WE have already seen that oftentimes punishment is not only mentioned by this Prophet as being nigh at hand, but is also set as it were before our eyes; and we have shewn the reason for this, — because men are not only deaf, but wholly thoughtless, whenever God threatens them. As reproofs make no impressions, and even threatenings are not sufficient to arouse and awake them, it is necessary to set before them vivid descriptions, and to represent the event as present. Jeremiah continues this mode of teaching; he addresses the tribe of Benjamin; for one half of Jerusalem was in the territory of that tribe; And as he was from Anathoth, he addresses his own people and kindred rather than others, as he could use greater freedom. Had he directly reproved the Jews, they might not have so well borne with him; but as he begins with his neighbors, the tribe of Benjamin, it became more easy to bear his reproofs.
Some understand the words, “Be ye assembled, and flee;” others read, “Go ye in haste, “but for what reason I know not. I do not think that flight is meant here; but I rather regard the Prophet as ironically encouraging the citizens of Jerusalem and their neighbors to go forth, as it is usual, to meet their enemies; and this we may easily learn from the context: Be ye assembled, he says, from the midst of Jerusalem; that is, Be aroused and go forth. And he indirectly condemns their indulgences, for they had been lying as it were in the bosom of their mother. Like infants in the womb, the Jews were not apprehensive of any danger; they indulged themselves, and were wholly secure and thoughtless. Hence he says, “From the midst of Jerusalem be ye assembled.” (160)
Then he says, Blow ye the trumpet in Tekoa. They were wont, no doubt, when any danger was at hand, to blow the trumpet in that town; and then the citizens of Jerusalem went forth in large bodies to resist their enemies: for the Prophet follows the usual custom, and speaks as of things well known. And set up a sign on the house of Haccerem, הכרם. No doubt this place was so called, because many forces were planted there. It means literally the house of the vineyard. It is, indeed, a proper name; but its etymology ought to be borne in mind; for as vines were usually planted on hills, it is probable that this place stood high; and a sign might have been thence given to many around. He therefore says, “Set up a sign, משאת, meshat, a word derived from נשא, nesha, which is also found here: but some interpreters render it “fire” or bonfire; others “banner;” and others “tower.” They who render it tower or citadel have no reason in their favor; for towers could not have been suddenly raised up. But it is probable, as I have already said, that thence a sign was given to those around, as from a watch — tower, whenever there was any cause of fear. I am therefore inclined to take the word as meaning a sign; for the word “banner” would have been too restricted. Literally it is, “Elevate an elevation.” The word “sign, “then, is the most suitable. (161)
For an evil, he says, from the north has appeared (162) The Prophet points out whence ruin would soon come, even from the Chaldeans, for God had appointed them as the ministers and the executioners of his vengeance in destroying Jerusalem and the whole tribe of Judah. We hence see what the Prophet means: he ridicules the Jews, who were asleep in their vices, promising to themselves impunity, and despising all the judgments of God: “Be now assembled, “he says, “from the midst of Jerusalem;” as though he said, that they could not be safe in the city, without going forth to meet their enemies: “Blow ye the trumpet in Tekoa;” and then he adds, “Let the inhabitants of Bethhaccerem, “that is, of the house of the vineyard, “set up signals; for an evil is nigh at hand, and a great distress;” from whom? from the Chaldeans. The prediction was more likely to be believed, when he thus pointed out their enemies, as it were, by his finger. It afterwards follows —
Hasten, ye sons of Benjamin, from the midst of Jerusalem.
Where Blayney got the phrase, “Retire in a body,“ it is difficult to say. — Ed.
As the place, where the Prophet was born, was pastoral, he retained many expressions derived from his education; for God did not divest his servants of every natural endowment when he appointed them to teach his people. Hence the Prophet here speaks according to notions imbibed in his early age and childhood. The daughter of Sion, he says, is like a quiet maid, that is, one dwelling at leisure and enjoying herself; and yet she would be exposed to many indignities, for come shall shepherds, and around fix their tents; and the whole country would be subjected to plunder. But it is doubtful whether the Prophet says, that the daughter of Sion might be compared to a maid, tender and delicate, dwelling at ease and cheerful, or whether he means, that rest had been for a time granted to the people. There seems, indeed, to be no great difference, though there is some, between the two explanations.
If we take the verb, דמיתי, damiti, in the sense of comparing, as interpreters do, then it is the same as though the Prophet had said, “I seem to see in the state of Jerusalem the image of a tender and delicate maid.” Thus Jeremiah speaks in his own name. But the sentence may be more fitly applied to God, — that he had made the daughter of Sion quiet for a time, and had given her peace with her enemies, so that she lived at ease and cheerfully.
Though these two views differ, yet the subject itself is nearly the same. The Prophet, no doubt, condemns here the Jews for their extreme torpidity, inasmuch as they had wholly misapplied the quietness granted them by God. He then proves that they were very thoughtless and stupid in thinking that their tranquillity would be perpetual, for it was God’s favor, and only for a time. Hence he says, that the Jews were until that very day like a tender maid. For though the country of the ten tribes had been laid waste, and all had been driven away into exile, yet the kingdom of Judah continued safe. They had, indeed, been plundered by enemies, but in comparison with their brethren they had been very kindly treated. This, then, is the reason, why he says that they were like a maid delicate and tender. (163)
To a pasture and a delightful habitation Have I likened the daughter of Sion.
Disposed to this view were Gataker and Lowth. But what Blayney has said is true, that whenever the verb here used has the sense of likeness, it is followed by a preposition. Besides, the two first words are not substantives but adjectives, as the form, especially of the last, clearly shews. The verb דמיתי has in various passages the sense of thinking, counting, esteeming, regarding; as the result of comparing things together. See Jude 20:5; Esther 4:13; Psalms 48:9. There is a passage in Ezekiel 32:2, which is like the present, only the verb there is in Niphal; its literal rendering I consider to be the following: “The young lion of the nations art thou deemed,“ or, thought to be. The literal rendering of this verse is as follows, —
Home-resident and delicate,
Have I deemed the daughter of Sion.
She was so regarded by God. Not like other nations, migratory, she had a home allotted to her by God himself; and she was nursed and sustained with all tenderness, like a delicate person. But owing to her sins, foreigners, as stated in the next verse, would come and take possession of her house, and deprive her of her enjoyments. — Ed.
But he afterwards adds, Come shall shepherds, etc. ; that is, there is no ground for the Jews to deceive themselves, because God has hitherto spared them, and restrained the assaults of enemies; for now shall come shepherds. He keeps to the same metaphor; “come, “he says, “shall shepherds, “together with their flocks; that is, come shall leaders of armies with their forces. But I have already reminded you, that the Prophet here has a regard to the city where he had been born, and adopts a pastoral language. Come then shall shepherds with their flocks; fix shall they their tents, and feed shall each in his place, he means that the whole of Jerusalem would be so much in the power of enemies, that each one would freely choose his own part or his own portion; for when there is any fear, then the shepherds gather their flocks, that they may assist one another; but when everything is in their own power, they move here and there as they please. This free acting then intimates, that the Jews would have no strength, and would be helped by no aid; but that the shepherds would surround the whole city and besiege it: every one, he says, would be in his own place. (164) It follows —
To her shall come shepherds and their flocks, And pitch by her their tents around, And they shall feed, every one in his border.
“To pitch against her” seems improper: the proposition על means by or near, as well as against. And יד does not mean properly place, but side or border. It is indeed rendered place often in our version. See Numbers 2:17; Deuteronomy 23:12; Isaiah 56:5; and in Isaiah 57:8, “quarter.” The ancient versions differ; the word seems not to have been understood. It is rendered by the Septuagint, “by his hand;” by the Vulgate, “those under his hand;” and by the Targum, “his neighbor.” — Ed
The Prophet leaves here the similitude he had adopted; for he does not now speak of shepherds, but expressly describes the enemies, as coming with great force, and furiously attacking and laying waste both the city and the whole of Judea. He was before like God’s herald, proclaiming war; but he now, by a sort of personification, introduces the Chaldeans encouraging one another to fight. Sanctify, he says, war against her. So the Hebrews speak; for in all ages wars, we know, were proclaimed by a solemn rite. God, no doubt, has implanted this feeling in all nations, that no wars should be suddenly undertaken, and that no arms should be taken up except for a lawful reason: for the proclamation of war was a testimony, that they did not contend with one another but for causes just and necessary. It is indeed true, that wars have been often undertaken rashly, and for no just causes; but yet it was God’s will that this custom should remain and continue in use, in order to take away excuse from men given to cruelty, or led by ambition to disturb the world and harass others. This then is the reason for this manner of speaking, Sanctify war; it is the same as though they declared and proclaimed a just war by a solemn ceremony. It was according to the common practice that the Prophet spoke when he said, Sanctify war against her, as we say in our language, Sommez —la
Then follows the readiness of the enemies, yea, their incredible quickness, for he shews that they were extremely swift, Arise ye, and let us ascend at mid-day. But they who come to assail a city do so usually in the morning. When the heat prevails, it is not a suitable time, for the heat of the sun debilitates the body. Then enemies rest when night comes, except an unexpected advantage should offer itself: but having been refreshed, they rise early with recruited strength for fighting; they scale the walls or assail the city by other means, or beat down the walls by warlike instruments: but to begin the work at mid-day, when a city is to be attacked, is by no means usual. Hence the Prophet intimates, that so ripened was God’s judgment, that the Chaldeans, after having come to the walls of the city, would not wait, no, not even a few hours. Arise ye, and let us ascend at mid-day
He then subjoins, Alas for us, for declined has the day, and the evening shadows are extended. He employs a military language; for soldiers, we know, are for the most part fierce and barbarous, and never speak in moderate terms. They have ever in their mouths, “Alas for us!” or they use some other words, reproachful either to God or to men. The Prophet then expresses the words of the soldiers; for he describes the Chaldeans, and represents, as I have said, to the Jews the scene as present, that he might dissipate their delusions, in which they were wholly asleep. Alas, then, for us ! for declined has already the day, already have the evening shadows extended: they who have added, “Too far,” because they had declined more than usual, have mistaken the meaning of the Prophet. It is the same as though he had said, “Already the night is nigh, and why should we give over? and why do we not make such an impetuous assault as to take the city in a moment?” This is the real meaning of the words.
