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Many regard this verse as connected with the last, and thus read them connectedly, “God hates false confidences, because he says, “etc. But this seems not to me to be suitable; for Jeremiah brings before us here a new subject, — that God seeks to be reconciled to his people, according to what a husband does, who desires to receive into favor an unchaste wife, and is ready to grant her full pardon, and to take her again as a chaste and faithful wife. This verse, then, cannot be connected with the foregoing, in which, as we have seen, the people are condemned. The word לסמר lam e r, means the same, as I think, as when we say in French, par maniere de dire, or as when it is commonly said, “Suppose a case.” For the Prophet does not here introduce God as the speaker, but lays before us a common subject, with this preface, לאמר, lamer, that is, “Be it so, that a man divorces his wife, and she becomes allied to another husband, can she again return to her first husband? This is not usually done; but I will surpass whatever kindness there may be among men, for I am ready to receive thee, provided thou wilt in future observe conjugal fidelity, and part with thy adulteries and adulterers.” (72)
As to the main point, there is here no ambiguity: for God shews that he would be reconciled to the Jews, provided they proceeded not obstinately in their sinful courses. But in order to set forth more fully his mercy, he uses a comparison which must be a little more attentively considered. He had before said that he held the place of a husband, that the people occupied the station of a wife; and then he complained of the base perfidy of the people, who had forsaken him, and said that they had acted like a wife who, having despised her husband, prostituted herself to such adulterers as might happen to meet her: but he now adds, “Behold, if a man dismisses his wife, and she becomes the wife of another, he will never receive her again.” And this was forbidden by the law. “But I am ready, “he says, “to receive thee, though I had not given thee the usual divorce at my pleasure, as husbands are wont to do who repudiate their wives, when there is anything displeasing in them.” It is not a simple comparison, as many think; (I know not whether all think so, for I have not read any who seem to understand the true meaning;) for God does not simply compare himself to a husband who has repudiated his wife for adultery; but as I have already said, there are here two clauses. The Jews were then wont to divorce their wives even for slight causes, and for no cause at all.
Now, God speaks thus by Isaiah,“
Shew me the bill of your mother’s divorcement,” (Isaiah 50:1)
as though he had said, “I have not repudiated your mother.” For if any one then departed from his wife, the law compelled him to take some blame on himself; for what was the bill of divorcement? It was a testimony to the wife’s chastity; for if any one was found guilty of adultery, there was no need of divorcement, as it was a capital crime. (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22.) Hence adulteresses were not usually divorced; but if any woman had conducted herself faithfully towards her husband, and he wished to repudiate her, the law constrained him to give her the bill of divorcement: “I repudiate this wife, not because she hath broken or violated the bond of marriage, but because her manners are not agreeable, because her beauty does not please me.” Thus the husbands were then commanded to take some of the blame on themselves. Hence the Lord says by Isaiah,“
Shew me the bill of your mother’s divorcement;”
as though he had said, “She has departed from me; she has broken the bond of marriage by her fornications; I am not then in fault for being alienated from you.”
God then does not mean in this place, that he had divorced the people; for this would have been wrong and unlawful, and could not have been consistent with the character of God. But as I have already said, there is here a twofold comparison. “Though a husband should fastidiously send away his wife, and she through his fault should be led to contract another marriage, and become the partner of another, as though in contempt of him, he could hardly ever bear that indignity, and become reconciled to her: but ye have not been repudiated by me, but are like a perfidious woman, who shamefully prostitutes herself to all whom she may meet with; and yet I am ready to receive you, and to forget all your base conduct.” We now then understand the import of the words.
In the second clause there is a comparison made from the less to the greater. For the return into favor would have been easier, if the repudiated wife had afterwards become acceptable to him, though she had become the wife of another; but when an adulteress finds her husband so willing of himself, and ready to grant free pardon, it is certainly an example not found among mortals. Thus we see that God, by an argument from the less to the greater, enhances his goodness towards the people, in order to render the Jews the less excusable for rejecting so pertinaciously a favor freely offered to them.
But it may be asked, why the Prophet says, By pollution shall not this land be polluted, or, through this? I shall speak first of the words, and then refer to the subject. Almost all give this version, “Is not that land by pollution polluted.” But I know not what sense we can elicit by such a rendering, except, it may be, that God compares a divorced wife to the land, or that he, by an abrupt transition, transfers to the land what he had said of a divorced wife, or rather that he explains the metaphor which had been used. If this sense be approved, then the copulative which follows must be rendered as a causative, which all have rendered adversatively, and rightly too, “But thou.” I then prefer to read ההיא, eeia, by itself, “by this;” that is, when a wife returns again to her first husband, after having married another; for the law, as we have said, forbad this; and the husband must have become an adulterer, if he took again the wife whom he had repudiated. Liberty was granted to women by divorce; not that divorce was by God allowed; but as the women were innocent, they were released, for God imputed the fault to the husbands. And when the repudiated wife married another man, this second marriage was considered legitimate. If, then, the first husband sought to recover the wife whom he had divorced, he violated the bond of the second marriage. For this reason, and according to this sense, the Prophet says, that the land would by this become polluted; as though he had said, “It is not lawful for husbands to take back their wives, however ready they may be to forgive them; but I require no other thing but your return to me.”
As to the words, we now see that the Prophet does not say without reason, “By this;” that is, when a woman unites herself to one man, and then to another, and afterwards returns to her first husband; for society would thus be torn asunder, and also the sacred bond of marriage, the main thing in the preservation of social order, would be broken.
It is added, But thou hast played the harlot with many companions (73) What we have before observed is here confirmed, — that the people had been guilty, not only of one act of adultery, but that they were become like common strumpets, who prostitute themselves to all without any difference; and this is what will be presently stated. Those whom he calls companions or friends were rivals. He says, Yet return to me, saith Jehovah: by which he intimated, — “Pardon is ready for thee, provided thou repentest.”
An objection may, however, be here raised, — How could God do what he had forbidden in his law? The answer is obvious, — No other remedy could have been given to preserve order in society when men were allowed to repudiate their wives, except by adding this restraint, as a proof that God did not favor their levity and changeableness. It was thus necessary, for the interest of society, to punish such men as were too morose and rigid, by withholding from them the power of recovering the wives whom they had dismissed. It might otherwise have been, that one changed his love the third day, or in a month, or in a year, and demanded his wife. God then intended to put this restraint on divorce, so that no man, who had put away his wife, could take her again. But the case is very different as to God himself: it is therefore nothing strange that he claims for himself the right of being reconciled to the Jews on their repentance. It follows —
(72) The word at the beginning of this verse has puzzled most, the form being so unusual. It is left out by the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic The Vulgate has “ vulgo dieitur — it is commonly said.” But ל means at times “according to;” and it may be so rendered here, —
According to what is said, If a man sends away his wife, And she goes from him and becomes another man’s, Is he to return to her again? Polluted, shall it not be polluted, even that land? But thou hast played the harlot with many friends, Yet return to me, saith Jehovah.
The particle הן in the first line is Chaldee for אם; it is so rendered by the Targun and the early versions. The pronoun ההיא after “land” cannot be rendered as Calvin proposes; it agrees in gender with “land.” It is singular that the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Arabic, have “woman” instead of “land;” yet the Syriac and Targum retain “land:“ but in them all this pronoun is construed with the noun. Gataker takes “land” here, and in Deuteronomy 24:4, as meaning “the state,“ the community, and refers to Numbers 35:33; Psalms 106:38; Isaiah 24:5. — Ed
(73) The Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic, have by a mistake rendered the word “pastors” or shepherds; but the Vulgate has “lovers,“ which our version and Blayney have adopted. But the word means companions, friends, intimates, neighbors. Gataker renders it “mates.” — Ed.
As the Prophet had charged the Jews with being wanton in a loose and promiscuous manner, as it is the case with abandoned women, after having cast away all shame, that they might not evade the charge and object, that they were not conscious of any crime, he makes them in a manner the judges themselves, Raise up, he says, thine eyes to the high places and see; that is, “I bring forward witnesses sufficiently known to thee; there is no hill in the land where thou hast not been connected with idols.” We have already said, and we shall find the same thing often mentioned by this Prophet, — that superstitions are deemed idolatries by God. But it was a customary thing with the Jews to ascend high places, as though they were there nearer to God. This is the reason why the Prophet bids them to turn their eyes to all the hills: See, he says, whether is there any hill free from thy fornications. For as strumpets seek hiding — places to perpetrate their obscenities, so the Jews sought hills as their brothels. And thus their impiety was the more execrable as they went forth openly, and especially as they wished their flagitious acts to be seen at a distance, ascending, as they did, elevated places; but strumpets, having found adulterers or paramours, are wont to seek some secret retreats. The Prophet then cuts off from the Jews every occasion for evading the charge, when he bids them to raise up their eyes to the high places; for when they prostrated themselves before their idols, it was the same as when strumpets commit acts of adultery.
And he adds, that they sat by the ways, as the Arabian in the desert He again repeats what we have before observed, — that the Jews were not led away by the enticement of others to violate the conjugal pledge which they had given to God, but were, on the contrary, moved by their own wantonness, so that they of themselves sought base and filthy gratifications, he had before said, “Thou hast corrupted others by thy wickedness;” and now he confirms the same, “Thou hast sat, he says, “by all the ways.” This also is what is done by vile strumpets, who, as it has been said, have lost all shame. But the Prophet enhances this crime by another comparison, As an Arabian in the desert, who lies in wait for travelers, that he may rob and kill them: thus hast thou sat by the ways (74)
We then see here a double comparison; one taken from strumpets, who having in time past made gain, when they find themselves neglected, besiege the ways, and offer themselves to any they may meet with. This is the first comparison; the other is, that they were like robbers, who lie in wait for travelers; as though he had said, that the Chaldeans and Egyptians were excusable when compared with the Jews, because they had been drawn by their wicked arts into illicit treaties, like a traveler who passing by is enticed by a robber, — “What art thou but a helpless man; but if thou joinest me, and engagest to be my companion, there is the best prospect of gain, and new spoils will fall into our hands daily.” Such a robber is twice and three times more wicked than the other. So also, the Prophet says of the Jews, that they were like old robbers, who had become hardened in intrigues, in plunders, and in every kind of wickedness, and had enticed to themselves both the Egyptians and the Assyrians. It afterwards follows —
(74) Gataker suggests another idea,-that the reference is made to the Arabian traders, who fix their tents in the wilderness to wait for the merchants. Blayney renders the lines differently, —
Lift up thine eyes upon the open plains, and see; Where hast thou not been defiled in the highways? Thou hast sat waiting in them like an Arabian in the desert.
To render שפים, “open plains,” is without authority; it means “craggy eminences,“ or elevated places. See Numbers 23:3; Isaiah 41:18; Jeremiah 14:6. The division, too, is arbitrary. “The ways,” or highways, connects better with the following verb; and להם is not “in them,“ but to or for them, that is, her lovers, mentioned in the preceding verse. Our version is the most suitable, with which that of Calvin corresponds.“
Arabian” is rendered “crow” by the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic; “ robber” by the Vulgate, but “Arabian” by the Targum. It is true that the word for a crow is from the same root, but the iod attached to it shews it to be a proper name. Where the Vulgate got the word “robber,“ it is hard to know. — Ed.
Jeremiah proceeds with his severe reproof, — that the Jews were wholly given to wickedness, for they had altogether devoted themselves to superstitions, and also to unlawful alliances, and had in both instances despised God. He now shews how great and how strong was their obstinacy. Restrained, he says, have been the rains, there has not been the latter rain; yet the front of a harlot has been thine; as though he had said, that the Jews had not in any degree been subdued by punishment. It was a most atrocious wickedness to give no ear to pious warnings, when the prophets continually cried to them, and endeavored to restore them to the right way. That they thus hardened themselves against the addresses of the prophets, was a proof of the greatest impiety. But God tried also to restore them to himself by punishments, and those very heavy. He punished them with sterility; and the drought of which the Prophet speaks was no doubt so uncommon, that the Jews might perceive, had they a particle of a sound mind, that God was at war with them. It often happens that not a drop of rain fails from heaven; for we see that many summers are hot and dry: there is no doubt but that God then reminds us of our sins and exhorts us to repent. But as familiarity makes us to overlook God’s judgments, he sometimes punishes us in a new and unusual manner. I doubt not then but that the Prophet, by saying, Restrained have been rains from them, refers to some extraordinary instance of God’s vengeance, whereby the Jews might have perceived, except they were extremely besotted, that God was opposed to and displeased with them. (75)
The import of what is said is, — that the Jews had not only run here and there through a mad impulse, according to their own wills and inclinations, but that they had also been checked by evident judgments, since God had from heaven openly shewed himself to be the vindicator of his own glory, and as there had been so great a drought, that it appeared clear that the curse of the law had been fulfilled towards them,“
I will make heaven iron to you, and the earth brass.” (Leviticus 26:19)
As to the latter rain, we have said elsewhere that by this word is meant the rain which falls just before harvest; and it is called “latter” with reference to the harvest. For, as there is great heat in those eastern parts, they want rain before the harvest commences; the extreme heat of the sun would otherwise scorch up the grain. Hence, they especially look for the latter rain, which comes shortly before harvest — time. The other rain, in September and October, is called, on account of the sowing — time, a seasonable rain; for it soaks and moistens the seed, that it may strike roots and gather rigor and strength. The object is to shew, that God had from heaven given to the Jews manifest tokens of his displeasure, and yet without any benefit; for they had the front of a harlot, and felt no shame; that is, they were moved by no judgments of God, and could not bear to be corrected.
(75) It is usual to render the ו before “restrained,” “therefore;” but the sentence will read better, connected as it is with the latter part of the previous verse, by giving it its most common meaning, —
And restrained have been the showers, And the latter rain has not been; Yet the front of a wanton woman hast thou had, Thou hast refused to be made ashamed.
This last verb is in the Infinitive Huphal. It means in Hiphil, to make ashamed; and then in Huphal, to be made ashamed. The Targum expresses thus the general sense of the last line, “Thou hast been unwilling to humble thyself.” The rest of the verse is rendered almost literally. The Septuagint and the Arabic wander very far from the Hebrew. The Vulgate is a literal version, and the Syriac is nearly so, only it connects “wickedness, “in the last verse, with restrained, thus, —
And for thy wickedness have been restrained the dews.
And it is not improbable but that this was the original reading. — Ed.
God, after having set forth the wickedness of his people, and severely reproved them as they deserved, now kindly invites them to repentance, Wilt thou not say to me hereafter, he says, My Father! Some incorrectly render the words, “Wilt thou say to me, My Father,” as though God would reject what they said: and they give the meaning, — that the Jews would act dishonestly in thus glorying in God’s name, from whom they were so alienated. But very different is the meaning of the Prophet: for God mitigates the severity of the reproof which we have observed, and shews that he would be ready to be reconciled to them, if they repented: nay, he waits not for their repentance, but of his own accord meets and allures these perfidious apostates: “What!” says God, “shall there be no more any union between us?” For God expresses here the feeling of one grieving and lamenting, when he saw the people perishing; and he seems anxious, if possible, to restore them.
It is with this design that he asks, “Will they not again call on me as their Father and the guide of their youth?” And by this periphrastic way of speaking, he intimates that he was the husband of that people; for most tender is that love which a youth has for a young virgin in the flower of her age. God, then, makes use now of this comparison, and says, that he still remembered the love which he had manifested towards his people. In short, he shews here that pardon was ready, if the people sought reconciliation; and he confirms the same thing when he adds —
God shews that it was the fault of the Jews, that he did not receive them into favor. And here he takes the argument from his own nature, and speaks of himself in the third person; and it is the same as though the Prophet had interposed this reasoning, “God is not inexorable, for he is as ready to forgive as he is long — suffering: now, then, what prevents you from living happily again under his government? for he will spare you, provided he finds in you genuine repentance.” We now then see, what the Prophet means here: for as God had kindly exhorted the people to repent, the Prophet speaks now generally of God’s own nature, — that he keeps not for ever, nor reserves perpetually
These words, when put alone, mean that he does not cherish vengeance, and in our language we imitate the Hebrews, Il lui garde. This garde, when put without anything added to it, means, as I have said, that vengeance is cherished within. But nothing is more contrary than this to the nature of God. It hence follows, that the Jews had no obstacle in their way, except that they shunned God, and that being addicted to their own vices, they were unwilling to receive the pardon that was freely offered to them.
As to the second clause, it admits of being explained in two ways. We may regard an adversative particle to be understood, “though thou hast spoken and hast done, “etc.; as if God had said, that he would be propitious to the Jews, however atrociously they might have sinned. But another view is more simple, — that God here complains that there was no hope of amendment, as they had become hardened in their vices, “Thou hast spoken,” he says, “thou hast done, and thou hast been able.” And interpreters further vary in their views: for the copulative is explained by some as a particle of comparison, in the sense of כאשר, k e ash e r, “ according to what thou wert able, thou hast done wickedness.” But others take the words more simply and more correctly, as I think, “Thou hast been very strong;” that is, thou hast exerted all thy power, so that thou hast put forth all thy strength in doing evil, as we say in Latin, pro virili, with all thy might; that is, as far as thy capacity extended, thou hast devoted thyself to wickedness. (76)
I therefore give this explanation: God had before put on, as it were, the character of one in grief and sorrow, and kindly exhorted the people to repent, and testified that he would be ready to pardon them, and at the same time shewed in general that he would be propitious, as he is by nature inclined to mercy. After having set forth these things, he now adds, that he despaired of that people, because they gloried in their own wickedness: for to speak and to do means the same as if he had said, that the people were so impudent, that they boasted of their rebellion against God, and dared to call darkness light; for the superstitious, we know, glory against God without any shame. Now, such was the state of the people; for God, by his prophets, condemned this especially in them — that they had corrupted the pure worship of the law; but they with a meretricious front dared to set up against him their own devotions and good intentions, as they are commonly called. As then, they thus presumptuously defended their wicked deeds, God here complains that they were in no way healable, and so he leaves them as past remedy. This I regard as the real meaning of the Prophet: and of similar import is the verb תוכל, tuc a l; “ thou hast put forth all thy might,” he says, that is, thou hast observed no limits in sinning, but, on the contrary, hast given thyself up to unbridled licentiousness. It now follows —
(76) This and the preceding verse have been variously explained. The view given by Calvin has been most commonly adopted; but it is hardly consistent with a literal rendering of the original, which I consider to be as follows, —
4. Hast thou not from this time called to me, “My Father, the guide of my youth art thou:
5. Will he reserve wrath for ever, Or keep it to the end?” Behold, thou hast so spoken, And hast done evils and persevered.“
From this time,” that is, the time spoken of before, when the people followed idolatry. During this time, they called God their Father, and promised themselves the remittance of his displeasure. They said this, and yet followed their superstitions. This is the view which Gataker seemed most disposed to take. Horsley thus paraphrases the last line, —“
Thou hast persisted incorrigibly in doing evil.”
The Septuagint give “called,” in the past tense; the Vulgate, in the imperative, “ voca — call;” the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Targum, in the future tense, “Wilt thou not call,” etc. The received text has קראתי, which is no doubt wrong; the iod is not found in very many MSS., and all the early versions agree in giving the verb in the second person. The same is to be said of דברתי, it ought to be דברת, though Horsley prefers the former; but neither the early versions nor the context favor it. The phrase מעתה is rendered by the Septuagint, “ ὡσ οἰκόν — as a house,” and by the Arabic, “ ut filia — as a daughter.” How such mistakes could have been made, it is difficult to say. The Syriac has “hereafter;” and the Targum, “ from this time.” — Ed
Here the Prophet enters on a new discourse: he relates what God had committed to him, and mentions the time, even in the reign of Josiah. It is indeed well known, that the land was then cleansed from superstitions; for that pious king labored to restore the true worship of God, and to remove all the filth and defilements, by which the temple and the whole of religion had been corrupted. He strenuously exerted himself, and no doubt there was an improved appearance of religion throughout the land; but we shall see that a great portion of the people were under the influence of hypocrisy and deceit., as it is usually the case when rulers seek to support the pure worship of God, and to free it from all corruptions; for there are many hypocrites, who for a time dissemble, while the same antipathy to God still remains. Such was then the condition of the people.
And this ought to be carefully observed; for Jeremiah might have appeared to have dealt somewhat too sharply and rigorously with his own nation, as reform was in the mouth of all, according to what we find to be the case with many now, who having left the superstitions of the Papacy, seemed at first to embrace the doctrines of the Gospel, but all now wish to be satisfied with any kind of reformation; at the same time, they shake off the yoke of Christ and can bear submission to no discipline: in short, their object, is to subvert all order; and yet they boldly claim to be the advocates of reformation, whenever their impiety is reproved. This was no doubt the contest which Jeremiah had to carry on, the same with that by which the Lord tries his servants at this day. He therefore says, that he received this commission in the days of Josiah, that is, when that king was laboring to establish the pure worship of God, and no one dared to oppose; for we find that God was then worshipped by the whole people without any external corruptions.
But what is contained in this commission? Hast thou seen, he says, what apostate Israel hath done? God here compares the ten tribes with the tribe of Judah, with whom was united, as it is well known, the half tribe of Benjamin: he then compares Israel with the tribe of Judah, “Do you not see what rebellious Israel hath done?” But he introduces the kingdom of Israel, as well as the kingdom of Judah, under the character of women; for God, as it has already appeared, represents himself as the husband of his people. He then says that he had two wives, even Israel and Judah. God had indeed espoused to himself the whole seed of Abraham by one contract; but Jeremiah speaks here in a popular manner. Though the Israelites had departed from God, yet he had not wholly rejected them. The kingdom of Israel had then become adulterous; but God for a time bore with that sin, so that the covenant, in part, remained. For this reason he acknowledges as his wives both Israel and Judah. Hence he says, “Hast thou not seen what estranged Israel hath done?” The word משבה , m e sh i be, is derived from שוב, shub, which signifies, both to return and to depart; and Jerome everywhere renders it aversatrix, one who turns aside, or is estranged. (77) But some render it “rebellious;” we might say more correctly in French, debauchee She went, he says, on every high hill, and under every shady tree, and there played the harlot In short, God complains that the ten tribes had violated the sacred bond of marriage, when they prostituted themselves to idols, even on all high hills and under all shady trees: for as I have already said, they chose those places as though there was some holiness both on mountains and under shades of trees.
(77) It is correctly rendered as a noun, for had it been an adjective or a participle, it would have followed the word Israel. Literally it is, “the apostates,” —
Hast thou seen what she did, the apostates Israel?
Or, it may be rendered, “the backslider Israel,” though the word is deficient, having no feminine termination. — Ed.
He afterwards adds, Yet I said; God here states, that he had long suspended his judgment before he punished the people of Israel. He then extols here his patience, that he had not immediately visited the Israelites as they deserved, but bore with them and for a long time waited to see whether they could be reclaimed: I said, then, after she had done all these things, Return to me If we read in the third person, the sense will be the same, “I hoped indeed that they would return to the right way, though they had thus fallen away, yea though they had denied me by an impious defection, and had become alienated from the faith and from piety.” But I am more inclined to another view, — that God here records the fact, that he had recalled to himself the ten tribes by his servants the Prophets, though they had by their many crimes provoked his wrath. Here then God shews how perverse the Israelites had been; for he had tried to restore them, if possible, to himself, but had spent all his labor in vain. I thus explain, I said, of the prophetic instruction: “Though then the Israelites had plunged themselves into impieties, I yet ceased not to try whether they could be restored to me.” He intimates, in short, that he had been unlike those husbands, who will not be reconciled to their wives, burning with jealousy, because they see that they had been exposed to so much disgrace. God then shews that though the Israelites had departed from him, he yet sent his prophets, and of his own free will sought reconciliation with them, but that they had refused to return. (78)
He then adds, See did she, that is, the whole kingdom of Judah, that, for al1 this, because the rebellious Israel had played the harlot, etc. We shall hereafter find the design of this comparison; for he amplifies the sin of the kingdom of Judah, inasmuch she had time enough to observe what he now relates, and was able to see it at a distance as it were from a watchtower; yet she saw it without any advantage. God then intended to shew how great was the hardness of the Jews, who had seen the defection of the ten tribes, and had seen how severely they had been reproved by the prophets.
(78) The difficulty at the beginning of the eighth verse may be removed either by adopting ואראה, as in two MSS., and taking the verb to be in Hiphil, or ותרא, as in one MS., as a repetition of the former verb, according to the Syriac It is left out in the Vulgate But it is most suitable to the context to take the verb to be in Hiphil. Then the passage would read thus, —
6. Hast thou not seen what she did, the apostate Israel? Go did she on every high hill and under every green tree, And play there the harlot:
7. And I said, after she had done all these things, “To me return;” but she returned not: And see this did the hypocrite, her sister Judah:
8. And I caused her to see, that on all these accounts, As adultery the apostate Israel would commit, I dismissed her, and gave to her The bill of her divorcement; Yet fear not, did the hypocrite Judah, her sister, But went and played the harlot, even herself.“
On all these accounts,” or, for all these reasons, refers to several things-the first apostasy — God’s invitation — and Israel’s refusal. God caused Judah to see these things by his prophets, but Judah feared not. The word בגדה, hypocrite, or the perfidious one, is a feminine participle, used as a noun. It is explained in the tenth verse by “feignedly” or falsely. Hypocrites would be the correct rendering. It is rendered by the Septuagint, “ faithless — ασύνθετος,” — by the Vulgate, “ prevaricatress — praevaricatrix, “and by the Targum, “ falsifier” or cheat. — Ed
He then says, And I saw As he had said that the kingdom of Judah had seen what happened to Israel, so he now says, that he had seen both, See then did I Now, what does he declare that he had seen? Even that Judah had played the harlot; for he now speaks of Judah as of a woman. Then God says, that it was not a thing hid from him that Judah had surpassed the crimes of her sister, not through ignorance or deception, but through deliberate wickedness: See, he says, did I, that notwithstanding all these things, she played the harlot He thus explains more fully what he had briefly touched upon before. He had said, that Judah had seen, but this on account of its brevity might have appeared ambiguous: he therefore explains it more at large; “ See did Judah that I gave a bill of divorcement to her sister, because she had played the harlot; and yet she feared not;” that. is, she thought not of repenting, when she had such a striking example of vengeance set before her eyes.
But it may be here asked, how could it be said that a bill of divorce had been given to the Israelites, when he denies by the Prophet Isaiah that he had given it? (Isaiah 50:1.) But the Prophet here takes another view of the subject; for he does not speak here of the bills of divorce, such as were usually given, when a husband repudiated a wife who had been chaste and faithful; but he speaks of that lawful divorce, when a woman, convicted of adultery, is liable to a capital punishment. God then by his prophet Isaiah denies that he had given a bill of divorcement; but he says here that he had given it, because he had repudiated an adulterous woman. It was not indeed at that time customary among the Jews to divorce an adulteress, for she was led to execution. But we have seen at the beginning of the chapter that there is a difference between God and husbands. As then God did not deal, as he might have justly done, with the Israelites, and did not execute a capital punishment, as he might rightly have done, and what was usually done, he says that he had given a bill of divorce, that is, that he had repudiated that people. But by the bill of divorce he means exile; for when the ten tribes were banished, it was the same as though God openly shewed that he had no connection with that people: as long as they continued in the holy land and in the promised inheritance, some kind of union remained; but when they were dispersed here and there, and every sort of worship had ceased among them, and also when the very kingdom of Israel had no longer an existence, God had then divorced them.
See then did her sister Judah, and she feared not It was indeed an instance of great insensibility, not to learn wisdom at the expense of others; and it is a complaint found everywhere in the prophets, — that the Jews were not stimulated to repentance, while God spared them, and at the same time set before them examples which ought in all reason to have terrified them. For what ought they to have considered, but that God would punish those many transgressions by which they provoked his wrath, since he had not spared their brethren? They saw that the kingdom of Israel had been abolished, and yet all of them derived their origin from the same father, even Abraham: how was it then that they so heedlessly despised God’s judgment, which had been for a long time before their eyes? Hence he complains that they feared not It now follows —
Here the Prophet completes his charge, — that so far was it that the punishment which God had inflicted on the Israelites, had any effect on the tribe of Judah, that she surpassed by her levity and lustfulness the whoredomes of her sister. She has polluted, he says, the land, or made the land to sin, that is, rendered the land guilty. It is indeed what greatly exaggerates the crime, when it is said that the land became guilty or contaminated. The land, we know, was in itself pure, and could contract no pollution from the vices of men; but that the impiety of men might be exhibited the more detestable, the land is said to have been contaminated by them:
Or, it may be said that the land was made guilty. How so? The reason why they are said to have contaminated the land or to have made it guilty or to have implicated it in their own vices, he gives in these words, she has played the harlot with stone and with wood (79) Of this metaphor of playing the harlot it is not necessary now to speak; for we have said already, that this similitude is often repeated, because God had united that people to himself and bound them to him, as it were, by the sacred bond of marriage. Hence whenever the people departed from the pure worship of God, they were justly said to have played the harlot, for they violated their pledged faith: as simplicity of faith is spiritual chastity, so apostasy is that shamelessness and perfidy, when a wife becomes unfaithful to her husband by following adulterers. It afterwards follows —
(79) This verse may be thus rendered, —
And it was, that through the report of her fornication, She polluted the land; And she committed adultery with stone and wood.
There is no instance of קל, in the sense of swiftness, etc., being used as a noun. It is the Chaldee for קול, voice, fame, report. Gataker paraphrases the words thus, “by her notorious fornication.” The early versions and the Targum all differ. Excessive addiction to idolatry is evidently what is spoken of. — Ed
He goes on with the same subject, — that the Jews were not moved by any fear when they saw the dreadful vengeance executed on their brethren on account of their sins. Her perfidious sister, he says, returned not to me, that is, after so many warnings by the prophets and such an example of punishment. He however adds an explanation, — she turned not with her whole heart, but feignedly and falsely. (80)
The Prophet anticipates here such objections as the Jews might have alleged, “What! thou deniest that we have returned! Is not the whole land cleansed from idolatries? Is not God worshipped according to the requirements of the law? Is there any more an altar seen under the shades of trees or on hills?” As then they might have thus evaded the charge as they usually did, the Prophet obviates such an evasion and says, “Though they have ill appearance given some tokens of repentance, yet they have only put on a disguise and have acted falsely towards God; for there is no integrity in them.” We now more clearly see why he had before specifically mentioned the time of Josiah; for the Jews then returned feignedly to God: there was in the king and in a few a right feeling, but in the rest dissimulation only. God then in a few words shews, that he cares not for that reformation which is false and feigned, but that he requires a genuine feeling within: hence he thus concludes —
(80) This verse stands connected, not with the preceding, but with the eighth, —
Yea, even for all this, Return to me did not the hypocrite, Her sister Judah, with all her heart, But in falsehood, saith Jehovah.“
In falsehood,” or, by dealing falsely, as it may be taken by a participle preceded by a preposition. — Ed.
We now see more clearly for what purpose Jeremiah compared the ten tribes with the kingdom of Judah; it was done in order to shew that the Jews, who wished to be deemed far more holy than others, were yet more perfidious and deserved a heavier punishment, because they acted so deceitfully with God.
It may be here asked, why he pronounces the Jews worse than the Israelites, while they still continued in a sort of middle state of things. We indeed know that the kingdom of Judah was become so corrupt, that hardly any religion remained there; yet the temple was still standing and the priesthood still existed at Jerusalem. But the Prophet condemns the Jews more than the Israelites for other reasons, even because they ought to have become wise through the calamities of others, and they ought to have been confirmed in true religion when they saw their brethren falling away from the pure worship of God: these things they ought to have maturely considered. It was this supine sottishness that rendered them worse than all their brethren, and also their pride, the chief cause of their condemnation, for they boasted that they remained perfect, while the ten tribes had become degenerated. These were the reasons why he says that Israel, though a perfidious woman, was yet more righteous than her sister Judah.
The language indeed is not to be strictly taken when it is said, that she justified her soul; for God does not here excuse the Israelites, nor does he free or absolve them from guilt, (for he had severely punished them;) but this way of speaking is commonly used by the prophets; — Sodom was righteous in comparison with Jerusalem; and Tyre and Sidon were just when compared with the Jews. (Ezekiel 16:47.) Justified then has she her soul, (81) even the treacherous or the apostate Israel, in comparison with the perfidious Judah; that is, for the reasons which I have stated. The obstinacy of the Jews was greater and less excusable: the external worship of God, which they had retained, ought to have been a bridle to check them; and they had also seen how severe a judge God had been towards the ten tribes; but the judgments of God they despised, and derived no benefit from them.
(81) This is the literal expression, but the word נפש is often taken for oneself, and ought often to be so rendered. See Numbers 30:5; Job 18:4; Psalms 7:2; God is said to swear by his soul, that is, by himself, Amos 6:8 —
Then said Jehovah to me, — Justified herself hath apostate Israel, More than the hypocrite Judah.
Manifest and open apostasy is more honest than the double dealing of hypocrites, who combine God’s worship with idolatry; nor is it so hateful to God. — Ed.
The Prophet, after having shewn that the tribe of Judah deserved a heavier punishment than the ten tribes, and having mentioned the cause, that they had seen their brethren severely chastised and were not moved, now turns his discourse to the Israelites themselves, or the ten tribes, and promises that God would be propitious to them. The kingdom of Israel had now been overthrown, and the people had been banished into Assyria, Persia, and Media. They had been scattered, and the name of the kingdom had been obliterated. The land had been often laid waste and the kingdom partly existed, as four tribes only were first driven to exile; but at, length the very name of a kingdom ceased to exist, and they were all, as I have said, led away into captivity. Hence the Prophet is bidden to address his words towards the north; for though the greater part of the people dwelt then in the east, yet as they had been banished by the Assyrians, God had a regard to the capital of the monarchy in bidding the Prophet to address those whom the enemies had led away to the north.
Cry, then, not so much on account of the distance of the place, but that the Jews, who were deaf, might hear him crying; for the Prophet was bidden to speak not only for the sake of the Israelites, but that through them he might set before the Jews the mercy of God, if only they returned to a sound mind. Now the import of the whole is, — that though the Israelites had been rebellious and had turned away from God, yet pardon was ready for them, if they returned. What the Prophet means by the word return, we have already in part explained, and we shall have to speak on the subject more fully elsewhere. He then requires repentance, and promises that God would be propitious to them in case they returned to him.
He afterwards adds, I will not make my face, or rather, my wrath, to fall upon you; for this latter meaning is the most appropriate. God had already severely punished their sins; for what can happen to a people more grievous than to be banished from their own country, and then to be oppressed by cruel tyranny? They yet suffered a heavier punishment; for the worship according to the Law had been taken away from them, they had been repudiated by God, they had lost that glory by which they thought that they excelled all other nations in having been chosen as God’s peculiar people. All these things had been entirely lost. In what sense then does God declare that he would not be angry with them? By this way of speaking the Prophet simply means, that God would not be irreconcilable, as though he had said, “My wrath shall not dwell, or shall not he upon you; but I will mitigate the punishment which I have inflicted.” Hence I do not disapprove of Jerome’s rendering, “I will not make steady,” ( firmabo;) though when he adds “face, “he does not sufficiently set forth the meaning of the Prophet. But this may be admitted, “I will not make steady my wrath upon you;” that is, “My wrath shall not lie or dwell on your heads, so as wholly to overwhelm you.” God’s wrath had already fallen upon them, but in such a way that there was still some hope of deliverance. God then denies, that the calamities, by which he had chastised their sins, would be fatal, for he would withdraw his hand and not pursue them to the last extremity.
The meaning then is, — that if the people returned to God they would obtain pardon, because God of his own free will invited them and promised that the punishment which he had inflicted on account of their sins, would be only for a time. (82)
God further confirms this truth by mentioning what his nature is, for merciful am I, and I will not retain wrath for ever The promise was special in case the people returned; God now adds a general truth by way of confirmation, — that he was disposed to shew mercy, and that he would readily forgive for his mercy’s sake. Since God then is such, and cannot deny himself, there is no reason why a sinner should despair and thus close up the way, that he should not in his penitence implore God’s mercy.
We may hence gather a profitable doctrine, — that whenever unbelief lays hold on our minds, so that we cannot apply to our benefit the promises of God, this should ever be remembered by us — that God is merciful. As God then is so gracious, that he reserves not wrath for ever, but that it is only for a time, we ought to entertain hope; and corresponding with this is what is said in the Psalms,“
A moment is he in his wrath; and life is in his goodness and mercy,” (Psalms 30:5;)
as though he had said, that God’s wrath soon passes away, provided we repent, but that he shews his mercy through all ages; for this is what is meant by the word “life.” He then goes on —
12. Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, — Return, apostate Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not cause my wrath to fall on you, For merciful am I, saith Jehovah; I will not reserve it for ever.
That פני, commonly rendered “face,” means sometimes wrath or anger, is evident, see Psalms 21:9; Lamentations 4:16. God is said to have his face against the wicked, Psalms 34:16, and to make his face to shine on his people, Psalms 80:3. This accounts for the word being taken sometimes, as it were, in a bad sense: He has an angry as well as a smiling face.
The rendering of the Septuagint is, “I will not set firm ( στηριῶ) my face upon you,” of the Vulgate, “ I will not turn away my face from you,” of the Syriac and Arabic, “ I will not harden my face against you,” and of the Targum, “ I will not send my wrath upon you.” The last comes nearest to the Hebrew.
Blayney’s version is a paraphrase, —
I will not look down upon you with a lowering brow;
and so is his version of the last line, —
I will not keep displeasure in view for ever.
Our version in both instances is much to be preferred. — Ed.
God lays down here a condition, lest hypocrites, relying on his goodness, should become more and more hardened, and yet think that he is bound as it were to them; for they usually reason thus, — “God is so kind that he recalls us to himself, and of his own free will invites even sinners; we may therefore easily settle matters with him.” Thus hypocrites by false thoughts’ delude themselves, thinking that they can elude God, since he seeks nothing else but to restore sinners to himself. Hence with the promise of favor there ought ever to be connected an exhortation to repentance. God then reminds here the Israelites, that they were greatly deceived, if they thought they could without any difficulty obtain pardon.
Hence he says, know thine iniquity The particle אך, ak, may be rendered only, or but, or yet. I prefer the second meaning, but; for an exception, as I have said, is here added, lest the Israelites slumbered in their vices, if they persuaded themselves that God was, as it, were, in their power and subject to their will. We hence see that the Prophet, modifying what he had said, introduces this sentence, “ But in the meantime know thine iniquity, otherwise thou canst expect no peace with God.” Then these words follow, because thou hast acted wickedly against Jehovah thy God By these words the Prophet proves that the Israelites were guilty, lest they supposed that they could by evasions escape the wrath of God; for we know that often, even those who are conscious of their guilt, are not willing to confess their sins; and it is strange that men are so besotted as ever to contend with God. On this account the Prophets, when they exhorted the people to repent, at the same time brought to light their sins. Were there in men frankness and honesty, there would be no need thus to charge them; but as they either boldly deny their sins, or are so callous as to be moved by no fear, it is necessary to prick them sharply and even deeply to wound them. This is what the Prophet now does; Thou, he says, hast done wickedly against thy God; as though he had said, “I do not now in vain remind thee to own thy sins, for God himself condemns thee: think not thou that thou canst gain anything by thy subterfuges.”
He mentions also particulars, that he might come into closer quarters with them, Thou hast dispersed, he says, or scattered, thy ways to strangers, under every shady tree He again compares the Israelites to strumpets, who commonly so prostitute themselves, that they ramble from one place to another, invite and allure all they meet with. The Prophet then says, that the Israelites had thus dispersed themselves. He speaks delicately on an indelicate subject. But what he means is, that the Israelites were not content with one kind of superstition or with one idol, but blended together as many superstitions as they could, and borrowed false notions from all quarters: they were like a rambling strumpet, who prostitutes herself to all men indifferently. And strangers he calls all their fictitious gods; for as I have often said, they ought to have regarded him as their husband. When therefore the Israelites turned away to other gods, they became like a woman, who leaves her husband and prostitutes herself to any she can find. It is indeed a most common thing for those who forsake the true worship of God to seek for themselves various errors from all quarters, and to abandon themselves unreservedly to all kinds of superstitions.
He at length adds, And thou hast not hearkened to my voice By this fact the Prophet enhances their sin; for they had been instructed in the doctrine of the law, and understood the right way of salvation: how then was it that they thus polluted themselves with so many superstitions? It could not have been attributed to ignorance. It was then their manifest rebellion against God. The Prophet then shews that they had been disobedient and intractable, and that they had relapsed into idolatry and pernicious errors, because they had shaken off the yoke of God, and suffered not themselves to be ruled and guided by his word. (83)
We now then perceive the meaning of this verse: God first requires a confession of sins from the Israelites; and thus he sets forth how available that return would be which he had previously mentioned; for until a sinner knows his sinfulness, he will never really and from the heart return to God, as the beginning of repentance is the confession of guilt. He then proves them to have been guilty, that he might cut off from them every pretense for evasion. He mentions in the third place specific sins, that he might hold them as it were fast bound, even that they had polluted themselves with superstitions, and that they had become, not only like an adulterous woman who follows another man, but also like filthy strumpets, who run here and there and make no difference between men known or unknown. He shews in the last place, that all this happened through mere obstinacy; for they had cast aside every regard for God, though he had given them his law, and sent the prophets as its faithful interpreters, so that they understood what God approved and what was just and right. The reason then why they went astray was, that they closed their ears to God’s word, and suffered not themselves to be ruled by it, but became wholly unteachable. Let us go on —
But yet know thine iniquity, That against Jehovah thy God hast thou rebelled; For thou hast diversified thy ways for strangers, Under every green tree; And to my voice ye hearkened not, saith Jehovah.
The word אך is rendered by the early versions and the Targum, But, or But yet, or Nevertheless, “ Verum,” “ Verumtamen.” The third line is thus explained by Parkhurst, “ Thou hast run after various heathen nations in their several idolatries.” And this they did, while they refused to attend to the voice of God. To attend to, rather than to obey, is what is meant. So the Vulgate and the Syriac, “ My voice ye heard not,” or, as the former, “thou didst not hear.” — Ed
Jeremiah repeats the same thing in other words; but God by so many words shews clearer how ready he would be to grant pardon, provided the Israelites really repented. It would have been enough for God to testify once, that he would be reconcilable, but seeing that they were slow and hard to believe, he proceeds in the same strain. It is a wonderful forbearance and kindness that God, finding his favor neglected, and as it were rejected through the sloth of men, should yet persevere, and invite them again and again. What man would thus patiently bear the loathing of his favor and kindness? But we see that God does not immediately reject the tardy and the slothful, but adds new stimulants that he might at length move them, though this may seem more than necessary. How great is our torpidity? Were not God daily to urge us, how little attention would any of us give to his admonitions? It is, therefore, no wonder that he, pardoning our tardiness, should again and again invite us to repentance; which we find is done continually in the Church.
This, then, is the reason why the Prophet now repeats the same thing, Return, now, ye rebellious children; for he had said before, “Return, thou rebellious Israel.” He then adds, For I am a husband to you Some regard בעל bol, in the sense of being wearied, when found as here, בעלתי בכם bolti b e k e m, “ I have been wearied by you:” but this meaning does not comport with this passage. (84) More correctly, then, have others rendered the words, “I am lord to you: “but this lord is not to be taken indefinitely as in Latin, for it properly means a husband, who is a lord to his wife. God, then, no doubt, continues the same comparison, that of a marriage, which has already been often mentioned; for he charges the Israelites with adultery, because they had departed from him. Hence it is that he says, I am your husband He had previously said, “Though a person, when he repudiates his wife, and she be married to another, will never again be reconciled to her; yet I am ready to forgive your perfidy and wantonness: only observe chastity hereafter, and I will deal kindly with you.” Similar is this passage, “I am your husband,” though I have repudiated you. He had, indeed, said, that he had given them a bill of divorce, and thus testified, as by a public document, that there was no longer any connection between him and that people, for exile was a kind of divorce; but he says now, “I am your husband; for though I have been grievously offended with you, because you have broken your pledged faith, I yet remain in the same mind, so as to be ready to be your husband.”
We now, then, perceive the real meaning of the Prophet: despair might have laid hold on the Israelites so as to dread that access to which the Prophet had invited them; but that no terror might hinder them to repent, God here declares that he would become their husband, and that he had not forgotten that relationship with which he had once favored them. The sum of what he says is, “I have once embraced you with the love of a husband; ye have, indeed, become alienated from me, but return, and I am ready to forgive and to receive you, as though ye had always been faithful to me.”
Again will I take you, he says; and then he adds, one from a city, two from a family Deserving of especial notice is this passage; for God shews that they were not to wait for one another, and also, that though the whole body of the people rotted in their sins, yet a few would return to him, and that he would be reconciled to them. This was a point most necessary to be taught; for God’s covenant was in common with the whole seed of Abraham; they might then have concluded that the covenant was extinct, except he gathered together the whole people; for he had not chosen one or two or a hundred or a thousand, but all the seed of Abraham. Since then the promise, without exception, was common, to all, any one might thus reason, “What connection have I with God, except as one born of the race of Abraham? but I am not alone, for we are all the children of Abraham: yet I see that none turn to God, so I must perish with the rest of the people.” Now, that this thought should not hinder the godly, he says, “I will take one from a city, two from a family;” (85) that is, “If one only come to me from a city he shall find an open door; if two only from a tribe come to me, I shall receive them.” We now apprehend the design of the Prophet.
Interpreters, indeed, explain one from a city as meaning, that though the multitude should perish, yet God would not deny forgiveness to three or four; but they teach not what is especially worthy of notice, that two or three are mentioned, because this thought, as it has been said, might have perplexed them, that is, that they had been all in common chosen as a holy people.
What is here taught may be useful to us in the present day. For we see many foolishly excluding themselves from the hope of salvation, and seeking no access to God, because they have a regard to one another, and the great mass hold them entangled. How is it under the Papacy, that so many pertinaciously resist God? even because they think themselves safely hid in the multitude. We also find among us that some are an hindrance to others. Let this truth be ever remembered, that when God stretches forth his arms, he is ready to receive, not only all, were they with one consent to come to him, but also two or three, even from one city, or from a whole people.
He adds, I will cause you to come to Zion. This had been once said before: God intimates that their exile would be temporary, that the Israelites would again be made partakers of his inheritance, if they returned to God in sincerity and truth. It follows —
(84) Nor is there an instance of such a meaning. Literally it is, “For I have been married with (or to) thee.” When this verb is followed by כ, as in Jeremiah 31:32, this is its meaning; but when followed by ל, as in 1 Chronicles 4:22, it means to rule, to exercise dominion. The Vulgate is, “For I am thy husband.” The Targum gives the meaning, “For I have chosen you.” The Septuagint went astray, “For I will rule over you.” — Ed
(85) The word is taken sometimes in a limited sense, and means what we understand by family: but it has here evidently a more extended meaning, and signifies a tribe, a community; for it includes more than a city. Such is its meaning in Jeremiah 8:3; and in Amos 3:1, it comprehends the whole community of Israel. It is rendered “ ἐκ πατριᾶς, — from a tribe,” by the Septuagint, but improperly; “kindred,“ by the Vulgate and the Targum It no doubt means sometimes kindred, but not evidently in this place. — Ed
Here God promises that he would so provide for the salvation of his people after their return from exile, that they should not again perish. But the cause of God’s vengeance ought to be observed, which is expressed in the fifth chapter of Isaiah, “My people,” he says, “have been led captive, because they had no knowledge; therefore the grave has widened its soul or its throat. (86) He then says, that the cause of the people’s ruin was, because instruction had ceased among them, and pastors had become mute dogs or robbers. Here, on the other hand, God declares that he would give them faithful pastors, who would discharge in a befitting manner their office. I, indeed, allow, that under this term are included faithful and wise magistrates; but he especially refers to prophets and priests, whose office it is in particular to reform idolatry. (87)
We hence learn that the Church cannot continue without having faithful pastors to shew the way of salvation. The wellbeing of the Church then is secured, when God raises up true and faithful teachers to proclaim his truth: but when the Church is deprived of sound teachers, all things soon fall into ruin. For God, no doubt, intimates by this promise that he would not only be the deliverer of his people, so as to restore them from exile, but that he would be also their perpetual guardian after the people had returned to their own country. It hence follows, that the Church of God is not only begotten by means of holy and godly pastors, but that its life is also cherished, nourished, and confirmed by them to the end. As it is not enough for civil order to be once set up, except the magistrates continue in their office, so nothing is more ruinous to the Church than for God to take away faithful pastors. It cannot indeed be, that people will return to God, unless prophets be first sent: but God speaks here of a continued course of instruction, and of a well regulated government in the Church, as though he had said, “I will not only give you prophets to lead you from your wanderings to me, and to restore you to the way of salvation, but I will also continually set over you sound and faithful teachers.” But we must notice, that those who preside cannot rightly discharge their office unless they are endued with wisdom. God also intimates his paternal love, when he says, that good pastors would be dear to him. It afterwards follows —
(86) Rather, “itself;” for the word often rendered soul, has sometimes this meaning. See note on Jeremiah 3:11. — Ed.
(87) Blayney, following the Targum, renders pastors “rulers,” and feed, “rule:” but this is to interpret and not to translate, as the words have never strictly these meanings, though what are sometimes to be understood by pastors are rulers, and by feeding, ruling or governing. But the interpretation in this instance seems not to be correct, and for the reason here assigned by Calvin It is indeed the opinion of Henry, Scott, Adam Clarke, and others, that both civil and ecclesiastical pastors are intended; and if so, “knowledge” may be applied to the latter, and “wisdom” to the former. The Septuagint have omitted “wisdom,” and retain only “knowledge.” The Targum has “knowledge and wisdom;” the Vulgate, “ knowledge and doctrine;” the Syriac, “ knowledge and prudence;” and Blayney, “ knowledge and discretion.” The verb רעה means “to feed on,“ as in Isaiah 44:20, or, as here, to “feed with.” It means also to “feed itself” as a beast does, Isaiah 11:7
Interpreters have perverted this verse, for none of them have understood the design of the Prophet. The Jews, for the most part, have adduced frigid and far — fetched glosses, — that they would no more bring out to battles the Ark of the Covenant, as no enemy would invade their land. They think then that a peaceable state is promised to the people, as they would be constrained by no hostile force to carry the Ark of the Covenant here and there. But we clearly see that the words mean no such thing: it is then a comment wholly foreign to the subject. Others say, that what is said must be applied to the time of the Messiah, and none even of the Jews deny this; for it afterwards follows, that the Israelites would return with the tribe of Judah. This had not yet been fulfilled; it hence follows, that the Prophet here predicts of the kingdom of Christ. But the Jews, while allowing this, do not understand that anything is said of the abrogation of legal ceremonies; it has yet been thought by almost all Christians, that the Prophet here teaches us, that when Christ should come, an end would be put to all the shadows of the law, so that there would be no more any Ark of the Covenant, as the fullness of the Godhead would dwell in Christ.
This indeed is a view which seems plausible, but the meaning of the Prophet, as I think, is wholly different: for he refers here to that divorce or division which had for a long time existed between the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. Though the kingdom of Israel, as to the number of its men, largeness of territory and wealth, was more flourishing and prosperous than the kingdom of Judah; yet there remained these advantages to the Jews, — that they had a Temple built according to God’s command, — that its place had been chosen by God, — that they had the Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of God’s presence. Hence there was contention between the kingdom of Judah and the ten tribes: the Israelites were elated on account of their number and their riches, and other temporal advantages; and the Jews gloried in their Temple and the Ark of the Covenant. And what now does the Prophet say? He declares that such would be the concord between the Israelites and the Jews, that the Jews would no more say, “The Ark of the Covenant,” “The Temple of God;” for God would be present with them all. And the Prophet proceeds to confirm more fully what I have just said: it is therefore necessary to add the two following verses. He then says —
We now understand more clearly what I have already said, — that the Prophet promises here that there would be concord between the ten tribes and the kingdom of Judah, when both returned from exile; as though he had said, that their condition would be better than it ever had been; for the seed of Abraham had been torn as it were asunder; and the people whom God intended that they should continue in a holy union had become divided in the most shameful manner. We indeed know that there had been inveterate hatred between the Jews and the Israelites. As then there had been such disgraceful division for a long time between the children of Abraham, the Prophet now shews what would be the fruit of exile; for after having been for a time chastised by the Lord, they would return to their own country, not to entertain the same emulation as had existed, but to unite together in calling on God, in order that the Jews might be as brethren to the Israelites, and the Israelites might cultivate mutual concord with the tribe of Judah.
Then is added, what is of the same meaning, In those days shall come the house of Judah with the house of Israel It hence appears, that the Prophet speaks of the posterity of Abraham and not of other nations; for he adds this verse as explanatory. It might, indeed, have been asked, “What does this mean, All nations shall come?” To this he answers, “The house of Israel shall unite with the house of Judah;” that is, there shall be no more hatred between these two nations, for they shall acknowledge one another as brethren, and know that they have arisen from the same source, and that they ought to be one people. In short, the Prophet explains in this verse what he had said before. And we ought especially to notice what he adds, Come shall they together from the land of the north into the land which I have given to be possessed by their fathers The Jews had not yet gone into exile; the Prophet said this to them while they were quiet, as it were, in their own nest at Jerusalem, and in the country around; nor could he convince them of what they afterwards found to be true to their great loss, — that an exile was nigh them, like that which they then saw had happened to their brethren, the Israelites. But yet the Prophet spoke of them, as though they had been exiled and dwelt like the Israelites in the north country; Come together , he says, shall they from the land of the north (91)
They might have objected and said, “We are as yet enjoying our own inheritance, and no one can drive us hence, for it cannot be that God shall be deprived of his own temple, as he has chosen for himself a perpetual habitation among us.” Such words were no doubt clamorously spoken by them. But the Prophet here repels their vain confidence, and says, that their only hope of deliverance was in looking forward to the restoration which the Lord would grant them after they had been for a time banished from their country. Now the Prophet here sets forth to them the benefit which would arise from exile, in order that they might bear with more submission the punishment they were to endure: for they might have a hundred times despaired, had they no hope that this exile would be only for a time, and that they would again be gathered together with their brethren the Israelites. It now follows —
(91) Calvin uses the verb “ venient, “shall come, twice: but the first verb is to walk, and expresses the associating of Judah with Israel, or their union. The words are, —
In those days walk will the house of Judah with the house of Israel, And come shall they together from the land of the north, To the land which I made their fathers to inherit.
They would be first united, and then advance together to their own land. — Ed.
It is not my purpose to mention all the expositions of this verse; but it is enough to shew what seems to be the meaning of the Prophet. Whenever I touch on opinions which I disapprove, this I feel constrained to do, because when they present the appearance of truth, readers may be deceived by them: but when the truth itself is sufficiently conspicuous, I am not disposed to spend labor in refuting the opinions of others.
What, then, the words of the Prophet mean is this, — God here asks, How was it possible that the race of Abraham could again be propagated since it was nearly dead? The answer is, It shall be, when thou wilt call me Father, and turn not away from me The question was asked, that the Jews might feel as though their condition was past remedy. And doubtless, since they had so greatly and so obstinately provoked God by their wickedness, they might have seemed to have become wholly lost. God then assumes here the character of one filled with astonishment, as though he had said, “Ye are, indeed, in a state of despair, there is no hope of your salvation; but yet, as it is my purpose again to restore you, I wish now to find out a way, by which your race may again be propagated.” How, then, is this to be done? He shews that the only thing required was, to call him Father, not with the mouth, but really with the heart.
We now, then, perceive the meaning of the Prophet: for he humbles the Israelites by thus ascribing astonishment to God, as though it was a thing very difficult to be done; but at the same time he gives them hope, because salvation was prepared for them, provided they called on God with a sincere heart, and acknowledged him as their Father, and that perseveringly, without ever turning aside from him. In short, God intimates that the Israelites were like dead men, and that their salvation was hopeless, without a resurrection, he yet promises them salvation on this condition, — that they called on him and did this, not with a double heart, nor by a sudden impulse, such as soon vanishes away; for he says, Thou shalt not turn aside from me; that is, “Be always obedient to me, and I will prove that I shall not be called in vain a Father by you.” It follows —
He confirms the first clause of the preceding verse: for he had said that it could hardly be that the Jews would recover what they had lost, and be formed again a new people; and he shews the reason, — because they were like an adulteress, as he had before stated. But he did not yet wish to take away every hope; only he insists on this, that they were seriously to consider their sins, in order that they might become displeased with themsalves, and flee to God’s mercy for refuge. Nor did he do this so much for their sake, as for the sake of the people among whom he dwelt. For he had respect, as it has been often stated, especially to the Jews, who had become so hardened in their vices as not to think that this example, by which God intended to terrify them, so as to bend their hard hearts to repentance, belonged to them. Hence it was for this reason that God so severely reproved Israel; for he had said before, that the Jews were still worse. He afterwards subjoins —
What I have stated becomes now more evident, — that the case of the Israelites is here set before the Jews, that the perverse, whom God had spared, might know that the same punishment impended over them, except they returned in due time to him: for the Prophet declares, that the Israelites were weeping and in tears, because they had departed from their God, and violated their faith pledged to him. For what purpose did he do this? That the Jews, who indulged themselves in their own pleasures, might be awakened, and be convinced, that except they anticipated God’s judgments, the same tears and the same weeping were prepared for them. The Israelites, indeed, did not as yet thus weep and shew signs of true repentance; for the Prophet does not here commend their feeling or their piety, but intimates, that they were thus severely afflicted, because they had forsaken their God.
A voice, he says, was heard on high places, ‘ that is, It was everywhere sufficiently known how cruelly the Israelites were oppressed by their enemies. Now they cried, then they called themselves the most wretched of men: why was this lamentation? Because they had perverted their ways It is, then, the same as though he had said, — that it was a monstrous perverseness in the Jews, that being warned by the punishment of their brethren, they did not repent: for the calamity which happened to the Israelites filled all men with terror. That kingdom had, indeed, flourished for a long time; but the land had been emptied of its inhabitants, and was occupied by wild beasts, until some were sent from Persia and other parts in the East to cultivate it. How could a land so pleasant and so fruitful have become like a desert? Even because God had so predicted:“
Ye have neglected,” he says, “my Sabbaths, and your land shall rest, and it shall no more be wearied by you.” (Leviticus 26:34.)
It was an awful sight; and nations, far and wide, were able to see how great must have been the impiety of that people, on whom God had taken such dreadful vengeance. Were not the Jews, who had this solitude before their eyes, and this devastation of the land, extremely stupid in overlooking all this?
We now see the design of the Prophet, when he says, A voice on high places was heard, as though the Israelites cried on the tops of mountains. And he adds, the weeping of the supplications, etc.: but he does not mean, that they were prayers which arose from faith; but simply that they were such lamentations as betokened misery and wretchedness. In giving a reason, the Prophet mentions not what the Israelites confessed, but only shews the cause why they so deeply deplored their calamities; it was, because they had perverted their ways, and forgotten Jehovah their God (94) He afterwards adds —
(94) The verse may be thus rendered, —
21. A voice on the high places! Heard is the weeping, the supplications Of the people of Israel; Because they had perverted their way, Had forgotten Jehovah their God.
Instead of “high places,” Blayney has “plains;” but there is no satisfactory reason for the change. As the verb in Hebrew commonly precedes its nominative, the construction adopted above is the most suitable to the character of the language. — Ed.
God here exhorts the Israelites to repent, that by their example he might move the Jews. The benefit of what is here taught might indeed have reached to the miserable captives and exiles; but as Jeremiah was especially the teacher of his own nation, he labored chiefly no doubt for their advantage, as we have before stated. God then here declares, that he would be reconcilable to the Israelites, how grievously soever they had sinned, he afterwards introduces them as answering, Behold, we return, or we shall come to thee: for the Prophet speaks here of the future conversion of the ten tribes.
It is then a dialogue between God and the Israelites. God himself freely invites them to repent: Return, he says, ye rebellious children; and then he promises to be a physician to heal their diseases: I will heal thy transgressions; that is, I will blot out thy sins, and absolve thee from guilt. God then undertakes to do these things; first, to stimulate the Israelites to repentance, and then to give them the hope of pardon: and he says that a remedy was provided for them, except they hardened themselves. Now, the Israelites, on the other hand, make this answer, Behold, we shall come to thee Here Jeremiah condemns the obstinacy of his own nation, by saying, that the Israelites, when thus kindly invited by God, would not be perverse, but would, on the contrary, be tractable and obedient. This indeed was not fulfilled, when a liberty to return was given to the people, except in the case of a few, who had a right feeling, and preferred the glory of God to their temporal advantages. But the number was small; nor was it a matter of surprise; for God had not previously said, without reason, that if one came from a city, and two from a tribe, he would be received, though others continued fixed in their perverseness. However this may have been, God here intimates that the Israelites would not be so refractory as not to obey his admonition when the hope of pardon and salvation would be presented to them: and this is mentioned, that the perverseness of the Jews might appear more detestable.
But some think that the Israelites are here upbraided, because they hypocritically pretended that they always sought God. Hence they elicit this meaning, “Ye indeed say, Behold, we return to thee, thou art our God; ” as though he condemned their hypocrisy, because they falsely alleged that they always sought him. But this view seems to me foreign to the intention of the Prophet. Hence I doubt not but that Jeremiah sets before the Jews, as in a picture, what ought to have constrained them not to persist so obstinately in their sinful courses: “Behold,” he says, “God is prepared to receive into favor your brethren, who are undone and past all hope; and when they shall hear God’s voice kindly and graciously inviting them to himself, they will doubtless return: why then do not ye obey?”
And in the same sense is to be taken what follows, Surely, deceit is from the hills, and the multitude of mountains, or, from the multitude of mountains, as the letter מ is to be repeated. Here the Prophet more fully expresses the evidence of their repentance, as though he had said, “We have been deceived by the hills and the multitude of mountains; we thought that there would be more defense from a large number of gods than if we worshipped one God: this deception has led to ruin. Let then all these deceits be now discarded; for we shall be content with the only true God.” In short, the Israelites confess, in these words, that they had been drawn into ruin by the worst of errors, while they sought many gods, and did not acquiesce in the one true God.
Then they add, for surely in Jehovah our God is salvation They set here the one true God in opposition to all their idols, as though they had said, that the cause of all their evils was, that they did not continue in the service of the one true God, but wandered after a multitude of Gods. We hence see that these two things cannot possibly be connected, — to worship the true God, — and to seek for ourselves various other gods, and to form vain hopes, as they do, who are not satisfied with the only true God. (95) It follows —
(95) The literal rendering of these two verses is the following:-
22. Return, ye apostate children, I will heal your apostasies. — Behold us! We come to thee; For thou art Jehovah our God:
23. Surely, in vain are the hills, The multitude of mountains; Surely, in (or through) Jehovah our God Is the salvation of Israel.
The word rendered “apostate,” does not mean “rebellious,” but such as turn away, i.e., from God; and the word for “apostasies” means the same, being from the same root. The מ before the word for “hills,” is not a preposition, as it is commonly taken, but a formative: so it appears from all the versions. Blayney conjectures that it belongs to the former word, and makes it לשקרים; but then he does not account for the ל prefixed to it. There is no different reading. The Septuagint is, εἰς ψεῦδος ἧσαν οἱ ζουνοὶ — for a lie were the hills. The Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, are materially the same. — Ed
They confirm more fully the same complaint, — That God had by manifest proofs shewed the sins of the nation; for he had consumed their labor, that is, whatever they had acquired by labor. He also adds sheep and cattle, and then sons and daughters He does not indeed ascribe this consumption to God; but the mode of speaking is more emphatic, when he says, Shame has consumed the labor of our fathers from our childhood: for by shame he understands wickedness, of which they ought to have been ashamed. The meaning then is, that all the evils they had endured could in no other way be accounted for, inasmuch as the whole was to be ascribed to their wickedness. Our shame, then, (96) that is, our wickedness, has consumed the labor of our fathers It follows —
(96) Rather, “And the shame,” i e , the idol-worship, referred to in the preceding verse; the article ה is prefixed to the noun. This is the view taken by Gataker and Blayney See Jeremiah 11:13; Hosea 9:10. — Ed
As the Israelites say here nothing new, but continue the same subject, I propose only to touch briefly on the words, lest I should be too tedious. They say then that they were lying in their miseries; and why? because they had dealt wickedly with God We see that they are explaining what they had confessed, — even that the labor of their fathers had been consumed by their shame, that is, by their wickedness; and they ascribe to themselves what might have been put to the account of their fathers, because they knew that they were heirs to their iniquity. We have lain, they say, in our shame (97) They here shortly confess that they were deservedly miserable, that they could not accuse God of cruelty, as that he afflicted them too severely. How so? because they were lying in their own shame, and their own disgrace covered them; as though they said, that the cause of all their evils was to be found in their sins, and that it was not to be sought anywhere else.
Because we and our fathers, they say, have done wickedly By these words they intimate that they had acted thus, not for a day only, but had been so perverse, that from early life they had imbibed the iniquity of their fathers, and thus added evils to evils. They had said before, that the labor of their fathers had been consumed from their childhood, thereby signifying the continuance of their punishment; for God had not for a day chastised them, but had often repeated his scourges, and yet without any benefit. Now they add, “ As we have from our childhood dealt wickedly towards our God, so also he has warned us from our childhood to return to him; and it has been our fault that we have not returned, for he called us; but as we were obstinate, so also God has justly executed on us his vengeance.”
They afterwards say, even to this day; by which they confirm what I have already stated, — that they had been so perverse as not to cease from their vices. At the same time he points out the source of all their wickedness: they hearkened not to the voice of Jehovah Had they gone astray, and had God been silent, their fault might have been extenuated; but as God had daily sent prophets to them, who never ceased to cry in their hearing, and yet they continued deaf, their perverseness in their sinful courses was inexcusable. We then see that their sin was increased by the circumstance, that they refused to hear the voice of God; as though he had said, that God had done his part in calling them back from the way of ruin, but that they had been so obstinate as to disregard his favor, and that they thus justly suffered, not only for their impiety, but also for their ingratitude and perverse wickedness.
(97) Calvin seems to have followed the Septuagint in rendering the verb in the past tense. The Vulgate and Syriac retain the future of the original; but the Targum gives the present, and rightly so, as the future in Hebrew is often to be so taken. It is the same in Welsh, the future conveys the meaning of the present. This distich might in that language be rendered exactly according to the Hebrew, and the future would be understood as expressing what the present state of things is, —
(lang. cy) Gorweddwn yn ein cywilydd, A gorchuddia ni ein gwarth.
But in English the present must be used, as it is the confession of the penitent when returning to God, —
We lie in our shame, And cover us does our disgrace, Because against Jehovah our God Have we sinned, we and our fathers, From our childhood even to this day; And we have not hearkened To the voice of Jehovah our God.—
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17