We have said that the Ammonites were not only contiguous to the Moabites, but had also derived their origin from Lot, and were thus connected with them by blood. Their origin was indeed base and shameful, for they were, as it is well known, the offspring of incest. There was, however, the bond of fraternity between them, because both nations had the same father. God had spared them when he brought up his people from Egypt; for in remembrance of the holy man Lot, he would have both peoples to remain uninjured. But ingratitude doubled their crime, for these impious men ceased not in various ways to harass the children of Abraham.: For this reason, therefore, does Jeremiah now prophesy against them.
And we see here, again, the object of this prophecy and the design of the Holy Spirit in announcing it, even that the Israelites might know that they were not so completely cast away by God, but that there remained some remnants of his paternal favor; for if the Moabites and the Ammonites had been free from all evils, it would have been a most grievous trial; it would have been enough to overwhelm weak minds to see a people whom God had adopted, miserably oppressed and severely chastised, while heathen nations were remaining quiet in the enjoyment of their pleasures, and exulting also over the calamities of others. God, then, in order to mitigate the grief and sorrow which the children of Israel derived from their troubles and calamities, shews that he would yet show them favor, because he would carry on war against their enemies, and become the avenger of all the wrongs which they had suffered. It was no common consolation for the Israelites to hear that they were still the objects of God’s care, who, nevertheless, seemed in various ways to have poured forth his wrath upon them in a full stream. We now, then, see the reason why Jeremiah denounced destruction on the Ammonites, as he did before on the Moabites.
Then he says, To the children of Ammon: (28) Are there no children to Israel? Hath he no heir? It was a trial very grievous to the miserable Israelites to see a part of the inheritance promised them by God forcibly taken from them by the Ammonites; for what must have come to their minds but that they had been deceived by vain promises? But it had happened, that the Ammonites had deprived the children of Israel of a part of their inheritance. Hence the Prophet teaches us here, that though God connived for a time, and passed by this robbery, he yet would not suffer the Ammonites to go unpunished for having taken to themselves what justly belonged to others. Hence it is added, Why doth their king inherit Gad ?
I know not why Jerome rendered מלכם, melkam, as though it were the name of an idol, as the word is found in the Prophet Amos. (29) But it is evident that Jeremiah speaks here of the king, for immediately after he adds, his people Their king, then, he says, inherits Gad Gad is not the name of a place, as some think, but Mount Gilead, which had been given to that tribe. The Prophet says that they possessed the country of the Gadites; for they had been ejected from their portion, and the children of Ammon had occupied what had been given by God to them. And this is confirmed by the Prophet Amos, when he says,
“For three of the transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not be propitious to them, because they have cut off the mountain of Gilead.” (30) (Amos 1:13)
He speaks there metaphorically, because God had fixed the limits between the tribe of Gad and the children of Ammon, so that both might be satisfied with their own inheritance. But the children of Ammon had broken through and expelled the tribe of Gad from the cities of Mount Gilead. This, then, is what now our Prophet means, even that they had taken to themselves that part of the land which had been allotted to the children of Gad; for it immediately follows, and his people dwell in his cities, even in the cities which had been given by lot to that tribe; for we know that a possession beyond Jordan had been given to the children of Gad. We now, then, perceive the meaning of the words.
God, then, shews that he had not forgotten his covenant, though he had for a time suffered the Ammonites to invade the inheritance which he had conferred on the children of Israel; yet the Gaddites would at length recover what had been unjustly taken from them. For it was a robbery not to be endured, that the Ammonites should have dared to take to themselves that land, which was not the property of men, but rather of God himself, for he had called it his rest, because he would have his people to dwell there. And though God inflicted a just punishment on the Gaddites when he expelled them from their inheritance, yet he afterwards punished the children of Ammon, as he is wont to chastise his own children by the hand of the wicked, and at length to render them also their just reward. It now follows —
God testifies here plainly that he would not suffer the Ammonites for ever to enjoy their unjust plunder. He says that the days would come, in order to sustain with hope the minds of his children: for the Prophet announced his prediction at a time when the Ammonites were in a state of security; and then, some years elapsed while that people enjoyed their spoils. He therefore holds here the minds of the faithful in suspense, that they might learn patiently to wait until the fixed time of God’s vengeance came. For this reason, then, he says, that the days would come when God would cause the trumpet of war to resound in Rabbah He speaks as of a thing extraordinary, for the Ammonites thought, as we shall see, that they should never be in any danger. As, then, they proudly trusted in their own strength, the Prophet speaks here of the trumpet of war in Rabbah, which was the metropolis of the whole land. Some think that it was Philadelphia, a name given to it by Ptolemy. Interpreters, however, do not agree; but the opinion mostly received is, that it was Philadelphia. Now, as to the main thing, there is no doubt but that it was then the chief seat of government, and the capital of the kingdom, because the Prophet, stating a part for the whole, includes the whole land when he speaks of this city.
He says that she would become a heap of desolation But this was then wholly incredible, because Rabbah was so fortified that no one thought that it could be destroyed. But the Prophet now declares that the whole city would be demolished, so that neither walls nor private houses would remain, but that it would be a deformed mass of ruins. He adds, her daughters shall be burned with fire By daughters he no doubt understands towns and villages; and hence is confirmed what I have said, that Rabbah was then the chief city of the whole land of Ammon. At the end of the verse he says, Israel shall possess all who possess them (31) By these words Jeremiah again confirms what I have slightly referred to, that the calamity of the Ammonites would be a testimony as to God’s paternal kindness towards his chosen people, because he resolved to avenge the wrongs done to them. As, then, God undertook the cause of the Israelites as his own, he sufficiently manifested the favor he had intended for his people, and for no other reason, but because he had gratuitously chosen them.
It may be asked, when was this prophecy fulfilled? God, indeed, under David, gave some indication of their future subjection, but Israel never possessed that land. Indeed, from that time Ammon had not been brought low until after the overthrow of Israel. It then follows that what Jeremiah predicted here, was not fully accomplished except under the kingdom of Christ. David humbled that nation, because he had received a great indignity from the king of Ammon; and he took also Rabbah, as it is evident front sacred history. (2 Samuel 12:29, etc.; 1 Chronicles 20:1.) He was yet satisfied with making the people tributary. From that time they not only shook off the yoke, but exercised authority within the borders of Israel; and that the Israelites had recovered what they had lost, we nowhere read. (32) Then Israel began to possess power over the Ammonites when the kingdom of Christ was established; by which all heathen nations were not only brought into subjection and under the yoke, but all unworthy of mercy were also reduced to nothing. What is added at the end of the verse is not superfluous; for the Prophet introduces God as the speaker, because he speaks of great things, and of which it was difficult to be fully convinced. It now follows —
The Prophet now triumphs, as it were, over the land of Ammon, and, according to his accustomed manner, as we have before seen; for had the prophets spoken without metaphors, and simply narrated the things treated of by them, their words would have been frigid and inefficient, and would not have penetrated into the hearts of men. This, then, is the reason why the prophets adopted an elevated style, and adorned with grandeur their prophecies; for they never, like rhetoricians, affected eloquence, but necessity so urged them, that they represented to the eyes those things which they could not otherwise form a conception of in their minds. On this subject we have spoken often already; but I am again constrained briefly to touch on it, because those who are not well acquainted with Scripture, and do not understand the design of the Holy Spirit, may think that words only are here poured forth. But when we duly weigh what I have said, then we shall readily acknowledge that the Prophet did not, without reason, enlarge on what he had previously said.
Howl, thou Heshbon, he says, for Ai is laid waste These were two neighboring cities: hence he exhorts Heshbon to howl on seeing the overthrow of another city. He then adds, Cry, or cry aloud, ye daughters of Rabbah He again repeats what he had before touched upon as to the city Rabbah. Gird yourselves, he says, with sackcloth, or put on sackcloth. He does not here exhort the citizens of Rabbah to repentance, but he speaks according to the customs of the people, as it has been stated elsewhere. Sackcloth was, indeed, a symbol of penitence; when the miserable wished humbly to flee to God’s mercy, and to confess their sins, they put on sackcloth. But the unbelieving imitated the faithful without discretion or judgment. Hence it was, that they scattered ashes on their heads, that without any reason they put on sackcloth. What was then commonly done is now mentioned by Jeremiah; Put on sackcloth, he says, lament and run here and there by the fences
He afterwards adds in the third person, for gone is their king into captivity. He expressed this, that the Israelites might know, that though that kingdom flourished for a time, yet the day of which the Prophet had spoken would come, when the condition of the Ammonites would be nothing better than that of the Israelites; whose king, as it was known, had been driven into exile, together with the priests and princes. The Prophet now denounces the same punishment on the Ammonites, that not only their king would be driven into another land, as a captive, but also their princes and their priests. It follows —
As the minds of men continually vacillate, because they do not sufficiently consider the infinite power of God, the Prophet, that he might remove all obstacles which might have rendered his prophecy doubtful, now declares that the Ammonites gloried in vain in their valleys. Some understand by valleys a fertile land, well watered. But the Prophet, as I think, refers rather to fortified places. He then says, that they in vain gloried in their deep valleys; as they were surrounded with mountains, so they thought that they could not be approached. He derides this vain confidence, Why, he says, dost thou glory in thy valleys, or, profundities? Flown down has thy valley. By saying, that the valley, or depth, had flown down, he alludes to its situation: for when any one considers a region situated among mountains, the land appears as flowing, like a river gliding between its banks. It is then a striking allusion to a deep place, when he says that the valley flowed down (33) It was the same as though he had said, “Thy depth has vanished,” or, “It shall not be to thee such a protection as thou thinkest.” But the meaning is, that though the Ammonites, confiding in their defences, disregarded all attacks of enemies, they would yet be exposed to plunder; for their mountains and valleys would avail them nothing, notwithstanding the opinion they entertained, that they were so fortified, that they could not be assailed.
He calls Ammon a rebellious, or a backsliding daughter, though he mentions no particulars. But Ezekiel and also Amos and Zephaniah, these three, clearly show why God was so severe towards the Ammonites, (Ezekiel 25:0; Amos 1:13; Zephaniah 2:9;) it was because they had uttered blasphemies against him and his people, exulted over the miseries and calamities of the chosen people, and plundered them when they saw them overcome by their enemies. For these reasons, then, our Prophet now calls them a rebellious people: they had proudly exalted themselves against God, and exercised cruel tyranny as to the miserable Israelites, who were yet, as it has been stated, connected with them by blood.
Who trusts in her secrecies, or hidden places: rendered by some, “in her treasures.” But as אצר, atser, means to hide, the reference is, as I think, to strongholds; for the Prophet in the next words explains himself, Who can come to me? It appears, then, that the Ammonites thought themselves thus secure, because they were not exposed to their enemies, but protected by their mountains, as though they were in hiding places. This boasting sufficiently shews that they did not so much trust in their treasures as in their hidden places, because they dwelt in recesses. The meaning is, that though the Ammonites gloried that they were beyond the reach of danger, yet God would become the avenger of the cruelty which they had exercised towards their relations, the Israelites. It follows —
Why gloriest thou in deep valleys! Flown away has thy deep valley, O daughter, who hast turned aside, Who hast trusted in thy treasures, Who hast said in thine heart, “Who can come to me?”
The participle השובבה, “who hast turned aside,” or away, is rendered “delicate,” by the Vulg., and “beloved,” by the Syr., and the idea of impudence or folly, is conveyed by the Sept. and Targ. How the word could be so rendered, it is difficult to say. The verb means to turn to or from. Being a reduplicate here, it means to turn away resolutely; hence “rebellious” would be no improper rendering. “Her” before “treasures,” refers to “daughter,” but in our language “thy” reads better, as adopted by the Vulg. and the Syr. There is an addition in several copies of the words, “Who hast said in thine heart,” and all the versions have what corresponds with them. — Ed
Jeremiah at length concludes his prophecy, by saying, that God would dissipate that foolish confidence through which the Ammonites were filled with pride, because he would bring a terror on them. He sets up terror in opposition to that security in which the Ammonites lay torpid; for they were inebriated, as it were, with their pleasures. And then the strongholds by which they thought themselves protected, so hardened their hearts, that they feared no danger. God then sets up this terror in opposition to the false arrogance by which they were inflated: I bring, then, a terror from all around thee. And this was not without reason added, for the Ammonites thought that they could, on some side, escape, if enemies pressed hard on them; and as there were many outlets, they thought it impossible that they should fall into the hands of enemies. But God declares that they would be in every way full of fear, for terror would surround and besiege them, so that they could not escape.