He afterwards adds, Arise ye, and let us ascend in the night; that is, “As we cannot take the city in six hours, (from mid-day to night were six hours, for they divided the day into twelve hours, and the first hour began at the rising of the sun, and the twelfth hour closed the day,) as then we cannot take the city in six hours, let us attack it in the night.” We see here how graphically is described the extreme ardor of their enemies; for they were urged on by the hidden power of God; and this is what Jeremiah intended to express. (165) He afterwards adds —
Proclaim ye against her war: Rise, and let us ascend by mid-day. — Alas for us! for declined has the day, For extended have become the shadows of the evening: Arise, and let us ascend by night, And destroy her palaces.
The last word is rendered “foundations” by the Septuagint, — “houses” by the Vulgate, — and “palaces” by the Targum. This is an instance of the loose way in which the versions were often made.
To “sanctify war,“ is not to prepare it, but to proclaim it, as Calvin says, by a solemn ceremony. — Ed.
The Prophet now points out the cause why a near calamity awaited both the city and the whole of Judea. Two things were necessary to be done: as the Jews had hardened themselves in their thoughtlessness, so that they disregarded all the threatenings of the prophets, it was necessary to expose and reprove this stupidity. This is what the Prophet has hitherto done. But the other thing needful to be done was, to make the Jews to know that they had not to do with the Chaldeans or other nations, but with God himself, with whom they had for a long time carried on war. The Prophet then, after having set before the eyes of his own kindred the calamity which was then nigh at hand, shews now that God was its author.
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts. He reminds them here of the judgment of God, lest they thought that they could overcome their enemies, even if they fought with the greatest ardor and the greatest courage, for they could not overcome God. Thus then saith the God of hosts; as though he had said, “The Chaldeans will indeed bring their forces, which shall be great and strong; but the contest will be now with God, whom ye have so often and for a long time and so pertinaciously provoked.” Thus then saith now the God of hosts, —
Cut ye down wood; that is, “The Chaldeans will not of themselves attack you, but they will fight for God, and serve him as hired soldiers.” As we have seen elsewhere that God blows the trumpet, and sends by a hiss for whomsoever he pleases; so also he says now that the Chaldeans would carry on war under the authority and banner of God. Command them then did God to cut down wood and to cast up a mound. We indeed know that warlike engines were made of timber, but the most suitable word here, as it is evident, is mound.
It follows, She is the city of visitation. Jeremiah shews here that God would justly act towards the Jews, though with much severity, because they had nearly become putrid in their vices; for this reason he calls it the city of visitation. They therefore who render the words, “that it may be laid waste, “or, “it is laid waste, “misconceive the meaning; and indeed they touch neither heaven nor earth, for they consider not the Prophet’s design, but only dwell on the words. But it is certain, that Jerusalem is called the city of visitation, because God had exercised long patience and suspended punishment, until the ripened time of vengeance came, so that it could no longer be endured, inasmuch as it had become more and more corrupt through the forbearance of God. It is, he says, the city of visitation; that is, “The time of extreme vengeance is now come; for I have tried all means to see whether there was any hope of repentance; but I now find that she is wholly irreclaimable. She is then the city of visitation; its ruin cannot be suspended any longer.”
The Prophet obviates here, as I have already said, all those complaints which the Jews were ever ready to make; for they were wont to murmur when any severity appeared, and say, “God deals cruelly with us; where is his covenant? where is that paternal kindness which he has promised to us?” As then the Jews were wont thus to expostulate with God, the Prophet says that it was the city of visitation, and the whole of it, and not a part only. As then there was nothing pure in it, he says that it could no longer be spared: and he adds one kind of evil; but stating a part for the whole, he means (as it is said elsewhere, Jeremiah 7:11) that Jerusalem was a den of thieves: he therefore says that it was full of rapines, and that oppression was in its very bowels. (166) It follows —
She, the city, to be visited is the whole of it:
Oppression is in the midst of it.
The verb הפקד is an infinite Niphal. Some, not perhaps without reason, have rendered the first line,
“For thus has Jehovah of hosts said.”
The Prophet enlarges on what he had said in the last verse; for he had shewn, by mentioning one kind of evil, that Jerusalem was a den of thieves, as oppression dwelt in the midst of it. But he now, by a comparison, amplifies his former statement, and says, that violence, oppression, devastation, grief, and smiting, streamed forth like waters from a fountain. It is possible for many vices to break out from a place, but repentance afterwards follows; but when men cease not, and heap vices on vices, it then appears that they swell with wickedness, and even burst with it, as they cannot repress it: they are like a fountain, which ever bubbles up, and cannot contain its own waters. We hence see the object of the Prophet.
The word בור, bur, means a fountain, and באר, bar, means also a fountain, or a well, and they are no doubt synonymous: and hence appears the mistake of a very learned man among the Hebrews, who makes a difference between the two, and says that the first is a cistern, which receives waters, but has no streaming. That this is false appears from the words of the Prophet; for a cistern does not cast forth water.
But with regard to what is taught, we sufficiently understand that what the Prophet means is, — that the Jews had so given up themselves to their vices, that they were ever contriving some new way of doing evil, as waters never cease to stream forth from the fountain; and it is a proof, as I have said, that a nation is wholly irreclaimable, when there is no cessation from evil deeds, when there is no intermission of injuries, when men ever indulge in their vices; and as the Jews could not deny that such was the atrocity of their wickedness, the Prophet again assumes the name of God, and says, Heard have been oppressions, and smitings are before me; as though he had said, “They will gain nothing by evasions, for if they make a hundred excuses before men, it will be wholly useless to them when they shall come before God’s tribunal.” And he again adds the adverb dymt, tamid, continually, which answers to the perpetual streaming of waters. (167) It follows —
7.As cast forth does a spring its waters, So cast forth is her wickedness: Violence and plunder are heard of in her; Before me continually are wounding and smiting.
The first verb is in Hiphil, the second is in Huphal. “Violence” was the visible act; “plunder” or spoiling was the object or the motive; “wounding” was the effect; “smiting” was the cause. Such is often found to be the way of stating things observed by the Prophets.
Blayney renders the two last words “sickness and smiting,“ and adds, that the two words are a Hendiadis, and signify “sickness occasioned by blows.” The true reason for the order is what has been stated: it is according to what is commonly done in Scripture; what is found often is not the progressive, but the retrogressive order.
The Septuagint and the Targum have strangely rendered this verse in a manner wholly inconsistent with the context; nor are the other versions much better. The Hebrew is plain enough. — Ed.
Though the Prophet had spoken as though there was no remedy for the evils of Jerusalem, he yet exhorts it to seek peace with God, and addresses men past remedy in his name. It is then the same as though God was stopping in the middle course of his wrath, and saying, “What is to be done? Shall I destroy the city which I have chosen?” He then attributes here to God a paternal feeling, as we also find in several other places: God appeared as unwilling to proceed to extreme rigor in punishing his people.
“Alas! I will now take vengeance on mine enemies,”
he says by Isaiah. (Isaiah 1:24)
He called them enemies, and justly too; for as it was said before, they ceased not to carry on war against him; but he spoke with grief: “Alas! must I take vengeance on mine enemies; I would, however, willingly spare them, were it possible.” God is not indeed subject to grief or to repentance; but his ineffable goodness cannot be otherwise expressed to us but by such mode of speaking. So also, in this place, we see that God as it were restrains himself; for he had previously commanded the enemies to ascend quickly the walls, to overturn the towers, and to destroy the whole city; but now, as though he had repented, he says, Be instructed, (168) Jerusalem; that is, “Can we not yet be reconciled?” It is like the conduct of an offended father, who intends to punish his son, and yet desires to moderate his displeasure, and to blend some indulgence with rigor. Be then instructed; that is, “There is yet room for reconciliation, if thou wishest; provided thou shewest thyself willing to relinquish that perverseness by which thou hast hitherto provoked me, I will in return prove myself to be a father.”
