed out as by the finger, how gross had been their impiety; for they had given themselves up to idols, that they might basely serve them; they had wholly devoted themselves to them. It was not then an excusable error, but a manifest treachery. He adds, Provoke me not by the work of your hands No doubt the Prophet meant by these words to confirm what has been already stated, that idolatry is before God an intolerable wickedness: and at the same time he shews, that they had not sinned through ignorance, for they had in time been reminded of the atrocity of this sin. As then they had not ceased from their superstitions, they were thus proved guilty of a diabolical madness, for they feared not to provoke God against them. And he says, by the work of your hands; and thus he speaks contemptuously or rather reproachfully of idols. They called them gods, not that they were ignorant that they were statues curiously made of wood and stone, or of some other material; but still they thought that divinity was connected with them, for they believed that God was thus rightly worshipped. Now, then, the Prophet calls them the work of hands, as though he had said, “If the Jews themselves are nothing, the idols are less than nothing; for they are only the work of hands.” And this way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets, by which God intended to shake off the stupidity of men, who were become quite senseless in their own devices; as though he had said, “Have you not a particle of a right understanding in you? do you not know, that this which ye worship is the work of your own hands? and what can your hands do? for what are ye yourselves?” We now perceive what the Prophet had in view in using these words.
There is, again; a promise given, I will not do you evil God declares by these words that they would be exempt from all trouble and distress, if they continued to walk according to the rule of true religion; and thus he intimates that whatever evils they had already endured, and would have hereafter to endure, could not be imputed to anything but to their own perverseness, for God had of his own free-will promised to spare them, provided they departed from their wicked ways. And such a hope ought especially to encourage us to repent, for we see that God is ready to receive us and seeks reconciliation with us, and is always prepared to forgive all our sins, provided we from the heart return to him; and he seems as one unwilling to inflict punishment. Here again the impiety of the people is more fully proved, for they refused to receive from God this invaluable favor. It follows, —
He proves what he had said before, that the Jews had been wholly disobedient, though God had kindly offered and shewed that he would be reconciled to them, provided they turned from the heart to him. The fact that this message was not received by the Jews, was an evidence of extreme and irreclaimable obstinacy. And he enhances their guilt by saying, that ye might provoke me; for he intimates that they were led away to evil by a voluntary purpose, as though they wished to provoke God. The Prophet, then, by saying that ye might provoke me, accuses them of deliberate wickedness. It, indeed, often happens that men go astray through ignorance, and do not attend because no one warns them; but since God had so many times exhorted the Jews to repent, no other opinion could have been formed of them, but that they designedly wished, not only to despise God, but also to provoke him to the contest.
And this is what we ought carefully to notice, for whosoever has been taught the will of God, unless he obeys, he cannot escape the charge of a voluntary obstinacy, as he has resolved, as it were, to carry on war with God. Though the ungodly do not confess this, yet the fact is evident; and God, who is a righteous judge, has declared that they who despised the prophetic doctrine were so regarded.
And he says, for evil to you, in order that they might know that God did not plead his own cause because he stood in need of their service, but that he cared for their welfare. For there is to be understood here an implied contrast, as though the Prophet had said, “What loss has God suffered by your perverseness? Ye have, indeed, tried to deprive him of his glory, for ye have adorned your idols by spoils taken from him; but it is not in men’s power to subtract anything from the rights of God; he remains ever perfect: then it only turns out to your ruin when ye are rebellious. When, therefore, God now reproves you, he does not maintain his own right, as though he received any gain or loss from you; but it is an evidence of his mercy, because he would not have you to perish, though he sees that you are led into destruction by an insane impulse.” It afterwards follows, —
Here follows a denunciation of punishment; the Prophet says that God would no longer deal in words, for their iniquity had ripened, according to what is in Genesis,
“My Spirit shall not contend (or strive) any more with man.” (Genesis 6:3.)
When God prepares to execute vengeance on the wickedness of men, he says that there is no more time for contending. A sudden execution of judgment is then what is here intended; but he mentions at the same time the punishment. After having explained the cause of so much severity, even because they would not hear the words of God, he adds, Behold, I will send for and take all the families of the north, etc. I have no doubt but that the Prophet alludes to the edicts of kings, for when they wish to raise an army they publish their edicts, and order those everywhere to meet who have either given their names or been enlisted as soldiers. So God now by these words intimates that the Chaldeans were under his power, so that they were ready, as soon as he gave them a signal; according to other modes of speaking he uses in other places, but in the same sense, “I will hiss,” and also, “I will send an alarm.” The Scripture is full of expressions of this kind, which shew that all mortals are prepared to obey God whenever he intends to employ their services; not that it is their purpose to serve God, but that he by a secret influence so rules them and their tongues, their minds and hearts, their hands and their feet, that they are constrained, willing or unwilling, to do his will and pleasure. And in the same sense he calls Nebuchadnezzar his servant, for that cruel tyrant never meant to offer his service to God; but God employed him as his instrument, as though he had been hired by him. And we shall see also elsewhere that he is called God’s servant.
And it ought to be noticed, for we hence learn the fact, that many are God’s servants who are yet wholly unworthy of so honorable a title; but they are not so called with respect to themselves. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was making war with the God of Israel when he invaded Judea; and only ambition, and avarice, and cruelty impelled him to undertake so many wars. When, therefore, we think of him, of his designs and his projects, we cannot say that he was God’s servant; but this is to be referred to God only, who governs by his hidden and incomprehensible power both the devil and the ungodly, so that they execute, though unwittingly, whatever he determines. There is a great difference between these and God’s servants, who, when anything is commanded them, seek to render that obedience which they ought — all such are faithful servants. They are, then, justly called God’s servants, for there is a mutual concord between God and them: God commands, and they obey. But it is a mutilated and a half service when the ungodly are led beyond the purpose of their own minds, and God uses them as instruments when they think of and design another thing.
It must at the same time be noticed that this name of servant is given, though in an inferior sense, to Nebuchadnezzar for the sake of honor, in order that the Jews might be made ashamed; for it was a great reproach to them that a heathen had been chosen by God, and had obtained the title of a servant, when they themselves had become aliens. The Prophet then, no doubt, intended to cast reproach on them by raising to this dignity the king of Babylon. There was also another reason, even that the Jews might know that whatever they were to suffer would be inflicted by God’s hand, and that they might not otherwise think of Nebuchadnezzar than as God’s scourge, in order that they might thus be led to confess their sins and be really humbled. We now perceive the meaning of the words.
He says afterwards, I will bring them on this land and on all its inhabitants, etc By these words he confirms what I have just referred to, that God had his vengeance ready as soon as he purposed to treat the Jews as they deserved. As he had then said that Nebuchadnezzar and all the people of the north were prepared by him as hired soldiers, so he now adds that victory was in his power — I will bring them, he says, over the land and over all the neighboring nations which are around (129) Why the Prophet denounces punishment here on other nations we shall see elsewhere. The Jews, in addition to other vain confidences, were wont to flatter themselves with this, that if Nebuchadnezzar should invade the territories of others, all would unite together against him, and that by such a confederacy they could easily overcome him. As, then, the Jews looked to all parts, and knew that the Egyptians were in alliance with them, and were also persuaded that the Moabites, the Tyrians, the Syrians, and all the rest would become confederates, they became confident, and indulged in that security by which they deceived themselves. This, therefore, is the reason why the Prophet expressly threatens the nations by which they were surrounded, not for the sake of these nations, but that the Jews might cease to entertain their vain confidence.
God says that he would make all nations, as well as the Jews, an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations He intimates that it would be a dreadful calamity, such as would astonish all that heard of it. As it is said elsewhere, “The report alone will excite alarm;” so in this place, I will make them for an astonishment When a moderate calamity is related to us, we are indeed moved to pity; but when the greatness of the evil exceeds belief, we then stand amazed, and all our senses are stunned. The Prophet then means that the calamity which God would bring on the Jews would be, as it were, monstrous, such as would stupify all that would hear of it. (130)
At last he adds, that they would be for perpetual desolations He does afterwards, indeed, mitigate the severity of these words; for he confines God’s vengeance to seventy years. But this mode of speaking is common in Scripture; for, עולם, oulam stands opposed to a short time. It is to be taken in different senses, according to the circumstances of the passage. It sometimes designates perpetuity, as when the Prophet says, from age to age, that is, through continued ages, or through a course of years, which shall last perpetually. But age, or עולם, oulam, is often to be taken for the time allotted to the people until the coming of Christ; and sometimes it means simply a long time, as here and in many other places. It follows, —
He confirms here what I have just said, — that the Jews were not to be chastised in a common manner, but be exposed to extreme distress. For though all things may not be with us prosperous and according to our wishes, yet marriages may still be celebrated, and some hilarity may remain; we may yet eat and drink and enjoy the necessaries of life, though we may have no pleasures; but the Prophet shews here that such would be the devastation of the land, that there would be no thoughts about marriages, that all hilarity and joy would cease, that there would be no preparations of food, no grinding of corn, and that, in short, all feasts usually kept by the light of candles would be no more celebrated. Here, then, he describes to the life that devastation which had been before mentioned. (131)
The Prophet no doubt indirectly condemns that insensibility by which the devil had possessed the minds of the people; for though the prophets continually threatened them, yet there was no end to their exultations and no moderation in them, according to what is said by Isaiah, who complains of such wantonness, that they said, “Let us feast, tomorrow we shall die;” and who also says,
“I have called you to sackcloth and ashes, but ye went to the harp and to feastings.”