He then adds, Ye shall be driven out, every one to his face, or, before his face. This would be the effect of terror, because God would deprive them of all thought; for when we flee in haste, and only regard any opening that may present itself, it is evident that we are driven by terror. As we say in French, Il court devant soi; so the Prophet says here, Ye shall be driven out, every one before his face, that is, “ye shall flee wherever a place may be open to you.” He shews that they would be so full of fear, that they would not consider which would be the best way, nor think of a safe retreat; they would, in short, think of nothing but of flight. And to the same purpose is what follows: There will be none to gather the dispersed: for when trembling seizes the hearts of the multitude, they can yet be recalled, when one who has more courage than the rest encourages them to stop, as we know that many armies have been in this way saved; for as to soldiers, when suddenly seized with fear, a leader has often been able to gather them again. But the Prophet, when he says, that there would be none to call them back from flight, intimates their destruction. He at length subjoins —
He now says the same thing of the children of Ammon, as he said before of the Moabites, that some hope yet remained for them, for God would at length show mercy to that nation. But, as we have said, these promises were but adventitious, because God had chosen but one people to be a Father to them; and the children of Abraham must be viewed as distinct from all other nations. But though God built, as it were, a wall to separate his people from aliens, it was yet his will to give some preludes of his favor, and of the calling of the Gentiles. The Prophet, then, had here a regard to the kingdom of Christ. The promise, no doubt, extended itself to his coming; for he speaks of the calling of the Gentiles, which God deferred until he manifested his own Son to the world. It is the same then, as though the Prophet had said, that God’s mercy would at length be showed to the Ammonites in common with others; that is, when God would gather his Church from the whole world, and unite, in one body, those who were before scattered. Nor is there a doubt but that the Prophet, speaking of the children of Ammon, intended to show what was to be manifested through all parts of the world. And so it is, that on our calling is our salvation founded, for we see that the gospel has not been, without a design, proclaimed to the world; but as God had determined and settled this from the beginning, so we see that Jeremiah was a herald of our adoption. This, then, is the import of what is said. He afterwards passes over to the children of Edom. But I cannot now proceed farther.
Here Jeremiah turns to Idumeans, who were most inveterate enemies to the chosen people, though their origin ought to have disposed them to show kindness to them, for they had descended from the same father, even Abraham. The Idumeans also gloried in their holy descent, and had circumcision in common with the Jews. It was then a most impious cruelty that the Idumeans entertained such bitter hatred towards their own blood. Hence our Prophet most severely reproved them, as also did Ezekiel and Obadiah. (Ezekiel 25:12; Obadiah 1:1)
He says first, Is there not wisdom any more in Teman? By these words he intimates, that though the Idumeans thought themselves safe through their own counsels, because they excelled in acuteness, it yet would avail them nothing, for the Lord would blind them and deprive them of a sane mind; for what is put here interrogatively is declared plainly by Obadiah, (Obadiah 1:8) even in God’s name,
“I will take away wisdom from Teman, and there shall be no understanding in Mount Esau.”
But as Obadiah had preceded Jeremiah, it was necessary that he should speak of this as of a future thing. But our Prophet, as the judgment of which Obadiah was a witness and a herald, was near at hand, boldly exults over the Idumeans, and laughs at their reproach, inasmuch as they were deprived of counsel and understanding when they had most need of them. Teman, no doubt, was the name of a mountain or of a region; and this we learn from the Prophet Habakkuk,
“God shall come from Teman, and the holy one from Mount Paran.” (Habakkuk 3:3)
It was also a chief city, as we learn form other places; and our Prophet sets it forth as the seat of the kingdom, when he says, Is there not wisdom in Teman? and then, Has counsel perished from the intelligent?
I wonder that interpreters, skillful in the language and conversant in it, should render the last word “sons, ” for it is unsuitable to the place. (34) The word, no doubt, is derived from בום, bun, to understand, and not from בנה, bene, to build, whence the word, בנים,benim, sons, comes. For how can it suit this passage to say, Is there no more wisdom in Teman? Has counsel perished from the children? that is, as they understand it, “from the children of Esau.” But this is frigid and forced; and the two clauses correspond much better when read thus, “Is there no more wisdom in Teman? has counsel perished from the intelligent?” that is, from those who have hitherto boasted of their intelligence and acuteness.
He then adds, Rotten has become their wisdom. The verb סרח,sarech, means to be superfluous, but some render it here to be putrid, as it is in Niphal I know not whether they have done this, because they did not know another meaning suitable to the context; but we may fitly render it thus, that their wisdom had become superfluous, that is, useless. We may also adopt another meaning, that their wisdom had been hitherto overflowing, that is, superabounded; for they had such wisdom, so as not only to act wisely for themselves, but also to show to others what was right and useful. As then the Idumeans possessed so much wisdom as to direct others, and not to be wise only for themselves, the words would read well were they rendered, that their wisdom had abounded. But in that case the words would be ironical; for the Prophet seems to assign a reason for his astonishment.
I give then this explanation: he first says, Is there wisdom no more in Teman? He exclaims, as though the thing was very strange, “How can this be! is the very fountain of wisdom exhausted? Who could have thought that a city so renowned for wisdom would become so fatuitous as not to know her approaching calamity, so as to meet it, and apply in time the remedy?” And to the same effect he adds, Has counsel perished from the intelligent? At length he subjoins, Abounded has their wisdom; and this he says, in order to show a reason for his astonishment. (35)
But we must notice the sameness and the difference between our Prophet and Obadiah. The latter foretold the blindness of that nation; but our Prophet, as though he wished to rouse from their torpor those who had been inattentive to the prophecy of Obadiah, exclaims, “How has wisdom perished from Teman, and counsel from the intelligent?” We must further observe, that this punishment was by God inflicted on the Idumeans, because they had applied all their thoughts to frauds and intrigues; and it seldom happens, but that they who excel in acuteness become very sharp and fraudulent. As then men are thus wont to abuse for the most part their knowledge, God blinds them, and shews that men cannot of themselves be wise, but as far as it is given them from above. As I have already said, the Prophet enlarges on this judgment, that he might the more effectually rouse the minds of men. For had the Idumeans been rustics, such as dwell among mountains, and had no report prevailed as to their wisdom, no one would have wondered that they were taken and subdued; for simple and unwary men are exposed to the intrigues of their enemies, and cannot escape them. But the Prophet, in order to set forth this judgment of God as wonderful, says that their wisdom had been as it were overflowing, that is, like an abundant treasure, for they administered counsel to others. As, then, the Idumeans so much excelled in intelligence, especially those who dwelt in the city Teman, the Prophet shews by this very circumstance that their blindness proceeded from the manifest vengeance of God, and that such a change did not happen by chance. It follows, —
Is wisdom no longer in Teman? Perished has counsel from the discerning, Vanished has their wisdom.
Neither the versions nor the Targum put the two last lines as questions; nor the Sept. and the Syr. the first. The verb סרח is differently rendered, — by the Sept., “departed;” by the Vulg., “become useless;” by the Syr., “taken away;” by the Targ., “marred,” or corrupted. The verb means to spread, to stretch out; and spreading here is in the sense of dissipating or scattering, and the verb here is passive. So “vanished” would convey the meaning. The first line is a question, and the two following contain the answer. A tautology cannot be otherwise avoided. — Ed.
The Prophet shews here how great was the pride of that nation, and sets it as it were before their eyes. Flee, he says; the language is abrupt, yet the meaning is not ambiguous. The meaning is, that when any one warned the Idumeans to flee, none of them would move; nay, they would remain fixed in their own country, for they thought that they would have there a perpetual quietness. The citizens of Dedan have made deep their habitation He names another city not far from Teman. He then adds, in God’s name, But I will bring destruction on Esau in the time of his visitation (36)
We now understand the design of the Prophet, — that he wished to set before our eyes how proudly the Idumeans trusted in their defences, as they never could be persuaded to flee. The Prophet then, as God’s herald, declares that they would have to flee. But what did they do? They made deep their habitation, that is, they would remain quiet in their own country, as though they were fixed in the center of the earth, and therefore unassailable. By saying then that they made deep, he sets forth their obstinacy, so that no one could terrify them, though he announced extreme dangers. But it was his purpose thus to strengthen confidence in his prophecy, because the greatest part of the faithful could form no judgment but according to the present aspect of things; and the Idumeans proudly laughed at all threatenings. That the faithful then might not think that the Idumeans would be safe, he afterwards adds, in God’s name, “Behold, I will bring ruin on Esau.” He mentions their father, and the Idumeans, we know, descended from Esau the first-born of Isaac; and hence they were of the same blood with the Israelites. But the Prophet, by bringing forward the name of a reprobate man, intended, no doubt, to renew the memory of a curse, for Esau had been rejected, and his younger brother Jacob succeeded in his place. Hence the Prophet, that he might gain more credit to his words, brought before the people what was well known to them, that Esau had been rejected by God; for on the rejection of Esau depended their gratuitous election and adoption.
And he says that God would be the avenger of that nation at the time of visitation; for as I have before reminded you, what we have read was not immediately fulfilled. When, therefore, the Israelites suffered extreme calamities, their hope might a hundred times have failed them, on seeing the Idumeans remaining still as it were asleep in their pleasures, and these judgments of God as it were buried; for it might have come to their minds that all which Jeremiah had declared had passed away like smoke. Hence, to sustain their hope and patience, he sets before them here the time of visitation; as though he had said, that the Idumeans also would have their turn, after God had patiently borne with their impiety and spared them for a long time. But of this we shall hereafter see. Now, as I have shown elsewhere, the words which remind us of the time of God’s visitations, ought to be noticed, that we may not by hastening fall headlong, as it is usually the case; for they who are in a hurry, fall at the first step. That we may then learn to wait for the ripened time, let this remain fixed in our minds, that God has his settled seasons of visitations. It now follows —
Interpreters have not only obscured, but also perverted this verse, and only said what is to no purpose, and have gone far from the meaning of the Prophet. (37) How so? because it did not occur to them to compare this with a passage in Obadiah. Obadiah is the true interpreter; nay, our Prophet has borrowed what we read here from him. For there a question is asked, “If thieves were to come to thee, if robbers ( שדדי, shaddi, is added there, but is omitted by Jeremiah) — if robbers by night, how wouldest thou have been reduced to nothing?” But in the first place the rendering ought to be, “Had thieves come to thee, how wouldest thou have been reduced to nothing?” then he adds, “Would they not have stolen what would suffice them?” He afterwards adds the second clause, “If the grape-gatherers had come to thee, would they not have left grapes.” There is now then no ambiguity in the Prophet’s words, if we read them interrogatively. But there is an implied contrast between the calamity threatened to the people and the other devastations. Were a thief of the night to plunder another’s house, he would depart, loaded with his prey, and leave something behind; for in all plunder some things remain: so also as to grape-gatherers, some grapes remain, which escape the gatherers.
Then the Prophet here shews, that so great would be the destruction of that nation, that it would exceed all kinds of plundering; for when one strips his vines, he leaves some grapes; and when a thief enters a house, he does not carry all things away with him, being satisfied with his booty. But nothing, he says, shall be left remaining with the Idumeans. We hence see why the Prophet brings forward the two comparisons, that of the grape-gatherers and of the thieves.
We must at the same time observe, that when God denounces his vengeance on the Israelites, he often adduces these comparisons, in order to show that nothing would be left them, “When the olives are shaken, yet some fruit remains on the top of the trees; but thou shalt be wholly emptied.” As God had said these things, the Israelites might have raised an objection and said, “What is our condition, and how miserable! for we are extremely afflicted; though God afflicts the Idumeans, yet he deals mildly with them, for God’s wrath is less inflamed against them than against us.” Lest then the faithful should be thus thrown into despair, our Prophet declares that the Idumeans would be wholly destroyed, so that not a grape would be left them, nor any of their furniture, for their enemies would lay desolate the whole land. Now follows a confirmation of this verse —
As to the beginning of the verse, the meaning of the Prophet is not obscure; for he means that such would be the destruction of the people of Edom, that they would be spoiled by enemies, that they would become wholly naked. But he speaks in the name of God: Behold, I uncover Esau, and make open his hidden things By hidden things he means treasures, as it is evident from Obadiah. He then says that he would so expose the Idumeans to plunder, that there would be no hidden thing but that their enemies would seize and plunder it. This is the meaning.
