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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 43

Calvin's Commentary on the BibleCalvin's Commentary

Verse 1

Here the Prophet proceeds with the remaining part of the narrative. He says that the whole people obstinately persevered in their wicked design, so that he effected nothing by his warning and protest. Now this stupidity of the people was monstrous; for they had found out by experience the fidelity of the Prophet for many years; and further, they had gone to him because they believed that he was a faithful and an approved servant of God. He had not merely answered them in God’s name, but as he knew their hardness, he added protestations which might have moved even stones. But he addressed the deaf; and it hence appears that they were wholly fascinated by the devil. And thus let us learn not to mock God, nor bring a double heart when we inquire as to his will, but to suffer ourselves to be ruled by his word.

Verse 2

Now he says, that when he had finished speaking to the whole people, as God had commanded, then John the son of Kareah, and Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, being the first among them, spoke against him. As to Azariah, we cannot know with any certainty what he was. But we have here in John the son of Kareah an example deserving of notice. We have seen that he was a bold, wise, and prudent man, and also of an upright mind. In short, when we consider what the Prophet has before said of him, we cannot but think he was by nature a heroic man; nay, when he is compared with Gedaliah, who, at the same time, was an excellent man, and whom the Prophet has adorned with high commendations, he yet far excelled him. Gedaliah, indeed, had a kind disposition, he was courageous in protecting the people, he was a man of integrity; and, besides, he was a father to the people, and so conducted himself when things were in a hopeless state, that, beyond the expectation of all, he gathered together the remnant of the people; and we have also seen that by his efforts the Prophet had been delivered from instant death. But John the son of Kareah had been a remarkable helper to him, having come to him of his own accord, and offered to him his assistance; and further, he faithfully and prudently warned him to beware of the perfidy of that unprincipled man, by whom he was afterwards killed. Gedaliah fell through extreme credulity. John, then, the son of Kareah, had a greater appearance of excellency than Gedaliah had exhibited. But what does the Spirit of God now declare respecting him and his associates? They are said to have been proud and obstinate. We hence see that some men excel in greatness of mind, and are yet of a refractory disposition; and this is for the most part the case during’ a disturbed state of things. For some come forth wonderfully courageous; but when things do not fall in with their wishes, they become ferocious and rebel against God and men, and besides, they will never bear to be brought under submission. Such, then, was John the son of Kareah: at one time he manifested extraordinary virtue, but at length it appeared what he really was.

The Prophet, with the authority of a judge, declares that he and his associates were proud: then Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and John the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, said, A falsehood dost thou speak. This was extremely insolent and reproachful; for they had lately testified that they regarded Jeremiah as God’s faithful servant, and that they would receive whatever he might bring as God’s true oracle; but now they charge him with falsehood! how great was this presumption! But it hence appears how deep and various, and how tortuous are the recesses which are in the hearts of men; for at one time they announce honied words, and afterwards they utter nothing’ but virulence. So from the same mouth, as it were, almost in the same moment, comes forth what is sweet; and what is bitter.

Let us hence learn that the heart of man is full of every kind of deceit, until it be cleansed by the Spirit of God. We also see, when once impiety boils up, to what extremes it will proceed; for these men were not only insolent and reproachful towards Jeremiah, but also towards God himself. And they did not now make evasions as before, nor did they raise objections; but they openly raved against the Prophet. Thus hypocrisy has indeed for a time its coverings, but when the ungodly are urged by God, then they observe no bounds: Thou speakest what is false

Verse 3

They afterwards throw the blame on Baruch, who had been the Prophet’s faithful servant. As they could not find out any reason why Jeremiah should speak falsely, they turned their fury against Baruch. They did not then spare Jeremiah for honor’s sake, but as they had no reason whatever to speak evil of him, they fixed the blame on Baruch, who yet was as innocent as Jeremiah. Baruch, they said, excites thee against us Had Jeremiah so prophesied through the influence of another, yet his crime might have been at least extenuated. Now they said that he was mendacious, and brought forth nothing but impositions; but the ungodly do not regard what they say, for the devil drives them on headlong. And they charged Baruch with a very groat crime, that he wished to betray them to the Chaldeans, and then to expose them to slaughter, and to deliver them that they might be driven into exile. All this would have been the greatest cruelty.: But then if we consider what sort of man Baruch had been, and how innocently he had conducted himself, how he had endangered his life in defending the true worship of God and prophetic doctrine, there was surely no reason for loading him with so great a reproach.

But we see that God’s servants have been always exposed to extreme reproaches, even when they have exhibited the greatest integrity. If then, at this day, we hear of evil reports, after having labored to act uprightly, it ought not to appear to us a hard or a new thing to bear them with patience. We must, indeed, do what we can to stop the mouths of the malevolent and the wicked; nor ought we to give occasion, as Paul admonishes us, to the malignant. But when we have done our duty faithfully, if yet dogs bark at us, if we be loaded with many reproaches and crimes, let us learn patiently to endure them. This, then, ought to be done by us, since we see that Baruch was accused of extreme perfidy and cruelty.

What now had Baruch to do with the Chaldeans? Had he fled to them? Was he anxious to gain influence for himself? or to procure favor for himself? There was no such thing; he always followed Jeremiah wherever he went. Jeremiah had indeed obtained some favor; but this was to be attributed to the gratuitous kindness of God. Baruch, then, had got leave from the Chaldeans to remain with the Prophet; for the condition of both was the same. But yet he had not followed the Chaldeans, when his option was given to him. For when the Chaldeans offered quietness and rest to Jeremiah, Baruch might have also gone to that fertile country; but he chose to remain in the land. We hence see that he had removed from himself every suspicion, and yet he could not stop the mouths of the malevolent, but they slandered and. calumniated him. Let us then know that God’s servants prove their firmness and constancy, when they are assailed on every side by the calumnies of men, and yet are satisfied with the testimony of their own conscience, and go on in their course, and look forward to the judgment of God, and care not what men think or speak, provided God approves of them, and is their judge in heaven.

Verse 4

The Prophet had sufficiently shewn that John the son of Kareah and the rest had not in good faith inquired of the Prophet what the will of God was; for when they saw that God’s counsel did not harmonize with their wicked and foolish desire, they rose up against the Prophet. But he now more clearly condemns their obstinacy in not obeying God; and it is said emphatically, that they did not obey the voice of God, because they denied that God had spoken. Though then they sought to evade, Jeremiah on the other hand declares, that he was a true interpreter of God’s will, that he had announced nothing but what had come from God. He then brings them all in as guilty, the leaders and the whole people, that no man might think it strange that innocent men, willing to submit to God, were driven into Egypt. Hence the Prophet shews here that they were all implicated in the same sin, since the leaders alone did not resist the oracle, but also the whole people. It now follows,

Verse 5

The Prophet now gives us a narrative of what he had briefly touched upon. He then says that John and the rest of the leaders took the remnant of the people, who were there alive, and those who had returned from various countries; for many had become fugitives among the Moabites and the Idumeans, when they saw the city surrounded by the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar. Then they fled here and there, as it usually happens, and waited for the issue of the war. But after Nebuchadnezzar had departed, and a permission had been given to Gedaliah to collect what remained of the people and to place them in cities and towns, many returned into the land, now desolate; for they had dwelt with aliens, and had been miserably treated. As then they could not settle out of their own land nor find any quiet habitation, they returned, as it is usual with men reduced to want, who have no settled dwelling. They then returned, that they might live under the protection of Gedaliah.

Now the Prophet says, that they were taken by John and brought into.Egypt. This then was the way in which they shewed their obstinacy. We hence see how audacious must these leaders have been, that they hesitated not to go into Egypt, though it was shewn to be a fatal step. There was not indeed at that time any army of Nebuchadnezzar in Judea, though his vengeance might have been dreaded. And then, having fled to: Egypt, they might have been ill-treated there, and not hospitably received.: But we hence perceive, that when men once shake off the yoke of God, they are hurried on by a diabolical madness, so that there is nothing insurmountable to them. Had they been asked whether they acted rightly, they might have raised a thousand arguments as excuses; but when they followed their own propensity, they in a manner, so to speak, leaped over the clouds. Impiety then is always full of rashness and audacity. But as we see that the ungodly thus rush headlong into ruin, even when God pronounces a curse on their counsels and proceedings, let us learn to take encouragement ever to obey God; for he promises a joyful and blessed issue at all times when we follow the ways pointed out by him. John then and the other leaders of the forces took the remnant of the people

And then he shews how little those exiles consulted their own good, who had returned to dwell in the land of Judea; for they might have still rested in safety among the nations who had in kindness received them; but in Egypt God soon executed his judgments on the natives as well as on strangers. But they deserved such a reward, because they preferred to obey the command of the perverse and obstinate, rather than to obey the voice of God speaking by his Prophet.

Verse 6

The Prophet also mentions particularly who they were; they were men and women and children Some render the last word “puberty,” which I do not approve, since Scripture speaks thus of children. Then John and his associates took childhood, or children; and he adds, the daughters of the king We have before inquired who these daughters of the king were: the probability is that they were his daughters by his concubines; and that they had been put in some safe place, so that if any great evil happened, they might not fall into the hands of enemies. Then these daughters of the king had returned with the other exiles, but were afterwards carried into Egypt.

Verse 7

At last he adds, all the souls which had been left by Nebuzaradan with Gedaliah, with Jeremiah, and with Baruch This had not been expressed elsewhere, that is, that Jeremiah and Baruch were joined with Gedaliah as rulers over the remnant of the people. But it was not the design of Jeremiah to relate everything that then took place. Now then, when an occasion occurred, he says that he and also Baruch were made governors in connection with Gedaliah. He then adds, that they all came into Egypt, or that they entered into Egypt,. For the word first used, ויבאו , vaibau, may be rendered, “and they entered into Egypt;” and then he adds, ויבאו עד-תחפנחס , vaibau od-tachephnuches, “and they entered (or penetrated) as far as Tachephnuches.” It was formerly one of the chief cities of Egypt; but its name has perished together with is wealth; for in heathen writers hardly the name of this city is found. They indeed mention the city Taphnim, but speak not of Taphnees. It is then probable, as changes take place in a country, that this city became by degrees forsaken, so as to become obscure and mean, and that other cities were built which exceeded it in wealth. He then says that they came to Taphnees It now follows, —

Verse 8

This passage shews that the Prophet was by force drawn away with others, so that he became an exile in Egypt contrary to his own wishes; for he did not go there of his own accord, inasmuch as we have seen how strictly he forbade them all to go down to Egypt. He was, however, compelled to go there, as though he had been bound with chains. He did not then go there designedly, nor did he through despair follow those miserable men; for he would have preferred to die a hundred times through famine and want in the land of Judah rather than to have sought in this way the lengthening of his life. It then appears that he was driven there as it were by enemies.

But as nothing happens except through God’s purpose, so from this prophecy it appears that God ordered the going down of his servant, and that he was not so subjected to the will of the wicked, but that he was always guided by the hidden influence of God; for it was God’s will to have his herald even in the midst of Egypt, that he might declare to the Jews what, was to be. His doctrine, indeed, was not of any benefit to them; but it was God’s purpose to drive them as it were into madness, inasmuch as their wickedness was wholly irreclaimable; for it is a harder thing for the wicked to hear God’s voice when he threatens vengeance, than to feel his hand. When, therefore, the unbelieving avoid the word of God, they are still constrained, willing or unwilling, to hear what they willfully reject, even that God will be their judge. The Prophet then was sent, according to the hidden purpose of God, into Egypt, that he might there perform his wonted vocation and proceed in the discharge of his office, and there carry on his prophetic work.

But this prophecy was greatly disliked; for as the Jews had been already much exasperated, this threatening was still more calculated to kindle up their fury; and Jeremiah did also create danger to himself from the Egyptians, for he not only threatened the Jews, but also the whole kingdom of Egypt. We hence perceive how invincible was his courage, for he marched through certain deaths, and was yet terrified by no dangers, but performed the office entrusted to him by God. Some think that he was on this account stoned by the Jews; but this is not probable, nay, it may be gathered from other places that he died a natural death. However this may have been, his perseverance and firmness were wonderful, for he struggled to the end, and without weariness, with those wild beasts, whose savageness he had more than enough experienced.

Let us now see what this prophecy is: The word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah; and the sum of it is, that the Prophet was bidden not only to proclaim the vengeance of God, but also to confirm it by a visible symbol, as it was necessary to arouse unbelieving men. For so great was their stupidity, that unless God roused all their senses, they would have never attended; they were deaf. Then the Lord set before their eyes what they were unwilling and refused to hear. For this reason the Prophet was bidden to add an outward sign to his prophecy; according to what we have stated in other places, signs were often connected with the doctrine on account of the tardiness, or rather the stupidity of men.

Verse 9

He was then commanded to take great stones, and to hide them in the clay, or cement, in a brick-kiln, that is, in a kiln where bricks were burnt, or in a place where they were usually made, or where materials were taken to form them. And this place was not far from the palace of the king in the city of Taphnees, as the Prophet expressly declares; nay, he says that it was nigh the gate. As, then, this place was near the palace, the Prophet was bidden to hide there the stones, and in the sight of the Jews. This was the symbol. Now, it is shewn for what end God would have the stones to be fixed in the clay or cement; for if the stones were only rolled there with great labor by the Prophet, there would have been no instruction; and all signs we know are unmeaning and without any importance without the word. It is God’s word, then, that in a manner gives life to signs, and applies them for the benefit and instruction of men. Therefore God’s command is added, that he was to speak to the Jews: Thou shalt say to them, Thus saith Jehovah. He brings in God as the speaker, that the threatening might be more effectual, as it has been stated elsewhere; for if he had only related the words of God, he could not have thus arrested their attention, which was very tardy. This, then, is the reason why he speaks in the person of God himself.

Verse 10

Behold, I,the particle demonstrative and the pronoun are both emphatical, הנני, enni; Behold, I send, he says, to bring Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne on these stones We now understand the drift of the whole, even that these stones were thrown into the cement, that God might build up a throne for Nebuchadnezzar. The time, indeed, for building the throne had not yet come; but God’s purpose was to lay the foundations, so that they might be hid until the time arrived. The Prophet, then, built a throne for Nebuchadnezzar, when he cast; these stones into the place of the brick-kiln.

We must now examine each particular in order. God says that he would send to bring Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. This mission must not be understood otherwise than that of the secret providence of God; for he had no attendants by whom he might send for Nebuchadnezzar, but he called him, as it were, by his nod only. Moreover, this mode of speaking is borrowed, taken from men, who, when they wish anything to be done, intimate what their object is; and then, when they give orders, they issue their commands. This is what earthly kings do, because they can by a nod only accomplish whatever comes to their minds. But God, who needs no external aids, is said to send when he executes his own purpose, and that by his incomprehensible power. And further, God intimates that when Nebuchadnezzar came, it would by no means be by chance, but to take vengeance on the perverse Jews, who hoped for a safe retirement in Egypt, when yet God promised them a quiet habitation in the land of Judah, had they remained there. Then God declares that he would be the leader of that march when Nebuchadnezzar came into Egypt, as though he had said that the war would be carried on under his banner. Nebuchadnezzar did not from design render obedience to God; for ambition and pride led him to Egypt when he came, and for this reason, because the Egyptians had so often provoked him, so that without dishonor to himself he could no longer defer vengeance. It was, then, for this reason he came, if we look to his object. But God declares that he overruled the king as well as all the Babylonians, so that he would arm them when he pleased, and bring them into Egypt, and by their means carry on war with the Egyptians.

For the same reason he calls him his servant; not that Nebuchadnezzar was worthy of so honorable a name, for he had nothing less, as we have said, than a design to serve God; but he is called God’s servant, because he executed what God himself had decreed: for the Scripture sometimes calls even the devils the servants of God; but in strict language, angels and the faithful are alone his servants. Kings and prophets are also, for a special reason, called God’s servants, to whom is committed the authority to rule or to teach. But in this place, as in many other places, the Scripture calls those God’s servants whom he employs to effect his purpose, even when they themselves have no such design. But the Prophet, no doubt, had also in view the Jews, so that they might know that this war was approved by God; for Nebuchadnezzar would not have come except he had been brought there by God.

It then follows, and I will set his throne This, also, is what God claims for himself, even the erecting of the throne of the King Nebuchadnezzar before the palace of the king of Egypt. The king of Babylon, doubtless, thought that the war was carried on through his own efforts and valor, and the courage of his soldiers; moreover, he sacrificed to his own fortune, as heathens use to do; and hence it is said in Isaiah of the Assyrian,

“He will not think so.” (Isaiah 10:7)

But God designed this to be declared to the Jews before the time, that they might then know that the just reward of their obstinacy would be rendered to them, for they were to be taught, as we have said, for their good and benefit. But as they were already inexcusable, it was God’s purpose to shame them more and more, so that they might know that a just punishment would be inflicted on them, because they had so obstinately rejected all the counsel of God.

I will, then, erect his throne on the stones which I have hidden The Prophet here speaks irregularly, now in God’s name, then in his own; but this was not done without reason. We have stated why he introduced God as the speaker, even that he might make the Jews more attentive; for he knew that all his threatenings would be derided except God’s majesty was set before them: but now he connects himself with God, as though he had said that he had nothing apart from God. This is the reason why he said, upon the stones which I have hid God had not hidden the stones, but the Prophet speaks, nevertheless, in the person of God. But, as I have already said, this connection shews that the prophetic word is so connected with the hand and power of God, that when the Prophet speaks, it ought to be counted the same, as though God openly thundered from heaven. And this mode of speaking ought to be carefully noticed, so that we may learn reverently to receive whatever faithful teachers declare in his name, while performing the duties of their office; for they are not to be looked upon as men, for otherwise whatever proceeds from them may be disregarded; but we ought to receive the doctrine proclaimed by their mouth as though God himself had descended from heaven to speak to us.

He afterwards adds, and he shall extend his tabernacle or his tent; for שפריר, shepherir, is taken from a word which means beauty, and properly means here a royal tent. (130) The hebrews do not give this name to the tents of shepherds, but only to those tents which excel in magnificence and splendor, according to what we say in French, Le pavillon du Roy. It now follows —

(130) It is rendered by the Sept. and Syr., “arms;” by the Vulg., “throne;” by the Targum., “tent.” Strange that there should be such a difference. It was something to be stretched out or extended, for such is the meaning of the verb; and it was something beautiful, for so the word means. It was probably a canopy erecton over the throne, which was to be set on the stones.Ed.

Verse 11

He confirms the former verse by what he says here and in the two following verses to the end of the chapter. As Egypt had cities well fortified and deemed impregnable, the Jews never thought that the Chaldeans could so easily penetrate into them. For, first, that country is situated in a plain; and, secondly, in the midst of lakes: and it is in part surrounded by the Nile and the Red Sea. As, then, Egypt was on every side so well fortified, they thought that there would be there a quiet nest for them. But God declares that King Nebuchadnezzar would become the conqueror of the whole land; and he removes all objections when he says, —

Those for death, to death; those for captivity, to captivity; those for the sword, to the sword; as though he had said, “Were Egypt ever so populous, yet the immense multitude of men will avail nothing, for they shall be conquered by their enemy; for some shall perish by the sword, and some by various kinds of death, and some shall be driven into exile; and Egypt shall be destroyed, as though no one stood up in its defense.” We hence see that this was added, that the Prophet might shake off the false confidence of the Jews. To the same purpose are the two following verses.

Verse 12

He goes on with the same subject; and he ascribes to God the kindling of the fire, that the Jews might know that the war would be conducted by a divine power, and that Nebuchadnezzar would not come except through God’s providence. For though, as it has been said, he had his own reasons, yet God, by his wonderful power, led him, as it were, by the hand, to punish the Egyptians. They, indeed, deserved such a destruction, because they had by their fiat-teries deceived the miserable Jews, and had corrupted them. Besides, their allurements had been very ruinous, for through them the aid of God had been despised, and all the prophecies rejected. As then they had been the authors of all kinds of evils to the Jews, we hence infer that they deserved a dreadful vengeance; and this had been in due time made known to the Jews, but they did not believe it. Then the Prophet fully confirms what had been declared in his former prophecies.

I will kindle a fire, says God, in the temples of the gods of Egypt And he mentions temples, that the Jews might understand that no part of the land would be safe or secure from destruction: for it often happens that when the cruelty of enemies rages greatly, the temples are spared; for religion commands respect, and honor has been given also to idols, so that their temples have often remained untouched, when enemies have wholly overthrown all other things. But it is probable, that the Chaldeans had so great a presumption and pride, that they wished to destroy all the temples, that there might be no religion anywhere except among themselves. And some also among the Persians had this barbarity, as Xerxes, who, when he entered into Greece, and some parts of Asia, burnt and destroyed all the temples, and said also in derision, that all the gods in Greece were taken captive, and were shut up in the temples, and that he accomplished everything through his own valor. There is, indeed, no doubt but that Xerxes thus arrogantly triumphed over the gods of the Greeks; and such was probably the insolence displayed by the Chaldeans. However this may have been, yet God shews, that no place in Egypt would be held sacred: for the Chaldeans would even burn their temples. But at the same time he meant to cast a reproach on the obstinacy of the Jews, because they went down to Egypt, whose safety depended on idols. God then shews that they were more than blind, and wholly beside themselves, as though they were brute animals, when they hoped for a quiet port in Egypt, which was under the protection of false gods. God then says, that he would kindle a fire by which the temples of the gods of Egypt would be burned.

And he adds, and it or he will burn them This may be applied to the fire; but he, no doubt, speaks of the King Nebuchadnezzar, for it immediately follows, and shall carry them captives, and shall roll up the land of Egypt, as a shepherd his garment The verb properly means to cover, but it means also sometimes to gather up. It may be rendered here to roll up, as we say in French, trousser et entortiller. He intimates, that Nebuchadnezzar would, according to his own will, so rule in Egypt, that he would heap together all the wealth of the whole land: and as a shepherd, when he leads his flock to another place, collects his utensils, and rolls up his garments, or folds himself in them; so Nebuchadnezzar, says the Prophet, would gather together, or roll up the whole land of Egypt He mentions land, as signifying the wealth which Nebuchadnezzar accumulated. At length he adds, and thence shall he depart in peace He shews that the conquest would be complete, for the Egyptians would not dare to mutter, nor dare to follow their enemy on his departure; for he would be as though he were in a peaceable place, and in his own kingdom. (131)

(131) The first verb is rendered in the third person, by the Sept., the Vulg., and the Syriac., “He will kindle;” but in the first by the Targum., “I will kindle.” The third person runs better with the context; but if a causative sense be given to the verb, it will be equally the same, “And I will cause him to kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt, and he will burn them, and carry them away captive; that is, he will burn the parts made of wood, and carry away the gold and the silver; “and he will put on the land of Egypt as the shepherd puts on his coat,” that is, he will put on the spoils of the land with the same ease and facility as the shepherd puts on his coat, and carry them away, no one molesting or hindering him. — Ed.

Verse 13

WE stated yesterday why Jeremiah spoke especially of the temples of the gods, even that the Jews might understand that nothing would escape destruction: for even the cruel-est enemies have usually withheld their hands from the temples of gods. If sanctity and religion would not preserve the temples, what then would become of private houses? He intimates, in short, that such would be the ruin of Egypt, that no part would escape.

But as Heliopolis was then in the greatest repute, he says, that the statues of all the gods in that city would be broken, for there the gods were especially worshipped. All heathen writers call it Heliopolis, to which the Hebrew word corresponds; for Bethsemes means the city of the sun; and Heliopolis means the same. As then this was the chief place where the gods of Egypt were found, the Prophet, in order to shew that the ruin of the whole land would be extreme, says that no temple would be there inviolate. So also Isaiah says, when speaking of the ruin of Egypt,

“Behold, God will come into Egypt, and will cut down before him all the idols.”
(Isaiah 19:1)

He spoke of God’s coming, because, under his guidance it was, that Nebuchadnezzar led there his army, as it has been stated. God did not, indeed, appear from heaven, but the army of Nebuchadnezzar was a living representation of God’s power, when he punished the Egyptians. Now, he says, that when God came there armed, and carried on a warlike expedition, all the idols would be destroyed; for God would thus shew that the gods in whom the Egyptians trusted were false, that they were mere fictions, which could give no help when things came to an extremity. Now follows, —

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 43". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/jeremiah-43.html. 1840-57.
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