When, therefore, the Prophet speaks here of the voice of joy and gladness, of the noise of millstones, and of lamps, he doubtless upbraids them with their stupid security; for they feared nothing, and thought themselves safe even when God was shewing himself, as with an outstretched hand, to be their avenging judge. It follows, —
10.For I will make to cease from among them The voice of exultation and the voice of joy, The voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, The voice of the millstone, and the light of the lamp.
The time for grinding was the morning; the earliest thing in the morning was this work, and was done every day. The time for the light of the lamp was the evening; when this disappears, it is an evidence that there are no inhabitants. — Ed.
Here the Prophet mentions the restriction of which I have spoken, and thus he mitigates the severity of their punishment. It is, then, a kind of correction; not that he changes anything, but only by this sort of correction he explains what he before meant by perpetual desolations.
He says, The whole land shall be a waste and an astonishment, or as some render it, “a desolation.” The word שמם, indeed, means to lay desolate, and also to astonish; but as he had lately used the word in the sense of astonishment, I see no reason for changing its meaning here, especially as it is connected with חרבה, charebe. But as to the drift of the passage, there is not much difference whether we say, the land shall be a desolation, or an astonishment; for it was to be a solitude — reduced to a desolation or a wilderness. (132)
And serve shall these nations the king of Babylon seventy years, there the Prophet concludes his prophecy concerning the future calamity of the people, even that the land would be reduced to a solitude, so as to render every one passing through it astonished, or that it was to become a horrid spectacle on account of its desolation. And that a time of seventy years was fixed, it was a testimony of God’s paternal kindness towards his people, not indiscriminately towards the whole multitude, but towards the remnant of whom he had spoken elsewhere. Then the Prophet means, that however grievously the Jews had sinned, yet God would execute only a temporary punishment; for after seventy years, as we shall see, he would restore them to their own country, and repair what they had lost, even the inhabitation of the promised land, the holy city, and the Temple. And this is more fully expressed in the next verse.
The Prophet now, as I have said, shews more clearly why the time of the captivity and exile had been defined, even that the faithful might know that God would not forget his covenant, though he deprived the people of the inheritance of the land. These words were not addressed indiscriminately to the whole body of the people, as we have observed before in other places; but the Prophet intended to consult the benefit of God’s elect, who always retained a concern for true religion; for they must have a hundred times despaired had not this promise been added. This, then, was a special doctrine intended as food for God’s children; for he addressed, as it was apart, the elect and faithful only.
God says also, that at the end of seventy years he would visit the iniquity of the king of Babylon, and of his whole people. We hence learn that Nebuchadnezzar was not called God’s servant because he deserved anything for his service, but because God led him while he was himself unconscious, or not thinking of any such thing, to do a service which neither he nor his subjects understood to be for God. Though, then, the Lord employs the ungodly in executing his judgments, yet their guilt is not on this account lessened; they are still exposed to God’s judgment. And these two things well agree together, — that the devil and all the ungodly serve God, though not of their own accord, but whenever he draws them by his hidden power, and that they are still justly punished, even when they have served God; for though they perform his work, yet not because they are commanded to do so. They are therefore justly liable to punishment, according to what the Prophet teaches us here.
He confirms what he had said before when he says, that he would bring all his words on the Chaldeans; that is, that he would give effect to all the prophecies, so that it would be evident that Jeremiah had foretold nothing rashly, and that God had not in vain threatened them by the mouth of his servant. Such is the meaning, and hence we see what the Prophet intimates when he says, that God would bring all his words, for he had then spoken. But as the ungodly regard whatever is brought forward in God’s name as a matter of sport and mockery, and boldly deride all threatenings, to bring words means the same thing with proving by events that God does not terrify men without accomplishing his words; in short, to bring words is to prove their authority. And, as I have said, the expression has a reference to the insensibility of men who give no credit to God’s words until they are convinced by their accomplishment; for they think that the air only is beaten, and thus they are not touched by any fear. But God proves the power of his word when he executes what he has predicted.
We then see that the Prophet intends nothing else in this verse than to confirm what he had said before. And he speaks of Chaldea and says, upon that land
And we must at the same time notice another form of speaking; for God says, that he had pronounced these words; he afterwards says, that Jeremiah was his minister, and as it were his herald; and he calls him also a scribe or a writer. God then here declares that he was the author of all that Jeremiah had brought forward; and yet he leaves his own office to his minister, for it is necessary to secure authority to the prophets; otherwise, except God visibly descended from heaven, men would either indiscriminately admit what might be said, and without judgment receive falsehood and truth, or they would become wholly hardened, so as to give no credit to prophetic instruction. He says, whatsoever is written in this book The Prophet no doubt wrote down a summary of what he had delivered; for as we have said elsewhere, it was usual with the prophets, after they had spoken at large to the people and preached diffusely, to affix a short summary to the doors of the Temple. This volume then is what Jeremiah calls the book, which was composed from his public addresses. It might in common language be called a summary. Then he adds, in what, or, “what he prophesied,” (133) in order to shew that he meant what he had before said; and so it might be rendered, that is, what he prophesied; but the other exposition is not unsuitable, in which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations It follows, —
The beginning of the verse is obscure. When the verb עבד, obed, is followed by ב, beth, they think that it is to be taken actively, and rendered, to force or drive to bondage. It means properly, to serve; but they think that found as here it is a transitive verb. Some render it, “they employed them;” but this is frigid and ambiguous; for friends may be said to employ one another, when the work is mutual; hence the meaning is not sufficiently expressed. But the meaning may be given by a paraphrase, that they “forced them into bondage.” Still the meaning of the Prophet is not yet sufficiently clear; for עבדו, obedu, may be taken either in the past or future tense. It is, indeed, in the past tense; but the past may be taken for the future: thus the meaning may be different. If it be taken in the past tense, then it cannot be applied except to the Babylonians; for they were those who had treated the Israelites as slaves, or had forced them into bondage; and בם, bem, “them,” might be understood of the Israelites; for we know that pronouns are often thus used, when the Church, or God’s elect people, is the subject. Then the Prophet’s words may be thus rendered, “for they have tyrannically ruled over them,” even the Israelites, “and they themselves,” that is, the Israelites, shall in their turn rule, the latter words being understood. But the meaning, as it seems to me, would be more simple, were we to read the whole together in this way, “For they also themselves shall rule over them, even over strong and valiant nations and great kings, and I will recompense them,” etc.
The reason which has constrained me to give this interpretation is this: It is said in the last verse that Jeremiah prophesied against all nations; then follows an explanation, and the Prophet briefly shews, or reminds us, what would be the issue of these prophecies, even that they also would themselves rule over these nations. Then בם, bem, as I think, refers to the Babylonians and other heathen nations; and it is a common thing with the prophets, when they speak of the restoration of the ancient Church, and of Christ’s coming, to promise power to God’s children to hold the whole world under their feet. The sentence also will flow better, when we give this version, “They shall rule.” There is, indeed, a change as to time, but this is a common thing in Hebrew. It is then; For they shall rule over them, that is, the nations. Jeremiah had spoken of all heathen nations; mention had been made of all that he had prophesied against all nations; and he says now what seemed incredible, and hence the particle גם, gam, is introduced, “even these very Israelites,” as though he had said, “Though this shall happen beyond hope, so as to appear strange and fabulous, yet God by the issue will shew that he has not in vain communicated this to me; for they, even the Israelites, shall have their turn to exercise dominion; and they shall constrain all nations to obey them.” And what follows confirms my view; for he adds, over strong nations, גוים רבים,guim rebim, (for the ב, beth, may be repeated here;) or we may render the words “many nations;” for the word רבים, rebim, means both; but as it follows “and great kings,” I am disposed to render the words, “strong nations.” Then he says, “For they shall rule over strong nations and great kings.” (134)
He then subjoins, I will recompense them, that is, both kings and nations, according to their doing, and according to the work of their hands, because they had exercised every kind of cruelty towards the miserable Israelites. Hence the Prophet pursues the same subject, — that God would at length really shew, that though he had been angry with his Church, yet all hope of mercy was not lost, for he was mindful of his covenant. He thus mitigates the severity of what he had previously said; he promises them something far better than what the wretched Jews could have expected in their extreme calamities.
We may again learn from the words of the Prophet, that God so employed Nebuchadnezzar and others, that they performed no service deserving of praise; for had they been without fault, God must doubtless have unjustly punished them. This passage then teaches us, that though the devil and the reprobate execute God’s judgments, they yet deserve no praise for their obedience, for they have no such purpose in view. It now follows, —
The verb עבר, when followed by ב, means invariably to enslave, to reduce to bondage, to bring into subjection, or to subdue. Then the verse should be thus rendered, —
For make them, even these, to serve,
Shall many nations and great kings;
And I will render to them according to their work, According to the doing of their own hands. This is the meaning given by the Targ.; the Vulg. and the Syr. render the verb incorrectly, though in both the pronoun them is made to refer to the nations in the preceding verse. — Ed.
Jeremiah now explains more at large what might on account of its brevity have appeared obscure. He had spoken of all nations, but his discourse was abrupt; for he had not yet openly told us that he had been sent by God as a herald to summon all kings and nations before his tribunal, and to declare what was to be. As, then, the Prophet had referred to nothing of this kind, his discourse was ambiguous. But he now declares that a cup from God’s hand had been delivered to him, which he was to give to all nations to drink. We hence see that there is here nothing new, but that the Prophet is, as it were, the interpreter of his previous prophecy, which was briefly stated.