There is no doubt but the object of the threatenings of the prophets was to lead the people to know their sins, and suppliantly to seek pardon; for why were the unbelieving threatened, except that God thereby proved whether they were healable? It is indeed true that the reprobate are known by God, and that God does not try or seek to find what is in their hearts, as though he did not know their obstinacy; but as I have already said, God speaks here after the manner of men: and he also shews what is the end of teaching, which is to lead men to repentance; and this cannot be done without giving them the hope of pardon and reconciliation. The Prophet thus briefly shews here for what purpose he had hitherto so dreadfully threatened the Jews, even to lead them at length to repentance.
Lest torn shall be my soul from thee (169) Here God more clearly shews that he was as yet restrained by love. He alludes no doubt to a similitude which we have observed in another place; for God sustains the character of a spouse to his Church; and hence he shews, that he had not yet divested himself of that love which a husband has towards his wife. For a husband, when grievously offended at his wife, cannot immediately throw aside his conjugal affection; some feeling of this kind will ever remain. And we have seen in the fourth chapter, that God surpasses all husbands in kindness; for he says there, “When a repudiated wife has found another husband, will the former receive her again? Return to me, thou harlot, return to me, thou strumpet and adulteress, and I am ready to pardon thee.” It is the same course that God pursues here, “Be instructed, Jerusalem, lest my soul wholly depart from thee;” as though he had said, “Even though I am now angry, and have resolved severely to punish thy perfidy and rebellion, I shall yet be reconciled to thee, provided thou returnest.” And it is added, Lest I make thee a desolate land, a land uninhabited
The Prophet in short shews in this verse, that however grievously offended God was with his people, there was yet a hope of pardon; for he would be propitious to the people, if they turned and humbly confessed their sins, and sought to return into favor with him. It follows —
God here confirms the former statement, as though he had said, that he dreaded a sight so sad and mournful, which yet the Jews disregarded. He then shews, that he did not in vain exhort the Jews, even though late, to repent, for he foresaw how dreadful would be their calamities. Hence he says, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Gleaning they shall glean; for the word here does not mean to gather the vintage, but to glean, grapiller, after the vintage. As after the harvest the poor follow and gather ears of corn here and there, until nothing remains in the field; so also in vintages when there is a gleaning, nothing remains. Hence God in the law forbade the vineyards to be gleaned, that there might be something left for the poor. (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:21.) But he says here, “Gleaning they shall glean as a vine;” he speaks not of the people but of the remnant.
The ten tribes had been plundered, and at length their whole country had been laid waste, most of them had been led into exile, but a few had sought hiding — places for a time: and he says that they were like gleanings: “though, “he says, “there be a few grapes, yet these shall follow.” In short, the Prophet sets before the Jews that vengeance of God, which was known already to them as much as to the Israelites, the ten tribes: and yet he shews that God’s vengeance was not completed, for there were still a few remaining, a gleaning: “What then shall come of you? What indeed! ye have seen that your brethren have been plundered, ye have seen that they and their children have been slain; ye have seen that all kinds of cruelty have been exercised towards them; and yet after the name of Israel has been obliterated, and their country now deserted, has become a waste, God will still punish the remnant, and ye shall see that his judgment will shortly overtake them; and what do ye, wretched beings, yet look for? and how great is your torpidity, which never comes to an end? why do you not seek to be reconciled to God, when such an opportunity is offered to you?”
We now then apprehend the Prophet’s object. And then he says, Return thy hand as a vintager to the baskets; that is, “Behold the vintagers, they stimulate one another; so that there is no end of gleaning, as they ever return to their baskets, until they gather everything, until there remains not a grape on the vine.” (170)
Turn again thine hand, like a grape-gatherer, unto the baskets.
“That is, Take thou again into thine hand, and begin the work of gathering or gleaning anew.” He takes it as God’s address to the Chaldeans, in which they are exhorted repeatedly to return and to carry away captives the remaining inhabitants. But this does not comport with the simile of the vintager returning the hand to the baskets. It seems to be a command to put in safe custody those whom they took or gleaned, as a vintager, who, when he plucks a grape or a cluster, puts it safely in a basket to be carried away. The “hand” is put here for what the hand holds-the grapes or clusters. It is then the same as though he had said, “Lay up, as a vintager, what you glean, in baskets.” The Jews were gathered, not to be destroyed, but to be carried away into captivity. This seems to have been the intimation here, —
Return thine hand, like a vintager, unto the baskets.
That is, Throw not away what you gather, but let the hand, that is stretched forth to reach the grapes, bring back what it gleans into the baskets. The Vulgate is, “Turn (converte) thine hand as a vintager to his basket.” The Septuagint. “Turn ye ( ἐπιστρέψατε) as a vintager to his basket.” The Syriac is the same with the Vulgate, except that it has “gleaning” instead of “basket.” The Arabic corresponds with the Septuagint. The Targum has an unintelligible paraphrase. — Ed
The Prophet here shews there was no reason for him to labor any longer in trying to reform the people, for he spoke to the deaf. He had said before, according to our lecture yesterday, that God was still ready to be reconciled to the Jews, if they repented; but now, referring to himself, he says that his words were wholly lost. Hence he asks a question as respecting a thing strange or unexpected. To whom, he says, shall I speak? and to whom shall I protest? He had indeed, as we found yesterday, exhorted the people to repent: but there is nothing inconsistent in all this; for he wished, as far as he could, to secure, the safety of the people. Even God had commanded this; and it was his will, as it was yesterday stated, that a testimony should be borne, that it was not his fault, according to what had been taught, that he was not reconciled to the people.
We now then see that the whole passage harmonizes; for Jeremiah performed his office in trying to find out whether the people were healable; but when he saw that such were their obstinacy that it allowed of no remedy, he exclaims as one astonished, To whom shall I speak? and to whom shall I protest? The meaning is, that the people were so given up to impiety, that the prophets spent their labor in vain while endeavoring to reform them. And the first clause he confirms by another, To whom shall I protest? He intimates that they had despised not only what had been plainly taught them, but also protestations, which possess much greater power. He means that their wickedness could be cured by no remedies, that they had not only rejected plain truth and serious warnings, but had also perversely resisted solemn protestations.
That they may hear, he says. He intimates, that though he had faithfully performed his office, yet his labor was without any fruit, for all the Jews were deaf. Hence he adds, Behold, uncircumcised is their ear This metaphor is common in the prophets. The uncircumcised ear is that which rejects all true doctrine. An uncircumcised heart is that which is perverse and rebellious. But we ought to understand the reason of this: as circumcision was an evidence of obedience, so the Scripture calls those uncircumcised who are unteachable, who cast away every fear of God and all sense of religion, and follow their own lusts and desires. But to be thus called was greatly disliked by the Jews; for circumcision gave them no common ground of confidence, since it was the symbol and pledge of adoption, and since they knew that they were thereby separated from other nations so as to be called God’s holy people. But the Prophet divested them of this vain conceit by calling them uncircumcised in heart and ears, for they had dealt perfidiously with God when they promised to be obedient to his will.
The external sign was of itself nothing, when the end was disregarded. It was God’s will to consecrate his ancient people to himself by circumcision: but when they became satisfied with the visible sign only, there was no longer the reality, and God’s covenant was profaned. It is the same at this day with respect to baptism; they who wish to be deemed Christians, boast of it, while at the same time they shew no fear of God, and while their whole life obliterates the true character of baptism. It is hence evident, that they are sacrilegious, for they pollute what is holy. And for this reason Paul calls the letter [the outward rite] of circumcision, a sign without the reality. (Romans 2:27.) So at this day baptism may be called the letter in all the profane, who have no regard to its design: for God receives us into his Church on the condition that we are the members of Christ, and that being ruled by his Spirit we renounce the lusts of our flesh. But when we seek under the cloak of baptism to associate God with the Devil, it is a most detestable sacrilege. Such was the stupid presumption of the Jews. This was the reason why the prophets so often charged them with being uncircumcised in hearts and ears: “Ye are God’s holy people; give a proof of this: ye indeed boast that you have been circumcised; surely, the cutting off of a small pellicle does not satisfy God; shew that your hearts and ears have been circumcised: but uncircumcision remains in your hearts, and it remains in your ears; ye are then heathens.”
We now then see the meaning of the Prophet, and also the reason why Scripture speaks so much of the uncircumcision of the hearts and ears, and it was this, — to prove the Jews guilty of profaning that sign, which ought to have been a pledge of their adoption, and to have served as a profession of a new life.
It was not to lessen their guilt that Jeremiah said, They could not attend or give ear. If any one objects and asks, “Ought it to be deemed a crime that they could not attend?” The Prophet, as I have said, did not extenuate their guilt, but on the contrary shewed that they were so sunk in their vices, that they were not masters of themselves; as the case is with a drunkard, who is not in his right mind; but as he has contracted this vice of intemperance, his going astray or his ignorance is in no way excusable. So also the Prophet says, that the Jews could not attend to the word of the Lord, because they had surrendered themselves up to the Devil, so that they were become his slaves; as Paul says of those who were without the grace of God, that they were sold under sin, (Romans 7:14;) and the Scripture says elsewhere the same.