He then confirms what I have said, that this plundering would not be like grape-gathering, or theft, or common robbery, because God would altogether empty the Idumeans of all that they had, even of all that they hid in the ground.
With regard to the end of the verse, some give this explanation, “There will be none to say:” there is then a word to be understood, — “there will be none to say, Leave thy orphans to me, I will nourish or sustain them, or I will he a father to them; and thy widows, let them hope or trust in me, or rest on me.” For it is no small comfort to parents, when they know that their widows would have one to flee to, and also their orphans. When one dies and sees that his widow is destitute of every help, and sees that his orphans are miserable and needy, his paternal and conjugal love is grievously wounded. For is it more bitter than death itself, when the husband cannot provide any help for his widow, when he cannot provide any relief for his orphans. Hence some interpreters think that the ruin of this people is in this way exaggerated; that is, because no one would be found to bring comfort to parents, and to take as it were the place of the dead.
But the meaning would not be unsuitable, were the words deemed ironical, that the Prophet spoke in the person of God, Leave to me thy orphans, I will nourish them, and let thy widows rest on me, or trust in me: for it follows afterwards, Behold, they to whom there was no judgment, have drunk of the cup, etc. The passage then would not read amiss, if we consider that God taunts the Idumeans, and ironically declares that he would be a judge against them even after they were dead; for God’s vengeance, we know, reaches to the third and the fourth generation. As then he had before declared, that the Idumeans would be destroyed, their seed, their brethren, and their neighbors, so he now confirms the same thing, — “What! dost thou expect that I should be a father or a protector to thy orphans? that I should bring aid to thy widow? This thou expectest in vain from me.”
The Prophet, in a few words, very sharply goads the minds of the Idumeans, when God thus presents himself, and says by way of mockery, that he would be a protector to their orphans and widows; for they had indiscriminately vented their rage on orphans and women, and spared neither sex nor age. Then God shews here that there was no reason why they should expect any comfort as to their children, for he would be their avenger to the third and the fourth generation. And forced, no doubt, is what some say; at least I do not see how the words, I will nourish them, can comport with the rest of the context. This clause, then, I apply to God himself, because his vengeance would consume them with their brethren, their neighbors and their seed. And the irony is the most suitable to the whole passage; that is, that God meant to show, that he could bring no help to orphans or aid to widows, since they had been so cruel both to orphans and widows. (38) Then follows a confirmation —
And there is nothing of him left.
11.Shall I preserve the life of thy fatherless children?
Or shall thy widows trust in me?
The questions he considers as strong negatives. The simpler view seems to be this: in the preceding verse the destruction not only of Esau, but also of his brethren and neighbours, is announced. His “seed” means his posterity, the nation, and he was was not to be, that is, as a kingdom. There would be still some “orphans” and “widows, ” and as “brethren” and “neighbors” would be destroyed as well as Esau himself, as to all grown up people, forming the nation, and thus orphans and widows would be left helpless, God was pleased to give the promise here stated:
Leave thy orphans, I will preserve them,
Thy widows also, in me let them trust.
The last verb is both masculine and feminine, and refers both to the orphans and widows. This is substantially the explanation given by Venema, and is the most satisfactory. — Ed.
He confirms the last verse, as I think, — that God’s vengeance awaited the whole seed of Esau, because it would be unreasonable to deal more severely with God’s people than with aliens, who had wholly shaken off the yoke. For I explain what is said here of the Church, Those to whom it was not their judgment to drink the cup shall surely drink Some apply this to neighboring nations who had not become so wicked as the Idumeans. But this exposition is frigid, and we ought always, as we have said elsewhere, to have regard to the design of the Prophet. What then was his object but to show to the faithful, that there was no reason for them to despond, however grievously God might afflict them, because the punishment which he would inflict on the Idumeans would in no way be milder; for we know that we are greatly tempted by envy when we see that the state of the impious and the reprobate is better than that of God’s children. And it was for this purpose that Psalms 37:0 was composed,
“Envy not the wicked, nor let their prosperity vex thee, because they shall soon perish.”
And David also, in Psalms 73:2, confesses, that he in a manner staggered when he saw the wicked luxuriating in their pleasures, while the children of God were miserably treated. Then our Prophet in this place, as often elsewhere, had regard to the faithful, and wished to sustain them, lest they should succumb under their burden, when God afflicted them as well as the Idumeans. Hence he says, when speaking of the Idumeans, Drinking they shall drink the cup whose judgment was not to drink, and shalt thou be exempted ? that is, “I will not spare my people, and should I spare aliens? this cannot be.”
We then see that it was a fruitful source of consolation to the faithful, when they heard that the wicked, who openly and avowedly disregarded God, could not escape his judgment.
But it may be now asked, how could he say that it was not the judgment of the Church to drink of the cup of God’s wrath? He speaks comparatively, and this answer ought to suffice us. It is certain that the Israelites deserved all the evils which they suffered. God then justly chastised them; he did not act without reason or through sudden wrath, but executed what he had previously decreed. It was then God’s judgment, even what he had determined and fixed; for judgment here is to be taken for God’s decree, by which he apportions to each his own lot. It was not then a judgment to the Israelites to drink of the cup, when one compared them to the Idumeans, — how so? Here a new question arises, for the Israelites had been worse than all others. The Idumeans had departed wholly from God; all light had become extinct among them; and then the law had not been given them: before Jacob went down to Egypt, who was to be from thence delivered according to the prefixed time made known to Abraham, they dwelt in mountains separated from the land of Canaan. They therefore possessed no part of God’s law, except that they had the empty symbol of circumcision. But the Israelites, on whom had always shone the doctrine of the law, were altogether inexcusable. Why then does the Prophet say that there was no judgment to them? My answer is, that the reference here is not to the persons of men, but on the contrary to the grace of God, through which he had been pleased to embrace the children of Israel. As then God had chosen that nation, what is regarded here is special adoption; for it is right in God to indulge his children, and it is right also in him to pardon them rather than aliens. When any one is offended with his own son, he will be reconciled to him; but an alien will not find pardon.
We now then see that the Prophet does not regard what the people had deserved, nor consider how detestable had been their impiety, and of what grievous punishment they were worthy; but on the contrary, he refers to that grace of God through which he had chosen the seed of Jacob. He had indeed previously chosen the whole seed of Abraham; but the rejection of Esau followed, so that Jacob alone remained as the seed. Since then God had manifested himself as a father to the children of Jacob, the Prophet says that it was not their judgment to drink of the cup, because it was according to reason and common sense that God should forgive them rather than aliens, whom he had already rejected, and who were like putrid members: They, then, whose judgment was not to drink the cup, drinking shall drink, and shalt thou escape free ? The meaning is, that if the green wood is burnt, what will become of the dry? as Christ said. (Luke 23:31.) There is a similar consolation mentioned in 1 Peter 4:17, where those afflictions are mentioned to which the Church of God is now exposed. Now, as we are tender and delicate, and the minds of many may be harassed, Peter says, that if God be so severe towards his own, those of his own household, what will become of the wicked? what dreadful vengeance awaits them?
We hence perceive the drift of the Prophet’s words, and what doctrine may be hence deduced, even that when we see God’s judgment beginning at God’s house, as the Prophet elsewhere says, (Jeremiah 25:29) and as also Peter says; that is, when God chastises his own children, and seems in the meantime to pass by the wicked, we ought patiently to wait for the visitation previously mentioned; and this ought always to be remembered by us, “If this be done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?” We shall not then envy the wicked, when God defers and does not immediately execute his judgment; for the punishments inflicted by God on his servants are only temporary and limited, and intended as medicine, inasmuch as all we suffer are helps to our salvation, as Paul teaches us. (Romans 8:28.) As then God paternally chastises us, let us not shun his paternal hand; nor let us think that God deals more kindly with the wicked because he suspends his judgments, for at length they will be hurried into their own ruin, as the Prophet says here.
In speaking of a cup, the Prophet uses a phrase common in Scripture, for the Scripture by a metaphor calls punishment inflicted on men for their sins a cup; because God apportions to each his just measure. It is taken then as allowed, that calamities are not by chance, but proceed from God’s hand, as though he gave a cup to drink. Now when he afflicts his own, they are constrained to drink as it were his wrath; it is therefore a sour and a bitter cup. But the wicked shall hereafter drink poison. Even medicine, though displeasing to the taste because of its bitterness, is yet wholesome; but poison kills men, though its taste is like medicine. This then is the comparison that is used here by Jeremiah; Drinking, they shall drink the cup, even God’s servants, who yet ought to have been exempted through a singular privilege, even because God had chosen them to be his peculiar people; shalt thou, he says, be exempted from drinking ? He addresses all aliens.
We have before seen another mode of speaking, “They shall drink to the dregs,” as though he had said, “God will not only give thee to drink a bitter cup, but its bitterness will kill and destroy thee, for God will constrain thee to drink the very dregs.” But still the meaning is the same, though the phrase is different. He then asserts that the Idumeans would not be exempt from God’s judgment, and why? because God does not spare even his own children. Here then is suggested to us the best consolation when God in various ways afflicts us: let us know that it cannot be otherwise, but that it is a prelude to the last judgment, when salvation shall surely be our portion, for God purifies us now by temporal punishments, that we may be then free from final vengeance. But when the ungodly are secure, let us know that God’s judgment is indeed hidden, but yet certain, and will shortly overtake them; for when they say,
“Peace and security, then sudden destruction
will come upon them.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3.)
But the clock strikes.
Here the Prophet confirms what he had already prophesied respecting the Idumeans; but to remove every doubt, he says, that God had sworn; and he introduces God as the speaker, in order that his word might be emphatical. He then declares that God had made an oath respecting the destruction of Bozrah. What is particular is put for what is general; for he includes the whole nation under the name of this city. Nor does he simply declare that the Idumeans would be laid waste and destroyed, but he accumulates words: Bozrah, he says, shall be a waste; (39) secondly, a reproach; thirdly, a solitude, or desert; and fourthly, a curse
What the Prophet said was no doubt a thing difficult to be believed; for God did not without reason bring forth his own name. For as he would have us to use it seriously and reverently, so he does not interpose so precious a pledge except under the greatest necessity. It is then certain, that there was a weighty reason why God testified by an oath what we read here of the destruction of the people of Edom. Now I have said that what Jeremiah announced was hardly credible; and it was so, because there was no cause for war; and besides, the country was fortified by its own inclosures; for the Idumeans thought, as it seems, that they were impregnable. This, then, was the reason why God interposed an oath. At the same time his purpose was, as I have before reminded you, to consult the benefit of the faithful; for God makes an oath that he might apply a remedy to the weakness of our faith; for as we almost always vacillate, a simple testimony, without being sanctioned by an oath, would not be sufficient for us. This is then the reason for making an oath.
God is said to swear by himself, because there is none greater; as the apostle says, by whom he can swear. (Hebrews 6:13.) Men in doubtful and hidden things flee to God, who knows the heart, who is himself the truth, and from whom nothing is hid. And an oath, as we learn from many places of Scripture, is a part of divine worship. As then this honor peculiarly belongs to him, that is, that we should swear by his name, when he himself swears, he cannot derive authority from another, which may confirm his words: he therefore swears by himself. And we have heard what he declares by Isaiah,
“I will not give my glory to another.” (Isaiah 42:8)
God then prescribes to us the form of swearing, when he swears by himself. God is said to swear sometimes by his soul, or by his life, and he is said sometimes to lift up his hand. These expressions are not strictly proper, but transferred to God from men. But the mode of speaking used by Jeremiah ought especially to be observed, for we see how an oath is to be rightly made, even when it is made by an appeal to God’s name, for he is alone the fit witness and judge in things doubtful and hidden.
There is therefore under the Papacy a base and an intolerable idolatry, for the Papists swear by dead saints. This is nothing else but to rob God of his right; for since he alone, as it has been stated, is the truth, so he alone is the fit judge when things are hidden and cannot be ascertained by human testimony. And we ought to notice the words used in swearing, that is, when men submit to God’s judgment, and implore him as a judge. Whosoever then swears by the saints, it is the same thing as to make them to occupy the place of God, so as to make them the judges of the world, and to ascribe to them all power.
“God is a witness to my soul,”
says Paul, (2 Corinthians 1:23;) and then we have such words as these,
“May God do this to me and add that.”
(Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 14:44; 2 Samuel 3:35, etc.)
By such expressions, as I have said, is set forth the authority and character of an oath. In short, we must bear in mind, that when necessity constrains us to swear, God is ever the sole judge, and that therefore his name is profaned when we swear by another.
Now what it is to be a reproach and a curse, is evident from other places, even when any one is set as it were in a theater, that he might be an example of disgrace, or when any calamity gives an occasion for execrations and maledictions, “May God destroy thee as he destroyed the Idumeans:” this is to be a curse, as we have elsewhere seen.
He adds cities, and thereby intimates that this desolation would not be confined to one part, but be extended to all parts. He also says that they would be perpetual wastes; and thus he took away every hope of restoration. When he prophesied before against the Moabites and the Ammonites, he mingled some consolation, but as to Edom, every hope is cut off. The nation, no doubt, deserved a heavier vengeance, for it had a nearer connection with the Israelites — hence its cruelty was less to be borne. Besides, it appears that it exceeded in its barbarity all other nations; for it is not without reason said in the Psalms,
“Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, who said in the day of Jerusalem, Let it be erased, let it be wholly erased to its foundation.” (Psalms 137:7)
We hence learn that the Idumeans raged most cruelly against their own blood: and this was the reason why God declared that their cities would become perpetual desolations; for the word עולם, oulam, which some render “age,” often means perpetuity. It follows —
The Prophet again shews that God would be the author of the calamity of which he speaks; for if things were viewed by men, no one could have thought that the Idumeans could in so short a time be destroyed. It was therefore necessary for the faithful to raise upwards their minds. And this the Prophet had in view when he said that all this would be from God.
But most forcible are his words when he says, We have heard a hearing; some say, “a report,” but improperly, as I think; for though, שמועה, shemuoe, often means a report or rumor, yet here it ought to be taken for a proclamation, which God published as it were by his own heralds. For the similitude is taken from men, proclaiming war against their enemies by a solemn rite. Then Jeremiah says, that avoice was heard sent from above, because it was God’s purpose publicly and openly to testify, that what we read here of the destruction of Edom would take place. We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, A hearing have we heard from Jehovah
Then follows immediately a confirmation, a messenger, or an ambassador, is sent to the nations God, indeed, had no messenger or herald to proclaim war against the Idumeans, or to rouse up the Assyrians and Chaldeans; but the Prophets usually spoke thus, that men, being led to the very scene, might know that what was said was real, and would not be without its effect, as prophecies were as so many embassies. And according to this view, the prophets, as we have stated elsewhere, sometimes besieged and stormed cities, sometimes sounded the trumpet, even for this purpose, to show that their doctrine was linked with its execution, for God never spoke by them to no purpose or in vain. The Prophet at the same time reminds us that the Chaldeans and the Assyrians were in God’s hand, so that he could by a nod or a hiss rouse them to war, as it is said elsewhere,
“God will hiss for the fly of Egypt.” (Isaiah 7:18)
The Prophet then means, that the Chaldeans and the Assyrians would be ready to obey God, as though they were hired soldiers, and enlisted under his banner.
We now then see how forcible was this mode of speaking; for the faithful might hence learn, that it was in God’s power to perform whatever he proclaimed by his servant, because he could by one word rouse, draw, arm, and lead to war the Assyrians and the Chaldeans, as he also says, Be ye assembled, and come against her, and rise up to battle And he speaks of many nations, lest any one should think that the Idumeans would be able to resist, for he is not immediately conquered who is attacked by his enemies. But the Prophet meets this doubt, and says that there would be many nations, who, with their united strength, would come against the people of Edom, so that they would have no power to resist. Nearly the same words are found in Obadiah. It now follows —
Interpreters for the most part give this exposition, that the people of Edom would be contemptible, because God had determined to cast them down from their dignity, which they for a time possessed: and then they connect the next verse, in which the reason for this is given, “Thy terror deceived thee, the pride of thy heart,” etc. But this passage may be taken otherwise, — that God derides the pride of that nation, which ought to have restrained itself, because it contended against nature, when it wished to elate itself so much. And it seems to me that this is the real meaning of the Prophet. I do not, indeed, pronounce the other view wrong, yet it behooves me to state what I prefer. I then think that there is to be understood here an implied comparison between the Israelites and the children of Edom, which is more clearly expressed by Malachi, (Malachi 1:2;) for God there extols his kindness towards the Israelites, because he gave them a rich and fruitful land, and sent away the posterity of Esau, and confined them within rough mountains. As then the Idumeans, ejected from so pleasant and desirable an inheritance as had been given to the children of Abraham, were confined as it were to rugged mountains, the Prophet derides their pride, because they tried in a way contrary and repugnant to nature to elevate themselves: I made thee, he says, small among the nations, and contemptible among men And we know that less easily can that pride be borne, where there is no reason for boasting. When any one obscure from the lowest rank exalts himself above the most noble, all regard him with contempt, for it is a monstrous thing. It is for this reason that the Prophet now says, “What have you, O Idumeans, that ye are so proud! What do you possess? what is your glory? for God has humbled you. It is then the same as though a fly wished to exceed in bulk the elephant.”
But if the other exposition be preferred, the meaning would be as follows, “Behold, I will make thee small and contemptible among the nations, because thou hast been very proud.” But I have stated what I approve, even that God here brings against the Idumeans their folly, because they ought not to have boasted without reason, “Behold,” he says; he shews, as by the finger, how mean and abject their condition was; 1 have made thee small among the nations, and contemptible among men And, doubtless, were it a threatening, it would not have been sufficiently forcible; for the Prophet has hitherto been thundering against the Idumeans, and he goes on in the same strain. If then he had now put in what we read, referring to their smallness, it would have been frigid. I doubt not, then, but that the Prophet describes the state of that nation, such as it had been in comparison with that of the chosen people, and even of other nations; for though they were rich, had always been free from disturbance, and suffered no losses, yet they lived, as it has been stated, in mountains by no means fertile. It now follows —
Some render the first words thus, “Thine idol hath deceived thee;” and others, “Thy folly hath deceived thee.” The verb has, indeed, this meaning, though there is a different reading, for some put a point over the right side of the letter, and others on the left. But the most suitable meaning is thus conveyed, Deceived thee has thy terror, the pride of thy heart Those who render the first word “idol,” consider that superstition is referred to, that the false confidence which the Edomites placed in their idols had deceived them. But this seems to be a forced explanation. Why others have rendered the word “folly,” I know not. The word properly means terror. The verb פלף,pelets, means to terrify, and from this the noun is derived. And when the word is taken for an idol, it is so metaphorically, because idols terrify men, or because a terrible end awaits their worshippers. But I retain the proper meaning of the word. At the same time terror here is to be taken actively, because the Idumeans were a terror to other nations, and were thus blinded with pride on account of their conceit as to their power.
And the following words are explanatory, the pride of thy heart; for they who despise others fill themselves with empty pride, and thus elevate their own hearts. As then the Idumeans had gained for themselves the repute of being a warlike people, the terror entertained for them inflated their own hearts with pride: but the Prophet says, that they were deceived, as they arrogated to themselves too much power. At the same time he continues the subject which I have stated, as though he had said, “How comes it, that as God has designed thee to be contemptible, thou takest to thyself such authority among the nations? Thou fightest against nature, for thou hast hitherto in vain terrified thy neighbors: hence it is, that thou art swollen with pride; but it is a mere delusion; thou art greatly mistaken, and deceivest thyself in thus thinking of thy strength, since thy condition ought, on the contrary, to make thee humble.” We now see how well the whole passage runs, and how aptly the words agree together. He then says that it was a foolish confidence, by which the people of Edom, whom God had made contemptible, were deceived.
He now adds, by way of concession, Thou who dwellest in the fissures of rocks, and occupiest the heights of mountains In these words the Prophet concedes something to the Idumeans; but he afterwards adds, that the fortresses, by which they thought themselves to be protected, would come to nothing; though thou raisest high thy nest as the eagle, thence will I, says God, draw thee down We hence see that the Prophet concedes to the Idumeans some reason for boasting on account of their mountains, because they presented on every side a defense against enemies; and yet he shews that all this would be useless to them; for he says, though thou raisest high thy nest as the eagle, that is, though thou ascendest, as they commonly say, above the very clouds, thence will I draw thee down
Now this passage teaches us first, that all who trust in their own earthly defences deceive themselves; and, secondly, that all who arrogate to themselves more than what is just and right, contend, as it were, against God, and that it cannot, therefore, be otherwise but that God will lay them prostrate. We are then taught by this doctrine to cultivate humility. Humility has its roots fixed deeply within; so that the state of those who willingly submit themselves, becomes firm and permanent; for the root, which appears not on the surface, sustains the tree. So also that humility, which is not known by men, is our real and solid prop and support. Whosoever takes the wing and flies, and seeks, through his own presumption, to raise up himself, provokes God as it were designedly: and here the Prophet shews what end awaits all those who thus raise themselves on high, seeking to set their nest on a summit like the eagle; for God will draw them down and lay them prostrate, as he did to the Idumeans. It now follows —
Here again the Prophet confirms what he had said. We have before stated how necessary was such a repetition, because no one could have thought that destruction was so nigh the Idumeans. He did not then repeat what he had said, in order to explain more clearly what might have been otherwise obscure, but to fix more fully in the hearts of the faithful what appeared incredible.
He then says that Edom would become a waste; and then, that every one passing by it would be astonished and hiss on account of all her wounds, or strokes. Hissing may refer to derision, or to astonishment, or, at least, to wonder: for many hiss, or shake the head through mockery; and others hiss through wonder, when any unusual thing happens. And as he had said before, Whosoever shall pass through it shall be astonished, I am disposed to refer this also to what is produced by wonder or amazement. It afterwards follows —
He expresses more at large what he had briefly included in one word: he had said, that Edom would become a waste; but he now shews what sort of waste it would be, even such as that of Sodom and Gomorrah, and other cities; for God, as it is well known, destroyed the five cities against which he fulminated.
And hence again we learn, that there was no hope left for the Idumeans; as though the Prophet had said, that their final overthrow was inevitable, because God would have them wholly destroyed, and their memory obliterated. It is yet probable that there were some remnant of the nation; but this was not inconsistent with this prophecy, because they who remained alive became so scattered, that they never formed one people, nor had any name. And though God might have chosen some from that nation, yet this favor remained hid, and, as it was unknown to men, it can hardly be taken to the account. However this may have been, we must bear in mind what I have before briefly referred to, — that the Idumeans were so accursed, that their calamity was much severer than that of other nations; and this they had deserved by their unnatural cruelty and many contumelies towards the miserable Israelites, their own relatives. This, then, was the reason why Jeremiah compared the land to, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities; no man shall dwell there, that is, the country shall be desolate.
And yet it appears, from history, that that country was afterwards inhabited, for even the Romans placed there a garrison. But the Prophet, as I have already said, meant that none of the Idumeans would survive to possess the land, so as to become a nation. Though, then, other inhabitants might have afterwards possessed the land, this was nothing to the Idumeans; for that people had perished, and from that time no restoration followed: this was sufficient as a fulfillment of this prophecy. Nay, it was a harder thing, that their land should receive aliens and strangers, than if it had been left desolate.
But we must also bear in mind the common mode of speaking adopted by the Prophets; for when they adduce Sodom and Gomorrah as examples, they speak hyperbolically; and there is no need here to accumulate passages to prove this; for they who are in any tolerable measure acquainted with Scripture, must know that whenever mention is made of Sodom and Gomorrah, all pardon and alleviation of punishment are excluded. Isaiah, extolling God’s mercy towards his chosen people, says,
“Had not God left us a very small seed, we must have been as Sodom and like to Gomorrah.” (Isaiah 1:9)
And this mode of speaking, as I have said, often occurs in Scripture; yea, even our Prophet threatened the Israelites with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, (Jeremiah 23:14.) The words, no doubt, are used hyperbolically; for God had not fulminated against other lands or nations and sunk them in the deep, as he had done to Sodom and Gomorrah. But in comparisons all parts do not correspond.
Now, some one may ask, Why does God thus exceed due limits in speaking? To this I answer, that it is not done without just reason and necessity. We indeed see that men are indifferent to God’s judgments; for such is their sloth and insensibility, that they disregard as a light thing, or deem as nothing, what God threatens. As then men are so brutish, being unmoved by God’s threatenings, it is necessary that such indifference should be roused and awakened. He therefore sets Sodom and Gomorrah before their eyes; and as Jude also says, there an example of all the punishments which await the reprobate has been exhibited. (Jude 1:7) God therefore designed to represent once for all, as in a mirror, how dreadful will be his vengeance on all the wicked. Since it is so, to the same end is this threatening, that God would destroy the Idumeans and all like them, as he did Sodom and Gomorrah, so that none would survive, though aliens might come and succeed the Idumeans and occupy their inheritance. I cannot now finish; we shall leave the other comparison.
The Prophet here confirms what he had said, that such would be the violence of the Chaldean army, that the Idumeans would not be able to resist it. He then says, that the Chaldeans would come like lions, who ascend in great fury when compelled to change the place of their habitation; for so I explain what is said of the elevation of Jordan. The explanations are various; but the one I approve is, that Jeremiah compares the Chaldeans to lions, who every year, or at least when there was a great inundation, sought hiding-places on mountains or on elevated grounds, because they could not lie down on the plains. The elevation of Jordan is then to be taken for its swelling, that is, when it overflowed. We learn from many passages that the lions lodged around Jordan. As then they dwelt in the low plains, when the river swelled, they changed the place of their habitation. But this could not be without their rage being excited; for we know how savage these wild beasts are. Jeremiah had also a regard to the situation of Idumea, which was more elevated than Jordan and the country around it. He says the same also, in the next chapter, of the Babylonians. But it may be that he alluded in this place to what was common among the Idumeans, and this is probable.
The meaning then is, as I think, that as lions ascended to higher grounds when Jordan swelled and overflowed, so the Chaldeans would come to the Idumeans, and invade the country like furious wild beasts. This is one thing. Then he adds, to the habitation of strength Jerome’s rendering is, “to valiant beauty;” the word is so explained almost everywhere, but it is to be taken here for a strong dwelling. He alludes to the situation of that land, for it seemed impregnable, because it was surrounded, as it has appeared elsewhere, by mountains. The situation of Babylon was different, it being surrounded by the various streams of the Euphrates.
What follows is obscure, when I shall have made him to rest, I will make him to run from her. Some explain the particle כי, ki, differently. It is indeed a causative, but is often taken, as it is well known, as an adverb of time. But the meaning of the Prophet is ambiguous, and some have imagined that the chosen people are spoken of, as though the Prophet meant, that when the Lord gave rest to his people, he would then cause them to flee from the land of Edom. But this exposition is wholly inadmissible; and I wonder how they came to make such a mistake; for the Prophet, I have no doubt, means here that the Idumeans had a long time been at ease, but that a sudden calamity would come which would scatter them here and there, and force them to seek safety by flight; and this is the best meaning that we can elicit: When, therefore, I shall have made her to rest, or, from the time I shall have made her to rest,I will make him to flee from her; as though he had said, “I have hitherto suffered this nation to rest in its abundance, and thus to remain quiet; but I will suddenly disperse the inhabitants here and there, and they shall see their own land occupied by their enemies.” In short, there is here a comparison between two conditions; for the Idumeans had long remained in their own dregs, for there was no one who caused them any trouble. God had then granted them a continual quietness; but now he declares that he would make all of them to flee, and that suddenly. And it was necessary that this should be distinctly expressed, that the Idumeans might not in future trust in their tranquil state, as hypocrites do, who usually abuse God’s indulgence, and think, when he bears long with them, that they have escaped every danger. Lest then such confidence should deceive the Idumeans, the Prophet says that they would have to flee after having been long in a state of tranquillity.
The words may at the same time be explained otherwise; for רגע,rego, means to rend, to cut, to break; and it may be so taken here, “When I shall have made a rent;” for the Idumeans, as it has been stated, were fortified by defences on every side. God now intimates that he would make an irruption, which he compares to rending; and this explanation is not unsuitable.
It afterwards follows, And who is the chosen one, that I may set him over her? God now summons all the strong ones, that he might set them over Idumea, not as pastors or such as might care for the welfare of the land and provide for its safety, but such as would oppress it with tyrannical cruelty: Who then is the chosen one? At the same time God shews that all men of war are in his hand and at his disposal; as though he had said, “If the Idumeans think that they surpass all others in courage and strength, they are greatly mistaken; for I will find those who possess more courage, for I have ready at hand chosen men to set over them whenever I please, who will easily subdue the Idumeans, however superior they may think themselves to be in martial valor.” Then God does not here ask a question as of a doubtful matter, Who is the chosen one, that I may set him over her? but he shews that it would be no difficult thing for him to destroy the Idumeaus, because he would send for the chosen one from any part of the world he pleased, and set him over Idumea, not as a pastor, as I have said, but as a cruel tyrant.
He then adds, For who is as I am? He confirms the last clause; for God extols his own power, which is wont to be despised by the unbelieving. The sentence indeed seems to be a common truth, Who is as I am? for all allow this from the least to the greatest. The Prophet appears then to have announced something trite and ordinary by saying, that none is like God; for even the worst of men acknowledge this, and the least child confesses it, and it is the dictate of nature. But were any one duly to consider how great is the pride of men, he would find that this truth is not so common; for there is hardly one in a hundred who concedes to God what justly belongs to him. For when he comes forth either to promise salvation or to announce punishment, how little is any one moved? nay, they who hold this principle, that God can do all things, are yet carried away, when the least hinderance occurs, to vain imaginations, and at length become wholly lost. When any one is persuaded that God ought to be feared, if any occasion for a false confidence be presented, what he had at first entertained in his mind will be choked, and then wholly extinguished. In short, if we carefully consider how contemptibly men think of God, we shall understand that this truth is not in vain often repeated in Scripture, that God has none like him. For when any one dares to exalt himself against God, he immediately strikes all with terror; and yet the power of God is regarded as nothing. We see that even the faithful themselves deem the least thing stronger than God; nay, they hesitate not to set up flies and insects, so to speak, in opposition to God, and even to make them equal to him. This is indeed very shameful, and yet it is what has usually prevailed perpetually in all ages.
We now, then, understand why God declares here as a great matter and as it were incredible, that there is none like him And hence also we learn what the last clause means, when it is asked, Where is the chosen one whom I may set over her? for he follows up the subject by saying, There is no one like me. By these words he shews that the whole world is under his power.
He now adds, and who will protest against me? Some read, “Who will prescribe to me the time?” But they who thus render the words, obscure the meaning of the Prophet. The Prophet, I doubt not, means, that there is no one who will dare to dispute with God; or were any one to attempt this, it would be ridiculous, because God could with one breath dissipate all contentions which men might raise. When therefore he says, Who will protest against me? it is the same as though he said, “Who will make himself a party against me?” as it is commonly said. Who then will oppose himself to me? or, Who will dare to contend with me? or, Who will dare to dispute in judgment with me? I have therefore given this rendering, and who will protest against me? and this seems clearly to express the meaning of the Prophet.
He afterwards says, and who is this pastor that stands before my face? By the word pastor, he alludes to the comparison of a lion; for he thus compares the Idumeans to sheep. Though they were very ferocious, yet here their weakness is referred to. As, then, a sheep cannot defend itself against a lion, so the Prophet shews that the Idumeans would not possess sufficient courage to resist the attacks of the Chaldeans. In short, the Prophet means, that though the Idumeans had many protectors, yet there would be no one able to stand against God when he came forth armed to destroy that nation. The sum of what is said is, that there would be no one, by right or by strength, equal to God, to defend the Idumeans; for he said first, Who will protest against me? and then, What shepherd will stand against me? We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet, that as the Idumeans had to carry on war with God, it could not possibly be but that they must perish, for though they might get aids on every side, yet they could not, either by right or by strength, withstand God. (40) It follows —
Behold, as a lion from the swelling of Jordan, Will he ascend to the strong habitation; For suddenly will I cause him to run from it: And he who is chosen will I appoint over her; For who is like me? and who can meet me? And who is he, the shepherd, who can stand before me?
The word ארגיעה, as in Proverbs 12:19, is “suddenly,” or in a moment. “Him” is the lion, and “from it,” the swelling of Jordan. “Over her” is Edom. “Who can meet me?” that is, to contend with me, or resist me, according to the Sept. The verb is יעד, though Calvin derived it from עוד. The “shepherd” is mentioned, because of the “lion,” whom no shepherd can resist when he attacks the flock. God speaks of himself as identified with his chosen one — Ed.
The Prophet proceeds with his subject respecting the Idumeans and their destruction; but he makes a preface in order to gain credit to his words. He then says that this was God’s counsel and his thoughts. He speaks after the manner of men; for he transfers to God what does not properly belong to his nature; for God does not deliberate or consult, but has once for all decreed before the creation of the world what he will do; nor does he toss about his thoughts in all directions, as men do, who do not immediately see what is right or what ought to be done. Nothing of this kind belongs to God. But this way of speaking is sufficiently common, when what strictly applies to man is transferred to God. It ought at the same time to be observed, that this is not done without reason, for when God speaks by his servants, we ever raise doubts, “Is that said in earnest — can it be changed — is it revocable?” In short, we receive what is light and frivolous, and immediately give credit to it; but when God declares anything, we subject it to comments, and raise up a hundred disputes on every subject, “Oh, but this or that may happen; and it may be that God does not speak in earnest.” As, then, men never acquiesce in God’s word, as they ought to do, the Prophets borrow from common use these forms of speech, that God had thus thought, that he had thus decreed.
The meaning is, that whatever Jeremiah had hitherto predicted of the Idumeans, could not be retracted, for it was a settled decree, so fixed as though God had thought of it for a hundred or thousand years.
He now adds, the inhabitants of Teman; by whom he means the Idumeans. But the repetition deserves notice: he first mentions Edom, and then the inhabitants of Teman. And Teman and Seir are sometimes the same. If not, cast them down, etc.; the verb properly means to draw, and to draw in reproach and contempt, as when a carcase is drawn through the mire. Then the Prophet means here a throwing down, accompanied with reproach. And he says, If not, draw them forth shall the least of the flock He speaks here otherwise than before; for he called the Chaldeans chosen, and extolled their strength, that he might strip the Idumeans of their vain confidence; but he now proceeds further and says, that there was no need of great valor to put that nation to flight, because even the least could lay them prostrate on the ground, and also draw them in disgrace through the land. Now, though the manner of speaking is different, yet the meaning remains the same, even that God would arm the Chaldeans with courage, so that they would easily destroy the land of Edom; and then, that though the Chaldeans should not, according to the estimation of men, excel in valor, they would yet be superior to the Idumeans, because victory was in God’s hand, and he could work by means of flies as well as by men, and by children as well as by giants.
The formula of swearing is adopted, when he says, If not, draw them, etc. It is an elliptical phrase, as it has often been observed; such an obtestation as this is understood, “Believe me not hereafter,” or, “Regard me not as God.” In short, it is a form of an oath, which is a stronger affirmation than if he had simply said, “Draw them forth shall the least of the flock.”
Some render the last clause, “If not, set shall they,” etc.; as though the verb came from שום, shum, to put, to set; but it is from שמם, shemem, or ימם, imem, as some think, though rather שמם, shemem The Prophet, I have no doubt, means, that they would destroy, or lay waste over them their dwellings. It follows —
The Prophet in many words dwells on the same thing, in itself sufficiently clear; but as it was not easy to convince the Jews of what had been already said of the destruction of the Idumeans, the Prophet continues the same subject. He then says that the earth trembled at the sound of their fall By these words he means that such would be the calamity, that it would terrify all neighboring countries: as when a great mass falls, the earth shakes, so the fall of the Idumeans, who had long gloried in their wealth, could not but strike all their neighbors with terror. Lest the Jews should think that incredible which had been said, the Prophet says, that though the earth should tremble, yet God would overthrow that nation.
He then adds, the cry of their voice was heard at the Red Sea (41) This sea, called now Red, was at some distance. The word סוף, suph, properly signifies weedy, a name given to it on account of the bulrushes it produced; but the sea that is meant, is what is now called the Red Sea. I have said that the distance between these places was considerable, and what the Prophet means is, that so great and so dreadful would be the shaking of the land of Edom, that its noise would make this sea to tremble, though it was at some distance. It follows —
The cry — at the Red Sea was heard its sound.
It is an instance of the nominative case absolute. — Ed.
He again speaks of the speedy coming of the Chaldeans, as though he had said, “When the state of that nation shall seem peaceable, when they rest secure in their own nest, then shall the Chaldeans suddenly come, or rather fly.” For he compares them to eagles, in order to show that it would be a very quick and ruinous expedition. At the time this prophecy was declared by the Prophet, no one could have suspected that the Chaldeans would become enemies to the Idumeans, for they were on the best terms with each other; nay, we know that they paid every attention to gain the favor of the Chaldeans. Hence it is said in the Psalms,
“Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, who said in the day of Jerusalem,
Let it be cut down, let it be cut down.”
By these words is intimated the impious conspiracy of that nation with the Chaldeans. Nor is there a doubt but that they tried by all means to conciliate the Chaldeans for their own interest. Hence the Prophet here points out a sudden change, when he says that the Chaldeans would be like eagles, who would expand their wings over Bozrah We have seen elsewhere that this was the chief city of that nation.
The heart, he says, of the valiant men of Edom shall be like the heart of a sorrowful woman We have seen how great was the pride of the Idumeans. As then they thought themselves superior in valor and counsel, and all other things, the Prophet here shews that the heart of their valiant men would become effeminate; for it cannot be but the hearts of men are in God’s hand. God then is alone he who can sustain and animate us and give us firmness; and he also, when he pleases, can debilitate our spirits; and these things he does every moment: and that day then is not expressed without reason; for God does not only impart to every one of us what valor he pleases, but also takes away, when he pleases, the courage which he had given. Hence it is, that the hearts of the brave become cowardly, and also, that the most timid become sometimes bolder than lions, even when it pleases God either to weaken or to strengthen the hearts of men.
But it ought to be noticed, that no hope is given here to the Idumeans as to any remnant. When the Prophet spoke before of other nations, he gave them some consolation; but here he does not mitigate God’s vengeance: he dooms the Idumeans to final ruin, without giving them any hope; and for this reason, because God had for a long time borne with them, and they had most wickedly abused his forbearance. He had spared them from the time the children of Israel came up from Egypt; and when they denied a passage to them, the children of Israel made a long circuit with great inconvenience, that they might not touch their land. It was a singular favor shown to them. And had they had the least drop of humanity in them, they must have acknowledged such a kindness; on the contrary, they had ever cruelly treated their own brethren, and never ceased to do so, though often warned. It is no wonder then that God should now give them up to ruin, and announce predictions full of despair. This ought to be carefully observed, so that we may learn not to make light of God’s patience when he bears long with us, but in due time to repent, lest when he rises for judgment he should utterly destroy us. It now follows —
Jeremiah speaks here of the kingdom of Syria, which he means by Damascus, where the kings, as it is well known, resided. The Syrians had been from the beginning very hostile to the Israelites; and histories, well known, record that they had continual wars for many years. At length the kings of Israel confederated with the Syrians for the purpose of attacking their brethren the Jews. Hence it was, that the Syrians caused great troubles to the Jews, and were friends to the Israelites until both kingdoms were subverted by the Chaldeans. It is hence probable that this prophecy was announced while the kingdom was yet standing, or at least before its final overthrow; for it was much weakened before it was wholly cut off, as it has been stated elsewhere.
It was necessary to make this preface, in order that we might know the design of God in proclaiming this prophecy against the Syrians, even because they had been from the beginning enemies to the Israelites, and also, because they had united their strength with them for the purpose of oppressing the Jews. They had therefore always been like the fans of the Devil in the work of consuming the church of God. God then shews here that the calamity which awaited them, was a just reward for the impious cruelty which they had exercised towards the chosen people. This we must bear in mind.
He now says, that Hamath is confounded; this is considered to have been Antioch in Syria. There were many celebrated cities of this name; but Hamath towards Cilicia was the most renowned. He then says that the city Hamath, that is, Antioch, was ashamed as well as Arpad, which was also an opulent city. He adds, because they heard a bad report, or an adverse rumor. By these words he intimates that the kingdom of Syria would be terrified by a report only. No one could have thought such a thing, for when they had united themselves with the Israelites, they thought that they had power enough to drive away their enemies. As then they supposed themselves to be thus strong, so as to be beyond danger, the Prophet derides their confidence, and says that they would be so terrified by mere report, that they would be ashamed as though conquered by enemies.
He then adds, that they would be melted; for מוג, mug, means to be dissolved or melted. But there is here a different reading; many copies have בים דאגה, beim dage, connected with this; and they who read thus are forced to wrest the words of the Prophet. This reading literally is, “They are ashamed in the sea, dread to rest,” or, make to rest, “it cannot,” or could not. We see how harsh is the expression; they, however, elicit this meaning, that these cities would be dissolved, as he who sails on the sea and cannot through dread make his heart tranquil. But, as I have already said, the words of the Prophet are thus perverted. Now, if we read for ב, beth, כ,caph, which denotes likeness, the meaning would be very suitable, as a sea of dread, or a turbulent sea (a noun in the genitive case instead of an adjective, a common thing in Scripture) which cannot rest or be still. (42)
As to the general meaning of the passage, there is not much difference; for the Prophet intends to show that the Syrians would be like a turbulent sea, which is tossed here and there, so that the waves conflict together. If any one prefers to refer this to sailors, the meaning would be still materially the same. The sum of what is said then is, that as the Syrians had been terrible to all, so they would be frightened at the mere report of war, and so much so as to melt away and not be able to stand their ground, like the sea, which, when a tempest rages, has no rest, but is driven in all directions. He afterwards adds, —
Confounded is Hamath and Arpad;
For an evil report have they heard, — they melt away;
Like the sea the agitation, the quieting none can effect.
The melting away was through fear. They were moved or agitated, and, like the sea, they could not rest or be still. אל may be often rendered none or nothing. — Ed
The Prophet goes on with the same subject, for as the kingdom of Syria had flourished, and had been eminent in wealth and power, it was hardly credible that it could so soon be overthrown. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet, according to his usual manner, describes at large the ruin of that kingdom in order to confirm what he said.
He then says, relaxed, or weakened, is Damascus This verb, indeed, sometimes means to cease: he means that she was broken in strength. But under the name of this city, he includes, as it was stated yesterday, the whole kingdom of Syria, which was celebrated for its riches, largeness, and number of men. She turns, he says, to flight By these words he intimates that no safety remained for the Syrians except by fleeing into other countries. And it is a miserable safety when men cannot otherwise secure it than by a voluntary exile. He adds the reason, Trembling has laid hold on her, anguish and pangs have seized her as a woman in travail Whenever this comparison occurs in Scripture, some sudden and unexpected evil is intended. The Prophet then no doubt means that the ruin of Syria would be sudden; and he says this, that it might not trust in its own power, and that others might not think her to be beyond danger, because they saw that it was fortified by the number of its men, and by the abundance of all other things. It now follows, —
Some think “my” to be redundant, and therefore render it “the city of joy;” (43) but they seem to be induced by no good reason; for they think it absurd that it should be called a city of joy to the Prophet, since he ought not to have regarded Damascus with any love or kindness. But the prophets, we know, do not always speak according to their own feelings, but assume the persons of others. We might then fitly read the words as they are, the city of my joy! Besides, Jeremiah very cuttingly exults over Damascus, when he thus expresses his wonder at its destruction: “How can this be,” he says, “that the city of praise, that is, a celebrated city, and the city of my joy, that is, a spectacle so noble as to cause joy to all, — how can it be that this city should not be left, that is, should not be spared?” For by “left” he does not mean forsaken by its inhabitants, or reduced to solitude; for by “left” he means untouched or safe. (44)
But we must ever bear in mind what we have often stated, that the prophets, when they thus speak in astonishment, do not adopt an elevated style as rhetoricians do, to show their eloquence, but have always a regard to what is profitable. It was necessary powerfully to impress the minds of men, when the Prophet spoke of the ruin of so great a city. Then this astonishment includes what they call an anticipation; for it obviated a doubt which might have prevented credit from being given to this prophecy. This might have immediately occurred to every one, “How can it be that Damascus is to perish?” Then the Prophet anticipates this, and shews, that though this was contrary to the judgment commonly formed, yet, as the Lord had so decreed, the destruction of that city was certain. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet. It afterwards follows, —
Venema’s view is different; his version is, —
Why not? forsaken has been the city of praise, The city of my joy.
That is, Why should not Damascus be compelled to flee, since Jerusalem had been forsaken, the city of praise and of his joy. “Therefore,” in this sense, refers to the slaughter of those who would not flee. — Ed.
Here the Prophet in a manner corrects himself, and declares, that though the ruin of Damascus would astonish all, yet it was certain; and so I explain the particle לכן,lacen
It is regarded by the Hebrews as a particle assigning a reason — therefore, for this cause. They then think that a reason is here expressed why God had decreed to destroy that city, even because it had formerly made war with the Israelites, and then with the Jews, and thus it had not ceased to persecute the Church of God. But it is to be taken here in a simpler way, as an affirmative, according to its meaning in many other places. The Prophet then checks here the astonishment which he had expressed, as though he had said, “However this may be, yet it is so appointed by God, though all should be astonished at the destruction of Damascus, yet fall shall its young men, etc.” The meaning is, that no power under heaven was such as could resist God. Then Damascus, as it was devoted to destruction, could not avoid that judgment, though it was, according to the opinion of men, impregnable.
And this passage deserves particular notice, for when hinderances occupy our minds, and are presented to our thoughts, we ought ever to set up this as our shield, “Whatever God has appointed must be fulfilled.” Though, then, heaven and earth may seem united to impede the celestial decree, let us know that we ought to acquiesce in God’s word, and this particle “yet,” or nevertheless, לכן,lacen, ought always to be remembered by us. For we have said that it was Jeremiah’s purpose, in a manner, to bring into subjection whatever men might plan in their own minds; for this alone is sufficient, God has decreed what he declares. It follows, —
Here God himself speaks, and declares that he would be the author of the destruction of which Jeremiah prophesied. And he employs the similitude of fire, because there is nothing more violent or more dreadful than burning; for we know that the greatest cities are soon consumed and reduced to ashes when fire begins to blaze. God then compares the destruction of the city to burning, though no fire was applied to destroy the walls and the palaces of the king; but the Prophet means by this metaphor, that such would be the destruction of the city, as though it was consumed by fire. He at the same time reminds the faithful of God’s judgment, that they might know that whatever happened to the Syrians proceeded from his hand; because such calamities would have availed but little, except this doctrine was also added, that just punishments are inflicted by God on the wickedness of men.
But when he speaks of the palaces of Ben-hadad, he briefly points out the cause why God would deal so severely with the Syrians. We have said already that they had been always hostile to God’s chosen people. They first tried to overthrow the kingdom of Israel; afterwards they confederated with the kings of Israel, but it was for the purpose of overthrowing the kingdom of Judah; and many were the confederacies for this end. But Ben-hadad, as we read in the first book of Kings, grievously distressed the Israelites. We indeed learn from the history of those times, that there were many kings of Syria who bore this name, for it was a common name, as the kings of Egypt were called Pharaohs; and other kings also took a popular name, as the emperors of Rome called themselves Caesars. But we read that the last Ben-hadad was the son of Hazael, who was also the king of Syria; and as I have said, it was not a private name. Since, then, sacred history clearly shews that there were many who were called Ben-hadad, the Prophet, I have no doubt, refers to the first who began to disturb and harass the Israelites. He then points out the cause why God had determined to destroy Damascus, for he had in his forbearance borne for a long time with the Syrians. But when he saw that they did not repent, but on the contrary added sins to sins, at length ascending his tribunal, he says, that the fire which he would apply to the walls of Damascus, would also consume the palaces of Ben-hadad, that is, the palaces whence so many evils had proceeded, and so much cruelty, by which the miserable Church had been distressed. This is the meaning. It now follows, —
There is here another prophecy added respecting the Kedareans, who inhabited a part of Arabia. There is elsewhere mention made of them, and it is probable that they were neighbors to the Syrians and not far from Judea; for David complained (if he was the author of that psalm) that he dwelt among the children of Kedar,
“Woe to me, because I am compelled to dwell in Mesech and with the children of Kedar,” (Psalms 120:5)
Whoever, then, composed that psalm, it is a probable conjecture that the Kedareans, though not contiguous to Judea, were not yet far distant; and we have said that they were the inhabitants of Arabia. And the Prophet adds, the children of Kedem; so some render the word, as though it were the name of a nation; and Moses tells us that Kedem was one of the sons of Ishmael. It may be that for this reason Jeremiah joined this people to the Kedareans, (Genesis 25:13.) But I am, however, inclined to the opinion, that he mentions here the children of the East, that is, with respect to Judea; not that they were nigh the Persians or other oriental nations, but he only points out a land to the east of Judea.
But why God took vengeance on that people, the cause is not expressed. It may yet have been that they formerly had much injured the Israelites; God therefore having long spared them at length appeared as their severe judge. And though the reason was unknown, yet it did good to the Jews to know, that God’s hand was extended to every part of the world to execute vengeance; for they might have hence concluded that they were justly punished, because they had rebelled against God; for we know that a servant who willfully and disdainfully disobeys his master, deserves double punishment. (Luke 12:47) When the Jews then saw that these barbarians, who were like wild beasts, could not escape God’s vengeance, they might have thought within themselves how just must have been God’s judgments executed on them, who had knowingly and willfully despised him. This then was one of the benefits to be derived from this prophecy.
And then, as we have elsewhere said, this general rule ought to be borne in mind, that when changes happen in the world, it is necessary, as men’s thoughts and feelings are evanescent, that this warning should be given, that God so rules in all these changes, that chance has no place in them. For when calamities, like a deluge, spread over the whole world, then we think, as it has been stated, that such a confusion happens by chance, and without any cause. For when God afflicts some portion, the difference may lead us to some reflection, — “One part is afflicted and another escapes;” but when evils overwhelm the whole world, then, there being no difference, we think that all things are in a state of confusion, nor can we collect our thoughts so as to know, that God so takes vengeance on all, that he yet regulates his judgments, as it is right, according to his infinite and incomprehensible wisdom and justice. As then this adjustment which God makes, as to his judgments, is not evident to the mind and perception of men, it was necessary, when God was at the same time fulminating through the whole world, that the Jews should be reminded to be ever attentive to the operations of his hand. They saw themselves ruined, they saw the same thing happening to the Egyptians and to all other contiguous nations; at length Assyria was to have its turn, then Chaldea, and afterwards the Medians and Persians. As then no part was to remain untouched, who would not have thought that all things revolved, as it were, through blind and uncertain fate? God, therefore, did not, without reason, forewarn the faithful, lest they should think, that in so great vicissitudes and violent changes, all things were indiscriminately mixed together, but that they might know that God, from heaven, regulated and overruled all these confusions. This is the reason why the Prophets so particularly spoke of the calamities of all nations.
Let us come now to the Kedareans: To Kedar, he says, and the kingdoms of Hazor These kingdoms, no doubt, included a large country, for it is hardly credible that Hazor was the name of a city; for who would have said, the kingdoms of Hazor, had it been only the name of a city? It is, indeed, certain, that there was a city of this name, as it is mentioned by Joshua. But here it means a large region, contiguous to the Kedareans. And he says that all these nations had been smitten by Nebuchadnezzar, because these barbarous men were probably but little known to the Jews. It must yet be observed, that they had not been as yet smitten by Nebuchadnezzar, that is, at the time the Prophet spoke of their destruction. But Jeremiah spoke thus, in order to confirm his prophecy, as though he had said, that what many disregarded, and even treated with disdain, was at length really fulfilled. For when he threatened ruin to these remote nations, it is probable that he was derided by his own people; and hence he says, that he had not spoken in vain, but that by the event itself his vocation was proved, because these were smitten as he had predicted.
And this is the prophecy, Arise ye, ascend against Kedar, and destroy the children of the East (45) Here the Prophet speaks of the Babylonians, and in the person of God, as his herald. And we have said that God’s servants commanded and ordered what was future with supreme authority, in order to gain more reverence and honor to their words or doctrine. For prophecies were despised by ungodly men, and they insultingly said, that they were only words. Hence the servants of God, to show that their words had accomplishment connected with them, assumed the person of God. Thus they boldly commanded the greatest kings, as Jeremiah does here, Arise ye; for whom does he here address? the king of Babylon, that greatest of monarchs, and also the Assyrians as well as the Chaldeans: and he commanded them to arise and to ascend, as though he had them ready for his service, even because he did not speak except by God’s command.
And such mode of speaking ought to be especially observed, that we may learn to embrace whatever is announced in God’s name, as though the thing itself were already before our eyes, and that we may also know that the power of the whole world, is in such a way under God’s control, that all the kingdoms of the earth are ready to fulfill his word. When, therefore, God himself speaks, we ought so to regard the efficacy of his word, as though heaven and earth were ready to obey and to fulfill what he has commanded. It follows, —
The Prophet, in speaking of tents and curtains, had regard to the way of living adopted by that nation; for the Arabs, we know, dwelt in cabins and tents, as they do at this day, and they were also shepherds. They had no cultivated fields, but led their flocks through the deserts; and they had a great number of camels. This is the reason why the Prophet mentions tents, curtains, camels, and flocks, while speaking of the Kedareans; for they dwelt not in a fertile country, they possessed no arable lands, nor had they much other wealth, neither cities nor palaces. The sum of what is said is, that the Kedareans were doomed to destruction, and were therefore exposed as a prey to their enemies.
But as this was difficult to be believed, he adds, They shall cry to them, Terror on every side By these words the Prophet means, that there would be so much dread, that all would suffer their possessions to be plundered, not daring to make any resistance, because terror on every side would lay hold on them. They who read, “They shall call them terror on every side,” think that this is said metaphorically of the soldiers, as they were terrible. Some also say, “The king of Babylon shall call” or summon “terror on every side against them.” But the former explanation is the most probable, that when enemies called or cried out, Terror, terror, as conquerors, they would overcome them by their voice alone. This is, as I think, the real meaning of the Prophet. It now follows, —
Jeremiah continues here the same subject, but more clearly expresses what he had said, Flee, he says, depart far away What follows I read as a parenthesis, Deep have they made to dwell, the inhabitants of Hazor Then Jeremiah proceeds with his subject, because consulted against you has Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, etc. He then bids them to flee to a distance, because Nebuchadnezzar had resolved to destroy them. By counsel and thought or purpose, the Prophet means the secret means by which he subdued the people when they feared no such thing. As then these shepherds lived securely on their mountains, Nebuchadnezzar prepared his forces, and divided them; and thus were these taken by his counsel and craft less than by strength. What the Prophet says here of the counsel and device of Nebuchadnezzar is not superfluous, because he indirectly touched on the sloth of that nation, who exercised no vigilance and thought, their desert being a sufficient cover to them. As then they thus lived securely, the Prophet here reminds them that they would have to do with a cunning enemy, who would contrive and form his counsels at home, and then would execute in due time what he had long meditated.
But a parenthesis follows, Deep have they made; to make more clear the sense, an adversative particle must be considered as understood, Though deep have they made to dwell; for without this exception the prophecy would have been less credible. For Kedareans were on every side fortified, because no one envied them, as they were not only frugal men, but also barbarous and contented with an austere and wretched living. As then they thought themselves thus safe, some one might have raised this objection and said, “Why dost thou bid them to flee? wherefore should they flee? for there is no one so foolish as to attack them.” So also the Scythians laughed at Alexander when he attacked them. “What is your object? you think that you have to do with men; we are wild beasts: and then if you seek wealth and riches, you will not find them with us.” Such then was the state of those nations mentioned here. When, therefore, the Prophet bids them to flee, because Nebuchadnezzar would suddenly attack them, he at the same time adds, Though deep have they made to dwell (46) He had before used this mode of speaking: to make deep to dwell, means to have a safe and hidden standing, remote from all danger. They are then said to be deep in their dwellings who dwell in fortified cities, or who inhabit deserts, or who are hid in some poor country, as the Kedareans and their neighbors. But the Prophet says, that this would not prevent the Babylonians from invading their land, and taking possession of it. It follows, —
Flee ye, move off apace, Retire deep for to dwell, etc.
The meaning is, as he says, that they should go into deep caverns to hide themselves from their enemies. See Jude 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6. — Ed.
He confirms the last verse, repeating what he had already said, Arise, ascend; but he adds, against a quiet nation This was the deep dwelling of which he had spoken; for the Kedareans, as they thought themselves to be as it were in another world, were secure; and hence he says, against a secure nation. The word שליו, sheliu, means delicate, as we have seen elsewhere, but in this place its meaning is secure. For though there might be no joys there, it is yet said to be a secure nation, גוי שליו, gui sheliu, a nation which feared nothing. And then he explains himself, a dweller in confidence, one without fear and anxiety.
And he gives the reason, because they had no need of gates and bars, and they dwelt alone Some interpreters think that the pride of the Kedareans is denoted, because they would not protect themselves in the usual way, and regarded gates and bars as nothing. But the Prophet’s meaning is different, that as they were barbarians and shepherds and beyond the reach of envy, they thought that no enemy would ever come to them. For what are the causes of wars but avarice and ambition? and who would wish to rule over barbarous nations living on their mountains? and then wealth cannot be found in a wild uncultivated country. As then the Kedareans were such, the Prophet says that they dwelt securely, though they were not fortified by gates and bars, but lived alone. He then says that they lived alone, not because they thought much of themselves as being solitary, and regarded themselves as being above kings — for solitude often produces pride and obstinacy; but the meaning of the Prophet, as I have said, is quite different, even because the Kedareans thought that they had no need of friends and assistants, because they depended not on their neighbors for aid, but were contented with their own deserts. And at the same time they did not think that any enemy would disturb them, as there was no cause and no occasion.
We now then perceive again why the Prophet says, that they made deep to dwell, that is, that they had their dwelling deep, even because poverty and the absence of all riches were to them a sort of safe fortress: as they had no splendor and no dignity, they thought themselves exempt from the common lot of other men. But nevertheless he says that the Chaldeans would come and plunder them of what they had. It follows, —
It now follows, 1 will disperse them to every wind Here Jeremiah predicts the scattering of that nation. It sometimes happens that a country is plundered by enemies, when yet the inhabitants, stripped of their goods, remain there and live in poverty. But together with poverty, Jeremiah declares that there would be no ordinary exile, for the words are emphatical, I will scatter them to every wind There is here an implied contrast between that people and chaff; for as the chaff is carried away in all directions by blasts of wind, so would be, as Jeremiah shews, the scattering of that people. And he mentions also the utmost corners, קצוצי פאה,kotsutsi pae Jerome usually renders the words, “shorn of hair,” but very improperly; for there is no reason why the other people mentioned before should be thus called; for in Jeremiah 7:0 and Jeremiah 25:0 Jeremiah did not speak of the Kedareans, and yet he called many nations קצוצי פאה kotsutsi pae The verb קצף kotsets, whence this word comes, means to cut off; and פאה pae, signifies the extremity of anything. This phrase then is the same as though he mentioned those bordered by an extremity or a corner. And this is most suitable to this passage; for it was not probable that they who dwelt in recesses should be thus scattered. When any wealthy country is plundered by enemies, they flee here and there in all directions; for instance, were a part of Italy laid waste, they would flee to those parts who could receive fugitives; but when a nation dwells in an extreme corner, where could it betake itself, when routed by enemies? The Prophet therefore enhances the misery of exile when he says, that people at the extremities would become fugitives, so as to be scattered through all parts of the world.
He adds, and from all its sides will I bring their destruction. He confirms the same thing; for when an evil enters on one side, neighbors may assist; but when calamity urges on every side, miserable men must then of necessity be scattered; and they must seek some distant exile, as there is no part that can show them hospitality. All this then refers to their scattering. It afterwards follows, —
Here Jeremiah concludes his prophecy concerning the Kedareans; he says that their land would be deserted. The Prophets often make use of this way of speaking, that the land, deserted by its inhabitants, would become the habitation of dragons. And this is more grievous than when the land remains empty; for when dragons succeed men, it is a dreadful thing. Hence, that God’s judgment might produce more impression on men’s feelings, the Prophets often declare that a deserted place would become the dwelling of dragons. He adds what imports the same thing, A waste shall it be for an age: but עולם, oulam, means perpetuity. And it is added, Not dwell there shall a man, nor live there shall a son of man There seems indeed to be a superfluity of words, for it would have been sufficient in one sentence to say, that the land would be deserted and not inhabited. But he first assigns it to dragons: then he adds that it would be a waste or solitude; and lastly, he says that no one would dwell there, and not only so, but having mentioned man, he adds the son of man Some indeed think that by man the nobles are referred to, and that by the son of man, or Adam, we are to understand the common people, the multitude. But as we have said elsewhere, this is too refined. It is a repetition which increases the effect, though in the second clause he speaks more generally and expresses the thing more clearly, as though he had said, that no one of the human race would become an inhabitant of that land. (47) It now follows, —
There shall not a man dwell there, Nor shall a son of man sojourn therein.
By Elam some interpreters understand Persia, and it is the most common opinion. I however think that the Elamites were not the same with the Persians; I should rather say that they were the Parthians, were it not that Luke, in Acts 2:9, makes them a distinct people from the Parthians. At the same time it is not right, as it seems to me, to regard the Persians as generally designated by Elam; for the Persians were remote from the Jews, and the Jews never received any injury from that people. There was therefore no reason why the Prophet should denounce punishment on them. The country of Elymais was known as bordering on the Medes, and contiguous to the Persians. But that people must have joined the Assyrians and Chaldeans against the Jews. As then the Babylonians had them as auxiliaries, it was God’s purpose to avenge the injury done to his people. Besides, Pliny also speaks of Elamites as being contiguous to the Nabatheans; but they were occupying, as it were, the middle place between Persia and Judea. They were indeed, as he shews elsewhere, a maritime people; for he speaks often of Elymais, but names the Elamites only once. However this may have been, they were orientals as the Persians were, but not so far from Judea; and as they were, at it has been said, near the Medes, the probability is that they joined themselves with the enemies of the Church, when Nebuchadnezzar drew with him the vast forces which he had everywhere gathered, that he might extend his dominion far and wide; for we shall see in what follows that God was grievously displeased with the Elamites. (48) We hence conclude that they were very hostile to the chosen people, whose cause God here undertakes.
This much as to the name: when, therefore, Jeremiah speaks here of the Elamites, let us know that a particular nation is referred to, and one distinct from the Persians, and then that this nation assisted the Chaldeans in oppressing the Jews. Let us now see what the Prophet declares respecting them.
He says, first, that this word came to him in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah Nebuchadnezzar, then, greatly harassed the Jews, while yet they remained in their obstinacy; and it is probable that the Elamites formed a part of the Chaldean army. When, therefore, the Jews considered how various were their enemies, and when they did not expect that they would ever be punished, it was a trial that must have greatly distressed the minds of the godly. What Jeremiah then declared, no one could have thought of, that is, that the Elamites would not escape unpunished, because they so furiously attacked the chosen people under the banner of King Nebuchadnezzar. This, then, was the reason why the Prophet specified the time: this word, then, came in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah
Then God, in the first place, declares that he would break the bow of Elam The Parthians and other Orientals, we know, were very skillful archers; for every nation possesses its own peculiar excellency in connection with war. Some excel in the use of one kind of weapons, and others in the use of another kind. Formerly light infantry were in high repute among the Italians; the Gauls excelled in mailed horsemen. Though, now, all things are changed, yet still every nation differs as to its peculiar art in war. Now historians testify that the Orientals were very skillful in the use of the bow and arrow. It is, then, no wonder that the Prophet speaks of the bow of this people, and calls it the chief part of their strength, as they excelled in this sort of fighting. The Parthians were indeed much dreaded by the Romans; they pretended to flee, and then they turned back and made an impetuous attack on their enemies. They had also arrows dipped in poison. By these means theyconquered large armies. For the Romans laid by their darts and fought hand in hand, and carried on a standing fight, so to speak; but when the Parthians kept discharging their arrows, they almost always fought unsuccessfully with them. I refer to this, that we may know that the bow was not without reason called the chief of their might, for it was by it that they were superior to other nations, though they could not fight hand in hand nor with drawn swords. It afterwards follows —
He now adds that four winds would come, which would dissipate the whole people. God himself speaks, in order that the word might be more powerful and have more weight. I will rouse up, he says, four winds And we know that the air is in a moment put in motion whenever it pleases God; and when Scripture extols the power of God, it does not without reason refer to the winds; for it is not a small miracle when the whole world is on a sudden put in motion. It is now tranquil, and then in half an hour the winds rise and conflict together in mid air. And God alludes to what is usual in nature: as then he suddenly rouses up winds which make, as it were, the whole world to shake and tremble; so he says he would raise up winds from the four ends of the world. But he speaks metaphorically; by winds he understands enemies, who would on all sides unite their powers to oppress the Elamites. I will bring, he says, on Elam the four winds from the four quarters of the world By the last words he expresses more clearly what I have just said, that God alludes to that formidable power which is daily presented to our eyes in nature. As, then, a sudden change disturbs the whole earth when winds arise, so God declares that he would rouse up four winds from the four quarters of the heavens. And he calls them the quarters of the heavens; for though the winds arise from the earth, yet their blowing is not perceived until they ascend into mid air: and though sometimes they seem to be formed above the clouds, they yet arise from the earth; for the origin of the wind is cold and dry exhalation.
We now understand the reason why the Prophet speaks of the winds. There is yet no doubt but that he denotes some enemies by the four winds; but this prophecy was not fulfilled as long as the Persian monarchy ruled and flourished. It is, then, probable that the destruction denounced by the Prophet took place many ages after, even when the soldiers of Alexander contended about the supremacy; for we know how grievously distressed were all the Orientals when Alexander made an irruption into those countries. It was, indeed, a horrible tempest. But as he enjoyed the empire of the east but for a short time, what is said by the Prophet here was not then fulfilled. But those countries were afterwards so miserable, torn by intestine wars, that the Prophet does not without reason compare those contrary and opposite movements to four winds; for never has there been a fiercer emulation between enemies, and each of them had strong armies. Hence, then, it was, that that land was not oppressed by one enemy, but exposed to various and almost innumerable calamities. This is the reason that leads me to interpret this prophecy as fulfilled in the calamities which followed the death of Alexander the Great.
I will scatter them, he says, to these four winds; that is, as one wind breaks out at one time, and another at another time, so the Elamites shall flee here and there. For no one ruled long peaceably in the East, till almost all the soldiers of Alexander were consumed by mutual slaughters. Then Seleucus obtained Syria, and exercised the cruelest tyranny. But, as I have said, before Seleucus obtained peace and security, the whole of that part of the world had been inundated with blood. This is the reason why the Prophet says that the Elamites would be scattered to these four winds
The end of the verse remains: and there shall be no nation to which some of the fugitives from Elam shall not come We cannot, certainly, show from histories when this was fulfilled which the Prophet now says; but it is probable that that people were scattered at the time when the chiefs contended about the supremacy, that is, those who obtained power under Alexander. At the same time there would be nothing unreasonable were we to say that the Prophet spoke hyperbolically; and no doubt he exceeds due limits when he says “There shall be no nation to which some of the fugitives from Elam shall not come.” He indeed understands all the neighboring nations. But it may also have been that they did not flee to the Asiatics, but rather departed towards the Persian sea or to the Indies. We have already stated why the servants of God sometimes introduced hyperbolical expressions into their teaching, even because they had to do with men who were slow and stupid, who would not hear God when speaking in a simple manner, and could hardly be moved when he thundered. It now follows —
This verse especially shews that the Elamites were of the number of those who had inhumanly raged against God’s people, for he did not without reason set forth the severity of his vengeance towards them. We must, then, bear in mind that the Elamites had been among the chief of God’s enemies, or at least had been in no ordinary way cruel, delighting in slaughters. Hence he says,I will dismay, or affright, etc. The verb חתת, chetat, means to tear in pieces, or to break; it may therefore be rendered, “I will break.” They who render it “I will lay prostrate,” do not seem to know the difference between consternere, to lay prostrate, and consternare, to dismay. But the most suitable meaning is, that God would terrify the Elamites, for he had spoken before of their flight and exile.
He then mentions the cause of their dread, even because God would dismay them and frighten them before their enemies, so that they would not be able to stand before them. By these words he intimates, that however warlike the Elamites were, they yet would not stand their ground when it seemed good to God to render to them their reward, for in his hand are the hearts of men. Though, then, the Elamites were brave, yet the Prophet declares that they would be so faint-hearted at the sight of enemies, as immediately to flee away, even because God would terrify them.
He afterwards adds, I will send the sword after them He means by this clause that he would not be content with terrifying them, but that when they began to flee, he would take them, because he would follow them, that is, urge on their enemies. And it ought ever to be observed, that what proceeds from men is ascribed to God, because men, however little they may think of it, yet execute his purpose, and are not only the proclaimers of his wrath, but also the instruments of it.
But he mentions the evil of the indignation of his wrath (49) This mode of speaking seems indeed harsh; but we have elsewhere stated, that the Prophets did not without reason join together these words, which appear somewhat harsh. Now wrath does not in a strict sense belong to God, for no feelings of this kind appertain to him. But when heat of wrath or indignation is mentioned, it doubles its vehemence in order to shake off the torpor of men, who would otherwise, as I lately said, be wholly insensible and indifferent. In short, by indignation the Prophet means no other thing than that vengeance is dreadful, and ought to astonish all mortals, so that they ought to fall down immediately as it were lifeless, as soon as they hear that God is displeased with them. In the meantime he shews what I have stated, that God was grievously offended with that people whom he threatens with extreme punishment, for he says, until I shall have consumed them We see what I have said, that this people were not slightly chastised, according to what has been mentioned of others: it hence follows that their wickedness had been very atrocious. The two clauses seem however to be inconsistent, — that God would scatter the Elamites through all nations, — and that he would consume them, for dispersion and consumption widely differ. But consumption refers to the body of the nation or to its name, as though he had said, that no Elamites would survive, because they would be merged in other nations, and disappear like chaff. It follows —
And I will bring on them evil, The burning of my wrath, saith Jehovah.
The evil was the effect of God’s high displeasure. — Ed.
He confirms what I have just referred to as to their consumption; but he at the same time adds, that God would be in such a way the avenger as though his tribunal was erected in that land. He threatens that he would destroy the king and the princes; and this, as I have explained, was the consumption; for though some individuals would remain alive, yet the name of the people would not survive, the whole race as such would become extinct.
But these words ought to be noticed — that God would erect his throne. God is said to erect his throne when he rules; but his kingdom is not to be taken always in a good sense. God is properly said to rule or reign among the faithful, whom he governs by his Spirit. So God’s kingdom begins and has its origin when regeneration takes place. But sometimes, as I have already said, God is said to reign in the midst of his enemies, as we have seen respecting the Egyptians. He then erected his throne when he executed his recorded judgment on the Elamites, for though the Elamites were blind, yet God’s power was made really evident, and by the effect he proved that he was the King of that people whose wickedness he punished with so much severity. In short, as God is said to be silent, to sleep, or to lie down, when he does not execute his vengeance; so in this place he is said to erect his throne when he discharges the office of a Judge. It follows —
Here God mitigates the severity of the prediction, because he would at length gather some of the Elamites and restore them, so that they might again obtain some place or honor. He says not in the end of days, but after many days, It shall be in course of time that I will restore the captivity of Elam If it be asked when this was fulfilled, doubtless there has not been a restoration of that nation recorded in history. But the Prophet no doubt gives here a hope to the Elamites, which he gave before to other nations, even that they should be united again under Christ as their head. Though then the Elamites were not afterwards known, yet they have found out that this was not said in vain; nor does the Holy Spirit without reason mention them by the mouth of Luke among others who were converted to Christ. (Acts 2:9.) For though the Elamites were almost unknown, yet he connects them with the Medes and Parthians, “Parthians and Medes and Elamites.” This then was the time of which Jeremiah had prophesied, when he said that the Elamites would again be gathered together, that they might not be perpetually captives. And though they might not have then returned into their own country, yet it was a condition far better and more desirable when they obtained a name and a place in the Church than if they had enjoyed every other blessing in the world. And we know that it is said of Christ, that God would gather under his hand all things scattered both in heaven and earth. (Colossians 1:20.) A part of this scattering was God’s vengeance on the Elamites. Gathered then have been Elamites with others; and thus God at that time stretched forth in a manner his hand to them through Christ the Mediator, and opened to them the door of hope as to eternal life.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 49". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany