This and the next chapter contain, as we shall see, a most profitable truth; and that the people might be the more attentive, God introduced these prophecies by a preface. Jeremiah spoke many things which afterwards, as it has elsewhere appeared, had been collected and inserted in one volume by the priests and Levites; but God reminds us in these words, that the prophecies which are to follow respecting the liberation of the people, were especially to be remembered.
There is, however, another circumstance to be noticed. We have seen that such was the stubbornness of the people, that Jeremiah spent his labor among them in vain, for he addressed the deaf, or rather stocks and stones, for they were so possessed by stupor that they understood nothing, for God had even blinded them, a judgment which they fully deserved. Such was the condition of the people. We must further bear in mind the comparison between the doctrine of Jeremiah and the fables of those who fed the miserable people with flatteries, by giving them the hope of a return after two years. God knew what would be the event; but the people ceased not to entertain hope and to boast of a return at the end of two years. Thus they despised God’s favor, for seventy years was a long period: “What! God indeed promises a return, but after seventy years who of us will be alive? Hardly one of us will be found then remaining, therefore so cold a promise is nothing to us.” They, at the same time, as I have said, were filled with a false confidence, as with wind, and behaved insolently towards God and his prophets, as though they were to return sound and safe in a short time.
But profane men always run to extremes; at one time they are inflated with pride, that is, when things go on prosperously, or when a hope of prosperity appears, and they carry themselves proudly against God, as though nothing adverse could happen to them; then when hope and false conceit disappoint them, they are wholly disheartened, so that they will receive no comfort, but plunge into the abyss of despair. God saw that this would be the case with the people, except he came to their aid. Hence he proposes here the best and the fittest remedy — that the Prophet, as he had effected nothing by speaking, should write and convert as it were into deeds or acts what he had spoken, (1) so that after the lapse of two years they might gather courage, and afterwards acknowledge that they had been deceived by unprincipled men, and thus justly suffered for their levity, so that they might at length begin to look to God and embrace the promised liberation, and not wholly despond. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet was commanded to write the words which he had before declared with his mouth.
Now, as we understand the design of God, let us learn that when it happens that we go astray and wander after false imaginations, we are not on that account to cast away the hope of salvation; for we see that God here stretches forth his hand to those who had erred, and who had even wilfully cast themselves into ruin, for they had been more than enough admonished and warned by true and faithful prophets; their ears they had stopped; their hearts they had hardened; and yet when they had sought as it were designedly to ruin themselves, we see how God still recalled them to himself.
He says that God had commanded him to write in a book all the words which he had heard; and the reason follows, For, behold, come shall the days, saith Jehovah, in which I will restore the captivity of my people Israel and Judah (2) There is to be understood a contrast between the restoration mentioned here and that of which the false prophets had prattled when they animated the people with the hope of a return in a short time; for, as I have said, that false expectation, when the Jews sought unseasonably to return to their own country, was a sort of mental inebriety. But when they found that they had been deceived, despair only remained for them. Hence the Prophet recalls them here to a quietness of mind, even that they might know that God would prove faithful after they found out that they had rashly embraced what impostors had of themselves proclaimed We then see that there is here an implied comparison between the sure and certain deliverance which God had promised, and the false and stolid hope with which the people had been inebriated: come, then, shall the days Now it appears that two years had taken away every expectation; for they believed the false prophets who said that God would restore them in two years; after the end of that time all the hope of the people failed. Therefore the Prophet here removes that erroneous impression which had been made on their minds, and he says that the days would come in which God would redeem his people; and thus he indirectly derides the folly of the people, and condemns the impiety of those who had dared to promise so quick a return.
We now, then, see why he says, come shall the days; for every hope after two years would have been extinguished, had not God interposed. Come, then, shall the days in which I wll restore the captivity of Israel and Judah The ten tribes, we know, had been already led into exile; the tribe of Judah and the half tribe of Benjamin only remained. Hence the ten tribes, the whole kingdom of Israel, are mentioned first. The exile of Israel was much longer than that of Judah. It afterwards follows, —
Both Jews and Christians pervert this passage, for they apply it to the time of the Messiah; and when they hardly agree as to any other part of Scripture, they are wonderfully united here; but, as I have said, they depart very far from the real meaning of the Prophet.
They all consider this as a prophecy referring to the time of the Messiah; but were any one wisely to view the whole context, he would readily agree with me that the Prophet includes here the sum of the doctrine which the people had previously heard from his mouth. In the first clause he shews that he had spoken of God’s vengeance, which rested on the people. But it is briefly that this clause touches on that point, because the object was chiefly to alleviate the sorrow of the afflicted people; for the reason ought ever to be borne in mind why the Prophet had been ordered to commit to writing the substance of what he had taught, which was, to supply with some comfort the exiles, when they had found out by experience that they had been extremely perverse, having for so long a time never changed nor turned to repentance. The Prophet had before spoken at large of the vices of the people, and many times condemned their obstinacy, and also pointed out the grievous and dreadful punishment that awaited them. The Prophet then had in many a discourse reproved the people, and had been commanded daily to repeat the same thing, though not for his own sake, nor mainly for the sake of those of his own age, or of the old. But after God had destroyed the Temple and the city, his object was to sustain their distressed minds, which must have otherwise been overwhelmed with despair. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet here touches but slightly on the vengeance which awaited the people. There is, however, as we shall see, great force in this brevity; but he is much fuller as to the second part, and for this end, that the people might not succumb under their calamities, but hope in the midst of death, and even begin to hope while suffering the punishment which they deserved.
Now he says, Thus saith Jehovah, A cry, or, the voice of trembling, or of fear, have we heard. The word חרדה, cherede, is thought to mean properly that dread which makes the whole body to tremble, and is therefore rendered trembling. God speaks, and yet in the person of the people. Why? In order to expose their insensibility; for as they were obstinate in their wickedness, so they were not terrified by threatenings, however many and dreadful. God dictated words for them, for they were altogether void of feeling. We now see why God assumed the person of those who were secure, though Jeremiah daily represented to them God’s vengeance as near at hand. The meaning is, that though the people were asleep in their sins, and thought themselves beyond the reach of danger, even when God was displeased with them, yet the threatenings by which God sought to lead them to repentance would not be in vain. Hence God says, We have heard the voice of fear; that is, “Deride and scoff as you please, or remain insensible in your delusions, so as to disregard as the drunken what is said, being destitute of feeling, reason, and memory, yet God will extort from you this confession, this voice of trembling and fear.”
He then adds, and not of peace This is emphatically subjoined, that the Prophet might shake off from the people those foolish delusions with which they were imbued by the false prophets. He then says, that they in vain hoped for peace, for they could not flee from terror and fear. He enhances this fear by saying, Inquire and see whether a man is in labor? Some one renders this absurdly, “Whether a man begets?” by which mistake he has betrayed a defect of judgment as well as ignorance; he was indeed learned in Hebrew, but ignorant of Latin, and also void of judgment. For the Prophet here speaks of something monstrous; but it is natural for a man to beget. he asks here ironically, “Can a man be in labor?” because God would put all men in such pains and agonies, as though they were women travailing with child. As, then, women exert every nerve and writhe in anguish when bringing forth draws nigh, so also men, all the men, would have their hands laid on their loins, on account of their terror and dread. Then he says, and all faces are turned into paleness; that is, God would terrify them all.
We now understand the meaning of the Prophet; for as the Jews did not believe God’s judgment, it was necessary, as the Prophet does here, to storm their hardness. If he had used a common mode of speaking, they would not have been moved. Hence he had respect to their perverseness; and it was on this account that he was so vehement. Inquire, then, he says, and see whether a man is in labor? God would bring all the men to a condition not manly, such as that of a woman in labor, when in her last effort to bring forth, when her pain is the greatest and the most bitter. Men would then be driven into a state the most unbecoming, strange, and monstrous. It follows: —
The Prophet goes on in this verse to describe the grievousness of that punishment for which the people felt no concern, for they disregarded all threatenings, as I have already said, and had now for many years hardened themselves so as to deem as nothing so many dreadful things. This, then, was the reason why he dwelt so much on this denunciation, and exclaimed, Alas! great is that day: “great” is to be taken for dreadful; and he adds, so that there is none like it It was a dreadful spectacle to see the city destroyed, and the Temple partly pulled down and partly consumed by fire: the king, with all the nobility, was driven into exile, his eyes were put out, and his children were slain; and he was afterwards led away in a manner so degraded, that to die a hundred times would have been more desirable than to endure such indignity. Hence the Prophet does not say without reason, that that day would be great, so that none would be like it: and he said this, to shake away the torpidity of the people, for they thought that the holy city, which God had chosen for his habitation, could not fall, nor the Temple perish, he further says, that it would be a time of distress to the people. But at the end of the verse he gives them a hope of God’s mercy, even deliverance from this distress. We now, then, see the design of the Prophet in these verses. (3) — There will be no Lecture tomorrow on account of the Consistory.
4.Even these are the words which Jehovah hath said respecting Israel and respecting Judah:
5.Verily thus hath Jehovah said — (The voice of trembling have we heard, Of fear and not of peace:
6.Ask ye now and see, Does a man travail with child? How is it? I see every man With his hands on his loins like a woman in travail, And turned are all faces to paleness:)
7.Hark! for great shall be that day, none like it; Though a time of distress shall be to Jacob, Yet from it shall he be saved:
8.And it shall be in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, That I shall break, etc.. etc..
The parenthesis accounts for what is said at the end of the 7th verse (Jeremiah 30:7) and is intended as a contrast with the great day of deliverance that is promised. — Ed.
Jeremiah proceeds with what he touched upon in the last verse, even that the Lord, after having chastised his people, would at length shew mercy to them, so as to receive them into favor. He says, in short, that their captivity would not be perpetual. But we must remember what we have before stated, that is, that deliverance is only promised to the faithful, who would patiently and resignedly submit to God and not disregard his paternal correction. If, then, we desire God to be propitious to us, we must suffer ourselves to be paternally chastised by him; for if we resist when goaded, no pardon can by any means be expected, for we then, as it were, wilfully provoke God by our hardness.
He therefore says, in that day, that is, when the appointed time was completed. The false prophets inflamed the people with false expectation, as though their deliverance was to take place after two years. God bade the faithful to wait, and not to be thus in a hurry; he had assigned a day for them, and that was, as we have seen, the seventieth year. He then mentions the yoke, that is, of the king of Babylon, and taking another view, the chains The yoke was what Nebuchadnezzar laid on the Jews; and the chains of the people were those by which Nebuchadnezzar had bound them. At last he adds, And rule over them shall no more strangers The verb עבד, obed, is to be taken here in a causative sense; even the form of the sentence shews this, and they who render the words, “and strangers shall not serve them,” wrest the meaning; for it could not be a promise; and this is inconsistent with the context, and requires no confutation, as it is evidently unsuitable. If the verb be taken in the sense of serving, then “strangers” must be in the dative case. We have seen before a similar phrase in Jeremiah 25:14, where the Prophet says that neither kings nor strong nations would any longer rule over the Jews. The same verb is used, and the same form of expression. Strangers, then, shall make them serve no more; that is, they shall not rule over them so as slavishly to oppress them. (4)
We now perceive the design of the Prophet; he exhorts the Jews to patience, and shews that though their exile would be long, yet their deliverance was certain. It follows, —
I render the verse as follows, —
8.And it shall be in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, That I shall break his yoke from thy neck, And thy chains will I burst: And make him to serve shall strangers no more: 9. But serve shall they Jehovah, etc..
The transition from the second to the third person, “thy” and “him,” and from the singular to the plural, “him” and “they,” is very common in the Prophets. On the last line in the 8th verse (Jeremiah 30:8). — Ed.
The former promise would have been defective had not this clause been added; for it would not be enough for men to live as they please, and to have liberty promised them, except a regular order be established. It would, indeed, be better for us to be wild beasts, and to wander in forests, than to live without government and laws; for we know how furious are the passions of men. Unless, therefore, there be some restraint, the condition of wild beasts would be better and more desirable than ours. Liberty, then, would ever bring ruin with it, were it not bridled and connected with regular government. I therefore said that this verse was added, that the Jews might know that God cared for their welfare; for he promises that nothing would be wanting to them. It is then a true and real happiness, when not only liberty is granted to us, but also when God prescribes to us a certain rule and sets up good order, that there may be no confusion. Hence Jeremiah, after having promised a return to the people into their own country, and promised also that the yoke would be shaken off from their neck, makes this addition, that having served strangers they would be now under the government of God and of their own king. Now this subjection is better than all the ruling powers of the world; that is, when God is pleased to rule over us, and undertakes the care of our safety, and performs the office of a Governor.
We hence see that the design of the Prophet was to comfort the faithful, not only with the promise of liberty, but also with this addition, that in order that nothing might be wanting to their complete happiness, God himself would rule over them. Serve, then, shall they their God The word king is added, because God designed that his people should be governed by a king, not that the king would sit in the place of God, but added as his minister. Now this was said a long time after the death of David; for David was dead many years before Jeremiah was born: nor did he live again in order that he might rule over the people; but the name of David is to be taken here for any one that might succeed him.
Now, as God had made a covenant with David, and promised that there would be always one of his posterity to sit on his throne, hence the Prophet here, in mentioning David, refers to all the kings until Christ: and yet no one after that time succeeded him, for the kingdom was abolished before the death of Jeremiah; and when the people returned into their own country there was no regal power, for Zerubbabel obtained only a precarious dignity, and by degrees that royal progeny vanished away; and though there were seventy chosen from the seed of David, yet there was no scepter, no crown, no throne. It is therefore necessary to apply this prophecy to Christ; for the crown was broken and trodden under foot, as Ezekiel says, until the lawful king came. He intimated that there was no king to be for a long time, when he said,
“Cast down, cast down, cast down the crown.”
He therefore commanded the name of a king to be abolished, together with all its symbols, and that not for a short time but for ages, even until he came forth who had a just right to the crown or the royal diadem. We hence see that this passage cannot be otherwise explained than by referring to Christ, and that he is called David, as the Jews were always wont to call him before Christ appeared in the world; for they called the Messiah, whom they expected, the Son of David. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.
But we may hence gather a very useful doctrine, even this, — that nothing is better for us than to be in subjection to God; for our liberty would become that of wild beasts were God to allow us to live according to our own humor and inclinations. Liberty, then, will ever be destructive to us, until God undertakes the care of us, and prepares and forms us, that we may bear his yoke. Hence, when we obey God, we possess true and real happiness. When, therefore, we pray, let us learn not to separate these two things which ought necessarily to be joined together, even that God would deliver us from the tyranny of the ungodly, and also that he would himself rule over us. And this doctrine is suitable to our time: for if God were now only to break down the tyranny of the Pope and deliver his own people, and suffer them to wander here and there, so as to allow every one to follow his own will as his law, how dreadful would be the confusion! It is better that the devil should rule men under any sort of government, than that they should be set free without any law, without any restraint. Our time, indeed, sufficiently proves, that these two things have not, without reason, been joined together; that is, that God would become the liberator of his people, so as to shake off the yoke of miserable bondage and to break their chains, and also that he would be a king to govern his people.
But we ought also carefully to notice what follows, — that God would not otherwise govern his Church than by a king. He designed to give an instance, or a prelude, of this very thing under the Law, when he chose David and his posterity. But to us especially belongs this promise; for the Jews, through their ingratitude, did not taste of the fruit of this promise: God deprived them of this invaluable benefit, which they might justly and with certainty have expected. As the favor which they have lost has now been transferred to us, what Jeremiah teaches here, as I have said, properly belongs to us; that is, that God is not our king except we obey Christ, whom he has set over us, and by whom he would have us to be governed. Whosoever, then, boast that they willingly bear the yoke of God, and at the same time reject the yoke of Christ, are condemned by this very prophecy; for it is not God’s will to rule uninterveniently, so to speak, his Church; but his will is that Christ, called here David, should be king; unless, indeed, we accuse Jeremiah of stating an untruth, we must apply the word David to the person of Christ. Since it is so, God then will not otherwise rule over us than by Christ, even to the end of the world; we must obey him and render him service.
He adds, Whom I will raise up It was also the office and work of God to raise up Christ, according to what is said in the second Psalm,
“I have anointed my King.”
We must always come to the fountain of God’s mercy, if we would enjoy the blessings of Christ, according to what is said,
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.”
We shall, indeed, find in Christ whatever is necessary for our salvation; but whence have we Christ, except from the infinite goodness of God? When he pitied us, he designed to save us by his only begotten Son. Salvation then is laid up for us in Christ, and is not to be sought anywhere else: but we ought, ever to remember that this salvation flows from the mercy of God, so that Christ is to be viewed as a testimony and a pledge of God’s paternal favor towards us. This is the reason why the Prophet expressly adds, that God would raise up a king to rule over his people. It follows —
The Prophet enforces his doctrine by an exhortation; for it would not be sufficient simply to assure us of God’s paternal love and goodwill, unless we were encouraged to hope for it, because experience teaches us how backward and slow we are to embrace the promises of God. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet exhorts and encourages the faithful to entertain hope. Were there in us that promptitude and alacrity which we ought to have, we should be content even with one word; for what can be wished for beyond God’s testimony respecting his favor? But our listlessness renders many goads necessary. Hence, when doctrine precedes, it is necessary to add exhortations to stimulate us; and these confirm the doctrine, so that the grace of God may flourish effectually in our hearts.
He addresses “Jacob” and “Israel;” but they mean the same, as in many other places. These duplicates, as they are called, are common, we know, in the Hebrew language; for the same words are repeated for the sake of emphasis. So, in this passage, there is more force when Jeremiah mentions two names, than if he had said only, “Fear not thou, Jacob, and be not afraid.” He then says, Fear not thou, Jacob; and Israel, be not thou afraid (5) And he does this, that the Jews might remember that God had not only been once propitious to their father Jacob, but many times; for from the womb he bore a symbol of that primogeniture which God had destined for him; and he afterwards had, for the sake of honor, the name of Israel given to him. As, then, God had in various ways, and in succession, manifested his goodness to Jacob, the people might hence entertain more hope.
He calls him his servant; not that the Jews were worthy of so honorable a title; but God had regard to himself, and his gratuitous adoption, rather than to their merits. He did not then call them servants, because they were obedient, for we know how contumaciously they rejected both God and his Prophets; but because he had adopted them. So when David says,
“I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid,”
he does not boast of his obedience, nor claim to himself any deserving virtue, but, on the contrary, declares, that before he was created in the womb, he was God’s servant through his gratuitous adoption. Hence, he adds, “I am the son of thine handmaid,” as though he had said, “I belong to thee by an hereditary right, because I am descended from that nation which thou hast been pleased to choose for thy peculiar people.” We now then see that the name servant, ought not to be understood as intimating the merits of the people, and that their obedience is not here commended, as though they had truly and faithfully responded to the call of God, but that their gratuitous adoption is alone extolled.
He adds, Behold, I will save thee from far He first declares that he would be ready to save the people when the suitable time came; for behold here intimates certainty. And he subjoins, from far, lest the people should fail in their confidence; for they had been driven into distant exile; and distance is a great obstacle. Were any one to promise to us an advantageous retreat, without calling us away to some unknown country, we could more easily embrace the promise; but were any one to say, “I promise to you the largest income in Syria, and you shall have there whatever may be deemed necessary to make your life happy;” would you not reply, “What! shall I pass over the sea, that I may live there? it is better for me to live here in comparative poverty than to be a king there.” As, then, a difficulty might have presented itself to the Jews, when they saw that they had been driven away into very remote countries, the Prophet adds, that this circumstance would be no obstacle so as to prevent God to save them: I will save you then from far; as though he had said, that his hands were long enough, so that he could extend them as far as Chaldea, and draw them from thence.
He then adds, and thy seed from the land of their captivity As the expectation of seventy years was long, God refers what he promises to their seed. There is no doubt but that the Prophet reminded the Jews, that the time determined by God was to be waited for in patience, as was the case with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for though they knew that they would be strangers in the land which God had promised them, yet they did not on that account despise or disregard the favor promised them. Abraham received in faith what he had heard from God’s mouth,
“I will give thee this land;”
and yet he knew that he would be there a stranger and a sojourner. (Genesis 12:7) His children had to exercise the same patience. Abraham had indeed been warned of a very long delay; for God had declared that his seed would be in bondage for four hundred years. (Genesis 15:13) Here, then, the Prophet exhorts the people of his time to entertain hope, according to the example of their father, and not to despise God’s favor, because its fruit did not immediately appear; for Abraham did not enjoy the land as long as he lived, and yet he preferred it to his own country; Isaac did the same; and Jacob followed the example of his fathers. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet mentions seed, as though he had said, “If the fruit of redemption will not come to you, yet God will not disappoint your hope, for your posterity shall find that he is true and faithful.”
If any one had then objected, and said, “What is that to me?” the objection would have been preposterous; for why had God promised to their posterity a return to their own country? was it not thus to testify his love towards them? And whence came their freedom, and whence God’s paternal love, except from the covenant? We hence see that the salvation of the fathers was included in the benefit which their sons enjoyed. And therefore, though the fruition of that benefit was not visibly granted to the fathers, yet they partook in part of the fruit, for it was made certain to them, that God would become the deliverer of his people even in death itself.
He adds that which is the main thing in a happy life, that they would be at rest and in a quiet state, so that none would terrify them; (6) for a return to their own country would not have been of any great importance, without a quiet possession of it. Hence the Prophet, after having said that God would come to save the people, and that distance would not prevent him to fulfill and complete what he had promised, now adds, that this benefit would be confirmed, for God would no more allow strangers to lead the Jews into exile, or to rule over them as they had done. God then promises here the continuance of his favor.
But as this did not happen to the Jews, we must again conclude that this prophecy cannot be otherwise interpreted than of Christ’s kingdom. And Daniel is the best interpreter of this matter; for he says, that the people were to be exposed to many miseries and calamities after their return, and that they were not to hope to build the Temple and the city except in great troubles. The Jews then were always terrified. We also know, that while building the Temple, they held the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other, for they often had to bear the assaults of their enemies. (Nehemiah 4:17) Since, then, the Jews ever suffered inquietude until the coming of Christ, it follows, that until his coming, this promise was never accomplished. Then the benefit of which the Prophet speaks here is peculiar to the kingdom of Christ. Now, since from the time Christ was manifested to the world, we see that the world has been agitated by many storms, yea, all things have been in confusion; it follows, that this passage cannot be explained of external rest and earthly tranquillity. It ought, therefore, to be understood according to the character of his kingdom. As, then, Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, it follows that a tranquil and quiet state is promised here, not because no enemies shall disturb us or offer us molestation, but because we shall especially enjoy peace with God, and our life shall be safe, being protected by the hand and guardianship of God. Then spiritual tranquillity is what is to be understood here, the fruit of which the faithful experience in their own consciences, though always assailed by the world, according to what Christ says,
“My peace I give to you, not such as the world gives,”
“In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It follows —
And return shall Jacob and be at rest,
And secure shall he be, and none making him afraid.
Security is freedom from disturbance: “he shall be prosperous,” as rendered by some, is by no means suitable. “Jacob,” being the father of the twelve patriarchs, is to be understood as including both Israel and Judah, according to the 4th verse (Jeremiah 30:4). — Ed.
He repeats in other words what we have already stated, but for the purpose of giving fuller support to trembling and wavering minds. God then promises that he would be present with his people to save them. Now as this could not easily be believed, and as the Jews looking only on their state at that time could not but despair, the Prophet added this comparison between them and the Gentiles. The Chaldeans and the Assyrians flourished seventy years in every kind of wealth, in luxuries, in honor — in short, they possessed every thing necessary for an earthly happiness. What, then, could the Jews have thought, but that unbelievers and God’s enemies were happy, but that they were miserable, being oppressed by hard servitude and loaded with many reproaches, and living also in poverty, and counted as sheep destined for the slaughter? When, therefore, all these things were plain before their eyes, what but despair must have laid hold on their minds? Therefore God obviates this evil; (7)
And he says that he would make a consummation among the nations, as though he had said, “When I begin to punish the Gentile nations, I will destroy them with an utter destruction, no hope will remain for them. But as to thee, I will not make a consummation.” Thus he makes a difference between the punishment inflicted on the reprobate and ungodly and that by which he would chastise the sins of his people; for the punishment he would inflict on the wicked would be fatal, while the punishment by which he would chastise his Church would be only for a time; it would therefore be to it for medicine and salvation.
We now, then, perceive what the Prophet had in view: he mitigated the bitterness of grief as to the faithful, for God would not wholly cast them away. And he shews that their scourges ought to be patiently borne, because they were to hope for an end of them; but that it would be different when he visited the reprobate, because he would leave them without any hope. In short, he says, that he would be a severe judge to the last degree as to the unbelieving, but that he would chastise his own people as a Father.
Other passages seem, however, to militate against this view; for God declares that he would make a consummation as to his chosen people, as in Isaiah 10:23, and in other places. But the explanation is obvious; for there he refers to the whole body of the people, which were alienated from him; but here his word is addressed to the faithful,
“the remnant of grace,”
as Paul calls them, (Romans 11:5) We ought, therefore, ever to consider who those are whom the Prophets address; for at one time they refer to the promiscuous mass, and at another time they address apart the faithful, and promise them salvation. Thus, then, we have before seen that God would make a consummation as to his people, that is, the reprobate; but the Prophet here turns his discourse to the Church and the seed which God would preserve in safety among a people apparently cut off and lost. Whenever, therefore, the devil would drive us to despair, whenever we are harassed in our minds when God deals with us more severely than we expect, let this consolation be remembered, that God will not make a consummation with us; for what is here said of the Church may and ought to be applied to every individual believer. God, indeed, handles them often roughly when he sees it necessary for them, but he never wholly consumes them.
I will not make, he says, a consummation with thee, but I will chastise thee in judgment Here the copulative ought to be taken as an adversative particle, and “judgment” has the sense of moderation, as we have seen in Jeremiah 10:24,
“Chastise me, O Lord, but not in thy wrath;”
he had mentioned “judgment” before. In this sense is judgment used here, that is, for that moderation which God adopts towards his chosen, for he is ever mindful of his mercy, and regards not what they deserve, but what they can bear. When, therefore, God withholds his hand and gently chastises his people, he is said to punish them in judgment, that is, moderately. For judgment is not to be taken here for rectitude, because God never exceeds due limits so as to be subject to the charge of cruelty; judgment is also opposed to just rigor, and it is often opposed to injustice; but in this place we are to understand that the contrast is between judgment and the just rigor of God. Then judgment is nothing else but the mitigation of wrath.
At last he adds, By cleansing I will not cleanse thee, or, “by cutting down I will not cut thee down.” The verb, נקה , nuke, means sometimes to cleanse, or to render innocent; and it means also intransitively to be pure and harmless; but it is to be taken here transitively. It cannot, then, be rendered otherwise than “by cleansing I will not cleanse thee,” or, “I will not cut thee down;” for it has also this meaning, and either of the two senses is suitable. If we read, “I will not cut thee down,” it is the continuation of the same subject; “I will chastise thee in judgment, and I will not therefore cut thee down,” that is, I will not make a consummation. It would then be, as it is evident, a very suitable connection, and it would run smoothly were we to read, “I will not cut thee down.” But the other version is also appropriate, though it may admit of a twofold meaning; some take it adversatively, “Though I shall not make thee innocent;” that is, though I shall not spare thee, but chastise thee moderately; and this intimation was very seasonable; for the flesh ever seeks impunity. Now God sees that it is not good for us to escape unpunished when we offend; it is then necessary to bear in mind this doctrine, that though God will not allow us to be exempt from punishment, nor indulge us, but smite us with his rods, he is yet moderate in his judgment towards us. But others refer to this passage in Isaiah,
“I made thee to pass through the furnace and refined thee, but not as silver, otherwise thou wouldest have been consumed.”
God then tries his people, or cleanses them with chastisements; but how? or, how long? — not as silver and gold, for that would wholly consume them. For when silver is purged from its dross, and also gold, the purer and clearer portion remains; but men, as there is nothing in them but vanity, would be wholly consumed, were God to try them as silver and gold. But as this interpretation is too refined, I am more disposed to adopt one of the two first, that is, that God would not wholly cut them down, though he would chastise them, or, that though he would not count or regard them wholly innocent, nor so indulge them as to let them go unpunished, he would yet be merciful and propitious to them, as he would connect judgment with his chastisements, that they might not be immoderate. (8)
The design of the Prophet is first to be noticed: he was fighting with those impostors who gave hope of a return in a short time to the people, while seventy years, as it has been said, were to be expected. The Prophet then wished to shew to the people how foolishly they hoped for an end to their evils in so short a time. And this is what ought to be carefully observed, for it was not without reason that the Prophet dwelt much on this point; for nothing is more difficult than to lead men to a serious acknowledgment of God’s judgment. When any thing adverse happens, they are tender and sensitive as to the evils they endure; but at the same time they look not to God, and comfort themselves with vain imaginations. It was therefore necessary for the Prophet to dwell on his doctrine at large; for he saw that the Israelites promised to themselves a return after two years, though they had been warned by the Prophets that they were to bear the scourge of God for seventy years.
This is the reason why the Prophet speaks here of the grievousness of evils, not because the Israelites were insensible, but because they had been credulous, and were still hoping for a return, so that they deceived themselves with false comfort. He therefore says, that the breaking was grievous; some give this rendering, “Unhealable, or hopeless, is thy bruising.” But אנוש, anush, is here a substantive, for it is followed by the preposition ל, lamed; nor can what the Prophet says be rendered otherwise than in this manner, “Grievousness is to thy bruising,” or breaking. He afterwards adds that the wound was grievous, that is, difficult to be healed; for so I understand the passage. (9) But the end was to be hoped for; yet the people were not to think it near at hand; they were, on the contrary, to prepare themselves for patient waiting until the end prescribed by God had come. It follows, —
Incurable as to thy bruise, Grievous has been thy stroke.
Or we may give this rendering, inverting the order, —
As to thy bruise, it is incurable; Grievous has been thy stroke.
The “bruise” occasioned by the “grievous stroke” was incurable, that is, by human means. The effect is mentioned first, “the bruise;” then the cause, “the stroke.” — Ed.
The Prophet speaks first without a figure, then he illustrates the simple truth by a metaphor. He says that there was no one to undertake the cause of the people; as though he had said, that they were destitute of every aid. This was, indeed, in a measure already evident; but so supine was the security of the people, that they daily formed for themselves some new hopes. Then Jeremiah declared what had already in part happened and was still impending; and thus he proved the folly of the people, who still flattered themselves while they were involved in evils almost without a remedy. “Thou seest,” he says, “that there is no one to stretch forth a hand to thee, or who is ready to help thee; and yet thou thinkest that thou wilt soon be free: whence is this vain expectation?” He then comes to a metaphor, There is no one to apply medicine for thy healing In one sentence he includes the whole first chapter of Isaiah, who handles the subject, but explains more fully his meaning. There is, however, nothing obscure when the Prophet says that there was no one to heal the evils of the people. (10)
We must ever bear in mind his object, that is, that the people were too easily deceived, when they hoped to return shortly to their own country. But we may hence gather a general truth, — that men never understand the favor of God until they are subdued by many and severe reproofs: for they always shun God’s judgment, and then they become blind to their own sins, and foolishly flatter themselves. And, further, when they only in words confess that they have sinned, they think that they have done abundantly enough. They ought therefore to be urged to the practice and duty of repentance. It afterwards follows —
No one undertakes thy cause; For a cure, medicines and healing thou hast not.
This division is made by the Sept., though not by the other versions, nor the Targ. Venema adopts it. The word מזור, rendered above “cure,” means evidently a wound. It only occurs here, and Obadiah 1:7, and twice in Hosea 5:13, where it is rendered “wound.” It comes from זור, in the sense of compressing or binding up; but the noun taken passively, signifies what is compressed or bound up, and that is a wound. Then the literal rendering would be —
None is pleading thy cause; As to the wound, medicatives, binding up, none to thee;
or in other words, —
As to the wound, thou hast no medicatives, no binding up.
The word רפאות means medicatives or medicaments, rather than medicines, as it designates here, and in most places, outward applications to wounds and bruises. The order, as in the foregoing verse, is reversed, the medicaments are put before the binding up. See Ezekiel 30:21. — Ed.
The Prophet again repeats, that nothing remained for Israel as coming from men, for no one offered to bring help. Some, indeed, explain the words as though the Prophet had said, that friends, as it is usually the case, concealed themselves through shame on seeing the condition of the people hopeless: for as long as friends can relieve the sick, they are ready at hand, and anxiously exert themselves, but when life is despaired of, they no longer appear. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, condemns here the Jews for the false confidence with which they had been long fascinated; for we know, that at one time they placed hope in the Egyptians; at another in the Assyrians; and thus it happened that they brought on themselves many calamities. And we have seen elsewhere, in many passages, that these confederacies are compared to impure lusts; for when the people sought at one time the friendship of the Egyptians, at another, that of the Assyrians, it was a kind of adultery. God had taken the Jews under his care and protection; but unbelief led them astray, so that. they sought to strengthen themselves by the aid of others. Hence, everywhere in the Prophets the Egyptians and the Assyrians are compared to lovers. And this view will suit well here; for it was not enough to point out the miseries of the people, without making known the cause of them.
Then the Prophet refers to those false counsels which the Jews had adopted, when they thought themselves secure and safe while the Egyptians, or the Assyrians, or the Chaldeans were favorable to them. For this reason he says, that all their friends hadforgotten them, and also that they did not inquire for them, that is, that they had cast off every care for them. And he adds the reason, because God had smitten, the people with an hostile wound Here the Prophet summons them again to God’s tribunal, that they might learn to consider that these evils did not happen by chance, but that they were the testimonies of God’s just wrath. God then comes forth here, and declares himself the author of all those calamities; for the Prophet would have spoken to no purpose of the miseries of the people, had not this truth been thoroughly impressed on their minds, — that they had to do with God.
Now, that God calls himself an enemy, and compares himself to a cruel enemy, must not be so understood as that the covenant had been abolished by which he had adopted the children of Abraham as his own; for he, through his mercy, always reserved some remnants. Nor ought we to understand that there was excess in God’s severity, as though he raged cruelly against his people, when he executed his judgments: but this ought to be understood according to the common perceptions of men. God also calls elsewhere the Israelites his enemies, but not without lamentation,
“Alas!” he says, “I will take vengeance on my enemies.” (Isaiah 1:24)
He assumed there the character of one grieving, as though he had said, that he unwillingly proceeded to so much rigor, for he would have willingly spared the people, had not necessity forced him to such severity. But, as I have already said, when God calls himself the enemy of his people, it ought to be understood of temporal punishment, or it ought to be explained of the reprobate and lost, who had wholly alienated themselves from God’s favor, and whom God had also cut off from the body of his Church as putrid members. But as the Prophet here addresses the faithful, there is no doubt but that God calls himself an enemy, because, according to the state of things at that time, the Jews could not have otherwise thought than that God was angry with them.
With regard to cruel one, we have already said, that excess is thereby denoted, as though too much rigor or severity were ascribed to God: but the Jews could not have been otherwise awakened to consider their sins, nor be sufficiently terrified so as to be led seriously to acknowledge the judgment of God. And God himself, in what follows, sufficiently proves, that though he compares himself to a severe or cruel man, yet nothing wrong could be found in his judgments.
For he adds, for the multitude of thine iniquity, because thy sins have prevailed Though the Jews thought that God acted severely, when he threatened them with long exile, here their mouth was closed by the multitude of their iniquity; as though he had said, “Set in a balance on one side, the weight of the punishment of which ye complain, and on the other side the heap of sins by which ye have often, and for a long time, provoked my wrath against you.” God then, by multitude of iniquity, shews that it could not be ascribed to him as a fault that he so severely punished the Jews, because they deserved to be so punished. And he confirms the same thing in other words, not that there was anything ambiguous in what he had said, but because the Prophet saw that he had to do with perverse men. That he might then reprove their indifference, he says, that their sins had grown strong (11) It follows —
14.All thy lovers have forgotten thee, Thee they seek not: Verily with the stroke of an enemy have I struck thee, — With a violent correction; Because multiplied had thine iniquity, Grown strong had thy sins, etc.
The word for “violent,” or cruel, is so construed in the early versions; the Targ. alone countenances our version. The last line conveys a different idea from the preceding. The verb, indeed, means strong in number as well as strong in power; but as number is expressed in the previous line, we may justly consider that power is meant here: their sins were not only many, but strong and vigorous, so strong as to resist all exhortations and all threatenings. — Ed.
The Prophet now anticipates an objection, lest the Jews should expostulate with God; for it sufficiently appears that they always complained of God’s extreme severity, when they indulged themselves in their vices. As soon then as God treated them as they deserved, they became exasperated and enraged against him. Hence the Prophet now meets their perverse and unjust complaints, and asks, why they cried out for their bruising, as though he had said, that these clamors were much too late, when they had passed by the season for repentance. For God had suspended his extreme threatenings until the people had betrayed so much obstinacy, that there was no room for mercy. When, therefore, the people’s wickedness had become unhealable, the Prophet, as we have seen, proclaimed their exile.
Now, indeed, he derides their late crying, for they had been too long torpid in their contempt of God: Why, then, dost thou cry for thy bruising? grievous is thy sorrow, or, grievousness is to thy sorrow; (12) but for the multitude of thine iniquity, and because thy sins have grown strong, have I done these things to thee Here God frees himself from the calumnies of the people, and shews that those who murmured or made a clamor, acted unjustly, having not considered what they merited: for they were worthy of the heaviest punishment, because they not only in one way brought ruin on themselves, and more and more kindled God’s vengeance, but had also for many years hardened themselves in their sins; and they had, besides, given themselves up, in various ways, to every kind of wickedness, so that the Prophet justly upbraided them with a multitude of iniquity, and also with a mass of sins. God then says, that he had not exceeded the limits of moderation in the punishment he inflicted on the people, because their desperate wickedness and perverseness compelled him. But consolation is immediately subjoined, —
Because multiplied had thine iniquity,
Grown strong had thy sins,
Have I done these things to thee.
Here, again, the Prophet promises that God would be gracious to his people, but after a long time, when that perverseness would be subdued, which could not be soon cured. We ought, then, ever to bear in mind the difference between the promise of favors, of which Jeremiah was a witness and a herald, and those vain boastings, by which the false prophets deceived the people, when they encouraged them to expect a return in a short time, and said that the term of deliverance was at hand.
And this difference ought to be noticed on this account, because a most useful doctrine may hence be gathered: the unprincipled men who basely pretend God’s name, have this in common with his true and faithful servants, — that they both hold forth the favor of God: but those who falsely use God’s name bury the doctrine of repentance; for they seek only to soothe people with flatteries: and as they hunt for favor, they wholly omit the doctrine that may offend, and is in no way sweet and pleasant to the flesh. Jeremiah did not, indeed, deal so severely with the people, but that he gave them some hope of pardon, and always mitigated whatever severity there was in the doctrine of repentance: but at the same time he did not, by indulgence, cherish the vices of the people, as was wont to be done by the false prophets. But what did these do? they boasted that God was merciful, slow to wrath, and ready to be reconciled to sinners: hence they concluded that exile would not be long; and at the same time, as we have said, they perfidiously flattered the people. So then, it ought to be borne in mind, that we are not fit to receive the favor of God, nor are capable of it, so to speak, until all the pride of the flesh be really subdued, and also all self-security be corrected and removed.
We now see why the Prophet subjoined the promise of favor, after having spoken of the dreadful judgment of God. But the illative, לכן laken, does not seem suitable; for how can this verse be connected with the threatenings which we have noticed? Therefore they who devour thee shall be devoured But therefore refers to what he had before said. (13) It is not then strange, that he draws the inference, — that God having taken vengeance on the wickedness of the people, would also execute vengeance on their enemies. Then the illative is not unsuitable, because the time of mercy had arrived when the Jews became subdued, so as to humble themselves before God and to repent of their sins.
But there is here a common doctrine which we meet with everywhere in the Prophets, even that God, after having made a beginning with his Church, becomes then a judge of all nations; for if he by no means spares his elect, his own family, how can he leave aliens unpunished? And it is the perpetual consolation of the Church, that though God employs the wicked as scourges to chastise his people, vet their condition is not better, for when they have triumphed for a moment, God will soon bring them to judgment. There is, therefore, no reason why the faithful should envy their enemies when they are chastened by God’s hand, and when their enemies exult in their pleasures; for their prosperity will soon come to an end, and with the same measure will God mete unto them the reward of the wrong done to his people.
Whosoever, then, devours thee shall be devoured, and all thine enemies, yea, all, shall go into captivity; and, lastly, they who plunder thee, etc., which is rendered by some, “they who tread thee shall be for treading.” But as the verb means plundering, to avoid repetition, I prefer the former meaning: “They, then, who spoil thee shall become a spoil, and they who plunder thee shall be for plunder.” The reason follows, —
When God promised favor to the Jews, he referred to their enemies; for it would have been a grievous temptation, which would have otherwise not only disturbed and depressed their minds, but also extinguished all faith, to see their enemies enjoying all they could wish, and successful in everything they attempted, had not this consolation been granted them, — that their enemies would have at length to render an account for the wickedness in which they gloried. But now the main thing is here expressed, — that God, when reconciled to his people, would heal the wounds which he had inflicted; for he who inflicts wounds on us, can alone heal us. He exercises judgment in punishing, he afterwards undertakes the office of a Physician, to deliver us from our evils. It is, therefore, the same as though the Prophet had said, “When the right time shall pass away, which God has fixed as to his people, deliverance is to be hoped for with certainty; for the Lord has decreed to punish his people only for a time, and not wholly to destroy them.”
Iwill bring thee, he says, healing, and will heal thee of thy wounds And this admonition was very necessary, for the Jews had nearly rotted in their exile when God delivered them. They might have then been a hundred times overwhelmed with despair; but God bids them here to raise upwards their minds, so as to expect help from heaven, for there was none on earth. And he adds, because they called thee, Zion, an outcast whom no one seeketh; that is, of whom, or of whose welfare, no one is solicitous. He confirms what I have before said, — that the extreme evils of the people would be no hinderance when God came to deliver them, but, on the contrary, be the future occasion of favor and mercy. When, therefore, the people should become so sunk in misery as to make all to think their deliverance hopeless, God promises that he would then be their Redeemer. And this is what we ought carefully to notice: for we look around us here and there, whenever we hope for any help; but God shews that he will be then especially propitious to us, when we are in a hopeless state according to the common opinion of men. It follows, —
Jeremiah goes on with the same subject, and dwells on it more at large; for as it was difficult to lead the people seriously to repent, so it was difficult to raise up desponding minds after they had been subjected to a multitude of calamities. God then declares here again that he would come to restore his people from captivity.
Behold, he says, I restore, etc., as though he was already prepared with an outstretched hand to liberate his people. Let it be noticed, that the Prophet did not in vain represent God as present; but he, no doubt, had regard to the want of faith in the people, and sought to remove this defect. Since then the Jews thought themselves wholly forsaken, the Prophet testifies that God would be present with them, and he introduces him as speaking, Behold, I restore, etc., as though he was already the liberator of the people. He names the restoration of tents and habitations, because they had been long sojourners in Chaldea and other countries, where they had been scattered. As then they had their own dwellings, the Prophet reminds them that they were yet but strangers among the nations, for God would restore them to their own country, which was their real dwelling-place. This is the reason why he speaks of tents and habitations. He, at the same time, points out the cause of their redemption, even mercy, so that the Jews might at length learn to flee to this their sole asylum, and know that there was no other remedy for their calamities than this, — that God should look on them according to his mercy, for he might have justly destroyed them altogether. In short, the Prophet reminds them that they must have perished for ever, had not God at length shewed mercy to them.
He mentions a fuller display of his favor, — that he would again build Jerusalem upon its own heap, or hill, as some render it; for the situation of the city was high, and towered above other parts of Judea. But it seems to me that the Prophet means that the city would be built on its own foundations, for he calls here the ruins heaps, or piles. For the city had been destroyed in such a manner, that yet some ruins remained, and some vestiges of the walls. It is then the same as though he had said, that the city, however splendid and wealthy in former times, would yet be so restored, that its dignity would not be less than before. But he speaks of its extent when he says, that it would be built upon its heaps, that is, on its ancient foundations.
And this point is confirmed by what immediately follows, the palace shall be set in its own form or station, על משפטו al meshephthu. The word שפט shepheth, properly means judgment, but it means also form, measure, manner, custom. Here, no doubt, the Prophet means that the king’s palace would be equally splendid to what it had been, and in the same place. Some think that ארמון armun, means the Temple; and this sense I do not reject; but as the Hebrews for the most part understand by this term a splendid, large, or high building, I prefer the former sense, that is, that he speaks of the royal palace: stand then will the king’s palace in its own form or place, as though it had never been destroyed. (14) In short, he promises such a restoration of the city and kingdom, that no less favor from God was to be expected in the second state of the Church, than it had formerly; for God would obliterate all memory of calamities when the Church again flourished, and the kingdom became so eminent in wealth, honor, power, and other excellencies, that it would evidently appear that God had only for a time been displeased with his Church.
And built shall be the city on its ruins,
And the palace on its wonted seat shall be fixed, (or shall stand.)
But the versions and the Targ. vary the meaning of the preposition. The Vulg., with which the rest essentially agree, is, “And the temple according to its order, shall be founded.” Blayney renders the line thus, —
And the palace shall be established upon its (former) plan.
As in the previous line, the place is designated, it is probable that the place also is meant here. — Ed.
The Prophet confirms what he had said. We have stated that the Jews, while any hope remained for them, were perverse towards God, but that, after they were brought to extremities, they became extremely dejected; for they lost all hope as to their state, and became so desponding that they would receive no consolation. It was not therefore enough, slightly, or in a few words, to promise them restoration; it was necessary that the promise should be repeatedly confirmed. This then is now the subject of the Prophet; he promises that praise and the voice of joy would proceed from them.
We ought to notice here the contrast between sighings, groanings, complaints, lamentations, and giving of thanks; for as long as they were detained in exile, no praise could have been heard among them. Sorrow is, indeed, no hinderance to prevent us to bless God in extreme misery; but we cannot with a full mouth, so to speak, bless God, except when some cause of joy is presented to us. Hence is that saying of James,
“Is any joyful among you? let him sing.” (James 5:13)
As then the Prophet speaks of thanksgiving, he intimates that God’s favor would be so great as to remove every sorrow and sadness from the Jews. But he indirectly exhorts the faithful to celebrate God’s kindness. Had he only said, “Go forth from them shall the voice of joy,” it would, indeed, have been a complete sentence; but it was also necessary to remind the faithful for what end God would deal so kindly with his people, even that they might proclaim his goodness; for this is the design for which we receive every good from God’s hand. Thanksgiving is then usually connected with joy, when mention is made of the Church.
But we have said that the faithful cannot with so much alacrity praise God, when they are pressed down by distresses, as when God makes their hearts to rejoice; for grief holds bound all the feelings of men; but joy, proceeding from a perception of God’s paternal favor, dilates as it were their souls; and hence also their tongues are set loose. For this reason it is said in Psalms 51:15,
“O Lord, open thou my lips,
and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.”
David there intimates that he had been for a time silent; when God hid from him his face, he could not taste of his paternal goodness. During that time David had his heart as it were bound and his mouth closed; but he prays the Lord to open his mouth, that is, to grant him joy that he might give him thanks.
We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet: he intimates, that though the Jews would be in sorrow for a time, would groan and mourn, yet this condition would not be perpetual; for God would at length comfort them, so that they would not only rejoice, but also proclaim his mercy when liberated.
He adds, I will increase them, and they shall not be lessened; I will adorn them, etc. Some render this also, “I will increase them:“ but the words are different; and כבד cebed, means sometimes to increase, and sometimes to adorn, to glorify, to honor. The words which follow are also different, מעת moth, and צער tsor. And though the Prophet meant to repeat nearly the same thing, yet there is no doubt but that he intended to set forth the favor of God by this variety, as though he had said, that so remarkable would be the mercy of God, that the Jews would acknowledge, that what had been promised to their father Abraham had been fillfilled to them,
“Thy seed shall be as the sand of the sea, and as the stars of heaven.” (Genesis 22:17)
The perpetuity also, or the continuity of his favor is denoted, when he says, they shall not be lessened, they shall not be made small. It is possible for a people to increase for a short time; but such a thing is often of no long duration, for the form of this world passeth away. God then promises stability and perpetuity to his Church, for he would manifest his favor to it from day to day, and from year to year. (15) This is the meaning. It follows —
And I will multiply them, and they shall not be lessened,
I will also honor them, and they shall not be degraded.
This abundance of words which the Prophet employs is by no means useless; for we ought always to remember how hard were their temptations when no token of God’s favor appeared for seventy years. It was hence necessary to sustain minds overwhelmed with evils by many supports, so that they might not wholly faint; and he adds promises to promises, that the Jews might see as it were a spark of light from the deep abyss. And hence, also, we may gather a useful admonition: Though the Lord may favor us today, so that we are not exercised by very grievous trials, yet every one knows by his own experience, how prone we are to despond; and then when we once begin to faint, how difficult it is to be raised up to the confidence of hope. Let us then learn to join promises to promises, so that if one will not suffice, another may.
He now says that their children would be as from the beginning Some give this refined explanation, that the children of the Church would be as from the beginning, that is, before the Law; for the covenant of grace was made by God with Abraham before the Law was proclaimed: they hence think that the abrogation of the Law is here denoted, as though he had said, that the Church would be free when Christ came, and that the servile yoke of the Law would then be removed. But this kind of refinement I cannot approve; for I do not think that such a notion ever entered into the mind of the Prophet. I have then no doubt but that the reference here is to the kingdom of David, as though the Prophet had said, that the state of the Church would be no less prosperous and happy under Christ than formerly under David. Were any one to object and say, that Christ’s kingdom is much more happy than that of David: this I grant; but the prophets ever compare the kingdom of Christ with the kingdom of David, and they were content with this way of teaching, as it exceeded the hope of the people; for the Jews thought it not credible that they could ever attain their ancient renown. When, therefore, he says here, that the children of Judah would be as at the beginning, there is no doubt with me but that he had a regard to that promise, which declares that the seed of David would be for ever on his throne, as long as the sun and moon shone in the heavens. (Psalms 89:37)
The meaning is, that though the kingdom would through a dreadful ruin become extinct, together with all its dignity, the Jews would yet, through Christ, recover what they had lost through their sins, ingratitude, and perverseness.
He afterwards adds, His seed shall be established before my face, and I will visit all his oppressors Here again God confirms the promise concerning the perpetuity of his Church. He therefore says that the assembly of the people would be established before him, (16) by which words he bids the Jews to look upwards, for in the world nothing was to be found but despair. God then calls the attention of the Jews to himself, when he says that the Church would be established before his face. And as the power of enemies was so great, that the faithful might justly object and say, that every avenue was closed up against God’s favor, he adds, that God on the other hand had sufficient power to destroy and to reduce to nothing all their enemies; and he mentions all, because the Chaldean monarchy was widely extended and consisted of many nations; and there was no part of it which was not most hostile to the Jews. As, then, the miserable exiles saw that not only the Chaldeans were inimical to them, but also other nations, so that they were hated almost by the whole world, God here comes to their aid, and declares that he had power enough to destroy all their enemies.
A useful doctrine may be hence deduced: The Church was in such a manner perpetual, that its condition was yet variable; for it often seemed good to God to break off the course of his favor before the coming of Christ. What then happened we may accommodate to our own time. As, then, the Prophet says here, that the children of the Church would be as at the beginning, we need not wonder when the Church happens at any time to be scattered, as indeed the case was under the Papacy. For the Church was not only dead, but also buried, and was not only as a putrid carcase, but like the dust it had wholly vanished; for what remnants could have been found fifty years ago? We hence see that what happened under the Law has also taken place under the kingdom of Christ; for the Church has sometimes been overwhelmed with troubles, and has been hid without any glory or beauty. But, in the meantime, we embrace this promise, that the children of the godly shall be as formerly; for as the kingdom of Christ in former times flourished, so we ought to feel assured that there is sufficient power in God to restore to the Church its glory, so that Christ’s kingdom may again rise up, and all God’s blessings shine forth in it. But as many enemies surround the Church on everyside, and the Devil ever excites everywhere commotions and disturbances, let us know that there is another clause added, even that God will be the defender of his people; so that how much soever the whole world may attempt to tread under foot his favor, he will yet not suffer them to accomplish their fury; for he has the power not only to restrain their assaults, but also wholly to destroy them and to obliterate their memory; for this is what is implied in the word visiting. It then follows —
The Prophet, no doubt, explains here more at large what he had said of the restoration of the Church; for we know that the Jews had been so taught, that they were to place their whole confidence as to their salvation on David, that is, on the king whom God had set over them. Then the happiness and safety of the Church was always founded on the king; he being taken away, it was all over with the Church, as the Anointed is said to be the Lord, in whose spirit is our spirit. (Lamentations 4:20) Hence God has even from the beginning directed the attention of his people to their king, that they might depend on him, not that David was able by his own power to save the people, but because he typically personated Christ. We have not now an earthly king who is Christ’s image; but it is Christ alone who vivifies the Church. But it was at that time set forth figuratively, that the king was, as it were, the soul of the community; and we have before seen, that when the Prophet animated the Jews with hope, he set before them David, and afterwards the Son of David.
For the same reason, he says here, His valiant one, or, illustrious one, shall be from himself For we must remember the condition of that miserable and calamitous time when God took away every source of joy, by depriving the people of all the dignity with which they had been honored. It was the same then as though Jeremiah had promised the Jews a resurrection, for they were in their exile as dead men, as their hope of public safety had vanished when their king was destroyed. Here, then, he bids them to entertain good hope, because the Lord was able to raise them from death to life. And doubtless it was a wonderful resurrection when the Jews returned to their own country, a way having been opened for them; for they had been driven away, as it were, into another world. And who could have ever thought that so many obstacles could have been removed, when the Chaldeans extended their dominion even over Judea? The miserable exiles had certainly no refuge. It was not then to no purpose that Jeremiah testifies here, that the strong or valiant, that is, the king, would be from the people, and that there would come forth a Ruler from the midst of them. To come or go forth does not mean here to depart, as though the king would go elsewhere; but to go forth signifies here to proceed: Go forth then, or proceed, shall a Ruler from the midst of the people: how this took place it is well known.
But Isaiah had foretold what his successor here confirms, saying,
“Come forth shall a shoot from the root (or stem) of Jesse, and a rod shall spring up from the root of his tree.” (Isaiah 11:1)
He calls it there the house of Jesse, which was a private house: he would have dignified the favor with a more glorious name, had he mentioned David; but as there was then no kingdom, he refers to Jesse; for as David came forth as an unknown rustic from the folds of the sheep, so also the Lord would raise up a shoot from the stem of a tree that had been cut down. We hence see in what sense Jeremiah uses the expression, “Come forth;” for Christ rose up beyond the expectation of men, and rose up as a shoot when a tree is cut down, that is, when there was no resemblance of majesty among the people.
He afterwards adds, I will cause him to draw near, and he will come to me This may be either confined to the head or extended to the whole body; and the second idea is what I mostly approve; for the people were a long time removed from the presence of God, even as long as they were exiled from their country. Hence God adds, “I will cause them again to draw nigh, and they shall come to me.” If, however, any one prefers to explain this of the head, or of the king himself, I offer no objection.
Now, we are taught from this passage, that whenever God speaks of the restoration of the Church, he ever declares that he will be entreated by us; in short, that whenever he invites us to the hope of favor and salvation, we ought always to look to Christ; for except we direct all our thoughts to him, all the promises will vanish away, for they cannot be valid except through him; because in Christ only, as Paul says, they are yea and amen. (2 Corinthians 1:19) But as this truth often occurs in the Prophets, it is enough here to touch on it by the way, as I have handled it more fully elsewhere.
As to the latter part of the verse, there is some ambiguity, — for who is he, this, etc There are two demonstrative pronouns, הוא זה hua, ze. Afterwards comes ערב oreb, fitting his heart. The verb ערב oreb, means to be a surety, and also to fit, to adapt, to accommodate, or to form, and sometimes to render sweet or pleasant; and on this account some have thus translated, “Who will allure his heart?” He then adds, that he may come to me, saith Jehovah? I have said that this passage is obscure, and it has hence been turned into various meanings by interpreters. Some apply the words to Christ, that he alone has of his own accord come to the Father. Others consider a negative to be understood, as though it was said, that no one prepares his heart to come to God. But there are some who regard the passage as an exhortation, “Who is he who will apply his heart that he may come to me?” Now, if we read it as expressing astonishment or wonder, it would be, in my view, its real meaning. I am not aware that any one has mentioned this; but the Prophet, I have no doubt, intended his words to be so understood.
He said before, “I will cause him to draw nigh; that he may come to me.” I have already explained this of the people, who had been long rejected. God then promises here a gathering, as though he had said, “For a time I scattered the people here and there like chaff; I will now gather them again together, and they shall be under my care and protection as formerly.” Having said this, he now touches on the ingratitude of the people by this question, “Who is there who comes to me? who will frame his heart that he may be reconciled to me?” It is, then, an expression of wonder, intended to make the Jews know that their hardness and insensibility are condemned; for when God kindly invited them, they rejected his favor, when he sought to embrace them, they fled far off from him.
But an objection may be here made, “Why then did God promise that he would cause the Jews to come to him?” To this I answer, that God performs or fulfils this promise in various ways: he might have called the Jews to himself by an outward invitation, as he did when the liberty of returning was given them: and then, indeed, a few of the Jews accepted his favor; but all the Israelites, already habituated to the pleasures and enjoyments of those countries, regarded as nothing what God had promised. Thus very few returned to their own country, and restoration was despised by them, though they had once been very anxious about it. God, however, even then made the people to draw nigh; for he stretched forth his hand as though he would gather them and cherish them under his wings. But as the greatest part despised his invaluable favor, God here justly complains of so great an impiety, and exclaims as through wonder or astonishment, Who is he who will form his heart, that, he may come to me?
Had it been simply said, “Who is he who comes to me?” the meaning, through brevity, would have been obscure. But God here clearly distinguishes between the two kinds of access: the first was, when liberty was given to the people, by the decree of Cyrus, and a permission given to build the city and the temple. God, therefore, caused them then to draw nigh that they might come to him; this was the first access. But he now adds, that the Jews did not form or prepare their heart. He indeed speaks of future time, but yet he charges them with ingratitude, which afterwards was fully manifested. Hence he says, “Who is this, that he may come to me?” that is, “I will contrive means that they may unite again in one body, call on me and enjoy their inheritance: this will I do that they may come to me; but many will still live in their own dregs, and prefer Chaldea and other countries to the temple and religion. Many, then, will be they who will not form their heart to come to me.”
We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. But we must at the same time bear in mind, that by saying above, “I will cause him to draw near that he may come to me,” God does not speak of the hidden working of his Spirit; for it is in his power, as we shall presently remark, to draw the hearts of men to himself whenever he pleases. But when he said, I will cause him to draw nigh, etc., he spoke only of an outward restoration; and now he adds a complaint, that the Jews would wickedly repudiate this favor, for no one would prepare his heart. We yet see that the whole fault is cast on the Jews, that they were to be deprived of their own country: for it was owing to nothing on God’s part that they were not restored, but to themselves, because they were devoted to their own pleasure, and regarded their return and to be counted God’s people as nothing. It was therefore the object of the Prophet to ascribe to the Jews the whole fault that God’s favor would not come to them, or that it would not be effectual as to the greatest part of them, even because they would not prepare or form their heart, that they might come to God, in order that they might be partakers of that invaluable privilege offered to them.
Now, the Papists lay hold on this passage to prove that there is a free-will in man to come to God; but to do so is indeed very absurd. For whenever God condemns the hardness of the people, he doubtless does not argue the question, what power there is in men, whether they can turn to do what is good, whether they can guide their own hearts. To hold this would be extremely foolish. When it is said in Psalms 45:8,
“To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as your fathers in the wilderness,”
shall we say that as they hardened their hearts they were capable of turning, so that they could by the power of free-will choose either good or evil? To say this would be puerile and extremely sottish. We hence see that the Papists are unworthy of being reasoned with, when they seek to prove free-will by such arguments. They would, indeed, adduce something plausible were their exposition adopted; for they render the words thus, “Who is this,” etc., as though God praised the promptitude of the faithful, who willingly offer themselves and prepare their hearts. But opposed to this view is the whole context. It hence appears that it was very far from the Prophet’s design to represent God as commending the obedience of the godly; but, on the contrary, he exclaims with wonder, as Isaiah does when he says,
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1)
He surely does not set forth the obedience of the faithful in receiving promptly and gladly the Gospel; but, on the contrary, (as though something monstrous terrified him) that the world would not believe the Gospel, when yet it offered to them salvation and eternal life. So also in this place, Who is he? etc. For what could have been more desirable than that God should at length, by outstretched arms, gather the Jews to himself? ”I wish you to draw nigh, ye have been for a time, as it were, banished from me, I had driven you to distant lands; but I am now ready to gather you.” As, then, God so sweetly and kindly allured them to himself, it was doubtless a most abominable and monstrous ingratitude for them to reject the offer and to turn their backs as it were on God, who so kindly invited them. As, then, the Prophet is here only condemning such insensibility and perverse wickedness in the Jews, there is no reason why we should be in quest of a proof in favor of free-will. (17)
We may add, that David uses the same verb in Psalms 119:73, when he says,
“Cause thy servant to approach thee, that he may learn thy commandments.” (18)
Some render the words, “Be a surety for thy servant,” etc.; for the verb: ערב , which is here, is found there also. Therefore the passage might be aptly turned against the Papists, who hold that it is in the power of man to form his own heart. But David testifies that this is peculiarly the office and work of God; for by asking this from him he doubtless confesses that it was not in his own power. It afterwards follows, —
Many explanations have been given which are wholly inadmissible, having nothing in the context to support them, such as the application of these words to our Savior. They are evidently connected with the previous clause, being joined with it by “for:” they in a manner explain and qualify that clause, and may be deemed parenthetic, for the former clause and that which follows these words, are connected together, —
And I will bring him nigh that he may come near to me,
(For who is he who pledges his heart To come near to me, saith Jehovah!)
22.And ye shall be to me a people, And I will be to you a God.
By “him” we are to understand “Jacob,” the subject of the whole passage, and not the “governor,” who was to come from “the midst of him,” i.e., Jacob, a name by which the whole nation is here called. The promise is to bring Jacob, or the people, nigh; and then to shew that this is alone God’s work, the words in the parenthesis are introduced, and by a question, which implies the negative in the strongest manner, as though he had said, “This work, to bring you nigh, is mine alone, for no one among you pledges or engages his heart to come near to me.”
Both the Sept. and the Targ. render “him” in the first line in the plural number, “them,” i.e., the people. And the Syr., though the form of the expression is changed, yet gives the meaning of the words within the parenthesis, for the work of turning the heart is ascribed to the Lord. — Ed.
As this verse and what occurs in the first verse of the next chapter are materially the same, they shall be both explained here. God then says that the Jews would become a people to him, and that he would become a God to them. This mode of speaking is what we meet with everywhere in the Prophets; and it is very expressive, and includes the whole of true happiness. For when have we life, except when we become the people of God? We ought also to bear in mind that saying of the Psalmist,
“Blessed are the people whose God is Jehovah.”
It confirms what I have just said, that a happy life is complete in all its parts, when God promises to be a God to us and takes us as his people. The Prophets, therefore, do not without reason so often inculcate this truth; for though nothing else might be wanting to us that could be expected, yet until we feel assured that God is a Father to us, and that we are his people, whatever happiness we may have, it will only end in misery.
But the Prophet expresses himself more fully, when he says, At that time, that is, when God restored his Church, will I be a God to all the families of Israel They had been so scattered, that they were not one body; but God promises the gathering of that Church, from which the ten tribes had fallen off, when they revolted from the family of David. I cannot proceed farther now.
The Prophet seems to speak abruptly; for nothing could be more delightful than the promise that God gives, that he would be a Father to the people; but he immediately adds, that there would arise an involving whirlwind, which would abide on the head of the wicked. These things, at the first view, seem not to harmonize. But the latter sentence may be applied to the heathens, or to any of the enemies of the Church; for whenever God appears as the Savior of his people, his vengeance goes forth, and is poured on the wicked. Hence such declarations as the following often occur,
“The day of my vengeance is nigh, and the year of my visitation.” (Isaiah 63:4)
Isaiah joins both, the favor of God and his vengeance: and this is often done by the other Prophets, in order that we may see that God’s mercy cannot be clearly and distinctly perceived towards the faithful, except when his judgment on the other hand be made conspicuous as to the wicked. So this passage may be explained. But we may well thus connect the words of the Prophet, — that he kindly endeavored to allure the people by offering them God’s favor; but that having seen that it would be despised, as we stated yesterday, by the greater part of them, he now seasonably threatens them, that if they refused the favor offered them, such ingratitude could not be borne by God. And this is a mode of teaching common in Scripture. For God on his part thus manifests his kindness so as to stimulate men; but as he sees them not only slothful and tardy, but also wicked and ungrateful, he declares that they shall not be unpunished if they despise his favor. The former truth then well agrees with what the Prophet now says, — that the wrath of God would arise like a tempestuous storm.
He afterwards adds, a whirling or involving tempest, properly, a tempest gathering itself. The verb is גור gur, in a reduplicate form and in Hithpael. A similar sentence is found in Jeremiah 23:19; but there the Prophet used another word as required by the subject. (19) Some render it “falling,” for גור , gur, means to fall; and this meaning is suitable, “a falling storm,” that is, impetuously descending, so as to abide on the head of the wicked. But the former sense has been more generally taken, and I am disposed to embrace it; for it tends to shake men with terror, when the storm is said to be like a whirlwind, for it turns and twists around, so that it cannot be avoided. The meaning then is, that God’s vengeance would be fatal to all the wicked. But we may take the wicked, רשעים reshoim, for the despisers of God, though boasting of his name, as well as for aliens: but I am inclined to include both, even domestic and foreign enemies of God; as though the Prophet had said, that no remedy remained, except they fled to the mercy of God. It afterwards follows, —
Many copies have ו here before סער, as in the former passage, where it is omitted only in one copy. — Ed.
He confirms the last sentence, and compares the wrath or the vengeance of God to a messenger or a minister, who is sent to carry a message, or to perform what has been commanded him. Of God’s word, that is, of his threatenings as well as of his promises, Isaiah speaks thus,
“My word shall not return to me void.” (Isaiah 55:11)
The meaning is, that whatever God promises or threatens, is never without its effect. But they wrongly understand the passage who say that the word of God returns not void, because it brings forth fruit; for he speaks of the effect of the word, whether for salvation or for perdition. So now also God declares that his vengeance, when gone forth, shall not return until it fulfils what has been commanded.
He then adds, and until he shall have confirmed, etc.; for so the verb הקימו ekimu, properly means: until God then shall have confirmed or established the thoughts of his heart The thoughts of his heart he calls the decrees or purposes of God; but it is a mode of speaking taken from men, and therefore metaphorical; for it is not consistent with what God is, either to think or to deliberate. But, as to the subject itself, there is nothing ambiguous; for the Prophet means, that when God sends forth his vengeance, all the wicked must perish, for so has God decreed, and his purposes can never be frustrated. Then he shews that God’s vengeance will be accomplished, because God has so determined. For God does not dissemble when he promises salvation to men, or denounces on them the punishment which they have deserved; but he executes the decrees or purposes of his heart. (20)
Then the Prophet here condemns the stupidity of all those who thought that they could escape, though they had often heard that their guilt was so great that they must at last be visited with judgment. Though they had often heard this, yet they were deaf to all warnings; and it was for this reason that the Prophet spoke of the thoughts of God’s heart.
At last he adds, At the extremity of days ye shall understand this This may be applied to the faithful no less than to the wicked. For though the faithful embraced God’s promises, and relied on them, yet, as they had to contend constantly with the heaviest trials, it was necessary to stimulate and animate them to patience. It might then be suitably said to them, “Ye shall understand this in the last days;” it being a kind of exhortation, as though he had said, “Ye indeed think the wicked happy, because God does not immediately punish them, because his vengeance does not instantly break forth in thunders against them; but patiently bear your miseries, and ye shall at length find that their destruction has not been in vain predicted; and ye shall also receive a reward for your faith and patience, if ye continue resigned to the last.” But the sentence may also be suitably applied to the wicked, because they were wont to form their judgment according to the present aspect of things. Hence the Prophet exposes the false opinion by which they deceived themselves, and says, that too late they would understand what they were then unwilling to perceive.
If then we explain this sentence of the children of God, it is an exhortation to bear patiently their evils until God appeared as their defender: but if we apply it to the unbelieving, it is a derision of their insensibility, because they regarded as fables all threatenings; but the Prophet exclaims, “Ye shall at last become wise, but it will be too late.” Even experience becomes a teacher when there is no more opportunity to repent.
Turn not away shall the burning of Jehovah’s wrath,
Until his execution and until his completion
Of the purposes of his heart:
In the latter days ye shall understand it.
A verb in the infinitive mood in Hebrew is used often as a noun, “his execution.” A similar form exists in Welsh, (lang. cy) nes gwneuthur ohono “Until he hath confirmed,” or “performed,” according to our version, is better rendered in the Vulg., “until he hath completed.” Here is the execution and the completion. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 30". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Easter