In short, Jeremiah here teaches us, that such was the habit of sinning contracted by the Jews, that they were no longer free to do what was right; for the Devil led them here and there at his pleasure, as though they were bound in his chains. And thus he sets forth their depravity as hopeless. Even Aristotle, though he is of no authority as to the power of the will, for he holds free-will, (he knew nothing of original sin and of the corruption of nature,) yet allows that those who are otherwise wholly free cannot do what is right, when they become so hardened in their vices, that intemperance, ἀκράτεια, rules in them: for intemperance is a tyrant, which so subdues all the feelings and senses of men, that all liberty is destroyed. We now then see what the Prophet had in view: he meant not that the Jews sinned, because they had not the power to resist; but because they had so plunged themselves into the abyss of wickedness, that they had sold themselves as it were to the Devil, who held them fast bound, and furiously drove them along as he pleased.
And this we learn more fully from what follows; for he says, Behold, the word of Jehovah has been to them a reproach; and it has not pleased them, or they have not delighted in it; for חפף means to take delight in a thing. The Prophet now more clearly shews, that the fault was in the Jews themselves, because they had despised God. Whence then was the impotence of which he had spoken? Even from their licentiousness, because they deemed God and his prophets as nothing. Since, then, their minds were thus hardened so as impiously to despise the truth, it followed that they could not hear and attend, inasmuch as they were deprived of all right knowledge. Whence was this? Even because they had closed their eyes and deafened their ears, and given themselves up altogether to the Devil, so that he led them into every kind of madness. In short, he shews at the end of the verse what was the beginning of all their evils, even because the word of God did not please them, that is, because they had cast aside every care for true religion, because they were not pleased when the prophets came and offered to them the favor of God. As then the truth had become unsavory to them, so that they rejected it, when it ought to have been especially delightful to them, so it happened that they became wholly stupid and void of all judgment and reason; and hence also came the uncircumcision of the ears of which mention has been made. (171) It follows —
To whom shall I speak, And protest, so that they will hear? Behold, uncircumcised is their ear, So that they cannot hearken; Behold, the word of Jehovah Has become to them a reproach, They delight not in it.
“A reproach” is to be the subject of reproach: the word of God by his prophets was despised and treated with contempt. This was the visible and palpable effect, but the cause was, that they had no delight in it or love for it.
The prophet here rises higher; for it was not enough simply to set forth the truth to refractory men, but it was necessary to stimulate them even sharply, and sometimes to wound them, for they could not otherwise be roused, so great was their hardness. Hence the Prophet proceeds in the same strain with what we observed yesterday; and he declares that he was full of the indignation of God. This may be taken passively and actively, — that the Prophet was indignant with holy zeal, because he undertook the cause of God, — or, that he dreaded the judgment, which the Jews nevertheless in no way heeded. But he speaks here no doubt according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as though he said, that he did not announce what his own mind suggested, but what was dictated by the Spirit of God. This indignation is, in short, to be applied to what was taught, as though he had said, “If I address you with great vehemence, think not that as a man I forget moderation, being influenced by wrath; but the Spirit of God leads and impels me. Whatever indignation then is found in my language, whatever vehemence and sharpness and menacing, all this is from God’s Spirit, and not from my own feelings as a man.” It was on this account that he says, that he was filled with the indignation of God.
What follows confirms this statement; for he says, that he was wearied with restraint; as though he said, that so great was the impulse of God’s wrath, that it could not be withheld from breaking out into vehemence. And hence we learn, as I have said, that the Prophet declares no other thing than that he was not moved by his own indignation, or by any feeling of his own nature, but that he of necessity followed where he was led by the hidden influence of God’s Spirit, lest what he taught might be despised; for the Jews had long accustomed themselves to use their taunts and to say, that they were not to be frightened like children. That the Jews then might not thus trifle, Jeremiah declares, that he was so filled with the indignation of God, that he could contain himself no longer, but must denounce on his own kindred what God had committed to his charge. As we shall elsewhere see the same mode of speaking, and in more express terms, I shall proceed without making any farther remarks.
He afterwards says, I shall pour it out, etc. He no doubt continues the same subject. He then says, that since he could no longer suppress the vengeance of God, whose herald he was, he would now pour it out, and that upon the children, he says, in the streets He doubtless means by these words that there was nothing pure among the people, for the very children were involved in the same guilt. Since, then, impiety so prevailed that even children in their tender age were not exempt from it, it was an evidence of a hopeless condition. This is what the Prophet means by saying, that he would pour wrath upon children. Then he adds, upon the assembly, etc. The word סוד , sud, means a congregation, or an assembly; and it means also counsel. But as the Prophet speaks of streets, there seems to be a contrast between streets and counsels, as though he said, that children playing in the streets were without any counsel or understanding: but still I include with them the old and the grown up men, for they are all exposed to God’s judgment. He then adds, the counsel of young men; for there is more discretion and prudence in young men grown up to maturity. The Hebrews do not call youths of fifteen בחורים , bachurim, but men of full and mature age; and the word is derived from a verb which means to choose. They then who are in the flower of their age are called בחורים, bachurim, because they are endued with discretion, and do not play in the streets like children. The Prophet then says, that God’s wrath would now be poured forth on children, and also on men grown up to the age of twenty or thirty.
For the husband, he says, with his wife shall be taken, the aged with the full of days Some think that the full of days was the decrepit: but by זקן, zaken, I understand the aged, and by the full of days, all those already grown into maturity, as those from fifty to eighty may be so called. He means, in short, that no one would be exempt from suffering God’s vengeance, as impiety had pervaded all stations, ranks, and ages. (172) It follows —
But with the wrath of Jehovah have I been filled; I am weary of restraining to pour it forth On the child in the street, And on the assembly of young men also; Yea, both man and woman shall be taken, The aged and the full of days.
It is unusual to have two infinitives following one another: but the Welsh is capable of expressing the Hebrew literally, —
(lang. cy) Blinais ymattal dywallt.
Nothing can express the original more exactly. It is better to say “man and woman, “as Gataker proposes, than “husband and wife;” for the object is to shew, that all, including every age and both sexes, were to be visited with judgment. — Ed
One kind of vengeance only he mentions, — that the Jews would be deprived of their land, which they thought would ever remain in peace to them. Inasmuch as it had been said,
“This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell,” (Psalms 132:14)
they imagined that they could not be driven out of it: and they entertained the thought, that their dwelling in the land of Canaan was as certain as that of the sun and moon in the heavens. As then they deceived themselves by this foolish confidence, the Prophet says, that there would be a change, that God would transfer their houses to foreign nations.
He then mentions their fields and their wives All this seemed incredible to the Jews: but it was necessary to denounce on them so dreadful a vengeance, that they might at length be awaked. And then he subjoins the reason why: For God will extend his hand. The Prophet here reprobates their obstinacy, because it made God their enemy; as though he had said, that there was no cause for them to think that the possession of the land would be undisturbed, for God was offended with them. Whence, indeed, did the possession of the land come to them, except from God’s gratuitous favor? Now, if God was adverse to them, what hope remained for them? We now, then, see that the Prophet at the end of the verse mentions the cause, that the Jews might know that what he said of the transfer of their houses, lands, and wives to others was not incredible. It follows —
The Prophet now again declares, that it was nothing strange that God resolved to deal with so much severity with that people, and to execute on them extreme vengeance; for no part was whole and sound, but impiety had pervaded all ranks. It might, indeed, be ascribed to the young, as well as to the old, for he says, From the small to the great; but I prefer to understand the first clause of the poor and the lower orders, and the second of the higher ranks, who excelled in power and wealth among the people. He says, then, that contempt of God and every kind of wickedness prevailed, not only in one part but in the whole community, so that there was no soundness from the head to the soles of the feet. We now, then, perceive what the Prophet means by saying, From the small to the great (173)
And this appears still clearer from the end of the verse, where he says, From the prophet to the priest He amplifies here what he had said of the small and the great. Hence we see, that by the great he understands not those of mature or advanced age, but such as were in dignity and honor, who were in esteem on account of their wealth or of other endowments. So also, on the other hand, he does not call those small who were young, but such as were despised, who were of the lowest order, and formed as it were the dregs of society: for as I have said, he amplifies what he had said, by adducing the prophets and the priests. Even though the king and his court were extremely wicked, yet some care for religion ought to have prevailed among the prophets and the priests; there ought at least to have been among them some decency; for they were appointed for the purpose of carrying light for others. As, then, even these were apostates, and had degenerated from the true worship of God, what could have been found among the rest of the people?
We now, then, see that the mouth of the ungodly was here closed, so that they could not expostulate with God or blame his severity, for they had all arrived at the highest pitch of impiety, inasmuch as the prophets and the priests were no less corrupt than the common people.
By saying that all coveted covetousness, he refers to frauds and base gain; in that he includes every kind of avariciousness. (174) By saying that the priests and the prophets wrought falsehood, or acted fraudulently, he means the same thing, but in other words, even that there was no integrity in those teachers who ought to have been leaders to the blind: for God had ordained them that they might, as I have said, carry light to all others and shew them the way of salvation. It follows —
For from the least of them to the greatest of them, His all is to gain;
And from the prophet to the priest, His all is to act falsely.
“His all” means all his object, or all that he did. — Ed.
This is to be applied to the prophets and priests alone; they not only corrupted the people by their bad example, but also shook off every fear of God, and by their impostures and false boasting took away every regard and respect for the teaching of the true prophets. He then says, that they healed to no purpose, or with levity or slightness, (175) the wound of the people He says, by way of concession, that they had healed the wounds of the people: but it was no cure, when the evil was increasing. They were like the unskillful, who by rashly applying false remedies, cause inflammation, even when the disease is not serious; or like those who are only bent on easing pain, and cause the increase of the disease within, which is the more dangerous as it is more hidden. This is not to heal, but to kill. But the Prophet, as I have said, concedes to them the work of healing, and then states the issue, — that they were executioners and not physicians. They have healed, he says, the wound of my people: He takes the words, as it were, from their mouth, “Ye are verily good physicians! for by your flatteries ye have soothed my people: there was need not only of sharp medicine to stimulate and to cause pain, but also of caustics and of amputations; but ye have only applied lenients. This is your way of healing! ye have thus healed the wound of my people, even by plasters and ointments to drive inward the disease; but what has been the effect?”
He then immediately shews what sort of healing it was: It was saying, Peace, peace The evil we know is an old one, common almost to all ages; and no wonder, for no one wishes otherwise than to please himself; and what we observe daily as to the ailments of the body, is the same as to the diseases of the soul. No sick person willingly submits to the advice of his physician, if he prohibits the use of those things which he desires: “What am I then to do? it were better to die than to follow this advice.” And then, if the physician bids him to take a bitter dose, he will say, “I would rather a hundred times endure any pain than to drink that draught.” And when it comes to bleeding and other more painful operations, as caustics and things of this kind, O the sick man can stand it no longer, and wishes almost any evil to his physicians. What then experience proves to be true as to bodily diseases, is also true, as I have said, as to the vices of the mind. All wish to deceive themselves; and thus it happens that they wish for such prophets as promise them large vintages and an abundant harvest, according to what is said by the Prophet Micah:
“Behold,” says God, “ye wish to have prophets who will speak to you of rich provisions and of every kind of affluence; and ye do not wish them to prophesy evil; ye would not have them to denounce on you the punishment which you fully deserve.” (Micah 2:11)
As, then, the despisers of God wished to be soothed by flatteries, and reject the best and the most salutary remedies, hence God has from the beginning given loose reins to Satan, and hence impostors have gone forth, whose preaching has been, Peace, peace; but to no purpose; for there is nothing real in such healing, for the Lord says, there is no peace
The bolder any one is who professes to heal, if he be unskillful, the more disastrous will be the issue. Hence the Prophet shews that the cause of the extreme calamity of the Jews was, because they were deceived by their own priests and teachers. He does not at the same time, as it has been elsewhere observed, excuse them, as though the whole blame belonged to their false teachers. For how was it that the false prophets thus fascinated them? Even because they knowingly and willfully destroyed themselves; for they would not receive honest and skillful physicians: it was therefore necessary to give them up to such as killed them. It follows —
The idea of “slightly,“ or “superficially,“ as rendered by Blayney, is not countenanced by any of the foregoing versions, nor can the original words bear this meaning. The word נקלה, is found as a Niphal participle, and applied to man, as a despised, contemptible, or worthless being, — 1 Samuel 18:23; Proverbs 12:9; Isaiah 3:5; Isaiah 16:14. But here it refers to the means used for healing, which, according to all the versions, was something contemptible, worthless, useless, and which is afterwards named, being no more than saying, Peace, peace, when in fact there was no peace.
And healed have they the bruise Of the daughter of my people with what is worthless, Saying, “Peace, peace;” and there was no peace.
Jeremiah turns now his discourse to the whole people. In the last verse he reproved only the priests and the prophets; he now speaks more generally, and says, that they had put off all shame. “Behold,” he says, “they are sufficiently proved guilty, their wickedness is manifest, and yet there is no shame. Their disgrace is visible to heaven and earth; angels and all mortals are witnesses of their corruption; but they have such a meretricious front that they are touched by no sense of shame.” He means, in these words, that the wickedness of the people was past all remedy; for they had arrived to that degree of stupor, of which Paul speaks, when he calls those ἀπηλγηκότας, who were obstinate in their vices, who saw no difference between right and wrong, between white and black. (Ephesians 4:19.)
This, then, is what the Prophet means when he says, Have they been ashamed? But a question is much more emphatical, than if it was a simple reprobation or affirmation. They have not been even ashamed, he says. In their very shame, they knew not what it was to be touched by any shamefacedness. This may be classed with those reproofs, by which they had not been subdued; as though he had said, “Efforts having been made to expose their effrontery, in not humbling themselves under the hand of God; they shall therefore fall among the fallen;” that is, “I will dispute no longer with them, nor contend in words, but will execute on them my judgment.” Fall, then, shall they among the fallen; as though he had said, “I have more than sufficiently denounced war on them: had they been healable it would have availed to their conversion, that they had been so often warned; and still more, that I have so sharply stimulated them to come to me: but I will now no more employ words, on the contrary, I will execute my vengeance, so that the calamity which they have derived may devour them.” (176)
They shall wholly fall, he says, in the day of their visitation From this second clause we understand more clearly what it is or what he means when he speaks of falling among the fallen, which is, that they should wholly fall, when God would come as it were with a drawn sword to destroy them, having been wearied with giving them so many warnings.
15.Exposed to shame have they been, Because abomination have they wrought: Neither with shame are they ashamed, Nor how to be abashed do they know; Therefore fall shall they with the fallen; At the time when I shall visit them, They shall perish, saith Jehovah.
There is no necessity to make this verse and the 12th of chap. 8 (Jeremiah 8:12) the same in every particular, as Blayney attempts to do. Both passages are the same in meaning, with a little variety in some of the words. The particle גם, repeated, may be rendered by, either and nor. See Numbers 23:5. The verb הכלים is an infinitive Huphal. It is rendered as an infinitive by the Vulgate. “ They shall perish,“ which is according to the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Arabic, is literally, “They shall be made to stumble.” — Ed
The Prophet teaches us here that the fault of the people could not be extenuated as though they had sinned through ignorance; for they had been warned more than necessary by God. The same sentiment is found in Isaiah,
“This is your rest; but they would not hear.” (Isaiah 28:12.)
But our Prophet more at large condemns the Jews; for God had commanded them to stand in the ways, to look and to inquire respecting all the old paths. He uses a similitude: and we ought not to doubt respecting the way, since it has been shewn to us by the mouth of God. But the impiety of the people is exposed and reproved, because they did not so much as open their eyes, when God shewed them the way and allowed them a free choice: for he introduces God here, not strictly as one who commands, but as one who shews so much indulgence, that the people were free to choose the way they approved and thought best. When God deals so kindly with men, and so condescendingly sets before them what is useful and expedient, it is the basest ingratitude to reject such kindness on God’s part.
We now then understand the Prophet’s design in saying, that God had commanded them to stand in the ways and to consider what was best to be done. Consider, he says, and ye shall find rest, that is, that ye may find rest (for the copulative here denotes the end) to your souls (177) Here the Prophet means, that it remained only with the Jews to secure prosperity and a quiet state; for if they had obeyed the counsel of God, rest would have been provided for them: in short, he means, that they were miserable through their own willfulness; for God had set before them the prospect of a happy condition, but this favor had been despised by them, and wantonly despised, as these words intimate, And they said, We will not walk in it
We see that the people’s perverseness is here discovered; because they might have otherwise objected and said, that they had been deceived, and that if they had been in time warned, they would have obeyed good and wise counsels. In order to cut off this handle, Jeremiah says, that they from deliberate wickedness had rejected the rest offered them by God: they have said, We will not walk in it. This resolution deafly shews that they obstinately remained in their sins; so that the rest, which was within their reach, was not chosen by them.
This passage contains a valuable truth, — that faith ever brings us peace with God, and that not only because it leads us to acquiesce in God’s mercy, and thus, as Paul teaches us, (Romans 5:1,) produces this as its perpetual fruit; but because the will of God alone is sufficient to appease our minds. Whosoever then embraces from the heart the truth as coming from God, is at peace; for God never suffers his own people to fluctuate while they recumb on him, but shews to them how great stability belongs to his truth. If it was so under the Law and the Prophets, as we have seen from Isaiah, how much more shall we obtain rest under Christ, provided we submit, to his word; for he has himself promised it, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” And ye shall find rest, he says here, to your souls. This passage then serves to commend this celestial truth, that it avails to pacify consciences, so that there is no perplexity nor doubt. It follows —
The representation is that of travelers, who, when doubtful as to the right road, are to stand, that is, to stop, to look, and also to inquire. There were several old paths before them, but they were to inquire which was the good way, and to walk in it. This was what Jehovah by his prophets had exhorted the people to do, who had false prophets among them; but they refused to do so. It is a relation of what God had done, —
Thus has Jehovah said, — “Stand ye by the ways and look, And ask, as to the paths of old, Where that is, the good way; And walk ye in it, And ye shall find rest to your souls:” But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
There were many paths of old, or of antiquity, as there are still; but there was one good way, the way of God’s word. That the way is old is no proof that it is good. Error’s ways are as old as the way of truth. — Ed.
This is an explanation of the last verse, yet not simply so; for the Prophet by a similitude aggravates the obstinacy of the people, who were not only deaf to the Prophet’s admonitions, but would not be roused by the sound of the trumpet, nor even attend to it. The sound of the trumpet ought to have penetrated into their minds more than anything else for two reasons, — because it was louder than any voice of man, — and also, because we do not usually hear the trumpet sounding, except when war is at hand, or when there is the fear of war.
We hence see why the Prophet, after having announced his message, mentions the sound of the trumpet; as though he had said, that not only the prophets were despised, while teaching the people, but that the sound of the trumpet, announcing the approach of war, was not attended to by them. The stupidity of the people, and not only their stupidity, but as I have said, their perverseness also, was more fully proved, than if the Prophet had simply said, that they had resolved not to hear. It now follows —
He turns now to address the nations, which had never heard anything of true religion. But the design of the apostrophe was, to make the Jews ashamed of their insensibility and deafness, for more attention and understanding were found among heathen nations. This was surely very great shame: the Jews had been plainly taught by the Law and by the Prophets, God had continued morning and evening to repeat the same things to them, that the nations, who had never heard the prophets and to whom the Law had not been given, should still be endued with more understanding and judgment than the Jews — this was very shameful and really monstrous. Thus the Prophet’s design was to expose their disgraceful conduct by addressing the nations, and saying, Hear, ye nations
Then he says, Know, thou assembly The words used are דעי , doi, and עדה, ode; and though the letters are inverted, there is yet an alliteration by no means ungraceful. With regard to the meaning, the Prophet shews that he found no disciples among the elect people, for they were like brute beasts or stones or trunks; he therefore turned to address the nations, as he despaired of any fruit to his labors among the Jews: ye nations, then, hear, and know, thou assembly, (the reference is to any people,) what shall be to them Some interpreters apply this to their vices, and give this version, “What their state is, “ or, “What atrocious vices prevail and reign among them.” But I prefer to apply it to their punishment, though I do not contend for this view, as there is a probability in favor of the other. But the Prophet seems here to send for the nations, that they might be witnesses of the just vengeance of God, because the people’s impiety had become irreclaimable. “Hear then what shall be done to them.” He had threatened the Jews as he had done before, and as he will often do hereafter; but his design in this place was to reproach them for being so intractable; for he expected that his labors would produce more fruit among the nations than among them. (179)
18.Therefore hear, ye nations, And know the testimony which is against them;
19.Yea, hear thou earth, — Behold, I am bringing an evil on this people, The fruit of their own devices, Because to my words they have not hearkened; And my law, they have ever rejected it.
The preposition ב is found after the verb, to testify, and is even rendered to or against; and coming after the substantive, testimony, it ought to be rendered the same. — Ed
He then adds, Hear, thou earth This is general, as though he said, “Hear ye, all the inhabitants of the earth: “Behold, I am bringing an evil on this people He would have directly addressed the Jews, had they ears to hear; but as their vices and contempt of God had made them deaf, it was necessary for him to address the earth. Now, God testifies here that he should not act cruelly in visiting with severity this people, as he would only reward them as they deserved. The sum of what is said then is, that however grievous might be the punishment he would inflict, yet the people could not complain of immoderate rigor, for they should only receive what their works justly deserved. But Jeremiah not only speaks of their works, but he mentions the fruit of their thoughts; for they concocted their wickedness within, so that they did not offend God through levity or ignorance. By thoughts, then, he means that daily meditation on evil, to which the Jews had habituated themselves. So then their interior wickedness and obstinacy are here set forth.
He afterwards adds, Because they have not to my words attended, and for nothing have they esteemed my law. We ever see that the guilt of the Jews was increased by the circumstance, that God had exhorted them by his servants, and that they had rejected all instruction. That they then would not hearken, and that they counted the law and instruction as nothing, made it evident that their sin could not by any pretense be excused; for they knowingly and openly carried on war with God himself, according to what is said of the giants.
We may learn from this passage, that nothing is more abominable in the sight of God than the contempt of divine truth; for his majesty, which shines forth in his word, is thereby trampled under foot; and further, it is art extreme ingratitude in men, when God himself invites them to salvation, willfully to seek their own ruin and to reject his favor. It is no wonder then that God cannot endure the contempt of his word; by which his majesty, as I have said, is dishonored, and his goodness, by which he would secure the salvation of men, is treated with the basest ingratitude. He afterwards adds —
The Prophet here replies to those hypocrites, who thought that they made an expiation when they had offered incense and sacrifices, as though that was all that was necessary in serving God: and hence we shall hereafter see, that the Temple had become the den of thieves; for when they sedulously offered incense every day and performed other ceremonies, they thought that God was pacified. Thus hypocrites ever mock God with their fopperies and regard God as extremely cruel, when not satisfied with external display. This was a perpetual evil, with which the prophets had to contend: and hence the notion is often found referred to by our Prophet,
“I desired not sacrifices; I commanded not your fathers, when I stretched forth my hand to bring them out of Egypt, to offer burnt — offerings to me, but only to obey my voice,”
So we find in other prophets: the Psalmist says,
“If I hunger, I will not tell thee,” (Psalms 50:12)
It is said also by Micah,
“What does God require of thee, but to humble thyself before him? He seeks not thousands of rams nor thousands of oxen from thy herds,” (Micah 6:7)
And we see at this day, that men cannot be rightly taught, except we carry on war against that external splendor with which they will have God to be satisfied. As then men deceive themselves with such trifles, it is necessary to shew that all those things which hypocrites obtrude on God, without sincerity of heart, are frivolous trumperies. This is the import of what is here taught.
There is, then, no doubt but that the Jews punctually offered their sacrifices, and observed the legal rites. All this might have appeared very commendable; but God gives this answer, To what purpose does frankincense come to me from the Sabeans, and a sweet cane (180) (that is, odoriferous) from a far country? Thus the Prophet here anticipates hypocrites, that he might not leave them — what they might have objected: for while they spent a large sum of money on their forms of worship, they thought that God was as it were bound to them: and where they also bestowed much labor, they supposed that their’ toil could not be superfluous or useless. And under the Papacy we observe the same thing: when any one builds a splendid church, and adorns it with gold and silver and supplies it with rich furniture, and then provides a revenue for saying masses, he thinks that lie holds in his hands all the keys of the kingdom of heaven, so that he can push in even against the will of God. Similar is the madness of the Papists, when they undertake pilgrimages: when they labor and toil, they think that every step they take must be numbered before God, and that God would be unjust, were he not to approve of what is offered to him with so much trouble. Such was also the conceit of the Jews. As their incense, brought from the Sa-beans, that is, from the east, even from Persia, was precious, and cost a considerable sum of money, they wished that this should be deemed a satisfaction for all their sins; and they looked for the same benefit from the cane: as the most odoriferous cane was bought at, a high price, they expected that it would be of account before God, and that it would avail to compensate for their punishment. This is the folly which God here treats with contempt. “What are they to me, “he says, “your expenses? I indeed count as nothing all that ye spend in buying incense and sweet cane.” And then he speaks of the Sabeans and of a far country.
He afterwards adds, Please me do not your burnt —offerings, and your sacrifices are not acceptable Under one kind Jeremiah includes the whole worship according to the law; and yet it had been divinely appointed: this is indeed true, but for another purpose. Fasting does not of itself displease God; but it becomes an abomination to him, when it is thought to be a meritorious work, or when some holiness is connected with it. The same is true as to sacrifices; for they who sought to pacify God by victims robbed Christ of his honor: it was to transfer the favor, which comes from Christ, to a calf or to a goat: and what a sacrilege was this, and how abominable? When, therefore, the Jews set such a high value on their sacrifices, they sought first childishly to trifle with God, as though these were expiations to pacify him; and then to offer burnt — offerings, to slay an animal, for pacifying God, was to change his nature; and lastly, it was, as I have said, to rob Christ of his honor: for expiation is to be sought by no other means than through his blood, by which we are cleansed from every stain through the Holy Spirit, who sprinkles it on our hearts. But when this was attributed to sacrifices, they substituted the victim, or the ram, for Christ, according to what has been stated.
Now there ought to have been in sacrifices the exercise of the duty of repentance: but when they became more and more hardened, and thought that by their ceremonies they obtained a greater license to sin, and that God required no more from them, as though they had settled matters with him, they completely neutralized the design of God: for sacrifices, as it has been already said, had been enjoined for this end, — that they might exercise penitence.
We now then see that this answer given by Jeremiah was not in vain, — that their sacrifices did not please God. There is a severer language used elsewhere, — that God nauseated them, that he was wearied in bearing them, that he was constrained to be troubled with them, while they thus profaned his name. (Isaiah 1:14.) The meaning here is the same, — that God never required sacrifices for their own sake, but for another end; and also, that all external rites are of themselves mere trumperies and mockeries, nay, a profanation of God’s name; so that they could not pacify him, but, on the contrary, provoke his wrath. It follows —
20.For what purpose is this done to me? Incense, from Sheba it comes, And the precious reed, from a distant land: Your burnt-offerings, they are not acceptable, And your sacrifices, they are not pleasing to me.
The reed or cane was dried and powdered, and formed a part of the incense. The latter is mentioned first, and then one of its ingredients. Sheba and the distant land are the same. The same order is to be observed in the burnt-offerings and sacrifices; the finished act first, and then the previous act of presenting a sacrifice. — Ed.
Here God, in plain words, declares what vengeance he would execute on the people. He says first, that he would lay for them stumbling blocks He no doubt compares the judgments which were nigh to nets or traps; for the Jews hoped to escape. He therefore says, that they would be ensnared: “Wherever ye go, “he says, “ye shall meet with those nets by which God will catch you: Fall, therefore, shall both fathers and sons, the neighbor and his friend ”
He means by these words, that however they might conspire together, they would yet be exposed to the same punishment. For when sons follow the examples of their fathers, they think themselves innocent; and also when any one has many associates, he thinks himself safe in his licentiousness. As, then, consent or society hardens the ungodly, so that they fear not the wrath of God, the Prophet on this account includes sons with their fathers, and a neighbor with his friend, as those who were to perish together, and without any difference. The word “stumbling blocks” is indeed metaphorical; but in the next verse the Prophet speaks without a figure, and says —
It was no useless repetition when the Prophet said so often that God said. He might have said only, “Behold, a nation shall come from the north;” but he premises by saying that he derived this message from God, and not only so, but he introduces God as the speaker, that his message might be more impressive. In the former verse he had also said, Thus saith Jehovah, and elsewhere: but he now repeats the same words, that the holy name of God might more powerfully rouse their minds.
Behold, he says, a people shall come from the land of the north For forty years Jeremiah ceased not to proclaim war against the Jews, and also openly to name their enemies: we yet see that so much preaching was without fruit. This was dreadful indeed: but we may thus see, as it were in a mirror, how great is our hardness and stupor, and how great is our fury and madness against God. He then designates here the Chaldeans as a northern nation, and says that it was a great nation: and yet he shews, that the Chaldeans would not of themselves come; it shall be roused, he says. This act is to be applied to God; for though ambition and avarice impelled the Chaldeans to lay waste nations and lands far and wide, yet that war was carried on under the guidance of God himself: he armed and impelled the Chaldeans, and used them as the scourges of his wrath. We may learn this from the verb יעור, iour, “ shall be roused;” and he says, from the sides of the earth, (181) for they came from a distant country. But the Prophet means, that there would be nothing to hinder the Chaldeans from entering Judea, and from destroying and putting to flight the people, and from demolishing the city and the temple.
He adds other particulars, in order more fully to render the Chaldeans objects of dread: They shall lay hold, he says, on the bow and the lance They who render the last word shield, do not sufficiently attend to the design of the Prophet. For there is no mention here made of defense; but it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that they would come furnished with bows and spears, that they might shoot at a distance. The word כידון, kidun, means a spear and a lance; (182) and it means also a shield: but in this place the Prophet, I doubt not, means a spear; as though he had said, “They will strike at a distance, or near at hand.”
He afterwards adds, that they would be cruel, according to what Isaiah says, when he speaks of the Persians and Medes,
“They will covet neither gold nor silver,” (Isaiah 13:17)
and yet they were a rapacious people. This is indeed true; but the Prophet meant both these things, that as the Persians and Medes were to be the executioners of divine vengeance, they would come with a new disposition and character, despising gold and silver, and other kinds of spoil, and seeking only blood. And they will shew, he says, no mercy; and then he adds, their voice shall make an uproar, or sound, like the sea He touches, I have no doubt, on the stupor of the people in not attending to the voice of God; for the teaching of Jeremiah had for many years sounded in their ears: Isaiah and others had preceded him; but the people had continued deaf. He says now, “Ye shall hereafter hear other teachers; they will not warn you, nor give you counsel, nor be satisfied with reproofs and threatenings, but they will come like a tempest on the sea; their voice shall make an uproar ”
He adds, Ascend shall they on horses, (183) and be set in order as a man for war; that is, “Thou, Jerusalem, shalt find that thou wilt have to do with military men.” The Prophet means, in short, that the Jews most foolishly trusted in their own strength, and thus heedlessly despised the threatenings of the prophets. But as their security was of this kind, he says that they would at length really find out how stupid they had been, for the Chaldeans would come with dreadful violence, prepared for war — against whom? Against thee, he says, O daughter of Sion I cannot proceed further, on account of some other business.
Set in order it shall be, like a man for war, Against thee, daughter of Sion.
Then the next verse refers to the same, the nation, —
Heard have we the report of it; Relaxed have become our hands,
Distress has laid hold on us, The pain like that of one in travail.
The effect is first stated, the relaxation of the hands; then the cause, the distress and anguish they felt. — Ed.
Jeremiah proceeds in the same strain; for he sets before the eyes of the Jews the judgment of God, and draws them, as it were against their will, into the middle of the scene. And this was done by the prophets, as it has been already said, because by plain words they could not move the hearts of the people on account of their contempt of God, and of the long obduracy in which they had settled. Hence he says, that heard had been the report of the enemy, and that immediately dissolved had their hands When the Prophet spoke, the Jews did not think that their enemies were so near. But the phrase is to be thus explained: “As soon as ye shall hear the report, your hands shall be relaxed, and lay hold on you shall distress.”
The similitude of a woman in travail is often found in Scripture; and what is to be understood in most places is sudden and unexpected pain: but in this place the Prophet refers rather to the violence of pain; though the other meaning, which I have just stated, is not to be excluded; for it is probable, that when he saw that the hardness and obstinacy of the people were so great, he adopted this similitude, in order to shew, that however heedlessly they despised the punishment due to them, it could not yet be avoided, as it would seize them suddenly like that of a woman in childbearing. He afterwards adds —
He confirms the previous verse. For the Jews, as it has been said, regarded all threatenings as nothing: it was hence necessary that they should be taught, not by words only, but be constrained to fear, by having the scene set before their eyes, that being thus constrained they might at least entertain some fear on account of the nearness of God’s vengeance. The Prophet then denounces war, and speaks as though they were already besieged, Go ye not forth, he says, into the field, etc., for the terror of the enemy and fear is on every side; (184) not that the Chaldeans were already laying waste Judea, or that they had even departed from their own country. But we have briefly explained the design of the Prophet: he intended thus vehemently to deal with a hardened and obstinate people, that they might know that he spoke seriously to them, and that his threatenings would not be evanescent. It follows —
Go thou not forth to the field, And in the way walk not;
For the enemy has a sword, Terror is on every side.
“For the enemy,“ etc., literally, “For sword is to the enemy.” — Ed.
The Prophet seems to use more words than necessary; for in a clear matter he appears to extend his discourse too far: but we must consider the design which has been mentioned; for he could not rouse the Jews without urging the matter on them with great vehemence. Known and sufficiently common is the term, “daughter of my people, “as applied to the whole community. Daughter of my people, he says, be thou girded with sackcloth, and roll thyself in the dust It is doubtful whether the Prophet exhorts them to repent, or whether he denounces mourning on the irreclaimable and the hopeless; for ashes and sackcloth are often mentioned, when there is no hope of conversion or of repentance. However, if this view be approved, I will not object, that is, that the Prophet still makes the trial, whether the Jews would return to a sane mind.
Make thee a mourning, he says, as for an only-begotten Thus the Hebrews speak of the greatest and bitterest mourning: for when any one loses an only son, he grieves far more for his death than if he had many children; for when some remain, some comfort still remains; but when one is wholly bereaved, a greater grief, as I have said, is felt by parents. For this reason the Hebrews call it a mourning for an only son, when things are in a hopeless state. He afterwards adds, the mourning of bitternesses, signifying the same thing; because suddenly shall come upon us the waster
If repentance be thought to be intended here, we know that sackcloth and ashes are, of themselves, of no account before God, but that they were formerly evidences of repentance when God’s wrath was humbly deprecated; and hence the prophets often designated the thing signified by the sign. We must yet remember what Joel says, that hearts, and not garments, are to be rent. (Joel 2:13.) But the prophets assume this principle as granted, that we are not to deal falsely with God, but with sincerity. Then by sackcloth and ashes they did not understand false protestations, as it is said, but real manifestations of what they felt, when really and from the heart they sought God’s mercy. But as the Prophet seems here to assume the character of a herald, denouncing war, I know not whether repentance is what is here meant. So then I rather understand him as saying, that nothing but extreme mourning remained for the Jews: and hence he says, that destroyers would suddenly come upon them; for they had for many years so misused the forbearance of God, that they thought that they could sin with impunity. As, then, they had long indulged this false confidence, the Prophet made use of this word, “suddenly,” פתאם, petam He adds —
The Prophet says, that he was set by God as a watchtower, which was also fortified, that he might observe the wickedness of the people. In order to gain more authority for his prophecy, he introduces God as the speaker. He had spoken hitherto in his own person; but now God himself comes forth, and says, I have made thee a citadel. Jerome renders the last word “probation.” The verb בחן, becken, means to prove; and Jeremiah uses the verb in this verse, “that thou mayest prove their way.” But as the word מבצר, mebezar, “fortress, “follows, we cannot take the word here otherwise than as meaning a citadel or rampart. I therefore have no doubt but that a citadel for watching is what is meant; as though God had said, that his Prophet was like a watchtower, from which might be seen at one glance whatever was done far and wide: for we cannot see far from a plain, but they who are located high can see to a great distance.
But the word fortress is also added: for it behooved Jeremiah to watch without fear, and not to be exposed to the threats, calumnies, or clamors of the people. Jeremiah intimates that two things are required in God’s servants, even knowledge and undaunted courage; for it was not enough for the prophets to see clearly what was needful, except they were firmly prepared to discharge their office. Both these things seem to be included, when he says, that he was set as a watchtower, and also as a fortress
Why was he thus set? That thou mayest know, he says, and prove their way Let us now see what was the intention of this. The Prophet no doubt here claims power and credit to himself, that he might not only freely but authoritatively reprove the people: for objections, we know, were ever in their mouths, that they might be at liberty to despise the Prophet’s teaching, as though it did not proceed from God. This then was the reason why God here declares that Jeremiah was like a citadel, and that a fortified one; he was made so, that he might observe and know the way of the people. Hence it followed, that however obstinately they might defend themselves, it availed them nothing; for Jeremiah was endued with the highest authority, even that which was divine, in order to perform his office of a judge in condemning them: for it immediately follows —
The Prophet now shews what he found the Jews to be, whose manners and proceedings he had been commanded to observe. Had he said this at first, either the fury of the people would have been kindled, or his judgment would have been treated with contempt: but when God shewed what he had known through his servant, it had more weight, and then the fury of the people was also repressed, when they understood that it would avail them nothing to fight against God.
He says, that they were all the apostates of apostates, or the transgressors of transgressors. Some read סרי, sari, with a ש, shin, and render the words, “the princes of transgressors.” But I adopt the first as the more approved reading. They who read “princes, “elicit a meaning from the words which appears strange, but not the true one: they say that they were the princes of transgressors, because the people were no better than their rulers, and because servants imitated their masters in all kinds of wickedness. But this, as all must see, is a strained meaning. Why then should anything be changed, since the sentence, as it is, has a most suitable meaning? They are then called the apostates of apostates, or the transgressors of transgressors, סרי סררים, sari sarerim The Hebrews, we know, express the superlative degree by doubling the word, as, the heaven of heavens, the holy of holies, the God of gods. He then says, that they were not only wicked, but most wicked, who had reached the extreme point of depravity. For when impiety reaches its summit, then justly may men be called the apostates of apostates. This, I have no doubt, is what the Prophet means.
He afterwards adds, that they walked in slander The same mode of speaking, if I mistake not, is found in Leviticus 19:16,
“Go not,” or walk not, “among thy people with slander.”
Yet this phrase may be otherwise explained, that is, that they walked in calumnies, or that they perverted everything. But in this place, the word slander, seems too feeble, as the Prophet, in my judgment, means more, even the audacity of the people, so that they allowed themselves every liberty in sinning, and thus walked in their own wickedness.
He adds, Brass and iron (185) Many render the words, “Brass mixed with iron;” that is, that the noble and the vulgar were mingled together, so that there was a common consent among them. Of this meaning I do not wholly disapprove: but as it is rather refined, I know not whether it be well — founded. I therefore prefer to regard this as designating their hardness: They were like brass and iron, for they were inflexible. The Prophet then after having called them transgressors who had alienated themselves from God, and after having said, that they walked in their own depravity, now adds, that they were untamable, not capable of any improvements; and hence he compares them to brass and iron.
He at last adds, that they were all corrupters This, as I think, is to be referred to their habits: for thus are enemies called, who plunder everything, and commit all excesses. But they are corrupters here, who not only like thieves plunder the goods of all, but who are leaders to others in wickedness: so that all things were in confusion, as it is wont to be said, from the head to the feet. (186) He afterwards adds —
27.A watchtower have I given thee among my people, A fortress, that thou mightest know and try their way; Then we are told what he had found them to be, — All of them are the apostates of apostates, Companions of the slanderer; Brass and iron are all of them, Corrupted are they.
“The apostates of apostates,” mean thorough, confirmed apostates, as “servant of servants” means the basest: “companions,” etc., is literally, “Walkers with,“ etc. “All of them,“ clearly belong to “Brass and iron,“ as “they” follows “corrupted.” The ancient versions are not satisfactory, and the Targum is paraphrastic; but they give the general meaning. “Prover” or “examiner” is what the versions give for “watchtower.” “Fortress” is omitted in the Septuagint, the Arabic, and the Targum, and is rendered “strong” by the Vulgate “ The apostates” is left out by the Septuagint and the Arabic, and is rendered “princes” by the Vulgate, Syriac, and the Targum For “companions of the slanderer,“ the Septuagint and Arabic have “walking perversely — σκολιῶς;” the Syriac and Targum, “walking with guile — cum dolo;” and the Vulgate, “walking fraudulently — fraudulenter.” The word רכיל, “slanderer” is found in five other places, Leviticus 19:16; Proverbs 11:13; Jeremiah 9:4; Ezekiel 22:9. In the first three passages it is rendered in our version “a talebearer,“ but more correctly, a slanderbearer, or, as Parkhurst renders it, “a trader in slander.” It does not mean “a sharper,“ as Blayney thinks. The passages in Proverbs are inconsistent with such an idea. There is no passage where it may not be rendered “a slanderer,“ except Ezekiel 22:9; where it evidently means “slander.” — Ed
He says, that the bellows was consumed by the fire and without any advantage. The whole sentence is metaphorical. Interpreters refer it simply to what was taught; and hence they consider the mouth of the Prophet to be the bellows, by which the fire was kindled. So the meaning would be, — that the Prophet was as it were burnt, through his incessant crying, like the bellows, which by being continually used is at length consumed, especially when the fire burns fiercely. They then suppose that the Prophet complains that his throat had dried up, like the bellows, which being burnt by the fire can no longer do its work. But what if we refer this to the punishments and judgments by which God had chastised his people, and yet without benefit? For so he complains in the first chapter of Isaiah, and in other places.
“In vain, “he says, “have I chastised thee:”
and Jeremiah has before said,
“In vain have I chastised my children; they have not received correction.” (Jeremiah 2:30)
So also it is said by Isaiah,
“Alas! vengeance must I take on my enemies,” (Isaiah 1:24)
but to what purpose? He afterwards adds, that it was without any benefit, because their wickedness was incurable.
The first meaning, however, is not to be rejected, for it was not unsuitable to say, that the tongue of the Prophet was worn out with constant crying, that his throat was nearly dried up. But I approve more of what I have just stated. Let each make his own choice. If we consider prophetic teaching to be here intended, we may also draw another meaning, — that the Prophet’s mouth was consumed by God’s terrors; for it was like burning, whenever God threatened the people with final destruction. The Prophet then does not without reason say, that his throat was burnt by fire, even the threatenings of God.
He afterwards adds, that the lead was entire This sentence rather favors the view, that Jeremiah is speaking of the judgments by which God sought to humble the people and to lead them to repentance; for it cannot be suitably applied to doctrine or teaching, that the lead was unmixt. By lead I understand dross. Some consider it to be silver, and say that lead was mixed with silver, in order that the silver might more easily be melted. As I am not skillful in that art, I cannot say whether this is done or not. But the Prophet says that the lead was unmixt; that is, that nothing was found but dross and filth.
He then adds, In vain has the melter melted, for evils have not been purged away; that is, the dross had not been removed so as to leave behind the pure metal. He means, in short, that there was nothing but dross and filth in the people, and not a particle of pure silver. It hence followed, that they had been as it were in vain melted. Now, this applies more fitly to punishment than to teaching, as all must see. I hence do not doubt but that the Prophet shews here, that the Jews were not only wicked and apostates and despisers of God, but were also so obstinate that God had often tried in vain to purify them. And it is a kind of speaking, we know, which occurs often in the prophets and throughout Scripture, that God is said to melt, to purge, to refine men, when he chastises them. But the Prophet says that there was only filth in that people, that lead was found, and that they were not melted. And hence we learn how great was their hardness: though they were tried by fire, they yet melted not, but continued in their perverseness. (187) He afterwards adds —
Burnt has been the bellows by the fire, Consumed has been the lead;
In vain has been the melting of the melted, For their evils have not been separated.
They had been in the furnace, but the lead intended to separate the dross from the silver, was consumed, and the melting did not succeed, for their evils, or their vices, were not separated from them. Hence in the next verse they are called reprobate silver. — Ed.
Jeremiah concludes his subject by saying, — that if the Jews had been cast a hundred times into the furnace, they would not be improved, as they would never become softened on account of their hopeless obstinacy. He uses the word silver, by way of concession; for they were not worthy of that name, and we have already seen that there was nothing soft or tender in them.
But the prophets often conceded some things to hypocrites; yet not without some appearance of a taunt, as the case seems to be here. The Jews wished to be regarded as silver, and to appear as such: “Let them then be silver, “that is, “Let them claim the name, by boasting themselves as the holy seed of Abraham; but they are a reprobate silver;” according to what we say, Faux or faux argent; which yet is neither silver nor gold; but the words are used not in their strict meaning, and we afterwards shew that what we have so called is not silver. Even so does the Prophet say, “They are silver in their own esteem, and take pride in the title: but they are a reprobate silver. ” How so? For Jehovah has rejected them He shews that it belongs to God to pronounce sentence on men, and that they gain nothing by their vain flatteries, and by securing some esteem in the world: for God alone is the true judge. The Prophet then shews that the Jews were a reprobate silver, in order that they might know that they in vain gloried, while they boasted themselves to be God’s people and heritage. Now follows —
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Easter