Moreover, that what he said might have more weight, he relates a vision, Thus said Jehovah the God of Israel unto me, Take the cup of the wine of this fury from my hand (135) We have said in other places that the fulfillment of prophetic truth was not without reason dwelt upon, and that the servants of God were so armed, as though the execution of all that they alleged was ready at hand. They were said to demolish cities and to overthrow kingdoms even for this reason, because such was the torpidity of men, that they gave no credit to God, except they were brought to see the event as it were before their eyes. But as this subject has been handled more fully elsewhere, I shall only touch upon it here. He then says, that a cup had been delivered to him by God’s hand; by which words he intimates, that he did not come forth of his own will to terrify the Jews and other nations, but that he faithfully proclaimed what had been committed to him; and he also intimates, that God spoke nothing now but what he meant shortly to execute; and this is what is to be understood by the word cup.
He calls it the cup of the wine of fury, or of wrath. This metaphor often occurs in the prophets, but in a different sense. For God is said sometimes to inebriate men when he stupifies them, and drives them at one time to madness, and at another time deprives them of common sense and understanding, so that they become like beasts; but he is said also to inebriate them, when, by outward calamities, he fills them with astonishment. So now the Prophet calls calamity the cup of wrath, even that calamity, which like fire was to inflame the minds of all those who received no benefit from chastisements. Madness, indeed, means no other thing than the despair of those who perceive God’s hand stretched out against them, and thus rage and clamor, and curse heaven and earth, themselves and God. This is what we are to understand by wrath He compares this wrath to wine, because they who are thus smitten by God’s hand are carried away as it were beyond themselves, and repent not, nor think of their sins with calmness of mind, but abandon themselves to a furious rage. We now then understand why the Prophet says, that the cup of the wine of wrath had been given to him.
Then he adds, An, make all the nations to whom I send thee (136) to drink it Here, again, he confirms what I lately referred to, that his office was farther extended than to teach in the middle of the Church, but that he had also been chosen to proclaim as a herald God’s judgments on all nations. He was, indeed, sent to the Jews otherwise than to heathen nations, for he was set over them as a teacher, and that for their salvation, provided they were not irreclaimable; but he was sent to the heathens expressly to threaten them with what was nigh at hand. He was, however, sent both to the Jews and to all other nations, as he will hereafter more distinctly shew in due order.
We now see the design and object of what is here said; — to add authority to his last prophecy, Jeremiah, in the first place, sets forth the vision which had been presented to him; and then he testifies that he brought nothing of his own, but only obeyed God and faithfully performed his commands; and thirdly, he intimates that he was not only appointed a teacher in the Church of God, but was also a witness of his vengeance on all nations. It follows, —
Take the cup of the wine of fury, even this, from my hand.
So do Gataker and Venema render the sentence, referring “this” to the cup and not to “fury.” The word for “fury” is heat; it means hot, boiling, or burning wrath, — rendered “fury” by the Vulg. and Syr., — “malediction” by the Targ., and “unmixed” (the cup of this unmixed wine) by the Sept. — Ed.
Here the Prophet more fully shews what we have before stated, that they were not vain terrors when he denounced God’s judgments on all nations, for we call those threatenings childish which are not accomplished. But the Prophet here declares that however obstinately the Jews and others might resist, they could not possibly escape God’s vengeance, as he was the judge of all. Hence the Prophet is bidden to take a cup and to give it to others. But the Jews might have still objected and said, “We may, indeed, take the cup from thine hand, but what if we refuse? what if we cast away from us what thou givest us to drink?” Hence the Prophet says that, willing or unwilling, they were to take the cup, that they might drink and exhaust whatever was destined for them by God’s judgment; he therefore says that they may drink
He then adds, that they may be incensed and become distracted (137) These two words refer, no doubt, to the grievousness of their punishment; for he intimates that they would become, as it were, destitute of mind and reason. When God kindly chastises us, and with paternal moderation, we are then able with resignation to submit to him and to flee to his mercy; but when we make a clamor and are driven almost to madness, we then shew that an extreme rigor is felt, and that there is no hope of pardon. The Prophet, then, intended to express, that so atrocious would be the calamities of the nations with whom God was angry, that they would become stupified and almost insane; and at the same time frantic, for despair would lay hold on their minds and hearts, that they would not be able to entertain any hope of deliverance, or to submit to God, but that they would, as it is usual with the reprobate, rise up against God and vomit forth their blasphemies.
He says, because of the sword that I will send among them. It appears from the word בינתם, bintem, “among them,” that there would be mutual conflicts, that they would destroy one another. God, then, would send his sword; but he would extend it now to the Chaldeans, then to the Egyptians; now to the Assyrians, then to other nations, so that with the same sword they would contend one with another, until at last it would prove a ruin to them all. It now follows, —
And they shall drink and reel; And they shall be distracted on account of the sword, Which I shall send among them.
Blayney’s version is nearly the same, “drink and stagger and be out of their wits;” but it is better to connect “the sword” with the latter verb only. — Ed.
The Prophet now adds that he obeyed God’s command; for he had before often testified that he was constrained to perform his office, which he would have willingly not have done, if he was at liberty. But as he was bound to obey the divine call, it was evident that it was not his fault, and that he was unjustly charged by the people as the author of the evils denounced. We indeed know that the prophets incurred much ill-will and reproach from the refractory and the despisers of God, as though all their calamities were to be imputed to them. Jeremiah then says, that he took the cup and gave it to drink to all the nations: he intimates that he had no desire to do this, but that necessity was laid on him to perform his office. He then shews who these nations were, —
He begins with Jerusalem, as it is said elsewhere that judgment would begin at God’s house. (1 Peter 4:17.) And there is nothing opposed to this in the context of the passage; for though he had promised to the children of God a happy end to the evils which they were shortly to endure, he nevertheless enumerates here all the nations on whom God had bidden him to denounce judgments. In this catalogue the Church obtains the first place; for though God be the judge of the whole world, he yet justly begins with his own Church, and that especially for two reasons — for as the father of a family watches over his children and servants, and if there be anything wrong, his solicitude is particularly manifested; so God, as he dwells in his Church, cannot do otherwise than chastise it for its faults; — and then, we know that they are less excusable, who, having been taught the will of God, do yet go on indulging their own lusts, (Luke 12:47;) for they cannot plead ignorance. Hence is fulfilled what Christ declares, that those servants shall be more grievously beaten, who, knowing their masters will, yet obstinately disregard it. There is, then, a twofold fault in the members of the Church; and no comparison can be made between them and the unbelieving who are in thick darkness. Since God shines in his Church and shews the way, as Moses says,
“Behold I set before you the way of life and of death; I therefore call heaven and earth to witness that there is no excuse for you. (Deuteronomy 30:15.)
This, then, is the second reason why God first visits the sins of the faithful, or of those who are counted faithful.
There is also what appertains to an example: God chastises his own children lest he should seem by his indulgence to favor or countenance what is wicked and sinful. But this third reason is in a manner accidental; and therefore I wished to state it apart from the two other reasons. When, therefore, God so severely treats his own Church, the unbelieving ought to draw this conclusion, that if this be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:31.)
But the two things which I have before mentioned ought to be deemed by us as sufficient reasons why God, while suspending his vengeance as to the reprobate, punishes the elect as well as all those who profess themselves to be members of his Church. We now understand why Jeremiah mentions first the holy city, and then all the cities of Judah, the kings also and the princes; for God had with open bosom invited them to himself, but they had, as it were, from determined wickedness, provoked his wrath by despising both his Law and his Prophets.
He afterwards adds, to make them a waste, or a solitude. This was a grievous denunciation, no doubt, and we shall hereafter see that most became enraged against the holy man, and in their fury endeavored to destroy him; yet he with all intrepid mind fully declared what God had commanded him. He adds, an astonishment, and in the third place, an hissing, even that they would become detestable to all; for hissing intimates contempt, reproach, and detestation. In the fourth place he mentions a curse. We have already said what the Prophet meant by this word, even that the Jews would become in this respect a proverb, so that when one cursed another, he would use this form, “May God destroy thee as he destroyed the Jews.”
It is then added, as at this day The Prophet refers, no doubt, to the time of the city’s destruction. God had indeed even then begun to consume the people; but we shall hereafter see that the minds of the greater part were still very haughty: so that they often raised their crests and looked for a new state of things, and depended on aid from the Egyptians. But the Prophet here mentions what was not yet completed, and as it were by the finger, points out the day as having already come in which the city was to be destroyed and the temple burnt up. This, then, refers to the certainty of what he predicted. Some think that it was written after Jeremiah had been led into exile; but this conjecture has nothing to support it. (138) It seems to me enough to suppose that his object was to rouse the Jews from their security, and to shew that in a short time all that he predicted would be accomplished, and that they were no more to doubt of this than if the calamity was now before their eyes. It follows, —
It may here be asked, why he connects Pharaoh with the Jews, and assigns the second place to the Egyptians rather than to other nations? The reason is evident, — because the Jews expected deliverance from them; and the cause of their irreclaimable obstinacy was, that they could not be removed from that false confidence by which the devil had once fascinated them. They departed from God by making the Egyptians their friends; and when they found themselves unequal to the Assyrians, they turned their hopes to the Egyptians rather than to God; the prophets remonstrated with them, but with no success.
As, then, the occasion of ruin to the chosen people was Egypt, and as Pharaoh was, as it were, the fountain and cause of destruction to Jerusalem, as well as to the whole people, rightly does the Prophet, after having spoken of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, immediately mention Pharaoh in the second place; for he was a friend to the Jews, and they were so connected together that they were necessarily drawn together into destruction; for they had corrupted one another, and encouraged one another in impiety, and with united minds and confederate hearts kindled God’s wrath against themselves. (139) The Prophet, then, could not have spoken of the Jews by themselves, but was under the necessity of connecting the Egyptians with them, for the state of both people was the same.
Jeremiah, after having spoken of his own nation and of the Egyptians, now mentions other nations who were probably known by report to the Jews; for we see in the catalogue some who were afar off. He then does not only speak of neighboring nations, but also of others. His object, in short, was to shew that God’s vengeance was near, which would extend here and there, so as to include the whole world known to the Jews.
We stated yesterday the reason why he connected the Egyptians with the Jews; but now nothing certain can be assigned as a reason with regard to each of these nations; only it may be said in general, that the Jews were thus reminded, not only to acknowledge God’s judgment towards them as an evidence of his wrath, but also to extend their thoughts farther and to consider all the calamities, which would happen to nations far as well as nigh, in the same light, so that they might know that human events revolve, not by chance, but that God is a righteous judge, and that he sits in heaven to chastise men for their sins.
It is a common proverb, that it is a solace to the miserable to see many like them; but the Prophet had something very different in view; for it was not his object to alleviate the grief of his people by shewing that no nations would be free from calamities; but his intention was to shew them in due time that whatever happened would proceed from God; for if it had not been predicted that the Chaldeans would have the whole of the east under their dominion, it would have been commonly said, that the world was under the rule of blind fortune, and thus men would have become more and more hardened in their impiety; for it becomes the cause of obstinacy, when men imagine that all things happen by chance. And for this reason God severely reproves those who acknowledge not that he sends wars, famine, and pestilence, and that nothing adverse takes place except through his judgment. Hence the Jews were to learn before the time, that when God afflicted them and other nations, they might know that it had been predicted, and that therefore God was the author of these calamities, and that they might also examine themselves so as to acknowledge their sins; for they who dream that the world as to its evils is governed at random by fortune, do not perceive that God is displeased with them; and so they regard not what they suffer as a just punishment.
Many indeed confess God as the inflicter of punishment, and yet they complain against him. But these two things ought to be remembered, — that no adversity happens fortuitously, but that God is the author of all those things which men regard as evils, — and that he is so, because he is a righteous judge; which is the second thing. God then in claiming for himself the disposal of all events, and in declaring that the world is governed at his will, not only declares that the chief power and the supreme government is in his hand, but goes farther and shews, that things happening prosperously are evidences of his goodness and justice, and that calamities prove that he cannot endure the sins of men, but must punish them. To set forth this was the Prophet’s design.
He says that God threatened all the promiscuous multitude (140) The word ערב , means a swarm of bees; and it means also any sort of mixture; and hence, when Moses said that many went up with the people, he used. this word. (Exodus 12:38.) Nehemiah also says that he separated such mixtures from the people of God, lest they who had become degenerated, should corrupt true religion. (Nehemiah 13:3.) That the Church, then, might remain true and faithful, he says that he took away ערב , oreb, or this mixture. Now as to this passage, I have no doubt but that the Prophet speaks thus generally of the common people; and I extend this name to all the kingdoms, of which he will hereafter speak. He then adds, And all the kings of the land of Uz. We know that this was an eastern land. I know not why Jerome rendered it “Ausitis,” and not as in the Book of Job, for the same word is found there, (Job 1:2) and we find that Job was born in the eastern part of the world, for he was plundered by his neighbors, who were men of the east. Some think that it was Armenia; but it could hardly be a country so far off, for Cilicia was, with regard to Judea, in the middle between them. I, then, rather think that Uz was directly east to Judea.
He adds, And all the kings of the land of the Philistines Whether Palestine had then many kings is uncertain; it seems indeed probable; but what seems doubtful to me, I leave as such. It is no objection that he mentions all the kings, since he afterwards speaks of all the kings of Tyre and Sidon, though neither Tyre nor Sidon had many kings; for they were only two cities. There is then no doubt, but that the Prophet in speaking of all the kings of the land, meant that though they succeeded one another, it was yet decreed in heaven, that all these nations should perish. He therefore intended to obviate every doubt; for the prophecy was not immediately fulfilled; but the nations, of whom he now speaks, retained for a time their state, so that the Prophet might have appeared false in his predictions. Hence he distinctly mentions all the kings, so that the faithful might suspend their judgment until the appointed time of God’s vengeance came.
He afterwards mentions Ashkelon; which was not a maritime city, though not far from the sea. Then he adds עזה,oze, which we call Gaza, for the Greek translators have so rendered it. But what the Greek and Latin writers have thought, that it was called Gaza, because Cyrus deposited there his treasures while carrying on war here and there, is wholly absurd; and it was a frivolous conjecture which occurred to their minds, because Gaza means a treasure, and the Greek translators rendered Oze, Gaza; but it was entertained without much thought. The situation of the city is well known. He then mentions Ekron, a neighboring city, not far from Azotus, which is also named. The Prophet says Ashdod, which the Greeks have rendered Azotus, and the Latins have followed them. We hence see that the Prophet refers to that part of the country which was towards Syria.
But it may be asked, why he names the remnant of Ashdod? Some think that he refers to neighboring towns, not so much known, as Gath, which is elsewhere named, but less celebrated But this exposition seems to me forced and absurd. The probability is, that Ashdod had been conquered, but that owing to its advantageous locality it was not wholly forsaken. For שארית, sharit, means what is left or remains after a slaughter. What remained then in Ashdod, he delivered up to God’s sword, that it might be destroyed. It follows, —
The same words are ever to be repeated, that Jeremiah made all these nations to drink the cup. He mentions the Idumeans, the posterity of Esau, and also the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, as also were the Ammonites There was a relationship between these three nations and the Israelites; hence the Prophet seems designedly to have connected these three nations together. He adds —
As to the word Island, the number is to be changed; for the Prophet means not one island, but the countries beyond the sea. Some restrict the reference to Cyprus, Crete, Mitylene, and other islands in the Mediterranean; but it is a common way of speaking in Hebrew, to call all countries beyond the sea islands.
“The kings of the islands shall come.” (Psalms 72:10.)
The Prophet in that passage calls those the kings of the islands who would come in ships to Judea. So also in this place we may understand by the kings of the islands all those who were beyond the sea.
We now see that kings of one age only are not those summoned to God’s tribunal; for why does the Prophet mention all the kings of Tyre and all the kings of Sidon? Was it possible for these two cities to have four or two kings at the same time? But we must bear in mind what I have already stated, — that the children of God were warned, lest they should entertain a too fervid expectation as to the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is then the same as if he had said, “Though God’s vengeance may not come upon the present king of Tyre or of Sidon, it is yet suspended over all kings, and shall be manifested in its time.” (141) Tyre and Sidon, we know, were cities of Phoenicia, and very celebrated; and Tyre had many colonies afar off, among which the principal was Carthage; and the Carthaginians offered honorable presents to it every year, in order to shew that they were its descendants. And Tyre itself was a colony of Sidon, according to historians; but it so prospered, that the daughter as it were swallowed up the mother. But it appears evident that there were kings there in the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah, though in the time of Alexander both cities were republics; for many changes during that period had taken place in them. Now the Prophet says only, that Tyre and Sidon would be involved in the punishment which he denounced on both kings and people. It follows —
As we find in Isaiah 23:2, the people of Tyre called “the inhabitants of the isle,” we may render the verse thus, —
22.And all the kings of Tyre, and all the kings of Sidon, even all the kings of the isle which is by the side of the sea.
This repetition was made on account of the power and wealth of Tyre, a place thought impregnable. See Isaiah 23:0. — Ed.
I shall now only touch briefly on the extreme ones in a corner, or those bounded by a corner, who were almost unknown to the Jews on account of their distance. (142) After having spoken of nations so very remote, that he might not by prolixity be tedious, he mentions all the extreme ones in a corner, that is, those who were bounded by the farthest limits. As to Dedan, Tema, and Buz, we know that these countries derived their names from their founders. Who Dedan was, we learn from Moses, and also who Tema and Buz were. (Genesis 25:3; 1 Chronicles 5:14.) Two of them were descendants of Abraham by Keturah. (143) There is no need of saying more of these countries, for they are not known by us at this day, and we cannot learn from geographers the extent of any of these countries; for there was hardly a place at the time when heathen writers began their records, which had not long before changed its name. We however conclude that these were eastern countries. It follows —
The Prophet now mentions the kings of Arabia, who were neighbors on one side to the Jews. He has hitherto mentioned nations towards the sea; he has named many maritime towns, and also others which were at some distance from the sea, and yet were not remote; for they were towns and countries intermediate between Judea and Syria or Cilicia, or verging towards Cilicia. He now speaks of Arabia, which was between Egypt and Babylon. And though Arabia was divided into three parts; it was however sterile where it bordered on Judea; it might therefore be said to be a desert.
But the Prophet, in the first place, mentions the kings of Arabia, and then the miscellaneous kings, as we may call them, that is, those who ruled in desert regions and were hardly of any repute; we, indeed, know that they were petty robbers; and these Arabs were sometimes called Schenites, because they dwelt in tents. I therefore consider that these, by way of contempt, were called kings of the promiscuous multitude, who excelled not in dignity nor in wealth; and hence the Prophet adds, that they dwelt in the desert, being a wandering people. It follows, —
He now mentions nations more remote, but whose fame was more known among the Jews. We, indeed, know that the Elamites, who dwelt between Media and Persia, had ever been people of great repute. As to Media, it was a very large kingdom and wealthy, abounding in all delicacies; and we also know how fond of display were the Medes. With regard to Zimri, (144) it was an obscure nation in comparison with the Elamites and the Medes. The Prophet, however, intimates that every part of the earth, even the smallest kingdom, known to the Jews, would be visited by God’s judgment, so that the whole earth, in every direction, would become a witness that God sits in heaven as a judge. It follows, —
The Prophet speaks now of the kings of the north who bordered on the king of Babylon; for as to Judea, Babylon was northward. He calls all those who were towards Chaldea the kings of the north. He then says, Whether near or remote, every one shall be against his brother, and, in short, all the kingdoms of the earth on the face of the earth There is no doubt, as we shall see, but that the Prophet put in the last place the Chaldeans and their king. It is hence probable that what he here predicts was to be accomplished by the hand and power of the king of Babylon, who executed God’s vengeance on all these nations. God, then, chose for himself the king of Chaldea as a scourge, and guided him by his hand in punishing all the lands mentioned here.
I have already reminded you that this was not predicted for the sake of the Jews, that they might derive any alleviation to their grief from the circumstance of having associates, because the condition of others was nothing better; but that God’s design was another, that is, that in so great a confusion of all things, when heaven and earth, as they say, were blended together, they might know that nothing happens through the blind will of fortune. For God had already testified by the mouth of his servant what he would do, and from this prophecy it was easy to conclude that all these changes and violent commotions were the effects of God’s judgment.
The Prophet, after having shewn that the most grievous calamities were nigh all the nations who were neighbors to the Jews, and whose fame had reached them, says, in the last place, that the king of Sheshach would drink after them Hitherto the Prophet seems to have exempted the king of Babylon from all trouble and danger; for he has mentioned all the nations, and has spoken not only of those who were nigh the Jews, but also of the Persians, the Medes, and others. What, then, could have been the design of all this, if the king of Babylon had been passed by? It might have been asked, how can it be right and consistent that this tyrant should escape punishment, though he was of all the most cruel and the most wicked? Hence the Prophet now says, that the king of Babylon, how much soever his violence prevailed among all nations, and raged unpunished, would yet in his time be brought to a reckoning. The meaning then is, that God would defer the punishment of the Chaldeans until he employed them in destroying all the nations of which Jeremiah has hitherto spoken.
Respecting the king of Babylon being called the king of Sheshach, a question has been raised, and some think that some unknown king is intended; for we know that the word is a proper name, as it appears from some passages of Scripture. (1 Kings 11:40; 2 Chronicles 12:2.) But this opinion is not well founded; for the Prophet no doubt speaks here of some remarkable king; and there is also no doubt but that he reminded them of some most important event, so that there was no reason why delay should depress the minds of the faithful, though they saw that this Sheshach was not immediately punished with the rest. Others conjecture that Sheshach was a renowned city in Chaldea. But there is no necessity for us to adopt such light and frivolous conjectures. I have no doubt but that the opinion which the Chaldee paraphraser has followed is the true one, that is, that Sheshach was Babylon. For the sort of alphabet which the Jews at this day call אתבש, atbash, is no new invention; it appears from Jerome it had been long known; he, indeed, derived from great antiquity the practice, so to speak, of counting the letters backwards. They put, the last letter, ת, in the place of א, the first, and then ש in the place of ב, and כ being in the middle of the letters was put for ל; and so they called Babel Sheshach. (145) And to designate Babylon by an obscure name was suitable to the design of the Prophet. But every doubt is removed by another passage in this Prophet,
“How is Sheshach demolished! how fallen is the glory (or praise) of the whole earth! how overthrown is Babylon!”
There, no doubt, the Prophet explains himself; there is therefore no need to seek any other interpretation. It is a common thing, as we know, with the prophets to repeat the same thing in other words; as he had mentioned Sheshach in the first clause, to prevent any doubt he afterwards mentioned Babylon.
But here a question arises; why did not the Prophet openly and plainly denounce ruin on the king as well as on the Chaldean nation? Many think that this was done prudently, that he might not create an ill-will towards his own people; and Jerome brings forward a passage from Paul, but absurdly, where he says,
“Until a defection shall come,” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
but he did not understand that passage, for he thought that Paul spoke of the Roman empire. One error brings another; he supposed that Paul was cautious that he might not excite the fury of the Roman Emperor against the Church; but it was no such thing. Now, they who reject the opinion, which is the most correct, that Sheshach was Babylon, make use of this argument, — that the Prophet was not afraid to speak of Babylon, because he had declared openly of it what he had to say, as we have already seen in other places, and as it will appear more clearly hereafter. But I do not allow that the Prophet was afraid to speak of Babylon, for we find that he boldly obeyed God, so that he stood firm, as we may say, in the midst of many deaths; but I think that he concealed the name for another reason, even that the Jews might know that they had no cause to be in a hurry, though the punishment of Babylon had been predicted, for the prophecy was, as it were, buried, inasmuch as the Prophet withheld the very name of Babylon. It was not, then, his purpose to provide for the peace of the Church, nor was he afraid of the Chaldeans, lest he should kindle their fury against God’s people; he had no such thing in view, but wished rather to restrain too much haste.
And this appears from the context; Drink, he says, shall the king of Sheshath after them; that is, all these nations must drink before God shall touch the king of Babylon. He will not, then, be an idle spectator of all these calamities, but his severity will proceed through all lands until it reaches its summit; and then, he says, this king shall drink after the rest. Now, it might have seemed a poor consolation that God would for so long a time spare the king of Babylon; but all God’s children ought nevertheless to have acquiesced in the admonition given them, that though they were to bear in mind that each of these nations were to be punished by God’s hand, they were yet to believe that the king of Babylon would have his turn, and that they therefore were to restrain themselves, and not to be carried away by too hasty a desire to look for his punishment, but patiently to bear the yoke of tyranny laid on them, until the seasonable time came of which they had been reminded. It follows, —
But the most probable account is that given by Gataker, that Babylon was thus called from an idol in great repute in the city, named Sheshach or Shach, and that it was on the festival of this idol that the city was taken. This accounts for this name being given to it, when its destruction is especially referred to. Mishael, which terminated with God’s name, was changed into Meschach, or rather Mishach, which contained the name of the Babylonian idol. (Daniel 1:7.) — Ed
Here the Prophet returns to his former discourse. He had said that a cup was extended to him by God’s hand, that he might give it to all nations to drink. He now repeats and confirms the same thing, not indeed that he brought this message to all the nations; for we have said the benefit arising from these predictions belonged only to the Jews. Neither the Tyrians nor the Sidonians ever knew that they were punished by God’s hand when they were plundered by their enemies; this never came to their minds, nor had this been ever taught them. The Prophet had not been appointed their teacher; but his duty was only to warn his own nation.
However, the Prophet, that his predictions might have greater authority, is here introduced as God’s herald, denouncing ruin on all nations, Thou shalt therefore say to them, Thus saith Jehovah, etc. The true God was unknown to these heathens, except they had heard that God was worshipped in Judea; but at the same time they despised, yea, hated true religion. But, as I have already said, the Prophet addressed his own people, the Jews alone, though he spoke of aliens and distant nations. I cannot advance further now.
In this verse the Prophet intimates, that however refractory the nations might be, yet they could effect no good by their obstinacy, for willing or unwilling they would be constrained to drink of the cup. But in order to render the matter more striking, he introduces them as refusing; If they refuse to take the cup, thou shalt say to them, says God, Drinking ye shall drink We have before said that the Prophet was not set a teacher over the heathens: hence what he declares here appertained not to aliens; but the whole benefit belonged to God’s Church. Therefore what is said was spoken for God’s people, even that they might know that as God had determined to punish the wickedness of men, none of all those threatened with judgment could possibly escape. Men indeed are often like unruly horses, who kick and are ferocious, and rage against their rider, and also bite; but the Prophet shews that God possesses a power sufficient to quell such obstinacy. He however reminds us how rebellious most would be, nay, almost all, when chastised by God’s hand. It is indeed a rare instance when he who has sinned, willingly and calmly submits to God, and owns that he is justly punished: nay, they who confess that they have deserved some heavy punishment, do yet complain against God; for they dread his vengeance, and apprehend not his mercy, and promise not to themselves any pardon. There is then no wonder that the Prophet ascribes here to wicked men, both Jews and aliens, so hard and rebellious a spirit, that they would resist God, and try to extricate themselves from his hand, in short, that they would by all means attempt to escape his judgment.
This is the reason why he says, If they refuse to take the cup from thy hand We hence see that we are not to take the words in their literal sense: for the Prophet did not speak to aliens, but what he had in view was the event itself, or rather the disposition of the people. These nations had indeed some power, and doubtless they strenuously defended their own safety; and this was the act of refusing intended by the Prophet. For when the enemy attacked the Moabites, they did not immediately yield; and the same was the case with others. Tyre was almost unassailable, for it was situated in the sea; where it was easy to prevent the approach of enemies. As then they had resolutely opposed their enemies, they are said to have refused the cup from God’s hand, for they thought that they could keep off the coming evil. But however inconquerable they thought themselves to be, and how much soever they trusted in their own power, yet God says, that their efforts would be in vain and useless: drinking, he says, ye shall drink (147) The reason follows —
Drink ye, — ye shall drink.
The first verb is an imperative, and the second is in the future tense, and may be rendered, “ye must drink,” for the future may thus be often rendered. — Ed.
A proof is added by comparing the less and the greater; for the Prophet reasons thus, — “If God spares not the city in which he has chosen a temple for himself, and designed his name to be invoked, how can he spare aliens to whom he has never made any promise, as he regarded them as strangers? If then the green tree is consumed, how can the dry remain safe?” This is the import of the passage. The Apostle uses the same argument in other words; for after having said that judgment would begin at God’s house, he immediately shews how dreadful that vengeance of God was to be which awaited his open enemies! (1 Peter 4:17.)
We may hence gather a useful doctrine. Since God not only declares that he will be indiscriminately the avenger of wickedness, but also summons in the first place his Church which he has chosen before his tribunal, its condition may seem to be worse than that of alien nations. Hence the minds of the godly, when they view things in this light, might be much depressed. It seems a singular favor of God, that he unites us to himself; but yet this honor seems only to lead to punishment: for God connives at the wickedness of heathens, and seems to bury them in oblivion; but as soon as we fall into sin, we perceive signs of his wrath. It would then be better to be at a distance from him, and that he should not be so solicitous in his care for us. Thus the faithful view the unbelieving as in a better state than themselves. But this doctrine mitigates all the sharpness of that grief, which might otherwise occasion greatbitterness. For when it is represented to us, that God begins at his Church, that he may more heavily punish the unbelieving after having long endured them, and that they may thus be far more grievously dealt with than the faithful, as the dry tree is much sooner consumed than the green, — when therefore this is set before us, we have doubtless a ground for comfort, and that not small nor common.
We hence see why Jeremiah added this, — that how much soever the nations would resist God, they would yet be constrained, willing or unwilling, to yield, as God was more powerful than they; and for this reason, that since God would not spare his chosen people, the heathens could by no means escape unpunished, and not find him to be the judge of the world. Let then this truth be remembered by us, whenever our flesh leads us to complain or to be impatient; for it is better for us that God should begin with us, as at length the wicked shall in their turn be destroyed, and that we should endure temporal evils, that God may at length raise us up to the enjoyment of his paternal favor. And for this reason Paul also says, that it is a demonstration of the just judgment of God when the faithful are exposed to many evils. (2 Thessalonians 1:4.): For, when God chastises his own children, of whose obedience he yet approves, do we not see as in a glass what is yet concealed? even the dreadful punishment that awaits all the unbelieving. God, then, represents to us at this day the destruction of his enemies by the paternal chastisements with which he visits us; and they are a certain proof or a lively exhibition of that judgment which the unbelieving fear not, but thoughtlessly deride.
Now, he says, Behold I begin to bring evil, etc. The verb הרע, ero, means properly to do evil; and it would be a strange thing to say that God does evil, were it not that common usage explains the meaning. They who are in any measure acquainted with Scripture know that calamities are called evils, that is, according to the perceptions of men. The Lord then is said to bring evil on men, not because he injures them or deals unjustly and cruelly with them, but because what is adverse to men’s minds is thought to be by them, and is called evil. Then he says, I begin to do evil in the city on which my name is called (148) God’s name is called on a people, when he promises to be their guardian and defender, and his name is said to be called upon men, when they betake themselves to his guardianship and protection.
But we must notice the real meaning, — that God’s name is called on a people, when they are deemed to be under his guardianship and keeping; as God’s name is called on the children of Abraham, because he had promised to be their God; and they boasted that they were his peculiar people, even on account of their adoption. So God’s name was called on Jerusalem, because there was the Temple and the altar; and as God called it his rest or habitation, his name was there well known, according to what we say in French, Se reclamer, il se reclame d’un tel, that is, such an one claims this or that as his patron, so that he shelters himself under his protection. So also the Jews formerly called on God’s name, when they said that they had been chosen to be his people: nay, this may also be applied to men; for the name of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham was called on the twelve tribes, even for this reason, — because they regarded, when seeking to rely on God’s covenant, their own origin, for they had descended from the holy fathers, with whom God had made his covenant, and to whom he had promised that he would be ever their God. All the Israelites called on Abraham, not, that they offered him worship, but that, as they were his offspring, they might feel justly assured that the gratuitous covenant by which God had adopted them to himself, had been transmitted to them. But this calling may be also taken in another sense, even because they daily appeased God by sacrifices and prayers: when they committed their safety to God, there was a sacrifice always added, and reconciliation was also promised. Then to be called upon or invoked, נקרא, nukora, may be taken in this sense, even that they knew that God was reconciled to them, when they from the heart repented. Since then God’s name was called upon in that city, how was it possible that the Gentiles should escape that judgment to which the holy city was of be exposed?
But the former view seems to me the best; and there is no doubt but that God speaks here to the free adoption by which he had chosen that people for himself: hence was the invocation or the glorying of which he now speaks.
But as it was difficult to make the Jews to believe what the Prophet had said, he dwells on the subject, and repeats what was before sufficiently clear. He not only says, Shall ye be treated as innocent? but he mentions the word twice, Shall ye by being treated as innocent be treated as innocent? (149) And thus he rebuked the perverse contumacy by which the heathens were filled, while looking on their wealth, their number, and other things, and at the same time disregarding all that the prophets proclaimed at Jerusalem, as though it was nothing to them. The question is in itself emphatical, “Can ye by any means be treated as innocent?” The verb נקה, nuke, means to be innocent, but it is applied to punishment; as the word עון, on, which means iniquity, is used to designate punishment. So he is said not to be innocent who cannot exempt himself from God’s judgment, nor be free from it.
He confirms this sentence when he says, For a sword am I calling for on all the inhabitants of the earth, saith Jehovah of hosts This confirmation is by no means superfluous, for the insolence of the nations had increased through the forbearance of God, for they had for a long time, yea, for many ages, been in a quiet state, and had indulged themselves in their pleasures, and slept as it were in their own dregs, according to what is said elsewhere. The Prophet then says now, that God was calling for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth. For he had often and in various ways chastised his own people, while the Gentiles were not in any danger and free from troubles. (Jeremiah 48:11.) But he says now that he was calling for a sword to destroy all those whom he seemed to have forgiven.
But God is said to have called for men as well as for a sword; for Nebuchadnezzar is said to have fought under the banner of God; he is said to have been like a hired soldier. But God now speaks of the sword, that we might know that it is in his power to excite and to quell wars whenever it pleases him, and that thus the sword, though wielded by the hand of man, is not yet called forth by the will of man, but by the hidden power of God. It follows, —
The word הידד , eidad, is rendered celeusma, a shout; but some render it a mournful singing; and it often occurs when the vintage is spoken of. Celeusma, as it is well known, is the shout of sailors. Its etymology is indeed general in its meaning; for κελεύειν is to exhort, to encourage; and then the noun is exhortation. But as this word is only used as to sailors, I prefer to adopt the word sound, or a loud noise.
Then he says, Prophesy thou against them all these words, and say to them, etc. I have already reminded you that no command was given to the Prophet to go to the heathens and to address each nation among them, or, in other words, to perform among them his prophetic office. But though he did not move a foot from the city, yet the influence of his prophecy reached through every region of the earth. The preaching therefore of Jeremiah was not in vain, for the Jews understood by what happened, that there was in the language of the holy man the power of the Spirit for the salvation of all the godly, and for the destruction of all the unbelieving. It is, then, in this sense that God bids and commands him again to prophesy against all nations, and to speak to them, not that he actually addressed them; but when he taught the Jews, his doctrine had an influence on all nations.
And he says, Jehovah from on high shall roar, and from the habitation of his holiness shall send forth his voice The metaphor of roaring is sufficiently common. It seems indeed unsuitable to apply it to God; but we know how tardy men are, and how they indulge themselves in their own insensibility, even when God threatens them. Hence God, adopting a hyperbolical mode of speaking, reproves their stupidity, as he cannot move them except he exceeds the limits of moderation. This then is the reason why he compares himself to a lion, not that we are to imagine that there is anything savage or cruel in him; but as I have said, men cannot be moved, except God puts on another character and comes forth as a lion, while yet he testifies not in vain elsewhere, that he is slow to wrath, inclined to mercy and long-suffering. (Psalms 86:5.) Let us then know that the impious contempt, by which most men are fascinated, is thus condemned, when God does as it were in this manner transform himself, and is constrained to represent himself as a lion.
Roar, then, he says, shall Jehovah, from on high, and from the habitation of his holiness shall he send forth his voice When he speaks of on high, it is probable that heaven is meant; and the habitation of his holiness is often taken for the sanctuary or the Temple; but in other places, when the same words are repeated, heaven is also meant by the habitation of his holiness. There is yet nothing unsuitable, if we say that the Prophet here refers to the Temple, and that he thus refers to it, that he might raise upwards the minds of the Jews, who had their thoughts fixed on the visible Temple: nay, this seems to be required by the context. They indeed foolishly thought that God was bound to them, because it had been said,
“Here is my rest for ever; here will my name and power dwell.” (Psalms 132:14)
They strangely thought that there was no God but he who was inclosed in that visible and external sanctuary. Hence was that pride which Isaiah reproves and severely condemns when he says,
“Where is the place for my rest? the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what place then will you build for me?” (Isaiah 66:1.)
The Prophet there does not merely speak, as many think, against superstition; but he rather beats down that foolish arrogance, because the people thought that God could never be separated from the material Temple. And yet it was not for nothing that the Temple had the name of being the royal throne of God, provided vices were removed. So now the Prophet, though he exalts God above the heavens, yet alludes to the visible sanctuary, when he says, “Roar shall Jehovah from on high, and from the habitation of his holiness shall he send forth his voice;” that is, though the Gentiles think that God sits and rests in a corner, yet his throne is in heaven: that he has chosen for himself a terrestrial habitation, is no reason why the government of the whole earth should not be in his hands; and therefore he manifests proofs of his vengeance towards all nations; but for the sake of his Church he will go forth as it were from his Temple: and he repeats again, Roaring he shall roar on his dwelling, or habitation. (150) Jerome usually renders the last word ornament, beauty; and yet this passage sufficiently proves that it cannot mean any other thing than habitation, as well as many other passages.
He afterwards proceeds to another comparison, He will respond a shout, as those who tread the wine-press against all the inhabitants of the earth This repetition and variety confirm what I have said, — that God hyperbolically set forth the vehemence of his voice in order to fill with terror the secure and the torpid. And the Prophet seems here to intimate, that though there would be none to cheer, yet God’s voice would be sufficiently powerful. For they who tread the wine-press mutually encourage one another by shouting; one calls on another, and thus they rouse themselves to diligence. There is also a mutual concord among sailors, when they give their shouts, as well as among the workmen who tread the grapes in the wine-press. But though God would have no one to rouse him, yet he himself would be sufficient; he will respond a shout (151) The Prophet might have used another word; but he says, he will respond — to whom? even to himself; that is, though all united to extinguish God’s vengeance, yet he will come forth a conqueror, nor will he have any need of help. It then follows, —
Roaring he will roar against his own habitation; A shout like that of treaders of grapes Will he respond to all the inhabitants of the earth.
This rendering prevents the necessity of giving an unusual meaning to אל, as it is commonly done. Coccius takes this view of the passage. — Ed
He pursues the same subject; he says that there would be a dreadful assault, and that it would extend to the extreme parts of the earth. The word שאון, shaun, means a noise or sound; but it is also taken for violence or assault; and either meaning would not be unsuitable here. The sound then, or assault, shall come to the extreme parts of the earth It then follows, that God had a strife with all nations; and here the Prophet seems to obviate a question that might have been raised, “What does this mean? that God will suddenly raise a commotion, after having been quiet and still for so many ages, without giving any symptom of his vengeance?” For we have said that the nations here mentioned had been long in a tranquil state. Hence the Prophet answers this unexpressed objection and says, that God had a contention with them.
The time of contending is not always: he who does not immediately bring his adversary before the judge, but deals kindly with him, and seeks to obtain amicably from him what is right, does not thereby forego what is justly due to him; but when he finds that the contumacy of his adversary is such that his kind dealing effects nothing, he may then litigate with him. The same thing is now expressed by the Prophet, even that God would now contend with the nations and dispute with all flesh God is indeed, properly speaking, the judge of the world; and there is no arbiter or a judge in heaven or on earth to be found before whom he can dispute; but yet this mode of speaking ought to be especially noticed; for God thus silences all those complaints which men are wont to make against him. Even they who are a hundred times proved guilty, yet complain against God when he severely punishes them, and they say that they are made to suffer more than they deserve. Hence God for this reason says, that when he punishes he does not exercise a tyrannical power, but that he does as it were dispute with sinners. At the same time he sets forth his own goodness by representing the end he has in view; for what he regards in rigidly punishing wickedness, is nothing else than to obtain his own rights; and as he cannot secure these by kind means, he extorts them as it were by the aid of laws. (152)
Let us then observe, that nothing is detracted from God’s power and authority, when it is said, that he disputes or contends with men; but that in this way all those clamors are checked which the ungodly raise against him, as though he raged immoderately against them, and also that thus the end of all punishment is pointed out, even that God condescends to assume the character of an opponent, and proposes nothing else than to require what is reasonable and just, like him who having a cause to try before the judge, would willingly agree beforehand, if possible, with his adversary; but as he sees no hope, he has recourse to that remedy. So God contends with us; for except we were wholly irreclaimable, we might be restored to his favor; and reconciliation would be ready for us, were we only to allow him his rights.
31.Gone has the sound to the extremity of the earth; For a contention had Jehovah with the nations, Into judgment hath he entered with all flesh; The wicked — he gave them to the sword, saith Jehovah.
The past is evidently used for the future. “The sound” then was to go forth, and for the reasons here assigned, — God would have a dispute with all, would try the matter as it were by a judicial process, and would give up the condemned, the wicked, to the sword. The object of this representation is very correctly stated by Calvin. — Ed.
Jeremiah goes on with the subject which we began to explain in the last Lecture. He had before prophesied of God’s judgments, which were nigh many nations, and which referred to almost all the countries near and known to the Jews, and to some that were afar off. The substance of what has been said is, — that God, who had long spared the wickedness of men, would now become an avenger, so that it might openly appear, that though he had deferred punishment, he would not allow the ungodly to escape, for they would in proper time and season be called to give an account.
To the same purpose is what he adds here, go forth shall evil from nation to nation The explanation by some is, that one nation would make war on another, and that thus they would destroy themselves by mutual conflicts; and this meaning may be admitted. It seems, however, to me that the Prophet meant another thing, even that God’s vengeance would advance like a contagion through all lands. And according to this view he adds a metaphor, or the simile of a storm, or a tempest, or a whirlwind; for when a tempest arises, it confines not itself to one region, but spreads itself far and wide. So the Prophet now shews, that though God would not at one time punish all the nations, he would yet be eventually the judge of all, for he would pass far and wide like a storm. Thus, then, I interpret the passage, not that the nations would make war with one another, but that when God had executed his judgment on one nation, he would afterwards advance to another, so that he would make no end until he had completed what Jeremiah had foretold.
And this view appears still more evident from the second clause of the verse, for this cannot be explained of intestine wars, raised shall be a tempest from the sides of the earth We hence see that the meaning is, that God would not be wearied after having begun to summon men to judgment, but would include the most remote, who thought themselves beyond the reach of danger. As when a tempest rises, it seems only to threaten a small portion of the country, but it soon spreads itself and covers the whole heavens; so also God says, that his vengeance would come from the sides of the earth, that is, from the remotest places, so that no distance would prevent the completion of what he had foretold by his servant.
But this may also be accommodated to our case; for whenever we see that this or that nation is afflicted by any calamity, we ought to remember this truth, that God seasonably warns us, that we may not abuse his patience, but anticipate him before his scourge passes from some side of the earth to us. In short, as soon as God manifests any sign of his wrath, it ought instantly to occur to us, that it may spread in a moment through all the extremities of the earth, so that no corner would be exempted. For if he makes known his power in the whirlwind or the storm, how will it be, when he makes a fuller and a nearer manifestation of his judgment, by stretching forth his hand as it were in a visible manner? This, then, is the import of this verse. It afterwards follows, —
This verse explains what I have just said; and hence it also appears that the Prophet did not speak of mutual slaughters inflicted by one nation on another, but that he only declared that God’s wrath would spread like a storm so as to extend to all nations and lands. The Prophet no doubt continues the same subject; and we see why he says here, And the slain, of Jehovah shall be in that day, etc.; he calls our attention to God alone; he will speak otherwise hereafter, he does not set here before us the ministers of God’s vengeance, but God himself as acting by himself.
Hence he says, the slain of Jehovah; some read, “the wounded;” and חלל , chelal, means to wound and to kill; but “the slain” is more suitable here. The slain then of Jehovah shall be from one extremity of the earth to the other; as though he had said, that God would not be satisfied with punishing three or four nations, but would shew himself the judge of all the countries of the earth.
Now this passage is worthy of special notice; for we often wonder why God connives at so many crimes committed by men, which none of us would tolerate. But if we consider how dreadful was the tempest of which the Prophet now speaks, we ought to know that God rests for a time, in order that the ungodly and the wicked might be the less excusable. It was at the same time doubtless a sad spectacle, when so many regions and provinces were unceasingly suffering various calamities, when one nation thought itself better off than its neighbors, but presently found itself more cruelly treated. And yet this was generally the case, for God’s wrath extended to the extremities of the earth.
He amplifies the atrocity of the evil by mentioning three things, — They shall not be lamented, nor gathered, nor buried; but they shall be as dung, and shall thus lie on the face of the earth We have said in other places that lamentation does no good to the dead; but as it is what humanity requires, the want of it is rightly deemed a temporal punishment. So when any one is deprived of burial, it is certainly nothing to the dead if his body is not laid in a grave; for we know that God’s holy servants have often been either burnt or hung or exposed to wild beasts; and the whole Church complains that dead bodies were lying around Jerusalem and became food to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth. But these things do not disprove the fact, that burial is an evidence of God’s paternal kindness towards men. For why has he appointed that men should be buried rather than brute animals, except that he designed it to be an intimation of an immortal life? As, then, burial is a sign of God’s favor, it is no wonder that he often declares to the reprobate that their dead bodies would be cast away, so as not to be honored, with a grave.
But we must remember this truth, — that temporal punishments happen in common to God’s children and to aliens; God extends without any difference temporal punishments to his own children and to the unbelieving, and that in order that it may be made evident that our hope ought not to be fixed on this world. But however this may be, it is yet true that when God punishes the unbelieving in this way, he adds at the same time some remark by which it may be understood, that it happens not in vain nor undesignedly, that those are deprived of burial, who deserve that God should exterminate them from the earth, and that their memory should be obliterated, so that they should not be connected among men. But we have said also in another place, that such expressions admit of another meaning, which yet is not at variance with the former, but connected with it, and that is, that so great would be the slaughter, that none would be left to shew this kindness to his friend or to his neighbor or to his brother. For when four or ten or a hundred die, they may be buried; but when God slays by the sword a great number in one day, none are found to take care of burying the dead, as few remain alive, and even they dread their enemies. When therefore the prophets say that those whom God slew would be without lamentation and burial, they intimate that so great would be the number, that all would lie on the ground; for no one would dare to perform this humane act towards the dead, and were all to do their utmost, they would not be able, as the number would be so great.
Thus Jeremiah confirms what we have said, — that God’s vengeance would extend to all lands and all nations, so as to involve in ruin the nobles as well as the common people, and to leave remaining but a small number.
For the same purpose he adds what follows, that they would be as dung on the face of the earth This is added by way of contempt. It was then hardly credible, that so many illustrious, wealthy, and powerful nations could thus in so short a time be destroyed. But the Prophet, in order to shake off this false conceit, says that they would become like dung, that however great their dignity and power, their wealth and strength, might be, they could not yet escape the hand of God, for he would reduce to nothing the glory of the whole world. We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. It then follows —
I doubt not but that the Prophet now turns his discourse especially to his own nation, which interpreters have not observed, and hence have not understood the meaning of the Prophet. He prophesied of God’s judgments, that the Jews might know that they in vain looked for impunity, as the Lord would not pardon the ignorant and destitute of all true knowledge, who might have pretended their ignorance as an excuse; and also that this comfort might support the minds of the godly, that the heathens, involved in the same guilt, would be subjected to the same judgment; and lastly, that knowing the difference between them and other nations, they might flee to God’s mercy and be encouraged to repent by entertaining a hope of pardon. After having then treated this general subject, he now returns to the people over whom he was appointed a teacher. He might indeed have declared from an eminence what was to take place through the whole earth; for so extensive was the office of a herald which God had conferred on him. He might then by the virtue of his office have denounced ruin on all nations; but he ought not to neglect his special care for the chosen people. And so I explain this passage; for he now again directs his discourse to the Jews.
Hence he says, Howl, ye pastors, and cry, etc. By pastors he means the king and his counsellors, the priests and other rulers; and by the choice of the flock he seems to understand the rich, whose condition was better than that of the common people. Some in a more refined manner consider the choice of the flock to have been those void of knowledge, unlike the scribes and priests and the king’s counsellors; but this view seems not to be well-founded. I therefore adopt what is more probable, — that the choice of the flock were those who were rich and high in public esteem, and yet held no office of authority in the commonwealth or in the Church. However this may be, the Prophet shews, that as soon as God began to put forth his hand to punish the Jews, there would be no ranks of men exempt from lamentation, for he would begin with the pastors and the choice of the flock.
He adds that their days were fulfilled Here he indirectly condemns that wicked security which had for a long time hardened them, so that they despised all threatenings; for God had now for many years called on them, and had sent his Prophets one after another; when they saw the execution of judgment suspended over them, they considered it only as a bugbear, “Well, let the prophets continue to pronounce their terrors, if they will do so, but nothing will come of them.” Thus the ungodly turned God’s forbearance into an occasion for their obstinacy. As then this evil was common among the Jews, the Prophet now says, by way of anticipation, that their days were fulfilled For there is to be understood this contrast, that God had spared them, not that he had his eyes closed, or that he had not observed their wicked deeds, but that he wished to give them time to repent; but when he saw that their wickedness was unhealable, he now says that their days were completed. And he adds, to be killed or slain. I wonder that learned interpreters render this, “that they may slay one another.” There is no need of adding anything, for the Prophet meant to express no such sentiment, nor to restrict what he denounces here on the Jews, to intestine or domestic wars; on the contrary, we know that they were slain by aliens, even by the Chaldeans. This sense then is forced, and is also inconsistent with history. It is added, and your dispersions (153) also are fulfilled, or your breakings. The verb פוף, puts, means to scatter or to dissipate, and also to afflict, to tear; and the sense of tearing or breaking is what I prefer here. And he adds, And ye shall fall as a precious vessel This simile appears not to be very appropriate, for why should he not rather compare them to an earthen vessel, which is of no value and easily broken? But his object was to point out the difference in their two conditions, that though God had honored them with singular privileges, yet all their excellency would not keep them safe; for it often happens that a vessel, however precious, is broken. And he speaks not of gold or silver vessels, but of fragile vessels, once in great esteem. That he might then more grievously wound them, he says that they had been hitherto precious vessels, or a precious vessel; for he speaks of them all in the singular number, and that they were to be broken; and thus he confirms what I said on the last verse, that hypocrites in vain trusted in their present fortune, or in the superior blessings of God, for he could turn to shame whatever glory he had conferred on them. It follows, —
34.Howl, ye pastors, and cry, And roll yourselves in the dust, ye illustrious of the flock, Because fulfilled are your days For the slaughter and for your dispersions; And ye shall fall like a precious vessel.
The word באפר, “in the dust,” is connected with the verb here used in Jeremiah 6:26, and in Ezekiel 27:30, and it is supplied here by the Vulg. and the Targ. The line is rendered by the Sept., —
And mourn, ye rams of the flock.
But the verb has no other sense but that of rolling, though the other word may be rendered “rams,” as it is in the masculine gender.
Venema gives the following version, —
Howl, ye pastors, and cry aloud, And sprinkle yourselves with dust, ye illustrious of the flock; For fulfilled are your days to be sacrificed; And there shall be your breakings, And ye shall fall like a precious vessel.
He considers the first and the fourth line as connected, and the second and the third; the pastors were to be broken, and the illustrious of the flock to be slain in sacrifice. There is certainly a congruity in the parts thus viewed. — Ed.
He explains what we have now observed, for he had bidden the pastors to howl and the choice of the flock to roll or to prostrate themselves in the dust; he now gives the reason, even because they could not preserve their lives, no, not by an ignominious flight. It is indeed very miserable, when any one cannot otherwise secure his life than by seeking exile, where he must be poor, and needy, and despised; but even this is denied by the Prophet to the king and his counsellors, as well as to the rich through the whole city and the whole land: Perish, he says, shall flight from them. This mode of speaking is common in Hebrew:
“Flight,” says David, “has perished from me,”
that is, I find no way of escape. So here, Perish shall flight; that is, while looking here and there in order to escape from danger, they shall be so shut up on every side, that they shall necessarily fall a prey to their enemies. It follows, —
He not merely repeats the same thing in other words, but adds also something more grievous, that God would render desolate their pastures. He pursues the same metaphor; for as he used this comparison in speaking of the king’s counsellors and the priests, so now he does the same; and what he means by pastures is the community, the people, in the city and in the country; (154) as though he had said, that they had hitherto ruled over that land which was rich and fertile, and in which they enjoyed power and dignity, but that now they would be deprived of all these benefits. He afterwards adds, —
He goes on with the same subject, that the tents, previously tranquil, would perish or be destroyed. And he designedly calls their dwellings peaceable; for the Jews, having found that their enemies had not before disturbed them, still promised to themselves the same good fortune in future.
And the faithful indeed do act thus rightly, and justly conclude from God’s previous benefits that he will be kind to them as he had ever been so; but hypocrites, though they repent not, yet absurdly think that God is bound to them; and though they daily provoke his wrath, they yet securely continue in their confidence of having peace. Since God then had until that time deferred the grievousness of his wrath, the Prophet says, that though their tents had been peaceable, (155) yet they could not be exempted from destruction as soon as the indignation of God’s wrath went forth. It might have been enough to make use of one of these words, either of חרון, cherun, or of אף, aph; but the Prophet used the two, indignation and wrath, (156) in order that he might fill the wicked with more terror; for as they were obstinate in their wickedness, so they were not moved except God doubled his strokes and set forth the extremity of his wrath. It follows, —
The Prophet in the last verse reminds us, that the Jews in vain trusted in God’s protection, for he would forsake his own Temple as well as the city. It was as it were a common saying among them,
“He has said, This is my rest for ever.” (Psalms 132:14.)
But hypocrites did not consider that he could still stand faithful to his promises, though he did not suffer them to go unpunished. They could not therefore connect these two things together, — that God would be always mindful of his covenant, — and that still he would be the judge of his Church.
This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that God would forsake as a lion his tabernacle Some give this explanation, that he would go forth for a short time, as hungry lions are wont to do; but this is too far-fetched. I therefore have no doubt that God sets forth his power under the character of a lion; for the Jews would have been feared by all their enemies, had not God changed as it were his station. But as they had expelled him by their vices, so that he had no more an habitation among them, hence it was that they became exposed to the plunder of all nations. The import of the passage then is, that as long as God dwelt in the Temple he was like a lion, so that by his roaring alone he kept at a distance all nations and defended the children of Abraham; but that now, though he had not changed his nature, nor was there anything taken away or diminished as to his power, yet the Jews would not be safe, for he would forsake them. (157)
And the reason is added, which clearly confirms what has been said, For their land (he refers to the Jews) shall be desolate But whence this desolation to Judea, except that it was deprived of God’s protection? For had God defended it, he could have repelled all enemies by a nod only. But as he had departed, hence it was that they found an easy access, and that the land was thus reduced to a waste.
It is added, on account of the indignation of the oppressor. Some render the last word “dove,” but not correctly. They yet have devised a refined meaning, that God is called a dove because of his kindness and meekness, though his wrath is excited, for he is forced to put on the character of another through the perverseness of men, when he sees that he can do nothing by his benevolence towards them. But this is a far-fetched speculation. The verb ינה, inc, means to oppress, to take by force; and as it is most frequently taken in a bad sense, I prefer to apply it here to enemies rather than to God himself. There are many indeed who explain it of God, but I cannot embrace their view; for Jeremiah joins together two clauses, that God would forsake his Temple, as when a lion departs from his covert, and also that enemies would come and find the place naked and empty; in short, he intimates that they would be exposed to the will and plunder of their enemies, because they would be at that time destitute of God’s aid. And as he had before spoken of the indignation of God’s wrath, so now he ascribes the same to their enemies, and justly so, for they were to execute his judgments; what properly belongs to God is ascribed to them, because they were to be his ministers. (158)
38.Left hath he like a lion his covert; For their land hath become a desolation Through the oppressing sword, And through the burning of his wrath.
The כי might be rendered “therefore,” instead of “for;” and thus the meaning would be more evident. See Jeremiah 25:30, where “the roaring” as of a lion, and the “sword,” are both mentioned; and this confirms the view here given. In the two last lines, “the oppressing” or “devastating sword” is first referred to, — the visible effect, and then “the burning of his wrath” — the cause; an order often to be seen in the Prophets. — Ed
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 25". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany