COMMENTARIES
ON THE
BOOK OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH
AND
THE LAMENTATIONS

BY JOHN CALVIN


TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN, AND EDITED
BY THE REV. JOHN OWEN,
VICAR OF THRUSSINGTON, LEICESTERSHIRE


VOLUME THIRD


CHRISTIAN CLASSICS ETHEREAL LIBRARY
GRAND RAPIDS, MI
http://www.ccel.org
TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE
VOLUME THIRD
The derangement as to the order of the chapters first occurs in this Volume. It is commonly thought that chapters 21, 24, and 27, were delivered in the time of Zedekiah; while chapters 20, 22, 23, 25, and 26, contain Prophecies delivered in the previous reign of Jehoiakim. The early Versions and the Targum retain the same order with the Hebrew, only there are derangements of another kind both in the Septuagint and the Arabic, which commence at verse 14 of chapter 25, and continue to the end of chapter 51: It hence appears that the disorder had taken place early, before the Versions were made.
There are a few particulars to which the Editor wishes to draw the attention of Literary Readers, some of which have been already noticed in the Notes appended to previous Volumes, though not perhaps so fully specified as to attract attention; and there is one subject which belongs especially to this Volume.
The first thing is in reference to a Hebrew idiom; and that with regard to the pronoun relative rça, who, which, whom. There is a peculiarity as to the use of this which has been overlooked, as far as the writer knows, by Grammarians. It precedes in Hebrew, as in other languages, the verb by which it is governed; but when it is not governed in a transitive sense, a personal pronoun follows the verb with a preposition prefixed to it, as, for instance, in <240102>Jeremiah 1:2,
“To whom the word of the Lord came;”
which is literally, “Whom the word of the Lord came to him.” “To him” and “whom” are the same. It is an idiom, and the same exists in Welsh, which in many of its peculiarities corresponds exactly with the Hebrew. This passage, and others of a similar kind, are literally the same in that language, “Yr hwn y daeth gair yr Arglwydd atto;” and the last word, “atto,” the preposition being prefixed to the pronoun, and made, as it were, one word, corresponds exactly with the Hebrew.
We have, in <240710>Jeremiah 7:10, these words —
“Which (God’s house) is called by my Name,” literally, “which my Name is called on it;”
which means, “on which my Name is called.” The following are similar examples: —
“Unto whom they offer incense” literally, “whom they offer incense to them,” (<241112>Jeremiah 11:12;)
“Against whom I have pronounced;” literally, “whom I have pronounced against them,” (<241808>Jeremiah 18:8;)
“Upon whose roofs they have burned incense;” literally, “which they have burned incense on their roofs, (<241913>Jeremiah 19:13.)
In all these instances the Welsh is literally the Hebrew. The last example is rather remarkable, but the Welsh is exactly the same, “y rhai yr arogldarthasant ar eu pennau.” The verb, also, is similar, derived from the noun which means incense, “they have incensed;” but the verb in English is not so used. There is hardly a noun or a verb in Hebrew which the Welsh cannot literally express — a peculiarity which neither Latin nor Greek possesses, and perhaps no modern language. See also <014405>Genesis 44:5, 10, 16; 48:15; <051124>Deuteronomy 11:24; <051202>Deuteronomy 12:2; <233104>Isaiah 31:4; <241415>Jeremiah 14:15; <241719>Jeremiah 17:19; <300912>Amos 9:12; <320410>Jonah 4:10, 11. fE1A
But it must be especially observed, as the point will be hereafter referred to, that when the relative pronoun is governed by the verb in a transitive sense, without a preposition, there is then no personal pronoun added after the verb, either affixed to it or separately. This seems to be an invariable rule, —
“The land that I have given for an inheritance; ytljnh rça” (<240318>Jeremiah 3:18.)
“In the land that I gave; yttn rça” (<240707>Jeremiah 7:7.)
“My law which I set before them; µhynpl yttn rça
(<240913>Jeremiah 9:13.)
See also <197869>Psalm 78:69; 86: 9; 105:5; <240723>Jeremiah 7:23; 9:16; 11:10; 13:4; 15:4; 16:13; <261827>Ezekiel 18:27; <270910>Daniel 9:10.
The SECOND point is connected with THE STYLE OF THE HEBREW PROPHETS.
1. THE ORDER IN WHICH THEY ARRANGE THEIR IDEAS. — They frequently mention, first, the effect, then the cause — first, the last act, then the previous act or acts — first, the deed or action, then the motive or what led to the deed — first, the later event, then the former — first, what is most evident and visible, then what is less ostensible and hidden. In all these instances, the order is the reverse of what is commonly found in other writers.
“My people is foolish,” the effect; “they have not known me,” the cause. (<240422>Jeremiah 4:22.) “Before me continually is grief,” the effect; “and wounds,” the cause. (<240607>Jeremiah 6:7.) “I sent them not,” the last act; “neither have I commanded them,” the preceding; “neither spake to them,” the first. (<241414>Jeremiah 14:14.) “With an outstretched hand and a strong arm,” the deed or action; “even in anger and in fury, and in great wrath,” what led to the deed. (<242105>Jeremiah 21:5.) “The truth to Jacob,” the later event; “and the mercy to Abraham,” the former event. (<330720>Micah 7:20.) “Hast thou utterly rejected Judah?” the visible act; “hath thy soul loathed Zion?” the hidden reason. (<241419>Jeremiah 14:19.)
Similar instances are found in the New Testament. What is palpable and evident is stated first, then what leads to it, or the source from which it comes; as when St. Paul mentions “rioting” first, and then “drunkenness,” which leads to it; and “strife” first, and then “envying,” from which it proceeds. (<451313>Romans 13:13.) In a like manner he puts “joy,” the higher and the most manifest feeling, before “peace,” which is the source of it. (<451513>Romans 15:13) In <490623>Ephesians 6:23, the Apostle mentions “peace, love, and faith;” the right order is reversed — the most evident thing is first referred to. There are many passages which can be satisfactorily explained on no other principle.
2. THE ORDER IN WHICH SUBJECTS ARE OFTEN TREATED. — When two things are referred to, the last mentioned is first spoken of, and then the first. This is what is very commonly done. Pollution and going after Baalim are laid to the charge of Israel in <240223>Jeremiah 2:23. To prove the last it is added,
“See thy way in the valley;”
and to bring connection as to the first, God says,
“Know what thou hast done.”
In <240428>Jeremiah 4:28, we have these words,
“I have spoken it, I have purposed it.”
The next sentence applies to the last,
“and I will not repent,”
and the following to what he had spoken,
“Neither will I turn back from it.”
Neighbor and brother are mentioned in <240904>Jeremiah 9:4; the order is reversed in the latter clause of the verse. Pashur and the people of Judah are addressed in <242004>Jeremiah 20:4; the doom of Judah is described in the following verse, and in the sixth the doom of Pashur. God speaks of
“The way of life and of the way of death,”
in <242108>Jeremiah 21:8; in the next verse, such as would meet with death are first referred to, and then those to whom life would be granted. In <052711>Deuteronomy 27:11-26, and <052801>Deuteronomy 28:1-6, “blessing” and “curse” are mentioned, and then the “curse” is first described, and afterwards the “blessing.” This mode of treating subjects is indeed so common that it would be useless to multiply examples; and there are not a few instances of the same kind in the New Testament. fE2B
The THIRD subject is THE CONSTRUCTION OF A PASSAGE IN THIS VOLUME, IN CONNECTION WITH ANOTHER, WHICH WILL BE INCLUDED IN THE NEXT. — The two passages are <242306>Jeremiah 23:6, and 33:16. The doctrine involved is important; but our business is to ascertain the real meaning according to the current diction of the language. These passages are not rendered alike in our Version, nor in the same sense; and yet it is evident from the context that the meaning of both passages must be the same, though the words are in some measure different. However we may differ from Blayney, he yet seems to have been at least so far right, as he renders them both in the same sense. His versions are the following: —
“And this is the Name by which Jehovah shall call him, Our Righteousness.” (<242306>Jeremiah 23:6.)
“And this is he whom Jehovah shall call, Our Righteousness.” (<242316>Jeremiah 23:16.)
In a Note on the last verse, it is said, “This is the strict grammatical translation of the words of the text.” There is no doubt but that it may be so rendered; and here is an instance of what has been already observed as to the relative rça. It has often after the verb a personal pronoun with a preposition prefixed: and as the verb arq, whenever it means to name, has the preposition l after it, so it has here. The relative and the pronoun in this case always refer to the same thing or person. Since this is the idiom of the language, it becomes evident that hl in this verse, is a masculine according to Chaldee dialect, as Blayney regards it, or a misprint for wl according to three MSS.; for rça, with which it is connected, has, hz, “this” for its antecedent; and “this” is clearly the “king” mentioned in the previous verse.
The matter then is so far clear as to construction of this part of the verse; but whether “Jehovah” is the nominative to the verb is another question; and this we shall presently consider.
The words in the other passage, <242306>Jeremiah 23:6, are somewhat different. The word “Name” is in it; but it has no personal pronoun with a l prefixed, which is ever the case when arq means to name, and when the word “name” is omitted. See <012131>Genesis 21:31; <013518>Genesis 35:18; <092328>1 Samuel 23:28; <131107>1 Chronicles 11:7; <243017>Jeremiah 30:17. But when “name” is connected with the verb in this sense, the preposition l is not found. See <011109>Genesis 11:9; 29:35; <130409>1 Chronicles 4:9. This accounts for the absence of the pronoun with a l prefixed coming after the verb in this passage, which is found in the other in which the word “name” is omitted. The rça then here refers to the “name,” and stands as it were in its place; and the literal rendering, if we adopt Blayney’s arrangement of the words, would be as follows, —
And this is His Name, which Jehovah shall call it,
Our Righteousness.
Now there is a grammatical objection to this rendering; for rça, as before mentioned, when governed by a verb in the objective case, is never followed by a personal pronoun after the verb, either postfixed or separately. But here the w in warqy is made a pronoun, wholly contrary to the usage of the language in such a case as the present. The other passage may admit of Blayney’s construction; but his version here is, as I conceive, inadmissible, being ungrammatical; the verb is in the plural number and not in the singular, with an affixed pronoun, therefore Jehovah cannot be its nominative case.
It may then be asked, how is the passage to be translated? Let the reader bear in mind, that when the word “Name — µç,” is connected with arq, there is no preposition used; and as rça here has “Name” as its antecedent, it is not necessary to have a pronoun with a prefixed l after the verb; but this is necessary in the other passage, for the word “name” is not given. Here we see a perfect consistency in the two passages, though differently worded. Then the true version of this passage I conceive to be the following, —
“And this is His Name, which they shall call,
Jehovah our Righteousness.”
But in our language it might be rendered, “by which they shall call him” The pronoun “they” refers to Judah and Israel, at the beginning of the verse. As then “Jehovah” cannot be here the nominative case to “call,” there is no grammatical necessity to make it so in the other passage, though there is nothing contrary to the usage of the language in such a construction. The other passage may be rendered literally thus, —
“And this is He, whom it shall be called on Him,
Jehovah our Righteousness.”
The words in the idiom of our language may be thus correctly expressed, “who shall be called.” But however awkward and even unintelligible the literal rendering may be in English, yet it is in Welsh both expressive and elegant. The phrase is word for word the same, and thoroughly idiomatic, —
“Ac eve yw’r hwn y gelwir arno, Jehova ein cyviawnder.” fE3A
We shall now refer to the early versions and the Targum.
In the Septuagint, the passage in <242306>Jeremiah 23:6, is rendered substantially according to what is done by Blayney; he indeed defends himself by appealing to that version. As to the passage in <243316>Jeremiah 33:16, it is wanting in the Septuagint; as supplied in the Complutensian Edition, it is evidently a version of the Vulgate, as is the case in other instances; and as given by Theodoret, it is as follows, —
“This is He who shall be called (oJ klhqh>setai)
The Lord our Righteousness.”
The Vulgate version is the same in both places, —
“And this is the Name which they shall call him,
Our righteous Lord.”
The Syriac version is the same in both places, —
“And this is the Name by which they shall call Him,
The Lord our Righteousness.”
The Arabic version is the same with the preceding, only “righteousness” is not translated; it is “The Lord Josedek.” It is wanting like the Septuagint as to the second passage.
The paraphrase of the Targum is substantially the same as to both places, —
“And this is the Name by which they shall call Him, Done shall be righteousness for us from the presence of the Lord in his days.”
It appears then from all the Early Versions, except the Septuagint as to the first passage, and from the Targum, that “Jehovah” is not connected with the verb to call, but with “righteousness;” and this, as we have seen, comports with what the usage of the language requires. There can therefore be no reasonable doubt as to the real meaning of these two passages.
As to the peculiar idioms of the Hebrew language, the Septuagint version of Jeremiah and of the minor prophets, is by no means so satisfactory as the Vulgate and the Syriac versions. This is what the Editor can testify after a minute examination.
J.O.
Thrussington, September, 1852
LECTURE SEVENTY-FIFTH
CHAPTER 20

JEREMIAH 20:1-2
1. Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.
1. Et audivit Phassur filius Immer sacerdos et ipse praefeetus erat (dux) in Templo (in aede) Jehovae, Jeremiam vaticinantem (prophetantem) hos sermones:
2. Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord.
2. Et percussit Phassur Jeremiam Prophetam, et posuit eum in cippum (vel, in carcerem; sed mihi magis placet nomen carceris) qui erat in porta Benjamin superiore, quae spectabat ad aedem Jehovae.

Jeremiah relates here what sort of reward he had received for his prophecy, — that he had been smitten and cast into prison, not by the king or by his courtiers, but by a priest who had the care of the Temple. It was a grievous and bitter trial when God’s servant found that he was thus cruelly treated by one of the sacred order, who was of the same tribe, and his colleague; for the priests who were then in office had not been without right appointed, for God had chosen them. As, then, their authority was founded on the Law and on God’s inviolable decree, Jeremiah might well have been much terrified; for this thought might have occurred to him, — “What can be the purpose of God? for he has set priests of the tribe of Levi over his Temple and over his whole people. Why, then, does he not rule them by his Spirit? Why does he not render them fit for their office?
Why does he suffer his Temple, and the sacred office which he so highly commends to us in his Law, to be thus profaned? or why, at least, does he not stretch forth his hand to defend me, who am also a priest, and sincerely engaged in my calling?” For we know that God commands in his Law, as a proof that the priests had supreme power, that whosoever disobeyed them should be put to death.
(<051712>Deuteronomy 17:12.) “Since, then, it was God’s will to endue the priests with so much authority and power, why therefore did he not guide them by his grace, that they might faithfully execute the office committed to them?”
Nor was Jeremiah alone moved and shaken by this trial, but all who then truly worshipped God. Small, indeed, was the number of the godly; but there was surely no one who was not astonished at such a spectacle as this.
Pashur was not the chief priest, though he was of the first order of priests; and it is probable that Immer, his father, was the high priest, and that he was his vicar, acting in his stead as the ruler of the Temple. fE1 However this may have been, he was no doubt superior, not only to the Levites, but also to the other priests of his order. Now this person, being of the same order and family, rose up against Jeremiah, and not only condemned in words a fellow-priest, but treated him outrageously, for he smote the Prophet. This was unworthy of his station, and contrary to the rights of sacred fellowship; for if the cause of Jeremiah was bad, yet a priest ought to have pursued a milder course; he might have cast him into prison, that if found guilty, he might afterwards be condemned. But to smite him was not the act of a priest, but of a tyrant, of a ruffian, or of a furious man.
We may hence learn in what a disorder things were at that time; for in a well-ordered community the judge does not leap from his tribunal in order to strike a man, though he might deserve a hundred deaths, as regard ought to be had to what is lawful. Now, if a judge, whom God has armed with the sword, ought not thus to give vent to his wrath and without discretion use the sword, it is surely a thing wholly inconsistent with the office of a priest. Then the state of things must have been then in very great disorder, when a priest thus disgraced himself. And from his precipitant rage we may also gather that good men were then very few. He had been chosen to preside over the Temple; he must then have excelled others not only as to his station, but also in public esteem and in the possession of some kind of virtues. But we see how he was led away by the evil spirit.
These things we ought carefully to consider, for it happens sometimes that great commotions arise in the Church of God, and those who ought to be moderators are often carried away by a blind and, as it were, a furious zeal. We may then stumble, and our faith may wholly fail us, except such an example as this affords us aid, which shews clearly that the faithful were formerly tried and had their faith exercised by similar contests. It is not then uselessly said that Pashur smote Jeremiah. Had he struck one of the common people, it would have been more endurable, though in that case it would have been an act wholly unworthy of his office; but when he treated insolently the servant of God, and one who had for a long time discharged the prophetic office, it was far less excusable. This circumstance, then, ought to be noticed by us, that the priest dared to strike the Prophet of God.
It then follows that Jeremiah was cast by him into prison. But we must notice this, that he had heard the words of Jeremiah before he became infuriated against him. He ought, doubtless, to have been moved by such a prophecy; but he became mad and so audacious as to smite God’s Prophet. It hence appears how great is the stupidity of those who have once become so hardened as to despise God; for even the worst of men are terrified when God’s judgment is announced. But Pashur heard Jeremiah proclaiming the evil that was near at hand; and yet the denunciation had no other effect on him but to render him worse. As, then, he thus violently assailed God’s Prophet, after having heard his words, it is evident that he was blinded by a rage wholly diabolical. We also see that the despisers of God blend light with darkness, for Pashur covered his impiety with a cloak, and hence cast Jeremiah into prison; for in this way he shewed that he wished to know the state of the case, as he brought him out of prison the following day. Thus the ungodly ever try to make coverings for their impiety; but they never succeed. The hypocrisy of Pashur was very gross when he cast Jeremiah into prison, in order that he might afterwards call him to defend his cause, for he had already smitten him. This great insolence, then, took away every pretense for justice. It was therefore extremely frivolous for Pashur to have recourse afterwards to some form of trial for deciding the case.
The word tkphm, mephicat, is rendered by some, fetter; and by others, stocks; and they think it to be a piece of wood, with one hole to confine the neck, and another the feet. But I know not whether this is suitable here, for Jeremiah says that it was in the higher gate of Benjamin. This certainly could not be properly said of fetters, or of chains, or of stocks. It then follows that it was a prison. fE2 He mentions the gate of Benjamin, as it belonged to that tribe; for we know that a part of Jerusalem was inhabited by the Benjamites. They had two gates, and this was the higher gate towards the east. He says that it was opposite the house of Jehovah; for besides the court there were many small courts, as it is well known, around the Temple. It follows: —

JEREMIAH 20:3
3. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magor-missabib.
3. Et accidit postridie (die crastino) ut educeret Phassur Jeremiam e carcere; et dixit ei Jeremias, Non Phassur vocavit Jehova nomen tuum, sed potius terrorem undique.

No doubt Pashur called other priests to examine the case. It was, indeed, a specious pretense, for he seemed as though he did not wish to condemn the holy Prophet hastily, or without hearing his defense. But Jeremiah only says briefly that he was brought out of prison: we at the same time gather that he was not dismissed, for he was summoned before Pashur to give a reason for his prophecy.
But here the Prophet shews that he was not cast down or disheartened, though he had been most contemptuously treated; he bore patiently the buffetings and stripes he had received, and also his incarceration. We know that such outrages are so bitter to ingenuous minds, that they can hardly sustain them. But Jeremiah teaches us, by his own example, that our constancy and firmness ought not to be weakened though the whole world loaded or almost overwhelmed us with reproaches. We ought, then, to understand that courage of mind ought not to fail or be weakened in God’s servants, however wickedly and contumeliously they may be treated by the world. For Jeremiah, when he came out of prison, spoke more boldly than before; nor was he beyond the reach of danger. Courage increases when one obtains the victory, and he can then safely and securely insult his enemies; but Jeremiah was yet a captive, though he had been brought out of prison, and he might have been afterwards cast there again and treated more cruelly than before. But neither the wrong he had received, nor the fear of new contumely, deterred him from denouncing God’s judgment on the ungodly priest. Such magnanimity becomes all God’s servants, so that they ought not to feel shame, nor grow soft, nor be disheartened, when the world treats them with indignity and reproach; nor ought they to fear any dangers, but advance courageously in the discharge of their office.
It must in the second place be noticed, — that God’s Prophet here closes his eyes to the splendor of the priestly office, which otherwise might have hindered him to denounce God’s judgment,. And this ought to be carefully observed; for we know the ungodly he hid under masks, as the case is in the present day with the Pope and all his filthy clergy: for what do they allege but the name of Catholic Church and perpetual priesthood and apostolical dignity? Doubtless, Pashur was of the priestly order; but what the Papacy is, the Scripture neither mentions nor teaches, except that it condemns it as altogether filthy and abominable. And the Levitical priesthood, as I have said, was founded on God’s Law; and yet Jeremiah, guided by the command of God, hesitated not severely to reprove the priest and to treat him as he deserved. It is, therefore, then only that we tightly and faithfully discharge the prophetic office, when we shew no respect of persons, and disregard those external masks by which the ungodly deceive the simple, and are haughty towards God while they falsely pretend his name. fE3
Now he says, Jehovah has called thy name not Pashur, but terror on every side. Some render the words, “Because there will be terror to thee on every side;but incorrectly, for in the next verse a reason is given which explains what the Prophet means. Jeremiah no doubt had a regard to the meaning of the word Pashur, otherwise it would have been unmeaning and even foolish to say, “Thy name shall be called not Pashur, but terror on every side.” Interpreters have expounded the word Pashur as meaning an increasing prince, or one who extends power, deriving it from hçp, peshe, to increase, and transitively, to extend; and they add to it the word , sher, which means a prince; and so they render it, a prince extending power, or a prince who increases. But as there is some doubt as to the points, I know not whether this etymology can be maintained. I am more inclined to derive the word from jçp, peshech, to cut or break. It is indeed but once found in this sense in Scripture, but often in the Chaldee language. However this may be, it is taken in this sense once by Jeremiah in the third Chapter of Lamentations. fE4 And hence by a metaphor it means to open; and a, aleph, may be deemed quiescent in the second word, so that it means one who breaks or opens the light. The words which follow — “terror on every side” — induce and compel me to give this interpretation. He does not say that he would be a terror on every side; but that terrors surrounded him, bybsm, mesabib, so that there was no escape. As then the name of Pashur was honorable, signifying to open light, he mentions this, (it is indeed a metaphor, by which breaking means opening:) as then he had this name, which means to bring forth light, Jeremiah says, “Thou shalt be called a terror on every side;” that is, a terror that so surrounds all that no escape is possible. fE5 We see that the contrast is most suitable between the opening of light and that terror which spread on every side, so that there is no opening and no escape; and the explanation follows:

JEREMIAH 20:4
4. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends; and they fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword.
4. Quia sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego pono to in terrorem tibi et omnibus amicis tuis; et cadent per gladium hostium tuorum, oculi tui videntes, (id est, oculis tuis videntibus,) et totum Jehudah tradam in manum regis Babylonis, et transferet eos (vel, traducet) Babylonem, et percutiet eos gladio.

Here Jeremiah explains more at large why he said that Pashur would be terror on every side, even because he and his friends would be in fear; for he would find himself overwhelmed by God’s vengeance, and would become a spectacle to all others. In short, Jeremiah means, that such would be God’s vengeance as would fill Pashur and all others with fear; for Pashur himself would be constrained to acknowledge God’s hand without being able to escape, and all others would also perceive the same. He then became a spectacle to himself and to others, because he could not, however hardened he might have been, do otherwise than feel God’s vengeance; and this became also apparent to all others.
Behold, he says, I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends; and fall shall they by the sword of their enemies, thine eyes seeing it; and all Judah will I deliver into the hand, etc. He repeats what he had said; for Pashur wished to be deemed the patron of the whole land, and especially of the city Jerusalem. As, then, he had undertaken the cause of the people, as though he was the patron and defender of them all, Jeremiah says, that all the Jews would be taken captives, and not only so, but that something more grievous was nigh at hand, for when the king of Babylon led them into exile, he would also smite them with the sword, not indeed all; but we know that he severely punished the king, his children, and the chief men, so that the lower orders on account of their obscurity alone escaped; and those of this class who did escape, because they were not noble nor renowned, were indebted to their own humble condition. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 20:5
5. Moreover, I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labors thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon.
5. Et ponam totam fortitudinem urbis hujus, et omnem laborem ejus, et omnem pretiousum ejus, (vel, omnem gloriam,) et omnes thesauros regum Jehudah ponam in manum inimicorum ipsorum, et spoliabunt ipsos et tollent eos et abducent eos Babylonem.

He goes on with the same subject, but amplifies what he had said in order to confirm it. At the same time there is no doubt but that Pashur was more exasperated when he heard these grievous threatenings; but it was right thus to inflame more and more the fury of all the ungodly. Though, then, they may a hundred times raise a clamor, we must not desist from freely and boldly declaring the truth. This is the reason why the Prophet now more fully describes the future calamity of the city.
I will give up, he says, the whole strength of this city, etc. This word “strength” is sometimes taken metaphorically for riches or wealth. Then the whole strength, or substance, of this city and all its labor will I give up, etc. This second clause is still more grievous, for what had been acquired with great labor was to be given to plunder; for when any one becomes rich without labor, that is, when riches come to one by inheritance, without any trouble or toil, he is not so distressed when he happens to be deprived of his wealth; but he who has through a whole life of labor obtained what he expects would be for the support of life, this person grieves much more and becomes really distressed with anguish, when enemies come and deprive and plunder him of all he possesses. There is therefore no doubt but that “labor” is here mentioned, as in other parts of Scripture, in order to amplify the evil. He then adds, all its precious things and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I deliver into the hand of their enemies; who will carry away, not only riches, labor, and treasures, but also the men themselves, and bring them to Babylon. fE6 The rest to-morrow.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that we may not by our perverseness increasingly provoke thy wrath, but that whenever thou threatenest us, we may immediately fear and tremble at thy word, and also obey thee in the true spirit of meekness, and so dread thy threatenings as to anticipate thy judgment by true repentance, and thus strive to glorify thy name, that thou mayest become our strength and glory, and that we may be able not only before the world, but before thee and thy angels, really to glory, that we are that peculiar people whom thou hast favored with thy adoption, that thou mayest to the end carry on in us the work of thy grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE SEVENTY-SIX
JEREMIAH 20:6
6. And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house, shall go, into captivity: and thou shalt come into Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.
6. Et tu Phashur et omnes habitatores domus tuae (hoc est omnes domestici tui) venietis captivitatem; tu venies Babylonem, et illic morieris, et illic sepeheris, et omnes amici tui, quibus vaticinatus es in mendacio.

Now Jeremiah declares that Pashur himself would be a proof, that he had truly foretold the destruction of the city and the desolation of the whole land. He had indeed before exposed his vanity; but he now brings the man himself before the public; for it was necessary to exhibit a remarkable instance, that all might know that God’s judgment ought to have been dreaded.
Though that impostor flattered the people, yet Jeremiah says, that he and all his domestics would be led into captivity; that is, that the whole family would be as it were a spectacle, so that all the Jews might see that Pashur would be brought to nothing. “Let all the Jews then know,” he seems to have said, “that he is a false prophet.”
But what follows might have raised a question; for Jeremiah declares as a punishment, that Pashur dying in Babylon would be buried there; but he had said before, “I will give their carcasses for meat to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth;” and now it is not consistent in the Prophet to represent that as a punishment which is reckoned as one of God’s favors. In answer to this, let it be especially noticed, that God does not always punish the ungodly alike, or in the same way. He would have some to be cast away unburied, as they were unworthy of that common lot of humanity; but he would have others buried, but for a different, purpose; for there is weight in the particle there, for Babylon is put in contrast with the holy land. Whosoever were buried in the land of Canaan, had even in their death a pledge of the eternal inheritance; for as it is well known, God wished them while they lived so to enjoy the land, that they might look forward to heaven. Hence burial in the land of Canaan was as it were a visible mark or symbol of God’s adoption, as though all the children of Abraham were gathered into his bosom until they arose into a blessed and immortal life. Hence Pashur, by being buried in Babylon, became an outcast from God’s Church; for it was in a manner a repudiation, as though God would thus openly put on him a mark of infamy.
If it be objected and said, that the same thing happened to Daniel, and to some of the best servants of God, and that Jeremiah himself was buried in Egypt, which was far worse; the answer we give is this, — that temporal punishments which happen to the elect and God’s children for their good do in a manner change their nature as to them; though, indeed, it must be held, that all punishments are evidences of the wrath and curse of God. Whatever evils then happen to us in this life ought to be regarded as the fruits of sin, as though God thereby shewed himself openly to be displeased with us. This is one thing. Then, when poverty, famine, diseases, and exile, and even death itself, are viewed in themselves, we must always say that they are the curses of God, that is, when they are regarded, as I have said, in their own nature. But God consecrates these punishments as to his own children, so they turn to their benefit, and thereby cease to be curses. Whenever then God declares, “Thou shalt be unburied,” it is no wonder that this dishonor should be deemed an evidence of his wrath and a proof of his curse. And farther, whenever he formerly said thus, “Thou shalt be buried out of the holy land,” it was also an evidence of his curse, that is, with regard to the reprobate. At the same time God turned to good whatever might otherwise be a curse to his elect; and hence Paul says, that all things turn out for good and benefit to the faithful, who love God. (<450828>Romans 8:28.)
Now, then, we understand why the Prophet says, that Pashur would be buried in Babylon; nor is there a doubt but that there was more disgrace in that burial, than if his body was cast out and devoured by wild beasts; for God intended to render him conspicuous, that all might for a long time turn their eyes to him, according to what is said in <195912>Psalm 59:12,
“Slay them not, O God, for thy people may forget them.”
God then intended that the life and death of Pashur should be a memorial, in order that the minds of the people might be more impressed. At the same time, were the word burial taken in a wider sense, there would be nothing wrong, as though it was said, “There shall his carcass lie until it becomes putrified.”
Then Jeremiah adds, Thou and thy friends to whom thou hast prophesied falsely. fE7 This passage teaches us that a just reward is rendered to the ungodly who wish to be deceived, when they sustain a twofold judgment from God. Behold, then, what all the wicked who seek flatterers that promise them wonderful things, gain for themselves! they thus earn for themselves a heavier vengeance. The more they strive to put afar off God’s judgment, the more, no doubt, they increase and inflame it. This is the reason why the Prophet denounces a special judgment on the friends of Pashur, to whom he had prophesied; they had wilfully laid hold on those false promises by which he had flattered them, so that they boldly despised God. Since, then, they wished of their own accord to be thus deceived, it was right that these deceptions through which they slandered the prophetic threatenings, and which they usually set up as a shield against them, should bring on them a heavier punishment. It then follows —

JEREMIAH 20:7
7. O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.
7. Decepisti me, Jehova, et deceptus sum; vim intulisti mihi, itfuisti superior; fui in ludibrium toto die, (vel, quotidie, hoc est, assidue;) omnes subsannant me.

Some think that these words were not spoken through the prophetic Spirit, but that Jeremiah had uttered them inconsiderately through the influence of a hasty impulse; as even the most eminent are sometimes carried away by a hasty temper. They then suppose the Prophet, being overcome by a temptation of this kind, made this complaint, to God, “What! Lord, I have followed thee as a leader; but thou hast promised to me what I do not find: I seem, then, to myself to be deceived.” Others give even a harsher explanation, — that the Prophet had been deceived, according to what is said elsewhere,
“I the Lord have deceived that Prophet.” (<261409>Ezekiel 14:9.)
But there is no doubt but that his language is ironical, when he says that he was deceived. He assumes the character of his enemies, who boasted that he presumptuously prophesied of the calamity and ruin of the city, as no such thing would take place. The Prophet here declares that God was the author of his doctrine, and that nothing could be alleged against him which would not be against God himself; as though he had said that the Jews contended in vain, under the notion that they contended with a mortal man; for they openly carried on war with God, and like the giants furiously assailed heaven itself. He then says that he was deceived, not that he thought so; for he was fully satisfied as to himself; nor had he only the Spirit of God as a witness to his calling, but also possessed in his heart a firm conviction of the truth he delivered. But as I have already said, he relates the words of those who, by opposing his teaching, denied that he was God’s servant, and gave him no credit as though he was only an impostor.
But this mode of speaking is much more striking than if he had said in plain terms, “Lord, I am not deceived, for I have only obeyed thy command, and have received from thee whatever I have made public; nor have I presumptuously obtruded myself, nor adulterated the truth of which thou hast made me the herald: I have, then, faithfully discharged my office.” If the Prophet had thus spoken, there would have been much less force in his words than by exposing in the manner he does here the blasphemies of those who dared to accuse God, and make him guilty by arraigning his servant as a false prophet.
We now, then, understand why he spoke ironically, and freely expostulated with God, because he had been deceived by him; it was that the Jews might know that they vomited forth reproaches, not against a mortal man, but against God himself, who would become the avenger of so great an insult.
Were any one to ask whether it became the Prophet to make God thus his associate, the answer would be this, — that his cause was so connected with God’s cause, that the union was inseparable; for Jeremiah speaks not here as a private individual, much less as one of the common people; but as he knew that his calling was approved by God, he hesitated not to connect God with himself, so that the reproach might belong to both. God, indeed, could not be separated from his own truth; for nothing would be left to him, were he regarded as apart from his word. Hence a mere fiction is every idea which men form of God in their minds, when they neglect that mirror in which he has made himself known, Nay more, we ought to know that whatever power, majesty, and glory there is in God, so shines forth in his word, that he does not appear as God, except his word remains safe and uncorrupted. As, then, the Prophet had been furnished with a sure commission, it is no wonder that he so boldly derides his enemies and says, that God was a deceiver, if he had been deceived. To the same purpose is what Paul says,
“If an angel come down from heaven and teach you another Gospel, let him be accursed.” (<480108>Galatians 1:8)
Certainly Paul was inferior to the angels, and we know that he was not so presumptuous as to draw down angels from heaven, and to make them subservient to himself; no, by no means; but he did not regard what they might be; but as he had the truth of the Gospel, of which he was the herald, sealed in his heart, he hesitated not to raise that word above all angels. So now Jeremiah says, that God was a deceiver, if he was deceived: how so? because God would deny himself, if he destroyed the truth of his word.
We now, then, perceive that the Prophet did not exceed what was right, when he dared to elevate himself, so as to become in a manner the associate of God, that is, as to the truth of which God was the author and he the minister.
But from this passage a useful doctrine may be gathered. All who go forth to teach ought to be so sure of their calling, as not to hesitate to appeal to God’s tribunal whenever any dispute happens. It is indeed true, that even the best servants of God may in some things be mistaken, or be doubtful in their judgment; but as to their calling and doctrine there ought to be that certainty which Jeremiah exhibits to us here by his own example.
He afterwards adds, Thou hast constrained me. By saying that he had been deceived, he meant this, — “O God, if I am an impostor, thou hast made me so; if I have deceived, thou hast led me; for I have derived from thee all that I have; it hence follows, that thou art in fault, and less excusable than I am, if there be anything wrong in me.” Afterwards, as I have said, he enlarges on this, — that God constrained him; for he had not coveted the prophetic office, but being constrained, undertook it; for he could not have rejected or cast off the burden laid on him. He then expresses two things, — that he had brought no fancies of his own, nor invented anything of what he had said, but had been the instrument of God’s Spirit, and delivered what he had received as from hand to hand: this is one thing. And then he adds, — that had he his free choice, he would not have undertaken the prophetic office; for he had been drawn as it were by constraint to obey God in this respect. We now then perceive the meaning of Jeremiah.
Were any to ask, whether it could be deemed commendable in the Prophet thus constrainedly to undertake his office; to this the plain answer is, — that a general rule is not here laid down, as though it were necessary for all to be thus unwillingly drawn. But though Jeremiah might not have been faultless in this respect., yet he might have justly testified this before men. And we have seen at the beginning, that when God appointed him a teacher to his Church, he refused as far as he could the honor,
“Ah! Lord,” he said, “I know not how to speak.”
(<240106>Jeremiah 1:6)
Though then he was constrained by God’s authority, and as it were, led by force, and though he may have shewed in this respect that he was not free from fault or weakness; yet he might have rightly pleaded this against his enemies.
He then says, that he was a scorn continually, and was derided by all. The Prophet no doubt tried here to find out whether any portion of the people was still reclaimable; for to hear that God was charged with falsehood, that the Prophet’s office was rendered void by the wilfulness and audacity of men, was much calculated to rouse their minds. When, therefore, they heard this, they must surely have been terrified, if they had a particle of true religion or of right knowledge. Hence the Prophet wished to make the trial, whether there were any remaining who were capable of being reclaimed. But his object also was to shew, that their wickedness was inexpiable, if they continued wickedly and proudly to oppose his doctrine. fE8
And we ought carefully to notice this; for this passage has not only been written, that we may be instructed in the fear of God; but the Holy Spirit continually proclaims against all despisers, and openly accuses them, that they offer to God the atrocious insult of charging him with falsehood and deception. Let us then know that a dreadful judgment is here denounced on all those profane men who despise God’s word and treat it with derision; for the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Jeremiah openly proclaims, as I have said, before God’s tribunal, that God is made by them a liar. It afterwards follows, —

JEREMIAH 20:8-9
8. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.
8. Quia ex quo locuutus sum, vociferor violentiam et vastationem clamo; quia fuit sermo Jehovae mihi in opprobrium et in contumeliam toto die (vel, quotidie, assiduè, ut dictum est.)
9. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name: but his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.
9. Et dixi (itaque dixi, copula enim illativam valet) non recordabor et non loquar amplius in nomine ejus; et fuit in corde meo quasi ignis ardens, clausus in ossibus meis, et fatigatus sum ferendo et non potui.

The Prophet says here that he found no fruit from his labors, but on the contrary, he saw that all his efforts and endeavors had an opposite effect; for they exasperated all the Jews, inflamed their rage, and drove them into a greater licentiousness in sinning. Hence he says, that he purposed to give up the office assigned to him, but that by a secret impulse he was constrained to persevere, and that thus he was not at liberty to desist from the course which he had begun.
But the verse is variously explained; From the time I spoke, I cried violence aloud and proclaimed devastation. Thus some take the words, as though Jeremiah said, that since he began to teach he uttered complaints; for he saw that he was violently assailed and was exposed to all kinds of wrongs: but this view appears to me too frigid. Others come nearer to the truth who consider him as saying, that he had not ceased to cry against outrages and plunders, when he saw that all kinds of wickedness prevailed among the people; as though he had said, “I could not mildly and peaceably teach them, for their disposition and temper prevented me, but their wickedness compelled me to treat them with severity, as all God’s servants ought wisely to consider what the state of the Church requires.” If indeed we should in tranquil times cry aloud, it would be mad affectation; and this is what is done by many, who without thought and without any reason always make a great cry; but when we see Satan reigning, we ought not then to withhold nor to act as in a truce; but as it is an open war it is necessary to cry aloud. They who take this view, then, understand that Jeremiah cried aloud, because he saw that the people were refractory, and also saw that things were so bad that they could not be restored to a right state without the greatest sharpness and vehemence.
But I rather think that the Prophet had another kind of trial, — that he brought down a greater vengeance of God by his cries, as though he had said, “To what purpose should I furnish God with weapons by my preaching? since I do nothing but increase his wrath, which will at length fulminate and consume the whole land together with the people.” He then says, that he cried violence and devastation aloud, for impiety itself is a sort of hostile violence by which God is provoked. The meaning is, that the Prophet saw no other fruit to his labor, but that men were rendered more insolent, and from being thieves became robbers, and from being disdainful became ruffians, so that they increasingly kindled God’s wrath, and more fully abandoned themselves. This was indeed a most severe and dangerous trial; it is therefore no wonder that the Prophet says, that it came to his mind to turn aside from his office as a teacher.
Now this passage is especially worthy of being observed; for not only teachers are influenced by this feeling, but all the godly without exception. For when we see that men are, as it were, made worse through God’s word, we begin to doubt whether it be expedient to bury every remembrance of God and to extinguish his word, rather than to increase the licentiousness of men, they being already inclined enough to commit sin. We indeed see at this day that the doctrine of the Gospel does not restore all to obedience; but many give themselves a more unbridled license, as though the yoke of discipline was wholly removed. There was some fear under the Papacy, there was some sort of obedience and subjection; and now the liberty of the Gospel, what is it to many but brute license, so that they sin with impunity and blend heaven and earth together. There are also others who, on observing so many controversies, do, under that pretext, throw aside every concern for religion, and every attention to it. There are some fanatics who allow themselves to doubt and even to deny the existence of God. As then we see that the effect of the truth is not such as might be wished, those who are otherwise firm must needs be shaken or made to totter. Therefore, this passage ought the more to be noticed; for Jeremiah confesses that he was sore troubled when he saw that the word of God was a derision, and hence he wished to withdraw from the course of his calling. Let us know that whenever such a thing comes into our minds we ought manfully to resist it; and, therefore, the two things here mentioned ought to be connected, for when he said, I will no more mention him, nor speak in his name, he added, but the word of God was like a burning fire.
We hence see how God restrained his servant, lest he should fall headlong, or succumb under his temptation; for he would have been suddenly drawn in as it were into a deep gulf, had he not been preserved by God. Therefore, whenever temptations of this kind present themselves to us, let us pray God to restrain and to support us; or if we have already fallen, let us pray him to raise us up and to strengthen us by his Spirit.
But the way is shewn by which God aided his servant: The word of God became as a burning fire in his heart; and it was also closed up in his bones, so that he was led by an ardent zeal, and could not be himself without going onward in the course of his office. He concludes by saying, that he was wearied, or could hardly bear himself, with forbearing; as though he had said, that it was not in his power either to abstain from teaching or to do what God commanded; for a burning ardor forced him to go on; and yet he had no doubt in his view those despisers with whom he had to do. It is the same then as though he had said, that he had found out what it was to have the whole world against him, but that God prevailed. Now this was said, because profane men take occasion to be secure and indifferent, when they imagine that Prophets and teachers are unfeeling men, — “O, what do we care for fanatics, who do not possess common feelings? and it is no wonder, since they are stupid and insensible, that they are thus angry and violent, disregard all others, and feel nothing that is human.” As, then, they imagine that men are sticks, when they speak of God’s servants as being without discretion, the Prophet seems to say, “Surely ye are deceived, for I am not so much an iron, but that I am influenced by strong and many feelings; nay, I have learnt and I know how great is my weakness, nor do I dissemble but that I am subject to fear, to sorrow, and to other passions; but God has prevailed. There is then no reason for you to think that I speak so boldly, because I feel nothing human; but I have done so after a hard struggle, after all those things came into my mind, which are calculated to weaken the courage of my heart; yet God stretched forth his hand to me, and not only so, but I was constrained, lest I should arrogate anything to myself, or boast of my heroic courage. I did not prevail, he says, but when I submitted myself to God and desired to give up my calling, I was constrained, and God dealt powerfully with me, for his word became as a burning fire in my heart, so that at length, through the strong influence of the Spirit, I was constrained to proceed in the discharge of my office.”
Therefore I said, I will mention him no more, nor speak in his name; not that the Prophet wished himself or others to forget God, but because he thought that he lost all his labor, and that he in vain made a stir, since he cried aloud without any benefit, and not only so, but he more and more exasperated the wicked; as an ulcer, the more it is pressed, the more putrid matter it emits; so the impiety of the people was more and more discovered, when the Prophet reproved sins which were before hid. fE9
Let us now then learn by the example of the Prophet, that whenever Satan or our flesh raises an objection and says, that we ought to desist from preaching celestial truth because it produces not its proper and legitimate fruits, it is nevertheless a good odor before God, though fatal to the ungodly. Though then the truth of the Gospel proves the savor of death to many, yet our labor is not on that account of no value before God; for we know that we offer to God an acceptable sacrifice; and though our labor be useless as to men, it is yet fruitful as to the glory of God; and while we are the odor of death unto death to those who perish, yet to God, even in this respect, our labor is acceptable. (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16)
Let us also beware lest we withdraw ourselves from God; but even when many things happen to impede our course, let us overcome them by the power of the Spirit. At the same time let us fear, lest through our sloth we bury our ardor of which the Prophet speaks. We see what happened to Jonah; he had so far fallen as to forsake entirely his office, by extinguishing, as much as he could, the judgment of God; and when he became a fugitive, he thought himself beyond danger, as though he was removed from God’s presence. (<320103>Jonah 1:3.) God indeed saw him, but yet his word was not in him as a burning fire. As then so great a man through his own sloth extinguished, as far as he could, the light of the Holy Spirit, how much more ought we to fear, lest the same thing should happen to us? Let us then rouse the sparks of this fervor, until it inflame us, so that we may faithfully devote ourselves altogether to the service of God; and if at any time we become slothful, let us stimulate ourselves, and may the power of the Holy Spirit be so revived, that we may to the end pursue the course of our office and never stand still, but assail even the whole world, knowing that God commands us and requires from us what others disapprove and condemn.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as at this day a greater and viler impiety breaks forth than at any age, and thy sacred truth is treated with derision by many of Satan’s drudges, — O grant, that we may nevertheless constantly persevere in it, nor hesitate to oppose the fury of all the ungodly, and relying on the power of thy Spirit, contend with them until that truth, which thou didst once proclaim by thy Prophets, and at length by thine only-begotten Son, and which was sealed by his blood, may attain its full authority, that as it proves to many the savor of eternal death, so it may also be a pledge to us of eternal salvation, until we shall be gathered into thy kingdom at the coming of the same thy Son Jesus Christ. — Amen.
LECTURE SEVENTY-SEVENTH
JEREMIAH 20:10
10. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.
10. Quia audivi contumeliam multorum, terrorem undique, Nuntiate et nuntiabimus: omnis vir (id est, omnes homines, homo pacis, ad verbum, çwna omnes homines) pacis meae (id est, familiares mei, qui debuerant colere mecum amicitiam), observant latus meum (vel, claudicationem, metaphorice et melius,) si forte erret, et praevaleamus ei, et sumamus ultionem nostram ex eo.

Jeremiah proceeds with the same subject, and before God accuses his enemies, — that they disgracefully contended with him, though he deserved no such treatment, for he had endeavored to secure as far as he could their safety. He then says, that he had heard the slander of many, or as it may be rendered, of the great; but the former rendering is more suitable, for it immediately follows, that there was terror on every side, as though all with one consent assailed him. He then says, that he was surrounded with terror on every side, because he saw that the whole mass was opposed and hostile to him, and that he stood alone. He says, also, that his enemies laid in wait for him, and sought occasions to destroy him.
Report ye, and we will report to him. Here he assumes their person and relates what they consulted to do. He, no doubt, introduces here the chief men and the priests as the speakers, who were contriving means to form an accusation against the holy man; for we know what is commonly done in conspiracies of this kind; worthless men run here and there and hunt for every little thing; then they bring their report, and from this the accusation is formed. As, then, it did not comport with the dignity of the chief men and of the priests, to run here and there and to inquire of such as they might meet with what Jeremiah had said, they sat still and sent others, and said, “Go and report to us, and we shall then report to the king.” For the word “king” must be here understood, as the pronoun is put without an antecedent; come then and report, and we will report to him. We now perceive what Jeremiah complained of, even that he had not only many enemies who calumniated him, but that he had also those who wished insidiously to entrap him.
And he adds what was still worse, — that he was thus unjustly treated, not only by strangers or those who were openly his enemies, but by his own friends or relations; for the Hebrews called domestics and those connected by relationship, men of peace;
“the man of my peace, in whom I trusted,”
is an expression used in <194109>Psalm 41:9; but it is a phrase which often occurs. In short, Jeremiah means, that he was not only in a manner overwhelmed by a vast number of enemies, but that he was also without any friends, for they treacherously betrayed him. He says that they watched his side, or halting. Some render it “breaking;” but halting or debility is the most suitable; and the metaphor is most appropriate; it is taken from the side, and they who halt or through weakness totter, incline now on this side, then on that side. So Jeremiah says, that they watched him; if by chance he go astray, he again speaks in their name, “Let us then watch whether he will halt or go astray from the road; and then we shall prevail against him.”
We may, in short, gather from these words, that this holy servant of God was not only harassed openly by professed enemies, but that he was also insidiously watched, and perfidiously, too, by men who pretended to be his friends, while yet they were his worst enemies. If, then, deceitful men at this time assail us by secret means, and others oppose us openly, let us know that nothing new has happened to us; for in these two ways God tried Jeremiah. We also see that it was a common thing with the ungodly to lay hold on some pretext for calumny; for as soon as the Prophets opened their mouth, they could have said nothing but what was immediately misrepresented; and hence Micah complained that he was assailed by a similar artifice, for when the spoke with severity, they all cried out that he raised a tumult among the people, and sought nothing but new things, so that by disturbing the state of the city and kingdom, he would bring all things to ruin. (<330206>Micah 2:6.) If, then, God suffers us to be tried by such intrigues, let us bear such indignity with resigned and calm minds; for no Prophet has been exempt from this kind of trouble and annoyance.
They said further, Let us take our revenge on him, as though, indeed, they had a cause for revenge! for what had Jeremiah done? In what had he offended them? Though, then, they had suffered no wrong, they yet would take revenge! But it is no wonder that the ungodly and the despisers of God spoke thus; for we know that they thought themselves grievously injured whenever their wounds were touched; for they considered reproofs, however just and necessary, to be reproaches. Hence then it was, that their rage kindled in them a desire for revenge, though yet no wrong had been done to them. fE10 He afterwards adds, —

JEREMIAH 20:11
11. But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one; therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten,
11. Atqui Jehova mecum tanquam gigas fortis (aut, terribilis;) propterea persecutores mei ruent, et non praevalebunt; pudefient valde, quia non prudenter agunt, (vel, non prospere succedet illis;) opprobrium seculi (id est, perpetuum, subaudiendum est, quod) non oblivioni tradetur.

Here the Prophet sets up God’s aid against all the plottings formed against him. However, then, might perfidious friends on one hand try privately to entrap him, and open enemies might on the other hand publicly oppose him, he yet doubted not but that God would be a sufficient protection to him. And we ought to act exactly in the same manner, whenever Satan rouses the wicked against us to oppose us either by secret artifices or by open cruelty; God alone must be, as they say, our brazen wall. But we must first know that he stands on our side; for the power of God can avail nothing to animate us, except we be firmly persuaded of this truth, that he is on our side. And how this confidence can be obtained, we shall presently see.
He says, that his persecutors would fall, so that they would not prevail, but be ashamed. We see how many persecuted the holy man, and also with what arms they were furnished; for they possessed great power, and were also endued with guiles and intrigues. But the Prophet was satisfied with the help of God alone, and boldly concluded, that they would fall; for it could not be but that God would prove victorious. Whenever, then, we fight with the world and the devil and his slaves, this ought in the first place to come to our minds, that God stands on our side to defend our cause and to protect our safety. This being settled, we may then boldly defy both the artifices and the violence of all enemies; for it cannot be but that God will scatter, lay prostrate, overwhelm, and reduce to nothing all those who fight against him.
He further says that their reproach would be perpetual, and would never come to oblivion. We have seen already that the Prophet was loaded with many reproaches; but whenever God suffers his servants to be exposed to the curses of the wicked, he in due time aids them; and therefore we ought fully to expect that he will shortly dissipate, as mists, such calumnies. As then God, according to what is said in <193706>Psalm 37:6, brings forth the innocency of the godly like the dawn, which in a moment appears while the earth seems buried in darkness, so the Prophet now says that on the other hand the reproach with which God will cover all the wicked will be perpetual. fE11 It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 20:12
12. But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.
12. Et (vel, tu autem) Jehova exercituum, probans justum, videns renes et cor, videbo ultionem tuam ex ipsis, quia tibi patefeci litem meam (vel, jus meam, causam meam.)

The Prophet shews here briefly how he dared to allege God’s name and help against his enemies; for hypocrites often boast that God is their helper, but they falsely pretend his name. The proof, then, by which the Prophet shews that he did not falsely or presumptuously pretend what he had stated, — that God was to him like a strong giant, who could easily lay prostrate all the wicked, ought to be well weighed; and it was this — that he dared to make God the witness and judge of his integrity. Hence if we desire to have God’s name to plead for the purpose of repelling all those artifices which are contrived against us by the devil, we must learn to offer ourselves to be tried by him, so that he may really examine our thoughts and feelings.
Now, in the first place, let us bear in mind what the Prophet teaches, — that nothing is hid from God; for hypocrites will not hesitate to go so far as to offer themselves to be tried by God; but they do not yet duly consider what is said here, that nothing is hid from him. There are many recesses in the heart of man, and we know that all things there have many wrappings and coverings; but God in the meantime is a heart-discerner, (kardiognw>sthv,) who proves the heart and reins. Under the word reins, the Hebrews include all the hidden thoughts and feelings. We must then remember this as the first thing, that the Prophet acknowledges that there can be no disguise as to God, and that men gain nothing by acting fallaciously, for he penetrates into the inmost thoughts and discerns between the thoughts and the feelings.
He adds that the righteous are tried by God. There is to be understood here a contrast, because men’s judgment is commonly superficial; for when there is an appearance of integrity, there is an immediate acquittal, though the heart may be deceitful and full of all perfidy. The Prophet then means, that when we come to God’s tribunal no one is there acquitted but he who brings a pure heart and real integrity. He then rises to a higher confidence, and says, that he should see the vengeance of God.
We now see whence the Prophet derived his confidence, even because he had thoroughly examined himself, and that before God; he had not appealed to earthly witnesses only, nor had he, as it were, ascended a public theater to solicit the favor of the people; but he knew that he was approved by God, because he was sincere and honest.
And then he justly adds, at the same time, that he had made known his cause or his complaint to God. There is to be understood here again a contrast; for they who are carried away by the popular breath do not acquiesce in God’s judgment. Ambition, like a violent wind, always carries men along so that they cannot stop themselves; hence it is that neither the testimony of conscience nor the judgment of God has much weight with them. But the Prophet says, that he had made known his cause to God.
If any one objects and says, that hypocrites do the same, to this I answer, that though some imitation may appear in them, there is nothing real or genuine; for though they may boast that God is their witness, and that he approves of their cause, it is only what they speak vainly before men; for there is not one of them who deals thus privately with God. As long, then, as they are given to ostentation, they do not make known their cause to God, however they may appeal to him, refer to his tribunal, and declare that they have no other end in view but to promote his glory. They, then, who boastingly sound forth these things before the world for their own advantage, do not yet make known their cause to God, but by frivolous and vain boasting pretend his name.
What, then, is it to make known our cause to God? It is to do this when no one is witness, and when God alone appears before us. When we dare in our prayers to address God thus, — “O Lord, thou knowest my integrity, thou knowest that there is nothing hid which I do now lay before thee,” then it is that we truly make known our cause to God; for in this case there is no regard had for men, but we are satisfied with the judgment of God alone. This was the case with the Prophet when he said, that he had made known his cause to God; and it must have been so, for we have seen that all ranks of men were opposed to him. As then he was under the necessity of fleeing to the only true God, he justly says, that he had referred his cause to him.
By saying that he should see the vengeance of God, he alludes to that wished-for revenge before mentioned, for his enemies had said, “Let us take our revenge on him.” The Prophet says, I shall see thy vengeance, O Lord.” By saying that he should see it, he speaks as though he had his hands tied; for thus the faithful, of their own accord, restrain themselves, because they know that they are forbidden by God’s command to revenge themselves on their enemies. As, then, there is a difference between doing and seeing, the Prophet here makes a distinction between himself and the audaciously wicked; for he would not himself take vengeance according to the violence of his wrath, but that he should only see it; and then he calls it the vengeance of God, for men rob God of his right whenever they revenge themselves according to their own will. Paul says,
“Give place to wrath.” (<451219>Romans 12:19)
While exhorting the faithful to forbearance, he uses this reason, that otherwise no place is given to God’s judgment; for whenever we take revenge, we anticipate God, as though every one of us ascended God’s tribunal, and arrogated to ourselves his office. We now, then, perceive what this mode of speaking means. fE12
But we must at the same time notice, that God’s vengeance is not to be imprecated, except on the reprobate and irreclaimable. For the Prophet no doubt pitied his enemies, and wished, if they were reclaimable, that God would be propitious and merciful to them, according to what we have before seen. What, then, the revenge intimates of which he speaks is, that he knew by the prophetic spirit that they were wholly irreclaimable; and as his mind was under the influence of right zeal, he could imprecate on them the vengeance of God. If any one now, after the example of the Prophet, should wish all his enemies destroyed, and would have God armed against them, he would act very presumptuously, for it does not belong to us to determine before the time who the reprobate and the irreclaimable are; until this be found out by us, we ought to pray for all without exception, and every one ought also to consider by what zeal he is influenced, lest we should be under the power of turbulent feelings, as is commonly the case, and lest also our zeal be hasty and inconsiderate. In short, except it be certain to us that our zeal is guided by the spirit of uprightness and wisdom, we should never pray for vengeance on our enemies. He afterwards adds, —

JEREMIAH 20:13
13. Sing unto the Lord praise ye the Lord; for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evil-doers.
13. Canite Jehovae, celebrate Jehovam, quia eripuit animam miseri (vel, afflicti) e manu scleratorum.

Here the Prophet breaks out into an open expression of joy, and not only gives thanks himself to God, that he had been freed from the intrigues and violence of the wicked, but he also summons others, and encourages them to sing praises to God; as though he had said, that his deliverance was such a favor, that not only he should be thankful to God for it, but that all should join to celebrate it, according to what is said by Paul in <470111>2 Corinthians 1:11, that thanks might be given by many to God. The Prophet no doubt had experienced God’s help, yea, that help which he had before so highly extolled. As, then, he had really found that God was victorious, and that his safety had been defended against all the ungodly by God’s invincible power, he in full confidence expressed his thanks, and wished all God’s servants to join with him. fE13
Whenever, then, we are reduced into straits, and seem to be, as it were, rejected by God himself, let us still wait patiently until he may be pleased to free us from the hand of the wicked; without misery and distress preceding, we should never sufficiently acknowledge the power of God in preserving us. Thus Jeremiah confesses that he was for a time miserable and oppressed, but that he was at length delivered, even when the ungodly and wicked thought themselves victorious. Now follows an outcry, which seems to be of a very different character, —

JEREMIAH 20:14-16
14. Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.
14. Maledietus dies, quo natus sum (in eo, sed abundat; ) dies quo peperit me mater mea, non sit benedictus:
15. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man-child is born unto thee, making him very glad.
15. Maledictus vir, qui nuntiavit patri meo, dicendo, Natus est tibi filius masculus; quoniam (vel, quando) laetificavit eum (hoc est, cum vellet exhilarare patrem meum.)
16. And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noon-tide.
16. Et sit vir ille quasi urbes quas perdidit Jehova, et non poenituit, et audiat clamorem mane, et tumultum tempore meridiano, (hoc est, in meridie ipsa.)

It seems, as I have said, that the Prophet was inconsistent with himself; from joy and thanksgiving he immediately passed into curses and execrations; what could have been less appropriate? If we say that he was tried by a new temptation, yet this seems by no means satisfactory, though it is in this way that interpreters commonly untie the knot. But it seems to me a levity unworthy of the holy man to pass suddenly from thanksgiving to God into imprecations, as though he had forgotten himself. I, therefore, doubt not but that the Prophet here relates how grievously he had been harassed by his own thoughts. The whole of this passage, then, is connected with thanksgiving, for he amplifies the deliverance which he has just mentioned, that is, that he had been brought back, as it were, from the lower regions. Thus he recites, in the latter passage, what had before happened to him, as though he had said, “When I now declare that I have been rescued by God from the hand of the wicked, I cannot sufficiently express the greatness of that favor, until I make it more clearly known to all the godly how great and how dreadful agonies I suffered, so that I cursed my birth-day, and abhorred everything that ought to have stimulated me to give praise to God.”
In short, the Prophet teaches us here that he was not only opposed by enemies, but also distressed inwardly in his mind, so that he was carried away contrary to reason and judgment, by turbulent emotions which even led him to give utterance to vile blasphemies. For what is here said cannot be extenuated; but the Prophet most grievously sinned when he became thus calumnious towards God; for a man must be in a state of despair when he curses the day in which he was born. Men are, indeed, wont to celebrate their birth-day; and it was a custom which formerly prevailed, to acknowledge yearly that they owed it to God’s invaluable goodness that they were brought forth into vital light. As then it is a reason for thanksgiving, it is evident that when we turn to a curse what ought to rouse us to praise God, we are no longer in a right mind, nor possessed of reason, but that we are seized as it were with a sacrilegious madness; and yet into this state had the Prophet fallen. fE14
We may then here learn with what care ought every one of us to watch himself, lest we be carried away by a violent feeling, so as to become intemperate and unruly.
At the same time I allow, and it is what we ought carefully to notice, that the origin of his zeal was right. For though the Prophet indirectly blamed God, we ought yet to consider the source of his complaint; he did not curse his birth-day because he was afflicted with diseases, or because he could not endure poverty and want, or because he suffered some private evils; no, nothing of this kind was the case with the Prophet; but the reason was, because he saw that all his labor was lost, which he spent for the purpose of securing the wellbeing of the people; and further, because he found the truth of God loaded with calumnies and reproaches. When, therefore, he saw the ungodly thus insolently resisting him, and that all religion was treated with ridicule, he felt deeply moved. Hence it was that the holy man was touched with so much anguish. And we hence clearly see, that. the source of his zeal was right.
But we are here reminded how much vigilance we ought to exercise over ourselves; for in most instances, when we become weary of life, and desire death, and hate the world, with the light and all the blessings of God, how is it that we are thus influenced, except that disdain reigns within us, or that we cannot with resignation bear reproaches, or that poverty is too grievous to us, or that some troubles press on us too heavily? It is not that we are influenced by a zeal for God. Since, then, the Prophet, who had no regard to himself nor had any private reason either of gain or of loss, became yet. thus exasperated and so very vehement, nay, seized with so violent a feeling, we ought surely to exercise the more care to restrain our feelings; and though many things may daily happen to us, which may produce weariness, or overwhelm us with so much disdain as to render all things hateful to us, we ought yet to contend against such feelings; and if we cannot, at the first effort, repress and subdue them, we ought, at least, according to the example of the Prophet, to learn to correct them by degrees, until God cheers and comforts us, so that we may rejoice and sing a song of thanksgiving.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as virulent tongues now surround us, and the devil has many mercenaries, who have nothing else in view but to prevent by clamors whatever is rightly derived from thee, and has proceeded from thy mouth, — O grant, that we may firmly oppose such intrigues, and also stand with resolute minds against all their violent artifices, and proceed in the course of thy holy calling, until we shall at length surely know that they who trust in thee, and faithfully devote themselves to thy service, are never left without thy help; and that, having at last finished our warfare, we may be gathered into that blessed rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE SEVENTY-EIGHT
We said yesterday that the Prophet’s confused state of mind is described in this passage; for he would have no doubt himself confessed, that he was carried away by an intemperate feeling, so as not to be himself; for it is to cast reproach on God when any one curses his own birth-day. And he goes farther than this, for he adds, Cursed be the man who declared to my father, that a male child was born. Here he not only fights against God, but is also ungrateful towards men; for what but thanks did he deserve who first told his father that he had a son born to him? It was then an ingratitude in no way excusable. And hence we also learn that the Prophet had no control over his feelings, but was wholly led away by a blind impulse, which made him to utter very inconsiderate words; for in this sentence there is no piety nor humanity; but as I have said, the Prophet was ungrateful to men as well as to God; and his hyperbolical language also more fully expresses how intemperate his feelings were, who declared to my father that a male child was born. He seems here, as though he avowedly despised God’s favor, for we know that males are preferred to females. But the Prophet mentions here the word male, as though he wished to complain of what he ought to have been thankful for.
And he adds, Who with joy made him joyful. We see, as it is commonly said, how he mingles heaven and earth; for had it been in his power, when this frenzy possessed his mind, he would have certainly disturbed all the elements. But more grievous and more inordinate is what follows, Let that man be like the cities which God destroyed without repentance. Why did he imprecate on an innocent man the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? and then he speaks not of temporal punishment, but devotes the man to endless perdition, for that is the import of the words, and he repented not; as though he had said, “May God be angry with him, without shewing any mercy, but manifest himself as wholly implacable, as he dealt with Sodom, which he at once destroyed without leaving it any hope.” Had he spoken of an inveterate enemy, he ought to have kept within those bounds prescribed to all God’s children; but he had nothing against the man who brought the news to his father. We hence see how he was led away as it were by an insane impulse. But let us hence learn to restrain, in due time, our feelings, which will pass over all bounds if we indulge them; for they will break out then as it were into fury, as the case was with the Prophet.
He also adds, Let him hear a cry in the morning, and a tumult at noon-tide. Here he devotes an innocent man to perpetual inquietude. And mention is made of the dawn, for we know that terrors occur during darkness in the night. If anything happens in the day-time, we inquire what it is, and we are not so frightened; but when there is any noise in the night, fear takes full possession of us. There is then something monstrous in what the Prophet expresses here. Hence, also, we more fully learn how very hot was his indignation, that he thus wished perpetual torments to an innocent man. In the morning, he says, let him hear a cry, and at noon a tumult. Had he said, “Let him hear a cry perpetually,” it would not have been so grievous. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 20:17-18
17. Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me.
17. Quare non occidisti me ab utero? et fuisset (hoc est, ut esset) mihi mater mea sepulchrum meum? et in utero ejus conceptus saeculi (id est, perpetuus, vel, uterus ejus fuisset in conceptu perpetuo; et hoec posterior expositio videtur reelins quadrare, ac si diceret, Fuisset uterus, matris meoe sterilis, ita ut non conciperet nisi post soeculum, id est, nunquam.)
18. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?
18. Quare ex utero egressus sum ad videndum molestiam et dolorem, ut consumantur in opprobrio dies mei?

After having denounced his imprecations on his birth-day, and on the messenger who had wished to convey joy to his father, Jeremiah now expostulates with God. It hence appears how great was his madness; for thus must we speak. But if Jeremiah spared not God, how should he spare a mortal man? There is then no doubt but that he raged furiously against God, for his expostulation is that of a man wholly desperate; he asks, why he was not slain from the womb, as though he did not regard it as a kindness that he came alive into light. But this life, though exposed to many sorrows, ought yet to be counted as an evidence of God’s inestimable favor. As the Prophet, then, not only despised this goodness of God, but contended with God himself, because he had been created a man and brought into light, how great was his ingratitude!
He then adds, My mother might have been my grave; fE15 that is, “This light and life I value not; why then did I not die in my mother’s womb? and why did she conceive me?” Then he says, Why came I forth from the womb that I might see trouble and sorrow, and that my days. might be consumed in, reproach? Here he gives a reason why he was wearied of life; but he could not have been cleared on this account, nor ought he to be so at this day; for what just cause can we have to contend with God? Jeremiah was created to sorrow and trouble: this is the condition of all; why, then, should God be blamed? his days were spent in reproach: there was nothing new in his case; for many who have received an honorable testimony from God had suffered many wrongs and reproaches. Why, then, did he not look to them as examples, that he might bear with patience and resignation what had happened to other holy men? but he seemed as though he wished to appear as it were in public, that he might proclaim his disgrace, not only to his own age, but to every age to the end of the world.
At the same time we must remember the object he had in view; for the Prophet, as we have said, was not seized with this intemperate spirit after he had given thanks to God, and exulted as a conqueror, but before; and in order to amplify the grace of God in delivering him as it were from hell itself, into which he had plunged himself, he mentioned what had passed through his mind. The drift of the whole description seems to be this, — “I was lost, and my mind could conceive nothing but what was bitter, and with a full mouth I vomited forth poison and blasphemies against God.” What the Prophet then had here in view, was to render more conspicuous the kindness of God in bringing him to light from so deep an abyss.
A similar mode of speaking is found in the third chapter of Job. But Job had not the reason which, as we have said, Jeremiah had; for Jeremiah was not influenced by any private grief when carried away by all insane impulse to speak against God. Whence, then, was his great grief? even because he saw he was despised by the people, and that the whole of religion was esteemed by them as nothing: in short, he saw that the state of things was quite hopeless. He was, then, inflamed with zeal for God’s glory; and he also was extremely grieved at the irreclaimable wickedness of the people; but Job had only a respect to his own sufferings. There was, therefore, a great difference between Job and Jeremiah; and yet we know that both were endowed, as it were, with angelic virtue, for Job is named as one of three just men, who seemed to have been elevated above all mankind; and Jeremiah, if a comparison be made, was in this instance more excusable than Job; and yet we see that they were both inflamed with so unreasonable a grief, that they spared neither God nor man.
Let us then learn to check our feelings, that they may not break out thus unreasonably. Let us at the same time know that God’s servants, though they may excel in firmness, are yet not wholly divested of their corruptions. And should it happen at any time to us to feel such emotions within us, let not such a temptation discourage us; but as far as we can and as God gives us grace, let us strive to resist it, until the firmness of our faith at length gains the ascendency, as we see was the case with Jeremiah. For when overwhelmed with such a confusion of mind as to lie down as it were dead in hell itself, he was yet restored, as we have seen, to such a soundness of mind, that he afterwards courageously executed his own office, and also gloried, according to what we observed yesterday, in the help of God. Let us proceed, —
CHAPTER 21

JEREMIAH 21:1-4
1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah niam the priest, saying,
1. Sermo qui datus fuit Jeremiae (factus fuit ad Jeremiam) a Jehova, cum misisset ad eum rex Zedekias Phassur filium Malchiah et Zephaniam filiam Maassiah sacerdotem (vel, sacerdotis) dicendo,
2. Enquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us, (for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us,) if so be that the Lord will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.
2. Interroga (inquire) nunc pro nobis (aut, consule pro nobis) Jehovam; quia Nebuchadnezer rex Babylonis praeliatur contra nos, si faciat Jehova nobiscum secundum omnia mirabilia sua, et ascendat a notis.
3. Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah;
3. Et dixit Jeremias illis, Sic dicetis Zedekiae,
4. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.
4. Sic dicit Jehovah Deus Israel, Ecce ego reduco (alii vertunt, convertam; quidam minus apte, congregabo; bene vertetur, contraham, vel, prohibebo) onmia vasa (id est, instrumenta) bellica (belli) quae sunt in manibus vestris, quibus yes praeliamini (in ipsis, sed abundat) adversus regem Babylonis et Chaldaeos, qui obsident vos ab extra murum (hoc est, foris extra murum,) et colligam ipsos in medium urbis hujus.

Jeremiah relates how he received the king’s messengers, who sought from him an answer, whether he could bring any comfort in a state of things so perplexed and almost hopeless, he then says, that two had been sent to him; one was Pashur, not the priest mentioned in the last chapter, for he was the son of Immer but this was the son of Melchiah; and the other was Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah. But he shews that the king and his counsellors were disappointed of their hope, for they expected a favor-able answer, as though God would be propitious to Jerusalem; but the Prophet answered as he was commanded by God, that it was all over with the city, the kingdom, and the whole nation.
We shall also see from other passages that Zedekiah was not one of the worst; though he did not really fear God and was led away by false counsels, there was yet in him some regard for religion, so that he did not avowedly despise God as Epicureans do. Many such are found even at this day in the world, who think it enough to cherish a half-buried fear of God, and to retain some little regard for religion; but it is very fading, and disappears on even the least occasion. So it was with Zedekiah; he was as it were neutral, for he neither seriously worshipped God nor yet despised him.
Hence it was, that he sent messengers to Jeremiah. He knew that while God was displeased with them no safety could be hoped for; but he did not understand the way of appeasing God, nor had he any real desire to be reconciled to him; as the case is with hypocrites, who, though they wish God to be kind to them, yet when God’s mercy is offered to them, either openly reject it, or are unwilling to embrace it, because they cannot bear to surrender themselves to God. Such was the state of mind in which Zedekiah was; and hence it was, that he asked the Prophet to consult God. But we must also observe that this was an honorable message; and it hence more fully appears that Zedekiah was not one of those furious tyrants, who like the giants seek to fight with God. For by sending two messengers to the Prophet, and employing him as an advocate to seek some favor from God, he proved that religion was not wholly suppressed and extinguished in him.
And hence also it may be seen how bold and courageous was the Prophet; for he was not softened by the honor paid to him, but gave such answer as was calculated to exasperate the king, and to drive him into great rage. But we ought especially to notice, that they did not flatter the Prophet so as to induce him to give a false answer, but wished God to be consulted. It hence appears that they were convinced of Jeremiah’s integrity, that he would say nothing rashly or from himself, but would be a faithful interpreter and herald of heavenly oracles. And yet we see, and shall hereafter see in several passages, that the king was very incensed against God’s Prophet. But hypocrites, though they are forced to reverence God, are yet carried here and there, and maintain no consistency, especially when they perceive that God is against them; for they are not turned by threatenings. They cannot, therefore, but make tumult, and strive like refractory horses to shake off their rider. Such an instance we find in Zedekiah; for he acknowledged Jeremiah as God’s faithful servant; for he did not say, “Tell a lie for us, or in our favor but, inquire of God for us.
He then adds, If Jehovah will deal with us according to all his wondrous works. fE16 We again see that Zedekiah had some sense of religion; but it was very evanescent; for he was not influenced by any real impression, being like hypocrites who wish, as it has been said, to have peace with God, provided it be on their own terms. But as they are unwilling wholly to surrender themselves to God, they take a circuituous course, and seek to allure God to themselves, at least they come not to him except through various windings, and not in a direct way. Hence Zedekiah refers here to God’s miraculous works which had been wrought in behalf of the Israelites in all ages; as though he had said, “God has hitherto dealt; in a wonderful manner with his chosen people, and whenever he brought help to our fathers, he manifested wonderful proofs of his power; will he not deal with us at this day in the same manner?” He assumes the principle, that God’s covenant remained inviolable; and this was quite true, but the application was false; for Zedekiah and the whole people ought to have kept faith with God. For if they wished God to be propitious to them, why did they not in return worship and serve him as their God? But as they were covenant-breakers, how foolishly and vainly did they allege God’s covenant, which they themselves had rendered void? But it is usual with hypocrites to apply to themselves every favor which God shews to his own children; for they falsely assume the name as a covering, and say, that they are members of the Church because God had adopted them. This was the reason why Zedekiah asked whether God would do according to his wonderful works, as though he had said, “Surely God is ever like himself, and we are his people; and as he has so often delivered his Church, and in such various ways, his power has always been wonderfully displayed; why, then, will he not deal with us in the same manner?”
He at last, adds, that he may ascend from us, fE17 that is, that the King Nebuchadnezzar may raise the siege and leave us free.
Now follows the answer of Jeremiah, say ye to Zedekiah, etc.; he did not go to the king himself, but by way of contempt delivered the message to be borne by the messengers. The Prophet no doubt did this designedly, and through the impulse of the Holy Spirit. He did not, indeed, proudly despise his king; but it was necessary for him by his magnanimity to cast down the pride of the king, so that he might know that he had to do with the living God, whom he had very insolently treated. Say ye to Zedekiah, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, etc. He adds the words, the God of Israel, that Zedekiah might know that the wonderful works, in reliance on which he still thought that their condition was safe, did not belong to him and the people; as though the Prophet had said, “Though God did not help thee and thy people, he would not yet be inconsistent with himself, or depart from his covenant; but he would remain ever the God of Israel, though he destroyed thee and all thy people.”
He says, Behold I, etc.; it was said before, Nebuchadnezzar is come to make war with us: now he says, “I am God;” as though he had said, “Nebuchadnezzar may be conquered, he may change his counsel, he may leave you through weariness; but know ye that Nebuchadnezzar fights under my authority.” Behold, he says, I prohibit (for so ought ksm to be rendered) all the warlike instruments which are in your hands, and with which ye fight against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans; as though he had said, “However furnished ye may be with weapons and forces, and whatever may be necessary to defend the city, I forbid the use of these weapons, that is, I will cause that they will avail you nothing.” Some, as I have said, render the word, “I will turn them against you.” But the meaning seems more suitable to the etymology of the word, when we say, that the weapons which the Jews had would avail them nothing, because God would prevent them from producing any effect. fE18
He afterwards adds, the Chaldeans, who fight without the wall against you. He described their state at that time, for the city was besieged by the Chaldeans; there was a wall between them, and the Jews thought that they could repel the attacks of their enemies. But God says, “the Chaldeans are this day shut out by the wall, but I will gather them, he says, into the middle of this city; that is, I will make a breach, so that the wall may not be a hinderance to prevent, the Chaldeans from occupying the very bosom of the city.” It follows, —

JEREMIAH 21:5
5. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand, and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.
5. Et praeliabor ego contra vos in manu extenta et brachio robusto, et in ira et furore et excandescentia magna.

He proceeds with the subject; and though he afterwards is more diffuse, he yet confirms here what we have just seen, — even that God was the leader of the war, and that the Chaldeans were, as it were, his hired soldiers, whom he guided by his own hand, and to whom he would give the signal to fight.
I, myself he says, will fight against you. He put this in opposition to the wonderful works which Zedekiah had mentioned. God, indeed, had formerly been in a wonderful way present with his Church, not only once, but a thousand times; but he says now, “whatever power I have, it shall be exercised now against you; expect, therefore, no aid from me, but know that I am armed, and shall wholly destroy you.” He adds, with an extended hand and a strong arm; as though he had said, “your fathers found wonderful works done for their safety; but you shall by experience learn how great is my power to destroy you.” In short, he means that all God’s power would be a cause of terror to the Jews, and that therefore they could not escape, as there is nothing more dreadful than to have God’s hand opposed to us. To the same purpose is what follows, in wrath, and in fury, and in great indignation. fE19 God intimates in these words that he would be implacable, and that hence Zedekiah was mistaken when he thought that the end of their evils was nigh at hand.
He might indeed have said briefly, “I will fight with an extended hand and with wrath;” but he mentioned wrath three times in various words. Hence what I have said appears evident, that Zedekiah was deprived of every hope, lest he should deceive himself, as though he would somehow propitiate God, who had already given up the city to final destruction. But we shall see that the Prophet had not ceased from the discharge of his office, and that he had allowed some room for repentance. But he made expressly this answer, for the king could not have been otherwise awakened. We shall see how he explained himself; but this beginning was as it were a thunderclap to lay prostrate the pride of the king and of the people. They had become first torpid in their evils, and then such was their contumacy that they sought to subject God to themselves. As then their stupidity and their obstinacy were so great, the Prophet could not, with any hope of success, have exhorted them to repent and offered them the mercy of God; it was therefore necessary for them to be so smitten as to perceive that they were wholly lost, and that God was so angry with them that they could not be saved by any human means. But we must defer the rest till to-morrow.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not to provoke thy wrath, and are also so slow to repent, — O grant, that we may at least so profit under thy threatenings and the manifestations of thy judgment, that we may give up ourselves wholly to thee, and hope, also for thy favor which has been for a time hidden from us, until with resigned minds we shall be able confidently to call on thee, and so prove our constancy, that thy name may be glorified in us, so that we may also be glorified in thee through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE SEVENTY-NINTH
JEREMIAH 21:6-7
6. And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.
6. Et percutiam habitatores urbis hujus, tam hominem quam bestliam; peste magna morientur.
7. And afterward, saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.
7. Et post sic (postea)dicit Jehova, Tradam Zedekiam, regem Jehudah, et servos ejus, et populum, et qui residui erunt in urbe hae a peste, a gladio, et a fame, in manum Nebuehadrezer, regis Babylonis, et in manum inimieorum ipsorum, et in manum quaerentium animam ipsorum; et percuitet eos ore gladii; non parcet illis, neque ignoscet, neque miserabitur.

Jeremiah goes on with the same discourse, even that God had resolved to destroy Jerusalem and the people, at least for a time. But he points out here what he intended to do, even that he would consume them by pestilence and famine, as long as they continued in the city; as though he had said, “Though these Chaldeans may not immediately take the city by means of a siege, yet its destruction shall be worse, for famine shall rage within and consume them.” We now perceive the design of the Prophet.
But we must keep in mind what I reminded you of yesterday, — that God assumes to himself what might have been ascribed to the Chaldeans, for he makes himself the author of all these calamities; I will smite, he says, the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; by a great pestilence shall they die. This was the first kind of punishment; before the enemy rushed into the city the pestilence had consumed many of the people. Now there is a circumstance mentioned which shews how dreadful would be their state, for not only men would perish, but even brute animals. It was no wonder that God’s vengeance extended to horses, and oxen, and asses; for we know that all these were created for the use of man. Hence when God manifested his wrath as to these animals, His object was to fill men with greater terrors; for they thus saw oxen and asses, though innocent, involved in the same punishment with themselves. For how can we suppose that horses and asses deserved to perish by diseases, or through want of daily food? But God sets forth such a spectacle as this, that he may more effectually touch men; for they thus see that the whole world is exposed to a curse through their sins. They are indeed constrained to know how great their sinfulness is; for on this account it is that the earth becomes dry and barren, that the elements above and below perform not their offices, so that the sterility of the ground deprives animals of their food, and the infection of the air kills them. But on this subject we have spoken elsewhere.
He then adds, And afterwards, that is, when the pestilence had in a great measure consumed them; I will give, or deliver, he says, Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his servants, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzer. He intimates that though they might suffer with courage their wants, it, would be of no avail to them. It often happens that a siege is raised, when the obstinacy of the besieged is so great, that they overcome famine and thirst, and struggle against extreme want; for they who besiege them are led to think that they contend with furious wild beasts, and so depart from them. But God declares here that the event would be different as to the Jews, for after having been nearly consumed, they would still be delivered up into the power of their enemies. Thus he shows that, their endurance would be useless. It is indeed, a most deplorable thing, that when we have endured many grievous and distressing evils, the enemy should at length gain the ascendency, and possess over us the power of life and death. But God shows here that such a calamity awaited the Jews; I will deliver, he says, Zedekiah the king of Judah, etc. He doubtless intended to show how foolish their confidence was, when they thought that they were safe under the shadow of their king: “The king himself,” he says, “shall not exempt himself from danger; what then will it avail you to have a king?” And the king is expressly mentioned, that the Jews might not deceive themselves with the foolish notion, that they had a sufficient safeguard in their king.
He then adds, And his servants, that is, his counsellors or courtiers; for servants were those called who were the chief men and ministers of the king, “and his ministers.” There was a great deal of pride in these courtiers, and they were very hostile to the Prophets; for being blinded by their own foolish wisdom, they despised what the Prophets taught and all their warnings. For this reason the Prophet says that they would be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.
It is further said, And the people. The last copulative is to be taken exegetically, even, µyraçnhAtaw, veat enesharim, “even the residue;” for he refers to none but the people, but intimates what the people would be, even a small number, a remnant. Then the words are to be thus rendered, “even those who shall remain in the city.” But Jerusalem, when this discourse was delivered, was in a flourishing state, and had a large number of inhabitants, he therefore shews, that after God diminished and reduced the people to a small number, there would not yet be an end to their evils, but that a worse thing would still happen to them, for their life would be put in the power of their enemies; he therefore says, even those who shall remain in the city; and he alludes to the last verse, for he had said that many would perish through want; nor does he refer only to famine, but, also to the sword and to the pestilence, for he says, even those who shall remain from the pestilence, and from the sword, and from the famine. The famine, as it is usual, produced pestilence; and then when their enemies attacked the city with their warlike instruments, many must have been killed, as they could not repulse their enemies from the walls without a conflict. Then God shows that the Jews would have to contend with want, pestilence, and the sword, until they were overcome, and the city taken by the Chaldeans.
It is afterwards added, into the hands of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their life. This repetition is not superfluous, for God intimates what is more fully and clearly expressed by Isaiah, — that the Chaldeans would not be satisfied with plunder, that they would make no account of silver and gold, for they would burn with rage, and their object would be to shed blood. (<231317>Isaiah 13:17.) So the meaning is here, when he mentions those who would seek their life; for they would be led by deadly hatred, so that their anger and cruelty would not be appeased until they destroyed them. Thus he shows that it would be a bloody victory, for the Jews would not only be led captives, because their conquerors would not think it worth their while to drag them away as worthless slaves, but their object would be wholly to destroy them.
Hence he says, He will smite them. There is a change of number, and the reference is made to the king, and yet the whole army is included, he will smite them with the mouth of the sword, he will not spare, he will not forgive, (the words are synonymous,) and will shew no mercy. fE20 God thus transferred his own inexorable wrath to the Chaldeans, who were his ministers, as though he had said, “Your enemies will be implacable, they will not be turned to mercy; for I have so commanded, and I will rouse them to execute my judgment.” Nor can this be deemed strange, because God had resolved in his implacable wrath to reduce the people to nothing. For we know how great was their perverseness in their sins.
Since then they had so often rejected the mercy of God, they had in a manner closed up the door of pardon. Hence it was that God resolved that the Chaldeans should thus rage against them without any feeling of humanity. It afterwards follows, —

JEREMIAH 21:8-9
8. And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.
8. Et ad populum hunc dices, sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego propono coram vobis (coram faciebus vestris) viam vitae (vitarum, ad verbum) et viam mortis:
9. He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.
9. Qui habitabit in urbe hac morietur gladio et fame et peste; qui autem egressus fuerit et habitaverit (vertunt quidam, qui ceciderit; sed dicemus de hoc verbo postea) apud Chaldeos, qui obsident vos, vivet et anima illi erit in spolium.

God here declares that he proposed to the people the way of life and the way of death, in order that they might surely know that all who remained in the city would soon meet with death, and that those who willingly surrendered to their enemies would have their life spared. Moses says in another sense that he set before them the way of life and the way of death; he spoke of the Law, which contains promises of God’s favor, and threatenings to transgressors. But the Prophet means here another thing, that is, that there was no hope of safety except the Jews submitted their neck to the yoke, and surrendered of themselves to their enemies; for if they pertinaciously defended themselves, God would be their enemy, for he had led the Chaldeans to assail them, and directed their counsels and their forces. He indeed confirms what he had said before, but at the same time he more particularly describes what was to be, that the Jews might lay aside their perverseness, and acknowledge that they could not escape the correction which they deserved.
The import of what is said is, that as the Chaldeans fought under the authority of God, they would be victorious; it was then in vain for the Jews to resist, as they could not escape, unless they overcame God himself, which was impossible. He leaves then but one hope to them, that is, humbly to acknowledge God’s just judgment by submitting of themselves to a temporal punishment, and by enduring exile with a resigned mind. This then is the meaning, and it is not different discourse, but the Prophet confirms what he had said before, and at the same time applies God’s threatenings to the state of the people, so that they might humble themselves, and not think it of any use to resist God in their obstinacy, as they would at length be constrained to succumb.
Thou shalt say to this people, Thus saith Jehovah, Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death. Which was the way of death? Whosoever, he says, abides in this city, shall die by the sword, or by famine, or by pestilence. This was incredible to the Jews, and they were no doubt inflamed with rage when they heard that they were to perish in the holy city which God protected; for there he had his sanctuary, and there his rest was. But the Prophet had already dissipated all these delusions; he could, therefore, boldly threaten them, though they still alleged their vain pretences: he had shewed reasons enough why they could hope for nothing less than exile from God, for they had so many times, and so obstinately, and in such various ways provoked him. This, then, he says, is the way of death, it is by remaining in the city. And he mentions several kinds of evils, and shews that God was armed not only with a hostile sword, but would also employ famine and pestilence, so that he would kill some with the sword, consume some with famine, and destroy some with pestilence. Hence he shews that they would be so assailed on every side, that it would be in vain to attempt to escape; for when they shunned the sword, pestilence would meet them; and when they were preserved from the pestilence, the famine would consume them.
He then adds, But he who went out to the Chaldeans, who besieged the city, etc., that is, who willingly surrendered himself; for it was a sign of obedience when the Jews with a resigned mind received correction; and it was also an evidence of repentance, for they thus confessed that they were worthy of the heaviest punishment. This is the reason why the Prophet represents it as the way of life to go out willingly, and to make a surrender of themselves of their own accord to their enemies. And by saying, who besiege you, µkyl[ µyrxh, etserim olicam, he wished to anticipate objections which any one of the people might have alleged, — “How can I dare thus to expose myself? for the Chaldeans besiege us, and it will be all over with me as to my life if I go forth as a suppliant to them.” By no means, says the Prophet, for though they carry on a deadly war with the city, yet every one who of his own accord goes forth to them shall be safe, and shall find them ready to shew mercy. God would not have promised this had he not the Chaldeans in his own power, so that he could turn their minds as he pleased.
As to the verb lpn, nuphel, it means strictly to fall; but I consider that it signifies here to dwell, as in <012527>Genesis 25:27, where it is said that Ishmael dwelt in the sight of, or over against his brethren. They who render it “died” touch neither heaven nor earth. Some read, “his lot fell among his brethren;” but this is an unnatural rendering. There is, then, no doubt but that the verb means often to lie down, and hence to dwell; and yet I allow that the Prophet alludes to subjection; for we must remember what must have been their condition when they went over to the Chaldeans; they must have been subjected to great reproach. It was then no small humiliation; but yet we may properly render the verb to dwell. He, then, who went out to the Chaldeans and dwelt with them, fE21 that is, who suffered himself to be led into exile, or who migrated according to their will from his own country to a foreign land — he, he says, shall live, and his life shall be for a prey, that is, he shall save his life, as when any one finds a prey and takes it as his own by stealth; for prey is to be taken here as an accidental gain. Whosoever, then, he says, shall not deem it too grievous a thing to submit to the Chaldeans, shall at least save his life.
In short, God intimates that the wickedness of the people had advanced so far, that it was not right to forgive them. What, then, was to be done by them? to submit with resignation and humility to a temporal punishment, and thus to cease to shut up the door of God’s mercy. He, however, teaches them at the same time that no salvation could be hoped for by them until they were chastised. And hence we may learn a useful doctrine, and that is, that whenever we provoke God’s wrath by our perverseness, we cannot be exempt from all punishment; and that we ought not to be impatient, especially when he punishes us moderately; and that provided we obtain eternal mercy, we ought submissively to bear paternal corrections. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 21:10
10. For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord; it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
10. Quia faciem meam contra urbem hanc in malum, et non in bonum, dicit Jehova; in manum regis Babylonis tradetur et exuret eam igni.

He again confirms what he had said, that it would be the way of death if the Jews remained fixed in the city, for this would be to struggle against God; for God is said to set his face for evil, since he had fully determined to punish that nation. To set the face is the same as to be resolute. Then God says that what he had resolved respecting the destruction of Jerusalem could not be changed. Now, what must at length be the issue when any one thinks that he can, against the will of God, escape death? As they who violently stumble against a stone break their legs, and arms, and head, too; so they who furiously stumble against God attain for themselves final ruin. fE22
We hence see why the Prophet added this verse: it was, that the Jews might not in their usual manner foster vain hopes; for to hope for any good was to contend with God himself. Delivered, he says, shall be this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. He intimates that Nebuchadnezzar would not only conquer the people and triumph over a taken city, but that the city itself was doomed to destruction. It is, indeed, a most grievous thing when a city is wholly demolished: cities are often taken, and the conqueror removes the inhabitants here and there, while it remains still a habitable place; but God declares here that he would act more severely towards the city of Jerusalem, for it was to perish by fire. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 21:11-12
11. And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the Lord;
11. Et ad domum (vel, palatium) regis Jehudah, Audite sermonem Jehovae:
12. O house of David, thus saith the Lord, Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
12. Domus David, sic dicit Jehova, judicate mane judicium (sunt quidemt duo verba, sed utrunque significat judicare; sensus antem est, judicare mature, et proferre rectum et oequum judicium; postea adjungit speciem unam,) liberate spoliatum e manu oppressoris, ne exeat, tamquam ignis, indignatio mea, et ardeat, et non sit extinguens, a facie malitiae studiorum ipsorum (hoc est, propter malitiam scelerum ipsorum).

Now the Prophet tells us that he was sent to the king and his counsellors. Hitherto he has been addressing the king and the whole people indiscriminately; but here a special message is committed to him to be delivered at the palace of the king; and he was to say that judgment was nigh him and his counsellors. But he is not now threatened as before, for there is a condition interposed: he exhorts them to repent, and indirectly promises them pardon, for in vain would he have spoken to them of repentance had he not given them some hopes of pardon and deliverance. He is not yet inconsistent with himself, for though the king was to be driven into exile, he might yet obtain some favor, after having submitted to a paternal correction. Though, then, the Prophet here exhorts the king and his counsellors to repent, he does yet shew that they were not to be wholly free from punishment, and yet he promises some mitigation. fE23
And this passage reminds us that we ought not to rush headlong into despair when some great evil is suspended over us, and when God shews that we cannot wholly escape punishment. For there is nothing more unreasonable than that the fear by which God restores us to himself should be the cause of despair, so that we repent not; for though God’s wrath be not wholly removed, yet it is a great thing that it is mitigated, which is an alleviation accompanying the evil itself.
In short, the Prophet intimates that God’s wrath might be alleviated, though not wholly pacified, provided the king and his counsellors began to act rightly and justly. But he mentions the house of David, not for honor’s sake, but, on the contrary, by way of reproach; nor does he refer to David, as some unmeaningly assert, because he ruled justly and was a most excellent and upright king; but the Prophet had regard to God’s covenant. For we know that they deceived themselves when they thought that they were to be exempt from trouble through a peculiar privilege, because God had chosen that family, and promised that the kingdom would be perpetual. Thus hypocrites appropriate to their own advantage whatever God has promised; and at the same time they boast, though without faith and repentance, that God is bound to them. Such, then, was the presumption of the king and his counsellors; for they who were David’s descendants doubted not but that they were exempt from the common lot of men, and that they were, as they say, sacred beings. Hence the Prophet says, in contempt, The house of David! that is, “let these vain boastings now cease, for God will not spare you, though you may a hundred times boast that you are the descendants of David.” And at the same time he upbraids them with having become wholly degenerate, for God had made a covenant with David on the condition that he served him faithfully; but his posterity were become perfidious and apostates. Therefore the Prophet brought before them the name of David, in order that he might the more reproach them, because they were become wholly unlike their father, having departed from his piety.
Thus saith Jehovah, he adds, Judge ye judgment. There was no doubt a great liberty taken by the king and his courtiers in committing plunder, for the Prophet would not have here recommended justice to them had they not wholly neglected what was just and right. As, then, there was no care to administer justice, the Prophet bade them to recognize what was due to God and to his people. But it was a most grievous trial to all the godly to see that the sacred house, in which the living image of God ought to have shone forth brightly, was become a house of spoils, where robbers dwelt, who with impunity plundered all around them. When, therefore, the state of things is in such a disorder that the very judges, whom God has set over his Church, are like robbers, let us know that such a thing happened formerly; nor is there a doubt but that God thus took vengeance on the impiety and wickedness of the people, for he would have never suffered that house to be so contaminated and so filled with so many crimes, had not the people been unworthy of a good and faithful king and of upright counsellors. Let us, then, know that the Prophet exhorted the king and his counsellors to execute justice, because they had forgotten their office, and were become like rapacious wolves. fE24
He specifies one act, Free ye the spoiled from the hand of his oppressor. Some read, “from the hand of the fraudulent,” as though qç[, oshek, should mean to oppress by calumny and malice, or by fraudulent means; but it is to be taken otherwise here. Some distinguish between the two words qç[, oshek, and lzg, gesal, and say that the first means to retain a deposit or wages, or anything that belongs to another, and that the latter signifies to take a thing by force, to plunder. But this difference, as it appears, is not observed by the Prophet, for he says, “Free ye the plundered or the spoiled.” From whose hand? from “the hand of the oppressor.” As, then, these two words correspond, I doubt not but that lzg, gesal, means both to take by force and to plunder; and that though qç[, oshek, means often fraudulently to oppress, yet not always. However this may be, God intimates that neither the king nor his counsellors had any care for the poor, so as to repress violence, and robbery, and plunder. Then the very judges themselves were the associates of robbers, for they allowed them with impunity to rob and plunder without affording any aid to helpless men when they were thus wickedly harassed. There is, however, no doubt but that God would have them to perform their duties towards all, both rich and poor, without exception; but as injustice in this particular was especially seen, this is the reason why by stating a part for the whole he specified only one thing. fE25
He then adds, Lest my indignation go forth like fire, and burn, and there be none to extinguish it. Here the Prophet intimates, that except the king and his courtiers repented, it was all over with them. There is then a contrast to be understood here between that paternal correction of which he had spoken, and the destruction of which the Prophet now speaks. God’s indignation had been already kindled, nor could it be immediately extinguished; and though they had to suffer, yet the issue would have been happy and according to their wishes: but he here declares that there would be an irreconcilable war with God, except they labored to return to his favor. He adds, On account of the wickedness of their doings. There is here a change of person, except we read µk, cam, “you;” but this sort of change often occurs in Scripture. The Prophet, after having addressed them, says now, “on account of the wickedness of their doings,” as though having finished his discourse, he spoke of them as being absent, or as though God, after having given orders to his Prophet, then added, “I denounce this on them, because they have so deserved.”
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not, by new crimes, daily to kindle thy wrath, we may not proceed to obstinacy or contempt; and since it is good for us to be chastised by thine hand, grant that we may resignedly submit to thy scourges, and allow thee to act the part of a Father towards us, in restoring us to the right way, and never cease to hope in thee, even when thou seemest to be angry with us; but may our hope regard that issue which thou promisest, even that evils themselves shall be an aid to our salvation, until having gone through all the miseries of the present life, we shall come into that blessed rest which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTIETH
JEREMIAH 21:13-14
13. Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of in the plain, saith the Lord; which say, Who shall come down us? or who shall enter into our habitations?
13. Ecce ego contra to, quae habitas in valle, petra in planitie (vel, patrae planitiei, alii vertunt) dicit Jehova; qui dicitis, Quis descendet contra nos? et quis ingrediatur habitacula nostra?
l4. But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the Lord; and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.
14. Et visitabo super vos secundum fructum studiorum vestrorum, dicit Jehova; et accendam ignem in sylva ejus, et consumet quiequid est in circuitu ejus.

Though the whole nation was corrupt in the time of the Prophet, yet Jerusalem was the head and seat of all evils, especially as there was there more licentiousness; and then they thought that the Prophets had no liberty there, as though the citizens were, by a peculiar privilege, exempt from all reproof; and, lastly, the very situation of the city gave them courage, for when they regarded the height of their walls, their towers, and fortresses, they thought themselves beyond the reach of danger. Hence was the security which the Prophet now condemns; and, therefore, he calls it the inhabitant of the valley.
Jerusalem, we know, was situated on small hills: the Mount Sion had two tops; and then there were hills contiguous, especially towards Lebanon; there was, however, a plain on every side. And then if we except Mount Sion, Jerusalem was in a valley; for it was surrounded, we know, by mountains. There were mountains around it, as it is said in <19C502>Psalm 125:2. Now, its very situation gave confidence to the citizens, as access to it was difficult. They, therefore, thought that enemies could not come into that valley, which kept them inclosed, as in a fortified place. This is the reason why the Prophet called not the city by its own name, but said that it dwelt in the valley; and afterwards he called it a rock in the plain; for rçy, isher, is straight, and hence rwçym, mishur, means a level ground. The whole region was then a continued plain as far as the mountains. Jerusalem itself had also, as we have said, its small hills; it was therefore, as it were, a rock in a Plain. fE26
We now see for what purpose the Prophet used this circumlocution, even because the Jews gloried in the position of their city, as though it was impregnable; and also, because the vicinity of the mountains, as well as the plain, gave them great advantages. And we know how disposed men are to take to a false security when there is apparently no danger; but on the contrary, they think of various defences and aids from which they expect to derive help. It is, therefore, this false boasting that the Prophet condemns, when he calls Jerusalem the inhabitant of the valley, and then says, that it was a rock in the plain.
What follows makes this more clear, Who say, Who shall come down against us? and, Who shall enter into our habitations? The verb tjy, ichet, some take in the sense of tearing, “Who shall make a breach on us?” They derive the word from ttj, chetat; but it is rather from tjn, nechat, to descend; for the first meaning would be too strained. The Prophet speaks according to the opinion of the people, who thought themselves sufficiently fortified against all the attacks of their enemies. It may have been, indeed, that they did not speak thus openly; but the Prophet had regard to the hidden thoughts of their hearts, when he ascribed to them this boasting, — that they dwelt in an impregnable place, as the access to it was formidable; for they spoke boldly, “Who shall descend to us? fE27 who will enter our houses?” as though they had their nest in the clouds. They intimated that their state would be safe, because their enemies would not dare to come nigh them, or would be disgracefully repelled if they dared, as it would be enough for them to close their gates.
But God, on the contrary, says, Behold I will come to thee, or against thee, and will visit thee. There is, indeed, a change of number; for he says, I will visit you, for he had begun by saying, “Ye who say,” µyrmah, eamrim. I will visit upon you, he says, the fruit of your doings; that is,
“I will deal with you according to what you have done, as your works deserve.” Merit is to be taken for reward. Then God threatens that he would render to the Jews what they merited, because they had not ceased to provoke his wrath.
He adds, lastly, I will kindle a fire in its forest. Some take “forest” metaphorically for the neighboring towns; but this seems foreign to the Prophet’s meaning. I do not, indeed, deny but that there is a metaphor in the words; but then the word forest is not to be applied to towns and villages, but to the buildings of the city itself, according to a mode of speaking elsewhere used by the Prophets. As their houses were built of a large quantity of wood, of tall and most choice trees, the Prophet compares this mass of wood to a forest. We may, however, give a simpler explanation, and I know not whether it be more suitable that the Prophet points out Lebanon. He then means by the forest of the city the trees of Lebanon, which we know were particularly fine, for their loftiness were everywhere known; and we know also that they were very large. As, then, a part of their false glory was Mount Lebanon, the Prophet distinctly intimates that it would serve as a help to burn the city itself; for when God burned Jerusalem, he would take from the vicinity materials for the purpose. fE28
Now, as we understand the meaning of the Prophet, let us learn how to apply this passage. We have said elsewhere that nothing is more hateful to God than false confidence; when men, relying on their own resources, promise to themselves a happy and a safe condition, they become torpid in their own security. Thus it comes, that they despise God, and never flee to him; they scorn his judgments, and at length are carried away by a mad impulse to every kind of insolence. This is the reason why the Prophets so often and so sharply reprove secure men, for they become presumptuous towards God when they are touched by no regard for him, and with no fear of him. They then not only dishonor God by transferring the hope of their safety to mere means or such helps as they foolishly depend on, but they also think that they are not under the authority of God. Hence it is, that they promise themselves impunity, and thus become wholly hardened in their sins. Now follows —
CHAPTER 22

JEREMIAH 22:1-3
1. Thus saith the Lord, Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,
1. Sic dicit Jehova, Descende in domum regis Jehudah, et loquere illic ser-monem hunc,
2. And say, Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates;
2. Et dices, Audi sermonem Jehova, rex Jehudah, qui sedes super solium Davidis, tu et servi tui, et populus tuus qui ingredimini per portas has:
3. Thus saith the Lord, Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.
3. Sic dicit Jehova, Facite judicium et justitiam, et eripite spoliatum e manu oppressoris; peregrinum, pupilum, et viduam ne fraudetis (Hieronymus hoc verbum ubique vertit, contristari, vel, tristitia afficere; significat autem potius inferre violentiam, aut fraudulenter nocere;) ne violentiam exerceatis (alii vertunt, rsmjt la, et sanguinem innocentem ne fundatis in loco isto.

The Prophet is again bidden to reprove the king and his counsellors; but the exhortation is at the same time extended to the whole people. It was necessary to begin with the head, that the common people might know that it was not a matter to be trifled with, as God would not spare, no, not even the king himself, and his courtiers; for a greater terror seized the lower orders, when they saw the highest laid prostrate. That what is here taught might then penetrate more effectually into the hearts of all, the Prophet is bid to address the king himself and his courtiers: he is afterwards bidden to include also the whole body of the people. And hence it appears, that there was some hope of favor yet remaining, provided the king and the whole people received the admonitions of the Prophet; provided their repentance and conversion were sincere, God was still ready to forgive them.
We must at the same time observe, as I have already said, that they could not escape the calamity that was at hand; but exile would have been much milder, and also their return would have been more certain, and they would have found in various ways that they had not been rejected by God, though for a time chastised. As then we now say, that a hope of pardon was set before them, this is not to be so understood as that they could avert the destruction of the city; for it had once for all been determined by God to drive the people into a temporary exile, and also to put all end for a time to their sacrifices; for this dreadful desolation was to be a proof that the people had been extremely ungrateful to God, and especially that their obstinacy could not be endured in having so long despised the Prophets and the commands of God. However the hope of mitigation as to their punishment was given them, provided they were touched by a right feeling, so as to endeavor to return into favor with God. But as Jeremiah effected nothing by so many admonitions, they were rendered more inexcusable.
We now see the design of what is here said, even that the Jews, having been so often proved guilty, might cease to complain that they suffered anything undeservedly; for they had been often admonished, yea, almost in numberless instances, and God had offered mercy, provided they were reclaimable. I come now to the words —
Thus saith Jehovah, Go down fE29 to the house of the king. We see that the Prophet was endued with so great a courage that the dignity of the king’s name did not daunt him, so as to prevent him to perform what was commanded him. We have seen elsewhere similar instances; but whenever such cases occur, they deserve to be noticed. First, the servants of God ought boldly to discharge their office, and not to flatter the great and the rich, nor remit anything of their own authority when they meet with dignity and greatness. Secondly, let those who seem to be more eminent than others learn, that whatever eminence they may possess cannot avail them, but that they ought to submit to prophetic instruction. We have before seen that the Prophet was sent to reprove and rebuke even the highest, and to shew no respect of persons. (<240110>Jeremiah 1:10.) So now, here he shews that he had, as it were, the whole world under his feet, for in executing his office, he reproved the king himself and all his princes.
But he speaks of the king as sitting on the throne of David; but not, as I have already said, for the sake of honor, but for the purpose of enhancing his guilt; for he occupied a sacred throne, of which he was wholly unworthy. For though God is said to sit in the midst of the gods, because by him kings rule, we yet know that the throne of David was more eminent than any other; for it was a priestly kingdom and a type of that celestial kingdom which was afterwards fully revealed in Christ. As, then, the kings of Judah, the descendants of David, were types of Christ, less tolerable was their impiety, when, unmindful of their vocation, they had departed from the piety of their father David and became wholly degenerated. So the Prophet, by mentioning the house of Israel and the house of Jacob, no doubt condemned the Jews, because they had become unlike the holy patriarch. We now, then, understand the object of the Prophet when he says, “Hear the word of Jehovah, thou king of Judah, who sittest on the throne of David.”
But that his reproof might have its just weight, the Prophet carefully shews that he brought nothing but what had been committed to him from above; this is the reason why he repeats, thou shalt say, “Thus saith Jehovah, Go down, speak, and say.” From the king he comes to the courtiers, and from them to the whole people. Thou, he says, and thy servants; by the king’s servants the Scripture means, all those ministers who were his counsellors, who were appointed to administer justice and who exercised authority. But we must notice, that at last he addresses the whole people. We hence see that what he taught belonged in common to all, though he began with the king and his counsellors, that the common people might not think that they would be unpunished if they despised the doctrine to which even kings were to submit.
He says, first, Do judgment and justice. This belonged especially to the king and his judges and governors; for private individuals, we know, had no power to protect their property; for though every one ought to resist wrongs and evil doings, yet this was the special duty of the judges whom God had armed with the sword for this purpose. To do judgment, means to render to every one according to his right; but when the two words, judgment and justice, are connected together, by justice we are to understand equity, so that every one has his own right; and by judgment is to be understood the execution of due punishment; for it is not enough for the judge to decide what is right, except he restrains the wicked when they audaciously resist. To do judgment, then, is to defend the weak and the innocent, as it were, with an armed hand. fE30
He then adds, Rescue the spoiled from the hand of the oppressor. He repeats what we observed in the last chapter; and here under one thing he includes the duty of judges, even that they are ever to oppose what is wrong and to check the audacity of the wicked, for they can never be induced willingly to conduct themselves with moderation and quietness. As, then, they are to be restrained by force, he says, “Rescue the spoiled from the hand of the oppressor.” Of the word lwzg, gesul, we have spoken before; but by this form of speaking God intimates that it is not enough for the judge to abstain from tyranny and cruelty, and not to stimulate the wicked nor favor them, except he also acknowledges that he has been appointed by God for this end — to rescue the spoiled from the hand of the oppressor, and not to hesitate to face hatred and danger in the discharge of his office.
The Prophet now adds other things which he had not mentioned in the preceding chapter; defraud not, fE31 he says, the stranger and the orphan and the widow. It is what is often said in Scripture, that it is not right to defraud any one; for God would exempt all from wrong, and not only strangers, orphans, and widows; but as orphans have no knowledge or wisdom, they are exposed, as it were, to plunder; and also widows, because they are in themselves helpless; and strangers, because they have no friends to undertake their cause; hence God, in an especial mannel, requires a regard to be had to strangers, orphans, and widows. There is also another reason; for when their right is rendered to strangers, orphans, and widows, equity no doubt shines forth more conspicuously. When any one brings friends with him, and employs them in the defense of his cause, the judge is thereby influenced; and he who is a native will have his relations and neighbors to support his cause; and he who is rich and possessing power will also influence the judge, so that he dares not do anything notoriously wrong; but when the stranger, or the orphan, or the widow comes before the judge, he can with impunity oppress them all. Hence if he judges rightly, it is no doubt a conspicuous proof of his integrity and uprightness. This, then, is the reason why God everywhere enumerates these cases when he speaks of right and equitable judgments. He further adds, Exercise no violence, nor shed innocent blood in this place. These things also were matters belonging to the judges. But it was a horribly monstrous thing for the throne of David to have been so defiled as to have become, as it were, a den of robbers. Wherever there is any pretense to justice, there ought to be there some fear or shame; but as we have said, that tribunal was in a peculiar manner sacred to God. As, then, the king and his counsellors were become like robbers, and as they so occupied the throne of David that all impiety prevailed, and they hesitated not to plunder on every side, as though they lived in a house of plunder; this was, as I have said, a sad and shameful spectacle. fE32
But we ought the more carefully to notice this passage, that we may learn to strengthen ourselves against bad examples, lest the impiety of men should overturn our faith; when we see in God’s Church things in such a disorder, that those who glory in the name of God are become like robbers, we must beware lest we become, on this account, alienated from true religion. We must, indeed, detest such monsters, but we must take care lest God’s word, through men’s wickedness, should lose its value in our esteem. We ought, then, to remember the admonition of Christ, to hear the Scribes and Pharisees who sat in Moses’ seat. (<402302>Matthew 23:2.) Thus it behoved the Jews to venerate that royal throne, on which God had inscribed certain marks of his glory. Though they saw that it was polluted by the crimes and evil deeds of men, yet they ought to have retained some regard for it on account of that expression, “This is my rest for ever.”
But we yet see that the king was sharply and severely reproved, as he deserved. Hence most foolishly does the Pope at the present day seek to exempt himself from all reproof, because he occupies the apostolic throne. fE33 Were we to grant what is claimed, (though that is frivolous and childish,) that the Roman throne is apostolic, (which I think has never been occupied by Peter,) surely the throne of David was much more venerable than the chair of Peter? and yet the descendants of David who succeeded him, being types and representatives of Christ, were not on that account, as we here see, exempt from reproof.
It might, however, be asked, why the Prophet said that he was sent to the whole people, when his doctrine was addressed only to the king and the public judges? for it belonged not to the people or to private individuals. But I have said already that it was easy for the common people to gather how God’s judgment ought to have been dreaded, for they had heard that punishment was denounced even on the house of David, which was yet considered sacred. When, therefore, they saw that those were summoned before God’s tribunal who were, in a manner, not subject to laws, what were they to think but that every one of them ought to have thought of himself, and to examine his own life? for they must at length be called to give an account, since the king himself and his counsellors had been summoned to do so. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:4-5
4. For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.
4. Quid si faciendo feceritis (alii vertunt, quin potius faciendo faciatis) ser-monem hunc (hoc est, obediatis sermoni huic,) et ingrediemini per portas domus hujus, reges sedentes pro Davide (vel, Davidi) super solium ejus, insidentes currui et equis, ipse, rex, et servi ejus et populus ejus.
5. But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.
5. Quod si non obedieritis sermonibus istis, in me (hoc est, per me) juravi, dicit Jehova, quod in solitudinem (aut, vastitatem) erit domus haec.

The Prophet expresses more clearly what I have already stated, that if the Jews from the heart repented, there was yet a place for mercy; for he promises them that God would be reconcilable, if they sought to be reconciled to him; he allures them to repentance by words of kindness. We may, indeed, read µayk, kiam, as one word, and render it, “But rather;” but I follow others who give this version, For if by doing ye will do this word, then ye shall enter in, etc.; and thus they turn the copulative into an adverb of time, which is often the case. fE34 Still the other meaning is not unsuitable, when the future verb, wç[t, toshu, is taken in a hortative sense; for we know that the future tense in Hebrew is often to be understood as an imperative. As to the general meaning, there is not much difference; for what the Prophet designed to shew was this, that God would be reconciled to the Jews, if they were not wholly disobedient. “Only,” he says, “obey my word, and your safety shall be secured.” Not that impunity was to be expected, as I have said before, but, as they would have found, their reconciliation to God would not have been in vain, for their punishment would have been mitigated; in that case their exile would have been rendered more endurable, for God would have doubtless made their adversaries kind to them; in short, mercy would have been shewn to them in many ways. Moreover, the Prophet shews that he called them not in vain to repent; for he sets before them God’s favor in mitigating their punishment.
And he adds, Ye shall enter through the gates of this house, both your kings and their counsellors; but the number is afterwards changed, he, that is, every king. fE35 The Prophet, seems, at the first view, to have retracted what he had said respecting exile; but the two things are to be connected together, that there was some hope remaining, if the Jews accepted the favor of God, and then that the punishment, once decreed, was to be borne by them. These two things do not disagree. For God had resolved to drive the Jews into exile; but all Judea would not doubtless have been reduced to solitude, as that happened through their irreclaimable obstinacy, according to what we read at the end of this Book; for they might have otherwise dwelt still in their own country. This is one thing; and then their condition after their exile would have been better and far more happy. But even at that time, the crown was trodden under foot, and all the dignity and power of the family of David were nearly abolished.
When, therefore, the Prophet says, “Enter shall kings in chariots and on horses,” and also “the people and he and his counsellors, through the gates of this city;” he does not mean that they would so escape as that God would not chastise them for their sins, as he had declared, but that there would still be some form of a kingdom, and that exile would be short, and also that there would be at length a restoration, so that the descendants of David would return to their former state, and that the city itself would be restored so as to abound in wealth as in all other blessings. Such is the promise. The Prophet further adds what would otherwise take place, If they will not hear, this place shall become a desolation. But this threatening shall be considered tomorrow.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to erect the throne of thy Son among us, we may suffer ourselves to be ruled by him, and not falsely boast that we are his people, but really prove that we truly and from the heart confess him as our King, that he may also so defend us through the whole course of life against all the assaults of our enemies, that we, ever relying on thine aid, and possessing our souls in patience, may at length be translated into that blessed glory and rest, which he has purchased for us by his own blood: — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-FIRST
We explained yesterday the declaration of the Prophet, — that the kingdom would again be restored by the Lord, if the king and his servants and the whole people repented. He now introduces a commination, — that if they heard not, it was all over with the palace and the city. But the word house, or palace is often repeated; for though the defenses of the city gave courage to the people, yet what made them especially proud was the confidence they felt that the kingdom had been promised to be for ever. Hence, they thought, that the royal dignity could not possibly fall as long as the sun and moon continued in the heavens. (<198938>Psalm 89:38.) This false confidence is what the Prophet now meets, and he says, If ye will not hear these words, etc. He changes the number: he had said before this word, hzh rbdh ta, at edeber eze; but he now says these words, µyrbdh ta, at edeberim. But the singular number includes the whole of his doctrine; yet he now uses the plural number, because he had exhorted them to change their life. fE36
And that they might not think that they were for no good reason terrified, he declares that God had sworn by himself. We indeed know that when God makes an oath, either when he promises anything, or when he denounces punishment on sinners, it is done on account of men’s sloth and dullness. For our hearts through unbelief will hardly receive a simple truth, unless God removes the impediments; and this is the design of making an oath, when God does not only speak, but in order to render us more certain of our salvation, he confirms his promise by introducing his own name as a pledge. The reason is similar as to threatenings; for so great is the false security of sinners, that they are deaf until God, as it were, with force penetrates into their hearts. Hence he says, that God made an oath by himself; for it seemed incredible to the Jews, that the family which had been set apart by God from the world, would ever perish. It now follows:

JEREMIAH 22:6
6. For thus saith the Lord unto the king’s house of Judah, Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness and cities which are not inhabited.
6. Quoniam dicit Jehova super domum regis Jehudah, Guilead, tu mihi caput Libani, si non posuero to desertum, tanquam urbes quae non habitantur.

He confirms the preceding declaration, and explains more at large what had been stated sufficiently clear; for the false boasting of the Jews could hardly be restrained, as they still thought that the kingdom in the family of David would be permanent and exempt from any danger of a change.
But interpreters differ as to the meaning of the words. I will not repeat their views, nor is it necessary: I will only state what seems to me to be the real meaning. All others indeed give a different explanation; but the Prophet, I doubt not, means the same thing as we have observed in <240712>Jeremiah 7:12; where he says,
“Go to Shiloh, and see what is the state of that place, for the ark of the covenant had a long time dwelt there.”
Though, then, they thought that place sacred, yet it was reduced to desolation; and thus it must have become a dreadful spectacle to the whole people. For the same reason now, as it seems to me, the Prophet compares Lebanon to Mount Gilead; for what some say, that Gilead was the chief city of the ten tribes, has nothing in it. But we must remember the state of things at that time; the kingdom of Israel was wholly demolished when our Prophet spoke these words. Judea had indeed been much reduced by many calamities; but still some kind of a kingdom remained. Then by Mount Gilead the Prophet doubtless meant, by stating a part for the whole, the kingdom of Israel, but for a purpose different from that assigned by interpreters, even because the whole land of Israel was then laid waste; for all the inhabitants had been led into exile, and all the spoils had been removed, and nothing had escaped the rapacity and cruelty of their enemies.
Since, then, the land of Israel had been reduced unto desolation, God says now, that Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah would not be of greater value in his sight than the whole country of the ten tribes had been, which was doubtless larger in extent and in wealth. And this meaning may be easily gathered from the words of the passage; he does not say, “Thou art like Gilead the head of Lebanon;” but, Gilead to me art thou the head of Lebanon. And he calls Jerusalem Lebanon, because it was, as it were, the queen of that land; for by Mount Lebanon he designated whatever was precious in that country, for the reason we mentioned yesterday. As to Gilead, I do not consider that the Prophet refers especially to the city, but by stating a part for the whole, he includes the whole country, and for this reason, because Mount Gilead was full of many fruitful trees, and particularly of the balsam and the rosin tree, and of many odoriferous herbs and aromatics, which at this day are from thence brought to different parts of the world. And hence we found it asked in <240822>Jeremiah 8:22,
“Is there no rosin in Gilead?
is there no medicine found there to heal the Church?”
Why was mention made then of Mount Gilead? even because there grew the best aromatics, and especially the balsam tree, and also many odoriferous trees and most precious fruits.
The meaning then is, “What dost thou think thyself to be? or, for what reason dost thou trust so much in thyself? I did not spare Mount Gilead and that extensive country which was much superior to thee; what means then this foolish presumption, that thou persuadest thyself that all danger is far off? Thou shalt be to me as Gilead. Think of my judgment on Mount Gilead, and of the dreadful desolation of the land of Israel; the same which you may now see there shall happen to thee.” We now perceive in what sense the Prophet says, that before God the head of Lebanon, that is, Jerusalem itself, which ruled over Lebanon, would become like Gilead. fE37
He then adds, If I make thee not a desert. God again makes an oath; for it is, we know, an elliptical mode of expression, when the particle µa, am, is only used, for an imprecation is to be understood, — “Let me not be thought a God;” or, “Let my power be deemed nothing;” or, “Let me not be hereafter counted true and faithful.” However this may be, God makes an oath, that the city would become a desert, as those cities which are not inhabited. Thus the whole context appears consistent, — that Jerusalem would be at length like the land of Israel, for he would no more spare Lebanon than Mount Gilead. It afterwards follows:

JEREMIAH 22:7
7. And I will prepare destroyers against thee, every one with his weapons; and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire.
7. Et praeparabo (vertunt alii, sanctificabo, ut etiam çdq hoc significat, praeparabo igitur) adversum to perditores, (aut, vastatores; tjç significat perdere, et redigere in nihilum, et corrumpere, unde nomen µytjçm, quod hic ponitur,) virum et arma ejus (aut, instrumenta bellica, vasa transferunt,) et exscindent electionem cedrorum tuarum (hoc est, electissimas quasque cedros tuas,) et conjicient in ignem.

He expresses the manner, for he had only said before, that the ruin of the city Jerusalem was nigh at hand; he adds, that destroyers would come and those well armed with warlike instruments, who would cut down all the choicest cedars and cast them into the fire. But he reminds them, that those destroyers would not come of themselves or through an impulse of their own, but through the secret operation of God; for if the Jews had thought that they had to do only with the Chaldeans, there would have been nothing to call forth the exercise of a religious principle; but the Prophet distinctly declares, that the Chaldeans would be the ministers of God, for they would be roused and led by him, according to what is often taught by the Prophets.
In short, these two things ought to be noticed, — first, that God had in readiness many ways by which he could punish the Jews. For the contempt of the ungodly arises, because they dream that God is unarmed and has not always the execution, as they say, ready at hand. Hence the Prophet shews that the Chaldeans would be ready as soon as God hissed for them, or gave them a sign. This is one thing. Secondly, it ought to be observed, that he reminds them that the Chaldeans would be the scourge of God, that the Jews might not think that they contended with mortals, but might know that they were summoned to render an account of their life, because they had too long been rebellious against God and his Prophets. This is what we must understand by the word prepare. fE38
Now as to the choice cedars, the Prophet again alludes to Mount Lebanon and to the forest of Jerusalem, which was mentioned yesterday. The word forest may, however, be applied to the buildings; for the Jews built their chambers for the most part of cedar wood, as it is well known; we may then apply this to their splendid and sumptuous houses; but we may also take it without a figure and apply it to the trees of Mount Lebanon. But the chief ornament of the country were the noble trees on that Mount; hence, by cedars, the Prophet no doubt designated whatever was splendid at Jerusalem and in the country around it. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:8-9
8. And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city?
8. Et transibunt gentes multae per urbem hanc, et dicent quisque socio suo (vir ad socium suum, ad verbum,) cur fecit Jehova in hunc modum urbi huic magnae?
9. Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.
9. Et dicent, Quia dereliquierunt foedus Jehovae Dei sui, et sese inclinarunt coram diis alienis, et coluerunt eos.

The Prophet shews in these words how blind the Jews were as to their own ruin, in disregarding in so refractory a manner the judgment of God. The words no doubt embrace two contrasts; he compares mortal men with God, and those many nations with him alone. The Jews could not bear God as their judge, and were still refractory and strove by their perverseness to overcome him. Then the Prophet says, that as they would not endure to be judged by God, judges would come who would pronounce on them a free impartial sentence; and who were they to be? the heathens. And then, as the Jews would not obey the one true God, the Prophet sets many nations in contrast with the one true God.
We hence see the full import of these words, Pass shall many nations through this city; fE39 that is, God has hitherto adorned this city with many privileges, so that it became like a miracle to foreigners, for so conspicuous was the dignity of this city, that it attracted the notice of all, and its fame was known far and wide. Now, he says, this city shall be deprived of all its ornaments, when God shall depart from it. Pass, then, he says, shall man. nations through this city, and they will inquire, every one of his friend, Why hath Jehovah done thus to this city? Jeremiah, no doubt, indirectly condemns, not only the sloth, but also the insensibility which had so demented the Jews, that they never duly reflected on God’s judgment, nor were ever touched by the curses of the Law. He then shews that there would be more understanding and wisdom in the Gentiles, for on seeing Jerusalem overthrown and wholly demolished, they would know that this had not happened by chance, but was an evidence of vengeance from heaven. We thus see that he upbraided the Jews with their own stupidity, as they did not consider the judgment of God; but he ascribed to the nations wisdom and the spirit of inquiry; for they would ask, “Why has Jehovah done thus to this city?”
“The nations,” he says, “will understand what ye do not comprehend, even that this city will exhibit an example of dreadful vengeance, and this will be the subject of their inquiry; but while God now of his own free will foretell this to you, ye close your ears; surely there would be no need of much inquiry in a matter so clear, were you not deaf and blind, and indeed obstinate, for God of his own accord warns you beforehand. What, then, can this be, that God forewarns you and ye refuse to hear him, except that the devil bewitches you?”
And he says, this great city; for its ruin was more remarkable on account of its greatness. When a small town is destroyed, hardly any account is made of the event; but when a city falls, which was everywhere celebrated for its largeness, and also for the extraordinary benefits conferred on it by God, it excites the wonder of all, as though it had fallen from the clouds.
He afterwards adds, that there would be not only a spirit of inquiry among the nations, but that every one would become spontaneously a judge of the whole people: they shall answer, he says, because they have forsaken the covenant of Jehovah their God. Now, when Jeremiah declares that all the nations would become the judges of the people, he no doubt intended to condemn the false confidence in which they proudly indulged. At the same time, he says, “they have forsaken the covenant of Jehovah their God,” in order that he might take away the plea of ignorance. For they had not only deprived the eternal God of his own right and authority, but they had become doubly wicked, because God had made himself familiarly known to them. As, then, true religion had been fully revealed to them in the Law, hence their perverseness and wicked and base ingratitude appeared, for they had rejected God thus made known to them, and they bowed down before foreign gods and served them. I only touch here on these points, for they have been elsewhere explained. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:10
10. Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him; but sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.
10. Ne fleatis (vel, ne lugeatis) super mortuum, et ne condoleatis ei; flete flendo super eum qui migrat, qui non revertetur amplius, et videbit (hoc est, ut videt) terram nativitatis suae.

They explain this verse of Jehoiakim and Jeconiah, but I consider it rather a general declaration, for the Prophet wished briefly to shew how miserable would be the condition of the people, as it would be better and more desirable at once to die than to protract life in continual languor. Of the kings he wilt afterwards speak, but reason compels us to extend these words to the whole people.
When a people flee away, being not able to resist their enemies, they may look for a restoration. In that case all dread death more than exile and all other calamities which are endured in this life, for they who remain alive may somehow emerge from their ills and troubles, or at least they may have them alleviated; but death cuts off all hopes. But the Prophet says here that death would be better than exile; and why? Because it would have been better at once to die than to protract a life of misery, weariness, and reproach, and at last to be destroyed. By saying, then, Weep ye not for the dead, nor bewail him, fE40 it is the same as though he had said, “If the destruction of this city be lamented, much more ought they to be lamented who shall remain alive than those who shall die, for death will be as it were a rest, it will be a harbor to end all evils; but life will be nothing else than a continual succession of miseries.” We hence conclude that this ought not to be confined to the two kings, but viewed as declared generally of the whole people. fE41
It follows, For he shall return no more, that he may see the land of his nativity. He shews that exile would be a sort of infection that would gradually consume the miserable Jews. Thus death would have been far better for them than to be in this manner long tormented and to have no relaxation. He then takes away the hope of a return, that he might shew that their exile would be as it were a dying languor, corroding them as a worm, so that to die a hundred times would have been more desirable than to remain in such a hard and miserable bondage. It now follows:

JEREMIAH 22:11-12
11. For thus saith the Lord touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place. He shall not return thither any more:
11. Quia sic dicit Jehova ad Sallum (vel, super Sallum) filium Josliae, regis Jehudah, qui regnat pro Josia patre suo, quando (rça, est quidem relativum, sed non dubito quin, sumatur hic pro adverbio temporis; et ideo obscuerant sensum interpretes, dum vertunt, qui egressus est, et coguntur deinde mutare sensum verbi; sed hoc optime fluit et soepe occipitur pro quando) egressus fuerit ex hoc loco, non revertetur amplius:
12. But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.
12. Quoniam in loco ad quem transtulerint ipsum, illic morietur, et terram hanc non videbit amplius.

What he had before said generally he now applies distinctly and especially to the person of the king, that the people in general might know that they could not escape that punishment from which even the king would not be exempt. They, no doubt, when they heard that such a hard and bitter lot would happen to a king, regarded it as a thing incredible; but Jeremiah intended to shew in his person that what we have just seen was nigh them all, that is, that it would be better for them at once to die than to pine away for a long time.
We must at the same time notice, that what these two verses contain respecting the king is not said as though it applied to him alone, but rather that every one might apply it to himself what the Prophet said of the king alone.
As to the word Shallum, it is thought that Jehoiakim was so called, who had also the name of Jeconiah, and who had of his own accord given up the kingdom and died in exile. But as he is called the son of Josiah, a doubt has arisen. But if we duly consider what sacred history relates, the probable conjecture is, that he was not his son but his grandson, for the chosen successor of his father was Jehoiakim, called also Eliakim. Yet Matthew calls him the son of Josiah, and that he was born to him together with his brethren. (<400111>Matthew 1:11.) But we know that it was a common thing with the Hebrews to call descendants sons, especially when the family of David was spoken of; that the order of succession might be preserved, those who next followed their predecessors were called sons. Thus, according to this custom, Elialdm might have been deemed his son, who was really his brother. As, then, he was the successor of Josiah, he is called his son. fE42
There is yet no doubt but that God shews here that a pious king would not be a patronizer either to his own son, or to his grandson, or to others; for hypocrites are wont to form a defense for themselves from the holiness of their fathers. And as king Josiah had faithfully served God, his sons thought that God was in a manner bound to themselves, as though all this had not proceeded from the mere bounty of God, that Josiah had been so sincerely religious. But hypocrites, as I have just said, seek ever to render God bound to them. Hence the Prophet checks this false confidence, and declares that though Josiah was approved of God, yet his memory would not be of such an account as to shield his posterity from punishment. God, indeed, promises in his Law to be merciful to the thousandth generation, even to them who love him, (<022006>Exodus 20:6) but the ungodly very absurdly lay hold on this, as though they held God bound to them; for they thus imagine that they can deprive him of his power, and judgment, and authority over the world. The meaning then is, that Shallum in vain promised safety to himself because he had descended from the holy king Josiah, who had been a patron of eminent piety, for this could not be the means of lessening his punishment, inasmuch as he had degenerated from his father, whom he ought to have imitated, knowing that he was approved by God. And this also was the reason for the repetition, for he not only calls him the son of Josiah, but also adds, that he reigned instead of his father Josiah. Though, then, he succeeded so pious a king, he yet became degenerated and departed from the example of his father.
When he shall have gone forth from this place, he shall not return here any more. fE43 As, then, the king was precluded from returning, what would become of the common people and the dregs of society? Could their condition be better? How then could the Jews dare flatter themselves when they perceived so dreadful an evidence of God’s wrath in the king himself, on whom depended their safety? A confirmation follows, For he shall die in the place to which they shall have led him away. He intimates that he was to be by force carried away; he doubtless did not surrender himself until he saw that he was under the necessity of yielding. Then the Prophet in effect says that he would be a miserable exile, driven into banishment against his own will. It is then added, that he would see no more the land of his nativity, so that his lot would be nothing better than that of any one of the common people. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:13
13. Woe unto him that buildeth his by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.
13. Ileus qui aedificat domum suam in non justitia, (hoc est, injuste,) et coenacula sua in non judicio (hoc est, sine rectitudine et aequitate;) proximum suum servire facit gratis, et opus ejus non reddit ei (vel, quod ille operatus fuerit non reddit ei; (vel, quod ille operatus fuerit non reddit ei; quidam enim volunt esse verbum, alii nomen, sed idem manebit sensus).

The Prophet begins here to shew that it could not be otherwise but that the king’s palace as well as Jerusalem must be destroyed, for their wickedness had arrived to the highest pitch; but he now, as it will appear presently, reprehends the father of Jeconiah.
He then says that the city was full of robberies, and especially the palace of the king. Yet I do not think that the Prophet speaks only of the king, but also of the courtiers and chief men. We must also bear in mind what I said yesterday, that the common people were not absolved while the king was condemned. But as dignity and honor among the people belonged both to the king and the princes, the Prophet exposes them publicly, that, it might be made evident how deplorable the state of things was throughout the whole community. We must at the same time add, that the chief among them were first summoned to judgment, not only because every one had privately offended, but because they had by their bad examples corrupted the whole body of the people; and also, because they had taken more liberty, as they feared nothing. We indeed know that the rich exercise tyranny, because they deem themselves exempt from all laws. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet here denounces, in a special manner, a curse on the king and the chief men.
He says, that they built unjustly; his words are, with no justice and with no judgment, by which he designates cruelty, frauds, and robberies; he, in short, includes under these words all kinds of iniquity. The way in which these things were done is stated; they wronged their neighbors, by demanding and extorting labors without rewarding them. Here, indeed, the Prophet only refers to one kind of injustice; but it may hence be easily concluded, how unjustly and wickedly they ruled who were then in authority; for they employed their neighbors, as though they were slaves, in building houses and palaces, for they denied them their wages. But nothing can be more cruel than to deprive the poor of the fruit of their labor, who from their labor derive their daily support. It is, indeed, commanded in the Law, that the wages of the laborer should not sleep with us, (<031913>Leviticus 19:13) for that would be the same as to kill him. fE44 There is also another indignity; when a robber kills a man, his object is the spoil; but he who extorts labor from a poor man, and sucks, so to speak, his blood, afterwards sends him away naked and needy; this is more atrocious than by violence to kill him. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. But as he continues the same subject, I shall defer any further remarks till to-morrow.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou continuest both by chastising us, and by kindly alluring us to thyself, to deal with us in such a way as to find out whether we are healable, — O grant, that we may not he hardened either against thy threatenings or thy promises, but follow in a teachable spirit what thou shewest is pleasing to thee, and make progress in holy living, and become daily more watchful and diligent, until we shall at length reach the goal which is set before us, and receive the reward of our faith in thy celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-SECOND
In the last Lecture we began to explain the reproof given by the Prophet to King Jehoiakim for his cruelty and oppression; for in building his splendid palaces, he constrained the people to labor for nothing. This was the crime which the Prophet pointed out when he said, He! he builds unjustly, and his chambers by iniquity; literally, “not in judgement.”
As Jehoiakim might have objected and said, that this was lawful for him, for kings think that the whole world has been created for their sake, the Prophet called his attention to the common rights of men, for all the Israelites were his relations; as though he had said, “Though thou excellest in dignity, yet thou art one of the race of Abraham, and taken from the midst of thy brethren; there is, therefore, no reason for thee to take so much liberty as though they were to be thy vassals.” We hence see the design of the Prophet, when he condemned the cruelty of King Jehoiakim, who in building magnificent palaces treated the people arbitrarily and unjustly, and extorted more labor than what was right. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:14
14. That saith, I will build me a wide house, and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion!
14. Qui dicit, AEdificabo mihi domum amplam (mensuram, ad verbum, subaudiunt quidam Interpretes, magnarum; sed illud frigidum est, simpliciter enim domus mensurarum tantundem valet ac domus spatiosa,) et coenacula dilatationum (ad verbum, vel, respirationum, aut perflationum, nam hwr significat tam respirare quam dilatare; unde deducitur hwr quod significat spiritum et ventum,) et perforat sibi fenestras, et tecta (vel, cooperta) est domus cedro et uncta minio.

Some render the last words, “and painted with red;but vermilion is a kind of red. They, indeed, mention three kinds of red, — deep red, brownish, and the third mixed with various colors; but vermilion is a brighter color. As to the main point there is no difficulty; the Prophet reproves the ambition and pride of King Jehoiakim, that he was not content with the moderation of his fathers, but indulged in extravagant display, and built for himself a palace as it were in the clouds, as though he did not wish to have a dwelling on the earth. Splendor in houses cannot in itself be condemned; but, as it can hardly be, nay, as it seldom happens, but that such insatiable ambition proceeds from pride, hence the Prophets vehemently denounced sumptuous houses; and they pronounced a curse on such displays, because they had a regard to the motive and the end. Such was the design of the Prophet in this passage.
He therefore thus introduces King Jehoiakim, who says, I will build for myself a large house and chambers of respirations. That he said this proved the foolish ambition with which Jehoiakim had been inebriated, so that he regarded as nothing whatever was splendid before in Jerusalem. There were palaces, we know, very sumptuous there; and we also know that the king of Judah lived in great splendor. For though the palaces of Solomon were not then standing in their original grandeur, yet what remained was abundantly sufficient to satisfy a man who was not filled with pride. It hence appears that a fondness for excess prevailed in Jehoiakim, for he despised the royal palace, and whatever remained after the death of Solomon. For God, we know, had blessed with prosperity Hezekiah, and Josiah, and other kings; but they had continued within proper bounds. Since, then, such haughtiness had crept into the heart of Jehoiakim, it is evident, that he was filled with vain pride, nay, was drunk with folly. This was the reason why the Prophet severely reproved him for saying, “I will build for myself a large house and chambers of respirations,” or of perflations. fE44A
He then adds, and he perforates for himself windows fE45 It was a proof of luxury, when men began to indulge in superfluities. In old times the windows were small; for use only was regarded by frugal men; but afterwards a sort of madness possessed the minds of many, so that they sought to be suspended as it were in the air. And hence they began to have wider windows. The thing in itself, as I have said, is not what God condemns; but we must ever remember, as I have reminded you, that men never go to excesses in external things, except when their hearts are infected with pride, so that they do not regard what is useful, what is becoming, but are carried away by fondness for excess.
It is then added, and it is covered with cedar, that is, the house is covered with cedar boards. For in my judgment the Prophet means here the wainscotting, when he says that the house was covered with cedar; as though he had said, that King Jehoiakim esteemed the squared and polished stones as nothing, unless a covering was added of cedar boards to ornament the walls. fE46 And for the same purpose was the painting with vermilion; for justly might paintings be deemed excessive superfluities. As, then, it was a part of luxury to adorn the walls with various paintings, as though men wished to change the simple nature of things, the Prophet here is indignant against King Jehoiakim. Nor is it to be doubted, but that God had regard also to the circumstances of the times; for God had already warned him and all the Jews respecting their future calamities. This, then, was in a manner to treat with mockery the threatenings of God. And we know how intolerable was this regarded by him; for he thus declares by Isaiah,
“Live do I, never shall this iniquity be blotted out,”
(<232214>Isaiah 22:14)
for when he had exhorted them to put on sackcloth and ashes, they said, “Let us eat and drink, tomorrow we shall die.” Similar, then, was the perverseness of King Jehoiakim; for he ought to have seen the coming calamity which was set as it were before his eyes; but he, like one infatuated, increased the royal splendor, so that the wealth of David and of Solomon appeared as nothing compared with what he had expended. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:15
15. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? Did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?
15. An regnabis, quia tu permisces se in cedro? (hoc est, quia to involvis cedro? pater tuus annon comedit et bibit et fecit (hoc est, cum faceret) judicium et justitiam? Tunc bene fuit ei.

The Prophet here derides the foolish confidence of King Jehoiakim, because he set up empty things against his enemies instead of strong defences. Kings are wont to indulge themselves when there is quietness and security; that is, when they fear nothing; when no danger appears, they then give way to their own gratifications; and this is commonly the case with all; for we see that kings especially indulge in excesses, when there is no war, when no one gives them trouble, and no one threatens them; but Jehoiakim, had he the least particle of wisdom, might have known that he had many dangers to dread. Now, when he applied all his thoughts to the painting of his walls, and to the splendor of his palace, to its wainscotting and other trifles, must he not have been insane, and not of a sound mind?
It is this madness that Jeremiah now condemns when he says, Shalt thou reign, because thou surroundest thyself with cedar board? fE47 that is, “Can this confirm thy kingdom to thee? or, shalt thou be more happy on this account, because thou art surrounded by cedars?” The meaning of the Prophet may be more fully learnt from the remaining part of the verse; for it immediately follows, Thy father, did he not eat and drink when he did judgment and justice?
Some so understand the passage, as though the Prophet meant to obviate an objection; for Jehoiakim might have referred to the example of his father Josiah, who had not been a sordid man, but had displayed some royal dignity and grandeur through the whole course of his life. Some interpreters, then, think that the Prophet answers here what Jehoiakim might, have objected: “What! did not my father also make a royal display?” Thus they explain the words, as though the Prophet made at first a concession, but that by adding a correction, he shewed that the excuse of Jehoiakim was frivolous: “I allow that thy father was royally adorned, but he executed judgment and justice; why dost thou not imitate thy father in his virtues? God forgave what was superfluous or excessive, for through his great indulgence he bears with many things in kings; but thou art far different from thy father, for thou extortest labor from thy poor subjects, and buildest thy palaces by means of extortion and plunder. There is, therefore, no reason for thee to seek for thyself a covering from thy father, for thou art wholly fallen away from his integrity.”
Others elicit an entirely different meaning, — that Josiah had prolonged his life, and conciliated the favor of God by ruling with justice. So, then, they connect the words thus: “Did not thy father eat and drink,” that is, did he not live happily, because God had blessed him? Inquire the cause, and you will find it to be this — he faithfully discharged his duties, for he executed judgment and justice. As, then, thou seest that the equity and moderation which thy father had practiced, was the cause of his happy life, why dost not thou also imitate him?”
But the Prophet seems to me to mean simply this, “Thy father doubtless lived happily, and nothing was wanting to him while he executed judgment and justice.” For thus appears better the contrast between the tyranny of Jehoiakim, and the uprightness of his father Josiah; as though he had said, “Thou deemest now thy state better than that of thy father, because thou surpassest him in luxury and splendor.
As then thou exultest in vain things, thou seemest to thyself to be happier than thy father: but thy father was contented with his lot; nay, if his condition be duly regarded, God honored him with every abundance and variety of blessings; he did eat and drink.”
By eating and drinking I understand nothing else, but that he lived cheerfully, enjoyed prosperity, spent a peaceable life. Thy father; he says, did eat and drink; that is, he had nothing to desire, and his condition was an evidence of God’s favor when he expected judgment and justice. And not unsuitable to this view is what follows, Then it was well with him. fE48
We hence see that the foolish ambition of Jehoiakim is here laughed to scorn; for he seemed not to think himself a king unless he conducted himself like a madman. Such is the case with kings at this day; they are ashamed to appear humane, and devise means only to exercise tyranny; and they also contrive how they may depart as far as possible from the common usage and practice of men. As then kings are so ingenious in their own follies, which seem to be like veils, lest anything humane should be perceived in them, the Prophet justly inveighs here against Jehoiakim; It was well,” he says, “with thy father; and yet he acted kindly and courteously towards his people; nor had he such haughtiness as to despise the common habits of men. Since then he was happy, if thou regardcst what belongs to real happiness, why dost thou please thyself so much? What hast thou that is better or more excellent than what he had!”
We now perceive what the object of the Prophet was to shew, that it is the only true glory and the chief honor of kings, when they discharge their duties, and that the image of God shines forth in them, when they execute judgment and justice; and that when they ambitiously seek through a blind zeal to be the slaves of pride, it is a vain attempt, and contributes nothing towards that happy life which they foolishly imagine. To the same purpose he adds, —

JEREMIAH 22:16
16. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.
16. Judicium judicavit pauperis et egeni, tunc bene; an non cognoscere me, inquit Jehova?

He more fully expresses what he had said, that Josiah lived usefully, and was honored and esteemed, for royal majesty shone forth in him. He then repeats in other words what he had said, but he did this for the sake of explanation. fE49
He undertook, he says, the cause, or the quarrel, of the poor and needy. There is here a part stated for the whole; for when any one deals kindly with the poor, he may yet plunder the wealth of the rich, which cannot be deemed right; but as the case most commonly is, that those who rule neglect the poor and helpless, the Prophet includes under one thing the whole duty of rulers, and says that King Josiah was upright, just, and equitable, that he not only abstained from wrongs, but also assisted the innocent whom he saw oppressed, and of his own accord interposed to prevent any to molest them. He then under one thing comprehends everything that belongs to the office of a just and upright judge. For it is the first thing for judges to abstain from all rapacity and violence; and the second thing is to extend a hand to the poor, and to bring them aid, whenever they see them exposed to the wrongs of others. He then judged the judgment, or undertook the cause, of the poor and needy; and it is added, Then well; that is, as I have explained, “This was the happiness of thy father Josiah, so that he was not despised by the people, nor had he any desire for anything more.”
It then follows, Was not this to know me, saith Jehovah? fE50 The Prophet shews again whence proceeded the liberty which King Jehoiakim took in luxury and superfluous display, as well as in plunder, cruelty, and oppression, even because he had cast away every care and concern for religion; for where a real knowledge of God exists, men must necessarily have regard to uprightness and moderation. He then who thus acts cruelly towards his neighbors, clearly shews that every thought of religion and every care for it is rooted out of his heart. In short, the Prophet means that Jehoiakim was not only unjust towards men, but was also guilty of impiety; for except he had become a profane despiser of God, he would not have thus unjustly oppressed his neighbors.
But this passage deserves to be noticed, as it shews that piety leads men to all the duties of love. Where God then is known, kindness to man also appears. So also on the other hand we may conclude, that all regard for God is extinguished, and all fear of him is abolished, when men wilfully do wrong to one another, and when they seek to oppress or defraud one another. There is therefore no doubt but that gross impiety will be found where the offices of love are neglected. For when Jeremiah commended the piety of Josiah on this account, because he executed judgment and justice, he doubtless condemned Jehoiakim, as though he had said, that he was an abandoned and irreclaimable apostate; for had he retained a spark of religion, he would have acted more justly and humanely towards his people. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:17
17. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.
17. Quia non oculus tuus et cor tuum nisi ad cupidatatem tuam, et ad sanguinem innoxium fundendum, et ad rapacitatem, et ad oppressionem, ad faciendum (hoc est, ut exequaris.

Here the Prophet expresses more clearly how much Jehoiakim differed from Josiah his father. He indeed shews that he was wholly unlike him, because Josiah had endeavored to observe what was equitable, while he set all his thoughts on fraud, plunder, and cruelty; for by the eye and the heart he means all the faculties of his soul and body. One of the main senses of the body, as it is well known, is the sight. Hence the Prophet includes here whatever is external and internal in men, when he says, thine eye, that is, all thy bodily senses are set on covetousness, and also thine heart, that is, all thy thoughts, feelings, designs, meditations, and purposes are employed in the same way. He intimates, in short, that Jehoiakim was corrupt both in body and mind, so that having cast aside every fear of God, he abandoned himself to avarice as well as to plunder and all acts of oppression. Thine eye, he says, and thy heart is not, except on covetousness.
The verb [xb, betso, means to covet; hence the noun signifies not only avarice, but also any sinful lust. He adds cruelty, for it, cannot be but that all are bloody who give loose reins to their lusts. He mentions in the third place rapacity, or violent seizure; for qç[, oshek, means to take by force what belongs to another; hence the noun signifies rapacity. What follows in the last place is oppression, or disquietude. As ≈wr, ruts, means to run, Jerome renders it “the course of thy work,” as though l, lamed, prefixed to twç[, oshut, were not one of the serviles, µ, l, k, b, beth, caph, lamed, mem, but this cannot be admitted. The clear meaning of the Prophet indeed is, that Jehoiakim was not only intent on taking possession on what belonged to others, but that he also oppressed and distressed all he could. It is lastly added, to do; the verb to do is to be applied to what has gone before, that Jehoiakim employed all his thoughts, and was wholly engaged in evil deeds, that he not only contrived acts of cruelty and of avariciousness in his mind, but also carried fully into execution what he had contrived. fE51 It follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:18-19
18. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!
18. Propterea sic dicit Jehova ad Joakim (vel, de, la, capitur pro de, ergo de Joakim) filio Josiae regis Jehudah, Non lugebunt eum, Heus frater mi! et heus soror! non lugebunt eum, Heus domine! heus gloria ejus!
19. He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
19. Sepultura asini sepelietur, ad trahendum, et projiciendum ad extra ad portas (ad verbum hoc est, longe extra portas) Jerosolymae.

The Prophet having inveighed against Jehoiakim, now shews what kind of punishment from God awaited him; he would have otherwise despised the Prophet’s reproof; but when he heard that a reward was prepared for him, he must have been roused. Inasmuch then as he was seized with a foolish and even a sottish lust for glory, so that he cast aside every care for uprightness, the Prophet declares that disgrace was prepared for him; and hence he compares him after his death to an ass.
Therefore thus saith Jehovah to King Jehoiakim, or concerning King Jehoiakim, fE52 the son of Josiah the king, etc. He is not called the son of Josiah for honor’s sake, but for the purpose of touching him to the quick, because he had degenerated from the piety of his father. But as he hoped that the religion of Josiah would be to him a sort of covering, the Prophet derides and checks this vain confidence. “Thou gloriest in being the son of King Josiah, but thy holy father will avail thee nothing, for thou seemest avowedly to shew that thou art wholly different from him. Though then thou art, descended from Josiah, and though God has raised thee to the royal throne, yet there is no reason for thee to be confident as to thy safety; for these benefits of God will not preserve thee from that ignominious treatment which thou deservest.”
He says first, They shall not bewail him, Ah my brother! Ah sister! The Prophet mentions by way of imitation the words of the mourners. That people, we know, were very vehement in expressing their sorrow. And this ought to be borne in mind, because some being persuaded that nothing is related by the Prophets but what ought to be taken as an example, do therefore think that these modes of lamentation were approved by God. But we have before seen what the Prophet said in <242204>Jeremiah 22:4,
“Enter through these gates shall the kings
of Judah and their princes in chariots,”
yet we know that kings had been forbidden to make such ostentations; but God did not scrupulously refer to what was lawful or right in speaking of royal splendor; so also when he spoke of funeral rites. We ought not then to make a law of what the Prophet says, as though it were right and proper to bewail the dead with howling. There is indeed no doubt, but these excesses which the Prophet mentions were not only foolish, but also wholly condemnable; for we often vie with one another in our lamentations; and when men intemperately express their grief in funerals, they excite themselves into a sort of madness in crying and bewailing, and then when they compose themselves and simulate grief, they act a part as in a theater. But the Prophet here speaks only according to the common practice of the age, when he says, “They shall not bewail him,” etc.; that is, he states what was usually done, when one embraced another, when a sister said, “Ah, my brother!” and when a brother said, “Ah, my sister!” or, when the people said, “Ah, lord, O king, where is thy glory! where is thy honor! where thy crown! where thy scepter! where thy throne! “ Very foolish then were the lamentations which the Prophet mentions here. But as I have already said, it is enough for us to know, that he refers to these rites, then commonly practiced, without expressing his approbation of them.
They shall not, he says, bewail King Jehoiakim; they shall not say at his funeral, Ah, my brother! Ah, sister! And, Ah, lord! Ah, his glory! fE53 There shall be no such thing; and why? because he shall be buried with the burial of an ass. We have before said, that it was justly deemed one of God’s curses when a carcass was cast away unburied; for God would have burial a proof to distinguish us from brute animals even after death, as we in life excel them, and as our condition is much nobler than that of the brute creation. Burial is also a pledge as it were of immortality; for when man’s body is laid hid in the earth, it is, as it were, a mirror of a future life. Since then burial is an evidence of God’s grace and favor towards mankind, it is on the other hand a sign of a curse, when burial is denied.
But it has been elsewhere said, that temporal punishments ought not always to be viewed alike; for God has suffered sometimes his faithful servants to be unburied, according to what we read in <197902>Psalm 79:2, 3, that their bodies were cast forth in the fields, that they were exposed to be eaten by the beasts of the earth and by the birds of heaven. Those spoken of were the true and sincere worshippers of God. But we know that the good and the bad have temporal punishments in common; and this is true as to famine and nakedness, pestilence and war. The destruction of the city Jerusalem was a just punishment on the wicked; and yet Daniel and Jeremiah were driven into exile together with the wicked, and suffered great hardships; and, in short, they were so mixed with the ungodly, that their external condition was in nothing different. So, then, the state of things in the world is often in such disorder, that we cannot distinguish between the good and the bad by outward circumstances. But still it is right ever to hold this truth, that when burial is denied to a man, it is a sign of God’s curse.
Hence, the Prophet says now, He shall be buried with the burial of an ass. He mentions the ass because it is a mean animal; he might have named a horse or an ox, but as the ass is a meaner and more contemptible animal, it is the same thing as though he had said, “Jehoiakim shall be cast away with the dogs.” This prophecy no doubt grievously wounded not only the mind of the king himself, but also that of the whole people; for as yet his throne stood, and all highly regarded the family of David, and thought the kingdom sacred, as it was under the guardianship and protection of God. But the Prophet hesitated not to denounce what was afterwards confirmed by the event; for Jehoiakim was buried with the burial of an ass, as he was cast forth far beyond the gates of Jerusalem. Here the Prophet amplifies the disgrace by which the King Jehoiakim would be branded, for he might have been left dead in a journey; but he expresses what is more grievous than the casting forth; Drawn out, he says, and cast forth, etc.; that is, Jehoiakim shall not only be cast forth, but also drawn as an ass or a dog, lest his foetor should infect the city; as though he was unworthy not only of a grave, but also of being seen by men. fE54
And this is to be especially noticed, for we hence conclude how great his perverseness was in despising the threatenings of God, since the Prophet could not otherwise storm the mind of the king, and terrify the people, than by exaggerating the indignity that was to happen to him. For if there had been any teachable spirit in the king and the people, the Prophet would have been content with making a simple statement, “Jehoiakim shall not be buried;” that is, God will punish him even when dead; the curse of God will not only be upon him while living, but he will also take vengeance on him after his death. He was not content with this kind of statement; but he shall be buried, he says, as an ass, and shall be cast far off; and further still, his carcass shall be drawn or dragged; so that it was to be an eternal mark of infamy and disgrace.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as it has pleased thee to perpetuate the memory of the dreadful vengeance which thou hast executed on the descendants of David, so that we may learn by their evils carefully to walk before thee, — O grant, that the forgetfulness of this example may never possess us, but that we may assiduously meditate on what is set before us, in order that we may thus endeavor to advance and promote the glory of thy name through the whole course of our life, so that we may at length be made partakers of thy celestial glory, which thou hast prepared for us, and which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-THIRD
JEREMIAH 22:20
20. Go up to Lebanon, and cry; and lift up thy voice in Bashan, and cry from the passages: for all thy lovers are destroyed.
20. Ascende in Libanum, et clama, et in Basan ede vocem tuam, et clama a lateribus, quia contriti sunt omnes amatores tui.

Jeremiah triumphs over the Jews, and derides their presumption in thinking that they would be safe, though God was against them. He then shews that they were deceived in promising to themselves impunity; but he bids them to ascend Mount Lebanon, and to cry aloud on Mount Bashan, that they might know that there would be no aid for them when God’s judgment came. But the whole verse is ironical; for they would in vain cry and howl. Indeed, the Prophet thus treated them, because he saw that they were wholly irreclaimable. They were not worthy then that he should give them counsel, or faithfully warn them. He was therefore under the necessity ironically to deride their madness in promising safety to themselves, while they were continuing to provoke God’s vengeance against themselves.
But at the same time he accommodates what he says to their intentions; for there is no doubt but that they ever cast their eyes either on Egypt or on Assyria for any aid they might want. Hence he says, Ascend Mount Lebanon, and cry, and then cry on Mount Bashan, and cry all around, (for by sides he means all parts;) but thou shall gain nothing, he says, for consumed are all thy lovers. fE55 We learn from the end of the verse that the Prophet said, Ascend, and cry, by way of derision. By lovers he means the Egyptians and the Assyrians, and other neighboring nations; for the Jews, when they feared any danger, were wont to flee to their neighbors, and God was in the meantime neglected by them; and for this reason they were called lovers. God had espoused the people as his own, and hence he often called them his wife, and he speaks here in the feminine gender; and thus the people are compared to a wife, and God assumes the character of a husband. When, therefore, the people, according to their self-will and humor, wandered here and there, this levity was called adultery; for the simplicity of faith is our spiritual chastity; for as a wife who regards her husband alone, keeps conjugal fidelity and chaste conduct, so when we continue to cleave to God alone, we are, in a spiritual sense, chaste as he requires us to be; but when we seek our safety from this and that quarter, we violate the fidelity which we owe to God. As soon, then, as we cast our thoughts here and there, it is to act like a woman who seeks vagrant and unlawful connections.
We now see the reason why the Prophet compares the Egyptians and Assyrians to lovers, for he intimates that the people of Israel did in this manner commit adultery, as it has been stated in other places. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:21
21. I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear: this hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyest not my voice.
21. Loquutus sum tecum in pace tua (vel, quiete, vel, foelicitate tua,) dixisti, Non audiam; haec via tua (id est, ratio, vel, consuetudo) a pueritia tua, quod non audieris vocem meam.

Here God shews that the people were worthy of the reward he had mentioned, even to mourn and to seek aid on every side without finding any. It, indeed, often happens that the excessive severity of a husband alienates his wife from his society; and when a husband, through want of thought, attends to other things and neglects his domestic affairs, and thus his wife goes astray; or when he connives at things when he sees his wife exposed to dangerous allurements and flatteries, the fault is in part to be ascribed to him. But God shews here that he had performed the duties of a good and faithful husband, and also that it was not his fault that the people did not perform their part.
I spoke to thee, he says; that is, thou canst not say that thou hast gone astray through ignorance; for they who are proved guilty are wont to flee to this kind of excuse, — “I did not think; had I been warned, I would have attended to good advice; but on slippery ground it is easy to fall, especially when no one stretches forth his hand to give any help.” But God takes away here every pretext of this kind, and says, that he had spoken; as though he had said, “I warned thee in time; thou hast not then sinned through ignorance or want of thought.” In short, God condemns here the perverseness of the people, that they knowingly and wilfully abandoned themselves to every kind of wickedness. Now this passage deserves special notice; for we see that it is a twofold crime, when God in due time speaks to us and calls us to the right way, and we refuse to hear; for our wickedness is inexcusable when we suffer not ourselves to be corrected by him.
I spoke to thee, he adds, in thy tranquillity. By this circumstance also their crime is aggravated; for God not only by his Prophets made known to his people what was right, but had also, by his blessing, conciliated them to himself. For when a husband counsels his wife, and is at the same time austere or peevish, his wife will disregard whatever she may hear, for her mind will be preoccupied with dislike; but when a husband treats his wife kindly, and proves by his benevolence the love he entertains for her, and at the same time shews prudence in his conduct towards her, she must necessarily be of a very bad disposition if she is not moved by such advice, kindness, and benevolence on the part of her husband. Now, God shews here that he had sent Prophets in order to keep his people in the faithful discharge of their duties, and that he had also been kind and bountiful to them, that thereby they might be sweetly drawn to obey him. Therefore, by the word “tranquillity,” the Prophet sets forth God’s kindness and bounty towards his people. fE56
It is, indeed, true what Moses says, that men are like mettlesome and wanton horses when they become fat. (<053215>Deuteronomy 32:15.) So fatness and tranquillity have such effect as to render us more refractory. Yet this cannot avail for an excuse when God kindly invites us, and connects with his doctrine kind and paternal benevolence, and confirms it by the effects when we are teachable and yield him willing obedience. Thus the Prophet closed the mouths of the Jews, for they would have sought probably to make this objection, — that vengeance was too vehemently denounced on them, and that God suddenly assailed them; but he shews that when in tranquillity and prosperity they might have acknowledged God’s paternal kindness, they had yet been rebellious and had abused the indulgence of God.
I spoke to thee, he says, in thy tranquillity, and thou didst say, I will not hear. It is not, indeed, probable that the Jews had spoken so insolently as to say openly and in such plain words, that they would not be obedient; but the Prophet regards their life and not their words. Though, then, the Jews did not express these words, — that they would not obey God; yet such language might have been clearly inferred from their conduct, for they were so perverse as not to render obedience to God and to his counsels.
He adds, in the third place, that it had been the custom of the people from their childhood not to hear the voice of God. It is the height of impiety when we are not only refractory for one day or a short time, but when we pursue wickedness continually. God in the meantime intimates that he had from the beginning been solicitous for the safety of his people, but in vain. It sometimes happens that he who has become hardened in his vices, begins to be taught after the thirtieth or fortieth: year, but he is not very pliable; for men become hard by long usage; we see that old men are less teachable than the young; and why? because age in a manner makes them sturdy, so that they cannot bear to be turned and ruled. But God shews here, that such was the wickedness of his people, that they had been rebellious from their childhood; as though he had said, “Thou canst not make this excuse, that thou hast been for a long time without a teacher that thou hast been without any wisdom and understanding, and that on this account thou hast become hardened in evils; no, because I have found thee wholly unteachable from thy very childhood; it was thy custom, or manner, not to hear my voice,” or, “This has been thy custom, that thou didst not hear my voice;literally, “because thou didst not hear my voice;but it ought to be rendered as above, for yk, is not here a connective, but all expletive or an exegetical particle. fE57 It follows, —

JEREMIAH 22:22
22. The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity; surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.
22. Omnes pastores tuos depascet ventus, et amatores tui in exilium migrabunt; certe tunc pudefies et erubesces ab omni malitia tua (hoc est, propter cunctam malitiam tuam.)

As the main fault was in the chief men, therefore God shews, that there would be no defense found in their prudence and wealth, when things came to an extremity: and it was a usual thing for the common people, when reproved, to refer to their rulers as their shield: nor is there a doubt but that the Jews made this objection to God’s Prophets, — “What do you mean? that God has suffered us to be unhappily governed by bad princes? then he has exposed us as a prey to wolves: now if he punishes us, it seems an unjust thing for us to suffer for the fault of others.” At the same time, they who thus spoke were secure and despised God, because they thought that their safety was secured by their chief men.
Hence, the Prophet here shakes off from the Jews this vain confidence, Thy pastors, he says, the wind shall eat up. By pastors he understands the king and his counsellors, as well as the priests and the prophets. The word eat up, means that all would be consumed by the wind. Sometimes, indeed, men are said to feed on the wind, that is, when they entertain vain confidences. So the wind means in other places vain hopes, as they say; but it is in another sense that the Prophet speaks, when he says that pastors would be eaten up by the wind, that is, that they would vanish away like the smoke. Thus God shews that their presumption, and frauds, and false imaginations, were nothing but smoke and emptiness. fE58
He then speaks of their lovers, — that they would migrate into exile: for the Jews thought at first, that they would be impregnable as long as the throne of David stood; and then we know that the common people were easily deceived by external splendor, when they saw that the priests as well as the prophets and the king’s counsellors were endued with craftiness, and swelling with great pride; and hence they disregarded what the prophets threatened. Now, the second ground of confidence was their alliance with the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and other neighboring nations. Therefore God, after having said, that all their pastors would be destroyed, adds, that the Egyptians and others would be driven into captivity.
He afterwards says, Surely, thou shalt then be ashamed, and shalt blush for all thy wickedness; fE59 that is, “Thou shalt at length know that thou art justly punished for thy sins, when God shall denude thee of all aids, and make it evident that everything that now gives thee confidence is altogether empty and vain.” And he mentions all wickedness; for the Jews had not sinned only in one thing, but had added evils to evils, so that they had provoked God’s vengeance by an immense heap of wickedness. Their acknowledgment, however, would not be that which availed to repentance, but extorted; for the reprobate, willing or unwilling, are often constrained to acknowledge their shame. It follows —

JEREMIAH 22:23
23. O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars, how gracious shalt thou be when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!
23. Sedisti (hoc est, sedem tibi posuisti) in Libano, nidulata es in cedris, quomodo gratiosa fuisti (alii, vertunt, precata es) in veniendo tibi dolores, dolorem quasi parturientis (ad verbum, sed sensus est, quomodo gratiosa eris, ubi venerint tibi dolores, dolor quasi foeminae parturientis.)

The Prophet confirms the same thing in other words; and hence it appears how difficult it is to shake off from men their false confidence, when they give themselves up to earthly things. As soon, then, as false confidence strikes its roots into the hearts of men, they cannot be moved either by any threatenings or by any dangers; even though death itself were hanging over them, they yet remain unconcerned: and hence Isaiah upbraids them and says, That they had made a covenant with death. (<232815>Isaiah 28:15.) This was the reason why the Prophet here multiplied words and used greater vehemence; it was for the purpose of correcting that perverseness which prevailed among the Jews; for they thought themselves beyond the reach of those darts which God’s hands would throw.
He therefore says, that they had set their seat on Lebanon, and made their nest among the cedars. Some interpreters understand this figuratively of the cedar houses in which they dwelt; that is, that they ornamented their houses or palaces, as we have seen, with boards of cedar. But I take the words more simply, — That they considered Lebanon as an impregnable stronghold, and that he compares them to birds which choose the highest cedars to make their nests in. The meaning is, that the Jews were so blinded by their pride, that they thought that they had Lebanon as a safe refuge, and also that they imagined that they had nests as it were in its cedars. But there is no doubt but that the Prophet, in mentioning this one particular, meant to include all those false and vain confidences with which the Jews were inebriated. But he speaks by way of concession, as though he had said, that the Jews were not terrified by God’s threatenings, because they cast their eyes on Lebanon and on its lofty cedars.
But how gracious, he says, wilt thou be; that is, what grace wilt thou find, when sorrows shall come upon thee, the pain as of one in travail. fE60 The Prophet expresses here what often occurs in Scripture, that when the ungodly say, “Peace and safety,” sudden ruin comes on them. (<520503>1 Thessalonians 5:3.) He then does not allow that the Jews gained anything by thinking that they would have a quiet station on Lebanon, and by having their nests in the cedars, for God would bring on them sudden pains like those of women, who, while laughing and full of mirth, are in a moment seized with the pangs of childbearing. Jeremiah now says, that a similar thing would happen to the Jews. I touch but lightly on this point, while yet it is worthy of long and careful meditation. Let us then know, that nothing is more intolerable to God than when we promise to ourselves a quiet rest while he proclaims war against us, and while we, as it were designedly, daily provoke him. It follows —

JEREMIAH 22:24
24. As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence.
24. Vivo ego, dicit Jehova, quod si esset Coniahu filius Joakim regis Jehudah annulus signatorius super manum dexteram meam (hoc est, in many dextera mea,) ego inde to evallam (mutatio est personae.)

God here makes an oath that he had resolved to punish Jeconiah, who was also called Jehoiachim. And he says, That though he sat on the throne of David, he would yet be a miserable exile. We have, indeed, seen elsewhere, that the Jews were so fascinated as to think that, God was bound to them; and at the same time they allowed themselves every liberty in sinning, under the pretense that God had promised that the kingdom of David would remain as long as the sun and moon continued in the heavens, (<19D903>Psalm 139:37) but they did not consider that there was a mutual compact in God’s covenant; for he required them to be faithful on their part: nor did they consider that many were Abraham’s children according to the flesh, who were not his lawful children before God. As to the king himself, he never thought it possible that he should be driven into exile, because he was David’s successor and ordained by God.
This, then, is the reason why God now declares, Even though that Coniah were as a sealing ring on my finger, I would yet pluck it off thence. However exalted then was Jeconiah, God shews that his dignity would be only for a time, and would soon fade away; for he would be at length thrust from his throne, and his condition wholly changed. The word Coniah is, no doubt, in a mutilated form, instead of Jehoiachin. The Prophet then calls him Coniah by way of contempt, as though he did not think him worthy of the complete name, but expresses it in two instead of four syllables. So the Prophet, though Jeconiah was then the king, yet calls him Coniah. fE61
Now, this passage teaches us, that we ought not to be in such a way proud of God’s favors, as to forget what we are, but ever to remember that we are dependent on him, and that we ought diligently to pray to him at all times; for security breeds contempt; hence it is; that God strips us of the ornaments with which we have been clothed; and it is a just reward for our ingratitude. Let all, then, who excel others know, that what has been given may at any time be taken away, except good conscience be as it were the guard to preserve God’s gifts and benefits, so that they may not at any time fall away or be lost. It follows —

JEREMIAH 22:25
25. And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans
25. Et ponam to (tradam to) in manum quierentium animam tuam, et in manum eorum a quorum facie formidas (metuis) et in manum Nebuchadrezzar regis Babylonii et in manum Cladaeorum.

This verse is connected with the last, and more fully explains what had been briefly said. The plucking off of the sealing ring from God’s finger took place when Jeconiah was deprived of his glory and his kingdom, and made subject; to the king of Babylon. fE62 Though the king spared his life, as sacred history testifies, (2 Kings 25:7; <143606>2 Chronicles 36:6; <245211>Jeremiah 52:11,) yet when he surrendered himself to him, he trembled as though he saw the sword ready to cut off his head; for he expected no mercy, and his fear made him to go out of the city, and to surrender himself to his inveterate enemy. The import of the whole is, that King Jeconiah would come to extremities, for he would be forced to give up himself helpless and unarmed into the hands of his cruel enemies.
But he repeats the commination, and enlarges on the subject; I will deliver thee, he says, into the hand of those who seek thy life, and then, into the hand of those whose face thou dreadest, and, in the third place, into the hand of Nebuchadnezer, (Nabuchadnezer, king of Babylon, is called here and in other places, Nebuchadrezer,) and lastly, into the hand of the Chaldeans. Thus the Prophet recounts, as it were in order, several kinds of death, that Jeconiah might know how dreadful God’s judgment would be. He adds —

JEREMIAH 22:26
26. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.
26. Et projiciam to et matrem tuam quae genuit to in terram alienam, in qua non estis geniti, et illic moriemini.

Here, again, the Prophet confirms what he had said of the severe vengeance which God would take on Jeconiah. And though he was in his thirty-seventh year brought out of prison, and admitted unto the royal table, among other princes, he yet died in exile; and perhaps it would have been better for him to continue in prison till his death than to have been corrupted by allurements when he became one of the princes, for he thus defiled himself. However this may have been, he died in exile together with his mother Nehusta.
The Prophet then enhanced the grievousness of his punishment by saying, I will cause thee to migrate, or cast thee out, fE63 and thy mother who bare thee. It is added, for the sake of indignity, that the mother of the king would be led captive with him; for the female sex is often spared, and she was also advanced in years. But God executed upon her his judgment, because she was his associate in impiety: “I will remove you,” he says, into foreign lands, in which ye were not born, and there ye shall die.”

JEREMIAH 22:27
27. But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
27. Et in terram ad quam ipsi levant animum suum, ut revertantur illuc, non revertentur illuc.

The Prophet again changes the person, and yet not inelegantly, for he speaks here as one indignant, and after having addressed a few words to King Jeconiah, he turns aside from him and declares what God would do. Thus, when we think one hardly worthy to be addressed, we change our discourse; and after having spoken a few words to him, we take another mode of speaking. In the same manner, the Prophet spoke very indignantly when he addressed Jehoiakim, and then he declared how God would deal with him: he passed by him as though he was deaf or unworthy of being noticed. We thus see the design of the Prophet in the change he makes in this passage.
Into the land, he says, to which they raise up their mind that they may return, there they shall not return. He had said before that both the king and his mother would die in a foreign land, and he now confirms the same thing; for the foolish notion, that the king of Babylon would be at length propitious to them, could not but with great difficulty be eradicated from their minds: nor is there a doubt but that such thoughts as these were entertained, — “When Nebuchadnezzar shall see us coming suppliantly to him, he will be turned to mercy, for what more does he require? He does not mean to fix here his royal palace; it; will satisfy him to have the people tributary to him; and when he shall find that I am a man of no courage, he will prefer having me a king, rather than to appoint a new one.” Such, then, was the reasoning which the king had with his courtiers. Hence this vain persuasion is what the Prophet now demolishes: They raise up their mind to the land, that is, they think of a free return at length into their own country; for to raise up the mind is to apply the mind or thought to any thing. They raise up, then, their mind to the land, that is, the land of Judah; but they shall never return thither, whatever they may promise to themselves. fE64
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou promisest to us rest nowhere except in thy celestial kingdom, we may never suffer ourselves, while travelling on the earth, to be allured and driven here and there; but may we in the meantime call on thee with resigned minds, and thus carry on our warfare, that; how much soever thou mayest he pleased by various contests to try and prove us, we may still continue to be thy faithful soldiers, until we shall enjoy that rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-FOURTH
JEREMIAH 22:28
28. Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?
28. An simulachrum contemptum, contritum, vir iste Coniah? an vas, in quo non est oblectatio? ut quid disjecti sunt ipse et semen ejus et projecti super terram quam non noverunt?

As the Prophet was hardly able to convince the Jews of what he had foretold, he confirms the same thing; but he speaks here as of what was incredible. He assumes the character of one greatly wondering, that others might cease to wonder. He then asks, whether it was possible that Jeconiah should be driven into exile and there miserably perish? We now see the design of the Prophet, that as the Jews thought that the kingdom would be perpetual, it was necessary to shake off such a notion, so that they might know that God had not in vain threatened what we have already noticed. But there is in these questions a kind of irony, for the Prophet might have made a positive assertion in plain words; but from regard to others, he hesitates through wonder, or seems to doubt as of a thing that was monstrous.
Is he a statue? he says; some translate “a vessel;” but it seems to be taken here, as in other places, in its proper sense, a statue. Is, then, this man Coniah a despised and a broken statue? for ≈wp, puts, is both to fail and to break. fE65 We have said that a part of his name was left out by way of contempt; still, as the Jews were so blinded by the royal dignity that they could not believe the prophecy, he asks respecting it as of a thing incredible. Is he a vessel? etc., he adds. The Hebrew word ylk, cali, we know, is taken for any kind of vessel; for the ancients called all kinds of furniture vessels. He asks, then, Is he a contemptible vessel? Is he a vessel in which there is no delight? He had before said that he was a despised statue. Why are they cast forth, he and his seed, and thrown into a land which they have not known? that is, into a remote land? fE66 And we know that it is a hard lot when one is driven far away from his own country. There is, then, no doubt but that the Prophet enhances the grievousness of the evil when he speaks of an unknown country: for Zedekiah, who was put on the throne, was his uncle; and of his posterity the first was Salathiel, born in exile. It now follows —

JEREMIAH 22:29-30
29. O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.
29. Terra, terra, terra, audi sermonem Jehovae,
30. Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
30. Sic dicit Jehova, Scribite virum hunc orbum (vel, solitarium) virum, cui prospere non erit in diebus suis; quia prospere non habebit quisquam ex semine ejus sedens super solium Davidis et dominans adhuc in Jehudah.

The Prophet more fully confirms what I have lately referred to; and the repetition was not superfluous in exclaiming “earth” three times, for as the hardness of iron is overcome by the repeated strokes of the hammer, so the Prophet repeated the word “earth,” that he might subdue that perverseness in which the Jews had so hardened themselves that no threats of God moved them. He did not adopt this vehemence, as rhetoricians do who aim to appear eloquent; but it was necessity that constrained him thus to assail that refractory people, who would have otherwise turned a deaf ear to what we have observed and read. By this preface, then, the Prophet especially shews that he spoke of God’s dreadful judgment, and also reminded the Jews of the certainty of this prophecy, though they were persuaded that the kingdom would never fall. Hence in this repetition we see that there is an implied reproof, as though he had said that they were indeed deaf, but that it was to no purpose, for they would be constrained to see the fulfillment of what they did not then believe. Earth, earth, earth, hear, he says. fE67
Then he adds, Thus saith Jehovah, Write ye this man solitary, or childless. Some think that these words were addressed to angels or to prophets; but I regard not such a notion as well founded: this mode of speaking seems rather to me to have been taken from common practice, for decrees which were to continue in force for a long time were usually written. When an edict was proclaimed, and was to be in force only for a few days, it was not commonly recorded in the public monuments; but when a law was enacted, which was to be binding on posterity, it was written in the public tablets. Then the Prophet intimates that this judgment of God could not be rendered void, nor would be momentary like decrees which in a few days are disregarded and soon forgotten, but that it would be certain and permanent. Write ye, then, this man childless. This bereavement is set in opposition to the promise of God, that there would be perpetual successors to David on his throne as long as the sun and moon were in the heavens. (Psalm 139:37.) And the Prophet shews here that this promise as to Jeconiah would not be fulfilled. fE68
And he adds, Write ye this man as one who will not prosper in his days; nay, (for yk, seems to me to be emphatic here,) no one of his seed shall prosper; and then he adds an explanation, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.
Now, it is no wonder that the Jews regarded this judgment of God with abhorrence, as though it was something monstrous, for God seemed to them to be inconsistent with himself, for he had testified that his covenant would never be rendered void, and had appealed to the sun and moon as witnesses. Hence, when the posterity of David failed, at least when his throne was subverted, and no one appeared as his successor, the truth of the promise seemed to have failed, which was very strange. But it was possible for God, who doeth wonders, to execute such punishment on Jeconiah and on such as were like him, and yet in a secret and incomprehensible manner to bring things about, so that the covenant which he had made should not wholly fail. The grace of God, then, was hidden for a time, but never extinguished; for at length a rod did grow up from the stem of Jesse, as it is said by Isaiah.
However, the words seem to imply otherwise, for Jeconiah is said to be solitary, and then unprosperous; and lastly, the Prophet declares that no one of his seed would sit on the royal throne. But we must bear in mind that these words are to be confined to a temporary punishment, and extend only to the coming of Christ, though the posterity of David, as we shall hereafter see, did begin to arise in Zerubbabel, but this was only an obscure and a small prelude. We must, therefore, come to the time of Christ if we would reconcile these two things which seem repugnant, — that Jeconiah became childless, and that a successor from the seed of David never failed; it was so, because this childlessness was only for a time; and this interruption of God’s grace was something like death; but in course of time it appeared that God was mindful of his covenant, even at a time when he seemed to have forgotten it. And this prophecy, therefore, ought; to be connected with that of Ezekiel,
“Remove ye, remove, remove the crown until he
comes whose it is.” (<262126>Ezekiel 21:26, 27.)
There, also, Ezekiel repeats the word “remove” three times, as though he had said that there would be no kingdom of David, not only for a few months or years, but through a series of many ages.
There is no wonder, then, that the Prophet declares here that Jeconiah would be childless, for such a sad calamity for so many ages, as the throne of David trodden under foot with scorn and contempt, might have overwhelmed the faithful with despair. This, then, was the reason why he said that he would be childless, and also that his whole posterity would be under a curse. But we must bear in mind that exception, which is expressed by another Prophet,
“until he comes whose the crown is.” (<262127>Ezekiel 21:27)
For it was reserved for the head of Christ, though for a long time it had been exposed to dishonor and to the reproaches of all nations.
Now it is useful to know this, for we are taught that God is ever so consistent with himself, that his covenant, which he has made with Christ and with all his members, never fails, and that yet he punishes hypocrites even unto death. If any one, during a long period, had sought for the Church in the world, there was none in appearance; yet God shewed that he was faithful to his promises, for suddenly there arose a people regenerated by the Gospel, so that his covenant was not dead, but as it were for a time buried. The truth of God, then, was proved by the event; and yet he took a dreadful vengeance on the ingratitude of men when he thus blinded the whole world, now follows —
CHAPTER 23

JEREMIAH 23:1-3
1. Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.
1. Vae Pastoribus qui perdunt et dissipant gregem pascuorum meorum! dicit Jehova.
2. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people, Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them; behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.
2. Propterea sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, super Pastores pascentes populum meum, Vos dissipastis gregem meum et dispulistis, et non visitastis eos (vel, oves meas; ) Ecce ego visitans (hoc est, visitabo) super vos malitiam actionum vestrarum, dicit Jehova:
3. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
3. Ego autem colligam residuum ovium mearum ex omnibus terris, ad quas expulero eas, et reverti faciam eas ad caulas suas, et fructificabunt et multiplicabuntur.

Here the Prophet promises the restoration of the Church; but he reminds hypocrites that there was no reason for them on that account to flatter themselves, especially the king, his councillors, and the priests. Then this prophecy is a mixture of promises and threatenings, for God promises that he would be propitious to the miserable Jews, after having chastised them, so that the seed of Abraham might not be entirely cut off: he yet deprives hypocrites of vain confidence, so that they might not falsely apply to themselves the hope of salvation, from which they had excluded themselves by their impiety. And this is what ought to be noticed, for as soon as God’s mercy is offered, hypocrites apply to themselves whatever God promises, and become more and more insolent, as though they held him bound to them; for impunity leads them to take more liberty to sin. Hence it is that they boast that they are safe, for they consider themselves to be the people of God. The Prophet, therefore, teaches here that whatever God promises belongs to his elect, that it does not appertain indiscriminately to all, nor ought to be extended to hypocrites who falsely pretend his name, but that it peculiarly belongs to the elect, though they may be small in number, and though they may be despised.
He says first, Wo to the pastors who destroy, fE69 etc. Here are contrary things — a pastor and a destroyer! But he concedes to them the name which was honorable; and yet he derides their false boasting, for they thought that they could hide their crimes under this shade, falsely claimed. Though then he calls them pastors, he yet removes the mask, and thus shews that they in vain boasted while they assumed the name of pastors. “Ye are pastors,” he says, ““and ye are destroyers! who dissipate or scatter the flock of my pastures.” fE70
Here God shews the reason why he was so grievously displeased with these pastors; for by exercising tyranny over the people, they not only injured men, but also injured and dishonored God, who had received under his own protection his chosen people. It is indeed true that they deserved such a scattering; for we have already seen in many places, that the people could by no means be excused when they were deceived by wicked and unfaithful leaders; for in this way was rendered to them all their past reward for having provoked God’s wrath against themselves, from the least to the greatest. But the impiety of wicked pastors was not on this account excusable; for they ought to have considered for what purpose this burden was laid on them, and also by whom they had been appointed. God then intimates that great injury was done to him, when the people were thus so ignominiously scattered. He was himself the chief pastor; he had put as it were in his own place the king and his counsellors and also the priests. Justly then does he now condemn them, because they had destroyed the flock of God, according to what is said in another place,
“That they had destroyed his vineyard.”
(<241210>Jeremiah 12:10; <230503>Isaiah 5:3)
In short, when God calls the Jews the flock of his pastures, he does not regard what they deserved, or what they were, but he, on the contrary, sets forth the favor bestowed on the seed of Abraham. He has respect then here to his gratuitous adoption, though the Jews had rendered themselves unworthy of such a benefit.
He afterwards adds, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, to the pastors who feed my people. In the same sense he calls them now his people, as he had called them before the flock of his pastures. They had alienated themselves from God, and he had already by his own decree repudiated them; and God might in one respect have deemed them aliens; and yet in respect of the covenant he acknowledged them as his own; and hence he calls them his people. He now then confirms what we have already noticed, that these pastors were not only thieves and robbers, but also sacrilegious; for they not only had exercised cruelty towards the flock, but as far as they could injured and dishonored God himself, who had undertaken the care of that people.
But there is here a twofold concession, he calls them pastors, and they are said to feed the people. He had said before that they destroyed and scattered the flock, and now he says that they fed them; but in what sense we well know, for by this kind of irony he meant to reprove them; they boasted that they were pastors, and they thought that their crimes would by such a covering be buried in the sight of God, as in the sight of men. In a similar manner when we speak in the present day of the Pope and his mitred bishops and filthy clergy, we use expressions which are commonly employed. But Antichrist is everything but a father, and we know how far they are from being really bishops who assume the title; and as to the clergy, the name is sacred, but they are very far from being God’s heritage. We indeed make no account of these empty titles. But it is a great aggravation of their guilt, that they being devils, should assume angelic names, that they being wolves and robbers, and sacrilegious, should falsely pretend God’s name, and recommend themselves by spurious titles, as though they were pastors, bishops, abbots, and prelates, and what not.
So then our Prophet calls those whom he condemns, by way of taunt, pastors, and says that they fed, that is, were called for this end, to do this work. But he afterwards adds, My flock have ye scattered, and driven away, and not visited. fE71 Surely it was not to feed, to have no care for the sheep. To visit is to be extended here to every part of the duty of overseeing, as though he had said, that the flock had been by them neglected, betrayed, and deserted. We hence see that they had wholly neglected their pastoral office. But the other two things are still worse, for they had scattered and driven away the flock. Their sloth in neglecting the flock was not to be tolerated; but it was still more intolerable when they exercised so much cruelty as to scatter the flock as though they were deadly enemies; and yet these are the things for which Jeremiah condemns them. We hence see that there was an implied taunt, when he conceded to them the office of feeding.
He then denounces judgment on them, I will visit upon you the wickedness of your doings. Here God declares that he would punish the pastors, to whom was justly ascribed the scattering of the people. For though no one was exempt from blame, as it has been before stated; yet the main fault belonged to these pastors. This then is the reason why God declares that he would take vengeance; for he would not have his flock scattered with impunity.
It then follows, And I will gather my flock. As they had driven the people away, so God promises that it would be his care to gather them. And yet he ascribes to himself what he had imputed to them — that he had driven away his flock, but in a different sense; the pastors had scattered the flock, not only by their sloth, but also by their cruelty, for they became rapacious wolves; but God had punished the people, for they all had fully deserved such a scattering. We hence see that the ungodly execute God’s judgment; but they are not on this account excusable as though they were God’s ministers, for they have nothing less in view. Nor can God be involved in their sin, while he thus employs them to execute his purpose. In short, the scattering of the people was a just punishment from God, for they had all departed from the faith, they had broken the sacred bond of the covenant, by which God had bound them to himself. It was also the fault of the pastors, because they avariciously and cruelly tyrannized over them. The pastors, as I have said, were not only the priests, but also the king and his counsellors.
I will gather, he says, not the flock, but the remnant of the sheep. God intimates here that he would be so merciful as to receive unto favor, not all indiscriminately, but a small number, constituting the elect. And hence Paul carefully distinguished between the people and the remnant of grace, or the gratuitous remnant; for Christ appeared by his coming to have abolished the covenant by which God had adopted the children of Abraham, but Paul does not admit this. Now, if any one objects and says that the greater part of the people had been cut off, this he allows; but he says that the covenant remains valid in the remnant, and produces also examples, such as that of which we now speak. God then has ever been the preserver of his Church; and thus his gratuitous adoption, by which he had chosen the seed of Abraham, never fails. But this adoption is effectual only as to the remnant.
As to the word remnant, the fewness of those whom God had resolved to gather is not only intimated, but also the vengeance, which as to time had gone before; for God seemed to have destroyed the Jews when they were driven away into various lands, as they had no name remaining, the kingdom and the priesthood were abolished. It was therefore a certain kind of death, as I have before said; but God here declares that there would be some remnant, according to what is said in <231022>Isaiah 10:22, that God saved a few as it were from the consumption; for he refers there to the very few that remained alive, when they thought that all was over with the whole people, that there was no hope of restoration.
I will gather, he says, the residue of my sheep from all the lands to which I shall have driven them. He again confirms what I have stated, that there would be no place for mercy until he had cleansed his Church from its many filthy pollutions. The scattering then of the people into various lands was the purgation of the Church, according to what God says, that he would separate the refuse and the chaff from the wheat in chastising his people; for as the chaff and the refuse are blown here and there when the wheat is winnowed, and the wheat only remains and is afterwards laid up in the granary; so when God drove his people away into various lands, he then purged his Church. If any one objects and says, “Then the remnant were dealt with like the refuse;” it is true as to the individuals, but God refers here to himself, when he calls them his own, sheep, who were yet unworthy of such an honor.
He then adds, that he would bring them back to their folds, fE72 that they might be fruitful, that is, bring forth and increase, and be multiplied. By folds he no doubt means the land of Canaan; for there was then no wealth in the world which the Jews would have preferred to the inheritance promised to them; the whole world was to them an exile. For God had chosen that land in which they dwelt, and had consecrated it to himself, and he gave it to them as an earnest or a pledge of the eternal inheritance. Rightly then does he now call that land folds, for they lived there under his guardianship and protection. The temple was as it were the pastoral staff; they knew that God dwelt there, that being protected by his power they might continue in safety. Since then there was safety for them under God’s protection in the land of Canaan, he calls it their fold. Then he says, that they may be fruitful, and be multiplied; for among other blessings their increase was not the least. He afterwards adds, —

JEREMIAH 23:4
4. And I will set up shepherds over them, which shall feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the Lord.
4. Et excitabo super eos pastores, et pascent eos (hoc est, qui pascant,) et non timebunt amplius, et non pavebunt, et non deficient, dicit Jehova.

He confirms the promise, for he would give them faithful and true pastors, who would perform their office as it behoved them; for it would not be enough that the sheep should be restored to their folds, except they were fed. We indeed know that a sheep is a silly animal, and therefore has need of a shepherd to rule and guide it. God then intimates by these words, that after he had collected his flock into the fold it would be the object of his constant care; for he would appoint pastors, who would discharge their office in a far different way from wolves and sacrilegious robbers. He then adds a promise as to their security, which we shall consider tomorrow.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou didst formerly take such heavy vengeance on the impiety of thine ancient people, that thou didst not spare even kings, who were representatives of Christ, nor their counsellors, — O grant, that we at this day may continue in obedience to thy word, and not so kindle thy vengeance against us by our ingratitude, as to provoke thee to punish us with that sad and dreadful desolation which thou formerly didst not in vain denounce on thy people; but may thy Church become more and more fruitful, so that we may know that thou art really gracious to us; and may we thus in quietness give thee thanks, and suffer ourselves to be ruled by thee, even by the hand of thine only-begotten Son, until we shall be gathered from our scattering in this world into that eternal rest which he has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-FIFTH
We said in our yesterday’s Lecture, that when the Lord promised to give pastors, he pointed out by this mode of speaking the continuance of his favor; as though he had said, that he would not only be the Redeemer of his people, but would also take care of the safety of those whom he delivered from exile. The two things are indeed necessary, for it would have profited them nothing to have the hand of God stretched forth once in their behalf, except he continued his favors to them to the end. The sum of the whole, then, is this, that the Jews, after being restored to their own country, would be under God’s protection, so that their safety would be secured, and be permanent and not momentary.
By adding, they shall not fear, nor dread, nor fail, fE73 or be lessened, he intimates that the Jews would be in a tranquil state under the pastors whom he would set over them. And we know that the duty of a true pastor consists of two parts; for it is not enough for him to rule and guide the sheep, except He also defends them against all violence, the incursions of robbers and wolves. Now, this tranquillity is set in contrast with the disquietude with which the Jews had been for a long time harassed; for we know that they had been tossed with great anxieties, owing to the continual incursions of their enemies. As, then, they were trembling continually when they heard rumors of war, God promises them here a better condition, as we shall hereafter see more clearly. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:5-6
5. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
5. Ecce dies veniunt, dicit Jehova, et suscitabo Davidi germen justum; et regnabit rex, et prudenter (vel, prospere) aget: faciet judicium et justitiam in terra.
6. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.
6. Diebus ejus servabitur Jehudah, et Israel habitabit in fiducia (hoc est, tranquille: et hoc nomen, quo vocabunt eum, Jehova justitia nostra.
The Prophet confirms what he had before said of the renewal of the Church; for it would not have been in itself sufficiently strong to say “I have promised pastors who shall faithfully perform their duty,” except the only true Pastor had been set before them, on whom God’s covenant was founded, and from whom was to be expected the accomplishment of the promises which were hoped for. And it was usual with all the prophets, whenever they gave the people the hope of salvation, to bring forward the coming of the Messiah, for in him have God’s promises always been, yea, and amen. (<470120>2 Corinthians 1:20.) This, indeed, appears now, under the Gospel, more clear than formerly; but the faith of the Fathers could not have been complete except they directed their thoughts to the Messiah. As, then, neither the love of God could have been made certain to the Fathers, nor the testimony of his kindness and paternal favor be confirmed without Christ, this is the reason why the prophets were wont to set Christ before their eyes whenever they sought to inspire the miserable with a good hope, who otherwise must have been overwhelmed with sorrow and driven into despair.
What, therefore, so often occurs in the prophets is deserving of special notice, so that we may know that God’s promises will become ineffectual to us, or be suspended, or even vanish away, except we raise all our thoughts to Christ, and seek in him what would not be otherwise certain and sure to us.
According to this principle the Prophet now says, that the days would come in which God would raise up to David a righteous branch. He had spoken generally of pastors; but the Jews might have still been in doubt, and hesitated to believe that any such thing could be hoped for; hence God calls here their attention to the Messiah; as though he had said, that no hope of salvation could be entertained except through the Mediator who had been promised to them, and that therefore they were not sufficiently wise except they turned their minds to him. Moreover, as the accomplishment of salvation was to be expected through the Mediator, God shews that the promise, that he would give them pastors, ought not to be doubted. Hence it appears that I rightly stated at the beginning, that the former doctrine is confirmed by this passage in which God promises the coming of the Mediator. And the demonstrative particle, behold, as we have elsewhere seen, is intended to shew certainty; and it was necessary for the Jews to be thus confirmed, because the time had not as yet arrived, and we know that their faith must have been grievously shaken by so many and so long trials, had they not some support. God, then, seems to point out the event as by the finger, though it was as yet very remote. He does not intimate a short time, but he thus speaks for the sake of making the thing certain, so that they might not faint through a long expectation. Come, then, he says, shall the days in which he will raise up to David a righteous branch.
Though the preposition l, lamed, is often redundant, yet in this place it seems to me that God has a reference to the covenant which he had made with David. And the Prophet did this designedly, because the Jews were unworthy of being at all regarded by God; but he here promises that he would be faithful to that covenant which he had once made with David, because David himself was also faithful and embraced with true faith the promise made to him. God then, as though he would have nothing to do with that perverse and irreclaimable people, but with his servant David, says, “I will raise up to David a righteous branch;” as though he had said, “Though ye were even a hundred times unworthy of having a Deliverer, yet the memory of David shall ever remain complete with me, as he was perfect and faithful in keeping my covenant.” Now, it cannot be doubted but that the Prophet speaks here of Christ.
The Jews, in order to obscure this prophecy, will have this to be applied to all the descendants of David; and thus they imagine an earthly kingdom, such as it was under Solomon and others. But such a thing cannot certainly be gathered from the words of the Prophet; for he does not speak here of many kings, but of one only. The word “branch,” I allow, may be taken in a collective sense; but what is afterwards said? A king shall reign. They may also pervert this, for the word “king” is often taken for successors in a kingdom. This is indeed true; but we ought to consider the whole context. It is said, in his days. Hence it appears evident that some particular king is intended, and that the words ought not to be applied to many. And the last clause is a further confirmation, This shall be his name, by which they shall call him, Jehovah our righteousness. Here also the Jews pervert the words, for they make God the nominative case to the verb, as though the words were, “Jehovah shall call him our righteousness;but this is contrary to all reason, for all must see that it is a forced and strained version. Thus these miserable men betray their own perverseness; for they pervert, without any shame, all the testimonies in favor of Christ; and they think it enough to elude whatever presses hard on them.
We must now, then, understand that this passage cannot be explained of any but of Christ only. The design of the Holy Spirit we have already explained; God had from the beginning introduced this pledge whenever he intended to confirm faith in his promises; for without Christ God cannot be a Father and a Savior to men; nor could he have been reconciled to the Jews, because they had departed from him. How, indeed, could they have been received into favor without expiation? and how could they have hoped that God would become a Father to them, except they were reconciled to him? Hence without Christ they could not rely on the promises of salvation. Rightly, then, have I said, that this passage ought to be confined to the person of Christ.
And we know of a certainty that he alone was a righteous branch; for though Hezekiah and Josiah were lawful successors, yet when we think of others, we must say, that they were monsters. Doubtless, with the exception of three or four, they were all spurious and covenant-breakers; yea, I say, spurious, for they had nothing in common with David, whom they ought to have taken as an example of piety. Since, then, they were wholly unlike their father David, they could not have been called righteous branches. They were, indeed, perfidious and apostates, for they had departed from God and his law. We hence see that there is here an implied contrast between Christ and all those spurious children who yet had descended from David, though wholly unworthy of such an honor on account of their impiety. Therefore as these kings had roused God’s wrath against the people, and had been the cause of their exile, the Prophet says now, that there would be at length a righteous branch; fE74 that is, that though those did all they could to subvert God’s covenant by their wicked deeds, there would come at length the true and the only Son, who is elsewhere called the first-born in the whole world, (<19D902>Psalm 139:27,) and that he would be a righteous branch.
And this ought to be carefully noticed; for neither Hezekiah nor Josiah, nor any like them, when viewed in themselves, were worthy of this sacred distinction,
“I will make him the first-born in the earth;” and further,
“My Son art thou.” (<190207>Psalm 2:7.)
This could not have been said of any mortal man, viewed in himself. And then it is said,
“I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son;”
and the Apostle tells us, that this cannot be applied even to angels. (<580105>Hebrews 1:5.) As, then, this dignity is higher than angels’ glory, it is certain that none of David’s successors were worthy of such an honor. Hence Christ is justly called a righteous Branch. At the same time, the Prophet, as I have already reminded you, seems to set the perfect integrity of Christ in opposition to the impiety of those who under a false pretense had exercised authority, as though they were of that sacred race of whom it had been said, “I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.”
It follows,And reign shall a king. This also has not been added without reason, shortly after Jeconiah had been driven into exile, and also the whole royal family had been exposed to every kind of reproach. The crown, indeed, was cast on the ground, as it has already appeared, and was trodden under feet. There was, therefore, no hope of a future kingdom when the seed of Abraham had become, as it were, extinct. This is the reason why God promises what we now hear of the restoration of the throne; and we may easily infer from what all the prophets have said, that the salvation of the people was dependent on the person of their king; and whenever God bade the people to entertain hope, he set a king before their eyes. A king was to be their head under God’s government. We now see the design of the Prophet in saying, that a king would reign.
Some think that a king is to be understood as in opposition to a tyrant, because many kings had departed from their duty, and committed robbery under that specious authority. I have no doubt but that the word king was expressed, lest the people should doubt the fulfillment of this prophecy; for if it had been only said, “I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign,” they might, indeed, have entertained some hope, but it would have been small, and not full and complete. We, indeed, know that Zerubbabel and others excelled in some things, and were highly regarded for David’s sake; but there was then no kingdom. God therefore intended here expressly to testify that there would be the high privilege of a kingdom, that there might be nothing wanting to the Jews, as the power of Christ would not be inferior to the power of David. Reign, then, shall a king; that is, he shall reign gloriously, so that there would not be merely some remnants of pristine dignity, but that a king would flourish, become strong, and attain perfection, such as it was under David and Solomon, and much more excellent. fE75
It follows, — And shall act prudently, and shall do judgment and justice in the land; or, “he shall prosper,” for lkç, shecal, means both; yet the Prophet seems here to speak of right judgment rather than of success, for the two clauses ought to be read together, “he shall act prudently,” and “he shall do judgment and justice.” It seems then that he means this in short, — that Christ would be endued with the spirit of wisdom as well as of uprightness and equity, so that he would possess all the qualifications, and fulfill all the duties of a good and perfect king. fE76
And in the first place, wisdom or prudence is necessary; for probity alone would not be sufficient in a king. In private individuals indeed it is of no small value; but probity in a king, without wisdom, will avail but little, hence, the Prophet here commends Christ for his good discernment, and then mentions his zeal for equity and justice. It is indeed true that Christ’s excellences are not sufficiently set forth by expressions such as these; but the similitude is taken from men; for the first endowment of a king is wisdom, and then integrity in the second place. And we know that Christ is often compared to earthly kings, or set forth to us under the image of an earthly king, in which we may see him; for God accommodates himself to our ignorance. As, then, we cannot comprehend the unspeakable justice of Christ or his wisdom, hence God, that he may by degrees lead us to the knowledge of Christ, shadows him forth to us under these figures or types. Though, then, what is said here does not come up to the perfection of Christ, yet the comparison ought not to be deemed improper; for God speaks to us according to the measure of our capacities, and could not at once in a few words fully express what Christ is. But we must bear in mind that from earthly kings we must ascend to Christ; for though he is compared to them, yet there is no equality; after having contemplated in the type what our minds can comprehend, we ought to ascend farther and much higher.
Hence, the difference between the righteousness of Christ and the righteousness of kings ought to be here noticed. They who rule well can in no other way administer righteousness and judgment than by being careful to render to every one his own, and that by checking the audacity of the wicked, and by defending the good and the innocent; this only is what can be expected from earthly kings. But Christ is far different; for he is not only wise so as to know what is right and best, but he also endues his own people with wisdom and knowledge; he executes judgment and righteousness, not only because he defends the innocent, aids them who are oppressed, gives help to the miserable, and restrains the wicked; but he doeth righteousness, because he regenerates us by his Spirit, and he also doeth judgment, because he bridles, as it were, the devil. We now then understand the design of what I said, that we ought to mark the transcendency of Christ over earthly kings, and also the analogy; for there is some likeness and some difference: the difference between Christ and other kings is very great, and yet there is a likeness in some things; and earthly kings are set forth to us as figures and types of him.
It then follows, that Judah shall be saved in the days of this king. By days we are not to understand the life only of Christ, which he lived in this world, but that perpetuity of which Isaiah speaks, when in wonder he asks,
“His age who shall declare?” (<235308>Isaiah 53:8;)
for he died once, that he might live to God, according to what Paul says. (<450610>Romans 6:10.) It was then but a short beginning of life when Christ was manifested in the world, and held converse with men; but his life is to continue for ever. It is then the same thing as though the Prophet had said, that when Christ came and descended from the Father, the Church would be saved.
If it be now asked, “How long shall it be saved?” the answer is, “As long as the King himself shall continue; and there is no end to his kingdom.” It follows then that the salvation of the Church will be for ever. This is the import of the whole.
Now, though the Prophet speaks of the deliverance of the people, there is yet no doubt but that he especially sets forth what properly belongs to the kingdom of Christ. He is set over us as a king, that he might be our Savior; and his salvation, though it extends to our bodies, ought yet to be viewed as properly belonging to our souls; for the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and so is everything connected with it. Hence, when the Prophet says that saved would be Judah, it is the same thing as though he promised that the happiness of the Church would be real and solid under Christ.
He adds, Israel shall dwell in confidence; for in a happy life the first thing is, that we possess tranquil and quiet minds; for tranquillity has not been without reason commended by the ancients. When all things which men covet are heaped together, and what they think necessary for happiness, they yet cannot be otherwise than miserable if their minds are not in a right state. It is not then without cause that tranquillity is added, when mention is made of salvation. And experience itself teaches us, that we have no salvation, unless we, relying on Christ the Mediator, have peace with God, as Paul also mentions it as the fruit of faith, and shews that we cannot otherwise but be always miserable: we have peace, he says, with God. (<450501>Romans 5:1.) He hence also concludes that our very miseries are a help to our salvation; for afflictions prove patience, patience exercises hope, and hope never makes us ashamed; and the proof of this is added, because God thus really shews that he is present with us.
We hence see how fitly the Prophet connects tranquillity of mind with happiness. Moreover it is certain that we do not yet enjoy either salvation or peace, such as are here promised; but let us learn by faith what salvation is, and also what is rest even in the midst of the agitations to which we are continually exposed; for we recumb on God when we cast our anchor in heaven. Since, then, the Prophet says here that Judah would be saved and that Israel would be in a tranquil state, let us know that he includes the whole kingdom of Christ from the beginning to the end, and that therefore it is no wonder that he speaks of that perfect happiness, the first fruits of which now only appear.
He then adds, And this is the name by which they shall call him, Jehovah our Righteousness. By these words the Prophet shews more clearly that he speaks not generally of David’s posterity, however excellent they may have been, but of the Mediator, who had been promised, and on whom depended the salvation of the people; for he says that this would be his name, Jehovah our Righteousness. fE77
Those Jews, who seem more modest than others, and dare not, through a dogged pertinacity, to corrupt this passage, do yet elude the application of this title to Christ, though it be suitable to him; for they say that the name is given to him, because he is the minister of God’s justice, as though it was said, that whenever this king appeared all would acknowledge God’s justice as shining forth in him. And they adduce other similar passages, as when Moses calls the altar, “Jehovah my banner,” or my protection. (<021715>Exodus 17:15.) But there is no likeness whatever between an altar and Christ. For the same purpose they refer to another passage, where it is said,
“And this is the name by which they shall call Jerusalem,
Jehovah our peace.” (<264808>Ezekiel 48:85)
Now Moses meant nothing else than that the altar was a monument of God’s protection; and Ezekiel only teaches, that the Church would be as it were a mirror in which God’s mercy would be seen, as it would shine forth then, as it were, visibly. But this cannot for the same reason be applied to Christ; he is set forth here as a Redeemer, and a name is given to him, — what name? the name of God. But the Jews object and say, that he was God’s minister, and that it might therefore be in a sense applied to him, though he was no more than a man.
But all who without strife and prejudice judge of things, can easily see that this name is suitably applied to Christ, as he is God; and the Son of David belongs to him as he is man. The Son of David and Jehovah is one and the same Redeemer. Why is he called the Son of David? even because it was necessary that he should be born of that family. Why then is he called Jehovah? we hence conclude that there is something in him more excellent than what is human; and he is called Jehovah, because he is the only-begotten Son of God, of one and the same essence, glory, eternity, and divinity with the Father.
It hence appears evident to all who judge impartially and considerately, that Christ is set forth here in his twofold character, so that the Prophet brings before us both the glory of his divinity and the reality of his humanity. And we know how necessary it was that Christ should come forth as God and man; for salvation cannot be expected in any other way than from God; and Christ must confer salvation on us, and not only be its minister. And then, as he is God, he justifies us, regenerates us, illuminates us into a hope of eternal life; to conquer sin and death is doubtless what only can be effected by divine power. Hence Christ, except he was God, could not have performed what we had to expect from him. It was also necessary that he should become man, that he might unite us to himself; for we have no access to God, except we become the friends of Christ; and how can we be so made, except by a brotherly union? It was not then without the strongest reason, that the Prophet here sets Christ before us both as a true man and the Son of David, and also as God or Jehovah, for he is the only-begotten Son of God, and ever the same in wisdom and glory with the Father, as John testifies in <241705>Jeremiah 17:5, 11.
We now then perceive the simple and real meaning of this passage, even that God would restore his Church, because what he had promised respecting a Redeemer stood firm and inviolable. Then he adds what this Redeemer would be and what was to be expected from him; he declares that he would be the true God and yet the Son of David; and he also bids us to expect righteousness from him, and everything necessary to a full and perfect happiness.
But by saying, God our righteousness, the Prophet still more fully shews that righteousness is not in Christ as though it were only his own, but that we have it in common with him, for he has nothing separate from us. God, indeed, must ever be deemed just, though iniquity prevailed through the whole world; and men, were they all wicked, could do nothing to impugn or mar the righteousness of God. But yet God is not our righteousness as he is righteous in himself, or as having his own peculiar righteousness; and as he is our judge, his own righteousness is adverse to us. But Christ’s righteousness is of another kind: it is ours, because Christ is righteous not for himself, but possesses a righteousness which he communicates to us. We hence see that the true character of Christ is here set forth, not that he would come to manifest divine justice, but to bring righteousness, which would avail to the salvation of men, For if we regard God in himself, as I have said, he is indeed righteous, but is not our righteousness. If, then, we desire to have God as our righteousness, we must seek Christ; for this cannot be found except in him. The righteousness of God has been set forth to us in Christ; and all who turn away from him, though they may take many circuitous courses, can yet never find the righteousness of God. Hence Paul says that he has been given or made to us righteousness, — for what end? that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (<460130>1 Corinthians 1:30.) Since, then, Christ is made our righteousness, and we are counted the righteousness of God in him, we hence learn how properly and fitly it has been said that he would be Jehovah, not only that the power of his divinity might defend us, but also that we might become righteous in him, for he is not only righteous for himself, but he is our righteousness. fE78
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that we, having been all slaves to sin and to iniquity, but regenerated by the Spirit of thy only-begotten Son, may truly and with sincere desire seek to serve and worship thee alone, and so consecrate ourselves to thee, that it may appear that we do not falsely profess the name of Christ, but that we are truly his members, being partakers of that new life which he brought us; and may we make such progress in it, that, having finished our course on earth, we may at length come to that fullness of life and happiness which has been procured for us by him, and which is laid up in heaven for us. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-SIXTH
JEREMIAH 23:7-8
7. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
7. Propterea ecce dies veniunt, (venient,) dicit Jehova, quibus non dicetur (ad verbum, et non dicetur, — non dicent) amplius, Vivit Jehova, qui eduxit filios Israel e terra Egypti;
8. But, the Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
8. Quin potius, Vivit Jehova, qui eduxit et adduxit (ascendere fecit et introduxit, ad verbum) semen domus Israel e terra Aquilonis, et ex omnibus terris, ad quas expuleram eos illue; et habitabunt super terram suam. fE79

The Prophet, after having spoken of the Redeemer who was to be sent, now sets forth in high terms that great favor of God, and says that it would be so remarkable and glorious, that the former redemption would be nothing to the greatness and excellency of this. When the children of Israel were brought up out of Egypt, God, we know, testified his power by many miracles, in order that this favor towards his people might appear the more illustrious; and rightly did the Prophets exhort and encourage the faithful to entertain good hope by calling to their minds what was then done. But our Prophet enhances the second redemption by this comparison, that hereafter the kindness of God, with which he favored his people when he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, would not be remembered, but that something more remarkable would be done, so that all would talk of it, and that all would proclaim the immense benefit, which God would confer on them in delivering them from their exile in Babylon. fE80
He then says that the days would come in which it would not be said, Live does Jehovah, who brought his people from Egypt, but who brought his people from the land of the North. fE81 Yet he does not mean that the memory of God’s favor towards the Israelites, when he brought them from Egypt, was to be abolished; but he reasons here from the less to the greater, as though he had said that it was an evidence of God’s favor that could not be sufficiently praised, when he delivered his people from the land of Egypt, that if it were taken by itself, it was worthy of being for ever remembered; but that when compared with the second deliverance it would appear almost as nothing. The meaning is, that the second redemption would be so much more remarkable than the first, that it would obscure the remembrance of it, though it would not obliterate it.
And this passage deserves to be especially noticed, for we hence learn how much we ought to value that redemption which we have obtained through the only-begotten Son of God. And hence, also, it follows that we are more bound to God than the Fathers under the Law, as he has dealt far more bountifully with us, and has put forth his power more fully and effectually in our behalf. We further learn, that the Prophet does not in this prophecy include a few years only, but the whole kingdom of Christ and its whole progress. He indeed speaks of the return of the people to their own country, and this ought to be allowed, though Christians have been too rigid in this respect; for passing by the whole intermediate time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, they have too violently turned the prophecies to spiritual redemption. There is no doubt but that the Prophet makes a beginning with the free return of the people from captivity; but, as I have said, Christ’s redemption is not to be separated from this, otherwise the accomplishment of the promise would not appear to us, for a small portion only returned to their own land. We also know that they were harassed with many and continual troubles, so that their condition was always miserable, for nothing is worse than a state of disquietude. We know further, that they were spoiled, and that often, and were also reduced to a state of bondage. We know how cruelly they were treated at one time by the Egyptians, and at another by the kings of Syria. Then more was promised by Jeremiah than what God has really performed, except we include in this prophecy the kingdom of Christ. But as God so restored his Church by the hand of Cyrus, that it might be a kind of prelude to a future and perfect redemption, it is no wonder that the prophets, whenever they spoke of the people’s return and of the end of their exile, should look forward to Christ and to his spiritual kingdom.
We now, then, see the design of the Prophet, when he says that the days would come in which their first redemption would not be spoken of by the people, as a remarkable or as the chief evidence of God’s favor and power, as their second redemption would far exceed it.
As to the formula or manner of speaking, Live does Jehovah, we know that the ancients used such words in making a solemn oath, and whenever they sought to animate themselves with hope under adversities. Whenever, then, they found themselves so pressed down that they had no other escape from evil than through God’s favor, they usually said that the God who had formerly been the Redeemer of his people still lived, and that there was no diminution of his power, so that he could ten times, or a hundred times, or a thousand times, if necessary, bring help to his Church and to every member of it.
He says, from all the lands to which I shall have driven them, and he says this for two reasons, which we shall presently state. The change of person does not obscure the meaning: Live, he says, does Jehovah, who brought out and led his people from the land of the north, and from all the lands to which I had driven them; but there is no ambiguity in the sense.
As to the subject itself, it seems that God in the first place intended to remind the Jews of their sins, as this knowledge was to be the way to repentance, or a preparation for it. For except they were convinced that they were chastised for their sins by God’s hand, they would either have thought that their exile was by chance, or have given way to murmuring complaints as they often did. But God here declares that he was the author of their exile, in order that the Jews might know that God justly punished them for their many and grievous sins. But God, in the second place, shews that it was in his power, whenever he pleased, to restore those whom he had afflicted. It was the same as to raise from death those whom he had slain, according to what is said elsewhere,
“God is he who kills, and who brings to life.”
(<090206>1 Samuel 2:6.)
Many indeed can destroy, but they cannot heal the wound which they may have made. But with regard to God, he is both a righteous Judge and a merciful Savior. As, then, death is in his power whenever he punishes men for their wickedness, so also he has life in his hand and at his bidding, whenever he intends to shew mercy. We now, then, perceive what the Prophet had in view in saying that the Jews had been driven away by God.
He afterwards adds, They shall dwell in their own land. It was necessary that the Jews should have been sustained by this support until the coming of Christ, for they saw that they would be in that inheritance which had been promised to the fathers as a pledge of eternal life and of the heavenly kingdom. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:9
9. Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake: I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness.
9. Propter prophetas (alii, ad prophetas, et potest legi ita ad verbum) contritum est (vel, confractum est) cor meum in medio mei; commota sunt (vel, concussa) omnia ossa mea (proprie, luxata sunt, quia de ossibus agitur; quantum ad verbum spectat, significat agitari, et moveri; sed quoniam nunc loquitur de ossibus, sermo erit aptior, luxata esse ossa;) fui tanquam vir ebrius super quem transiit vinum (hoc est tanquam vir obrutus vino) a facie Jehovae, et a facie sermonum sanctitatis ejus.

The Prophet here again inveighs against the wickedness of the people; but as the prophets by their flatteries had then led astray the king and his princes, as well as the people, the Prophet directed his discourse to them, and says that his heart was troubled on account of the prophets. We know that men think themselves half absolved when no one severely reproves them. When, therefore, the prophets ceased from their work, there was so great a security among the whole people, that there was no fear of God in them. This is the reason why the Prophet now says that his heart was troubled on account of so much indifference; for the prophets were, as it is said elsewhere, like dumb dogs; they overlooked the most grievous and the most atrocious sins, they made no effort to restore the people to the right way. Troubled, then, he says, is my heart for the prophets; a heavier judgment awaited them, for they ought to have been the instruments of God’s Spirit, the heralds of his judgments; they ought to have undertaken his cause by using exhortations, reproofs, and threatenings.
There is yet no doubt but that what is said ought to be extended to the whole body of the people. But Jeremiah wished to begin with the prophets, as though he had said that it was monstrous that the prophets boasted that they were God’s ministers, and yet were dumb in the midst of so much wickedness. On account of the prophets, fE82 he says, broken is my heart. Then he says that his bones were disjointed. In the first chapter of Genesis, when Moses speaks of the Spirit as moving on the waters, he uses the same verb, but in a different conjugation. However this may be, it is most suitable to say that his bones were disjointed. fE83 And we know that the bones are tied together by sinews, that they may not be moved from their places; for the loosening of one bone renders the whole body almost useless. He meant, then, by this kind of speaking, to express the most painful perturbation of mind, as though he had said that what he had, as the firmost and strongest thing, was become weak and altogether feeble.
He afterwards compares himself to a drunken man; by which metaphor he understands that he was completely stunned, and that all his senses were taken from him. And he adds, over whom wine has passed. The verb rb[, ober, means to pass beyond; but to pass over is its meaning here. He who is overcome by immoderate drinking seems as though he was drowned; for when one falls under the water, he is no more sunk than he who drowns his brain with wine; for drunkenness is like a grave, inasmuch as it holds the whole man under its power. Yet the Prophet meant no other thing than that this monstrous thing rendered those astonied who were of a sane and sound mind, and that it also shook and disjointed all the members, and terrified and confounded minds otherwise quiet and tranquil. For, certainly, Jeremiah was a wise man, and was also endued with courage, so that he would not have quailed under every evil though great; nor could he have been easily overwhelmed with stupor like a drunken man. Hence by these comparisons he shows how dreadful and monstrous it was, that the prophets were so unconcerned as not to say a word, when they saw that impiety and contempt of God were so rampant, when they saw the whole land defiled with every kind of wickedness, as we shall presently see.
Then he says, On account of Jehovah, and on account of the words of his holiness. By saying, on account of Jehovah, he brings God before them as a judge and avenger; as though he had said, “If they believe that there is a God in heaven, it is a wonder that they are so brutish as to dare to boast of his name, and yet silently to allow heaven and earth to be mingled together. Where, then, is their reason, when they dare so heedlessly to profess a name so fearful and awful? for whenever God’s name is mentioned, there ought to come into their minds not only his goodness and mercy, but also his severity, and then his power, which is dreadful to all the wicked. As then these men dare thus to trifle with God, must not their stupidity be monstrous?” What, then, the Prophet means is this, — that it was a wonder that the prophets undertook their office, and yet had no concern for the glory of God.
And he adds, On account of the words of his holiness. Men would seek easiness were not God to rouse them by his word. But as the Law had been written for the Jews, as these false prophets knew that if they wished rightly to perform their work, they ought to have been the expounders of the Law — as these things were sufficiently known, the Prophet justly refers here to the word of God, as though he would put a bridle in their mouths, lest they should, after their usual manner, evade what a bare profession of God’s name implied. Since, then, God had testified in his Law how he would have his people ruled, how was it that these prophets were not terrified by God’s words? And as hypocrites not only despise God himself, and depreciate his glory, but also disregard the doctrine of his law, the Prophet adorns God’s words with a remarkable encomium, calling his words the words of his holiness. And he thus calls God’s words holy, and therefore inviolable, in order that the ungodly might know, that a dreadful vengeance was nigh them, because they disregarded both God and his holy words. It follows —

JEREMIAH 23:10
10. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
10. Quia adulteriis referta est terra, quia a facie jurisjurandi (vel, perfidae) luxit terra, aruerunt speciosa deserti (vel, caulae deserti; nam pluribus modis vertunt;) et fuit cursus eorum malus, et robur eorum non rectum.

Jeremiah now assigns the reason why he was so much horrified by the insensibility which he observed in the prophets. If things were in good order, or if, at least, they were tolerable, the prophets would have more calmly addressed the Jews; for what need is there to make a great ado when men willingly follow what God commands? When, therefore, we have to do with meek and modest men, vehemence is foolish; and they who thus bestir themselves, and seek, through great ambition, to shew very fervid zeal when there is no need, are nothing but apes; but when things are in disorder and confusion, then vehemence is wanted. Jeremiah now declares that things were so extremely out of order, that the prophets could not have been silent, except they were like logs of wood.
These two things, then, ought to be connected together, — that the prophets were dumb, — and that they were dumb when there was the greatest necessity for speaking; for they saw the land filled with adulteries. Though he names adulterers, he yet condemns the crime. As then the land was polluted by adulteries and perjuries, as they all gave themselves up to do evil, it was by no means to be tolerated that the prophets should not be indignant, as though things were well ordered and peaceable.
We hence see how much God abhors sloth in the ministers of his word, in those whom he appoints as teachers in his Church, while they connive at wickedness, and heedlessly pass by adulteries, and fornications, and perjuries, and frauds, and other kinds of wrongs; for if there were even the least particle of religion in their hearts, they would certainly have been moved, and could not have been for a moment silent. For if that zeal ought to be in all God’s children, which was in the Psalmist,
“The zeal of thine house has consumed me, and the reproaches of them who reproached thee have fallen upon me,”
(<196910>Psalm 69:10,)
how inexcusable must be the indifference of prophets, when they see God’s name exposed to mockery, and when they see every kind of wickedness prevailing? We now see not only what the Prophet teaches in this passage, but also the usefulness of his doctrine and how it ought to be applied. Let us then learn, that the more liberty men take in sinning, and the more audaciously their impiety and contempt of God break out, the more sharply ought prophets and faithful teachers to reprove and condemn them; and that it is the time of fighting, when the world thus presumptuously and furiously rise up against God.
The Prophet mentions some kinds of evil, and yet does not enumerate all kinds; but under adulteries and perjuries he includes also other crimes. As to the word hla, ale, it properly means swearing; but as cursing often accompanies it, some render it here “execration.” fE84 But I rather think that what is meant is perjury, and that swearing here is taken in a bad sense, signifying swearing falsely in the name of God.
Mourned, he says, has the land, and dried up have the pastures of the desert. Here the Prophet strikingly shews how shameful was that torpor of which he speaks, for the land itself cried out, and not only the land which was cultivated and had on it many men, but also the very mountains and their recesses. He says that the land was in mourning, because God shewed his judgments everywhere by rendering the fields barren, and by other means which he used as punishments. And it is a very striking mode of speaking, when the Prophet mentions the mourning of the land, as though it assumed the character of a mourner, when it saw God angry on account of the wickedness of men. It is, indeed, a kind of personification, though he does not introduce the land as speaking; but he describes mourning as it appeared in the sterility of the land, and also in hails and storms, in unseasonable rains, in droughts, and in other calamities.
Whenever then God raises his hand to punish men for their sins, if they themselves perceive it not, the very land, which is without sense and feeling, ought to fill them with shame for their madness; for mourning appears in the very land, as though it knew that God was displeased with it. When, therefore, men sleep in their sins, and thus disregard God’s vengeance, how monstrous must be their torpor! And if this be intolerable in the common people, what can be said of the prophets, who ought to proclaim such words as these, — “Cursed is he who has transgressed the precepts of this law” — “cursed is he who has corrupted the worship of God” — or, “who hath dealt unjustly with his neighbor,” — and whatever else the law contains? (<052726>Deuteronomy 27:26; <052847>Deuteronomy 28:47, 58.) We now then perceive how emphatical are the words when the Prophet says, Mourned has the land. And he amplifies the same thing by saying, Dried up have the beautiful places of the desert; as though he had said, that God’s judgments were seen in the remotest places, not only in the plains, where the greater number of men dwelt, did the land mourn; but if any one ascended the mountains, where shepherds only with their flocks were to be found, even there the wrath of God was visible; and the very mountains cried out that God was angry; and yet men still deluded themselves, who, at the same time were expounders of the law, who were the mouth of God, and to whom he had committed the office of reproving; but they were dumb! We now understand what these words contain, and what is to be learnt from them.
He adds, that their course was evil, fE85 and that their strength was not right. By course he no doubt means their doings and all their actions, and also the aid which they proposed to themselves; for our life is called a course, because God has not created us that we may lie down in one place, but he has set before us an end for which we are to live. Therefore, by course, the Scripture means all our doings, and the very end for which we are to live. He then says, that all their strength had been perverted; that is, that they had applied all their powers to do evil. It then hence appears that, except the prophets had been perfidious, they would have thought it full time to cry out, when men provoked God with so much audacity in their wicked courses. It follows —

JEREMIAH 23:11
11. For both prophet and priest are profane: yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.
11. Quia tam propheta quam sacerdos impia egerunt; etiam in domo mea deprehendi (vel, reperi) malitiam ipsorum, dicit Jehova.

He adds here that it ought not to appear strange that the prophets were silent when they ought to have loudly cried out, because they were guilty themselves: and whence can freedom of speech come except from a good conscience? Hypocrites, who indulge themselves, are indeed often severe against others, and even more than necessary; but no one can dare honestly to cry out against wickedness, but he who is innocent. For he who condemns others seems to make a law for himself, according to what a heathen writer has said, (Cicero in Salustium.) Then the Prophet here shews to us why the prophets were not only idle, but were even like stocks and stones; for in speaking against wickedness, it was necessary for them in the first place to amend themselves; for their lives were wholly dissolute. As then they were of all the most wicked, they could not boldly cry out against others; and hence the Prophet condemns them, because their own impiety prevented them to perform their own duty.
It is, indeed, possible for one to live soberly, honestly, and justly, and yet to connive at the wickedness of others; but the Prophet here condemns the prophets and priests on two accounts, — for being mute, and for not undertaking God’s cause when they saw the land polluted with all kinds of defilements; and he then shews the fountain of this evil, that is, the cause why they were idle and wholly indifferent, and that was, because they dared not say a word against those crimes of which they were themselves guilty, yea, with which they were more loaded than even the common people. We now perceive the Prophet’s object in saying that both the priests and the prophets had acted impiously; fE86 it was to shew, that their contempt of God, for which they were notorious, and also their wickedness, had taken away from them all power and freedom in acting.
It is added, Even in my house have I found their wickedness. He enhances what he had said of their impiety; for they were not only infamous and wicked in common life, as to the duties of the Second Table; but they also corrupted the whole service of God, and the true Prophets were derided by them. For what was found to be the priests’ wickedness in the Temple, except that they practiced a sort of merchandise under the cover of the priesthood? and then the prophets vitiated and adulterated God’s worship; and what was religion to them but the means of filthy lucre or gain? When, therefore, the prophets thus trod under foot the service of God, corrupted and perverted the Law to make gain or to acquire power, their impiety was not only seen in the habits of daily life, but also in the very Temple of God, that is, with regard to the sacerdotal office.
Now, since this is true as to what took place under the Law, there is no wonder that such a base example is to be seen in the present day. And hence also is discovered the folly of the Papists, who think that they ingeniously evade every objection as to the crimes of the Pope and his filthy clergy, by saying that the Pope indeed may be wicked, as almost all of them have been, and that the same thing may be said of their mitred bishops; but that the Pope, as a Pope, cannot err, and that the bishops, as bishops, that is, in their government and office, are ruled by the Holy Spirit, because they represent the Church. But are they better than these ancient priests, whom God himself had expressly appointed, and to whom he commanded obedience to be rendered by the whole people? But the Prophet not only says here that they were wicked, that they acted impiously and wickedly towards their neighbors, that they committed plunders and robberies, that they were given to violence and rapacity, that they abandoned themselves to adultery and to every other crime; but he says also, that their wickedness was found in the very Temple, that is, in the very sacred office itself; for not only was their life wicked, but they also impiously and perfidiously corrupted the doctrine of God and subverted his worship.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to set before us an example of every perfection in thine only-begotten Son, we may study to form ourselves in imitation of him, and so to follow not only what he has prescribed, but also what he really performed, that we may prove ourselves to be really his members, and thus confirm our adoption; and may we so proceed in the whole course of our life, that we may at length be gathered into that blessed rest which the same, thine only-begotten Son, hath obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-SEVENTH
JEREMIAH 23:12
12. Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness; they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord.
12. Propterea erit via eorum ipsis tanquam lubricitates, in caligine impingent, et cadent in ea; quia inducam super eos malum, annum visitationis eorum, dicit Jehova.

Here he declares to false prophets and unfaithful priests that the Lord’s judgment was nigh at hand, because they had deceived the people. But he speaks figuratively when he says, that their way would be to them as lubricities. By way he understands the means which they thought to be of the best kind, as elsewhere, nearly in the same sense, what is deemed delectable, or what conduces to sustain life, is called “the table” of the wicked. (<196922>Psalm 69:22.) The meaning then is, that when they thought all things prosperous, as if one made his way through a plain, they would find themselves on a slippery ground. Their way, then, would be to them as lubricities, fE87 that is, when they seemed to take a safe counsel and so prudently to set all things in order, as that nothing could happen amiss to them, their way would become slippery, and that in darkness. He doubles the evil; for one may stand on a slippery ground, and yet may take care of himself on seeing danger; but when darkness is added to the slippery ground, he who can neither stand nor move can hardly do otherwise than fall, either on this or that side: hence he says, they shall stumble and fall in it.
The reason follows, even because the Lord was displeased with them. They could not then escape ruin, for they had to do with God. But as the ungodly derive false confidence from God’s forbearance, so that they dare to glory in their wickedness, he adds, the year of their visitation. Though, then, God would not immediately put forth his hand to punish them, yet their time was to come; for the year of visitation means the suitable time which God has determined within himself. He indeed defers punishment; but when hypocrites and his despisers have long abused his forbearance, he then suddenly begins to thunder against them; and this is the year of visitation. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:13-14
13. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.
13. In prophetis (Et in prophetis) Samariae vidi fatuitatem (vel, insulsum, aut, insulsitatem;) prophetant in Baal, et errare faciunt (vel, decipiunt) populum meum Israel.
14. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies; they strengthen also the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.
14. Et in prophetis Jerusalem vidi pravitatem, adulterando et ambulando in fallacia; et roborant manus improborum, ut non revertantur quisque a malitia sua; erunt mihi onmes tanquam Sodoma, et habitatores ejus tanquam Gomorrha.

These two verses are to be read together; for there is no doubt but that the Prophet here compares the false prophets, who had corrupted God’s worship in the kingdom of Israel, with those in Jerusalem who wished to appear more holy and more perfect. And he thus compares them that he might set forth those who sought to be deemed God’s faithful ministers, as being by far the worst; for he says, that he had found fatuity in the prophets of Samaria, but depravity in the prophets of Jerusalem. They are, therefore, mistaken in my judgment who take also, hlpt, tephle, as meaning depravity; for they do not consider that he here enhances by comparison their wickedness who thought themselves the best, as they say, without exception.
As to the prophets of Samaria, they had been long ago condemned; nor was there any at Jerusalem who dared openly to defend them; for they had departed from the worship of God, and had led away the people from the only true Temple and altar. They were then held at that time in the kingdom of Judah as apostates, perfidious, and unprincipled. But the kingdom of Judah still wished to be deemed pure and blameless; and the prophets, who were there, boasted that they were uncorrupt and free from every spot. The Prophet therefore says, that fatuity had been found in the prophets of Samaria, that is, in those who had corrupted the ten tribes, and vitiated there the pure worship of God; but that there was more wickedness in the prophets of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah, because they were not only foolish, but also designedly subverted all religion, and allowed liberty in all kinds of wickedness, so that they carried as it were a banner in approbation of every species of iniquity. We hence see that the object of Jeremiah was to shew, that the prophets of the kingdom of Judah surpassed in impiety those very prophets whom they proudly condemned; for they were not only fatuitous and foolish, but had designedly as it were conspired against God, and had become open enemies not only to religion but to all laws.
As to the words, that he found fatuity fE88 in the prophets of Samaria, he speaks in the person of God, who is the only fit judge. And he subjoins the cause of their senselessness, because they prophesied by Baal, and made the people of Israel to go astray. Had Jeremiah spoken only of these, he would no doubt have used stronger terms in describing their sin; but as he was contrasting them with those who were worse, he was satisfied with the word fatuity; as though he had said, “Were any one to consider them by themselves, they were indeed very wicked, and deserved the most severe punishment; but if they be compared with the prophets of Judah, then they must be deemed only fatuitous and sottish.” Then the copulative is to be rendered thus, “I have, indeed, seen fatuity in the prophets of Samaria;” and then differently in the following clause, “but in the prophets of Judah I have seen depravity.” It is to be read adversatively in this verse, and concessively in the former. Then in the prophets of Jerusalem have I seen depravity. fE89
It follows, They commit adultery, and walk in deception. Expositors think that there is a change of number; but what if these words be applied to the people? as though Jeremiah had said, “When any one is an adulterer, when any one walks in deception, that is, when any one is fraudulent, they strengthen, the hands of the wicked.” And, doubtless, this sense seems here to be the most correct. Then Jeremiah shews how they surpassed other prophets in impiety, even because they dissimulated when they saw on one hand adulteries prevailing, and on the other frauds, plunders, and perjuries; and not only so, but they undertook the patronizing of the wicked, and strengthened the hands of the ungodly, and added audacity to their madness. For as fear weakens the hands, so does shame; as, then, these prophets removed shame as well as fear from the wicked and ungodly, so they strengthened their hands; that is, they gave them more confidence, so that they rushed headlong into every evil more freely and with greater liberty.
That they might not return, he says, every one from his wickedness. This is added for the sake of explanation; for, as I have said, either the fear of God or shame from men might have checked their audacity; but when they were confirmed and countenanced, they broke out into all excesses, and hardened themselves in their obstinacy: That they might not return, every one from his wickedness.
In the last place he adds, They shall be to me all of them as Sodom, and its inhabitants as Gomorrah. We see that the last clause is confined to the citizens of Jerusalem. Then God says, that these prophets would be like the Sodomites, and the citizens of Jerusalem like the citizens of Gomorrah. This is not to be understood only as to crimes, but also as to punishment; as though he had said, that there was no more hope of pardon for them than for the Sodomites, for they had provoked to the utmost the wrath of God, so that he could not now spare them. It then follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:15
15. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets, Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land.
15. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum super (vel, ad) prophetas istos, Ecce ego cibabo eos amaritudine (aut, veneno; alii vertunt, absynthio, hn[l, sed nomen absynthii non videtur quadrare; ubicumque enim ponitur hoec vox, significat amaritudinem noxiam et virulentem et mortiferam,) et potabo eos aquis veneni (alii vertunt, fellis; diximus alibide hac voce, çar,) quoniam a prophetis Jerusalem egressa est impietas in totam terram.

This verse is addressed to the prophets of the kingdom of Judah, as we learn from its conclusion; and thus the exposition which I have given is confirmed, even this, that God extenuates the fault of other prophets, in speaking of the prophets of Jerusalem, who boasted of greater sanctity. But he declares that they would have poison for meat and gall for drink; as though he had said, “I will pursue them with every kind of punishment.” He expresses evidently the same thing I have before referred to, that their table would become a snare to them. (<196922>Psalm 69:22.) The ungodly, indeed, always think that they can by their arts escape; God on the other hand declares, that though they might have a table prepared, they yet would find nothing on it, but poison for meat, and gall for drink. For as to God’s children and faithful servants, evils are turned to their benefit; so as to the ungodly and his wicked despisers, all things must necessarily turn out for their ruin, even meat and drink, and their course of life, and in a word everything.
The cause follows, For gone forth is impiety fE90 through the whole land from the prophets of Jerusalem. By which words he declares that they were the authors of all evils, so that in comparison with them the prophets of Samaria might have been deemed in a manner righteous. But there is no doubt but that this declaration was considered too severe; yet we see by what necessity Jeremiah was constrained thus to speak; for the lamp of God as yet remained at Jerusalem, according to what is said in many passages, nor was the light of sound doctrine wholly put out. They professed that they continued to obey the Law; and at the same time they were much worse than others, for not only the worship of God in the Temple and in the city was corrupted, but adulteries, frauds, plunders, and all kinds of wickedness prevailed everywhere. He adds —

JEREMIAH 23:16
16. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.
16. Sic dicit Jehovah exercituum, Ne audiatis verba prophetarum, qui prophetant vobis; evanescere faciunt ipsi vobis, visionem cordis sui loquuntur, non ex ore Jehovae.

What is here said must have appeared very severe, and must have grievously offended the people; for Jeremiah forbade them to hear the teaching of the prophets. He indeed concedes to them the name of prophets, which was a sacred name; but yet he discredits them, and deprives them of all dignity. he speaks not of magicians or impostors, who were aliens to God’s people; he speaks not of Egyptians, or Chaldeans, or any like them, nor does he speak of the prophets of Samaria, but of those who daily appeared in the Temple and boasted that they were divinely chosen, endued with the spirit of revelation, and that they brought nothing but what God had committed to them. As then Jeremiah forbade them to hear these, some great perplexity must have necessarily seized the minds of all, especially of the simple, — “What does this mean? why does God suffer these unprincipled men to occupy a place in the Temple, and to exercise there the prophetic office, while at the same time they are cheats, perjurers, and impostors?”
In the same manner we see that many at this day are perplexed on account of the discords by which the Church is harassed, and as it were torn to pieces. We are constrained to contend with those who arrogate to themselves the name of the Catholic Church, who boast that they are bishops, vicars of Christ, successors of the Apostles. When therefore the ignorant see such hostile conflicts in the very bosom of the Church, they must necessarily be terrified, and such stumbling-block shakes dreadfully their faith. Hence this passage ought to be especially noticed; for though at first ignorant people may be disturbed by such a prohibition as this, yet every one who really fears God will exercise his mind, so that he may distinguish between false and true prophets; and God will never leave his chosen people destitute of the spirit of judgment and discernment, when teachers contend on both sides, and tumults nearly overthrow the Church; even then, as I have said, God will preserve his own elect, provided we piously and humbly strive to submit to his word; he will also guide us by his hand, so that we may not be deceived. Since then God had commanded Jeremiah to forbid the people to hear the false prophets, let us not at this day wonder, that faithful teachers who desire to maintain true doctrine and genuine piety, feel themselves constrained to oppose these men of titles who shelter themselves under the masked names of pastors, and prelates, and bishops, that they may delude the unwary and the ignorant; Hear not, he says, the words of the prophets who prophesy to you.
He adds, They make you to be vain; that is, they infatuate you. fE91 But this would not have been sufficient, had he not added what more fully confirmed it. Hence Jeremiah says, that they brought forward the vision of their own hearts, and did not speak what came from God’s mouth. This is a mark which can never deceive us, except we willingly throw ourselves into the snares and intrigues of Satan, as many do who wilfully seek to be deceived, and even hunt for falsehoods; but whosoever applies his mind to the study of truth, can never be deceived, if by this mark, which is set before us, he distinguishes between prophets and prophets; for every one who speaks according to the mere suggestions of his own mind must be an impostor. No one then ought to be deemed a sound teacher, but he who speaks from God’s mouth.
But here a question may be raised, How can the common people understand that some speak from God’s mouth, and that others propound their own glosses? I answer, That the doctrine of the Law was then sufficient to guide the minds of the people, provided they closed not their eyes; and if the Law was sufficient at that time, God does now most surely give us a clearer light by his prophets, and especially by his Gospel. Since then God has once given us his testimony, every one ought to obey him as soon as he knows what is right, what he ought to follow, and what he ought to shun.
We now then see how useful this passage is; for there is nothing more miserable than for men to be tossed here and there, and to be led astray from the way of salvation. There is therefore nothing more desirable than to know this way with certainty, Now, God shews us the way here as by the finger; for he says that those who speak from his mouth can be heard with safety; but that others are to be rejected, how much soever they may boast of being prophets, and thus seek under the guise of authority to subject men’s minds captive to themselves. And this ought to suffice at this day to put an end to all controversies; for on this no doubt depends almost every question that is now agitated in the world. The Papists will have their own devices to be taken as oracles, and claim to be the Church; but we, on the other hand, say that perfect wisdom is alone to be found in the Law, in the Prophets, and in the Gospel. Were we then to attend to the mouth of God, it would be easy to settle all the disputes between us. It hence also follows, that the Papists are deceived because they deign not to ask at God’s mouth, but choose to become slaves to men and to their own falsehoods, rather than to inquire what pleases God; for he himself has spoken, and has not spoken hiddenly, neither doubtfully nor obscurely; for there is nothing more clear than his teaching, provided men do not become wilfully blind. He then adds, —

JEREMIAH 23:17-18
17. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
17. Dicentes dicendo iis qui me contemnunt, Loquutus est Jehova, Pax erit vobis, et omnibus qui ambulant (cunctis ambulantibus; est quidem singularis numerus, ad verbum, cuique ambulanti) in pravitate cordis sui, dicunt, Non veniet super vos malum.
18. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?
18. Nam quis stetit in consilio Jehovae? et vidit et audivit sermonem ejus? Quis attendit ad sermonem ejus et audivit?

Jeremiah introduces another mark by which the false prophets might be known as different from the true prophets, — they flattered the ungodly and wicked despisers of God. He thus repeats what he had before said, that they strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that they became hardened in their impiety, and threw aside every care for repentance. Though he uses different words, yet the meaning is the same, that they promised peace, or prosperity, to the despisers of God, for the word µwlç, shalum, means to live well or happily.
They say, then, to those who despise or reject me; for ≈an, nats, means both. The doubling of the word for “saying,” is also emphatical, rwma µyrma, amrim amur: fE92 for we know with how much haughtiness and confidence the false prophets dared to announce their dreams; for they were led by the spirit of pride, as they were the children of Satan. Hence then was their confidence, so that they made their declarations as though they had come down from heaven. They say, then, by saying; that is, they promise, and that with great effrontery, that peace would be to all the despisers of God; and not only so, but they pretended God’s name, Spoken, has Jehovah fE93 They wished to be deemed the instruments or agents of the Holy Spirit, while they were vainly announcing, as it has been said, their own imaginations. And hence Jeremiah applied to them, though improperly, the word vision, They speak the vision of their own heart. By using this word he makes a concession; for he might have said only, that they adduced nothing but trifles, even the falsehoods which they themselves had devised, but he mentions the word ˆwzj, chezun, which in itself ought to be deemed of high import. And yet he means that they were only apes as prophets, when they prattled of visions and confidently declared that they brought forward the revelations of the Spirit. He then concedes to them, though improperly, that they saw visions; but what did they see? even that Jehovah had spoken, Peace shall be to you.
Then he says, They promise to those who walk in the wickedness of their own heart, that all things shall turn out well to them, No evil shall come upon you; as though he had said, “They promise impunity to all the wicked.”
The verse which follows is usually thus explained, Jeremiah condemns the false teachers for their carelessness, because they attended not to the word of God, and regarded as nothing what the Law contained. But interpreters seem to me to have been certainly much mistaken in this view; for Jeremiah here shews throughout, he passage how insolently and arrogantly the false teachers conducted themselves in audaciously opposing the true and faithful servants of God, Who has stood in the counsel of Jehovah? They no doubt spoke thus tauntingly of the true prophets, “What! These announce to you pestilence, war, famine, as though they were angels sent by God from heaven; have they stood in the counsel of God?” Thus I connect this verse with the former, for I am fully persuaded that he refers here to the arrogance which the false teachers manifested towards the true teachers. fE94
Examples of this in our time give a plain exposition to this passage. For when the Papists feel themselves driven to an extremity, when they prevail nothing by clamor and falsehood, they run to this sort of evasion, “He! if we must determine everything in religion by the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel, what certainty can be found? The Scripture is like a nose of wax, for it can be turned to anything, and no meaning can with certainty be elicited; thus all things will remain perplexed and doubtful, if authority belongs to the Scripture alone.” We then see that the enemies of truth at this day, when they cannot otherwise cover their filthiness, labor to throw all things into confusion, and to discredit God’s word, and to introduce such darkness, that white cannot be distinguished from black, that light becomes mixed with darkness.
Similar to this was the perverse wickedness of the false teachers. For Jeremiah and his associates, when they came forth, declared that God’s vengeance could no longer be deferred, for the people continued to provoke it; and they announced themselves as the heralds of God and witnesses to his hidden purpose; but these unprincipled men, that they might lull to sleep, yea, and stupify the consciences of men, said, “Eh! who has stood in the counsel of Jehovah? who has heard? who has attended? who has seen? all these things are uncertain; and though these severely threaten you with pestilence, war, and famine, yet there is no reason why ye ought to fear. Be then easy, and quietly and cheerfully enjoy yourselves, for they do not understand the purpose of God.” And this meaning we shall presently see confirmed by what is said in verse 22, ydwsb wdm[µaw, veam omdu besudi, “And if they had stood in my counsel.” There is then no doubt but that he turns against them what they perversely boasted. But it now follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:19
19. Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.
19. Ecce turbo (vel, tempestas) Jehovae cum furore (vel, cum iracundia) egreditur, et turbo impendens super caput impiorum cadet (vel, turbo cadens cadet; est participium llwjtm, et postea est simplex verbum, sed eadem est radix utriusque.)

I shall defer the consideration of this to the next Lecture. Tomorrow there will be no Lecture, for, as you know, the conferring of honors will engage us.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are ever inclined to be led away by ensnaring flatteries, and thus seek death and final ruin for ourselves, — O grant that we may learn to tremble at those denunciations announced by the prophets, by which thou shewest to us thy wrath, so that we may be roused to true repentance, and not harden ourselves through thy forbearance in what is evil, but pursue our heavenly course, until having at length put off all our vices, we shall be restored to that perfect form in which thy holy image fully shines forth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-EIGHTH
The verse which I read at the end of my last Lecture must be now repeated to you, Behold, the tempest (or whirlwind) of Jehovah! it shall go forth with fury; even the impending whirlwind! on the head of the ungodly shall it abide, or fall; for lwjy, ichul, means both. The Prophet now assails with more vehemence the false teachers, for they were almost stupid. None, indeed, can betray so much audacity as to oppose God, except when wholly blinded by Satan. Hence our Prophet deals with the false teachers as with fanatics or those wholly stupified: he tells them that God would come like a whirlwind. Whether we render it a whirlwind or a storm, there is not much difference. fE95 And he adds, that they could not escape, for the wrath of God was impending over them, and would at length remain on them.
Now, it is usual in Scripture to deal very sharply with hypocrites, and especially with false teachers, because Satan rules in them to an awful extent. And doubtless, as I have already said, except a person be fascinated with illusions, he could not dare to oppose God. There is, then, no wonder that the Prophet fulminates against these ungodly teachers; for it was nothing but play and sport to them to pretend God’s sacred name that they might deceive the people. He afterwards adds, —

JEREMIAH 23:20
20. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.
20. Non revertetur iracundia Jehovae usque dum fecerit, et usque dum stabilierit cogitationes cordis sui: in extremitate dierum intelligetis hoc intelligentia (hoc est, intelligetis hujus rei intelligentiam, ad verbum.)

He confirms what he had said, lest the hypocrites, with whom he had to do, should think that their punishment would be light and soon pass away. For though they may have seen that God’s hand was armed against them, yet they took comfort, because they expected that it would only be for a short time. Hence Jeremiah here reminds them that they were much deceived if they thought that they could dissipate as a cloud the vengeance that, was at hand; for God would not cease to punish them until he had destroyed them.
There was another security which deceived the ungodly: they were not terrified by threatenings of the Prophet, because they thought that God was in a manner dallying with them whenever he denounced ruin. And, doubtless, the wicked could not have so securely indulged themselves, had it not been that they did not believe that God’s word would be fulfilled. As, then, God’s threatenings did not strike hypocrites with terror, the Prophet here declares that there was no reason for them to harbor the vain hope that God only uttered words, and that there would be no execution of his vengeance.
Turn back, he says, shall not the anger of Jehovah until he has performed and confirmed the thoughts of his heart. Jeremiah shews that God had not spoken in vain by his servants, according to what is done by men, who often speak rashly, for their tongue frequently outruns their purpose. But he reminds them here that God is far different from men, for he ever speaks in earnest, and his prophetic word is a sure evidence of his hidden purpose, as it will again be presently declared. This is the reason why he mentions the thoughts of his heart.
We must not yet think that God is like us, as though he reflected on this thing and on that, and formed many purposes, while one thing or another comes into his mind; no, such a gross idea as this cannot be entertained, and cannot be consistent with the nature of God.
But Jeremiah calls, by a kind of metaphor, the counsel of God his thoughts, even that fixed and unchangeable counsel, which he declared by his prophets. Sometimes, indeed, God threatened, in order to restore men to repentance; but we must bear in mind that he neither varies himself nor changes his purpose. Whatever, then, the prophets announced in his name, flowed from his hidden purpose, and it was the same as though he had made known to us his own heart. And it is no small commendation to prophetic doctrine that God as it were connected his heart with his mouth. The mouth of God is the doctrine itself; and he says now that it had proceeded from the depth of his heart. It hence follows that there is nothing frustratory, (deceptive,) as they say, in God’s word; for he here declares that whatever he had committed to his servants were the thoughts of his heart. And to confirm, or establish, must be applied to the execution of his thoughts.
The sum of the whole is, that God now pronounces a sentence against the people, which could not be reversed; for he had once for all decreed to destroy the men who were obstinate in their sins.
But he seems to refer to the word lwjy, ichul, which means, as I have said, to fall, and also to abide or to lie upon. According to this meaning, he says now, that the anger of God would not return, so as to change its course, until it had completed what had already been decreed, even what God had resolved respecting the destruction of the people.
Then he adds, In the extremity of days ye shall understand the knowledge of this thing. So it is literally; but we may give a simpler version, “Ye shall perceive the knowledge of this matter,” or “Ye shall know what this means.” The Prophet, no doubt, exults over the insensibility of those who could not be moved by such awful warnings. We know how great is the hardness of the ungodly, especially when Satan possesses their minds and hearts. There is, indeed, no iron and no stone which has so much hardness as there is in the perversely wicked; and they in a manner assail God with the greatest obstinacy, as though they were victorious, for they despise all his warnings and threatenings. Hence the Prophet derides their insolence, or rather their madness, and. says, “Ye shall understand,” but too late; for by extremity of days, fE96 he means the time which God had appointed for his anger. But yet God had in due time warned them that they might repent before his judgment came. It was now then the same as though he left them in their own stupor, and said that they could not, however, escape the hand of God by their perverseness, according to what Paul says,
“Let him who is ignorant, be ignorant.”
(<461438>1 Corinthians 14:38.)
He no doubt checks the arrogance of those who rejected every sound doctrine and all right counsels.
So, then, the Prophet teaches us here that hypocrites gain nothing by setting up their own contumacy and arrogance in opposition to God, for they will find, though too late, that God has not spoken in vain. We then see that by extremity of days is to be understood that time when the door shall be closed, because they did not in due time respond to God when he invited them to himself, and set before them the hope of salvation.
There is also another truth taught us here, that we are to seek God while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. (<235506>Isaiah 55:6.) For if we abuse his forbearance and despise him who speaks to us today, we shall find out too late, and not without the most grievous sorrow, that we have been deceived by the devil, because we did not attend to God calling us. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:21
21. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
21. Non misi prophetas, et ipsi concurrerunt; non loquutus sum ad eos, et ipsi prophetarunt.

The Prophet again warns the Jews not to be perverted by the flatteries of false teachers, and not to disregard the threatenings of God. We have already said that the minds of the people were then lulled asleep by false teachers, who promised them impunity. And there is no evil worse than when false teachers, under the name of God, flatter us, and drive away every fear and concern for our souls. This evil prevailed among the ancient people, as it does also at this day. Indeed the greater part of the world have ever sought flatterers, and when God sees that men thus indulge themselves, and in a manner seek for themselves snares, he gives loose reins to Satan and his ministers, that they may deceive those miserable men who thus wilfully seek to be deceived. The object, then, of Jeremiah was to remind the people often, that all flatteries were nothing but the wiles of Satan, or some deadly poison which stupified all their senses. For when one gives a person poison, which extinguishes the senses of the body and the faculties of the mind, it is all over with the miserable being who has been thus drugged. We see a similar thing done by false teachers, who soothe miserable sinners and promise peace to them, as we saw in our last lecture. As, then, it was difficult to awaken men out of this stupor, which became, as it were, innate in them, and as Satan always employs the same intrigues, it was necessary for the holy Prophet to urge his doctrine more and more.
God now says that he did not send the Prophets, and yet they ran. For this objection might have appeared sufficient against Jeremiah, — that he was alone, and that the other prophets were many in number. It is, indeed, the dictate of common sense, that we ought to believe a hundred persons rather than one. Jeremiah, then, was alone, and there was a great number of false prophets; and the prophetic name was common to them all. It was therefore necessary to meet this objection, which was calculated to render God’s faithful servant contemptible. Hence he mentions the difference between the false teachers with whom he contended and himself, as though he had said, “I indeed am alone, but sent by God; and I am thoroughly convinced of my legitimate calling, and am also ready to prove that I bring no inventions of my own brain; let not, then, a false comparison of one man with a great multitude deceive you. For the question here is not of men or of their authority, but what we ought to inquire is, who sends them? If God be the author of my mission, then I, though alone, am superior to the whole world; and if they have not been called by God, though they were a hundredfold more than they are, yet all that they boast of means nothing, for in God alone we ought to believe.” We now see the design of the Prophet in saying that the prophets ran, but were not sent, that they prophesied, but had received no commands from God.
Now this passage especially teaches us that no one is worthy of being heard except he be a true minister of God. But there are two things necessary to prove a person to be such — a divine call, and faithfulness and integrity. Whosoever, then, thrusts in himself, however he may pretend a prophetic name, may be safely rejected, for God claims the right of being heard to himself alone. Yet a simple and naked call is not sufficient; but he who is called must also faithfully labor for his God; and both these things are intimated here, for he says that the prophets ran, though they were not sent, and that they prophesied, though they were without any command from God. I indeed allow that the same thing is here repeated, according to common usage, in Hebrew, in different words; yet the stronger expression is found in the second clause, for to send belongs properly to the call, and to command to the execution of the office. For God in the first place chose his prophets, and committed to them the office of teaching, and then he commanded them what to say, and dictated to them as it were his message, that they might not bring forward anything devised by themselves, but be only his heralds, as it has appeared elsewhere. fE97
We hence learn also that our ears ought not to be open to impostors, who boldly pretend the name of God, but that we ought to distinguish between true and false teachers; for Jeremiah does not here speak to a few men, but he addresses the whole people. And what he designed to shew was, that they in vain sought to escape under the pretense of ignorance, who were not attentive to sound doctrine; for except they designedly neglected God and his word, they might have known whom to believe. It hence follows that frivolous is the excuse which many consider at this day to be as it were their sacred asylum; for they plead in their own behalf they have been deceived by false teachers. But we ought to see and to inquire whether God has sent them, and whether they teach as coming from his school, and bring anything but what they have received from his mouth.
I shall not here speak at large of God’s call; but if any one wishes for a very short definition, let him take the following: There is a twofold call; one is internal and the other belongs to order, and may, therefore, be called external or ecclesiastical. But the external call is never legitimate, except it be preceded by the internal; for it does not belong to us to create prophets, or apostles, or pastors, as this is the special work of the Holy Spirit. Though then one be called and chosen by men a hundred times, he cannot yet be deemed a legitimate minister, except he has been called by God; for there are peculiar endowments required for the prophetic, the apostolic, and the pastoral office, which are not in the power or at the will of men. We hence see that the hidden call of God is ever necessary, in order that any one may become a prophet, or an apostle, or a pastor. But the second call belongs to order; for God will have all things carried on by us orderly and without confusion. (<461440>1 Corinthians 14:40.) Hence has arisen the custom of electing. But it often happens that the call of God is sufficient, especially for a time. For when there is no Church, there is no remedy for the evil, except God raises up extraordinary teachers. Then the ordinary call, of which we now speak, depends on a well-ordered state of things. Wherever there is a Church of God, it has its own laws, it has a certain rule of discipline: there no one should thrust in himself, so as to exercise the prophetic or the pastoral office, though he equaled all the angels in sanctity. But when there is no Church, God raises up teachers in an unusual way, who are not chosen by men; for such a thing cannot be done, where no Church is formed.
This subject deserves, indeed, to be much more diffusely treated; but as I am not wont to digress unto particular points, it is enough for me to state what the present passage requires, which seems to be this, — that none ought to be acknowledged as God’s servants and teachers in the Church, except those who have been sent by God, and to whom he has, as it were, stretched forth his hand and given them their commission. But as the internal call of God cannot be surely known by us, we ought to see and ascertain whether he who speaks is the organ or instrument of the Holy Spirit. For whosoever brings forward his own figments and devises, is unworthy of being attended to. Hence, let him who speaks shew really that he is God’s ambassador; but how can he shew this? By speaking from the mouth of God himself; that is, let him not bring anything of his own, but faithfully deliver, as from hand to hand, what he has received from God. But as there might be still some perplexity on the subject, it follows —

JEREMIAH 23:22
22. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
22. Quod si stetissent in concilio meo, certe (copula enim ita resolvi debet) udire fecissent verba mea populum meum (hoc est, docuissent populum meum sermones meos) et reduxissent eos a via sua mala, et a malitia studiorum ipsorum.

This verse is as it were an explanation of the former; for many might have been perplexed, if it had only been said to them, that there are none who are fit and legitimate teachers but those who had been sent and entrusted with what God had commanded. Hence the Prophet here calls our attention to the truth which is certain and manifest; for God had delivered the sum of all truth in his Law. As then the perfection of wisdom was found in the Law, from which the prophets drew whatever we read in their writings, no excuses, such as the following, could be admitted, — “How can we know that the prophets speak from God’s mouth, that they bring nothing devised by themselves, that they have the instructions which God approves?”
The Prophet then calls the attention of the Jews to the Law, as though He had said as Moses did,
“There is no need to ascend above the clouds, or to descend into the depths, or to run beyond the sea; for the Law and the word is nigh in thy mouth, that is, God has set before you whatever is necessary and useful to be known.” (<053012>Deuteronomy 30:12-14; <451006>Romans 10:6.)
This, then, is fully made known to you, nor will the knowledge of anything necessary be obscure, if ye attend to the Law. Hence the cause of error is not only your sloth, but also your perverseness; for ye wilfully neglect the Law, and remain doubtful and inquire, “Which is the way?”
“This is the way,” said Moses, “walk ye in it.” (<050533>Deuteronomy 5:33.)
We now then perceive what Jeremiah had in view: he had before said, that none were to be attended to, except they who were sent and spoke from the mouth of God; but he now explains what he meant, even that the Law contained the whole sum of wisdom. But as he had before introduced the false prophets, as boldly deriding the true and faithful servants of God, by objecting to them and saying, “Who had stood in the counsel of God? these imagine that they have fallen from the clouds, they terrify you with dreadful threatenings, as though they were angels from heaven,” — as then the false prophets were thus wont to speak disdainfully of God’s servants, and alleged that they did not stand in God’s counsel, Jeremiah now retorts upon them, and says, speaking in God’s name, If they had stood in my counsel, they would doubtless have spoken from my Law; as though he had said, “They believe not my servants, because they are men and not angels; they hence deny that they are of my counsel: thus they persuade the whole people to despise the doctrine of salvation. There are, however, some prophets whom I have sent: now, if they wish to be deemed sent, let them prove themselves to be so.” What is the true proof? If they had stood in my counsel, they would have doubtless made known my word to my people. What is that word? the definition follows, even the word of the Law, They would have turned the straying people from their evil way. fE98
The passage may seem obscure, but from the context itself we can gather that the real design of the Prophet was to convict the false teachers, that they might no longer boast of God’s name, and falsely pretend that they were endued with the prophetic office, and glory in that distinction. He says that it was an evident proof that they were not God’s prophets, because they did not faithfully teach what they ought to have derived from the Law.
It is indeed certain, that no one has been God’s counsellor, according to what Scripture says in many places, when the object is to check the arrogance of those who, in their curiosity, attempt to penetrate into the hidden judgments of God, (<234013>Isaiah 40:13; ) and Paul, while speaking of God’s eternal election, it being incomprehensible, exclaims, Who has been his counsellor? (Romans 11: 34.) He uses a similar language in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (<460216>1 Corinthians 2:16:) and why? that he might check the temerity of the human mind, which ventures farther than it is lawful. But afterwards Paul adds by way of correction, “But we have the mind of Christ:” how so? because he has made known his counsel to us. When, therefore, the false prophets denied that God’s servants were his counsellors, they might indeed have said so, viewing them only as mortal men; but their object was to discredit and to render void the word of God; so that they wished to put a restraint not only on men, but also on God himself. This was an intolerable insult to God.
Moreover the Prophet now turns as it were upon them, “There is then no Prophet of God in the world!” But fixed was that saying, that there would ever be some prophets; and none of the Jews could have dared to deny Moses to have been divinely inspired. This, then, being allowed, the Prophet now indirectly reproves them, “Where are the prophets of God?” and as they laid claim to this distinction, he says, “Doubtless ye stand not in God’s counsel. How so? because the counsel of God is included in his Law; and as ye have departed from the doctrine of true religion, as ye have no care to convey instruction, as your doctrine does not teach men the fear of God, nor leads to repentance, it follows that ye are not God’s counsellors nor his prophets.” But that this may appear more evident, we must bear in mind what Moses said, that God has his own secret things, but that whatever is taught in the Law belongs to us and to our children. (<052929>Deuteronomy 29:29.) There is then no reason why the inquiry should be difficult respecting the true prophets of God; for they, without controversy, deserve to be heard as the angels of God, who are faithful interpreters of his Law; but they who lead us away from the Law ought to be firmly and boldly rejected.
But we must also bear in mind the definition that is given when it is said, that they ought to have turned the people from their evil way, and from the wickedness of their doings. fE99 We indeed know that the worst men insolently pretend to preach God’s word, as the Papists do at this day: though they have inebriated the whole world with their ungodly and delirious doctrines, they yet boast that they are the servants of God. Hence the Prophet, after having spoken generally of God’s word, adds a special distinction, — that the doctrine of God is that which edifies, which teaches and leads men to repentance and the fear of God, according to what Paul says, that the Scripture is useful for these purposes, (<550316>2 Timothy 3:16; ) for by so saying, he intended to condemn all false interpreters of Scripture, as there were many then who boasted that they were the best teachers, while yet they only pleased itching ears. As then there were many who regarded display and not edification, Paul says, that the Scripture is useful; and therefore he rejected with contempt all expositions in which there was nothing useful. So also in this place the Prophet shews that the right and legitimate use of Scripture was when it was employed to restore men from their evil way.
There is, indeed, here an instance of a part being stated for the whole: for if we only exhort men to repent, there will be no great fruit; and our teaching would be defective, for the doctrine of repentance would be inefficient without faith and without calling on the name of God. But the Prophet did not intend here to mention every part of a sound and useful doctrine; he deemed it enough to confute the false teachers who wished to be alone in repute, while yet they had no care to edify the people; for they saw all things in disorder, they saw crimes prevailing everywhere, they saw a dreadful contempt of God, but to these things they were wholly blind. It might then have been hence easily inferred that they neither faithfully labored for God nor manifested any care for the safety of the Church; for they thus betrayed miserable souls, whose ruin they saw was near at hand.
We now then see the whole design of the Prophet. But there is no doubt but that to the evil way he added the wickedness of their doings, in order that he might more fully expose the insensibility of those who under such an urgency were silent and remained inactive. There is sometimes the need of a moderate reproof; but when people allow themselves an extreme license in wickedness, when impunity is everywhere permitted, and when such corruptions prevail in common, that nothing remains untainted, if then the tongue of the teacher is silent and as it were tied, is he not rightly called an idle and a dumb dog? And thus the Prophet enhances the insensibility, for which he condemns the false teachers; they were silent, as though things were in a good order, while they had to witness not only common crimes, but even a vast accumulation of all kinds of crimes; for the people gave themselves up not only to one kind of wickedness, but to all kinds, and wholly despised God and his Law. It afterwards follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:23-24
23. Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?
23. An Deus e propinquo, dicit Jehova? Et non Deus e longinquo?
24. Can any hide himself in secret saith the Lord: do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.
24. An absonderit vir in latebris et ego non videbo eum, dicit Jehova? An non coelos et terram impleo, dicit Jehova?

Here he especially shakes off from hypocrites their self-delusions; for they were torpid in their vices, because they thought that they could in a manner blind the eyes of God. They did not indeed say so; but the heedless security of men would, never be so great as it is, were they to believe that nothing is hid from God, but that he penetrates into the inmost recesses of the heart, that he discerns between the thoughts and the feelings, and leaves not unobserved the very marrow. If, then, this truth were fixed in the hearts of all, they would certainly obey God with more reverence, and also dread his threatenings.
As, then, they are so heedlessly torpid, it follows, that they imagine God as not having a clear sight, who sees only things nigh him, like one who has a deficient vision, who can see what is near at hand, but not what is far off. Such is what hypocrites dream God to be, who after the manner of men either connives at things, or is blind, or at least does not clearly see but what is near at hand. We now understand the design of the Prophet in saying, that Jehovah is God afar off as well as near at hand.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing necessary to be known for salvation is wanting in thy holy and celestial oracles, we may carefully and diligently study them, and so labor to make progress in the fear of thy name, in reliance on that grace which is offered to us in Christ, that we may derive real fruit from the reading and hearing of thy word; and may we also learn to turn everything to edification, so that thy name may be really glorified in us, and that we may through the whole course of our life make progress in faith and repentance, until we shall at length attain to that perfect holiness, to which thou daily invitest us, when we shall be wholly divested of all the filth of our flesh, and become fully renewed after the image of thy Son, our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE EIGHTY-NINTH
Am I a God at hand, saith Jehovah? and not a God afar off? Will a man hide himself in darkness, or in coverts, and I shall not see him, or that I could not see him, saith Jehovah? Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith Jehovah? Here the Prophet most sharply reproves the hypocrites, who thought that they had no concern with God, as is the case always with those who delude themselves in their sins. Though this truth is ever professed by them, that God is the judge of the world, and that an account must some time be rendered to him; yet they afterwards think that they can by some evasion escape, so that God will forgive them. In short, it is usual with hypocrites to trifle as it were childishly with God. On this account, God is grievously displeased with them, and declares that he is far different from what they imagine him to be. For while they thus set themselves up as arbitrators, so that they subject God to their own laws, they think him to be as it were full of apprehension, and that he sees nothing, or at least very little; he says, that he is not only a God near at hand but also afar off. fE100
Some apply this to time, as though he denied that he lately came into existence; and so they think that the only true and eternal God is compared with idols, which men form presumptuously for themselves. But the other meaning is far more suitable, — even that he is a God afar off; for as it is said elsewhere,
“Though he dwells on high, yet he sees everything
that is done on earth.” (<19A219>Psalm 102:19)
As, then, nothing escapes his sight, he is said to be a God afar off, while hypocrites thought him to be a God only near at hand, as we say in French, De courte veue, who sees only things near, as it were before the eyes. But a question has much more force than if it was said, that he was not merely a God near at hand; and this mode of speaking conveys reproof; for hypocrites greatly detract from his majesty, when they thus, according to their own notions, imagine that he can see no more than a mortal man. They would not indeed have dared to speak thus; but when any one examined all their counsels and their actions, he would have found that they could have never shewn so much audacity, had they not deceived themselves with the vain notion, that God could be deceived fE101 And, therefore, Jeremiah does not relate their words, but points out the wickedness which sufficiently manifested itself in their doings, though they professed otherwise with their tongues.
And that this is the meaning appears more clearly from the next verse, which ought to be read in connection with this; Will a man hide himself in coverts, that I should not see him? fE102 This verse is added by way of explanation; there can therefore be no doubt respecting the words, far off and near, — that God is said to be a God afar off; because his eyes penetrate into the lowest depths, so that nothing can escape him.
It is a wonder that the Greek translators made so great a mistake; for they wholly changed the sense, — that God is God nigh at hand, but not afar off. In the first place, they did not consider the question, and then, as they did not see the drift of the passage, they contrived from their own brains what is wholly remote from the words of the Prophet. This sentiment, that God is nigh and not afar off, is indeed true; but what is meant here is quite another thing, — that God sees in a way very different from men, for he fully and perfectly sees what is farthest from him, according to the passage we have quoted from <19A219>Psalm 102:19; and there is another in <19D907>Psalm 139:7-12, where the Psalmist says,
“Where shall I flee from thy face? for if I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I lie down in hell, there thou stretchest forth thine hand; if I take the wings of the dawn and fly to the clouds, even thine hand will lay hold of me there; if I seek coverts, even the night itself is before thee as the light, and darkness shines as the light.”
If, then, we join together these two passages, there will appear nothing ambiguous in the words of Jeremiah, — even that God penetrates with his eyes into the lowest depths, so that nothing is hid from him.
But Jeremiah not only explains the meaning of the last verse, but also makes a practical use of it; Will any one, he says, hide himself in coverts that I should not see him? The seeing of God has a reference to his judgment. Then all frivolous speculations ought to be cast aside, since Scripture says that God sees all things; but we ought especially to consider for what purpose it is that he sees all things; which is evidently this, — that he may at last call to judgment whatever is done by men. There is then an application of the doctrine to our case; for we hence learn, that whatsoever we do, think, and speak, is known to God.
By coverts, or hiding-places, he means all the secret frauds which men think they can cover; but by such an attempt they gain nothing but a heavier judgment. By coverts then we are to understand all those vain thoughts which hypocrites entertain; for they think that they can so hide themselves that God cannot see their purposes. Hence God laughs them to scorn, and says in effect, “Let them enter into their coverts, let them hide themselves as much as they please, I yet do see them in their coverts no less clearly than if they were quite close to me.”
To confirm this he adds, Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith Jehovah? This must not be refinedly explained of the infinite essence of God. It is indeed true, that his essence extends through heaven and earth, as it is interminable. But Scripture will not have us to feed on frivolous and unprofitable notions; it teaches only what avails to promote true religion. What therefore God declares here, that he fills heaven and earth, ought to be applied to his providence and his power; as though he had said, that he is not so taken up with things in heaven that he neglects the concerns of earth, as profane men dream; but he is said to fill heaven and earth, because he governs all things, because all things are noticed by him, because he is, in short, the judge of the world.
We now perceive what the Prophet means; and this passage is entitled to particular notice, because this error of imagining a God like ourselves is inbred almost in us all. Hence it is, that men allow themselves so much liberty; for they consider it a light thing to discharge their duty towards God, because they reflect not what sort of being he is, but they think of him according to their own understanding and character. As, then, we are thus gross in our ideas, it becomes us carefully to reflect on this passage, where God declares, that he is not only a God near at hand, that is, that he is not like us, who have only a limited power of seeing, but that he sees in the thickest darkness as well as in the clearest light; and that therefore it avails those nothing to deceive themselves who dig for themselves caverns, as it is said in Isaiah, and hide themselves in deep labyrinths. (<230221>Isaiah 2:21.) He thus denies that they gain anything, and gives this as the reason,
“Because he fills heaven and earth;”
that is, his providence, his power, and his justice are so diffused everywhere, that wherever men betake themselves, it is impossible for them to be concealed from him. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:25
25. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
25. Audivi quod dicunt (vel, quid dicant,) prophetae prophetantes in nomine meo, dicendo, somniavi, somniavi.

Jeremiah returns again to those impostors who soothed the people with their blandishments. Whenever Jeremiah and those who were like him, who faithfully performed their office, treated the people with severity by reproving and threatening them for their sins, these unprincipled men rose up against, them, and under the name of prophets flattered the ungodly despisers of God. It was, as we have before said, a most grievous trial, when in the very Church itself the ministers of Satan thus falsely pretended the name of God. The Jews would have unhesitantly despised and laughed to scorn what the vain prophets of the Gentiles might have boasted; for they knew that these had no knowledge of God; but when the false prophets of whom he now speaks occupied a place in the Church, and in high terms boasted that they were God’s servants, this would have greatly disturbed the weak and shaken their faith, and even wholly upset it, had not God stretched forth his hand. It is therefore no wonder that Jeremiah dwells so much on this subject; for it was an evil that could not be easily cured; had he said only, that they were not to be esteemed, the weak would not have been satisfied. It was hence necessary for him often to repeat this truth, that they were all to know that there was need of discrimination and judgment, and that those who pretended God’s name were not to be indiscriminately allowed to be his prophets.
He then repeats what we have before observed, but in other words, — I have heard, says God, what the prophets say who prophesy in my name. fE103 An objection is anticipated, for it might have been said, “What can this mean? the prophets disagree! and what is to be done under these dissensions? they who differ dazzle our eyes with an illustrious title, and boldly affirm that they have been sent by God. As, then, there is such a conflict between the prophets, what are we to do?” God meets this objection, and declares that it was not unknown to him what the false prophets boasted of. He adds, that they prophesied in his name. It was an offense, which must have greatly distressed weak minds, to hear of this profanation of God’s name. For as it behoves us reverently to receive what proceeds from God, so it is no small danger when God’s name is falsely and mendaciously pretended. As, then, they might have been greatly disturbed by this false pretext of what was good, it is here expressly said, that they had used the name of God, but he adds, falsely.
We hence see the truth of what I have said, that those who affirm that they are prophets and ostentatiously pretend God’s name, ought not to be received indiscriminately, but that judgment ought to be exercised; for it has been God’s will in all ages to try the faith of his servants by permitting to Satan and his ministers the liberty of pretending falsely his holy name. And as we see that the Church has ever been exposed to this evil, there is no cause for us to be disturbed at this day, when the same thing happens, for it is nothing new. Let us, therefore, learn to harden ourselves against such trials; and whenever false prophets try our faith, let; us remain firm, holding this principle, — that we ought wisely to consider, whether God himself speaks, or whether men falsely boast themselves to be his servants.
To dream is to be taken here in a good sense; for, as we have seen elsewhere, God was wont to make himself known to his servants by dreams. It is not then every kind of dreams that is to be understood here, but, such dreams as were from above. The false prophets, indeed, stated what was not true by using this language; for it was the same as though they testified that they did not bring their own devices, but faithfully related what they had received from God. As the Pope at this day declares that he is the vicar of Christ and the successor of Peter, while he exercises tyranny over the Church; so also these, by a specious pretext, deceived the simple by saying that they brought nothing human, but were only witnesses as to God’s oracles. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:26-27
26. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
26. Quosque erit in corde prophetarum prophetantium mendacium, et prophetarum doli cordis sui?
27. Which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams, which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal.
27. Cogitantes ut faciant oblivisci populum meum nominis mei per somnia sua (vel, in somniis suis, ad verbum,) qua narrant quisque socio suo; quemadmodum obliti sunt patres eorum nominis mei in Baal.

Here God reproves the false prophets, and also promises to his people what was especially to be desired, — that he would cleanse his Church from such pollutions. He then shews that it was his purpose to take vengeance, because the false prophets had dared in such an impious and bold manner to abuse his sacred name. For it ever occurred to their minds, “How is it that God permits this? Is it because he cares not for the safety of his people? or does it give him any delight when he sees truth mingled with falsehood, and light with darkness?” Hence God here shews that he for a time bore with that sacrilegious audacity which the false prophets practiced, but that he did not so connive at it as not at length to punish them.
How long? he says, which is the same as though he had said, “It shall not be perpetual; though I may delay, yet they shall know that they have with extreme perverseness abused my forbearance.” And he also enhances their crime by saying, How long shall it be in the heart of the prophets to prophesy falsehood? By this way of speaking he intimates, that they erred not through ignorance, as many do, who through want of knowledge bring forth what they do not understand; but God here complains that these prophets, as it were designedly, rose up to suppress the truth. Then by heart is to be understood thought or purpose; as though he had said, that they designedly made a false pretense as to his name, that it was their settled purpose to deceive the people. fE104
He adds, that they were prophets of the deceit of their own heart. This deceit of the heart is put in opposition to true doctrine; and thus God intimates that whatever men bring forward from themselves is deceitful, for nothing can proceed from them but vanity. There is yet no doubt but that he condemns that foolish conceit, of which the false prophets proudly boasted, that they were alone wise, as the case is now under the Papacy; how arrogantly do unprincipled men prattle whenever they speak of their own figments? Nothing can be more silly, and yet they think that they surpass the angels in acuteness and in high speculations. Such was the arrogance displayed by the false prophets of old. But God declares that whatever men invent, and whatever they devise, which they have not received from his mouth, is only the deceit of the heart.
And this ought to be carefully noticed; for there are many plausible refinements, in which there is nothing solid, but they are mere trifles. If, then, at any time these vain thoughts seem pleasing to us, let us bear in mind what Jeremiah says here, that whatever proceeds not from God is the deceit of the heart; and further, that though the whole world applaud falsehoods and impostures, we ought yet to know that everything is a deceit which has not God himself as its author.
Then follows a clearer definition, that they made his people to forget his name by their dreams, as their fathers had forgotten it through Baal. fE105 We may infer from this verse, that those with whom Jeremiah contended were not openly the enemies of the Law; for they held many principles of true religion. They maintained in common with the true and sincere worshippers of God this truth, — that the only true God ought to be worshipped; and also this, — that there was only one legitimate altar on which sacrifices according to the Law were to be offered. On these points, then, there was no controversy. But yet they deceived the people by their flatteries; for they made gain of their prophetic office. Hence Jeremiah condemns them, because they made God’s name to be forgotten by their dreams, as their fathers had forgotten it through Baal; as though he had said, “These dreams are like the fictitious and spurious forms of worship, by which true religion was formerly subverted; for their fathers worshipped Baal and Baalim: they set up for themselves these false gods, and thus subverted the glory of God by their own devices.” The impiety of the false prophets, who lived in the time of Jeremiah, was not indeed so gross; and yet it was an indirect defection, for they brought forward their dreams, and falsely professed that. they were God’s servants, though he had not commissioned them.
We have said elsewhere (<242321>Jeremiah 23:21) that their crime was twofold; first, they ran when not called nor sent; and secondly, they brought forward their own fancies and not the word of God. And this passage ought to be carefully noticed; for we here learn, that not only open defection cannot be endured by God, but also indirect depravations, which stealthily withdraw us from the fear of God. Then these two evils must be carefully avoided in the Church, if we desire to continue entire in our obedience to God. One evil is sufficiently known, that is, when truth is openly turned into falsehood, when men are drawn away into idolatry and filthy superstitions, or when the ancient people, as Jeremiah says, forgat the name of God through Baal. But the other evil is more hidden, and therefore more dangerous, that is, when some appearance of true religion is retained, and men are yet insidiously drawn away from the fear of God and his true worship, and from pure doctrine, as we see to be the case at this day in the Churches, which profess to have separated from the Papacy that they might embrace the doctrine of the Gospel: there are many among them who insidiously corrupt the simple and genuine doctrine of the Gospel. We see how many curious men there are at this time, who disturb all things by their own inventions, and how absurdly many seek refinements, and how confidently also do many propound their own inventions as oracles! It behoves us then to be watchful, not only that we may shun open abominations, but that we may also retain the pure and true word of God, so as not to allow false workers insidiously to corrupt and vitiate anything. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:28
28. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.
28. Propheta apud quem est somnium, narrabit somnium; et apud quem est sermo meus, narrabit sermonem meum veritatis: quid palae ad triticum, dicit Jehova?

We ought also to read this verse attentively, for doubtless it contains a doctrine especially useful. I have already said, that the faith of many might have failed at seeing a conflict in the Temple of God, not only among the common people, but also among the prophets of God. God did not appear from heaven, nor did he send his angels, but would have himself to be heard through men. They who came to the Temple expected the prophets to teach them. There the ministers of Satan appeared, who corrupted and perverted all things. There were a few, who sincerely declared the truth of God, and faithfully explained what God commanded. What could miserable men do in this case, who were willing to obey, and possessed a teachable spirit? Hence it was, that many threw aside every concern for religion, and gave themselves up to despair: “What means all this? why are there so many discords, so many disputes, so many contentions, so many invectives? Where can we now betake ourselves? It is better not to care for anything any more.” Thus many took occasion to indulge their indifference, choosing not to weary themselves any more, nor to seek what God was, what his will was, whether there was salvation for them, whether there was any hope, rather than to entangle themselves in troublesome and thorny disputes.
Such a temptation existed in the time of Jeremiah. He, therefore, applied in due time a suitable remedy and said, The Prophet, who has a dream, that is, with whom is a dream, he will relate a dream; and then, The Prophet with whom is my word, he will speak my word; fE106 as though God had said, that it was all extremely wicked thing to obstruct the way of truth by falsehood. But this is what usually happens, as I have already said; for where Satan has his agents, an obstacle seems to be in our way which prevents us to go on and proceed in the course of true religion. For when those who are right-minded, as we have said, see the prophets themselves contending, disputing, and quarrelling, they stand still, nay, they go backward. Now God shews that this is extremely unreasonable. Then the meaning is, as though he had said, “Let not the false prophets by Their fallacies impede the course of God’s servants, that they may not proceed, and that his word should not be reverently heard.”
Unless we attend to this which the Prophet had in view, the passage will appear unmeaning. It has been often quoted, but this circumstance has not certainly been observed. We ought, therefore, ever to consider, why is a thing said. This verse depends on what is gone before; and God here answers a question, which might have been raised, — “What then must we do, for falsehoods conflict with truth?” God answers, that his word ought not to be prejudiced by this circumstance; as though he had said, “Let nothing prevent my Prophets from teaching; I bid them to be heard.” We hence conclude, that those do wrong to God, who allege the controversies, by which religion is torn and as it were lacerated, and think that they thus obtain a license to indulge their impiety; for it is not a reason that can avail them, that Satan and his ministers labor to discredit the authority of God and of his servants. Though these false prophets insinuate themselves, though they may set up themselves against the true and faithful servants of God, yet let dreams, that is, prophetic revelations, retain their weight, and let him with whom is God’s word, speak the word of God, so that it may be heard. This clause refers to the hearers; they were not to desist from rendering obedience to the Law, how much soever Satan might strive to subvert their faith by attempting to destroy its unity.
It afterwards follows, What is the chaff to the wheat? This addition was also wholly necessary, for many might have again objected and said, that they had no sufficient judgment to distinguish between the true and false prophets. God here gives the answer, that the difference between true and false doctrine was nothing less to him who made a careful examination than between wheat and chaff And by this comparison he shews how foolishly and absurdly many detract from the authority of the Law on this pretense, that there are many who falsely interpret it. For when any one rejects the wheat because it is covered with chaff, does he not deserve to perish through hunger? and who will pity him who says that he has indeed wheat on his floor, but that it is mixed with chaff, and therefore not fit for food? Why, then, thou silly man, dost not thou separate the chaff from the wheat? But thou choosest to perish through want, rather than to cleanse the wheat that thou mayest have it for thy food. So also in the Temple the wheat is often mixed with the chaff, the pure truth of God is often defiled with many glosses and vain figments; and yet, except it be our own fault, we shall be able to distinguish between the wheat and the chaff. fE107 But if we be negligent, and think that it is a sufficient excuse for despising the word of God, because Satan brings in his fallacies, we shall perish in our sloth like him who neglects to cleanse his wheat that he might turn it to bread. But the time will not allow me to say more.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou art graciously pleased daily to set before us thy sure and certain will, we may open our eyes and cars, and raise all our thoughts to that which not only reveals to us what is right, but also confirms us in a sound mind, so that we may go on in the course of true religion, and never turn aside, whatever Satan and his ministers may devise against us, but that we may stand firm and persevere, until having finished our warfare, we shall, at length come unto that blessed rest which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETIETH
We saw yesterday that though the false prophets corrupted the true doctrine, yet the prophetic office remained in its honor without any loss to its authority. Hence Jeremiah said that all their fallacies ought not to be an hinderance to the faithful, so as to prevent them to proceed in the course of their calling, and that no one should object and say, that in so confused a state of things he could not know what to avoid and what to follow; he said that the difference between wheat and chaff was easily perceived, provided men were not wilfully blind. He now adds, —

JEREMIAH 23:29
29. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?
29. An non ut sit sermo meus quasi ignis (hoc est, an non sermo meus tanquam ignis) dicit Jehova? Et tanquam malleus conterens saxum (vel, rupem.)

He confirms what he said of the chaff and the wheat, but in different words. It was a fit comparison when Jeremiah compared God’s word to wheat, and the figments of men to chaff. But as the Jews, through their ingratitude, rendered the word of God ineffectual, so it did not become to them a spiritual support, the Prophet says that it would become like a fire and like a hammer, fE108 as though he had said, that though the Jews were void of judgment, as they had become hardened in their wickedness, yet the word of God could not be rendered void, or at least its power could not be taken away; for as Paul says,
“If it is not the odor of life unto life, it is the odor of death unto death to those who perish,” (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16)
and so also the same Apostle says in another place, that God’s servants had vengeance in their power, for they bear the spiritual sword, in order to cast down every height that exalteth itself against Christ; but he adds,
“After the obedience” of the faithful “had been completed.”
(<471006>2 Corinthians 10:6)
The first and as it were the natural use of God’s word is to bring salvation to men; and hence it is called food; but it turns into poison to the reprobate: and this is the reason for so great a diversity.
He said, first, that God’s word was wheat, because souls are nourished by it unto a celestial life; and nothing can be more delightful than this comparison. But now he declares it to be fire and a hammer. There is in these terms some appearance of contradiction; but there is a distinction to be made as to the hearers, for they who reverently embrace the word of God, as it becomes them, and with genuine docility of faith, find it to be food to them; but the ungodly, as they are unworthy of such a benefit, find it to be far otherwise. For the word which is in itself life-giving, is changed into fire, which consumes and devours them; and also it becomes a hammer to break, to tear them in pieces, and to destroy them.
The import of the whole is, that God’s word ever retains its own dignity; for if it happens to be despised by men, it cannot yet be deprived of its vigor and efficacy; if it be not wholesome for food, it will be like fire or like a hammer. Then these two comparisons belong to the wicked, for God’s word has another sense when called fire with reference to the faithful, even because it dries up and consumes the lusts of the flesh, as silver and gold are purified by fire. Hence the word of God is properly and fitly called fire, even with regard to the faithful; but not a devouring but a refining fire. But when it comes to the reprobate, it must necessarily destroy them, for they receive not the grace that it offers to them. It may also be called a hammer, for it subdues the depraved affections of the flesh and such as are opposed to God even in the elect; but it does not break the elect, for they suffer themselves to be subdued by it.
But this hammer is said to break the stone or the rock because the reprobate will not hear to be corrected; they must, therefore, be necessarily broken and destroyed. For this reason Paul also, while speaking of the refractory, says,
“Let him who is ignorant be ignorant.”
(<461438>1 Corinthians 14:38)
For by these words he means that they will at last find how great is the hardness of that word with which they dare to contend through the perverseness of their heart. But that passage which I have before quoted well explains what is here said by Jeremiah, even that truth in itself is wholesome, but that it turns into an odor of death unto death to those who perish. (<470216>2 Corinthians 2:16.) Paul, indeed, speaks of the Gospel, but this may be also applied to the Law. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:30-32
30. Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor.
30. Propterea ecce ego ad (vel, super) prophetas, dicit Jehova, qui furantur sermones meos, quisque a socio suo:
31. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
31. Ecce ego ad (vel, super, vel, contra) prophetas, dicit Jehova, qui mollificant (vel, tollunt) linguam suam, et dicunt, sermo (vel, dictio:)
32. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.
32. Ecce ego super (vel, ad, vel, contra) prophetantes somnia mendacii, dicit Jehova, et narrant illis et decipiunt populum meum in mendaciis suis et levitate sua; et ego (hoc est, quanquam ego) non miserim ipsos, neque mandaverim illis, et utilitate non proderunt (proficiendo non afferent utilitatem) populo huic, dicit Jehova.

Jeremiah returns again to the false teachers, who were the authors of all the evils; for they fascinated the people with their flatteries, so that every regard for sound and heavenly doctrine was almost extinguished. But while God declares that he is an avenger against them, he does not exempt the people from punishment. We indeed know that a just reward was rendered to the reprobate, when God let loose the reins to the ministers of Satan with impunity to deceive them. But as the people acquiesced in those false allurements, while Jeremiah so severely reproved the false teachers, he reminds the people how foolishly they betook themselves under the shadow of those men, thinking themselves to be safe.
He says, first, Behold, I am, against the prophets, who steal my words every one from his neighbor. Many explain this verse as though God condemned the false prophets, who borrowed something from the true prophets, so that they might be their rivals and as it were their apes; and no doubt the ungodly teachers had ever from the beginning made some assumptions, that they might be deemed God’s servants. But it seems, however, a forced view, that they stole words from the true prophets, for the words express what is different, that they stole every one from his friend. Jeremiah would not have called God’s faithful servants by this name. I rather think that their secret arts are here pointed out, that they secretly and designedly conspired among themselves, and then that they spread abroad their own figments according to their usual manner. For the ungodly and the perfidious, that they might obtain credit among the simple and unwary, consulted together and devised all their measures craftily, that they might not be immediately found out; and thus one took from the other what he afterwards announced and published. And this is what Jeremiah calls stealing, because they secretly consulted, and then declared to the people what they agreed upon among themselves; and they did this as though every one had derived his oracle from heaven. I have, therefore, no doubt but that the Prophet condemns these hidden consultations when he says that every one stole from his neighhour. fE109
We indeed see the same thing now under the Papacy, for the monks and unprincipled men of the same character have their own false doctrines; and when they ascend the pulpit, every one speaks as though he was endued with some special gift; and yet they steal every one from his friend, for they are like the soothsayers or the magi, who concocted among themselves their own falsehoods, and only brought out what they deemed necessary to delude the common people. This, then, was one of the vices which the Prophet shews prevailed among the false teachers, — that no one attended to the voice of God, but that every one took furtively from his friend what he afterwards openly proclaimed.
He adds, secondly, Behold, I am against the prophets, who mollify their own tongue. Almost all interpreters take hql, lekech, as signifying to render sweet or soft; and they understand that the false prophets are condemned, because they flattered the wicked for the sake of gain; for had they offended or exasperated them, they could not have attached them to themselves. They then think that to mollify their tongue means here that they used their tongue in speaking smooth and flattering things. But others give another explanation, — that they mollified their tongue because they polished their words in imitation of God’s servants, so that their speech was sweeter than honey. But as hql, lekech, means to receive and to take, and sometimes to raise on high, and sometimes to carry, I see not why it should not be taken in its proper meaning. I certainly see no reason to turn its meaning to a metaphor, when it can be taken in its plain sense of raising their tongue; they elevated themselves, and in high terms boasted that the office of teaching had been committed to them, for we know how haughtily false teachers elevate themselves. Therefore the verse may be taken thus, that God would punish those impostors who raised their tongue, that is, who proudly boasted and boldly arrogated to themselves authority, as though they were messengers from heaven. fE110
It afterwards follows, And they say, µan, nam, he saith. We know that it was a common thing for all the prophets to add, hwhy µan, nam Jeve, the saying of Jehovah, or the word of Jehovah, in order to shew that they said nothing but what they had received from above. And if we read this verse as connected together, we shall find true what I have said — that the verb hql, lekech, does not mean the smoothness or adulation used, but, the lofty vaunting of the false teachers, who wished to be deemed the organs of the Holy Spirit, and assumed to themselves all the authority of God. For their elation was this, that they confidently boasted that God himself had spoken, and said that it was the word; and they did this, that whatever they prattled might appear indisputed, though it was sufficiently evident that they falsely pretended the name of God.
He adds, thirdly, Behold, I am against those who prophesy dreams of falsehood. It was indeed necessary to say here, that though the false teachers arrogated to themselves what alone belonged to the servants of God, they were yet mendacious. He afterwards adds, They narrate them, and cause my people to err by their falsehoods and their levity. The meaning is, that however proudly they might, have pretended the name of prophets, they were yet impostors, who deceived the people by narrating to them their false dreams. The word dream is taken here in a good sense, but the word added to it, shews that they boasted of dreams which were only their own; and this is again confirmed when Jeremiah says, that they deceived the people by their falsehoods; and he adds, by their levity, fE111 which some render “flattery.” I doubt not but that it means their inventions, which were vain, because they proceeded only from vain presumption.
He adds, Though I sent them not nor commanded them. This negation ought especially to be noticed; for God shews how we are to form a judgment, when a question is raised respecting true and false teachers. Whatever, therefore, is without God’s command is like the wind, and will of itself vanish away. There is, then, no solidity in anything but in God’s command. Hence it follows, that all those who speak according to their own fancies are mendacious, and that whatever they bring forward has no weight in it; for God sets these two things in opposition the one to the other; on the one side are falsehood and levity, and on the other, his command and his call. It hence follows, that no one, except he simply obeys God and faithfully declares what he has received from him, can be of any account; for his whole weight is lighter than a feather, and all his apparent wisdom is falsehood.
At last he says, that they would not profit his people. In which words he warns the people to shun them as the plague. But we see how the world indulges itself in this respect; for they who are drowsy seek to absolve themselves on the plea of ignorance, and throw the blame on their pastors, as though they were themselves beyond the reach of danger. But the Lord here reminded the people, that the teachers whom they received were pestilent; though for another reason he testified that they were useless, and that in order that he might shake off the vain confidence of the Jews, who were wont to set up this shield against all God’s threatenings, that their false teachers promised them wonderful things. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:33
33. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the Lord? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the Lord.
33. Quod si interrogaverint to populus hic, vel Propheta, vel Sacerdos, dicendo. Quod onus Jehovae? Tunc dices illis, Quod onus? Derelinquam vos, inquit Jehova.

It appears sufficiently evident from this passage, — that the contumacy of the Jews was so great, that they sought from every quarter some excuse for their insensibility, as though they could with impunity despise God when they rejected his word. For the devil by his artifice fascinates the reprobate, when he renders God’s word either hateful or contemptible; and whenever he can exasperate their minds, so that they hear not God’s word except with disdain and bitterness, he gains fully his object. The Jews, then, were led into such a state of mind, that they regarded God’s word with hatred; and they were thus alienated from all docility and from every care for religion. In short, the prophets, as it is well known, everywhere employ the word açm, mesha, which means a burden.
Now, a burden means a prophecy, which terrifies the despisers of God by threatening them with vengeance. As, then, their minds were exasperated, they called through hatred the word of God a burden, and used it as a proverbial saying, “It is a burden, a burden.” They ought to have been moved by God’s threatenings, and to have trembled on hearing that he was angry with them. The word burden, then, ought to have humbled them; but, on the contrary, they became exasperated, first, through haughtiness, then through an indomitable contumacy, and thirdly, they kindled into rage. We hence see how the expression arose, that the prophets called their prophecies burdens. God now severely condemns this fury, because they hesitated not thus openly to shew their insolence. It was surely a most shameful thing, that the word of God should be thus called in disdain and contempt, in the ways and streets; for they thus acted disdainfully and insolently against God; for it was the same as though they treated his word with open contempt. It was then no wonder that he reproved this fury with so much vehemence, by saying, But if this people ask thee, What is the burden of Jehovah?
This manner of asking was altogether derisive, when they said to Jeremiah and to other servants of God, “What is the burden?” that is, “What dost thou bring to us, what trouble is to come on us?” They thus not only spoke contemptuously of God’s word, but, as though this wickedness was not sufficient, they became, as I have said, irritated and exasperated. If, then, they ask thee, What is the burden? And he speaks not only of the common people, but of the very prophets and priests.
We hence learn how great a contempt for God then prevailed, so that there was no integrity either in the priestly or the prophetic order. It is indeed wonderful with what impudence they dared to boast themselves to be God’s servants, while they spoke with so much insolence! But the same thing happens in the world in our day; for we see that the ministers of Satan in no other way hold the world under their power, than by alluring the minds of the ungodly; and at the same time they cause God’s word to be hated, and say that it brings not only troubles, but also torments. Since, then, these unprincipled men, who thus lead with hatred and disdain the true doctrine, occupy pulpits, we need not wonder that the same evil prevailed in the ancient Church.
It follows: If a prophet or a priest ask thee, What is the burden of Jehovah? thou shalt say to them, What burden? I will forsake thee, saith Jehovah. This was a most grievous threatening, but it has not been well considered and rightly understood; for interpreters have overlooked the implied contrast between the presence and the absence of God. Nothing could have been more acceptable to the Jews than God’s silence. And yet in no other way does he more clearly show that he is a Father to us, caring for our salvation, than by familiarly addressing us. Whenever, then, the prophetic word is announced, we have a sure and a clear evidence of God’s presence, as though he wished to be connected with us. But when the ungodly not only reject so remarkable a benefit, but also furiously repel, as far as they can, such a favor, they desire and seek the absence of God. Therefore God says, “Ye cannot bear my word, by which symbol I shew that I am present with you; I will forsake you;” that is, “I will no longer endure this indignity, but I will depart from you; there shall be hereafter no prophecy.” fE112
At the first view this was not deemed grievous to the Jews; for as I have said, the ungodly desire nothing more than that God should be silent, and they thought that they had gained their greatest happiness, when with consciences lulled to sleep they indulged themselves in their filth. It was then their chief wish that God should depart from them. But yet there was nothing more to be dreaded. The Prophet then shews here that they were extremely infatuated and wholly fascinated by the devil, for they could desire nothing more dreadful than that God should depart from them; as though he had said, “My word is a weariness to you, and I in my turn will now avenge myself, for I am weary of forbearing you, when I see that you can by no means be healed; and as I have been hitherto assiduous in instructing you, and have found you unteachable, I will now in my turn leave you.” It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:34
34. And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the Lord, I will even punish that man and his house.
34. Et propheta et sacerdos et populus qui dixerit, Onus Jehovae, visitabo super virum illum (hoc est, quicunque fuerit, sive propheta, sive sacerdos, sive homo quispiam vulgaris, visitabo super virum illum,) et super domum ejus.

Prophecy might indeed have been called a burden, when anything sad was announced; but it might also have been so called, when men were aroused to fear God, or when they were exhorted to repent. But God has a reference here to that wicked impiety, when men dared in ridicule to call any prophecy a burden. And hence it appears, that they were all so given up to their sins, that the very name of God’s judgment was hated by them. We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning when he said, that God would punish all those who called his word a burden; for the Prophets themselves were wont to speak thus; and we find that Jeremiah in many places used this word. He does not then speak here generally, but points out, as by the finger, a vice which prevailed; for the Jews had so hardened themselves in hatred to sound doctrine, that they said, “He! these Prophets do nothing but terrify us by threatenings and by denouncing ruin on us; and what will be the end of all this?” God says, that he would take punishment on all who thus spoke and on all their families. It hence appears how much he abominated this blasphemy; and hence also we see how precious to God is the honor of his word; for it is not of every kind of sin that God speaks when he extends his vengeance to posterity. It is the same thing as though Jeremiah had said, “It is altogether intolerable, when men became irritated and exasperated against God’s word.” And yet this evil is not an evil of one age only. We see that the Israelites ever complained of God’s rigor; hence that saying,
“The ways of the Lord are not tortuous, but rather your ways, O house of Israel.” (<261825>Ezekiel 18:25.)
And here we must notice the wickedness of the human mind; for God, as it has been before stated, has nothing else in view by calling us to himself, but to make us partakers of eternal life and salvation. It is then God’s design to receive us for the purpose or saving us; this is the end intended by, all the prophets; and hence the Prophet called before the word of God wheat; but what is done by men? They despise this favor; and not only so, but turn food into poison and cease not to provoke God’s wrath. He was, therefore, constrained to threaten them. When he finds us teachable, he allures us to himself even with paternal kindness. But when we provoke him to wrath, we in a manner force him to put on another character, according to what he says, that he will be refractory towards the refractory. (<191826>Psalm 18:26.) Yet we complain when God deals rigidly with us. We cease not to carry on war with him; but when he restrains and checks our insolence, we immediately expostulate with him, as though he were too severe and his word offended us. Whence is this offense? even from our obstinate wickedness. Were men to put an end to their sinful course, the Lord would change his manner of dealing with them, and gently treat them and foster them as chickens under his wings; but this they suffer not; nay, they reject such a treatment as much as they can. Hence it is, that they abhor the name of God and his word. What then is the excuse for the complaint, when they say that God is too rigorous, as though his word were a burden? There is none; for they are themselves refractory against God, and thus his word becomes a hammer to break their heads, to shatter and destroy them. We now see the reason why God not only declares that he was angry with these ungodly despisers of his word, but also denounces the same vengeance on their posterity. fE113

JEREMIAH 23:35
35. Thus shall ye say every one to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What hath the Lord answered? And, What hath the Lord spoken?
35. Sic dicetis quisque ad socium suum, et quisque ad fratrem suum, Quid respondit Jehova? Et quid loquutus est Jehova?

Here the Prophet explains himself more clearly; he shews why God would not have his word to be called a burden. Why so? because they in a manner closed the way, so that they derived no benefit from God’s word, while they regarded it with disdain and hatred; for the word burden was an obstacle, so that they gave no access to God, nor opened their ears to hear his word. God then bids them to come with empty and sincere hearts; for it is a real preparation for a teachable spirit, when we acknowledge that we ought to believe in God’s word, and also when we are not possessed by a perverse feeling which forms a prejudice and in a manner holds us bound, so that we are not free to form a right judgment.
The import of the passage then is this, that the Jews, renouncing their blasphemies, were to prepare themselves reverently to hear God’s word, for hearing is due to God; and then that this word was to be heard with sincere hearts, so that no weariness, nor pride, nor hatred, nor any depraved feeling, might hinder his word from being believed and reverently heard by all. This then is what the Prophet means when he says, “Ye shall hereafter change your impious expression, and shall say, What has Jehovah answered? what has Jehovah spoken?” That is, they shall not themselves close the door, but willingly come to the school of God, being meek and teachable, so that nothing would hinder them from rendering honor to God and from embracing his word, that they might be terrified by his threatenings, and that being allured by his promises they might devote themselves wholly to him.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing is better for us or more necessary for our chief happiness, than to depend on thy word, for that is a sure pledge of thy good will towards us, — O grant, that as thou hast favored us with so singular a benefit, which thou manifest to us daily, we may be attentive to hear thee and submit ourselves to thee in true fear, meekness, and humility, so that we may be prepared in the spirit of meekness to receive whatever proceeds from thee, and that thus thy word may not only be precious to us, but also sweet and delightful, until we shall enjoy the perfection of that life, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-FIRST
JEREMIAH 23:36
36. And the burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more; for every man’s word shall be his burden: for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God
36. Et oneris, Jehovae non recordabimini amplius, quia onus erit cuique sermo ejus; et pervertistis sermones Dei vivi, Jehovae exercituum, Dei nostri.

Jeremiah goes on with the same subject, that every one ought calmly and meekly to hear God speaking, he said, as we saw yesterday, that the prophets were to be asked as to what God had spoken and what he had answered; he thereby intimated that there must be docility, in order that God’s word may obtain credit, authority, and favor among us. He again repeats, that the word burden could not be endured by God; for, as we explained yesterday, this word was used commonly by the Jews as expressive of hatred or disdain, being as they were unwilling to receive sound doctrine.
In forbidding them to mention the word burden, it was the same thing as though he had said, “Let not this form of speaking be any longer in use among you.” He then adds, For to every one his word shall be his burden. By these words he shews that what is bitter in prophecies is as it were accidental; for God has nothing else in view in addressing men, but to call them to salvation. The word of God then in itself ought to be deemed sweet and delightful. Whence then is this bitterness and hatred towards it? even from the wickedness of men alone. As when a sick person, eating the most wholesome food finds it turned into poison, the cause being in himself; so it is with us, it is our own fault that the word of God becomes a burden. It was, moreover, the Prophet’s design to shew that the Jews had no reason to complain that prophecies were grievous to them, and always announced some trouble; for God wishes to address men with lenity and kindness, but he is forced by their wickedness to deal sharply with them. The Prophet seems, however, to go still farther, as though he had said, “Though prophecies should cease, yet every one shall be a prophet to himself; for as they murmur against God, and cannot bear his judgment, however silent God’s ministers may be, they will yet afford a sufficient cause for condemnation, who dare thus to rise up against God.”
We now see the design of the Prophet in saying, Ye shall no more mention the burden of Jehovah; that is, “This shameful proverb, which brands God’s word with disgrace, shall no more be used by you; this wicked practice shall cease, for else to every one of you; his word shall be a burden;” so the causal particle yk, ki, is to be rendered. But if another sense be preferred, I feel no objection, that is, that they ought to have considered the reason why God did not deal more mildly with them; which was, because they were of a perverse disposition, and thus they refused the paternal kindness which he was prepared to shew, provided they received it. fE114
This passage is entitled to special notice, for we see how the greater part cannot bear threatenings and terrors when announced to them. Hence they entertain contempt and hatred towards heavenly doctrine; and yet none consider why God so often threatens and terrifies them in his word. For if men ceased to sin, God would cease to contend with them; but when they continually provoke him, is he to be silent? and further, are his prophets to suffer everything just to be violated, and God himself to be despised? Let us then know that the fault is in us when God seems to deal rigidly with us, for we do not allow him to use such a paternal language as he always would, were it not that we put a hinderance in the way.
The Prophet also adds, For ye have corrupted the words of the living God, of Jehovah of hosts our God. So ought the words to be rendered. Here he justly accuses them, that they perverted the words of God, and in two ways, because they constrained God by their wickedness to speak otherwise than he wished, and also, because they were preposterous interpreters of his dealings. For though God may severely chastise us, yet it is our duty to receive his reproofs with a meek spirit, as they are necessary for us; but when we murmur and become refractory, we pervert the word of God. We hence see that the word of God is not only perverted in one way, but when we furiously oppose him, we prevent him to deal gently and kindly with us; and we do the same when we submit not to his reproofs, but rage against him whenever he summons us to judgment. And as their wantonness was in this instance so great, the Prophet here sets up against them in express terms the power of God.
He says first, that he is the living God; and by this term he reminded them that the ungodly, who vomited thus their blasphemies against him, would not go unpunished; “See,” he says, “with whom ye have to do; for you contend with the living God; this audacity will rebound on your own heads; ye then carry on a fatal war.” He, secondly, adds, that he is Jehovah of hosts; by which expression he again shews his power. And, thirdly, he says, that he is the God of that people; as though he had said, that not only their impiety was madness in daring to contend with God, but that it was also connected with ingratitude; for God had adopted them as his people, and had promised to be their God.
We now then see the design of the Prophet; he first warned them not to entertain hatred in their hearts to prophetic doctrine; secondly, he shewed that the whole fault was in themselves, as they constrained God to deal severely with them; and further, that they perverted the word of God, being false interpreters of it, and closing the door against his kindness when he invited all the pious and the teachable; and lastly, he exalts God’s power and commends his goodness, that he might thus aggravate the sin of the people in daring to carry on war with God himself, and in despising the favor conferred on them. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:37
37. Thus shalt thou say to the prophet, What hath the Lord answered thee? and, What hath the Lord spoken?
37. Sic dices Prophetae, Quid respondit tibi Jehova? Et quid loquutus est tibi Jehova?

He repeats what we noticed yesterday, and almost in the same words. The meaning is, that if we desire to profit in God’s school, we must beware lest our minds be preoccupied by any corrupt feeling. For whence is it that God’s word is not savored by us, or excites in us a bitter spirit? even because we are infected by some sinful lust or passion which wholly corrupts our judgment. God then would have us to come to him free from every vicious disposition, and to be so teachable as to inquire only what he teaches, what he may answer to us; for whosoever becomes thus disentangled and free, will doubtless find the prophetic doctrine to be for his benefit. There is then but one cause why God’s word does not profit us, but on the contrary is injurious and fatal to us, and that is, because we seek not what God speaks, that is, because we are not teachable, nor come to learn, but either sloth, or contempt, or ingratitude, or perverseness, or something of this kind, bears rule in us.
Now he says here, that the prophets ought to be asked as to what God speaks, or as to what he may answer. fE115 In these words he exculpates God’s faithful servants; for if a hearer is ready to obey, he will find from a faithful teacher what may justly please and do him good. In short he shews that there is nothing wrong in the prophets when their doctrine does not please us, but that this happens because we do not regard what Jeremiah here reminds us of, that we ought to hear God that we may learn, and that we may obey his voice. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:38-39
38. But since ye say, The burden of the Lord; therefore thus saith the Lord, Because ye say this word, The burden of the Lord, and I have sent unto you, saying, Ye shall not say, The burden of the Lord;
38. Quod si onus Jehovae dixeritis, propterea sic dicit Jehovah, Ne dicatis hoc verbum (hoc est, ne proferatis hunc sermonem) onus Jehovae; et misi ad vos (sed debet resolvi oratio, quum miserium ad vos,) et ne dicatis, onus Jehovae:
39. Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence.
39. Propterea ecce ego et tollam vos tollendo (vel, obliviscar vestri obliviscendo, ut alii vertunt; tertia est sententia, obliviscar vestri, ut tollam, vel, ad tollendum,) et evellam vos (vel, projiciam, melius; alii vertunt, relinquam, male,) et urbem hanc, quam dedi vobis et patribus vestris, a facie mea.

Here the Prophet confirms what he had said, for God might have seemed to be too indignant, having been so grievously offended at one short expression. The Jews had borrowed from the prophets themselves, when they called prophecies burdens, as we have already said, and as we find in many places. Now as the lubricity of language is great, though the Jews might have done wrong as to one word, it might yet have appeared an insufficient reason for the punishment which God threatened to inflict. But the Prophet here shews that God was justly angry with them, for he had sent to them, and often warned them not to use this form of speaking, which was a manifest evidence of their impiety. As then they had thus disregarded God and his warnings, was it an excusable mistake? In short, Jeremiah shews that they had not erred inconsiderately, as it often happens as to those who speak rashly and thoughtlessly, but that this perverted way of speaking proceeded from determined wickedness, from a wish to affix some mark of disgrace to God’s word; and thus they acted in disdain towards God himself. This then is the import of the words.
If ye shall say, even when I warn you not to speak in this manner; if then ye persevere in this obstinacy, Behold I, etc.; God here declares that he would take vengeance. As to this sentence, most interpreters derive the verb from hçn, nushe, making h, he, the final letter; but I doubt the correctness of this; yet if this explanation be adopted, we must still hold that the Prophet alludes to the verb, to take away, which immediately follows. But I am disposed to take another view, that God would by removing remove them. It must be noticed that the word açm, mesha, which has often been mentioned, comes from the same root; açm, mesha, a burden, is derived from açn, nusha, to remove or take away. As therefore this proverb was commonly used, that prophetic doctrine ever brought some burden and trouble, God answers, “I will take you away;” that is, “ye shall find by experience how grievous and burdensome your wickedness is to me, it shall rebound on your heads; ye have burdened and treated with indignity my word, and I will treat you with indignity,” but in what manner? I will take you away even by taking you away. If any one approves more of the sense of forgetting, let him follow his own judgment; but that explanation appears to me unmeaning, “I will forget you,” except açn, nusha, be taken in the second place as signifying to take away. “I will forget you, that I may take you away.” fE116
He adds, And I will pluck you up; which some render, “I will forsake you,” but they seem not to understand what the Prophet intended; for he declares something more grievous and more dreadful than before, when he says, I will pluck you up; and yet this sense does not satisfy me. The verb çfn, nuthash, means to extend, and metaphorically to cast far off; and casting off or away seems to suit the passage best. God then would not only remove or take away the Jews from their own place, but would also cast them far off into distant countries. He thus denounces on them an exile, by which they were to be driven as it were into another world. For had they dwelt in the neighborhood, it would have been more tolerable to them, but as they were to be driven away, as by a violent storm to the farthest and remotest regions, it was much more grievous.
He afterwards says, And the city also which I gave to you and to your fathers. The verbs, to cast away and to pluck up, do not well suit stones; but as to the sense, it may rightly be said that God would take away the city with its inhabitants, as though they were driven away by the wind. And this was added designedly, for the Jews relying on this promise, “This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell,” thought it impossible that the sanctuary of God would ever be destroyed. As then this vain confidence deceived them, that the city which God had chosen as his habitation would stand always, the Prophet expressly adds that the city itself would perish.
And it is also added, that it was given to them and their fathers. He anticipates all objections, and shakes off from the Jews the vain hope by which they were inebriated, even that the city was given perpetually to them, and that God resided there to defend them; “This donation,” he says, “will not keep you nor the city itself from destruction.” He adds, From my presence; for it was customary for them to pretend God’s name, when they sought to harden their hearts against the threatenings of the prophets; but God here answers them and says, from my presence; as though he had said, “In vain do ye harbor the thought respecting the perpetuity of the city and the Temple; for this depends on my will and good pleasure. As ye then stand or fall as it seems right to me, I now declare that ye shall be ejected and wholly removed from my presence.” It follows, —

JEREMIAH 23:40
40. And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.
40. Et ponam super vos opprobrium aeternum, et opprobria (est quidem aliud verbum, dedecora) aeterna, quod oblivioni non tradetur (potest referri ad utrunque membrum: nam in plurali numero ponit twmlk, fE117 et postea addit verbum singulare, oblivioni non tradetur; sed potest, quemadmodum dixi, hoc extendi ad totum complexum.

What is here contained is, that though the Jews justly gloried for a time in being the peculiar people of God, yet this would avail them nothing, as they had divested themselves of that honor in which they had excelled, by the abnegation of true religion. Here then the Prophet strips the Jews of that foolish boasting with which they were inflated when they said that they were the people of God, and threatens that God having taken away their glory would make them lie under perpetual shame.
We at the same time know, that such threatenings are to be restricted as to time, they extend only to the coming of Christ; for the Church of God could not have been doomed to eternal reproach. But as to hypocrites, as there was no repentance, so they never obtained pardon; but God delivered his own from eternal reproach when Christ the Redeemer appeared; yet these words are to be understood as rightly addressed to the ungodly despisers of God. Now follows, —
CHAPTER 24

JEREMIAH 24:1-2
1. The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jcconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.
1. Videre me fecit (ostendit mihi visionem) Jehova, et ecce duo calathi ficuum positi coram Templo Jehovae, postquam transtulerat Nebuchadne-zer, rex Babylonis, Jechoniam, filium Joakim, regem Jehudah, et principes Jehudah, et artificem et inclusorem (vel, sculptorem) fE118 e Jerusalem, et ab-duxerat eos Babylonem:
2. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.
2. Calathus unus ficuum bonarum valde, sicuti sunt ficus praecoces; et alter calathus ficuum malarum valde, quae non comederentur propter malitiam (hoc est, adeo malae erant.)

The meaning of this vision is, that there was no reason for the ungodly to flatter themselves if they continued in their wickedness, though God did bear with them for a time. The King Jeconiah had been then carried away into exile, together with the chief men and artisans. The condition of the king and of the rest appeared indeed much worse than that of the people who remained in the country, for they still retained a hope that the royal dignity would again be restored, and that the city would flourish again and enjoy abundance of every blessing, though it was then nearly emptied; for everything precious had become a prey to the conqueror; and we indeed know how great was the avarice and rapacity of Nebuchadnezzar. The city then was at that time almost empty, and desolate in comparison with its former splendor. They however who remained might indeed have hoped for a better state of things, but those who had gone into exile were become like dead bodies. Hence miserable Jeconiah, who was banished and deprived of his kingdom, was apparently undergoing a most grievous punishment, together with his companions, who had been led away with him; and the Jews who remained at Jerusalem no doubt flattered themselves, as though God had dealt more kindly with them. Had they really repented, they would indeed have given thanks to God for having spared them; but as they had abused his forbearance, it was necessary to set before them what this chapter contains, even that they foolishly reasoned when they concluded, that God had been more propitious to them than to the rest.
But this is shewn by a vision: the Prophet saw two baskets or flaskets; and he saw them full of figs, and that before the temple of God; but the figs in one were sweet and savory; and the figs in the other were bitter, so that they could not be eaten. By the sweet figs God intended to represent Jeconiah and the other exiles, who had left their country: and he compares them to the ripe figs; for ripe figs have a sweet taste, while the other figs are rejected on account of their bitterness. In like manner, Jeconiah and the rest had as it were been consumed; but there were figs still remaining; and he says that the lot of those was better whom God had in due time punished, than of the others who remained, as they were accumulating a heavier judgment by their obstinacy. For since the time that Nebuchadnezzar had spoiled the city and had taken from it everything valuable, those who remained had not ceased to add sins to sins, so that there was a larger portion of divine vengeance ready to fall on them.
We now see the design of this vision. And he says that the vision was presented to him by God; and to say this was very necessary, that his doctrine might have more weight with the people. God, indeed, often spoke without a vision; but we have elsewhere stated what was the design of a vision; it was a sort of seal to what was delivered; for in order that the Prophet might possess greater authority, they not only spoke, but as it were sealed their doctrine, as though God had graven on it, as it were by his finger, a certain mark. But as this subject has been elsewhere largely handled, I shall now pass it by.
Behold, he says, two baskets of figs set before the temple. fE119 The place ought to be noticed. It may have been that the Prophet was not allowed to move a step from his own house; and the vision may have been presented to him in the night, during thick darkness: but the temple being mentioned, shews that a part of the people had not been taken away without cause, and the other part left in the city; for it had proceeded from God himself. For in the temple God manifested himself; and therefore the prophets, when they wished to storm the hearts of the ungodly, often said,
“Go forth shall God from his temple.” (<232621>Isaiah 26:21; <330101>Micah 1:3.)
The temple then is to be taken here for the tribunal of God. Hence, he says, that these two baskets were set in the temple; as though he said, that the whole people stood at God’s tribunal, and that those who had been already cast into exile had not been carried away at the will of their enemies, but because God designed to punish them.
The time also is mentioned, After Yeconiah the son of Jehohoiakim had been carried away; for had not this been added, the vision would have been obscure, and no one at this day could understand why God had set two baskets in the presence of Jeremiah. A distinction then is made here between the exiles and those who dwelt in their own country; and at the same time they were reduced to great poverty, and the city was deprived of its splendor; there was hardly any magnificence in the Temple, the royal palace was spoiled, and the race of David only reigned by permission. But though the calamity of the city and people was grievous, yet, as it has been said, the Jews who remained in the city thought themselves in a manner happy in comparison with their brethren, who were become as it were dead; for God had ejected the king, and he was treated disdainfully as a captive, and the condition of the others was still worse. This difference then between the captives and those who remained in the land is what is here represented.
He now adds, that one basket had very good figs, and that the other had very bad figs. If it be asked whether Jeconiah was in himself approved by God, the answer is easy, — that he was suffering punishment for his sins. Then the Prophet speaks here comparatively, when he calls some good and others bad. We must also notice, that he speaks not here of persons but of punishment; as though he had said, “ye feel a dread when those exiles are mentioned, who have been deprived of the inheritance promised them by God: this seems hard to you; but this is moderate when ye consider what end awaits you.” He then does not call Jeconiah and other captives good in themselves; but he calls them good figs, because God had chastened them more gently than he intended to chastise Zedekiah and the rest. Thus he calls the Jews who remained bad figs, not only for this reason, because they were more wicked, though this was in part the reason, but he had regard to the punishment that was nigh at hand; for the severity of God was to be greater towards those whom he had spared, and against whom he had not immediately executed his vengeance. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. The rest we shall defer to the next Lecture.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou delayest with so much forbearance the punishments which we have deserved, and daily draw on ourselves, — O grant, that we may not indulge ourselves, but carefully consider how often, and in how many different ways we have provoked thy wrath against us, that we may thus learn humbly to present ourselves to thee for pardon, and with true repentance so implore thy mercy, that we may from the heart desire wholly to submit ourselves to thee, that whether thou chastisest us, or, according to thine infinite goodness, forgivest us, our condition may be ever blessed, not by flattering ourselves in our torpitude, but by finding thee to be our kind and bountiful Father, being reconciled to us in thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-SECOND
JEREMIAH 24:3-5
3. Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
3. Et dixit Jehova ad me, Quid tu vides Jeremiah? et dixi, Ficus, ficus bonas, bonas valde; et malas, malas valde, quae non comedantur propter malitiam.
4. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
4. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad me, dicendo,
5. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.
5. Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Sicuti ficus bonae istae, sic agnoscam captivitatem Jehudah, quem emisi ex hoc loco in terram Chaldaeorum ad beneficentiam.

In the last Lecture we began to explain the meaning of the vision which the Prophet relates. We said that the miserable exiles whose condition might have appeared to be the worst, are yet compared to good figs, and that those who still remained in the country are compared to bad and bitter figs. We have explained why God shewed this vision to his servant Jeremiah, even because the captives might have otherwise been driven to despair, especially through the weariness of delay, for they saw that their brethren were still in possession of the inheritance granted them by God, while they were driven into a far country, and as it were disinherited, so that no one could regard them as God’s people. As then despair might have overwhelmed their minds, God designed to give them some comfort. On the other hand, those who remained in the land not only exulted over the miserable exiles, but also abused the forbearance of God, so that they obstinately resisted all threatenings, and thus hardened themselves more and more against God’s judgment, hence God declares what was remotest from what was commonly thought, that they had a better lot who lived captives in Babylon than those who remained quietly as it were in their own nest.
We have said that the badness of the figs is not to be explained of guilt, but of punishment: and this is what Jeremiah confirms, when he says, As these good figs, so will I acknowledge the captivity for good, or for beneficence, hbwf, thube. It is well known that captivity means the persons led captive, it being a collective word. Then he says,
“I will acknowledge the captives of Judah, whom I have driven from this people, so as to do them good again.” fE120
As this doctrine was then incredible, God calls the attention of the Jews to the final issue; as though he had said, that they were mistaken who took only a present view of things, and did not extend their thoughts to the hope of mercy. For they thus reasoned, “It is better to remain in the country where God is worshipped, where the Temple is and the altar, than to live among heathen nations; it is better to have some liberty than to be under the yoke of tyranny; it is better to retain even the name of being a separate people than to be scattered here and there, so as not to be a community at all.” Hence, according to their state at that time, they thought their condition better: but God corrected this wrong judgment; for they ought to have looked to the end, and what awaited the exiles and captives as well as those whom the king of Babylon had for a time spared. Though, indeed, it was the Prophet’s object to alleviate the grief of those who had been led away into Chaldea, yet he had a special regard to the people over whom he was appointed an instructor and teacher. He was then at Jerusalem; and we know how perverse were those whom he had to contend with, for none could have been more obstinate than that people. As God had delayed his punishment, they supposed that they had wholly escaped, especially as they had an uncle as a successor to their captive king.
Hence, then, was their contempt of threatenings; hence was their greater liberty in sinning: they thought that God had taken vengeance on the exiles, and that they were saved as being the more excellent portion of the community. The Prophet, therefore, in order to break down this presumption, which he could not bend, set before them this vision, which had been given him from above. We now, then, see that the doctrine especially set forth is, that God would remember the captives for the purpose of doing them good, as though he had said that a wrong judgment was formed of the calamity of a few years, and that the end was to be looked to. It follows —

JEREMIAH 24:6
6. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.
6. Et ponam (vel, adjiciam) oculum meum super eos in beneficentiam, et reducam eos ad terram hanc, et aedificabo eos et non diruam, et plantabo eos et non evellam.

He confirms what he said in the last verse, but in other words, for it was difficult to persuade them that they were happier who were apparently lost, than those who still enjoyed some measure of safety. He had said that he would acknowledge them; but he now adds, I will set my eye upon them. He uses a metaphor which often occurs in Scripture, for God is said to turn away his face when he hides his favor; and in the same sense he is said to forget, to depart, not to care, to despise, to cast away. Then, as God might have seemed to have no more any care for this people, he says, “I will set my eyes on them.” But he goes even farther, for he refers to the sentence announced in the last verse — he had said that he was the author of their exile, “I have cast them into the land of the Chaldeans” but he now confirms the same thing, though in other words, when he says, “Mine eyes will I set on them for good.” For God is said to visit men, not only when he manifests his favor towards them, but also when he chastises them and punishes them for their sins. He had then set his eyes on them to execute punishment; he says now that he would act differently, that he would kindly treat the miserable.
He afterwards says, I will restore them. For, as he had sent them away, it was in his power to restore them. As, then, he could heal the wound inflicted by his own hand, this promise ought to have been sufficient to dispel every doubt from the minds of the captives as to their return; and further, the Jews, who as yet remained in Jerusalem and in the land of Judah, ought to have known that they in vain boasted in their good lot, as though God treated them better than their captive brethren, for it was in his power to restore those whom he had banished.
And he adds, I will build and not pull them down, I will plant and not pluck them up. This mode of speaking would not be so significant either in Latin or in Greek; but such a repetition, as it is well known, often occurs in Hebrew. But whenever a negative is added to an affirmative, such form of expression is to be thus interpreted, “I shall be so far from plucking them up, that I will plant them; I shall be so far from pulling them down, that I will build them up;” or, “since I had pulled them down, I will now build them up; since I had plucked them up, I will now plant them:” or a perpetuity may be meant, as though God had said, “I will plant them, so as not to pluck them again; I will build them, so as not to pull them down again.” But the most frequent import of such expressions is what I first mentioned, “I will not pull them down, but on the contrary build them up; I will not pluck them up, but on the contrary plant them.”
The meaning of the whole is, that however sad might be the calamities of the people in Chaldea, they being as exiles reduced to a desolate condition, yet God could collect them again, like one who plants a tree or builds a house. The metaphor of building is common in Scripture, and also that of planting. God is said to plant men, when he introduces a certain order among them, or when he allots to them a certain place to dwell in, or when he grants them peace and quietness. God is said in <194402>Psalm 44:2, to have planted his people; but I will not refer to the many passages which are everywhere to be met with. God often says that he had planted his vineyard. (<230502>Isaiah 5:2, etc.) And then well known is this passage,
“The branch of the Lord, and the planting for his glory.”
(<236021>Isaiah 60:21)
This is said of the preservation of the Church.
The meaning then is, that though God severely chastised the exiles who had been led into Chaldea, yet their condition was not to be estimated by one day, or a month, or a few years, but that a happy end was to be expected. And as God intended at length to shew himself reconcilable and propitious, it follows that the calamity which had happened to them was lighter than that which awaited the rest, who resolutely despised God and his prophets, and thus increased the vengeance which had been already denounced on them. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 24:7
7. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.
7. Et dabo illis cor ad cognoscendum me, quod ego sum Jehova; et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero ipsis in Deum, quia revertentur ad me in toto corde suo.

Here is added the main benefit, that God would not only restore the captives, that they might dwell in the land of promise, but would also change them inwardly; for except God gives us a conviction as to our own sins, and then leads us by his Spirit to repentance, whatever benefit he may bestow on us, they will only conduce to our greater ruin. The Prophet has hitherto spoken of the alleviation of punishment, as though he had said, “God will stretch forth his hand to restore his people to their own country.” Then the remission of punishment is what has been hitherto promised; but now the Prophet speaks of a much more excellent favor, that God would not only mitigate punishment, but that he would also inwardly change and reform their hearts, so that they would not only return to their own country, but would also become a true Church, a name of which they had vainly boasted. For though they had been chosen to be a peculiar people, yet, as they had departed from true religion, they were only a Church in name. But now God promises that he would bring them, not only to enjoy temporal and fading blessings, but also eternal salvation, for they would truly fear and serve him.
And this is what we ought carefully to observe, for the more bountiful God is towards men, the more is his vengeance kindled by ingratitude. What, then, would it avail us to abound in all good things, except we had evidences of God’s paternal favor towards us? But when we regard this end, that God testifies to us that he is our Father by his bounty towards us, we then make a right use of all his blessings; and God’s benefits cannot conduce to our salvation except we regard them in this light. Hence Jeremiah, after having spoken of the people’s restoration, justly exalts this favor above everything else, that the people would repent, so that they would not only fully partake of all the blessings they could expect, but would also worship God in sincerity and truth.
Now, God says that he would give them a heart to know him. The word heart is to be taken here for the mind or understanding, as it means often in Hebrew. It, indeed, means frequently the seat of the affections, and also the soul of man, as including reason or understanding and will. But though the heart is taken often for the seat of the affections, it is yet applied to designate the other part of the soul, according to these words,
“Hitherto God has not given thee a heart to understand.” (<052904>Deuteronomy 29:4)
The Latins sometimes take it in this sense, according to what Cicero shews when he quotes these words of Ennius, “Catus AElius Sextus was a man remarkable in understanding.” (Egregie cordatus; Cic. 1 Tuscul.) Then, in this passage, the word heart is put for the light of the understanding. Yet another thing must be stated, that a true knowledge of God is not, as they say, imaginary, but is ever connected with a right feeling.
From the words of the Prophet we learn that repentance is the peculiar gift of God. Had Jeremiah said only that they who had been previously driven by madness into ruin, would return to a sane mind, he might have appeared as one setting up free-will and putting conversion in the power of man himself, according to what the Papists hold, who dream that we can turn to either side, to good as well as to evil; and thus they imagine that we can, after having forsaken God, of ourselves turn to him. But the Prophet clearly shews here, that it is God’s peculiar gift; for what God claims for himself, he surely does not take away from men, as though he intended to deprive them of any right which may belong to them, according to what the Pelagians hold, who seem to think that God appears almost envious when he declares that man’s conversion is in his power; but this is nothing less than a diabolical madness. It is, then, enough for us to know, that what God claims for himself is not taken away from men, for it is not in their power.
Since, then, he affirms that he would give them a heart to understand, we hence learn that men are by nature blind, and also that when they are blinded by the devil, they cannot return to the right way, and that they cannot be otherwise capable of light than by having God to illuminate them by his Spirit. We then see that man, from the time he fell, cannot rise again until God stretches forth his hand not only to help him, (as the Papists say, for they dare not claim to themselves the whole of repentance, but they halve it between themselves and God,) but even to do the whole work from the beginning to the end; for God is not called the helper in repentance, but the author of it. God, then, does not say, “I will help them, so that when they raise up their eyes to me, they shall be immediately assisted;” no, he does not say this; but what he says is, “I will give them a heart to understand.” And as understanding or knowledge is the main thing in repentance, it follows that man remains wholly under the power of the devil, and is, as it were, his slave, until God draws him forth from his miserable bondage. In short, we must maintain, that as soon as the devil draws us from the right way of salvation, nothing can come to our minds but what sinks us more and more in ruin, until God interposes, and thus restore us when thinking of no such thing.
This passage also shews, that we cannot really turn to God until we acknowledge him to be the Judge; for until the sinner sets himself before God’s tribunal, he will never be touched with the feeling of true repentance. Let us then know that the door of repentance is then opened to us, when God constrains us to look to him. At the same time there is more included in the term Jehovah than the majesty of God, for he assumes this principle, which ought to have been sufficiently known to the whole people, that he was the only true God who had chosen for himself the seed of Abraham, who had published the Law by Moses, who had made a covenant with the posterity of Abraham. There is then no doubt but that the Prophet meant that when the Jews became illuminated, they would be convinced of what they had forgotten, that is, that they had departed from the only true God. This mode of speaking then means the same as though he had said, “I will open their eyes, that they may at length acknowledge that they are apostates, and be thus humbled when made sensible how grievous was their impiety in forsaking me the fountain of living waters.”
He afterwards adds, that they should be to him a people, and that he in his turn would be to them a God; for they would return to him with the whole heart. By these words the Prophet shews more clearly what he had before referred to, that God’s blessings would be then altogether salutary when they regarded their giver. As long then as we regard only the blessings of God, our insensibility produces this effect, that the more bountiful he is towards us, the more culpable we become. But when we regard God’s bounty and paternal kindness towards us, we then really enjoy his blessings. This is the meaning of the Prophet’s words when he says,
“I shall be to you a God, and ye shall be to me a people.”
What this mode of speaking means has been stated elsewhere.
Though God rules the whole world, he yet declares that he is the God of the Church; and the faithful whom he has adopted, he favors with this high distinction, that they are his people; and he does this that they may be persuaded that there is safety in him, according to what is said by Habakkuk,
“Thou art our God, we shall not die.” (<350112>Habakkuk 1:12.)
And of this sentence Christ himself is the best interpreter, when he says, that he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, (<422038>Luke 20:38; ) he proves by the testimony of Moses, that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, were yet alive. How so; because God would not have declared that he was their God, were they not living to him. Since then he regards them as his people, he at the same time shews that there is life for them laid up in him. In short, we see that there is here promised by God not a restoration for a short time, but he adds the hope of eternal life and salvation; for the Jews were not only to return to their own country, when the time came to leave Chaldea, and a liberty granted them to build their own city; but they were also to become the true Church of God.
And the reason is also added, Because they will return to me, he says, with their whole heart. He repeats what we have already observed, that they would be wise (cordatos) and intelligent, whereas they had been for a long time stupid and foolish, and the devil had so blinded them, that they were not capable of receiving sound doctrine. But these two things, the reconciliation of God with men and repentance, are necessarily connected together, yet repentance ought not to be deemed as the cause of pardon or of reconciliation, as many falsely think who imagine that men deserve pardon because they repent. It is indeed true that God is never propitious to us, except when we turn to him; but the connection, as it has been already stated, is not such that repentance is the cause of pardon, nay, this very passage clearly shews that repentance itself depends on the grace and mercy of God. Since this is true, it follows that men are anticipated by God’s gratuitous kindness.
We hence further learn, that God is not otherwise propitious to us than according to his good pleasure, so that the cause of all is only in himself. Whence is it that a sinner returns to the right way and seeks God from whom he has departed? Is it because he is moved to do so of himself? Nay, but because God illuminates his mind and touches his heart, or rather renews it. How is it that God illuminates him who has become blind? Surely for this we can find no other cause than the gratuitous mercy of God. When God then is propitious to men, so as to restore them to himself, does he not anticipate them by his grace? How then can repentance be called the cause of reconciliation, when it is its effect? It cannot be at the same time its effect and cause.
We ought therefore carefully to notice the context here, for though the Prophet says that the Jews, when they returned, would be God’s people, because they would turn to him with their whole heart, he yet had before explained whence this turning or conversion would proceed, even because God would shew them mercy. They who pervert such passages according to their own fancies, are not so acquainted with Scripture as to know that there is a twofold reconciliation of men with God: He is first reconciled to men in a hidden manner, for when they despise him, he anticipates them by his grace, and illuminates their minds and renews their hearts. This first reconciliation is what they do not understand. But there is another reconciliation, known by experience, even when we feel that the wrath of God towards us is pacified, and are indeed made sensible of this by the effects. To this the reference is made in these words,
“Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you,” (<380103>Zechariah 1:3)
that is, “I appear severe and rigid to you; but whence is this? even because ye cease not to provoke my wrath; return to me, and you shall find me ready to spare you.” God therefore did not then first begin to pardon sinners, when he does them good, but as he had been previously pacified, hence he turns them to himself, and afterwards shews that he is really reconciled to them.
By the whole heart, is intimated sincerity or integrity, as by a double heart, or a heart and a heart, is signified dissimulation. It is certain that no one turns to God in such a manner that he puts off all the affections of the flesh, that he is renewed at once in God’s image, so that he is freed from every stain. Such a conversion is never found in man. But when the Scripture speaks of the whole heart, it is in contrast with dissimulation;
“with my whole heart have I sought thee,” says David; “I have hid thy words and will keep them: I have prayed for thy favor; I will ask,” etc., (<19B910>Psalm 119:10-16;)
“They will seek me,” as Moses says, “with their whole heart.” (<050429>Deuteronomy 4:29; <051012>Deuteronomy 10:12)
David did not divest himself of everything sinful, for he confesses in many places that he was laboring under many sins; but the clear meaning is, that what God requires is integrity. In short, the whole heart is integrity, that is when we deal not hypocritically with God, but desire from the heart to give up ourselves to him.
As we have before refuted the error of those who think that repentance is the cause why God becomes reconciled to us, so now we must know that God will not be propitious to us except we seek him. For there is a mutual bond of connection, so that God anticipates us by his grace, and also calls us to himself; in short, he draws us, and we feel in ourselves the working of the Holy Spirit. We do not indeed turn, unless we are turned; we do not turn through our own will or efforts, but it is the Holy Spirit’s work. Yet he who under pretext of grace indulges himself and cares not for God, and seeks not repentance, cannot flatter himself that he is one of God’s people; for as we have said, repentance is necessary. It follows, — but I cannot to-day finish this part, for he speaks of the badness of the figs, and of the remnant which still remained.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are placed in this world, that while daily receiving so many blessings, we may so pass our time as to regard our end and hasten towards the goal, — O grant, that the benefits and blessings by which thou invitest us to thyself, may not be impediments to us, and keep us attached to this world, but on the contrary stimulate us to fear thy name as well as to appreciate thy mercy, so that we may thus know thee to be our God, and strive on our part to present ourselves to thee as thy people, and so consecrate ourselves and all our services to thee, that thy name may be glorified in us, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-THIRD
JEREMIAH 24:8
8. And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the Lord, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt.
8. Et sicut ficus malae, quae non comeduntur prae malitia (id est, amaritudine,) sic certe (est yk, sed abundat, certe sic,) dicit Jehova, ita ponam Zedekiam, regem jehudah, et principesejus, et reliquias Jerusalem, quae residuae sunt in terra hac, et eos qui habitant in terra AEgypti.

God, after having promised to deal kindly with the captives, now declares that he would execute heavier punishment on King Zedekiah, and the whole people who yet remained in their own country. We have stated why God exhibited this vision to the Prophet, even that he might support their minds who saw nothing but grounds of despair, and that also, on the other hand, he might correct their pride who flattered themselves in their own lot, because God had deferred his vengeance as to them. Then the Prophet, having given comfort to the miserable exiles, now speaks against Zedekiah and his people, who boasted that God was propitious to them, and that they had not only been fortunate, but also wise in continuing in their own country.
He then says that Zedekiah and his princes, and all who remained in Judea, were like the bad figs, which could not be eaten on account of their bitterness. I have said that this is to be referred to punishment and not to guilt. They had sinned, I allow, most grievously; but we are to regard the design of the Prophet. The meaning then is, that though the condition of those who had been driven into captivity was for the present harder, yet God would deal more severely with those who remained, because he had for a time spared them, and they did not repent, but hardened themselves more and more in their wickedness.
Now we know that Zedekiah was set over the kingdom of Judah, when Jeconiah surrendered himself to Nebuchadnezzar: he was the uncle of Jeconiah, and reigned eleven years; and during that time he ought to have been at least wise at the expense of another. For Eliakim, who was also called Jehoiakim, had been chastised, and that not only once; but Nebuchadnezzar, after having spoiled the temple, rendered him tributary to himself, on his return to Chaldea. At length, after having been often deceived by him, he became extremely displeased with him; and his son, who had reigned with his father, three months after his death, voluntarily surrendered himself into the power and will of the conqueror. Mathaniah afterwards reigned, of whom the Prophet speaks here. So, he says, will I render fE121 Zedekiah (called previously Mathaniah) the king of Judah, and his princes, and the remnants of Jerusalem, who remain in this land, (for the greater part had been led into exile,) and those who dwell in the land of Egypt, for many had fled thither; and we know that they were confederates with the Egyptians, and that through a vain confidence in them they often rebelled.
And this was also the reason why the prophets so sharply reproved them: they relied on the help of Egypt, and took shelter under its protection. When, therefore, they found themselves exposed to the will of their enemies, they fled into Egypt. But Nebuchadnezzar afterwards, as we shall see, conquered Egypt also. Thus it happened that they were only for a short time beyond the reach of danger. But as fugitive slaves, when recovered, are afterwards treated more severely by their masters, so also the rage of King Nebuchadnezzar became more violent against them. It now follows —

JEREMIAH 24:9
9. And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.
9. Et ponam eos in commotionem (vel, strepitum, vel, perturbationem, alii concussionem vertunt) in malum omnibus regnis terrae, in probrum, et parabolam, et proverbium, et execrationem in omnibus locis quo ejecero ipsos (vel, expulero.)

Here the Prophet borrows his words from Moses, in order to secure authority to his prophecy; for the Jews were ashamed to reject Moses, as they believed that the Law came from God: it would at least have been deemed by them an abominable thing to deny credit to the Law. And yet they boldly rejected all the prophets, though they were but faithful interpreters of the Law, as the case is with the Papists of the present day, who, though they dare not deny but that the Scripture contains celestial truth, yet furiously reject what is alleged from it. Similar was the perverseness of the Jews. Hence the prophets, in order to gain more credit to their words, often borrowed their very words from Moses, as though they had recited from a written document what had been dictated to them. For in Deuteronomy and in other places Moses spoke a language of this kind, — that God would give up the people to a concussion or a commotion, for a reproach, for a proverb, for a taunt, to all the nations of the earth. (<052837>Deuteronomy 28:37; <110907>1 Kings 9:7.)
It is then the same as though Jeremiah had said, that the time would at length come when the Jews would find that so many maledictions had not been pronounced in vain by Moses. They no doubt read Moses; but as they were so stupid, no fear, no reverence for God was felt by them, even when he terrified them with such words as these. The Prophet then says, that the time was now near when they should know by experience that God had not in vain threatened them.
I will set them for a commotion. The verb [wz, zuo, means to move and to be noisy. Many render the noun here “noise,” others “perturbation,” and others, “the shaking of the head;” for we are wont to shake the head in scorn. fE122
However this may be, we are to read in connection with this the following words, — that they would be for a reproach, and a terror, and a taunt, and an execration, to all nations. It is then said, on account of evil: for the preposition l, lamed, is to be taken here in different senses: before “commotion,” it means “for;” but here it is causal, “on account of.” The severe and dreadful vengeance of God would be such, that it would move and disturb all nations. He indeed mentions all kingdoms, but the meaning is the same. He then adds reproach, that is, that they would be subjected to the condemnation of all nations. They had refused to submit to God’s judgment, and when he would have made them ashamed for their good, they had wickedly resisted. It was therefore necessary to subject them to the reproach of all people.
It is added, for a proverb and for a tale, or as some read, “for a parable and for a proverb.” The word lçm, meshel, means a common saying; but here it signifies a scoff, and a similar meaning must be given to, hnynç, shenine, a tale or a fable. By both words he means, that when the heathens wished to describe a most grievous calamity, they would take this example, “Yes, it is all over with the Jews, no nation has become so wretched.” The same view is to be taken of execration; for he intimates that they would become a type and a pattern of a curse, “Yes, may you perish like the Jews; may God execute vengeance on you, as he has done on the Jews.” He then adds, that this would happen to them in all places wherever God would drive them; as though the Prophet had said, that God would not be satisfied with their exile, though that was to be grievous and bitter; but that when driven to distant lands they would become objects of reproach, so that all would point at them with the finger of scorn, accompanied with every mark of reproach, and would be also taking them as an example of execration. He afterwards adds —

JEREMIAH 24:10
10. And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers.
10. Et mittam in ipsos gladium, famem et pestem, usque dum consumantur e superficie terrae, quam dedi ipsis et patribus ipsorum.

He confirms the former verse, — that God would then with extreme rigor punish them, by allowing the city and the inhabitants who remained, to be given up to the will of their enemies. And Jeremiah still speaks as from the mouth of Moses, that his prophecy might be more weighty, and that he might frighten those men who were so refractory. There are here three kinds of punishments which we often meet with, under which are included all other punishments. But as God for the most part punishes the sins of men by pestilence, or by famine, or by war, he connects these three together when his purpose is to include all kinds of punishment.
He adds, Until they be consumed from the face of the land; he says not “until they be consumed in the land,” but from the face of it, l[m, mol, from upon it: for the Jews were not consumed in their own country; but he consumed them by degrees elsewhere, so that they gradually pined away: they were driven into exile, and that was their final destruction. fE123 What this clause means I have explained in another place.
The Prophet adds, which I gave to them and to their fathers. His object here was to shake off from the Jews that foolish confidence with which they were inebriated: for as they had heard of the land in which they dwelt, that it was the rest of God, and as they knew that it had been given to them by an hereditary right, according to what had been promised to their fathers, they thought that it could never be taken away from them. They therefore became torpid in their sins, as though God was bound to them. The Prophet ridicules this folly by saying, that the promise and favor of God would not prevent him from depriving them of the land and of its possession, and from rejecting them as though they were aliens, notwithstanding the fact, that he had formerly adopted them as his children.
We now see the meaning of both parts of this vision. For the Prophet wished to alleviate the sorrow of the exiles when he said, that their state at length would be better; and so he promised that God would be reconciled to them after having for a time chastised them. Thus it is no small comfort to us when we regard the end; for as the Apostle says to the Hebrews, when we feel the scourges of God, sorrow is a hinderance to a patient suffering, as chastisement is for the present grievous, bitter, and difficult to be endured. (<581211>Hebrews 12:11.) It is therefore necessary, if we would patiently submit to God, to have regard to the issue: for until the sinner begins to taste of God’s grace and mercy, he will fret and murmur, or he will be stupid and hardened; and certainly he will receive no comfort. Afterwards the Prophet shews, on the other hand, that though God may spare us for a time, there is yet no reason for us to indulge ourselves, for he will at length make up for the delay by the heaviness of his punishment: the more indulgently he deals with us, the more grievous and dreadful will be his vengeance, when he sees that we have abused his forbearance. Now follows —
CHAPTER 25

JEREMIAH 25:1
1. The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon.
1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam, ad omnem populum Jehudah (sed l[ accipitur etiam hic diverso sensu: sermo enim directus fuit ad Jeremiam ut esset illius testis ac proeco, deinde ad populum ut tandem perveniret ex ore Jeremioe ad omnes Judoeos quod uni dictum fuerat) anno quarto Joakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah: hic est annus primus Nebuchadnezer regis Babel.

his prophecy no doubt preceded the vision which we have just explained, and which had just been presented to Jeremiah when Jehoiakim died, and when Zedekiah reigned in the place of Jeconiah; who, being the last king, was substituted for his nephew Jeconiah. But related now is the prophecy which Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and he reigned, as we shall hereafter see, eleven years. We hence conclude that his book is composed of various addresses, but that the order of time has not always been preserved. Now the sum of the whole is, that when God found that the people could not be amended and restored to a right mind by any warnings, he denounced final ruin both on the Jews and on all the neighboring nations: but why he included the heathens we shall hereafter see.
He then says, that this prophecy was committed to him in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; and he adds, that the same year was the first of King Nebuchadnezar. This seems inconsistent with other places, where the third of Jehoiakim is mentioned for the fourth year; and hence a long time is allotted for the first year of Nebuchadnezar. But a solution of this is not difficult, if we consider that Nebuchadnezar suddenly returned into Chaldea to settle his affairs at home, when the report of his father’s death was brought to him; for he feared, lest in his absence a tumult should arise, as it often happened. He was therefore anxious to secure his own affairs; and having settled things at home, he brought Jehoiakim into subjection, and in the fourth year of his reign he compelled him to open his treasures, and also led away captive those whom he wished. And it was at this time that Daniel and his companions were led away into exile, and the precious vessels of the Temple were removed. As to the first year of Nebuchadnezar’s reign, he reigned first with his father; and then when he reigned alone, the beginning of a new reign is justly mentioned as the first year. Though then he was made king, yet as he did not exercise the chief power until his father’s death, it was not until that event that he was really king; this is the reason why mention is made of his first year. But we ought especially to notice what the Prophet says, — that the word came to him, not for his own sake, but that he might be the public herald of God. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:2
2. The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying.
2. Quem sermonem protulit Jeremias Propheta ad totum populum Jehudah, et ad omnes habitatores Jerosolymae, dicendo.

He shews more clearly in this verse what he had just said, — that he was not taught from above, that he might suppress what he had heard, but that he might proclaim it as from the mouth of God; and hence he gives himself the honorable title of a Prophet, as though he had said, that he came furnished with the indubitable commands of God, and was at the same time honored with the office of a Prophet; and he came thus, that no one might dare despise his doctrine. Now follows his sermon, —

JEREMIAH 25:3-5
3. From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, (that is the three and twentieth year,) the word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened.
3. A tertio decimo anno Josiae filii Ammon regis Jehudah ad hunc diem, hic tertius et vicesimus annus est, loquutus est Jehova ad me, et loquutus sum ad vos, surgens mane; et non audistis:
4. And the Lord hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.
4. Et misit Jehova ad vos omnes suos servos Prophetas, mane surgens et mittens; et non audistis et non inclinastis aurem vestram ad audiendum;
5. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever.
5. Dicendo, Revertimini agedum quisque a via sua mala eta malitia operum vestrorum; et habitate super terram, quam dedit Jehova vobis et patribus vestris a seculo et usque in seculum (et quoe sequuntur. )

Jeremiah now expostulates with the Jews, because they had not only perfidiously departed from the true worship of God, and despised the whole teaching of his Law, but because they had shaken off the yoke, and designedly and even obstinately rejected all warnings, being not moved by reproofs nor even by threatenings. He does not then simply charge them with impiety and ingratitude, but adds the sin of perverseness, that they were like untameable wild beasts, and could by no means be corrected.
He says, that from the thirteenth year of Josiah king of Judah, to that year, which was the twenty-third year, he had not ceased faithfully to perform the office committed to him, but had effected nothing. It hence appears how incorrigible was their wickedness. We have seen, at the beginning of the book, that he was called by God to be a Prophet in the thirteenth year of King Josiah; and he had now been engaged in his calling, as he declares, for twenty-three years.
He had spent his time in vain, he had consumed much labor without any fruit. It is then no wonder that he now accuses them of perverseness, and that in the name of God; for he pleads not his own cause, but shews what the Jews deserved, considering how much God had labored in reclaiming them, and that they had rejected all his warnings and refused all his remedies. Then from the thirteenth year of Josiah, he says, to this day; and afterwards in a parenthesis he adds, that he had already discharged his office for twenty-three years.
We learn that the Prophet spoke thus seventeen years before the destruction of the City and Temple; for he had accomplished forty years before the people were driven into exile, and before they who thought themselves safe, miserably perished. He continued to the death of Josiah; and afterwards about twenty-two transpired; for Jehoiakim reigned eleven years; and without reckoning the short time of Jeconiah, Mathaniah, called also Zedekiah, was in the eleventh year removed, and disgracefully and reproachfully put to death. Thus it appears that the Prophet constantly labored for forty years.
Hence, also, we learn how diabolical was the madness of that people in rejecting so many admonitions. And if we connect another thing, to which I lately referred, that they had been taught by many examples, it will appear still more evident that the disease of impiety as to that people was altogether incurable.
But this passage deserves special attention; for we here learn that we ought immediately to return to God when he invites us; for faith is known by its promptitude. As soon then as God speaks, it behoves us to be attentive, so that we may immediately follow him. But if God ceases not for a whole year to warn and exhort us, while at the same time his doctrine is despised, we become guilty of intolerable sin. Let us then remember that days are here in a manner mentioned as well as years, that the Jews might consider how many days are included in every year; and let us also know that years are mentioned by Jeremiah, that they might, understand that they had no excuse, inasmuch as God had for so long a time ceased not to promote their welfare, while in the meantime they persisted in their impiety, and continued obstinate to the last. This is the reason why the Prophet relates again when it was that he began to discharge his prophetic office, even from the thirteenth year of Josiah.
He then adds, that it was their own fault that they had not repented; spoken, he says, has Jehovah to me, and I to you. By saying that the word of God was deposited with him, he no doubt intended to assert his authority against the unbelievers, who clamored that he presumptuously pretended God’s name, and that he had not been sent by God. For we have elsewhere seen that the Church was then miserably torn, having intestine broils, and many were boasting that they were prophets; and we shall hereafter find the same thing in other places. Thus, then, Jeremiah was not received by the whole people, and his authority was disputed. Since then he had to contend with many ungodly men, he here testifies that he came not of himself, but that the prophetic office had been committed to him.
After having asserted the authority of his call, he adds, that he had faithfully promoted the welfare of the whole people; for he declares how faithful and diligent he had been when he says, that he had spoken and rose up early; for to rise up early means that he had been assiduous in his work. The Prophet then shews that he had not been tardy or idle, and that he had not spoken carelessly as many do, who seem to do what God commands, but display no fervid zeal and no sedulity. The Prophet then, after having declared that he had been sent from above, adds that he had exercised fidelity and diligence, that he had strenuously served God and his Church. I have spoken to you, he says, as the Lord had spoken to me, — how? rising up early.
He then adds, I have spoken, and ye heard not. He complains here that his work had been useless, and at the same time shews that the whole fault was in the people. He confirms the same thing in other words, Jehovah has sent to you all his servants the prophets, rising. up early, etc. He enhances their sin, — that they had not only rejected one Prophet but even many; for God had not employed Jeremiah alone to teach them, but had joined others with him, so that they were less excusable. We hence see that their sin is in this verse exaggerated; for the Jews had not only despised God in the person of one man, but had also rejected all his servants. He might, indeed, have simply said, that God had sent his servants, but he adds the word prophets, in order that their ingratitude might appear more evident. It was, indeed, very wicked to neglect God’s servants; but as prophecy was an invaluable treasure, and a singular pledge and symbol of God’s favor, it was a double crime when they thus despised the prophets, whose very name ought to have been held sacred by them.
He afterwards applies to God what he had said of himself, rising up early. It is certain that God does not rise up, as he sleeps not in the night; but the language is much more expressive and forcible, when God himself is said to rise up early. And it, was not without reason that the Prophet spoke so emphatically; for though the Jews were sufficiently convicted of ingratitude for having disregarded God’s servants, it was yet a monstrous impiety to shew no regard for God. But when the unbelieving are proved guilty, they ever fix their eyes on men, “He! it is with a mortal that I have to do; far be it from me ever to rise up against God; but why is this so much blamed, since I do not immediately perish? since I am not suddenly cast down at the nod of man? what! am I not free to inquire, and to discuss, and to examine every part of what is said? why do the prophets so imperiously treat us, that it is not lawful to doubt any of their words?” Thus, then, did the ungodly speak. But God on the other hand answered them and said, that he was despised, as also Christ said,
“He who hears you hears me,
and he who despises you despises me.” (<421016>Luke 10:16)
So also the Prophet sets forth God himself as rising up early, exhorting the people and manifesting every care for their wellbeing. This, then, is the design of the metaphor, when he says, that God had sent to them and rose up early; he rose up early while sending his servants.
Now as God fulminates against all despisers of his doctrine, so from these words we may gather no small consolation; for we certainly conclude that God watches over our safety whenever sound and faithful teachers go forth: it is the same as though he himself descended from heaven, rose up early, and was intent in securing our salvation. This we learn from the very words of the Prophet, when he says, that God rose up early. But as this testimony of God’s favor and paternal care towards us is delightful, so to the same extent dreadful is the vengeance that awaits those who neglect this favor, who sleep when God is watching, who hear not when he is speaking, who continue in their sloth and torpor when God of his own accord meets them, and kindly and gently invites them to himself.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to choose us from our infancy to be thy people, and that when we were wretched apostates, thou hast also been pleased to restore us to the right way, by stretching forth thine hand to lead us, — O grant, that we may not be deaf nor idle; but may it please thee, by thy Spirit, especially to correct all obstinacy in our hearts, so that we may render ourselves obedient and submissive to thee: and as thou hast not ceased continually to call us, may we in our turn respond to thee, and not only by our tongues, but also by our works, pursue the course which thou hast appointed for us, until we shall reach the goal, and enjoy that blessed state of glory which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-FOURTH
We began yesterday to explain God’s complaint against the Jews, — that he had found them wholly refractory and rebellious. He says, in one word, that they did not hear him; but he afterwards adds, that they did not incline their ear to hear him; by which mode of speaking, is set forth more fully their perverseness, as they closed their ears as it were designedly; for not to incline the ear is more than not to hear. Jeremiah then means, that they had so hardened themselves against all that was taught by the prophets, that they designedly rejected everything that was set before them by God’s authority.
He afterwards explains what God required them to do, Turn ye, I pray, every one from his evil way and from the wickedness of your doings, and dwell in the land which Jehovah has given to you and your fathers from age even to age. What God required was doubtless most just; for he demanded nothing from the Jews but to repent. There was also a promise added; God not only exhorted them to repent, but wished also to be reconciled to them, and having blotted out all memory of their sins, to shew them kindness: had they not been harder than stones, they must have been turned to his service by so kind a treatment. God might have indeed sharply reproved them, he might have threatened them, he might, in short, have cut off every hope of pardon; but he only required them to repent, and at the same time added a promise of free forgiveness. As then they had despised so great a favor, it follows that they must have been men of reprobate minds and of irreclaimable habits.
When they were bidden to repent of their evil way and of the wickedness of their doings, it was done for sake of amplifying; for the Prophet wished to take away from them every pretense for evasion, lest they should ask what was the wickedness or what was the evil way. He then intimates that they were fully proved guilty; and for this purpose he made the repetition. By way is designated a continued course of life; but as they had fully shewed themselves perverse in many ways, he refers to their fruits, as though he had said, that they in vain contended with God, by inquiring what had been their evil way, for their whole life sufficiently testified that they were wholly given to wickedness.
Now there is a striking alliteration in the verbs wbç and wbçw: the verb wbç, shebu, means sometimes to rebel, it means to return to the right way, and it means to rest or dwell in. He uses the same verb, though the sense is different when he says, “Return ye,” and “ye shall dwell.” fE124
He also emphatically uses the word çya, aish “every one:” it means properly “man;” but it is taken in Hebrew for every one or each one, “each one from his evil way.” The Prophet exempted none, lest they thought that their fault was extenuated, had not the evil been universal. He hence says, that every one was given to wickedness; as though he had said, that impiety not only prevailed among the whole people, as the case commonly is, but that every one had become corrupt, so that there was not one sound or upright among the whole people.
And this is what ought to be observed; for we are wont, in a cold manner, to confess our sins, and to pray to God when we are proved guilty, except when each one is touched with the sense of his own guilt, and owns himself to be justly exposed to God’s judgment; for while every one mingles with the multitude, it so happens that no one acknowledges the heinousness of his own sins. Therefore, for true and sincere repentance this peculiar examination is necessary, so that every one may repent and not regard his friends.
When he says, Dwell ye in the land, though it be the imperative mood, yet it is a promise, by which God declared that he was ready to receive the Jews into favor, provided they returned from the heart to him: he proposed to them, as a symbol of his paternal layout, the possession of the land; for that land was as it were the pledge of their adoption; and the Jews, while they dwelt there, might have felt assured that God was their Father. He adds, From age even to age; as though he had said, “I am prepared to do you good not only for one day, or for a short time, but also to shew you kindness from age to age. It will then be your fault if ye be not happy, and if this happiness will not pass on from you to your children and grandchildren.” But the more delightful the invitation was, the more detestable became the impiety of the people, as it will be stated hereafter. He now adds, —

JEREMIAH 25:6
6. And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands, and I will do you no hurt.
6. Et ne ambuletis post deos alienos ad serviendum ipsis, et ad incurvandum coram ipsis (id est, ad eos adorandos,) et ne provocetis me in opere manuum vestrarum, et non malefaciam vobis.

The Prophet mentions here one kind of sin; for though the Jews in many, and even in numberless ways kindled God’s wrath, yet they especially procured a heavy judgment for themselves by their superstitions. They indeed manifested their contempt of God by adultery, theft, and plunder, but in a way not so direct; for when they abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles, they thus shook off the yoke of God, as though they openly testified that he was no longer their God. And we know that nothing is so much valued and approved by God as a sincere attention to real piety; hence the Church is taught in the first table of the Law how he is to be worshipped. This is the reason why the Prophet especially reminds the Jews here that they had, in this respect, been rebellious against God, because he could not bring them back from their corrupt superstitions. He does not at the same time absolve them of other sins; but he mentions this one kind, in order that they might understand, that they were not only in part, but altogether rebellious against God; for they wholly departed from him when they vitiated his worship with wicked superstitions. We must then bear in mind, that the Jews were not condemned for some small offenses, but accused of the most heinous of sins; for they had become covenant-breakers and apostates, and had forsaken God himself and his law.
He says, Walk ye not after foreign gods to serve them and to worship them. He pointed out as by the finger, how gross had been their impiety; for they had given themselves up to idols, that they might basely serve them; they had wholly devoted themselves to them. It was not then an excusable error, but a manifest treachery. He adds, Provoke me not by the work of your hands. No doubt the Prophet meant by these words to confirm what has been already stated, that idolatry is before God an intolerable wickedness: and at the same time he shews, that they had not sinned through ignorance, for they had in time been reminded of the atrocity of this sin. As then they had not ceased from their superstitions, they were thus proved guilty of a diabolical madness, for they feared not to provoke God against them. And he says, by the work of your hands; and thus he speaks contemptuously or rather reproachfully of idols. They called them gods, not that they were ignorant that they were statues curiously made of wood and stone, or of some other material; but still they thought that divinity was connected with them, for they believed that God was thus rightly worshipped. Now, then, the Prophet calls them the work of hands, as though he had said, “If the Jews themselves are nothing, the idols are less than nothing; for they are only the work of hands.” And this way of speaking often occurs in the Prophets, by which God intended to shake off the stupidity of men, who were become quite senseless in their own devices; as though he had said, “Have you not a particle of a right understanding in you? do you not know, that this which ye worship is the work of your own hands? and what can your hands do? for what are ye yourselves?” We now perceive what the Prophet had in view in using these words.
There is, again; a promise given, I will not do you evil. God declares by these words that they would be exempt from all trouble and distress, if they continued to walk according to the rule of true religion; and thus he intimates that whatever evils they had already endured, and would have hereafter to endure, could not be imputed to anything but to their own perverseness, for God had of his own free-will promised to spare them, provided they departed from their wicked ways. And such a hope ought especially to encourage us to repent, for we see that God is ready to receive us and seeks reconciliation with us, and is always prepared to forgive all our sins, provided we from the heart return to him; and he seems as one unwilling to inflict punishment. Here again the impiety of the people is more fully proved, for they refused to receive from God this invaluable favor. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:7
7. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your hurt.
7. Et non audistis me, (non auscultastic mihi) dicit Jehova, ut provocaretis (hoc est, quia voluistis me irritare) in opere manuum vestrarum, in malum vobis.

He proves what he had said before, that the Jews had been wholly disobedient, though God had kindly offered and shewed that he would be reconciled to them, provided they turned from the heart to him. The fact that this message was not received by the Jews, was an evidence of extreme and irreclaimable obstinacy. And he enhances their guilt by saying, that ye might provoke me; for he intimates that they were led away to evil by a voluntary purpose, as though they wished to provoke God. The Prophet, then, by saying that ye might provoke me, accuses them of deliberate wickedness. It, indeed, often happens that men go astray through ignorance, and do not attend because no one warns them; but since God had so many times exhorted the Jews to repent, no other opinion could have been formed of them, but that they designedly wished, not only to despise God, but also to provoke him to the contest.
And this is what we ought carefully to notice, for whosoever has been taught the will of God, unless he obeys, he cannot escape the charge of a voluntary obstinacy, as he has resolved, as it were, to carry on war with God. Though the ungodly do not confess this, yet the fact is evident; and God, who is a righteous judge, has declared that they who despised the prophetic doctrine were so regarded.
And he says, for evil to you, in order that they might know that God did not plead his own cause because he stood in need of their service, but that he cared for their welfare. For there is to be understood here an implied contrast, as though the Prophet had said, “What loss has God suffered by your perverseness? Ye have, indeed, tried to deprive him of his glory, for ye have adorned your idols by spoils taken from him; but it is not in men’s power to subtract anything from the rights of God; he remains ever perfect: then it only turns out to your ruin when ye are rebellious. When, therefore, God now reproves you, he does not maintain his own right, as though he received any gain or loss from you; but it is an evidence of his mercy, because he would not have you to perish, though he sees that you are led into destruction by an insane impulse.” It afterwards follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:8-9
8. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, Because ye have not heard my words,
8. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Eo quod non audistis ad sermones meos (hoc est, non attenti fuistis ad sermones meos:)
9. Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
9. Ecce ego mittam et accipiam (vel, assumam) omnes cognationes (vel, familias) Aquilonis, dicit Jehova, et Nebuchadnezer regem Babylonis servum meum, et inducam eos in terram hanc et in habitatores ejus, et in omnes gentes istas in circuitu, et perdam eas, et ponam eas in stuporem et sibilum, et in vastitares seculi (id est, perpetuas.)

Here follows a denunciation of punishment; the Prophet says that God would no longer deal in words, for their iniquity had ripened, according to what is in Genesis,
“My Spirit shall not contend (or strive) any more with man.” (<010603>Genesis 6:3.)
When God prepares to execute vengeance on the wickedness of men, he says that there is no more time for contending. A sudden execution of judgment is then what is here intended; but he mentions at the same time the punishment. After having explained the cause of so much severity, even because they would not hear the words of God, he adds, Behold, I will send for and take all the families of the north, etc. I have no doubt but that the Prophet alludes to the edicts of kings, for when they wish to raise an army they publish their edicts, and order those everywhere to meet who have either given their names or been enlisted as soldiers. So God now by these words intimates that the Chaldeans were under his power, so that they were ready, as soon as he gave them a signal; according to other modes of speaking he uses in other places, but in the same sense, “I will hiss,” and also, “I will send an alarm.” The Scripture is full of expressions of this kind, which shew that all mortals are prepared to obey God whenever he intends to employ their services; not that it is their purpose to serve God, but that he by a secret influence so rules them and their tongues, their minds and hearts, their hands and their feet, that they are constrained, willing or unwilling, to do his will and pleasure. And in the same sense he calls Nebuchadnezzar his servant, for that cruel tyrant never meant to offer his service to God; but God employed him as his instrument, as though he had been hired by him. And we shall see also elsewhere that he is called God’s servant.
And it ought to be noticed, for we hence learn the fact, that many are God’s servants who are yet wholly unworthy of so honorable a title; but they are not so called with respect to themselves. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was making war with the God of Israel when he invaded Judea; and only ambition, and avarice, and cruelty impelled him to undertake so many wars. When, therefore, we think of him, of his designs and his projects, we cannot say that he was God’s servant; but this is to be referred to God only, who governs by his hidden and incomprehensible power both the devil and the ungodly, so that they execute, though unwittingly, whatever he determines. There is a great difference between these and God’s servants, who, when anything is commanded them, seek to render that obedience which they ought — all such are faithful servants. They are, then, justly called God’s servants, for there is a mutual concord between God and them: God commands, and they obey. But it is a mutilated and a half service when the ungodly are led beyond the purpose of their own minds, and God uses them as instruments when they think of and design another thing.
It must at the same time be noticed that this name of servant is given, though in an inferior sense, to Nebuchadnezzar for the sake of honor, in order that the Jews might be made ashamed; for it was a great reproach to them that a heathen had been chosen by God, and had obtained the title of a servant, when they themselves had become aliens. The Prophet then, no doubt, intended to cast reproach on them by raising to this dignity the king of Babylon. There was also another reason, even that the Jews might know that whatever they were to suffer would be inflicted by God’s hand, and that they might not otherwise think of Nebuchadnezzar than as God’s scourge, in order that they might thus be led to confess their sins and be really humbled. We now perceive the meaning of the words.
He says afterwards, I will bring them on this land and on all its inhabitants, etc. By these words he confirms what I have just referred to, that God had his vengeance ready as soon as he purposed to treat the Jews as they deserved. As he had then said that Nebuchadnezzar and all the people of the north were prepared by him as hired soldiers, so he now adds that victory was in his power — I will bring them, he says, over the land and over all the neighboring nations which are around. fE125 Why the Prophet denounces punishment here on other nations we shall see elsewhere. The Jews, in addition to other vain confidences, were wont to flatter themselves with this, that if Nebuchadnezzar should invade the territories of others, all would unite together against him, and that by such a confederacy they could easily overcome him. As, then, the Jews looked to all parts, and knew that the Egyptians were in alliance with them, and were also persuaded that the Moabites, the Tyrians, the Syrians, and all the rest would become confederates, they became confident, and indulged in that security by which they deceived themselves. This, therefore, is the reason why the Prophet expressly threatens the nations by which they were surrounded, not for the sake of these nations, but that the Jews might cease to entertain their vain confidence.
God says that he would make all nations, as well as the Jews, an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. He intimates that it would be a dreadful calamity, such as would astonish all that heard of it. As it is said elsewhere, “The report alone will excite alarm;” so in this place, I will make them for an astonishment. When a moderate calamity is related to us, we are indeed moved to pity; but when the greatness of the evil exceeds belief, we then stand amazed, and all our senses are stunned. The Prophet then means that the calamity which God would bring on the Jews would be, as it were, monstrous, such as would stupify all that would hear of it. fE126
At last he adds, that they would be for perpetual desolations. He does afterwards, indeed, mitigate the severity of these words; for he confines God’s vengeance to seventy years. But this mode of speaking is common in Scripture; for, µlw[, oulam stands opposed to a short time. It is to be taken in different senses, according to the circumstances of the passage. It sometimes designates perpetuity, as when the Prophet says, from age to age, that is, through continued ages, or through a course of years, which shall last perpetually. But age, or µlw[, oulam, is often to be taken for the time allotted to the people until the coming of Christ; and sometimes it means simply a long time, as here and in many other places. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:10
10. Moreover, I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle.
10. Et transire faciam (hoc est, auferam) ab ipsis vocem gaudii, et vocem laetitiae, vocem sponsi et vocem sponsae, vocem molarum (id est, strepitum molarum) et lumen lucernae.

He confirms here what I have just said, — that the Jews were not to be chastised in a common manner, but be exposed to extreme distress. For though all things may not be with us prosperous and according to our wishes, yet marriages may still be celebrated, and some hilarity may remain; we may yet eat and drink and enjoy the necessaries of life, though we may have no pleasures; but the Prophet shews here that such would be the devastation of the land, that there would be no thoughts about marriages, that all hilarity and joy would cease, that there would be no preparations of food, no grinding of corn, and that, in short, all feasts usually kept by the light of candles would be no more celebrated. Here, then, he describes to the life that devastation which had been before mentioned. fE127
The Prophet no doubt indirectly condemns that insensibility by which the devil had possessed the minds of the people; for though the prophets continually threatened them, yet there was no end to their exultations and no moderation in them, according to what is said by Isaiah, who complains of such wantonness, that they said, “Let us feast, tomorrow we shall die;” and who also says,
“I have called you to sackcloth and ashes, but ye went to the harp and to feastings.” (<232212>Isaiah 22:12, 13)
When, therefore, the Prophet speaks here of the voice of joy and gladness, of the noise of millstones, and of lamps, he doubtless upbraids them with their stupid security; for they feared nothing, and thought themselves safe even when God was shewing himself, as with an outstretched hand, to be their avenging judge. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:11
11. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
11. Et erit tota terra haec in vastitatem et in stuporem, et servient gentes hae regi Babylonis septuaginta annis.

Here the Prophet mentions the restriction of which I have spoken, and thus he mitigates the severity of their punishment. It is, then, a kind of correction; not that he changes anything, but only by this sort of correction he explains what he before meant by perpetual desolations.
He says, The whole land shall be a waste and an astonishment, or as some render it, “a desolation.” The word µmç, indeed, means to lay desolate, and also to astonish; but as he had lately used the word in the sense of astonishment, I see no reason for changing its meaning here, especially as it is connected with hbrj, charebe. But as to the drift of the passage, there is not much difference whether we say, the land shall be a desolation, or an astonishment; for it was to be a solitudereduced to a desolation or a wilderness. fE128
And serve shall these nations the king of Babylon seventy years, there the Prophet concludes his prophecy concerning the future calamity of the people, even that the land would be reduced to a solitude, so as to render every one passing through it astonished, or that it was to become a horrid spectacle on account of its desolation. And that a time of seventy years was fixed, it was a testimony of God’s paternal kindness towards his people, not indiscriminately towards the whole multitude, but towards the remnant of whom he had spoken elsewhere. Then the Prophet means, that however grievously the Jews had sinned, yet God would execute only a temporary punishment; for after seventy years, as we shall see, he would restore them to their own country, and repair what they had lost, even the inhabitation of the promised land, the holy city, and the Temple. And this is more fully expressed in the next verse.

JEREMIAH 25:12
12. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylonem, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
12. Et erit cum impleti fuerint septuaginta anni, visitabo super regem Babylonis et super populum ejus, dicit Jehova, iniquitatem ipsorum, et super terram Chaldaorum, et ponam eam in desolationes saeculi (id est, perpetuas.)

The Prophet now, as I have said, shews more clearly why the time of the captivity and exile had been defined, even that the faithful might know that God would not forget his covenant, though he deprived the people of the inheritance of the land. These words were not addressed indiscriminately to the whole body of the people, as we have observed before in other places; but the Prophet intended to consult the benefit of God’s elect, who always retained a concern for true religion; for they must have a hundred times despaired had not this promise been added. This, then, was a special doctrine intended as food for God’s children; for he addressed, as it was apart, the elect and faithful only.
God says also, that at the end of seventy years he would visit the iniquity of the king of Babylon, and of his whole people. We hence learn that Nebuchadnezzar was not called God’s servant because he deserved anything for his service, but because God led him while he was himself unconscious, or not thinking of any such thing, to do a service which neither he nor his subjects understood to be for God. Though, then, the Lord employs the ungodly in executing his judgments, yet their guilt is not on this account lessened; they are still exposed to God’s judgment. And these two things well agree together, — that the devil and all the ungodly serve God, though not of their own accord, but whenever he draws them by his hidden power, and that they are still justly punished, even when they have served God; for though they perform his work, yet not because they are commanded to do so. They are therefore justly liable to punishment, according to what the Prophet teaches us here.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we see everywhere evidences of thy wrath, and as our own conscience convinces every one of us, so that we are constrained to confess that we are all, from the highest to the lowest, guilty before thee, — O grant that we may in due time return to the right way, and seek to be reconciled to thee, and never doubt but that thou wilt be merciful and gracious to us, whenever we solicit pardon in the name of thy only-begotten Son; and may we also be so reconciled to thee, that we may know that thou art indeed with us as our Father, by ruling us by thy Spirit, so that thy name may to the end be glorified, through our Lord Jesus Christ. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-FIFTH
We explained in the last Lecture the verse in which God declared that he would punish the king of Babylon and his people for their cruelty towards the Israelites. We said that this was addressed peculiarly to the elect, for many of the people perished without the hope of salvation. But God intended in the meantime to shew his care for the remnant; and for this reason he defined the time of exile, and predicted that he would be an enemy to the Babylonians, for he would undertake the cause of his people.
One thing I did not explain, that is, what the Prophet says of eternal reproaches. Now, it seems that this was not fulfilled; for though after seventy years Babylon was taken and was reduced to a state of subjection, yet the city itself remained safe, and for many ages was celebrated for its great splendor. The Prophet, then, seems to have exceeded the limits of truth in speaking of these desolations; for such did not take place when the city was taken by the Medes and Persians. But, as we have said elsewhere, we ought not to restrict to one time what is said in many places by the prophets respecting the destruction of Babylon; for it pleased God, in various ways and at different times, to execute his vengeance on that people; and it appears evident from history that it would have been better for the Babylonians to have perished at once than to have undergone so many calamities. For in a short time after the people revolted from the Persians, the city was recovered by the contrivance and craft of Zopyrus; the nobles were then reduced into slavery, so that no dignity remained. It was afterwards taken by Alexander; and after that Seleucus obtained possession of it. On its ruins were then built the city Ctesiphon, and at length it gradually decayed. But no change occurred without a great diminution of the city’s opulence; and nothing more disgraceful could have happened to it than for those who were in authority to be taken and hung on gibbets, as Zenophon and other historians relate.
We now, then, see how this passage, and others like it, are to be understood; for God does not speak only of one time of vengeance, but he includes all those judgments by which he vindicated the wrongs done to his people. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:13
13. And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations.
13. Et adducam super terram illam omnes sermones meos quod loquutus sum super eam, quicquid scriptum est in libro hoc, quod prophetavit Jeremias super omnes gentes (vel in quo prophetavit, si placeat referre ad librum.)

He confirms what he had said before when he says, that he would bring all his words on the Chaldeans; that is, that he would give effect to all the prophecies, so that it would be evident that Jeremiah had foretold nothing rashly, and that God had not in vain threatened them by the mouth of his servant. Such is the meaning, and hence we see what the Prophet intimates when he says, that God would bring all his words, for he had then spoken. But as the ungodly regard whatever is brought forward in God’s name as a matter of sport and mockery, and boldly deride all threatenings, to bring words means the same thing with proving by events that God does not terrify men without accomplishing his words; in short, to bring words is to prove their authority. And, as I have said, the expression has a reference to the insensibility of men who give no credit to God’s words until they are convinced by their accomplishment; for they think that the air only is beaten, and thus they are not touched by any fear. But God proves the power of his word when he executes what he has predicted.
We then see that the Prophet intends nothing else in this verse than to confirm what he had said before. And he speaks of Chaldea and says, upon that land.
And we must at the same time notice another form of speaking; for God says, that he had pronounced these words; he afterwards says, that Jeremiah was his minister, and as it were his herald; and he calls him also a scribe or a writer. God then here declares that he was the author of all that Jeremiah had brought forward; and yet he leaves his own office to his minister, for it is necessary to secure authority to the prophets; otherwise, except God visibly descended from heaven, men would either indiscriminately admit what might be said, and without judgment receive falsehood and truth, or they would become wholly hardened, so as to give no credit to prophetic instruction. He says, whatsoever is written in this book. The Prophet no doubt wrote down a summary of what he had delivered; for as we have said elsewhere, it was usual with the prophets, after they had spoken at large to the people and preached diffusely, to affix a short summary to the doors of the Temple. This volume then is what Jeremiah calls the book, which was composed from his public addresses. It might in common language be called a summary. Then he adds, in what, or, “what he prophesied,” fE129 in order to shew that he meant what he had before said; and so it might be rendered, that is, what he prophesied; but the other exposition is not unsuitable, in which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:14
14. For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.
14. Quia fecerunt in illis (vel, quia coegerunt eos) in servitutem etiam ipsi, gentes multae (vel, robustae, vel, validae) et reges magni; et rependam illis secundum actionem suam et seceundum opus manuum ipsorum.

The beginning of the verse is obscure. When the verb db[, obed, is followed by b, beth, they think that it is to be taken actively, and rendered, to force or drive to bondage. It means properly, to serve; but they think that found as here it is a transitive verb. Some render it, “they employed them;” but this is frigid and ambiguous; for friends may be said to employ one another, when the work is mutual; hence the meaning is not sufficiently expressed. But the meaning may be given by a paraphrase, that they “forced them into bondage.” Still the meaning of the Prophet is not yet sufficiently clear; for wdb[, obedu, may be taken either in the past or future tense. It is, indeed, in the past tense; but the past may be taken for the future: thus the meaning may be different. If it be taken in the past tense, then it cannot be applied except to the Babylonians; for they were those who had treated the Israelites as slaves, or had forced them into bondage; and µb, bem, “them,” might be understood of the Israelites; for we know that pronouns are often thus used, when the Church, or God’s elect people, is the subject. Then the Prophet’s words may be thus rendered, “for they have tyrannically ruled over them,” even the Israelites, “and they themselves,” that is, the Israelites, shall in their turn rule, the latter words being understood. But the meaning, as it seems to me, would be more simple, were we to read the whole together in this way, “For they also themselves shall rule over them, even over strong and valiant nations and great kings, and I will recompense them,” etc.
The reason which has constrained me to give this interpretation is this: It is said in the last verse that Jeremiah prophesied against all nations; then follows an explanation, and the Prophet briefly shews, or reminds us, what would be the issue of these prophecies, even that they also would themselves rule over these nations. Then µb, bem, as I think, refers to the Babylonians and other heathen nations; and it is a common thing with the prophets, when they speak of the restoration of the ancient Church, and of Christ’s coming, to promise power to God’s children to hold the whole world under their feet. The sentence also will flow better, when we give this version, “They shall rule.” There is, indeed, a change as to time, but this is a common thing in Hebrew. It is then; For they shall rule over them, that is, the nations. Jeremiah had spoken of all heathen nations; mention had been made of all that he had prophesied against all nations; and he says now what seemed incredible, and hence the particle µg, gam, is introduced, “even these very Israelites,” as though he had said, “Though this shall happen beyond hope, so as to appear strange and fabulous, yet God by the issue will shew that he has not in vain communicated this to me; for they, even the Israelites, shall have their turn to exercise dominion; and they shall constrain all nations to obey them.” And what follows confirms my view; for he adds, over strong nations, µybr µywg, guim rebim, (for the b, beth, may be repeated here;) or we may render the words “many nations;” for the word µybr, rebim, means both; but as it follows “and great kings,” I am disposed to render the words, “strong nations.” Then he says, “For they shall rule over strong nations and great kings.” fE130
He then subjoins, I will recompense them, that is, both kings and nations, according to their doing, and according to the work of their hands, because they had exercised every kind of cruelty towards the miserable Israelites. Hence the Prophet pursues the same subject, — that God would at length really shew, that though he had been angry with his Church, yet all hope of mercy was not lost, for he was mindful of his covenant. He thus mitigates the severity of what he had previously said; he promises them something far better than what the wretched Jews could have expected in their extreme calamities.
We may again learn from the words of the Prophet, that God so employed Nebuchadnezzar and others, that they performed no service deserving of praise; for had they been without fault, God must doubtless have unjustly punished them. This passage then teaches us, that though the devil and the reprobate execute God’s judgments, they yet deserve no praise for their obedience, for they have no such purpose in view. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:15
15. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me, Take the wine-cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it.
15. Quia sic dixit Jehova Deus Israel ad me, Sume calicem vini furoris (vel, iracundiae) Sume calicem vini furoris (vel, iracundiae) hujus e manu mea, et propina illum cunctis gentibus, ad quas ego mittam to ad eas (sed hoc secundum redundat.)

Jeremiah now explains more at large what might on account of its brevity have appeared obscure. He had spoken of all nations, but his discourse was abrupt; for he had not yet openly told us that he had been sent by God as a herald to summon all kings and nations before his tribunal, and to declare what was to be. As, then, the Prophet had referred to nothing of this kind, his discourse was ambiguous. But he now declares that a cup from God’s hand had been delivered to him, which he was to give to all nations to drink. We hence see that there is here nothing new, but that the Prophet is, as it were, the interpreter of his previous prophecy, which was briefly stated.
Moreover, that what he said might have more weight, he relates a vision, Thus said Jehovah the God of Israel unto me, Take the cup of the wine of this fury from my hand. fE131 We have said in other places that the fulfillment of prophetic truth was not without reason dwelt upon, and that the servants of God were so armed, as though the execution of all that they alleged was ready at hand. They were said to demolish cities and to overthrow kingdoms even for this reason, because such was the torpidity of men, that they gave no credit to God, except they were brought to see the event as it were before their eyes. But as this subject has been handled more fully elsewhere, I shall only touch upon it here. He then says, that a cup had been delivered to him by God’s hand; by which words he intimates, that he did not come forth of his own will to terrify the Jews and other nations, but that he faithfully proclaimed what had been committed to him; and he also intimates, that God spoke nothing now but what he meant shortly to execute; and this is what is to be understood by the word cup.
He calls it the cup of the wine of fury, or of wrath. This metaphor often occurs in the prophets, but in a different sense. For God is said sometimes to inebriate men when he stupifies them, and drives them at one time to madness, and at another time deprives them of common sense and understanding, so that they become like beasts; but he is said also to inebriate them, when, by outward calamities, he fills them with astonishment. So now the Prophet calls calamity the cup of wrath, even that calamity, which like fire was to inflame the minds of all those who received no benefit from chastisements. Madness, indeed, means no other thing than the despair of those who perceive God’s hand stretched out against them, and thus rage and clamor, and curse heaven and earth, themselves and God. This is what we are to understand by wrath. He compares this wrath to wine, because they who are thus smitten by God’s hand are carried away as it were beyond themselves, and repent not, nor think of their sins with calmness of mind, but abandon themselves to a furious rage. We now then understand why the Prophet says, that the cup of the wine of wrath had been given to him.
Then he adds, An, make all the nations to whom I send thee fE132 to drink it. Here, again, he confirms what I lately referred to, that his office was farther extended than to teach in the middle of the Church, but that he had also been chosen to proclaim as a herald God’s judgments on all nations. He was, indeed, sent to the Jews otherwise than to heathen nations, for he was set over them as a teacher, and that for their salvation, provided they were not irreclaimable; but he was sent to the heathens expressly to threaten them with what was nigh at hand. He was, however, sent both to the Jews and to all other nations, as he will hereafter more distinctly shew in due order.
We now see the design and object of what is here said; — to add authority to his last prophecy, Jeremiah, in the first place, sets forth the vision which had been presented to him; and then he testifies that he brought nothing of his own, but only obeyed God and faithfully performed his commands; and thirdly, he intimates that he was not only appointed a teacher in the Church of God, but was also a witness of his vengeance on all nations. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:16
16. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them.
16. Et bibant et moveantur et insaniant (ad verbum legendum esset, bibent et inebriabuntur; est enim ubique, w conversivum; sed potius resolvi debet copula in particulum finalem, ut bibent et inebrientur et insaniant) a facie gladii, quem ego mitto in medio ipsorum (inter ipsos.)

Here the Prophet more fully shews what we have before stated, that they were not vain terrors when he denounced God’s judgments on all nations, for we call those threatenings childish which are not accomplished. But the Prophet here declares that however obstinately the Jews and others might resist, they could not possibly escape God’s vengeance, as he was the judge of all. Hence the Prophet is bidden to take a cup and to give it to others. But the Jews might have still objected and said, “We may, indeed, take the cup from thine hand, but what if we refuse? what if we cast away from us what thou givest us to drink?” Hence the Prophet says that, willing or unwilling, they were to take the cup, that they might drink and exhaust whatever was destined for them by God’s judgment; he therefore says that they may drink.
He then adds, that they may be incensed and become distracted. fE133 These two words refer, no doubt, to the grievousness of their punishment; for he intimates that they would become, as it were, destitute of mind and reason. When God kindly chastises us, and with paternal moderation, we are then able with resignation to submit to him and to flee to his mercy; but when we make a clamor and are driven almost to madness, we then shew that an extreme rigor is felt, and that there is no hope of pardon. The Prophet, then, intended to express, that so atrocious would be the calamities of the nations with whom God was angry, that they would become stupified and almost insane; and at the same time frantic, for despair would lay hold on their minds and hearts, that they would not be able to entertain any hope of deliverance, or to submit to God, but that they would, as it is usual with the reprobate, rise up against God and vomit forth their blasphemies.
He says, because of the sword that I will send among them. It appears from the word µtnyb, bintem, “among them,” that there would be mutual conflicts, that they would destroy one another. God, then, would send his sword; but he would extend it now to the Chaldeans, then to the Egyptians; now to the Assyrians, then to other nations, so that with the same sword they would contend one with another, until at last it would prove a ruin to them all. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:17
17. Then took I the cup at the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the Lord had sent me:
17. Et sumpsi calicem e manu Jehovae, et propinavi cunctis gentibus ad quas misit me Jehova ad eas (sed iterum supervacuum est hoec repetitio:)

The Prophet now adds that he obeyed God’s command; for he had before often testified that he was constrained to perform his office, which he would have willingly not have done, if he was at liberty. But as he was bound to obey the divine call, it was evident that it was not his fault, and that he was unjustly charged by the people as the author of the evils denounced. We indeed know that the prophets incurred much ill-will and reproach from the refractory and the despisers of God, as though all their calamities were to be imputed to them. Jeremiah then says, that he took the cup and gave it to drink to all the nations: he intimates that he had no desire to do this, but that necessity was laid on him to perform his office. He then shews who these nations were, —

JEREMIAH 25:18
18. To wit, Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, and the kings thereof, and the princes thereof, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse; (as it is this day;)
18. Jerosolymae et urbibus Jehudah, et regibus ejus, et principibus ejus, ad ponendum eos in vastitatem (vel, solitudinem,) in stuporem, in sibulum, et maledictionem, sicut dies haec;

He begins with Jerusalem, as it is said elsewhere that judgment would begin at God’s house. (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.) And there is nothing opposed to this in the context of the passage; for though he had promised to the children of God a happy end to the evils which they were shortly to endure, he nevertheless enumerates here all the nations on whom God had bidden him to denounce judgments. In this catalogue the Church obtains the first place; for though God be the judge of the whole world, he yet justly begins with his own Church, and that especially for two reasons — for as the father of a family watches over his children and servants, and if there be anything wrong, his solicitude is particularly manifested; so God, as he dwells in his Church, cannot do otherwise than chastise it for its faults; — and then, we know that they are less excusable, who, having been taught the will of God, do yet go on indulging their own lusts, (<421247>Luke 12:47; ) for they cannot plead ignorance. Hence is fulfilled what Christ declares, that those servants shall be more grievously beaten, who, knowing their masters will, yet obstinately disregard it. There is, then, a twofold fault in the members of the Church; and no comparison can be made between them and the unbelieving who are in thick darkness. Since God shines in his Church and shews the way, as Moses says,
“Behold I set before you the way of life and of death; I therefore call heaven and earth to witness that there is no excuse for you. (<053015>Deuteronomy 30:15, 19.)
This, then, is the second reason why God first visits the sins of the faithful, or of those who are counted faithful.
There is also what appertains to an example: God chastises his own children lest he should seem by his indulgence to favor or countenance what is wicked and sinful. But this third reason is in a manner accidental; and therefore I wished to state it apart from the two other reasons. When, therefore, God so severely treats his own Church, the unbelieving ought to draw this conclusion, that if this be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (<422331>Luke 23:31.)
But the two things which I have before mentioned ought to be deemed by us as sufficient reasons why God, while suspending his vengeance as to the reprobate, punishes the elect as well as all those who profess themselves to be members of his Church. We now understand why Jeremiah mentions first the holy city, and then all the cities of Judah, the kings also and the princes; for God had with open bosom invited them to himself, but they had, as it were, from determined wickedness, provoked his wrath by despising both his Law and his Prophets.
He afterwards adds, to make them a waste, or a solitude. This was a grievous denunciation, no doubt, and we shall hereafter see that most became enraged against the holy man, and in their fury endeavored to destroy him; yet he with all intrepid mind fully declared what God had commanded him. He adds, an astonishment, and in the third place, an hissing, even that they would become detestable to all; for hissing intimates contempt, reproach, and detestation. In the fourth place he mentions a curse. We have already said what the Prophet meant by this word, even that the Jews would become in this respect a proverb, so that when one cursed another, he would use this form, “May God destroy thee as he destroyed the Jews.”
It is then added, as at this day. The Prophet refers, no doubt, to the time of the city’s destruction. God had indeed even then begun to consume the people; but we shall hereafter see that the minds of the greater part were still very haughty: so that they often raised their crests and looked for a new state of things, and depended on aid from the Egyptians. But the Prophet here mentions what was not yet completed, and as it were by the finger, points out the day as having already come in which the city was to be destroyed and the temple burnt up. This, then, refers to the certainty of what he predicted. Some think that it was written after Jeremiah had been led into exile; but this conjecture has nothing to support it. fE134 It seems to me enough to suppose that his object was to rouse the Jews from their security, and to shew that in a short time all that he predicted would be accomplished, and that they were no more to doubt of this than if the calamity was now before their eyes. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:19
19. Pharaoh king of Egypt, and his servants, and his princes, and all his people;
19. Pharaoni (pendit enim a superiori versu quod propinaverit calicem Pharaoni,) regi Egyptio, servis ejus et principibus ejus et toti ejus populo;

It may here be asked, why he connects Pharaoh with the Jews, and assigns the second place to the Egyptians rather than to other nations? The reason is evident, — because the Jews expected deliverance from them; and the cause of their irreclaimable obstinacy was, that they could not be removed from that false confidence by which the devil had once fascinated them. They departed from God by making the Egyptians their friends; and when they found themselves unequal to the Assyrians, they turned their hopes to the Egyptians rather than to God; the prophets remonstrated with them, but with no success.
As, then, the occasion of ruin to the chosen people was Egypt, and as Pharaoh was, as it were, the fountain and cause of destruction to Jerusalem, as well as to the whole people, rightly does the Prophet, after having spoken of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, immediately mention Pharaoh in the second place; for he was a friend to the Jews, and they were so connected together that they were necessarily drawn together into destruction; for they had corrupted one another, and encouraged one another in impiety, and with united minds and confederate hearts kindled God’s wrath against themselves. fE135 The Prophet, then, could not have spoken of the Jews by themselves, but was under the necessity of connecting the Egyptians with them, for the state of both people was the same.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not to abuse thy paternal kindness, that when thou sparest us for a time, it is made by us the occasion of more audacity and liberty in sin, — O grant that we may be so subdued by thy scourges as to return without delay to thee, and to seek reconciliation with thee through the blood of thine only-begotten Son, and also to be so displeased with our vices, that we may from the heart submit to thee, so as to be governed by thy Holy Spirit, until, having been cleansed from all our filth, we shall come to that blessed glory which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, and which has been obtained for us by the blood of the same, thy Son Jesus Christ. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-SIXTH
JEREMIAH 25:20
20. And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod,
20. Et promiscuae multitudini, et cunctis regibus terrae Uz, et cunctis regibus terrae Philistim et Ascalon et Gazae et Echron, et reliquiis Azoth,

Jeremiah, after having spoken of his own nation and of the Egyptians, now mentions other nations who were probably known by report to the Jews; for we see in the catalogue some who were afar off. He then does not only speak of neighboring nations, but also of others. His object, in short, was to shew that God’s vengeance was near, which would extend here and there, so as to include the whole world known to the Jews.
We stated yesterday the reason why he connected the Egyptians with the Jews; but now nothing certain can be assigned as a reason with regard to each of these nations; only it may be said in general, that the Jews were thus reminded, not only to acknowledge God’s judgment towards them as an evidence of his wrath, but also to extend their thoughts farther and to consider all the calamities, which would happen to nations far as well as nigh, in the same light, so that they might know that human events revolve, not by chance, but that God is a righteous judge, and that he sits in heaven to chastise men for their sins.
It is a common proverb, that it is a solace to the miserable to see many like them; but the Prophet had something very different in view; for it was not his object to alleviate the grief of his people by shewing that no nations would be free from calamities; but his intention was to shew them in due time that whatever happened would proceed from God; for if it had not been predicted that the Chaldeans would have the whole of the east under their dominion, it would have been commonly said, that the world was under the rule of blind fortune, and thus men would have become more and more hardened in their impiety; for it becomes the cause of obstinacy, when men imagine that all things happen by chance. And for this reason God severely reproves those who acknowledge not that he sends wars, famine, and pestilence, and that nothing adverse takes place except through his judgment. Hence the Jews were to learn before the time, that when God afflicted them and other nations, they might know that it had been predicted, and that therefore God was the author of these calamities, and that they might also examine themselves so as to acknowledge their sins; for they who dream that the world as to its evils is governed at random by fortune, do not perceive that God is displeased with them; and so they regard not what they suffer as a just punishment.
Many indeed confess God as the inflicter of punishment, and yet they complain against him. But these two things ought to be remembered, — that no adversity happens fortuitously, but that God is the author of all those things which men regard as evils, — and that he is so, because he is a righteous judge; which is the second thing. God then in claiming for himself the disposal of all events, and in declaring that the world is governed at his will, not only declares that the chief power and the supreme government is in his hand, but goes farther and shews, that things happening prosperously are evidences of his goodness and justice, and that calamities prove that he cannot endure the sins of men, but must punish them. To set forth this was the Prophet’s design.
He says that God threatened all the promiscuous multitude. fE136 The word br[, means a swarm of bees; and it means also any sort of mixture; and hence, when Moses said that many went up with the people, he used. this word. (<021238>Exodus 12:38.) Nehemiah also says that he separated such mixtures from the people of God, lest they who had become degenerated, should corrupt true religion. (<161303>Nehemiah 13:3.) That the Church, then, might remain true and faithful, he says that he took away br[, oreb, or this mixture. Now as to this passage, I have no doubt but that the Prophet speaks thus generally of the common people; and I extend this name to all the kingdoms, of which he will hereafter speak. He then adds, And all the kings of the land of Uz. We know that this was an eastern land. I know not why Jerome rendered it “Ausitis,” and not as in the Book of Job, for the same word is found there, (<180102>Job 1:2) and we find that Job was born in the eastern part of the world, for he was plundered by his neighbors, who were men of the east. Some think that it was Armenia; but it could hardly be a country so far off, for Cilicia was, with regard to Judea, in the middle between them. I, then, rather think that Uz was directly east to Judea.
He adds, And all the kings of the land of the Philistines. Whether Palestine had then many kings is uncertain; it seems indeed probable; but what seems doubtful to me, I leave as such. It is no objection that he mentions all the kings, since he afterwards speaks of all the kings of Tyre and Sidon, though neither Tyre nor Sidon had many kings; for they were only two cities. There is then no doubt, but that the Prophet in speaking of all the kings of the land, meant that though they succeeded one another, it was yet decreed in heaven, that all these nations should perish. He therefore intended to obviate every doubt; for the prophecy was not immediately fulfilled; but the nations, of whom he now speaks, retained for a time their state, so that the Prophet might have appeared false in his predictions. Hence he distinctly mentions all the kings, so that the faithful might suspend their judgment until the appointed time of God’s vengeance came.
He afterwards mentions Ashkelon; which was not a maritime city, though not far from the sea. Then he adds hz[, oze, which we call Gaza, for the Greek translators have so rendered it. But what the Greek and Latin writers have thought, that it was called Gaza, because Cyrus deposited there his treasures while carrying on war here and there, is wholly absurd; and it was a frivolous conjecture which occurred to their minds, because Gaza means a treasure, and the Greek translators rendered Oze, Gaza; but it was entertained without much thought. The situation of the city is well known. He then mentions Ekron, a neighboring city, not far from Azotus, which is also named. The Prophet says Ashdod, which the Greeks have rendered Azotus, and the Latins have followed them. We hence see that the Prophet refers to that part of the country which was towards Syria.
But it may be asked, why he names the remnant of Ashdod? Some think that he refers to neighboring towns, not so much known, as Gath, which is elsewhere named, but less celebrated. But this exposition seems to me forced and absurd. The probability is, that Ashdod had been conquered, but that owing to its advantageous locality it was not wholly forsaken. For tyraç, sharit, means what is left or remains after a slaughter. What remained then in Ashdod, he delivered up to God’s sword, that it might be destroyed. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:21
21. Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon,
21. Edom et Moab et filiis Ammon,
The same words are ever to be repeated, that Jeremiah made all these nations to drink the cup. He mentions the Idumeans, the posterity of Esau, and also the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, as also were the Ammonites. There was a relationship between these three nations and the Israelites; hence the Prophet seems designedly to have connected these three nations together. He adds —

JEREMIAH 25:22
22. And all the kings of Tyrus, and all the kings of Zidon, and the kings of the isles which are beyond the sea,
22. Et omnibus regibus Tyri et omnibus regibus Sidonis, et omnibus regibus insulae, quae est (vel, qui sunt; nam verbum nullum ponitur; potest igitur hoc tam ad reges ipsos quam ad insulam referri; qui sunt ergo) ultra mare,

As to the word Island, the number is to be changed; for the Prophet means not one island, but the countries beyond the sea. Some restrict the reference to Cyprus, Crete, Mitylene, and other islands in the Mediterranean; but it is a common way of speaking in Hebrew, to call all countries beyond the sea islands.
“The kings of the islands shall come.” (<197210>Psalm 72:10.)
The Prophet in that passage calls those the kings of the islands who would come in ships to Judea. So also in this place we may understand by the kings of the islands all those who were beyond the sea.
We now see that kings of one age only are not those summoned to God’s tribunal; for why does the Prophet mention all the kings of Tyre and all the kings of Sidon? Was it possible for these two cities to have four or two kings at the same time? But we must bear in mind what I have already stated, — that the children of God were warned, lest they should entertain a too fervid expectation as to the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is then the same as if he had said, “Though God’s vengeance may not come upon the present king of Tyre or of Sidon, it is yet suspended over all kings, and shall be manifested in its time.” fE137 Tyre and Sidon, we know, were cities of Phoenicia, and very celebrated; and Tyre had many colonies afar off, among which the principal was Carthage; and the Carthaginians offered honorable presents to it every year, in order to shew that they were its descendants. And Tyre itself was a colony of Sidon, according to historians; but it so prospered, that the daughter as it were swallowed up the mother. But it appears evident that there were kings there in the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah, though in the time of Alexander both cities were republics; for many changes during that period had taken place in them. Now the Prophet says only, that Tyre and Sidon would be involved in the punishment which he denounced on both kings and people. It follows —

JEREMIAH 25:23
23. Dedan, and Tema, and Buz, and all that are in the utmost corners,
23. Et Dedan et Thema et Buz, et cunctis terminatis in angulo (alii vertunt, atonsos coma, sicut etiam 9:Cap; sed illic de hac voce dixi quantum ferebat locus,)

I shall now only touch briefly on the extreme ones in a corner, or those bounded by a corner, who were almost unknown to the Jews on account of their distance. fE138 After having spoken of nations so very remote, that he might not by prolixity be tedious, he mentions all the extreme ones in a corner, that is, those who were bounded by the farthest limits. As to Dedan, Tema, and Buz, we know that these countries derived their names from their founders. Who Dedan was, we learn from Moses, and also who Tema and Buz were. (<012503>Genesis 25:3,15; <130514>1 Chronicles 5:14.) Two of them were descendants of Abraham by Keturah. fE139 There is no need of saying more of these countries, for they are not known by us at this day, and we cannot learn from geographers the extent of any of these countries; for there was hardly a place at the time when heathen writers began their records, which had not long before changed its name. We however conclude that these were eastern countries. It follows —

JEREMIAH 25:24
24. And all the kings of Arabia, and all the kings of the mingled people that dwell in the desert,
24. Et omnibus regibus Arabiae, et omnibus regibus (vertunt iterum) Arabiae (sed mihi non placet, neque unquam mihi persuadebunt interpretes, qui tamen in hoc consentiunt, repieti proprium Arabiae nomen; cunctos reges, potius vertam, promiscui vulgi, vel, gentium hinc inde collectarum) qui habitant in deserto,

The Prophet now mentions the kings of Arabia, who were neighbors on one side to the Jews. He has hitherto mentioned nations towards the sea; he has named many maritime towns, and also others which were at some distance from the sea, and yet were not remote; for they were towns and countries intermediate between Judea and Syria or Cilicia, or verging towards Cilicia. He now speaks of Arabia, which was between Egypt and Babylon. And though Arabia was divided into three parts; it was however sterile where it bordered on Judea; it might therefore be said to be a desert.
But the Prophet, in the first place, mentions the kings of Arabia, and then the miscellaneous kings, as we may call them, that is, those who ruled in desert regions and were hardly of any repute; we, indeed, know that they were petty robbers; and these Arabs were sometimes called Schenites, because they dwelt in tents. I therefore consider that these, by way of contempt, were called kings of the promiscuous multitude, who excelled not in dignity nor in wealth; and hence the Prophet adds, that they dwelt in the desert, being a wandering people. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:25
25. And all the kings of Zimri, and all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes,
25. Et omnibus regibus Zimri, et omnibus regibus Elam, et omnibus regibus Medorum,

He now mentions nations more remote, but whose fame was more known among the Jews. We, indeed, know that the Elamites, who dwelt between Media and Persia, had ever been people of great repute. As to Media, it was a very large kingdom and wealthy, abounding in all delicacies; and we also know how fond of display were the Medes. With regard to Zimri, fE140 it was an obscure nation in comparison with the Elamites and the Medes. The Prophet, however, intimates that every part of the earth, even the smallest kingdom, known to the Jews, would be visited by God’s judgment, so that the whole earth, in every direction, would become a witness that God sits in heaven as a judge. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:26
26. And all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another, and all the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth: and the king of Sheshath shall drink after them.
26. Et omnibus regibus Aquilonis tam iis ui propinqui sunt quam qui remoti, viro (hoc est, cuique) contra fratrem suum, et omnibus regnis terrae, quae sunt super faciem terrae (mutatur quidem nomen, ponit ≈rah, ponit hmdaj: et rex Sesach bibet post eos.

The Prophet speaks now of the kings of the north who bordered on the king of Babylon; for as to Judea, Babylon was northward. He calls all those who were towards Chaldea the kings of the north. He then says, Whether near or remote, every one shall be against his brother, and, in short, all the kingdoms of the earth on the face of the earth. There is no doubt, as we shall see, but that the Prophet put in the last place the Chaldeans and their king. It is hence probable that what he here predicts was to be accomplished by the hand and power of the king of Babylon, who executed God’s vengeance on all these nations. God, then, chose for himself the king of Chaldea as a scourge, and guided him by his hand in punishing all the lands mentioned here.
I have already reminded you that this was not predicted for the sake of the Jews, that they might derive any alleviation to their grief from the circumstance of having associates, because the condition of others was nothing better; but that God’s design was another, that is, that in so great a confusion of all things, when heaven and earth, as they say, were blended together, they might know that nothing happens through the blind will of fortune. For God had already testified by the mouth of his servant what he would do, and from this prophecy it was easy to conclude that all these changes and violent commotions were the effects of God’s judgment.
The Prophet, after having shewn that the most grievous calamities were nigh all the nations who were neighbors to the Jews, and whose fame had reached them, says, in the last place, that the king of Sheshach would drink after them. Hitherto the Prophet seems to have exempted the king of Babylon from all trouble and danger; for he has mentioned all the nations, and has spoken not only of those who were nigh the Jews, but also of the Persians, the Medes, and others. What, then, could have been the design of all this, if the king of Babylon had been passed by? It might have been asked, how can it be right and consistent that this tyrant should escape punishment, though he was of all the most cruel and the most wicked? Hence the Prophet now says, that the king of Babylon, how much soever his violence prevailed among all nations, and raged unpunished, would yet in his time be brought to a reckoning. The meaning then is, that God would defer the punishment of the Chaldeans until he employed them in destroying all the nations of which Jeremiah has hitherto spoken.
Respecting the king of Babylon being called the king of Sheshach, a question has been raised, and some think that some unknown king is intended; for we know that the word is a proper name, as it appears from some passages of Scripture. (<111140>1 Kings 11:40; <141202>2 Chronicles 12:2.) But this opinion is not well founded; for the Prophet no doubt speaks here of some remarkable king; and there is also no doubt but that he reminded them of some most important event, so that there was no reason why delay should depress the minds of the faithful, though they saw that this Sheshach was not immediately punished with the rest. Others conjecture that Sheshach was a renowned city in Chaldea. But there is no necessity for us to adopt such light and frivolous conjectures. I have no doubt but that the opinion which the Chaldee paraphraser has followed is the true one, that is, that Sheshach was Babylon. For the sort of alphabet which the Jews at this day call çbta, atbash, is no new invention; it appears from Jerome it had been long known; he, indeed, derived from great antiquity the practice, so to speak, of counting the letters backwards. They put, the last letter, t, in the place of a, the first, and then ç in the place of b, and k being in the middle of the letters was put for l; and so they called Babel Sheshach. fE141 And to designate Babylon by an obscure name was suitable to the design of the Prophet. But every doubt is removed by another passage in this Prophet,
“How is Sheshach demolished! how fallen is the glory (or praise) of the whole earth! how overthrown is Babylon!”
(<245140>Jeremiah 51:40.)
There, no doubt, the Prophet explains himself; there is therefore no need to seek any other interpretation. It is a common thing, as we know, with the prophets to repeat the same thing in other words; as he had mentioned Sheshach in the first clause, to prevent any doubt he afterwards mentioned Babylon.
But here a question arises; why did not the Prophet openly and plainly denounce ruin on the king as well as on the Chaldean nation? Many think that this was done prudently, that he might not create an ill-will towards his own people; and Jerome brings forward a passage from Paul, but absurdly, where he says,
“Until a defection shall come,” (<530203>2 Thessalonians 2:3)
but he did not understand that passage, for he thought that Paul spoke of the Roman empire. One error brings another; he supposed that Paul was cautious that he might not excite the fury of the Roman Emperor against the Church; but it was no such thing. Now, they who reject the opinion, which is the most correct, that Sheshach was Babylon, make use of this argument, — that the Prophet was not afraid to speak of Babylon, because he had declared openly of it what he had to say, as we have already seen in other places, and as it will appear more clearly hereafter. But I do not allow that the Prophet was afraid to speak of Babylon, for we find that he boldly obeyed God, so that he stood firm, as we may say, in the midst of many deaths; but I think that he concealed the name for another reason, even that the Jews might know that they had no cause to be in a hurry, though the punishment of Babylon had been predicted, for the prophecy was, as it were, buried, inasmuch as the Prophet withheld the very name of Babylon. It was not, then, his purpose to provide for the peace of the Church, nor was he afraid of the Chaldeans, lest he should kindle their fury against God’s people; he had no such thing in view, but wished rather to restrain too much haste.
And this appears from the context; Drink, he says, shall the king of Sheshath after them; that is, all these nations must drink before God shall touch the king of Babylon. He will not, then, be an idle spectator of all these calamities, but his severity will proceed through all lands until it reaches its summit; and then, he says, this king shall drink after the rest. Now, it might have seemed a poor consolation that God would for so long a time spare the king of Babylon; but all God’s children ought nevertheless to have acquiesced in the admonition given them, that though they were to bear in mind that each of these nations were to be punished by God’s hand, they were yet to believe that the king of Babylon would have his turn, and that they therefore were to restrain themselves, and not to be carried away by too hasty a desire to look for his punishment, but patiently to bear the yoke of tyranny laid on them, until the seasonable time came of which they had been reminded. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:27
27. Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.
27. Et dices ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Bibite et inebriamini, vomite et cadite, et ne surgatis a facie gladii, quem ego mitto inter vos.

Here the Prophet returns to his former discourse. He had said that a cup was extended to him by God’s hand, that he might give it to all nations to drink. He now repeats and confirms the same thing, not indeed that he brought this message to all the nations; for we have said the benefit arising from these predictions belonged only to the Jews. Neither the Tyrians nor the Sidonians ever knew that they were punished by God’s hand when they were plundered by their enemies; this never came to their minds, nor had this been ever taught them. The Prophet had not been appointed their teacher; but his duty was only to warn his own nation.
However, the Prophet, that his predictions might have greater authority, is here introduced as God’s herald, denouncing ruin on all nations, Thou shalt therefore say to them, Thus saith Jehovah, etc. The true God was unknown to these heathens, except they had heard that God was worshipped in Judea; but at the same time they despised, yea, hated true religion. But, as I have already said, the Prophet addressed his own people, the Jews alone, though he spoke of aliens and distant nations. I cannot advance further now.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since there are before our eyes so many evidences of thy judgments and of thy goodness, we may advance in the fear of thy name, and not go on to kindle thy wrath more against us, but that, being touched with true repentance, we may seek to be reconciled to thee, and that, commiserating the many evils, by which the world is at this day afflicted, we may also strive to restore those to the right way who seem to give themselves up to their own ruin, so that by converting those to thee who are now far away and aliens, thy name may be more glorified and proclaimed by us with one consent, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-SEVENTH
We began yesterday to explain the verse in which Jeremiah bids all nations to drink of the cup until they were drunken. Of the metaphor of the cup an explanation has already been given: the reason is, because God in his infinite wisdom knew what every one deserved, or how just it was to chastise at one time in a lighter, and at another time in a heavier degree. As then the measure is not the same, the similitude of a cup is most suitable. Further, God sometimes gives a cup to drink, that he who cannot bear a heavier punishment may only taste it. For we know that God deals more severely with the strong and the obstinate: but when any one is weak, he is treated more gently, and is made only to sip or to taste of the cup.
But the Prophet says here that they were to drink until they became drunken, according to what is said in another place, when the heathens are spoken of, “They shall even exhaust the yew dregs.” And God makes men drunken, as I have said before, even when he blinds them and gives them the spirit of giddiness or stupor. (<310126>Obadiah 26.) But the word drunkenness refers to external chastisements. Drink ye, then, and be drunken; that is, “think ye not that you have suffered all, when God begins to punish you and has given you one draught only; but the Lord will make you thoroughly drunken.” And hence he adds, Vomit ye and fall; for they who indulge in excess and fill themselves, so that they almost burst, must necessarily disgorge themselves. And vomiting disorders the brain, so that the feet can no longer perform their office, and no part of the body retains its power. The meaning then is, that as God had for a long time deferred his judgment, and all nations had hardened themselves when his long-suffering invited them to repentance, the most dreadful vengeance was now nigh them all, a vengeance which would compensate for the delay or the length of endurance.
Some interpreters hence conclude, that the punishment of all the nations of whom the Prophet now speaks, would be of no avail to them: but this seems not to me to be well founded. For he has spoken of the chosen people; and it is certain that some of them repented, however small the number was, and we shall also see that pardon and salvation are promised even to the heathens, after the execution of God’s judgments. I therefore thus simply interpret these words, — that they should not only taste of the cup, but also drink to excess, so as to become like drunken men, wholly stupified, because the heaviness of their punishment would deprive them of reason. In no way more solid is the reason given by Jerome, when he says that the Prophet’s discourse refers to the reprobate, because he subjoins, And rise no more. Jerome thought, that by this expression extreme despair is intimated. But the Prophet, in my judgment, meant nothing else than that God’s vengeance on all the nations would be so great that vestiges of it would remain after a length of time; as the case is with a drunkard, who cannot get rid of the effects of his excess in a night or in a day, but he remains stupid for some time, or becomes frantic. This is what the Prophet means when he says, and they shall rise no more. fE142
It now follows, On account of the sword which I send among you. He now expresses without a figure what he had said of drunkenness and vomiting, even that so great a horror would seize their minds, that they would lie down wholly stupified. But God declares that he would send a sword against them, that the Jews might understand, as it has been already stated, that when all things would be in a state of almost entire confusion, yet God’s judgment would be within the limits of moderation. It now follows —

JEREMIAH 25:28
28. And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to endure drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Ye shall certainly drink.
28. Et erit, si rennerint ad sumendum (hoc est, sumere) calicem e manu tua ad bibendum, tunc dices ad eos (copula enim debetg resolvi in adverbium temporis,) Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Bibendo bibetis.

In this verse the Prophet intimates, that however refractory the nations might be, yet they could effect no good by their obstinacy, for willing or unwilling they would be constrained to drink of the cup. But in order to render the matter more striking, he introduces them as refusing; If they refuse to take the cup, thou shalt say to them, says God, Drinking ye shall drink. We have before said that the Prophet was not set a teacher over the heathens: hence what he declares here appertained not to aliens; but the whole benefit belonged to God’s Church. Therefore what is said was spoken for God’s people, even that they might know that as God had determined to punish the wickedness of men, none of all those threatened with judgment could possibly escape. Men indeed are often like unruly horses, who kick and are ferocious, and rage against their rider, and also bite; but the Prophet shews that God possesses a power sufficient to quell such obstinacy. He however reminds us how rebellious most would be, nay, almost all, when chastised by God’s hand. It is indeed a rare instance when he who has sinned, willingly and calmly submits to God, and owns that he is justly punished: nay, they who confess that they have deserved some heavy punishment, do yet complain against God; for they dread his vengeance, and apprehend not his mercy, and promise not to themselves any pardon. There is then no wonder that the Prophet ascribes here to wicked men, both Jews and aliens, so hard and rebellious a spirit, that they would resist God, and try to extricate themselves from his hand, in short, that they would by all means attempt to escape his judgment.
This is the reason why he says, If they refuse to take the cup from thy hand. We hence see that we are not to take the words in their literal sense: for the Prophet did not speak to aliens, but what he had in view was the event itself, or rather the disposition of the people. These nations had indeed some power, and doubtless they strenuously defended their own safety; and this was the act of refusing intended by the Prophet. For when the enemy attacked the Moabites, they did not immediately yield; and the same was the case with others. Tyre was almost unassailable, for it was situated in the sea; where it was easy to prevent the approach of enemies. As then they had resolutely opposed their enemies, they are said to have refused the cup from God’s hand, for they thought that they could keep off the coming evil. But however inconquerable they thought themselves to be, and how much soever they trusted in their own power, yet God says, that their efforts would be in vain and useless: drinking, he says, ye shall drink. fE143 The reason follows —

JEREMIAH 25:29
29. For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly punished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts.
29. Quia ecce in urbe in qua invocatum nomen meum super eam, ego incipio ad malefaciendum (ad malum inferendum,) et vos inoxii eritis? Non eritis innoxii; quia gladium ego advoco super incolas terrae, dicit Jehova exercituum.

A proof is added by comparing the less and the greater; for the Prophet reasons thus, — “If God spares not the city in which he has chosen a temple for himself, and designed his name to be invoked, how can he spare aliens to whom he has never made any promise, as he regarded them as strangers? If then the green tree is consumed, how can the dry remain safe?” This is the import of the passage. The Apostle uses the same argument in other words; for after having said that judgment would begin at God’s house, he immediately shews how dreadful that vengeance of God was to be which awaited his open enemies! (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.)
We may hence gather a useful doctrine. Since God not only declares that he will be indiscriminately the avenger of wickedness, but also summons in the first place his Church which he has chosen before his tribunal, its condition may seem to be worse than that of alien nations. Hence the minds of the godly, when they view things in this light, might be much depressed. It seems a singular favor of God, that he unites us to himself; but yet this honor seems only to lead to punishment: for God connives at the wickedness of heathens, and seems to bury them in oblivion; but as soon as we fall into sin, we perceive signs of his wrath. It would then be better to be at a distance from him, and that he should not be so solicitous in his care for us. Thus the faithful view the unbelieving as in a better state than themselves. But this doctrine mitigates all the sharpness of that grief, which might otherwise occasion great bitterness. For when it is represented to us, that God begins at his Church, that he may more heavily punish the unbelieving after having long endured them, and that they may thus be far more grievously dealt with than the faithful, as the dry tree is much sooner consumed than the green, — when therefore this is set before us, we have doubtless a ground for comfort, and that not small nor common.
We hence see why Jeremiah added this, — that how much soever the nations would resist God, they would yet be constrained, willing or unwilling, to yield, as God was more powerful than they; and for this reason, that since God would not spare his chosen people, the heathens could by no means escape unpunished, and not find him to be the judge of the world. Let then this truth be remembered by us, whenever our flesh leads us to complain or to be impatient; for it is better for us that God should begin with us, as at length the wicked shall in their turn be destroyed, and that we should endure temporal evils, that God may at length raise us up to the enjoyment of his paternal favor. And for this reason Paul also says, that it is a demonstration of the just judgment of God when the faithful are exposed to many evils. (<530104>2 Thessalonians 1:4, 5.): For, when God chastises his own children, of whose obedience he yet approves, do we not see as in a glass what is yet concealed? even the dreadful punishment that awaits all the unbelieving. God, then, represents to us at this day the destruction of his enemies by the paternal chastisements with which he visits us; and they are a certain proof or a lively exhibition of that judgment which the unbelieving fear not, but thoughtlessly deride.
Now, he says, Behold I begin to bring evil, etc. The verb [rh, ero, means properly to do evil; and it would be a strange thing to say that God does evil, were it not that common usage explains the meaning. They who are in any measure acquainted with Scripture know that calamities are called evils, that is, according to the perceptions of men. The Lord then is said to bring evil on men, not because he injures them or deals unjustly and cruelly with them, but because what is adverse to men’s minds is thought to be by them, and is called evil. Then he says, I begin to do evil in the city on which my name is called. fE144 God’s name is called on a people, when he promises to be their guardian and defender, and his name is said to be called upon men, when they betake themselves to his guardianship and protection.
But we must notice the real meaning, — that God’s name is called on a people, when they are deemed to be under his guardianship and keeping; as God’s name is called on the children of Abraham, because he had promised to be their God; and they boasted that they were his peculiar people, even on account of their adoption. So God’s name was called on Jerusalem, because there was the Temple and the altar; and as God called it his rest or habitation, his name was there well known, according to what we say in French, Se reclamer, il se reclame d’un tel, that is, such an one claims this or that as his patron, so that he shelters himself under his protection. So also the Jews formerly called on God’s name, when they said that they had been chosen to be his people: nay, this may also be applied to men; for the name of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham was called on the twelve tribes, even for this reason, — because they regarded, when seeking to rely on God’s covenant, their own origin, for they had descended from the holy fathers, with whom God had made his covenant, and to whom he had promised that he would be ever their God. All the Israelites called on Abraham, not, that they offered him worship, but that, as they were his offspring, they might feel justly assured that the gratuitous covenant by which God had adopted them to himself, had been transmitted to them. But this calling may be also taken in another sense, even because they daily appeased God by sacrifices and prayers: when they committed their safety to God, there was a sacrifice always added, and reconciliation was also promised. Then to be called upon or invoked, arqn, nukora, may be taken in this sense, even that they knew that God was reconciled to them, when they from the heart repented. Since then God’s name was called upon in that city, how was it possible that the Gentiles should escape that judgment to which the holy city was of be exposed?
But the former view seems to me the best; and there is no doubt but that God speaks here to the free adoption by which he had chosen that people for himself: hence was the invocation or the glorying of which he now speaks.
But as it was difficult to make the Jews to believe what the Prophet had said, he dwells on the subject, and repeats what was before sufficiently clear. He not only says, Shall ye be treated as innocent? but he mentions the word twice, Shall ye by being treated as innocent be treated as innocent? fE145 And thus he rebuked the perverse contumacy by which the heathens were filled, while looking on their wealth, their number, and other things, and at the same time disregarding all that the prophets proclaimed at Jerusalem, as though it was nothing to them. The question is in itself emphatical, “Can ye by any means be treated as innocent?” The verb hqn, nuke, means to be innocent, but it is applied to punishment; as the word ˆw[, on, which means iniquity, is used to designate punishment. So he is said not to be innocent who cannot exempt himself from God’s judgment, nor be free from it.
He confirms this sentence when he says, For a sword am I calling for on all the inhabitants of the earth, saith Jehovah of hosts. This confirmation is by no means superfluous, for the insolence of the nations had increased through the forbearance of God, for they had for a long time, yea, for many ages, been in a quiet state, and had indulged themselves in their pleasures, and slept as it were in their own dregs, according to what is said elsewhere. The Prophet then says now, that God was calling for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth. For he had often and in various ways chastised his own people, while the Gentiles were not in any danger and free from troubles. (<244811>Jeremiah 48:11.) But he says now that he was calling for a sword to destroy all those whom he seemed to have forgiven.
But God is said to have called for men as well as for a sword; for Nebuchadnezzar is said to have fought under the banner of God; he is said to have been like a hired soldier. But God now speaks of the sword, that we might know that it is in his power to excite and to quell wars whenever it pleases him, and that thus the sword, though wielded by the hand of man, is not yet called forth by the will of man, but by the hidden power of God. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:30
30. Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth.
30. Et tu prophetabis ad eos (vel, contra eos) omnia verba haec, et dices illis, Jehova ab excelso rugiet, et ex habitaculo sanctitatis suae edet vocem suam; rugiendo rugiet super habitaculum suum; celeusma (clamorem potius generaliter) quasi prementium torcular respondebit super cunctos incolas terrae.

The word ddyh, eidad, is rendered celeusma, a shout; but some render it a mournful singing; and it often occurs when the vintage is spoken of. Celeusma, as it is well known, is the shout of sailors. Its etymology is indeed general in its meaning; for keleu>ein is to exhort, to encourage; and then the noun is exhortation. But as this word is only used as to sailors, I prefer to adopt the word sound, or a loud noise.
Then he says, Prophesy thou against them all these words, and say to them, etc. I have already reminded you that no command was given to the Prophet to go to the heathens and to address each nation among them, or, in other words, to perform among them his prophetic office. But though he did not move a foot from the city, yet the influence of his prophecy reached through every region of the earth. The preaching therefore of Jeremiah was not in vain, for the Jews understood by what happened, that there was in the language of the holy man the power of the Spirit for the salvation of all the godly, and for the destruction of all the unbelieving. It is, then, in this sense that God bids and commands him again to prophesy against all nations, and to speak to them, not that he actually addressed them; but when he taught the Jews, his doctrine had an influence on all nations.
And he says, Jehovah from on high shall roar, and from the habitation of his holiness shall send forth his voice. The metaphor of roaring is sufficiently common. It seems indeed unsuitable to apply it to God; but we know how tardy men are, and how they indulge themselves in their own insensibility, even when God threatens them. Hence God, adopting a hyperbolical mode of speaking, reproves their stupidity, as he cannot move them except he exceeds the limits of moderation. This then is the reason why he compares himself to a lion, not that we are to imagine that there is anything savage or cruel in him; but as I have said, men cannot be moved, except God puts on another character and comes forth as a lion, while yet he testifies not in vain elsewhere, that he is slow to wrath, inclined to mercy and long-suffering. (<198605>Psalm 86:5, 15.) Let us then know that the impious contempt, by which most men are fascinated, is thus condemned, when God does as it were in this manner transform himself, and is constrained to represent himself as a lion.
Roar, then, he says, shall Jehovah, from on high, and from the habitation of his holiness shall he send forth his voice. When he speaks of on high, it is probable that heaven is meant; and the habitation of his holiness is often taken for the sanctuary or the Temple; but in other places, when the same words are repeated, heaven is also meant by the habitation of his holiness. There is yet nothing unsuitable, if we say that the Prophet here refers to the Temple, and that he thus refers to it, that he might raise upwards the minds of the Jews, who had their thoughts fixed on the visible Temple: nay, this seems to be required by the context. They indeed foolishly thought that God was bound to them, because it had been said,
“Here is my rest for ever; here will my name and power dwell.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14)
They strangely thought that there was no God but he who was inclosed in that visible and external sanctuary. Hence was that pride which Isaiah reproves and severely condemns when he says,
“Where is the place for my rest? the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what place then will you build for me?” (<236601>Isaiah 66:1.)
The Prophet there does not merely speak, as many think, against superstition; but he rather beats down that foolish arrogance, because the people thought that God could never be separated from the material Temple. And yet it was not for nothing that the Temple had the name of being the royal throne of God, provided vices were removed. So now the Prophet, though he exalts God above the heavens, yet alludes to the visible sanctuary, when he says, “Roar shall Jehovah from on high, and from the habitation of his holiness shall he send forth his voice;” that is, though the Gentiles think that God sits and rests in a corner, yet his throne is in heaven: that he has chosen for himself a terrestrial habitation, is no reason why the government of the whole earth should not be in his hands; and therefore he manifests proofs of his vengeance towards all nations; but for the sake of his Church he will go forth as it were from his Temple: and he repeats again, Roaring he shall roar on his dwelling, or habitation. fE146 Jerome usually renders the last word ornament, beauty; and yet this passage sufficiently proves that it cannot mean any other thing than habitation, as well as many other passages.
He afterwards proceeds to another comparison, He will respond a shout, as those who tread the wine-press against all the inhabitants of the earth. This repetition and variety confirm what I have said, — that God hyperbolically set forth the vehemence of his voice in order to fill with terror the secure and the torpid. And the Prophet seems here to intimate, that though there would be none to cheer, yet God’s voice would be sufficiently powerful. For they who tread the wine-press mutually encourage one another by shouting; one calls on another, and thus they rouse themselves to diligence. There is also a mutual concord among sailors, when they give their shouts, as well as among the workmen who tread the grapes in the wine-press. But though God would have no one to rouse him, yet he himself would be sufficient; he will respond a shout. fE147 The Prophet might have used another word; but he says, he will respond — to whom? even to himself; that is, though all united to extinguish God’s vengeance, yet he will come forth a conqueror, nor will he have any need of help. It then follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:31
31. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations; he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord.
31. Pervenit (hoc est, perveniet) sonitus (vel, impetus) ad extremitatem terrae; quia lis Jehovae cum gentibus, judicium (id est, contentio, vel, disceptatio) ei contra omnem carnem: impios dabit (tradet) ipsos ad gladium, dicit Jehova.

He pursues the same subject; he says that there would be a dreadful assault, and that it would extend to the extreme parts of the earth. The word ˆwaç, shaun, means a noise or sound; but it is also taken for violence or assault; and either meaning would not be unsuitable here. The sound then, or assault, shall come to the extreme parts of the earth. It then follows, that God had a strife with all nations; and here the Prophet seems to obviate a question that might have been raised, “What does this mean? that God will suddenly raise a commotion, after having been quiet and still for so many ages, without giving any symptom of his vengeance?” For we have said that the nations here mentioned had been long in a tranquil state. Hence the Prophet answers this unexpressed objection and says, that God had a contention with them.
The time of contending is not always: he who does not immediately bring his adversary before the judge, but deals kindly with him, and seeks to obtain amicably from him what is right, does not thereby forego what is justly due to him; but when he finds that the contumacy of his adversary is such that his kind dealing effects nothing, he may then litigate with him. The same thing is now expressed by the Prophet, even that God would now contend with the nations and dispute with all flesh. God is indeed, properly speaking, the judge of the world; and there is no arbiter or a judge in heaven or on earth to be found before whom he can dispute; but yet this mode of speaking ought to be especially noticed; for God thus silences all those complaints which men are wont to make against him. Even they who are a hundred times proved guilty, yet complain against God when he severely punishes them, and they say that they are made to suffer more than they deserve. Hence God for this reason says, that when he punishes he does not exercise a tyrannical power, but that he does as it were dispute with sinners. At the same time he sets forth his own goodness by representing the end he has in view; for what he regards in rigidly punishing wickedness, is nothing else than to obtain his own rights; and as he cannot secure these by kind means, he extorts them as it were by the aid of laws. fE148
Let us then observe, that nothing is detracted from God’s power and authority, when it is said, that he disputes or contends with men; but that in this way all those clamors are checked which the ungodly raise against him, as though he raged immoderately against them, and also that thus the end of all punishment is pointed out, even that God condescends to assume the character of an opponent, and proposes nothing else than to require what is reasonable and just, like him who having a cause to try before the judge, would willingly agree beforehand, if possible, with his adversary; but as he sees no hope, he has recourse to that remedy. So God contends with us; for except we were wholly irreclaimable, we might be restored to his favor; and reconciliation would be ready for us, were we only to allow him his rights.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou seekest continually in various ways to restore us to thyself, — O grant, that we may not by our untameable perverseness resist thy holy and kind admonitions, nor continue torpid in our drowsiness, but anxiously flee to thee, and so humbly solicit pardon, that we may thus shew that we really and habitually repent, so that thy name may in every way be glorified, until we shall come into thy celestial glory, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-EIGHTH
JEREMIAH 25:32
32. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
32. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Ecce malum egredietur a gente in gentem, et tempestas magna excitabitur a lateribus terrae.

Jeremiah goes on with the subject which we began to explain in the last Lecture. He had before prophesied of God’s judgments, which were nigh many nations, and which referred to almost all the countries near and known to the Jews, and to some that were afar off. The substance of what has been said is, — that God, who had long spared the wickedness of men, would now become an avenger, so that it might openly appear, that though he had deferred punishment, he would not allow the ungodly to escape, for they would in proper time and season be called to give an account.
To the same purpose is what he adds here, go forth shall evil from nation to nation. The explanation by some is, that one nation would make war on another, and that thus they would destroy themselves by mutual conflicts; and this meaning may be admitted. It seems, however, to me that the Prophet meant another thing, even that God’s vengeance would advance like a contagion through all lands. And according to this view he adds a metaphor, or the simile of a storm, or a tempest, or a whirlwind; for when a tempest arises, it confines not itself to one region, but spreads itself far and wide. So the Prophet now shews, that though God would not at one time punish all the nations, he would yet be eventually the judge of all, for he would pass far and wide like a storm. Thus, then, I interpret the passage, not that the nations would make war with one another, but that when God had executed his judgment on one nation, he would afterwards advance to another, so that he would make no end until he had completed what Jeremiah had foretold.
And this view appears still more evident from the second clause of the verse, for this cannot be explained of intestine wars, raised shall be a tempest from the sides of the earth. We hence see that the meaning is, that God would not be wearied after having begun to summon men to judgment, but would include the most remote, who thought themselves beyond the reach of danger. As when a tempest rises, it seems only to threaten a small portion of the country, but it soon spreads itself and covers the whole heavens; so also God says, that his vengeance would come from the sides of the earth, that is, from the remotest places, so that no distance would prevent the completion of what he had foretold by his servant.
But this may also be accommodated to our case; for whenever we see that this or that nation is afflicted by any calamity, we ought to remember this truth, that God seasonably warns us, that we may not abuse his patience, but anticipate him before his scourge passes from some side of the earth to us. In short, as soon as God manifests any sign of his wrath, it ought instantly to occur to us, that it may spread in a moment through all the extremities of the earth, so that no corner would be exempted. For if he makes known his power in the whirlwind or the storm, how will it be, when he makes a fuller and a nearer manifestation of his judgment, by stretching forth his hand as it were in a visible manner? This, then, is the import of this verse. It afterwards follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:33
33. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.
33. Et erunt interfecti Jehovae, in die illa ab extremitate terrae ad extremitatem terrae: non plangentur, et non colligentur, et non sepelientur; stercus in supereficie terrae erunt (id est, pro stercore.)

This verse explains what I have just said; and hence it also appears that the Prophet did not speak of mutual slaughters inflicted by one nation on another, but that he only declared that God’s wrath would spread like a storm so as to extend to all nations and lands. The Prophet no doubt continues the same subject; and we see why he says here, And the slain, of Jehovah shall be in that day, etc.; he calls our attention to God alone; he will speak otherwise hereafter, he does not set here before us the ministers of God’s vengeance, but God himself as acting by himself.
Hence he says, the slain of Jehovah; some read, “the wounded;” and llj, chelal, means to wound and to kill; but “the slain” is more suitable here. The slain then of Jehovah shall be from one extremity of the earth to the other; as though he had said, that God would not be satisfied with punishing three or four nations, but would shew himself the judge of all the countries of the earth.
Now this passage is worthy of special notice; for we often wonder why God connives at so many crimes committed by men, which none of us would tolerate. But if we consider how dreadful was the tempest of which the Prophet now speaks, we ought to know that God rests for a time, in order that the ungodly and the wicked might be the less excusable. It was at the same time doubtless a sad spectacle, when so many regions and provinces were unceasingly suffering various calamities, when one nation thought itself better off than its neighbors, but presently found itself more cruelly treated. And yet this was generally the case, for God’s wrath extended to the extremities of the earth.
He amplifies the atrocity of the evil by mentioning three things,They shall not be lamented, nor gathered, nor buried; but they shall be as dung, and shall thus lie on the face of the earth. We have said in other places that lamentation does no good to the dead; but as it is what humanity requires, the want of it is rightly deemed a temporal punishment. So when any one is deprived of burial, it is certainly nothing to the dead if his body is not laid in a grave; for we know that God’s holy servants have often been either burnt or hung or exposed to wild beasts; and the whole Church complains that dead bodies were lying around Jerusalem and became food to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth. But these things do not disprove the fact, that burial is an evidence of God’s paternal kindness towards men. For why has he appointed that men should be buried rather than brute animals, except that he designed it to be an intimation of an immortal life? As, then, burial is a sign of God’s favor, it is no wonder that he often declares to the reprobate that their dead bodies would be cast away, so as not to be honored, with a grave.
But we must remember this truth, — that temporal punishments happen in common to God’s children and to aliens; God extends without any difference temporal punishments to his own children and to the unbelieving, and that in order that it may be made evident that our hope ought not to be fixed on this world. But however this may be, it is yet true that when God punishes the unbelieving in this way, he adds at the same time some remark by which it may be understood, that it happens not in vain nor undesignedly, that those are deprived of burial, who deserve that God should exterminate them from the earth, and that their memory should be obliterated, so that they should not be connected among men. But we have said also in another place, that such expressions admit of another meaning, which yet is not at variance with the former, but connected with it, and that is, that so great would be the slaughter, that none would be left to shew this kindness to his friend or to his neighbor or to his brother. For when four or ten or a hundred die, they may be buried; but when God slays by the sword a great number in one day, none are found to take care of burying the dead, as few remain alive, and even they dread their enemies. When therefore the prophets say that those whom God slew would be without lamentation and burial, they intimate that so great would be the number, that all would lie on the ground; for no one would dare to perform this humane act towards the dead, and were all to do their utmost, they would not be able, as the number would be so great.
Thus Jeremiah confirms what we have said, — that God’s vengeance would extend to all lands and all nations, so as to involve in ruin the nobles as well as the common people, and to leave remaining but a small number.
For the same purpose he adds what follows, that they would be as dung on the face of the earth. This is added by way of contempt. It was then hardly credible, that so many illustrious, wealthy, and powerful nations could thus in so short a time be destroyed. But the Prophet, in order to shake off this false conceit, says that they would become like dung, that however great their dignity and power, their wealth and strength, might be, they could not yet escape the hand of God, for he would reduce to nothing the glory of the whole world. We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. It then follows —

JEREMIAH 25:34
34. Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock: for the days of your slaughter and of your dispersions are accomplished; and ye shall fall like a pleasant vessel.
34. Ulalate pastores, et clamate, et volutate vos eximii gregis; quia impleti sunt dies vestri ad mactandum, et dispersiones vestrae (vel, afflictiones, confractiones;) et cadetis tanquam vas desiderii (id est, pretiosum.)

I doubt not but that the Prophet now turns his discourse especially to his own nation, which interpreters have not observed, and hence have not understood the meaning of the Prophet. He prophesied of God’s judgments, that the Jews might know that they in vain looked for impunity, as the Lord would not pardon the ignorant and destitute of all true knowledge, who might have pretended their ignorance as an excuse; and also that this comfort might support the minds of the godly, that the heathens, involved in the same guilt, would be subjected to the same judgment; and lastly, that knowing the difference between them and other nations, they might flee to God’s mercy and be encouraged to repent by entertaining a hope of pardon. After having then treated this general subject, he now returns to the people over whom he was appointed a teacher. He might indeed have declared from an eminence what was to take place through the whole earth; for so extensive was the office of a herald which God had conferred on him. He might then by the virtue of his office have denounced ruin on all nations; but he ought not to neglect his special care for the chosen people. And so I explain this passage; for he now again directs his discourse to the Jews.
Hence he says, Howl, ye pastors, and cry, etc. By pastors he means the king and his counsellors, the priests and other rulers; and by the choice of the flock he seems to understand the rich, whose condition was better than that of the common people. Some in a more refined manner consider the choice of the flock to have been those void of knowledge, unlike the scribes and priests and the king’s counsellors; but this view seems not to be well-founded. I therefore adopt what is more probable, — that the choice of the flock were those who were rich and high in public esteem, and yet held no office of authority in the commonwealth or in the Church. However this may be, the Prophet shews, that as soon as God began to put forth his hand to punish the Jews, there would be no ranks of men exempt from lamentation, for he would begin with the pastors and the choice of the flock.
He adds that their days were fulfilled. Here he indirectly condemns that wicked security which had for a long time hardened them, so that they despised all threatenings; for God had now for many years called on them, and had sent his Prophets one after another; when they saw the execution of judgment suspended over them, they considered it only as a bugbear, “Well, let the prophets continue to pronounce their terrors, if they will do so, but nothing will come of them.” Thus the ungodly turned God’s forbearance into an occasion for their obstinacy. As then this evil was common among the Jews, the Prophet now says, by way of anticipation, that their days were fulfilled. For there is to be understood this contrast, that God had spared them, not that he had his eyes closed, or that he had not observed their wicked deeds, but that he wished to give them time to repent; but when he saw that their wickedness was unhealable, he now says that their days were completed. And he adds, to be killed or slain. I wonder that learned interpreters render this, “that they may slay one another.” There is no need of adding anything, for the Prophet meant to express no such sentiment, nor to restrict what he denounces here on the Jews, to intestine or domestic wars; on the contrary, we know that they were slain by aliens, even by the Chaldeans. This sense then is forced, and is also inconsistent with history. It is added, and your dispersions fE149 also are fulfilled, or your breakings. The verb ≈wp, puts, means to scatter or to dissipate, and also to afflict, to tear; and the sense of tearing or breaking is what I prefer here. And he adds, And ye shall fall as a precious vessel. This simile appears not to be very appropriate, for why should he not rather compare them to an earthen vessel, which is of no value and easily broken? But his object was to point out the difference in their two conditions, that though God had honored them with singular privileges, yet all their excellency would not keep them safe; for it often happens that a vessel, however precious, is broken. And he speaks not of gold or silver vessels, but of fragile vessels, once in great esteem. That he might then more grievously wound them, he says that they had been hitherto precious vessels, or a precious vessel; for he speaks of them all in the singular number, and that they were to be broken; and thus he confirms what I said on the last verse, that hypocrites in vain trusted in their present fortune, or in the superior blessings of God, for he could turn to shame whatever glory he had conferred on them. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:35
35. And the shepherds shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape,
35. Et peribit fuga a pastoribus, et evasio ab eximiis gregis.

He explains what we have now observed, for he had bidden the pastors to howl and the choice of the flock to roll or to prostrate themselves in the dust; he now gives the reason, even because they could not preserve their lives, no, not by an ignominious flight. It is indeed very miserable, when any one cannot otherwise secure his life than by seeking exile, where he must be poor, and needy, and despised; but even this is denied by the Prophet to the king and his counsellors, as well as to the rich through the whole city and the whole land: Perish, he says, shall flight from them. This mode of speaking is common in Hebrew:
“Flight,” says David, “has perished from me,”
(<19E205>Psalm 142:5;)
that is, I find no way of escape. So here, Perish shall flight; that is, while looking here and there in order to escape from danger, they shall be so shut up on every side, that they shall necessarily fall a prey to their enemies. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:36
36. A voice of the cry of the shepherds, and an howling of the principal of the flock, shall be heard: for the Lord hath spoiled their pasture.
36. Vox clamoris pastorum et ululatus eximoirum gregis, quia perdidit jehova pascua eorum.

He not merely repeats the same thing in other words, but adds also something more grievous, that God would render desolate their pastures. He pursues the same metaphor; for as he used this comparison in speaking of the king’s counsellors and the priests, so now he does the same; and what he means by pastures is the community, the people, in the city and in the country; fE150 as though he had said, that they had hitherto ruled over that land which was rich and fertile, and in which they enjoyed power and dignity, but that now they would be deprived of all these benefits. He afterwards adds, —

JEREMIAH 25:37
37. And the peaceable habitations are cut down because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
37. Et peribunt (vel, succidentur, vertunt alii) pascua pacis (tuguria pacis, hos est, tranquilla) a facie excandescentiae (vel, furoris) irae Jehovae.

He goes on with the same subject, that the tents, previously tranquil, would perish or be destroyed. And he designedly calls their dwellings peaceable; for the Jews, having found that their enemies had not before disturbed them, still promised to themselves the same good fortune in future.
And the faithful indeed do act thus rightly, and justly conclude from God’s previous benefits that he will be kind to them as he had ever been so; but hypocrites, though they repent not, yet absurdly think that God is bound to them; and though they daily provoke his wrath, they yet securely continue in their confidence of having peace. Since God then had until that time deferred the grievousness of his wrath, the Prophet says, that though their tents had been peaceable, fE151 yet they could not be exempted from destruction as soon as the indignation of God’s wrath went forth. It might have been enough to make use of one of these words, either of ˆwrj, cherun, or of ãa, aph; but the Prophet used the two, indignation and wrath, fE152 in order that he might fill the wicked with more terror; for as they were obstinate in their wickedness, so they were not moved except God doubled his strokes and set forth the extremity of his wrath. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 25:38
38. He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion: for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger.
38. Dereliquit tanquam leo tabernaculum suum; quia redacta est terra eorum in vastitatem a facie irae oppressoris (aut, praedonis) et a facie excandescentiae irae ejus.

The Prophet in the last verse reminds us, that the Jews in vain trusted in God’s protection, for he would forsake his own Temple as well as the city. It was as it were a common saying among them,
“He has said, This is my rest for ever.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)
But hypocrites did not consider that he could still stand faithful to his promises, though he did not suffer them to go unpunished. They could not therefore connect these two things together, — that God would be always mindful of his covenant, — and that still he would be the judge of his Church.
This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that God would forsake as a lion his tabernacle. Some give this explanation, that he would go forth for a short time, as hungry lions are wont to do; but this is too far-fetched. I therefore have no doubt that God sets forth his power under the character of a lion; for the Jews would have been feared by all their enemies, had not God changed as it were his station. But as they had expelled him by their vices, so that he had no more an habitation among them, hence it was that they became exposed to the plunder of all nations. The import of the passage then is, that as long as God dwelt in the Temple he was like a lion, so that by his roaring alone he kept at a distance all nations and defended the children of Abraham; but that now, though he had not changed his nature, nor was there anything taken away or diminished as to his power, yet the Jews would not be safe, for he would forsake them. fE153
And the reason is added, which clearly confirms what has been said, For their land (he refers to the Jews) shall be desolate. But whence this desolation to Judea, except that it was deprived of God’s protection? For had God defended it, he could have repelled all enemies by a nod only. But as he had departed, hence it was that they found an easy access, and that the land was thus reduced to a waste.
It is added, on account of the indignation of the oppressor. Some render the last word “dove,” but not correctly. They yet have devised a refined meaning, that God is called a dove because of his kindness and meekness, though his wrath is excited, for he is forced to put on the character of another through the perverseness of men, when he sees that he can do nothing by his benevolence towards them. But this is a far-fetched speculation. The verb hny, inc, means to oppress, to take by force; and as it is most frequently taken in a bad sense, I prefer to apply it here to enemies rather than to God himself. There are many indeed who explain it of God, but I cannot embrace their view; for Jeremiah joins together two clauses, that God would forsake his Temple, as when a lion departs from his covert, and also that enemies would come and find the place naked and empty; in short, he intimates that they would be exposed to the will and plunder of their enemies, because they would be at that time destitute of God’s aid. And as he had before spoken of the indignation of God’s wrath, so now he ascribes the same to their enemies, and justly so, for they were to execute his judgments; what properly belongs to God is ascribed to them, because they were to be his ministers. fE154
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to gather us, so that we may be under thy protection and care, and to offer thyself to be our Shepherd, and even to exhibit thyself as such through thine only-begotten Son, — O grant, that we may willingly obey thee and hearken to the voice of that Shepherd whom thou hast set over us, so that we may be preserved to the end by thy goodness and power, and never wander from thee nor be carried away by our lusts, but so continue under the shadow of thy wings, that thou mayest be ever present with us and check our enemies, so that we may remain safe under thy protection throughout life, as well as in death, through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE NINETY-NINTH
CHAPTER 26

JEREMIAH 26:1-2
1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word from the Lord, saying,
1. Principio regni Joakim filii Josiae, regis Jehudah, fuit sermo hic a Jehova, dicendo,
2. Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, And speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word.
2. Sic dicit Jehova, Sta in atrio templi Jehovae, et loquere ad omnes urbes Jehudah (id est, omnes cives urbium Jehudah) quae veniunt ad orandum in templum Jehovae hos omnes sermones quas mandavero tibi ad loquendum ad ipsos (hoc est, loquaris ipsis;) ne diminuas verbum.

This chapter contains a remarkable history, to which a very useful doctrine is annexed, for Jeremiah speaks of repentance, which forms one of the main points of true religion, and he shews at the same time that the people were rejected by God, because they perversely despised all warnings, and could by no means be brought to a right mind. We shall find these two things in this chapter.
He says that this word came to him at the beginning of the reign, of Jehoiakim, of which king we have spoken in other places, where Jeremiah related other discourses delivered in his reign. We hence conclude that this book was not put together in a regular order, but that the chapters were collected, and from them the volume was formed.
The time, however, is not here repeated in vain, for we know that the miserable derive some hope from new events. When men have been long afflicted and well-nigh have rotted in their evils, they yet think, when a change takes place, that they shall be happy, and they promise themselves vain hopes. Such was probably the confidence of the people when Jehoiakim began to reign; for they might have thought that things would be restored by him to a better state. There is also another circumstance to be noticed; though their condition was nigh past hope, they yet hardened themselves against God, so that they obstinately resisted the prophets. It hence appears that the reprobate were become more and more exasperated by the scourges of God, and had never been truly and really humbled. This was the reason why Jeremiah, according to God’s command, spoke so sharply.
I pass by other things and come to the words, that the word of Jehovah came to him. He thus arrogated nothing to himself; but he testifies how necessary it was, especially among a people so refractory, that he should bring nothing of his own, but announce a truth that came from heaven. A general subject might be here handled, which is, that God alone is to be heard in the Church, and also that no one ought to assume to himself the name of a prophet or teacher, except he whom the Lord has formed and appointed, and to whom he has committed his message; but these things have been treated elsewhere and often and much at large; and I do not willingly dwell long on general subjects. It is then enough to bear in mind the purpose for which Jeremiah says that the word of Jehovah came to him, even that he might secure authority to himself; he does not boast of his own wisdom nor of anything human or earthly, but says only that he spoke what the Lord had commanded him.
He adds, Thus saith Jehovah, Stand in the court of the house (literally, but house means the Temple) of Jehovah. It was not allowed the people to enter into the Temple; hence the Prophet was bidden to abide in the court where he might be heard by all. He was, as we have seen, of the priestly order; but it would have been but of little avail to address the Levites. fE155 It was therefore necessary for him to go forth and to announce to the whole people the commands of God which are here recited; and he was to do this not only to the citizens of Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews; and this is expressly required, speak to all the cities of Judah; and then it is added, who come to worship in the Temple of Jehovah. God seems to have designedly anticipated the presumption of those who thought that wrong was done to them, when they were so severely reproved; “What! we have left our wives and children, and have come here to worship God; we have laid aside every attention to our private advantage, and have come here, though inconveniently; we might have lived quietly at home and enjoyed our blessings; we have incurred great expenses, undertaken a tedious journey, brought sacrifices, and denied ourselves as to our daily food, that God might be worshipped; and yet thou inveighest severely against us, and we hear nothing from thy mouth but terrors; is this right? Does God render such a reward to his servants?”
Thus then they might have contended with the Prophet; but he anticipates these objections, and allows what they might have pleaded, that they came to the Temple to offer sacrifices; but he intimates that another thing was required by God, and that they did not discharge their duties in coming to the Temple, except they faithfully obeyed God and his Law. We now see why the Prophet said, that he was sent to those who came up to Jerusalem to worship God. The deed itself could not indeed have been blamed; nay, it was highly worthy of praise, that they thus frequented the worship of God; but as the Jews regarded not the end for which God had commanded sacrifices to be offered to him, and also the end for which he had instituted all these external rites, it was necessary to remove this error in which they were involved.
Speak, he says, all the words which I have commanded thee to speak to them. The Prophet again confirms, that he was not the author of what he taught, but only a minister, who faithfully announced what God had committed to him; and so the people could not have objected to him by saying, that he brought forward his own devices, for he repelled such a calumny. The false prophets might have also alleged similar things; but Jeremiah had certain evidences as to his calling, that the Jews, by rejecting him, condemned themselves, for their own consciences fully convicted them. But from this passage, and from many like passages, we may draw this conclusion, — that no one, however he may excel in powers of mind, or knowledge, or wisdom, or station, ought to be attended to, except he proves that he is God’s minister.
He afterwards adds, Thou shalt not diminish a word. Some read, “Thou shall not restrain,” which is harsh. The verb, [rg, garo, properly means to be lessened and to be consumed. And Moses makes use of the same word in <051232>Deuteronomy 12:32, when he says,
“Thou shalt not add, nor diminish,”
in reference to the Law, in which the people were to acquiesce, without corrupting it with any human devices. To diminish then was to take away something from the word. fE156 But we ought to consider the reason why this was said to Jeremiah; it never entered the mind of the holy man to adulterate God’s word; but God here encourages him to confidence, so that he might boldly execute his commands. To diminish then something from the word, was to soften what appeared sharp, or to suppress what might have offended, or to express indirectly or coldly what could not produce effect without being forcibly expressed. There is then no doubt but that God anticipates here this evil, under which even faithful teachers in a great measure labor; for when they find the ears of men tender and delicate, they dare not vehemently to reprove, threaten, and condemn their vices. This is the reason why God added this, Diminish not a word; as though he had said, “Declare thou with closed eyes and with boldness whatever thou hast heard from my mouth, and disregard whatever may tend to lessen thy courage.”
We may now easily learn the use of this doctrine; the Prophet was not sent to profane men, who openly avowed their impiety, or lived in gross sins; but he was sent to the very worshippers of God, who highly regarded his external worship, and for this reason had left wives and children, came to the Temple and spared neither labor nor expense. As, then, he was sent to them, we must beware, lest we sleep in our vices and think that we have done our duty to God, when we have apparently given some evidences of piety; for except we really and sincerely obey God, all other things are esteemed of no value by him. It then follows —

JEREMIAH 26:3
3. If so he they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil which I purpose to do unto them, because of the evil of their doings.
3. Si forte audiant et convertantur quisque a via sua mala, et poeniteat me mali quod ego cogitans ad faciendum (id est, cogito facere) ipsis propter (a facie, ad verbum) malitiam actionurn ipsorum.

In this verse God briefly shows for what end he sent his Prophet. For it would not have been sufficient for him to announce what he taught, except it was known to have been the will of God. Here then God asserts that he would not be propitious to the people, except they complied with what he required, that is, to repent. Thus he testifies that what was taught would be useful to them, because it had reference to their safety; and a truth cannot be rendered more entitled to our love than when we know that it tends to promote our wellbeing. Therefore God, when he saw the people rushing headlong through blind despair into all kinds of impiety, designed to make the trial whether or not some of them were healable; as though he had said, “What are ye doing, ye miserable beings? It is not yet wholly over with you; only obey me, and the remedy for all your evils is ready at hand.” We now see what God’s design was, even that he wished to give those Jews the hope of mercy who were altogether irreclaimable, so that they might not reject what he taught on hearing that it would be for their good.
But we may hence gather a general doctrine; that when God is especially displeased with us, it is yet an evidence of his paternal kindness when he favors us with the prophetic teaching, for that will not be without its fruit, except it be through our own fault. But at the same time we are rendered more and more inexcusable, if we reject that medicine which would certainly give us life. Let us then understand that the Prophet says here, that he was sent that he might try whether the Jews would repent; for God was ready to receive them into favor.
By saying ylwa, auli, “if peradventure,” he made use of a common mode of speaking. God indeed has perfect knowledge of all events, nor had he any doubt respecting what would take place, when the prophets had discharged their duties; but what is pointed out here, and also condemned, is the obstinacy of the people; as though he had said, that it was indeed difficult to heal those who had grown putrid in their evils, yet he would try to do so. And thus God manifests his unspeakable goodness, that he does not wholly cast away men who are almost past remedy, and whose diseases seem to be unhealable. He also strengthens his Prophet; for he might from long experience have been led to think that all his labor would be in vain; therefore God adds this, that he might not cease to proceed in the course of his calling; for what seemed incredible might yet take place beyond his expectation. We now see why it was said, If so be that they will hear.
It is then added, and turn, etc. From the context we learn, that repentance as well as faith proceeds from the truth taught: for how is it that those alienated from God return, confess their sins, and change their character, minds, and purposes? It is the fruit of truth; not that truth in all cases is effectual, but he treats here of the elect: or were they all healable, yet God shews that the use and fruit of his truth is to turn men, as it is said also by the Prophet, (<390406>Malachi 4:6,) and repeated in the first chapter of Luke,
“He will turn many of the children of Israel.” (<420106>Luke 1:6.)
What follows is not without its weight, every one from his evil way; for God intimates that it was not enough that the whole people should ostensibly confess their sins, but that every one was required to examine himself: for when we seek God in a troop, and one follows another, it is often done with no right feeling. Repentance therefore is only true and genuine, when every one comes to search his own case; for its interior and hidden seat is in the heart. This is the reason why he says, If a man, that is, if every one turns from his evil way.
As to God’s repentance, of which mention is made, there is no need of long explanation. No change belongs to God; but when God is said to turn away his wrath, it is to be understood in a sense suitable to the comprehension of men: in the same way also we are to understand the words, that he repents. (<198505>Psalm 85:5; 110:4.) It is at the same time sufficiently evident what God means here, even that he is reconcilable, as soon as men truly turn to him: and thus we see that men cannot be called to repent, until God’s mercy is presented to them. Hence also it follows, that these two things, repentance and faith, are connected together, and that it is absurd and an impious sacrilege to separate them; for God cannot be feared except the sinner perceives that he will be propitious to him: for as long as we are apprehensive of God’s wrath, we dread his judgment; and thus we storm against him, and must necessarily be driven headlong into the lowest abyss, hence under the Papacy they speak not only foolishly, but also coldly of repentance; for they leave souls doubtful and perplexed, nay, they take away every kind of certainty. Let us then understand the reason why the Holy Spirit teaches us, that repentance cannot be rightly and profitably taught, unless it be added, that God will be propitious to miserable men whenever they turn to him.
With regard to the word I think, I have already said, that God forms no contrary purposes; but this refers to those men who deserved his dreadful vengeance; it is the same as though he had said, — “Their iniquity has already ripened; I am therefore now ready to take vengeance on them: nevertheless let them return to me, and they shall find me to be a Father. There is, then, no reason for them to despair, though I have already manifested tokens of my vengeance.” This is the meaning; but he repeats the reason of his wrath, On account of the wickedness of their doings; for we know that they were proud and obstinate; it was therefore necessary to close their mouths, otherwise they would have raised a clamor, and said, that God was unjustly angry, or that he exceeded all bounds. Whatever evils then were at hand, God briefly shews that they came from themselves, that the cause was their own wickedness, fE157 It follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:4-6
4. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord, If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you,
4. Dices ergo ad eos, Sic dicit Jehova, Si non audieritis me, ut ambuletis in lege mea, quam posui coram conspectu vestro,
5. To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened;
5. Ad audiendum sermonem (hoc est, ut audiatis sermones) servorum meorum prophetarum, quos ego mitto ad vos, et mane surgendo et mittendo, neque tamen audistis (hoc postremum lego parenthesin;)
6. Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.
6. Et (id est, tunc) ponam domum hanc (id est, templum) sicuti Silo, et urbem hanc ponam maledictionem cunctis gentibus terrae.

The Prophet now briefly includes what he had been teaching, what he had been commanded to declare to the people. No doubt he spoke to them more at large; but he deemed it enough to shew in a few words what had been committed to him. And the sum of it was, that except the Jews so hearkend as to walk in God’s Law, and were submissive to the prophets, final ruin was nigh the Temple and the city. This is the meaning: but it may be useful to consider every particular.
By these words, Except ye hearken to me, to walk in my law, God intimates, that he mainly requires obedience, and esteems nothing as much, according to what he says, that it is better than all sacrifices. (<091522>1 Samuel 15:22.) This subject was largely treated in the seventh chapter, where he said,
“Did I command your fathers when they came out of Egypt to offer sacrifices to me? this only I required, even to hear my voice.” (<240722>Jeremiah 7:22, 23)
We hence see, that the only way of living piously, justly, holily, and uprightly, is to allow ourselves to be ruled by the Lord. This is one thing. Then what follows is worthy of being noticed, To walk in my law. God here testifies that his will is not ambiguous or doubtful, for he has prescribed what is right in his law. Were God then to descend a hundred times from heaven, he would bring nothing but this message, that he has spoken what is necessary to be known, and that his Law is the most perfect wisdom. Had he said only, “Hear me,” men might have still evaded and avowed themselves ready to learn. God therefore does here silence hypocrites, and says that he required nothing else but to follow his Law. And for the same purpose he adds what follows, which I have set before you: for this kind of speaking intimates that the doctrine of the Law was by no means obscure or doubtful, as Moses said,
“I this day call heaven and earth to witness, that I have set life and death before your eyes.” (<053019>Deuteronomy 30:19)
And in another place he said,
“Say not, Who shall ascend above the clouds? or, Who shall descend into the abyss? or, Who shall pass beyond the sea? The word is in thy heart and in thy mouth,” (<053012>Deuteronomy 30:12-14; <451006>Romans 10:6-8)
as though he had said, “God has deprived you of every excuse, for there is no reason for doubting, since he has spoken so familiarly to you, and has explained everything necessary to be known.”
And hereby is confuted the impious blasphemy of the Papists, who impudently assert that not only the Law is obscure, but also the Gospel. And Paul also loudly declares, that the Gospel is not obscure except to those who perish, and who have a veil over their hearts, being visited with judicial blindness. But as to the Law, in which there is no such plainness as in the Gospel, we see what Jeremiah affirms here, that it was set before the eyes of all, that they might learn from it what pleased God, and what was just and right.
But what follows in the next verse ought to be especially observed; for these two things are necessarily connected, — that God required nothing but obedience to his Law, — and that his will was that his prophets should be heard, — To hearken, he says, to the words of my servants, the prophets, whom I send to you, (it is in the second person.) Here there seems to be some inconsistency; for if God’s Law was sufficient, why were the prophets to be heard? But these two things well agree together: the Law alone was to be attended to, and also the prophets, for they were its interpreters. For God sent not his prophets to correct the Law, to change anything in it, to add or to take away; as it was an unalterable decree, not to add to it nor to diminish from it. What then was the benefit of sending the prophets? even to make more manifest the Law, and to apply it to the circumstances of the people. As then the prophets devised no new doctrine, but were faithful interpreters of the Law, God joined, not without reason, these two things together, — that his Law was to be heard and also his prophets; for the majesty of the Law derogated nothing from the authority of the prophets; and as the prophets confirmed the Law, it could not have been that they took away anything from the Law.
Nay, this passage teaches us, that all those who repudiate the daily duty of learning, are profane men, and extinguish as far as they can the grace of the Spirit; many such fanatics among the Anabaptists have been in our time, who despised learning of every kind. They boasted that the doctrine of the Law was the Alphabet; and they also indulged in this dream, that wrong is done to the Holy Spirit when men attend to learning. And some dare, in a grosser manner, to vomit forth their blasphemies; they say that Scripture is enough for us, yea, even these two things, “Fear God and love thy neighbor.” But as I have already said, we must consider how God has spoken by his Law; whether he has closed up the way, so as not to explain his will more clearly by the prophets, nor to apply to present use what would have otherwise been less effectual? or that he purposed to draw continually by various channels the doctrine which flows from that fountain? But now, since God had given his own Law, and had added to the Law his prophets, every one who rejected the prophets must surely ascribe no authority to the Law. Even so now, they who think it not their duty at this day to seek knowledge in the school of Christ, and to avail themselves of the hearing of his word, no doubt despise God in their hearts, and set no value either on the Law, or on the prophets, or on the Gospel. Remarkable then is this passage; it shews that the Lord would have his Law to be our leader and teacher, and yet he adds his own prophets.
He says further, Whom I have sent to you, rising early and sending. Here he upbraids the Jews with their slowness and insensibility; for he roused them early, and that not once but often, and yet he spent his labor in vain. Rising early, when applied to God, means that he called these men in due time, as though he had said, that it was not his fault that the Jews had departed from the right way of safety, for he had been sedulously careful of their well-being, and had in due time warned them. We hence see how the Prophet condemned their tardiness and indifference, and then their hardness, by saying, and sending; for this intimates a repetition or assiduity. He had said before, “whom I sent to you, rising early;” now, when he says and sending, he means that he had not sent one prophet, or many at one time, but one after another continually, and that yet it had been without any benefit. The end of the verse I read in a parenthesis, (but ye have not hearkened.) Indeed what follows stands connected with the previous verses. fE158
Then will I make, etc.: the copulative is to be rendered here as an adverb of time. What had been just said, “but ye have not hearkened,” was by way of anticipation; for the Jews, swelling with great arrogance, might have immediately said, “Oh! what new thing dost thou bring? Except ye hearken to my voice, saith Jehovah, to walk in my Law, which I have set before you, as though all this were not well known even to children among us; and yet thou pretendest to be the herald of some extraordinary prophecy; certainly such boasting will be deemed puerile by all wise men.” Thus then they might have spoken, but the Prophet here briefly checks the insolence of such a foolish censure, but ye have not hearkened; as though he had said, that he had not been sent in vain to speak of a thing as it were new and unusual, because the Jews had corrupted the whole Law, had become disobedient, unteachable, and unbelieving, and had despised both the Law of God and his Prophets.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased not only to make known thy will once by the Law, but also to add more light by thy holy prophets, and further to give us perfect light by thy Gospel, and as thou invitest us daily to learn by means of those whom thou hast sent, — O grant, that we may not be deaf nor tardy to hear, but promptly submit ourselves to thee, and so suffer ourselves to be ruled by thy word, that through our whole life we may testify that thou art indeed our God, we being thy people, until we shall at length be gathered into that celestial kingdom, which thine only-begotten Son our Lord has purchased for us. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDREDTH
We could not yesterday finish the words of the Prophet, as time did not allow us to do so. We said that the Prophet had denounced God’s vengeance on the people in such a manner, that he softened that severity by some comfort, lest despair should have rendered more obstinate those whom he wished to turn into obedience; we said also, that the ministers of the word cannot otherwise speak rightly or profitably of repentance, except they connect with it the promise of God’s mercy. But as the Prophet had to do with refractory men and despisers of God, it behoved him to declare what at length he subjoins, even that the destruction of the Temple and city was nigh at band, except they repented.
And he says that that house would become like Shiloh, in order that by this example he might touch their hearts; for the ark of God had been long at Shiloh, and that place might have been deemed venerable for being ancient. Jerusalem was indeed renowned, but Shiloh was in time before it. This place was now forsaken; nay, it presented a sad and a degraded spectacle. He thus set before their eyes an example of God’s vengeance, such as awaited them. We have seen the same reference in <240712>Jeremiah 7:12, where the Prophet says,
“Go to Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant was,”
etc.; but he now speaks more briefly, for he no doubt repeated often the same things.
Then he adds, I will make this city a curse, or execration, to all the nations of the earth. It was still more intolerable to the Jews to hear what Jeremiah says here, — that so great a city, the sanctuary and the royal throne of God, would become a curse to heathen nations; and yet as God had commanded him to say this, he boldly performed his duty. Now follows the reward he met with, —

JEREMIAH 26:7-8
7. So the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord.
7. Et audierunt sacerdotes et prophetae et totus populus Jeremiam loquentem sermones hos in templo Jehovae.
8. Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.
8. Et factum est, cum finesset Jeremias loqui quaecunque mandaverat Jehova, ut loqueretur toti populo, ut loqueretur toti populo, comprehenderunt ipsum sacerdotes et prophetae et totus populus, dicendo, Morte morieris.

Here the Prophet recites what happened to him, after he had declared God’s message, and faithfully warned the people by adding threatenings, as God had commanded him. He says first that he was heard; which is not to be deemed as commendatory, as though the priests and prophets patiently heard what he taught; for there was no teachable spirit in them, nor did they come prepared to learn, but they had long indulged themselves in perverseness, so that Jeremiah was become to them an avowed enemy; and they also audaciously opposed all his threatenings. But though they were not ashamed to reject what the Prophet said, they yet observed a certain form, as it is usual with hypocrites, for they are more exact than necessary, as they say, in what is formal, but what is really important they neglect. We may hence observe, that the priests and prophets deserved no praise, because they restrained themselves, as though they deferred their judgment until the cause was known, but as the whole people were present, they for a time shewed themselves moderate; it was yet a reigned moderation, for their hearts were full of impiety and contempt of God, as it became really manifest.
But it must be observed that he says that the priests and prophets hearkened. As to the priests, it is no wonder that he calls them so, though they were in every way wicked, for it was an hereditary honor. But it is strange that he mentions the prophets. At the same time we must know, that Jeremiah thus calls those who boasted that they were sent from above. In the twenty-third chapter he at large reproves them; and in many other places he condemns their impudence in falsely assuming the authority of God. He then allowed them an honorable title, but esteemed it as nothing; as we may do at this day, who without harm may call by way of ridicule those prelates, bishops, or pastors, who under the Papacy seek to be deemed so, provided we at the same time strip them of their masks. But these lay hold on the title, and thus seek to suppress the truth of God, as though to be called a bishop were of more weight than if an angel was to come down from heaven. And yet were an angel to descend from heaven, he ought to be counted by us as a devil, if he brought forward such filthy and execrable blasphemies, as we see the world is at this day polluted with by these unprincipled men. This passage then, and the like, ought to be borne in mind, for they shew that titles are not sufficient, except those who bear them really shew that they are such as their calling imports. Thus, then, Jeremiah was called a Prophet, and also those impostors were called prophets whose only religion it was to corrupt and pervert the doctrine of the Law, but they were so called with regard to the people. It is in the meantime necessary, wisely to distinguish between prophets or teachers, as also the Apostle reminds us, we ought to inquire whether their spirit is from God or not. (<620401>1 John 4:1.)
He says at last, that he was condemned by the priests, and the prophets, and the whole people; he at the same time introduced these words, that he had spoken all that the Lord had commanded him. Thus he briefly exposed the injustice of those by whom he was condemned; for they had no regard to what was right, as we shall presently see. But as they had brought with them a preconceived hatred, so they vomited out what they could no longer contain. It afterwards follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:9
9. Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
9. Quare prophetasti in nomine Jehovae, dicendo, Tanquam Silo erit domus haec, et urbs haec perdetur, ut non sit habitator? (congregatus autem totus populus ad Jeremiam in templo Jehovae.) (Hoc per parethesin legendum est, et refertur ad sequentem contextum, ut suo loco dicemus.)

Here is added the cause of Jeremiah’s condemnation, that he had dared to threaten with so much severity the holy city and the Temple. They did not inquire whether God had commanded this to be done, whether he had any just cause for doing so; but they took this principle as granted, that wrong was done to God when anything was alleged against the dignity of the Temple, and also that the city was sacred, and therefore nothing could be said against it without derogating from many and peculiar promises of God, since he had testified that it would be ever safe, because he dwelt in the midst of it. We hence see by what right, and under what pretense the priests and the prophets condemned Jeremiah.
And by saying, in the name of Jehovah, they no doubt accused him as a cheat, or a false pretender, because he had said that this had been commanded by God, for they considered such a thing impossible and preposterous. God had promised that Jerusalem would be his perpetual habitation; the words of Jeremiah were, “I will make this city like Shiloh.” God seemed in appearance to be inconsistent with himself, “This is my rest for ever,” “this shall be a desert.” We hence see that the priests and the prophets were not without some specious pretext for condemning Jeremiah. There is therefore some weight in what they said, “Dost thou not make God contrary to himself? for what thou denouncest in his name openly and directly conflicts with his promises; but God is ever consistent with himself; thou art therefore a cheat and a liar, and thus one of the false prophets, whom God suffers not in his Church.” And yet what they boasted was wholly frivolous; for God had not promised that the Temple should be perpetual in order to give license to the people to indulge in all manner of wickedness. It was not then God’s purpose to bind himself to ungodly men, that they might expose his name to open reproach. It is hence evident that the prophets and priests only dissembled, when they took as granted what ought to have been understood conditionally, that is, if they worshipped him in sincerity as he had commanded. For it was not right to separate two things which God had connected; he required piety and obedience from the people, and he also promised that he would be the guardian of the city, and that the Temple would be safe under his protection. But the Jews, having neither faith nor repentance, boasted of what had been said of the Temple, nay, they bragged, as we have seen elsewhere, and spoke false things; and hence the Prophet derided them by repeating three times,
“The Temple of Jehovah, the Temple of Jehovah, the Temple of Jehovah,” (<240704>Jeremiah 7:4)
as though he had said, — “This is your silly talk, you ever cry boastingly, ‘The Temple of God;’ but all this will avail you nothing.”
It then follows, that the people were assembled. Here Jeremiah passes to another part of the narrative, for he reminded the princes and the king’s councillors that they were not without reason roused to go up to the Temple. fE159
If the dispute had been between few, either Jeremiah would have been slain, or in some way intercepted, or it might have been that the princes would have circumvented the king and his councillors, and thus the holy man would have been privately crushed. But here he introduced these words, that the whole people were assembled against him. Hence it was that the report, reached the king’s court; and so the princes and councillors were commanded to come. In short, Jeremiah shews the reason why the princes came unto the Temple; it was because the city was everywhere in a commotion, when the report spread that something new and intolerable had been announced. The king therefore could not neglect this commotion; for it is a dangerous thing to allow a popular tumult to prevail. And therefore Jeremiah thus adds, —

JEREMIAH 26:10
10. When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord’s house.
10. Et audierunt principes Jehudah sermones hos, et ascenderunt e domo regis in domum Jehovae (hoc est, a palatio regis in Templum,) et sederunt in foribus portae Templi Jehovae novae.

We have said that the princes were roused by a popular clamor; nor is there a doubt but; that the king had sent them to quell the commotion. It must be especially noticed, that they were engaged in other matters, as it was seldom the case that courtiers spent their time in hearing the prophets. It is indeed true, that the occupations of those are sacred, who have the care of the commonwealth, who dispense justice, and who have to provide for the public safety; but it behoves them so to divide their time, that they may be able to consecrate some portion of it to God. But courtiers think themselves exempted by a sort of privilege, when yet the truth is more necessary for them than even for the common people; for not only the duty of the head of a family lies on each of them, but the Lord has also set them over a whole people. If, then, private men have need of being daily taught, that they may faithfully rule and guide themselves and their families, what ought to be done by those rulers who are as it were the fathers of the commonwealth? But as I have already said, such men usually exempt themselves from the yoke of the faithful.
Hence then it was, that none of the princes were present, when Jeremiah had been commanded to proclaim his message, not only on the day when few came to the Temple, but when they came from all the cities of Judah to sacrifice at Jerusalem. It was, indeed, a very shameful sign of gross contempt, that no one of the king’s counsellors appeared in the Temple, when there were present, from remote places, those whom religion and the desire to sacrifice had brought there. But he says that they came to know the cause of the commotion; for it is said, that they sat at the new gate, which some say was eastward; and they conjecture that it was called new, because it had been renewed; the king’s palace was also towards the east, and the eastern gate was his tribunal. I am disposed to embrace this opinion, that they sat at the eastern gate. fE160 It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:11
11. Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes, and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.
11. Et dixerunt sacerdotes et prophetae principibus et toti populo, dicendo, judicium mortis est viro huic, uia prophetavit contra urbem hanc quemadmodum audistis auribus vestris.

We hence conclude, that the people in assenting to the sentence of the priests and prophets, had done nothing according to their own judgment, but that all of every rank through a violent feeling condemned Jeremiah. And as the priests and prophets directed also their discourse to the people, it appears clear, that they were guided by them, so that they thoughtlessly and inconsiderately gave their consent; for it often happens in a mob that the people exclaim, “Be it so, be it so; amen, amen.” Jeremiah has indeed said, that he was condemned by the whole people; but it must be observed, that the people are like the sea, which of itself is calm and tranquil; but as soon as any wind arises, there is a great commotion, and waves dash one against another; so also it is with the people, who without being excited are quiet and peaceable; but a sedition is easily raised, when any one stirs up men who are thoughtless and changeable, and who, to retain the same simile, are fluid like water. This, then, is what Jeremiah now intimates.
But there is another thing to be noticed, — that the common people suffer themselves to be drawn in all directions; but they may also be easily restored, as it has been said, to a right mind. “When they see,” says Virgil, “a man remarkable for piety and good works, they become silent and attend with listening ears.” He there describes (Aeneid, 1) a popular commotion, which he compares to a tempest; and he rightly speaks of a tempest; but he added this simile according to common usage. The same thing is now set before us by the Prophet; the priests and prophets, who thought that they alone could boast of their power and speak with authority, in a manner constrained the people apparently to consent. The king’s counsellors being now present, the people became as it were mute; the priests perceived this, and we shall see by the issue that what the same poet mentions took place, “By his words he rules their hearts and softens their breasts.” For it became easy for the king’s counsellors even by a word to calm this foolish violence of the people. We shall indeed soon see, that they unhesitantly said, “There is no judgment of death against this man.” It is hence evident how easily ignorant men may be made inconsistent with themselves; but this is to be ascribed to their inconstancy; and noticed also ought to be what I have said, that there was no real consent, because there was no judgment exercised. The authority of the priests overpowered them; and then they servilely confessed what they saw pleased their princes, like an ass, who nods with his ears.
Now, when the subject is duly considered, it appears, that the priests and the prophets alone spoke both to the princes and to the whole people, that Jeremiah was guilty of death, fE161 because he had prophesied against the city. We have said that they relied on those promises, which they absurdly applied for the purpose of confirming their own impiety, even that God had chosen that city that he might be there worshipped. It was a false principle, and whence proceeded their error? not from mere ignorance, but rather from presumption, for hypocrites are never deceived, except when they determine not to obey God, and as far as they can to reject his judgments. When, therefore, they are carried away by a perverse and wicked impulse, they ever find out some plausible pretext; but it is nothing but a disguise, as we clearly see from this narrative. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:12
12. Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes, and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house, and against this city, all the words that ye have heard.
12. Et dixit Jeremias cunctis principibus et toti populo, dicendo, Jehova misit me ad prophetandum contra domum hanc et contra urbem hanc cunctos sermones quos audistis.

Jeremiah pleads only his own calling and the command of God; and thus he confutes the preposterous charge which they most impudently brought against him. There is no doubt but that he might have spoken at large, but he deemed it enough to include the substance of his defense. Had he made a long discourse, the main point might have been more obscure. He now clearly makes known the state of the question on both sides. The priests by their own authority condemned Jeremiah, because he reduced to nothing [as they thought] God’s promises, for he had threatened destruction to the city and to the temple; but Jeremiah on the other side answers, that he had declared nothing but what God had enjoined. There was need of proof, when the priests held that God was inconsistent with himself in denouncing destruction on that city, which he had undertaken to defend and protect. But the confutation of this was ready at hand, — that God had never bound himself to hypocrites and ungodly men; nay, the whole glory of the city and the majesty of the Temple were dependent on his worship; nor is there any doubt but that Jeremiah had alleged these things. But as it was the main thing, he was satisfied with stating that he had been sent by God.
Thus he indirectly condemned their vain boastings, — that God was on their side; but he says, “I come not except by God’s command.” Now, though he declares briefly and distinctly that he had been sent by God, he yet presents himself as ready to prove everything; and as I have already said, there is no doubt but that he answered and discussed that frivolous question on which the priests so much insisted.
It is further worthy of being noticed, that he addressed both the princes and the people; and thus he intimated that the priests and the prophets were deaf, and not worthy of being spoken to; for it was their determination proudly to despise God, and to carry on war, as it were avowedly, with his servants; for he would have otherwise no doubt gladly endeavored to restore them to the way of safety. But as he saw that they had closed the door against themselves, he passed them by. This is the reason why he says, that he spoke to the princes and to the people, having passed by those, on whom he must have spent labor in vain. And surely when they said that he was worthy of death, they proved by such a presumption that they would not be taught by him; and also their cruelty prevented them from being teachable. But the Prophet had regard to the very source of evil, because their object was obstinately to resist God and all his prophets.
By saying, that he was sent to prophesy all that they had heard, he made them judges, though he did not address them together with the princes; for we have seen that the latter were in the king’s palace, and had been sent for when there was a fear of some commotion. But there is no doubt but that the address was repeated again. Jeremiah then made them judges and arbitrators, when he said that he retracted nothing, but that what they had heard, he had faithfully declared according to the command of God. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:13
13. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
13. Et nunc bonificate (bonas facite) vias vestras et studia vestra, et obtemperate voci Jehovae Dei vestri, et poenitebit Jehovam omnis mali quod pronunciavit contra vos.

He not only confirms here what he had taught, but also reproves the hardness and obstinate wickedness of the priests and prophets; for though he addressed the princes and the people, he yet no doubt designed to touch more sharply those ungodly men who set themselves up against God; and at the same time his discourse referred to them all, when he said, “How have I sinned? I have endeavored to promote your safety, must I therefore die?” We hence see that the Prophet not only confirmed what he had said, but also accused his adversaries of ingratitude; for nothing could have been more kind, and ought to have been more acceptable, than to be called to repent, that they might receive mercy from God: “What was the object of my doctrine? even that ye might repent; and what does repentance bring? even salvation; for God is ready to forgive you. Now ye cannot bear to hear, that God would be merciful to you. What madness is this?” We now then see the design of the Prophet.
And this passage deserves to be noticed; for God will render to all the ungodly their own reward; not only because they harden themselves against every instruction, but also because they are manifest and, as it were, sworn enemies to their own salvation, inasmuch as they refuse the necessary remedy, and do not allow themselves to be restored to the right way, that they may be forgiven. Very weighty, then, is what he now says, that no fault could be found in his doctrine, except that it proved galling to the wicked, but that they could yet obtain peace, provided they sought reconciliation with God. fE162
He adds, Hear ye the voice of Jehovah, in order to shew that he required nothing new from the people, that he imposed on them no hard yoke, but only called them to the duty of obeying the Law; and he adds to this, your God, in order to take away from them every excuse, lest they should object and say that what Jeremiah alleged was unknown to them. Here, then, he triumphantly declares that he had taught them nothing that was alien to the Law, and that the Jews were inexcusable who professed Jehovah to be their God, and yet hearkened not to his voice, which ought to have been familiar to them.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast not only called us once to the hope of an eternal inheritance, but invitest us continually to repentance, while we cease not by our continual sins to depart from thee, — O grant that we may not with deaf ears reject thy voice, but be pliable and submissive to thee, and that we may also so accustom ourselves to bear the yoke, that we may prove, through our whole life, that we are of thy sheep, and that Christ, thine only-begotten Son, whom thou hast set over us, is indeed our Shepherd, until we shall be gathered unto that kingdom which he has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND FIRST
JEREMIAH 26:14-15
14. As for me, behold, I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you:
14. Et ego, ecce ego in manu vestro, facite mihi sicuti bonum, vel sicuti rectum erit in oculis vestris.
15. But know ye for certain, that, if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof; for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you, to speak all these words in your ears.
15. Veruntamen sciendo seite, quod si vos occideritis me, sanguinem purum (vel, innoxium) vos ponetis super vos et super urbem hanc, et super habitatores ejus; quia in veritate misit me Jehova ad vos, ut loqueror in auribus vestris cunctos istos sermones.

Jeremiah, after having exhorted the princes, the priests, and the whole people to repent, and having shewn to them that there was a remedy for their evil, except by their obstinacy they provoked more and more the wrath of God, now speaks of himself, and warns them not to indulge their cruelty by following their determination to kill him; for they had brought in a sentence that he deserved to die. He then saw that their rage was so violent, that he almost despaired of his life; but he declares here that God would be an avenger if they unjustly vented their rage against him. He yet shews that he was not so solicitous about his life as to neglect his duty, for he surrendered himself to their will; “Do what ye please,” he says, “with me; yet see what ye do; for the Lord will not suffer innocent blood to be shed with impunity.”
By saying that he was in their hand, he does not mean that he was not under the care of God. Christ also spoke thus when he exhorted his disciples not to fear those who could kill the body. (<401028>Matthew 10:28.) There is no doubt but that the hairs of our head are numbered before God; thus it cannot be that tyrants, however they may rage, can touch us, no, not with their little finger, except a permission be given them. It is, then, certain that our life can never be in the hand of men, for God is its faithful keeper; but Jeremiah said, after a human manner, that his life was in their hand; for God’s providence is hidden from us, nor can we discover it but by the eyes of faith. When, therefore, enemies seem to rule so that there is no escape, the Scripture says, by way of concession, that we are in their hands, that is, as far as we perceive. We ought yet to understand that we are by no means so exposed to the will of the wicked that they can do what they please with us; for God restrains them by a hidden bridle, and rules their hands and their hearts. This truth ought ever to remain unalterable, that our life is under the custody and protection of God.
We now, then, see in what sense Jeremiah regarded his life as in the hand of his enemies, not that he thought himself cast away by God, but that he acknowledged that loosened reins were given to the wicked to rage against him. But we must at the same time bear in mind why he said this; after having conceded that his life was in their hand, he adds, yet knowing know ye, that if ye kill me, ye will bring innocent blood upon yourselves. fE163 But he had said before that they might do what seemed them good and right. fE164 Good and right here is not to be taken for a judgment formed according to the rule of justice, but for a sentence formed iniquitously according to their own will. This is a common mode of speaking in Hebrew. Jeremiah then testifies that he was not solicitous about his life, for he was prepared to offer himself, as it were, as a sacrifice, if the rage of his enemies should go so far. But in warning them to beware of God’s vengeance, his object was not his own safety, but it was to stimulate them to repentance. He then plainly says that he did not fear death, for the Lord would presently shew himself to be his avenger, and that his blood also would be so precious in the sight of God, that the whole city, together with the people, would be punished, were they to deal unjustly with him.
But let us attend to what follows, even that God had sent him. He now takes this principle as granted, that it could not be that God would forsake his servants, to whom he has promised aid when oppressed by the ungodly. God, indeed, ever exhorts his ministers to patience, and he would have them to be prepared for death whenever there is need; yet he promises to bring them help in distress. Jeremiah then relied on this promise, and was thus persuaded that it could not be that God would forsake him; for he cannot disappoint his people, nor forfeit his faith pledged to them. As, then, he was fully persuaded of his own calling, and knew that God was the author of all his preaching, he boldly concluded that his blood could not be shed with impunity. All faithful teachers ought to encourage themselves, for the purpose of discharging strenuously the duties of their office, with this confidence, — that God who has committed to them their office can never forsake them, but will ever bring them help as far as it may be necessary. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:16
16. Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests, and to the prophets, This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.
16. Et dixerunt principes et universus populus sacerdotibus et prophetis, Non est viro huic judicium mortis; quia in nomine Jehovae Dei nostri loquutus est nobis.

Jeremiah shews here that the sentence pronounced on him by the priests and false prophets was soon changed. They had indeed heard him, and had given some appearance of docility, as it is the case with hypocrites who for a time attend; but they exasperated themselves against God, and as their minds were previously malignant, they were rendered much worse by hearing. So it happened to the priests and false prophets, and in their blind rage they doomed the holy Prophet to death. He now says that he was acquitted by the princes and the king’s counsellors, and also by the votes of the people. The people had, indeed, lately condemned him, but they had been carried away by the vain pomp and splendor of the priests and prophets; when they saw these so incensed against Jeremiah, they could not bring themselves to inquire into the cause. Thus the common people are always blinded by prejudices, so that they will not examine the matter itself. So it was when Jeremiah was condemned. We have said that the people were of themselves quiet and peaceable; but the prophets and priests were the farmers, and hence it was that the people immediately gave their consent. But in the presence of the princes they went in a contrary direction.
This passage, in short, teaches us how mischievous are rulers when there is no regard had for equity or justice; and it also teaches us how desirable it is to have honest and temperate rulers, who defend what is good and just, and aid the miserable and the oppressed. But we see that there is nothing steady or fixed in the common people; for they are carried here and there like the wind, which blows now from this quarter and then from that.
But we must notice this clause, that Jeremiah was not worthy of death, fE165 because he had spoken in the name of Jehovah. They thus confessed, that whatever came from God ought to have been received, and that men were mad who opposed the servants of God, for they hurried themselves headlong into their own destruction.
We may hence deduce a useful truth, that whatever God has commanded ought, without exception, to be reverently received, and that his name is worthy of such a regard, that we ought to attempt nothing against his servants and prophets. Now, to speak in the name of Jehovah is no other thing than faithfully to declare what God has commanded. The false prophets, indeed, assumed the name of God, but they did so falsely; but the people acknowledge here that Jeremiah was a true prophet, who did not presumptuously thrust in himself, nor falsely pretended God’s name, but who in sincerity performed the duties of his office. It follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:17-19
17. Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying,
17. Et surrexerunt viri ex senioribus terrae, (ex senibus terrae,) ac dixerunt ad totum coetum populi (vel, locuuti sunt dicendo; est quidem semper verbum, rma, loquuti sunt erqo ad totum coetum) dicendo,
18. Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.
18. Micha Morasthites fuit prophetans diebus Ezechiae regis Jehudah, et dixit ad totum populum Jehudah, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Sion ager (sed subaudienda est particula similitudinis, Sion ut ager) arabitur, et Jerusalem solitudines (vel, acervi) erit (hoc est, erit in solitudines, vel, in acervos, vel, in ruinas,) et mons domus (id est templi) in excelsa sylvae.
19. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.
19. An occidendo occidit eum Ezechias rex Jehudah, et totus Jehudah? an non timuit Jehovam? et deprecatus est faciem Jehovae, et poenituit Jehovam mali, quod loquutus fuerat contra eos: et nos facimus malum grande adversus animas nostras.

It is uncertain whether what is here recited was spoken before the acquittal of Jeremiah or not; for the Scripture does not always exactly preserve order in narrating things. It is yet probable, that while they were still deliberating and the minds of the people were not sufficiently pacified, the elders interposed, in order to calm the multitude and to soften their irritated minds, and to reconcile those to Jeremiah who had previously become foolishly incensed against him; for no doubt the priests and the false prophets had endeavored by every artifice to irritate the silly people against the Prophet; and hence more than one kind of remedy was necessary. When therefore the elders saw that wrath was still burning in the people, and that their minds were not disposed to shew kindness, they made use of this discourse. They took their argument from example, — that Jeremiah was not the first witness and herald of dreadful vengeance, for God had before that time, and in time past, been wont to speak by his other prophets against the city and the temple.
The priests and the prophets had indeed charged Jeremiah with novelty, and further pretended that they thus fiercely opposed him on the ground of common justice. Jeremiah had said, that God would spare neither the holy city nor the Temple. This was intolerable, for it had been said of the Temple,
“This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell.”
(<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)
We hence see that Jeremiah was overwhelmed as it were by this one expression, while the priests and the false prophets objected and said,
“Thou then makest void God’s promises; thou regardest as nothing the sanctity of the Temple.”
And they further pretended that not one of the prophets had ever thus spoken. But what do the elders now answer? even that there had been other prophets who had denounced ruin on the city and the Temple, and that, was falsely charged with this disgrace, that he was the first to announce God’s judgment. We now understand the state of the case: Jeremiah is defended, because he had not alone threatened the city and the first, but he had others as the originators, from whose mouths he had spoken, who were also the acknowledged servants of God, from whom credit could not be withholden, such as Micah.
Now, what is here related is found in <330312>Micah 3:12. The Prophet Micah had the same contest with the priests and prophets as Jeremiah had; for they said that it was impossible that God should pour his vengeance on the holy city and the Temple. They said,
“Is not Jehovah in the midst of us?”
and they said also, “No evil shall come on us.” They were inebriated with such a security, that they thought themselves beyond the reach of danger; and they disregarded all the threatenings of the prophets, because they imagined that God was bound to them. We indeed know that hypocrites ever relied on that promise, “Here will I dwell;” and they also took and borrowed words from God’s mouth and perverted them like cheats: “God resides in the midst of us; therefore nothing adverse can happen to us.” But the Prophet said, (the same are the words which we have just repeated,)
“For you Sion shall be plowed as a field, fE166 and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of this house as the heights of a forest.”
But let us now consider each clause. It is first said, that the elders from the people of the land rose up. fE167 It is probable that they were called elders, not as in other places on account of their office, but of their age. It is indeed certain that they were men of authority; but yet I doubt not but that they were far advanced in years, as they were able to relate to the people what had happened many years before. As it is added, that they spoke to the whole assembly of the people, we may hence deduce what I have already stated, — that the people were so violent, that there was need of a calm discourse to mitigate their ardor; and certainly when once a commotion is raised and rages, it is not an easy matter immediately to allay it. When, therefore, the kind elders saw that the minds of the people were still exasperated, they employed a moderating language, and said, Micah fE168 the Morasthite (they named his country) prophesied in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, etc.
We ought to notice the time, for it might seem strange, that when that holy king was anxiously engaged in promoting the true worship of God, things were in so disordered a state as to call for so severe a denunciation. If there ever was a king really and seriously devoted to the cause of religion, doubtless he was the first and chief exemplar; he spared no labor, he never seemed to shun any danger or trouble, whenever religion required this; but we find that however strenuously he labored, he could not by his zeal and perseverance succeed in making the whole people to follow him as their leader. What then must happen, when those who ought to shew the right way to others are indifferent and slothful? In the meantime the good princes were confirmed by the example of Hezekiah, so that they did not faint or fail in their minds when they saw that success did not immediately follow his labors, nor any fruit. For it is a grievous trial, and what shakes even the most courageous, when they think that their efforts are vain, that their labors are useless, yea, that they spend their time to no purpose, and thus it happens that many retrograde. But this example of Hezekiah ought to be remembered by them, so that they may still go on, though no hope of a prosperous issue appears; for Hezekiah did not desist, though Satan in various ways put many hinderances in the way, and even apparently upset all his labors, so that they produced no fruit. So much as to the time that is mentioned.
The elders said, that Micah had spoken to the whole people, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, Sion, shall be plowed as a field, We have already seen on what occasion it was that Micah spoke with so much severity; it was when hypocrites set up their false confidence and falsely assumed the name of God, as though they held him bound to themselves. For you, he said, Sion shall be plowed as a field. He began with the temple, and then he added, and Jerusalem shall be in heaps, or a solitude; and lastly, he said, and the mountain, of the house, that is, of the temple, etc. He repeated what he had just said, for what else was the mountain of the temple but Sion? But as this prediction could have hardly been believed by the Jews, the Prophet, for the sake of confirmation, said the same thing twice. We hence conclude that it was not a superfluous repetition, but that he might shake with terror the hypocrites, who had hardened themselves against God’s threatenings, and thought themselves safe, though the whole world went to ruin.
Having now related what Micah had denounced, they added, Slaying, did Hezekiah the king of Judah and all Judah slay him? By the example of the pious King Hezekiah, they exhorted the people to shew kindness and docility, and shewed that it was an honor done both to God and to his prophets, not to be incensed against his reproofs and threatenings, however sharply they might have been goaded or however deeply they might have been wounded. But they further added, Did he not fear Jehovah? and supplicate the face of Jehovah? and did not Jehovah repent? They confirmed what Jeremiah had previously said, that there was no other remedy but to submit themselves calmly to prophetic instruction, and at the same time to flee to the mercy of God; for by the fear of God here is meant true conversion; what else is God’s fear than that reverence by which we shew that we are submissive to his will, because he is a Father and a Sovereign? Whosoever, then, owns God as a Father and a Sovereign, cannot do otherwise than to submit from the heart, to his good pleasure. Therefore the elders meant that Hezekiah and the whole people really turned to God. Now repentance, as it must be well known, contains two parts — the sinner becomes displeased with himself on account of his vices — and forsaking all the wicked lusts of the flesh, he desires to form his whole life and his actions according to the rule of God’s righteousness.
But they added, that they supplicated, etc. Though Jeremiah uses the singular number, he yet includes both the people and the king; he seems however to have used the singular number designedly, in order to commend the king, whose piety was extraordinary and almost incomparable. There is no doubt but that he pointed out the right way to others, that they might repent, and also that he humbly deprecated that vengeance, which justly filled their minds with terror. He, indeed, ascribed this especially to the pious king; but the same concern is also to be extended to the chief men and the whole body of the people, as we shall presently see; did he not then supplicate the face of Jehovah?
This second clause deserves special notice; for a sinner will never return to God except he has the hope of pardon and salvation, as we shall ever dread the presence of God, except the hope of reconciliation be offered to us. Hence the Scripture, whenever it speaks of repentance, at the same time adds faith. They are indeed things wholly distinct, and yet not contrary, and ought never to be separated, as some inconsiderately do. For repentance is a change of the whole life, and as it were a renovation; and faith teaches the guilty to flee to the mercy of God. But still we must observe that there is a difference between repentance and faith; and yet they so unite together, that he who tears the one from the other, entirely loses both. This is the order which the Prophet now follows in saying that Hezekiah supplicated the face of Jehovah. For whence is the desire to pray, except from faith? It is not then enough for one to feel hatred and displeasure as to his sins, and to desire to be conformed to God’s will, except he thinks of reconciliation and pardon. The elders then pointed out the remedy, and shewed it as it were by the finger; for if the people after the example of Hezekiah and of others repented, then they were to flee to God’s mercy, and to testify their faith by praying God to be propitious to them.
Hence it follows, that Jehovah repented of the evil which he had spoken against them. The Prophet now makes use of the plural number; we hence conclude that under the name of King Hezekiah alone he before included the whole people. God then repented of the evil. fE169 As to this mode of speaking, I shall not now speak at large. We know that no change belongs to God; for whence comes repentance, except from this, — that many things happen unexpectedly which compel us to change our purpose? one had intended something; but he thought that that would be which never came to pass; it is therefore necessary for him to revoke what he had determined. Repentance then is the associate of ignorance. Now, as nothing is hid from God, so it can never be that he repents. How so? because he has never determined anything but according to his certain foreknowledge, for all things are before his eyes. But this kind of speaking, that God repents, that is, does not execute what he has announced, refers to what appears to men. It is no wonder that God thus condescendingly speaks to us; but, while this simplicity offends delicate and tender ears, we on the contrary wonder at God’s indulgence in thus coming down to us, and speaking according to the comprehension of our weak capacities. We now perceive how God may be said to repent, even when he does not execute what he had denounced. His purpose in the meantime remains fixed, and as James says,
“There is in him no shadow of turning.” (<590117>James 1:17.)
But a question may again be raised, How did God then repent of the evil which he had threatened both to the king and to the people? even because he deferred his vengeance; for God did not abrogate his decree or his proclamation, but spared Hezekiah and the people then living. Then the deferring of God’s vengeance is called his repentance; for Hezekiah did not experience what he had feared, inasmuch as he saw not the ruin of the city nor the sad and dreadful event which Micah had predicted.
Now this also is to be noticed, — that the pious king is here commended by the Holy Spirit, that he suffered himself to be severely reproved, though, as I have already said, he was not himself guilty. He had, indeed, a burning zeal, and was prepared to undergo any troubles in promoting the true worship of God; and yet he calmly and quietly bore with the Prophet, when he spoke of the destruction of the city and Temple, for he saw that he had need of such a helper. For however wisely may pious princes exert themselves in promoting the glory of God, yet Satan resists them. Hence they ever desire, as a matter of no small importance, to have true and faithful teachers to help, to assist and to strengthen them, and also to oppose their adversaries; for if teachers are silent or dissemble, a greater ill-will is entertained towards good princes and magistrates; for when with the drawn sword they defend the glory of God and his worship, while the teachers themselves are dumb dogs, all will cry out, “Oh! what does this severity mean? Our teachers spare our ears, but these do not spare even our blood.” It is, therefore, ever a desirable thing for good and pious kings to have bold and earnest teachers, who cry aloud and confirm the efforts of their princes. Such was the feeling of pious Hezekiah, as we may conclude from this passage. The rest I must defer.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to gather us as a people to thyself, and to promise that we should be like a spiritual temple for thee to dwell in, — O grant that we may consecrate among us a perpetual habitation for time, and so strive through the whole course of our life to devote ourselves to thee, that thy grace and blessing may never depart from us, but that we may experience more and more that those are never destitute of thy protection who truly and undissemblingly rely on thee, so that thy name may be more and more glorified in us through thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND SECOND
We saw yesterday the example which the elders had alleged to deliver Jeremiah from death, — that he was not the first who had threatened the city and the Temple with ruin, for Micah under the reign of Hezekiah had done the same and was not put to death. They hence concluded that it would be a heinous crime were they to slay Jeremiah, and that it would not remain unpunished. They then intimated that the people would commit a most grievous offense, if they killed Jeremiah; and they also added, that vengeance would follow, for the Lord would render them their due reward, if they thus cruelly treated the holy Prophet. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:20-23
20. And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath-jearim, who prophesied against this city, and against this land, according to all the words of Jeremiah:
20. Atque etiam vir fuit prophetans in nomine Jehovae, Urias, filius Semeah ex Cariath-iarim, et prophetavit contra urbem hanc et contra terram hanc secundum sermones Jeremiae:
21. And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt;
21. Et audivit rex Joakim et omnes magnates ejus et Proceres sermones ejus, et quaesivit rex interficere ipsum, et audivit Urias et timuit, et fugit et transivit (vel, concessit) in Egyptum;
22. And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt:
22. Et misit rex Joakim viros in Egyptum, Elnathan filium Achobor et viros cure eo in Egyptum:
23. And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.
23. Et eduxerunt Uriam ex Egypto, et adduxerunt eum ad regem Joakim, qui percussit eum gladio, et projecit cadaver ejus in sepulchra populi (vel, plebis potius.)

Another example is brought forward, partly different, and partly alike, — different as to the king, the like as to a Prophet. Uriah, mentioned here, faithfully discharged his office; but Jehoiakim could not bear his preaching, and therefore slew him. Some explain the whole in the same manner, as though the elders designed to shew that the wicked can gain nothing by resisting God’s prophets, except that by contending they make themselves more and more guilty. But others think that this part was brought forward by the opposite party, and the words, “And also,” µgw, ugam, favor this opinion; for they may be taken adversatively, as though they said, “But there was another Prophet, who did not speak of the ruin of the city and of the destruction of the Temple with impunity.” And this opinion seems to be confirmed by what follows in the last verse of the chapter, Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam, etc.; the particle ˚a, ak, is properly nevertheless; but it means sometimes, at least, or only. But in this place, as I shall shew again presently, it retains, I think, its proper meaning; for the Prophet declares, that though he was in great danger, yet Ahikam fought so bravely for him, that at length he gained his cause.
But as to the present passage, both expositions may be admitted; that is, either that the malignants adduced the death of Uriah in order to overwhelm Jeremiah, — or that God’s faithful followers intended to shew that there was no reason of acting in this manner, for the state of things had become worse, since King Jehoiakim had cruelly slain God’s servant.
But the time ought especially to be noticed. We have seen that this prophecy was committed to Jeremiah, and also promulgated at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign; but this beginning is not to be confined either to the first or second year; but as he became tributary to the king of Babylon, he afterwards endeavored to throw off the yoke and was at length disgracefully dethroned; hence the beginning of his reign must be during the time that his power was entire. While then Jehoiakim retained his dignity, Jeremiah was bidden to proclaim this message. However this may have been, the King Jehoiakim thus enjoyed a tranquil reign; he was at Jerusalem. It is not therefore said here, that Uriah had threatened the city in his days; but the history is given as of a present thing. One thing then is evident, that this discourse was delivered, when King Jehoiakim was not afar off. His palace was nigh the Temple; his counsellors were present who had come down, as we have seen, on account of the tumult. For the affair could not be hidden; since the priests and the false prophets everywhere inflamed the rage of the people. The king’s counsellors therefore came to quell the disturbances. If this part of the address is to be ascribed to the defenders of Jeremiah, then they must have been endued with great courage and firmness, to allege against the king a nefarious murder, and also to condemn him for a sacrilege, for he had not only done an injury to a holy Prophet, but had directly opposed God himself. There are on both sides probable conjectures; for if we follow this opinion, that the servants of God, who favored Jeremiah and sought to deliver him from danger, spoke these words, it might be objected and said, that no such thing is expressed But the narrative goes on continuously, And there was also a man, etc. Now when different persons speak and oppose one another, it is usual to mark the change. It seems then that the whole is to be read connectedly, so that they who first adduced the example of Micah, then added on the other hand, that Uriah indeed suffered punishment, but that thus a crime was added to a crime, so that Jehoiakim gained nothing by furiously persecuting God’s Prophet. And that they did not speak of the consequences, ought not to appear strange, for the condition of the city and of the people was known to all, and a more grievous danger was nigh at hand. Hence a simple narrative might well have been given by them; and as they did not dare to exasperate the mind of the king, it was the more necessary to leave that part untouched.
But if the other view be more approved, that the enemies of Jeremiah did here rise against him, and alleged the case of Uriah, there is also some appearance of reason in its favor; the king was living, his counsellors were present, as we have said. It might then be, that those who wished the death of Jeremiah, referred to this recent example in order to have him destroyed, — “Why should he escape, since Uriah was lately put to death, for the cause is exactly the same? Uriah did not go any farther than Jeremiah; he seems indeed to have taken the words from his mouth. As, then, the king did slay him, why should Jeremiah be spared? Why should he escape the punishment the other underwent, when his crime is more grievous?” It hence appears that this view can without absurdity be defended, that is, that the enemies of Jeremiah endeavored to aggravate his case by referring to the punishment the king inflicted on Uriah, whose case was not dissimilar; and I do not reject this view. If any approve of the other, that this part was spoken by the advocates of Jeremiah, I readily allow it; but I dare not yet reject wholly the idea, that Jeremiah was loaded with prejudice by having the case of Uriah brought forward, who was killed by the king for having prophesied against the city and the Temple. fE170
Let us now consider the words; There was also a man who prophesied in the name of Jehovah, etc. If we receive the opinion of those who think that Jeremiah’s enemies speak here, then the name of Jehovah is to be taken for a false pretense, as though they had said, “It is a very common thing to pretend the name of God; for every one who claims to himself the office of teaching, boasts that he is sent from above, and that what he speaks has been committed to him by God.” Thus they indirectly condemned Jeremiah; for it was not enough for him to pretend God’s name, as Uriah, of whom they spoke, had also professed most loudly that he was God’s prophet, that he brought nothing as his own, and that he had a sure call. But if this part is to be ascribed to God’s true worshippers, whose object it was to protect and defend Jeremiah, to speak in the name of Jehovah, as we said yesterday, was not only to glory on account of the prophetic office, but also to give evidence of faithfulness and of integrity, so as really and by the effect to prove that he was God’s prophet, such as he wished to be thought.
They then added, he prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah. If the adversaries of Jeremiah were the speakers, we see that he was so overpowered, that it was afterwards superfluous to know anything more of his cause; for another had already been condemned, whose case was in no way dissimilar or different; “He spoke according to the words of Jeremiah, and he was condemned, why then should we now hesitate respecting Jeremiah?” We see how malignantly they turned against Jeremiah this example, as though he was condemned beforehand in the person of another. But if these were the words of the godly, they are to be accounted for in another way; what is intimated is, that if Jeremiah was slain, God’s vengeance would be provoked; for it was more than enough to shed the innocent blood of one Prophet.
It then follows, And when, Jehoiakim the king, and all his mighty men and the princes, heard his words, etc. This verse seems to favor the opinion of those who conclude that godly men were the speakers; for they spoke dishonorably of the king and his counsellors; the king heard and his mighty men, (powerful men, literally,) and also all the princes; and the king sought to slay him. These words, however, may also be ascribed to the ungodly and the wicked, for they wished to terrify the common people by first mentioning the king and then the mighty men and the princes. And to seek to kill him, might also have been excused, even that the king could not bear such a reproach without revenging it; for he saw that the Prophet had taken such a liberty as not, to spare the holy city nor the Temple: The king then heard, and his mighty men and princes; and then, the king sought to slay him.
But when Uriah heard it, he feared and fled. This passage teaches us that even the faithful servants of God, who strive honestly to fulfill their office, are yet not always so courageous as boldly to despise all dangers; for it is said that the Prophet feared; but he was not on this account condemned. This fear was not indeed blameless; but his fear was such, that he yet continued in his vocation. He might indeed have pleased the king, but he dreaded such perfidy more than death. He, therefore, so feared, that he turned not aside from the right course, nor denied the truth., nor admitted anything unworthy of his dignity or of the character he sustained. His fear then, though wrong, did not yet so possess the Prophet, but that he was ever faithful to God in his vocation. It then follows, that he went into Egypt. We hence conclude, that the king’s wrath and cruelty were so great, that the holy man could not find a corner to hide himself in through the whole land of Judea, nor even in other regions around. He was therefore forced to seek a hiding place in Egypt.
It is afterwards added that the king sent men, even Elnathan, the chief of the legation, with others. fE171 There is no doubt but that Jehoiakim sent to the king of Egypt and complained that a turbulent man had fled, and that he asked him to deliver him up as a fugitive. So then he was brought back, not through power, but through a nefarious compact, for he was betrayed by the king of Egypt.
It is at length added, that they led up Uriah from Egypt, and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people, by way of dishonor; for Jeremiah here calls them the graves of the common people, as we in French call shambles des charniers. The rich are honorably and splendidly buried at this day, and every one has his own grave; but when there is a vast number, the bodies are thrown together, for it would be too expensive to dig a grave for each. It seems also that there was such a practice in Judea, and that God’s Prophet was buried in this ignominious manner.
Thus they who spoke intimated that the king’s wrath so burned, that he not only put him to death, but followed up his vengeance, so that a new disgrace awaited the Prophet, even when dead, for he was cast among the obscure and ignoble common people.
I have hitherto so explained this passage as to leave it doubtful whether the probability is that the speakers were Jeremiah’s enemies or his advocates. And though, as I have declared twice or three times, I reject not the view which is different from that which I embrace, yet it seems most probable to me that the words were spoken by the godly men who defended the cause of Jeremiah. All the various reasons which lead me to this conclusion I will not here specify; for every one may himself see why I prefer this view. The common consent of almost all interpreters also influences me, from which I wish not to depart, except necessity compels me, or the thing itself makes it evident that they were mistaken. But we have seen from the beginning, that the two examples consecutively follow one another, and that nothing intervenes; it may hence be supposed, that the enemies of Jeremiah had previously performed their part. The words themselves then shew that those who commenced the discourse were those who carried it on. And that they did not mention the reason why they adduced this example is not to be wondered at; for the displeasure of the king was feared, and he had given no common proof, in his treatment of the holy Prophet, how impatiently he bore anything that trenched on his own dignity. They therefore cautiously related the matter, and left what they did not express to be collected by those who heard them. But it was easy from their words to know what they meant, — that God’s vengeance was to be dreaded; for one Prophet had been slain; what if there was to be no end to cruelty? would not God at length arise to execute judgment when his servants were so unworthily treated? As, then, the words are not completed, it seems probable to me that God’s true servants spoke thus reservedly and cautiously, because they dared not to express their thoughts openly.
Further, these words, the king sought to slay him, and the king sent men, etc., are more suitable when considered as spoken by the defenders of Jeremiah than by the ungodly and the wicked; and they also named Elnathan, that they might hand down his name with infamy to future ages. And they lastly added that the Prophet was brought up from Egypt. What was very shameful seems certainly to be set here before us, that he was forcibly brought back from that land to which he had fled for an asylum, and also that he was brought to the king, that he smote him with the sword, that is, cruelly killed him; and further, that being not satisfied with this barbarous act, he caused him to be ignominiously buried. All these particulars, as I have said, seem to shew that these words may be more suitably applied to the holy men who defended the cause of Jeremiah than to his enemies. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 26:24
24. Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.
24. Veruntamen manus Achicam, filii Saphan, fuit cum Jeremia, ne traderetur ipse (vel, ne traderent ipsum) in manum populi ad interficiendum ipsum.

There is here an adversative particle, and not without reason; for the contention is pointed out which had so raged that it became difficult to extricate the holy Prophet from danger. We hence conclude that Jeremiah was in so much peril that it was with great and arduous effort that Ahikam saved him. There is a frequent mention of this man in sacred history, and his name will hereafter be found in several places, and he was left to govern the remnant of the people after the demolition of the city. (<122522>2 Kings 25:22; <243914>Jeremiah 39:14.) fE172 And there is no doubt but that he made progress in religion and was an upright man, and that his virtues were so valued by Nebuchadnezzar that he bestowed on him such an honor. He was soon afterwards slain by the ungodly and the wicked; but there is nothing related of him but what is honorable to him. It was indeed an extraordinary act of courage that he dared to oppose the fury of the whole people, and to check the priests and the false prophets who had conspired to put the holy man to death.
This is the reason why it is in the last place added, that the hand of Ahikam was with Jeremiah; though the people were furious, and the priests would by no means be restrained from persecuting the holy man, yet Ahikam could not be turned from his holy purpose, but persevered to defend a good cause until Jeremiah escaped in safety. It is hence said, that his hand was with Jeremiah; for by hand in Scripture is meant effort, (conatus;) for where there is anything to be done, or any difficulty, the Scripture uses the word hand. But as Ahikam exerted himself to the uttermost, not only in aiding the holy Prophet by his words, but also in repressing the fury of the people, and in boldly resisting the priests and the false prophets, the hand in this place means aid; his hand was with Jeremiah, that is, he aided or helped him, so that he was not delivered up into the hand of the people.
It hence also appears, as we said yesterday, that the tumult of the people was not immediately allayed, for the false prophets and the priests had so roused their virulence that they became almost implacable. Here, then, is set before us an example of courage and perseverance; for it is not enough for us to defend a good cause when we may do so with safety, except we also disregard all ill-will and despise all dangers, and resist the fury of the wicked, and undergo contentions and dangers for God’s servants whenever necessary. We are also taught at the same time how much weight belongs to the influence of one man when he boldly defends a good cause and yields not to the madness of the wicked, but risks extremities rather than betray the truth of God and his ministers. Now follows, —
CHAPTER 27

JEREMIAH 27:1-5
1. In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, came this word unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
1. Principio regni Jehoiakim filii Josiae regis Jehudah fuit sermo hic ad jeremiam a Jehova, dicendo,
2. Thus saith the Lord to me, Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck,
2. Sic dicit jehova ad me (mihi,) fac tibi vincula et juga, et pone ea super collum tuum;
3. And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedeldah king of Judah;
3. Et mitte ad regem Edom, et ad regem Moab, et ad regem filiorum Ammon, et ad regem Tyri, et ad regem Sidonis, per manum nuntiorum, qui venient Jerusalem ad Zedechiam regem Jehudah;
4. And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Thus shall ye say unto your masters;
4. Et mandata dabis illis ad dominos suos, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Sic dicetis ad dominos vestros,
5. I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my out-stretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.
5. Ego feci terram, hominem et jumentum quod super faciem terrae est, in virtute mea magna, et brachio meo extento; et dedi eam illi qui placeret in oculis meis.

Jeremiah prefaces this prediction by saying, that it was delivered to him at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign. But this beginning, as we have said, extended to the whole of his reign while it was prosperous and entire. While, then, Jehoiakim enjoyed a quiet possession of the kingdom, Jeremiah was bidden to make known what had been committed to him, not to Jehoiakim himself, but, as we learn from the third verse, to Zedekiah who had not immediately succeeded him, but became at last king after various changes. God, then, committed this prophecy to his servant, but did not design it to be immediately promulgated. If it be asked, why God designed what he purposed to be made known to be concealed for so long a time? the answer is this, — that it was done for the sake of the Prophet himself, in order that he might with more alacrity perform his office, knowing of a certainty that no one thought that it could ever happen, and certainly the thing was incredible. fE173
God’s design then was to communicate this to his Prophet himself, that he might see afar off what no one, as I have just said, had thought could ever come to pass. This is the reason, as I think, why this prophecy was not immediately published, but was like a treasure deposited in the Prophet’s bosom, until the ripened time came. I shall defer till tomorrow the explanation of this prophecy.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that when at any time thou grievously threatenest us, we may not, on that account, become angry, but learn to acknowledge our sins, and truly to humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, and also to deprecate thy wrath, and to prove by true repentance, that we profit by thy word, and believe thy denunciations, so that we may become partakers of that mercy, through which thou promisest to be propitious to all who turn to thee: and may we thus advance more and more, and persevere in the right course of repentance, until having at length put off all the vices of the flesh, we shall attain to a perfection of righteousness and the fruition of that glory which has been laid up for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND THIRD
We explained yesterday why this command was given to Jeremiah at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, which was not yet to be executed until the time of Zedekiah: it was God’s design to strengthen him in the meantime, lest he should faint in his course. Let us now see what was the object of this prophecy and what is its meaning.
The Prophet seems to have addressed the ambassadors who were sent by neighboring kings to King Zedekiah; and he was bidden to command them to declare each to his master, that they were all to come under the yoke of the king of Babylon. There is, moreover, no doubt but that God designed especially and chiefly to give a lesson to Zedekiah and to the Jews; for these legations mentioned here might have so emboldened them as to despise all prophecies, and to think themselves beyond all danger. For the purpose for which these legations were sent by the king of Sidon, by the king of Tyrus, by the king of Moab and Ammon, ought to be particularly observed: when they saw that the king of Babylon would not spare them, they began to join their forces. Every one at first consulted his own advantage, and saw no need of mutual help; and so it was that the Chaldeans easily overcame them while they were disunited. Experience at length taught them, that neither the king of Judah nor ally of the neighboring kings could sustain the contest unless they formed a confederacy. Thus, then, it happened that the king of Tyrus, the king of Sidon, the king of Moab, and the king of Ammon, offered their forces and their money to the king of Judah, and that he also promised to help them in return, if the Chaldean attacked them. It was therefore a new occasion for confidence to the Jews, so that they gathered courage, and thus were emboldened to resist, relying on so many neighboring kings.
The Chaldeans had been hitherto successful, for they had assailed each by himself; but when all of them were ready by their united forces to oppose and restrain their attacks, it was hardly credible that they could be conquered. It was therefore God’s purpose to remove this false confidence, and to warn Zedekiah and the whole people, lest they should be deceived by such allurements, but that they might know that they were patiently to endure the punishment inflicted on them by God. This therefore was the reason why the Prophet was sent to the ambassadors who had come to Jerusalem. He was not set a teacher over them; but this was done with reference to Zedekiah and the people. It is yet probable that these commands were set forth before the king, that the king might know that he had been wholly deceived, and that he still foolishly trusted to the subsidies which had been offered.
We may easily imagine how grievous it must have been to the king and to the people to hear this prophecy. The ambassadors were in a manner dishonored; the kings, by whom they had been sent, might have complained that they were treated with great indignity. Hence the king and the people must have been very incensed against Jeremiah. But the Prophet boldly performed what God commanded him, as it behoved him. And we shall hereafter see, that his words were addressed to King Zedekiah rather than to these heathens.
We now understand the reason why God would have his Prophet to give these commands to the ambassadors, who had been sent by heathen kings to King Zedekiah: it was that the king might know that it was wholly useless for these kings to promise their assistance; for he had to do, not with the Chaldean king, but rather with the judgment of God, which is irresistible, and which men in vain struggle with.
Though the Prophet was bidden to command the ambassadors to say to the kings by whom they had been sent, Thus saith Jehovah, of hosts, fE174 they yet might have refused to do so, and that with indignation: “What! Are we come here to be ambassadors to thee? and who indeed art thou who commandest us? besides, dost thou think that we are so mad as to threaten for thy sake, our kings and masters, and to declare to them what thou biddest, that they are shortly to become the servants of the Chaldean king?” The ambassadors then might have thus treated the holy Prophet with derision and laughter: but, as we have said, the whole was done for the sake of Zedekiah and the people, in order that the Prophet might dissipate that vain splendor and pomp, by which he saw that Zedekiah and all the Jews were deceived; for they thought that they had as it were high and large mountains to be set in opposition to the Chaldean king and his army: “On what part can they assail us, since the king of Tyrus is on our side, and also the king of Sidon, the king of Moab, and the king of Ammon? these rule widely, and their cities are impregnable.” Thus, then, the Jews were convinced that they would be exempt from every trouble and molestation; but in order that they might not deceive themselves with that vain display, Jeremiah said,
“Declare, ye ambassadors, to your masters what God has spoken, even that ye must submit to the yoke of the king of Babylon.”
And a visible symbol was added in order to confirm the prediction: the Prophet was bidden to put a yoke on his neck, or yokes, for he speaks in the plural number. fwm muth, means a pole, a yoke, a transverse piece of wood: and no doubt he applied some pieces of wood to his neck, like the yoke laid on oxen; and then he tied this yoke or crossbar; for rsy, isar, means to bind or tie, and so twrswm, musarut, are bands; rswm, musar, also means sometimes a girdle; but here it is to be taken for bands or ligaments. It was a sad spectacle to see on the neck of Jeremiah, when he went forth, the symbol of the bondage of all kings and nations: he was as it were in the place of all a captive before the time: but when God laid a yoke on the Jews and on all other nations, Jeremiah was then a free man; for though he bore this mark of bondage, he yet expected God’s judgment with a resigned mind, while others disregarded it. But this confirmation rendered them more inexcusable, as the case is, when God, to strengthen faith, adds sacraments or other helps to his word, by which means he impresses us the more, for he thus teaches not only our ears, but also our eyes and all our senses: when God thus omits nothing that may tend to strengthen our faith in his word, a heavier condemnation awaits us, if such signs avail not.
We then perceive the reason why the Prophet applied to his neck the symbol of future bondage: were there any teachable among the people, to see such a sign with their eyes must have been useful to them. But as the greater part had hardened themselves in their obstinacy, what ought to have done them good, by humbling them in time before God, so as to anticipate his judgment, had no other effect but to render their punishment more grievous.
Then follow these words, I have made the earth, the man and the beast, which are on the face of the earth, by my great power, and by mine extended arm. fE175 The spectacle would have been unmeaning and to no purpose, had Jeremiah only put the yoke on his neck, and added no instruction; for we know that all signs are as it were dead, except life is given them by the word. As then an image avails not much, so whatever signs may be set before our eyes, they would be frivolous and without meaning, were no doctrine added as the life. And hence also is condemned the madness of the Papists, who amuse the minds of the people with many signs, while no doctrine is conveyed. It therefore follows that they are mere figments, and attended with no profit. God, then, has ever added to signs his doctrine, which may therefore be truly compared to the soul, which gives life to the body, that would otherwise be without motion or strength. On this account Jeremiah shews what the yoke meant. He also speaks of the power and sovereign authority of God; for kings, though they confess that God holds the government of the world, cannot yet entertain the idea that they can be in a moment overwhelmed and cast down from their dignity. For they seem to themselves to be fixed in their nests, and so they promise to themselves a permanent condition, and imagine that they are not subject to the common lot of mortals.
As, then, kings are so inflated with pride, the Lord used this preface, that he made the earth and all living beings. He speaks not of heaven, but mentions only that he made the earth, and man, and the animals which are on the face of the earth; and adds, by my great power and extended arm. Why was this said, except that men might be awakened on hearing that the earth continues not as it is, but as it is sustained by God’s power by which it was once created? The same power preserves men and animals; for nothing can remain safe except God exercises from heaven his hidden power. This, then, was the reason why these words were introduced. God set his own arm and power in opposition to the pride of those who thought that they stood by their own power, and did not acknowledge that they were dependent on the nod of God alone, who sustained them as long as he pleased, and then overthrew and reduced them to nothing when it seemed good to him.
This doctrine, then, ought to be applied to ourselves: for Jeremiah did not speak generally and indiscriminately of God’s power, but accommodated to the subject in hand what he said of God’s power, that men might, know that there is nothing fixed or permanent in this world, but that God preserves men and animals, and yet in such a way, that at any moment he can by a single breath reduce to nothing all those who exist and all that they have. It follows —

JEREMIAH 27:6-7
6. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.
6. Et nunc ego dedi omnes terras istas in manum Nebuchadnezer regis abylonis servi mei, atque etiam bestiam agri (hoc est, bestias agrestes) dedi illi ad serviendum ei:
7. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.
7. Et servient ei omnes gentes et filio ejus, et filio filii ejus usque dum venerit temput terrae ejus, atque etiam ipsius; et servient ei gentes multae (vel, magnae) et reges magni.

God, after having claimed to himself the government of the whole earth, and shewn that it is in his power to transfer kingdoms to whom he pleases, now declares his decree — that he would subject to the king of Babylon all the neighboring lands, even Tyrus and Sidon, the country of Moab, the country of Ammon, the country of Edom, and even Judea itself. If Jeremiah had begun by saying, that God had given to King Nebuchadnezzar these lands, the prediction would not have been so easily received, for pride would have been as it were an obstacle to bolt up their minds and hearts. But the preface, as it has been stated, served to shew that they were not to think that they could stand against the will of God. After having then brought down the great height which seemed fixed in their hearts, he now declares that King Nebuchadnezzar would be the lord over Judah as well as over all the countries around, for God had set him over these lands.
He extends also this subjection, of which he speaks, over the very beasts, and not without reason; for he thus indirectly condemns the hardness of men, if they resisted, as though he had said, “What will it avail you to attempt with refractory hearts to shake off the yoke? for the very beasts, tigers, wolves, lions, and every fierce and savage animal in the land, even all these beasts shall know that the King Nebuchadnezzar is their master, even by a hidden instinct. Since, then, these beasts shall obey King Nebuchadnezzar, because he has been raised by God to that dignity, how great must be the stupidity of men in not acknowledging what the very beasts understand?” We hence see the design of mentioning the beasts; the Prophet upbraided men with their madness, if they ferociously resisted the King Nebuchadnezzar; for in that, case the beasts of the field were endued with more intelligence than they. For whence is it that beasts have fear, except that God has imprinted certain marks of dignity on kings, according to what is said by Daniel. (<270238>Daniel 2:38.) As, then, the majesty of God appears in kings, the very beasts, though void of reason and judgment, yet willingly obey through a hidden impulse of nature. Hence inexcusable is the pride of men, if at least they do not imitate the example of the very beasts. fE176
Nebuchadnezzar is afterwards called the servant of God, not that he was worthy of such an honor, as it had never been his purpose to labor for God; but he was called a servant, because God designed to employ him in his service, as those are called in the Psalm the sons of God, to whom the word of God was addressed, that is, to whom he gave authority to rule. (<198206>Psalm 82:6; <431035>John 10:35.) So also Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant, because he was divinely endued with sovereign power. This he did not know, nor was this said for his sake, nor was he honored with such a name, as though God regarded him as one of his own people; but this had a reference to the Jews and to all the other nations, in order that they might be fully persuaded that they were obeying God in humbling themselves and in undertaking the yoke of the king of Babylon, for this pleased God. There is no power, says Paul, but from God, (<451301>Romans 13:1,) and that sentence is derived from this principle, that all power is from God; for he gives the power to rule and to govern to whom he pleases. Whosoever, then, are endued with the power of the sword and public authority, are God’s servants, though they exercise tyranny and be robbers. They are servants, not with respect to themselves, but because God would have them to be acknowledged as his ministers until their time shall come, according to what follows —
Serve him shall all nations, and his son, and the son of his son. The greater part think that Nebuchadnezzar had only two successors of his own posterity, Evil-merodach and Belshazar; others name five, and two of them between Evil-merodach and Belshazar. Those who think that there were no more than three, quote this testimony of the Prophet, for he names only the king’s son and his grandson; but this would be no sufficient reason. I am, however, disposed to follow what has been more commonly received, that Belshazar, the last king of Babylon, who was slain by Cyrus, was the third from Nebuchadnezzar. fE177
But this is not the main thing; for the Prophet speaks of the time of the Chaldean monarchy as well as of the king, until the time of his land shall come. The time of the land was that determined by heaven; for as to every one of us there is a limit fixed beyond which no one can pass, so we ought to judge of kingdoms. As, then, the life of every individual has its fixed limits, so God has determined with regard to the empires of the whole earth; thus the life and death of every kingdom and nation are in the hand and at the will of God. For this reason it is now said, that the time of Chaldea would come, and then it is added, and of the king himself. fE178 This ought not to be confined to Nebuchadnezzar himself; but as his grandson represented him, the time, though not strictly, may yet be aptly said to have been that, when God had put an end to him and to his power when Babylon was taken by the Medes and Persians. This was, however, at the same time for the comfort of the godly; for it was not God’s design to leave the faithful without some alleviation in their trouble, lest grief should overpower them; when they found themselves oppressed by the Chaldeans, and in a manner overwhelmed, doubtless despair might have crept in, and hence murmurings and blasphemies might have followed. It was, therefore, God’s purpose to mitigate in some measure their bitterness when he added, that the time of Nebuchadnezzar himself would come, that is, the time in which he was to perish. When, therefore, the faithful saw him taking possession of all lands, and dreaded by all nations, they were not to despond, but rather to extend their thoughts to that time of which Jeremiah had predicted, that they might receive some alleviation to their grief, and be enabled to bear with more resignation the cross laid on them. In this expression, then, is included a promise; for the hope of deliverance was set before them, when they understood that reverses would soon happen to King Nebuchadnezzar.
He afterwards adds, serve him shall great, or many nations (for the word µybr, rebim, means both) and great kings. fE179 This was distinctly expressed, that no conspiracy might deceive the Jews and other nations; for they thought that when united together they could offer an effectual resistance: “Accumulate your forces and your efforts,” says God; “yet all these shall be dissipated; for my decree is, that great kings and many nations shall serve the Chaldeans.” It follows —

JEREMIAH 27:8
8. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.
8. Erit autem ut gens et regnum, quae non servierint ei, nempe Nebuchadnezer regi Babylonis, et qui non posuerit collum suum sub jugo regis Babylonis, gladio et fame et peste visitabo super gentem illam, dicit Jehova, donec interfecero ipsos in manu ejus.

After having promulgated his decree by the mouth of Jeremiah, God now adds a threatening, in order that the Jews as well as others might willingly, and with resigned and humble minds, undertake the yoke laid on them. The Prophet, indeed, as we have said, had the Jews more especially in view; but he extended, as it were by accident, his prediction to aliens. We hence see why this denunciation of punishment was added. It ought, indeed, to have been enough to say, that Nebuchadnezzar was God’s servant to subdue Judea; but as it was a hard thing for the Jews to receive that enemy, nor could they be induced to submit to him, it became necessary to add this threatening, “See what ye do, for ye cannot be stronger than God.” This threatening is indeed included in the former verse; but we know how tardy men are to learn, especially when any false impression has preoccupied their minds. As, then, the Jews refused the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, though the Prophet had testified to them that he was God’s servant, they would not have hesitated still to evade and to be refractory, had not their hardness and obduracy been broken by this commination.
And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom, which will not serve him, even Nebuchadnezzar, and not put their neck under his yoke, it shall be, that I shall visit that nation, etc. God speaks without distinction of all nations; but the Jews ought to have reasoned from the less to the greater; for if God would so severely punish the pride of the Gentiles, in case they withdrew themselves from under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, how much heavier and more dreadful vengeance ought the Jews to have dreaded, who had been warned by the Prophet, and who doubtless knew that this happened not to them by chance, but that it was God’s righteous judgment, by which their sins were punished? Were they obstinately to attempt to shake off the yoke from their neck, would not this have been to fight against God? We now, then, perceive that the Prophet spoke thus indiscriminately of all nations, that he might sharply rebuke the Jews; and he showed that their ferocity would be inexcusable were they not willingly to humble themselves.
By mentioning twice, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, he seems to imply something important; for they might have objected and said, “What have we to do with a king so distant? and by what right does he now invade our countries? why is he not content with his own burdens? why does he not abide in his own city and in his own land?” And the name of Babylon was at the same time hateful, for they had carried on war with many nations, and reduced the Assyrians under their yoke, who were neighbors to the Jews, and the Assyrians were also in a manner connected with them; and their name was no doubt abhorred by the Jews, on account of the wars perpetually carried on by them. Hence God meets here these objections, and shows that however odious Babylon might be to the Jews, and that however remote Nebuchadnezzar might be from Judea, yet his yoke was to be borne, as it had been so appointed by God. This seems to me to be the reason why Jeremiah repeated the words, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.
There is also a denunciation of punishment, that God would visit with pestilence, famine, and the sword. We know that these words are commonly mentioned in Scripture, when it is God’s purpose to set forth the signs of his wrath. He has indeed various and innumerable ways by which he chastises us; but these are his most remarkable and most known scourges, the pestilence, the sword, and the famine. He then says, that he would visit the nations who would not obey King Nebuchadnezzar with these three scourges; and at the same time he shews what the end would be, until I slay, or consume them by his hand. He not only threatens them with pestilence, famine, and the sword, but he also shows that the end would be such, that the nations who might at first obstinately resist, would yet be constrained to undertake the yoke, and to acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar as their king and master. This is the reason why he says, by his hand.
Death might have seemed lighter, if only they could have escaped the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar; but since both would happen to them, even to be consumed by famine, the sword, and the pestilence, and yet not to be able to escape bondage, it was a miserable prospect indeed. We now then perceive why God speaks of the hand of the King Nebuchadnezzar; it was, that the Jews might know that they could effect nothing by seeking means to escape, for they would at length, willing or unwilling, be brought under the hand and under the yoke of this king.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not in various ways to arm thine hand against us, we may, being at least touched by thy holy admonitions, humble ourselves under thy mighty hand, and thus anticipate thy judgment, so that thou mayest meet us as a merciful and gracious God, and not only remit to us the punishments which we have deserved, but also shew and perpetuate to us thy paternal favor, until, having been led by thine hand, we shall come unto that celestial kingdom which thou hast prepared for us, and which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTH
JEREMIAH 27:9
9. Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:
9. Et vos ne audiatis prophetas vestros, et divinos vestros, et somniatores vestros, et augures vestros, et incantatores vestros, qui dicunt vobis (loquuntur vobiscum dicendo; est quidem idem verbum, sed repetitio esset nimis dura,) Non servietis (vel, ne serviatis) regi Babylonis (est verbum futuri temporis, sed quidam accipiunt in modo hortandi, ut satis tritum est in lingua Hebraica.)

As Jeremiah had declared to the king, as well as to the citizens, that they could not escape the punishment that was at hand, he now shakes off from them that vain confidence, which was as an obstacle in the way, so that they were not touched by threatenings, nor received wholesome warnings. For the false prophets deceived them by their flatteries, and promised that all things would happen prosperously to them. As then the Prophet saw that the ears both of the king and of the people were closed against him, so that he could do little or nothing by exhorting and threatening them, he added what he deemed necessary, even that all the things which the false prophets vainly said were altogether fallacious.
He therefore said, Hear ye not your prophets and your diviners; for µsq, kosam, is to divine; then he adds, your dreamers; in the fourth place, your augurs; in the fifth place, your sorcerers, or charmers. Some indeed regard µynn[, onnim, as observers of time, for hnw[, oune, is a stated time, hence they who imagine that a thing is to be done on this or that day, and promise a happy issue, were called, as they think, µynn[ onnim, because they superstitiously observed hours and periods of time. But as ˆn[, onen, means a cloud, they may also be called µynn[, onnim, who divined by the stars, and hence took counsel as to what was to be done. fE180
But let us now inquire, whether Jeremiah speaks of such dreamers, and others as were among the Jews, or whether he includes also such as were found among the neighboring nations. It seems probable to me, that what he says ought to be confined to the Jews; for I take the word ye, as emphatical, Hear ye not, etc. There follows afterwards an explanation, According to these words have I spoken to the king; and then he adds, that he spoke to the priests and to the people. Hence then we conclude, that the whole of this part was probably addressed to the Jews alone. Divinations,
auguries, and incantations, were indeed prohibited in the Law; but we well know how often the Jews gave up themselves to these tricks of the devil, the Law of God being wholly despised by them. It is then no wonder if at this time there were among them magicians, as well as augurs and diviners, notwithstanding the manifest prohibition of the Law. We may, however, so understand these words, as that the Prophet compared these false prophets to diviners, as well as to augurs and sorcerers. He sets, in the first place, the prophets, but in mentioning them, he seems to mark them with disgrace, because they had departed from their own office, and had assumed another character, for they deceived the people, as augurs, diviners, and magicians were wont to deceive the nations.
It is indeed certain, as I have before reminded you, that the Prophet spoke, not for the sake of other nations, but that the Jews might be rendered inexcusable, or, if there was any hope of repentance, that they might be reminded not to proceed in their usual course. We hence see the meaning of the words, and at the same time perceive the design of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit, who spoke by his mouth.
I said at first that the Prophet met an objection, which might have lessened or taken away the authority of his doctrine; for it was not a small trial, that the prophets denied that any evil was at hand. For the prophetic name was ever held in great repute and respect among the Jews. But we see also at this day, and experience sufficiently teaches us, that men are more ready to receive error and vanity, than to receive the word of God; and so it was then, and the Jews imagined that they honored God, because they regarded his Prophets. But when any one faithfully performed the prophetic office, he was often despised. The Jews therefore were taken up only with a mere name, and thought that they did all that was required by saying that they attended to the prophets, while at the same time they boldly despised the true servants of God. It is so at this day; while the name of the Catholic Church is boasted of under the Papacy, it seems that a regard is had for God; but when the word of God is brought forward, when what has been spoken by apostles and prophets is adduced, it is regarded almost as nothing. We hence see that the Papists separate God as it were from himself, as the Jews formerly did.
And hence also we see how necessary it was for Jeremiah to remove such a stumblingblock; for the Jews might have pertinaciously insisted on this objection,“Thou alone threatenest us with exile; but we have many who glory in being prophets, and who promise safety to us: wouldest thou have us to believe thee alone rather than these who are many?” Thus the Prophet, being alone, had to contend with the false prophets, who were many. And we have now a similar contest with the Papists; for they boast, of their number; and then they object, that nothing would be certain, if it was allowed to every one to appeal to the word of God. They hence conclude that we ought simply to believe the Church, and to receive whatever is brought under the pretense of being Scripture. But Jeremiah had confidence in his own vocation, and had really proved his divine mission, and also that he proclaimed the messages which he had received from the mouth of God. As then he had given certain proofs of his vocation, he had a right to oppose all those false prophets, and not only to disregard their lies, but also in a manner to tread them under his feet, as he seems to have done, Hear ye not, he says, your prophets.
He concedes to them an honorable name, but improperly. It is therefore a catachristic way of speaking, when he names them prophets; but he leaves them their title, as it was not necessary to contend about words. Yet he shews at the same time that they were wholly unworthy of being heard. Hence no authority was left them, though a mere empty name was conceded to them. It is the same at this day, when we call those priests, bishops, and presbyters, who cover themselves with these masks, and yet shew that there is in them nothing episcopal, nothing ecclesiastical, and, in short, nothing that belongs to the doctrine of Christ, or to any lawful order.
He afterwards adds, Who say to yote, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon. We have said that the last clause is rendered by some as an exhortation, Serve ye not the king of Babylon, as though the false prophets stimulated the Jews to shake off the yoke.: But the proper meaning of the verb may be still retained, Ye shall not serve; for we know that the false prophets, when they came forth, pretended to be God’s ambassadors, sent to promise tranquillity, peace, and prosperity to the Jews. Thus they reigned to do, when yet God, as it has been stated, and as we shall again see presently, had testified that there was no other remedy for the people but by submitting to the king of Babylon. It follows —

JEREMIAH 27:10
10. For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land: and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish.
10. Quia mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis, ut procul abducant vos e terra vestra, et ejiciam vos, et pereatis.

This verse also confirms what I have said, — that this discourse was designed for the Jews, and that it was peculiarly for them; for what is said here could not be applied to heathen nations. What then had been lately said of augurs, magicians, and diviners, ought no doubt to be understood of those impostors who, under the name of prophets, deceived that miserable people.
He says that they prophesied falsehood. Many, no doubt, adduced, for the purpose of opposing him, their own evasions: “Art thou alone to be believed? dost thou alone tell the truth? how dost thou prove that what thou teachest is an oracle from heaven, and that these deceive us?” For so do the ungodly usually clamor, as we see to be the case at this day with the Papists, who cover themselves with a pretense of this kind: for whatever abomination there may be, they cover it over by means of this sophistry alone — that the Scripture is obscure, and that controversy is uncertain, and that therefore nothing is to be believed but what the Church has decreed: so with them the definition of men, as they say, is the only rule of faith; and hence, also, the whole authority of Scripture is by them trodden under foot, as though God had in vain spoken by his own prophets and apostles. There is no doubt but the doctrine of Jeremiah was opposed by such clamors: he however persevered in the course of his office, and boldly condemned the prophets, that they only deceived the Jews by their lies.
He adds, that they may remove you far from your land. I have said that this cannot be applied to other nations: but God gave a hope of mercy to his people, provided they willingly obeyed the king of Babylon. It was not indeed a full pardon; yet it was owing to his kindness that God did not treat the Jews with strict justice, but chastised them with gentleness and paternal moderation: for it was an endurable punishment, to remain in their own country and to pay tribute to the king of Babylon. God then would have mitigated the punishment of the people, if only they had willingly undertaken the yoke., This is what Jeremiah now says: “The false prophets seek only this, to drive you far from your country; for they would have you to think that you shall be free from all punishment: but God is prepared to deal gently with you; though he will not wholly pass by your vices, yet your chastisement will be one easily borne, for ye shall remain in your own country. But if ye will believe these impostors, they will lead you away into distant exile; for God says, I will cast you away, and ye shall perish.” fE181
If it be objected again that the Jews could not form a certain opinion, whether Jeremiah was to be believed rather than the others who were many, the answer is at hand: they were themselves conscious of being wicked, and there was no need of long debates to ascertain what was true; for every one found God’s judgment to be against himself, as they had departed from the pure worship of God, and had polluted themselves with many ungodly superstitions, and a license in all kinds of sins had also prevailed among them: they had been warned, not once, nor for one day, but by many prophets, and also continually and for a long time. As then they had thus provoked God’s vengeance by their obstinate wickedness, how could they be in doubt respecting Jeremiah, whether he had, as from the mouth of God, and as a celestial herald declared to them what they deserved? And surely whenever men pretend that they have fallen through error or ignorance, they can always be deprived of this evasion; for their own conscience convicts them, and is sufficient to condemn them.
God adds, that the Jews would perish, except they anticipated extreme judgment, that is, except they submitted to paternal chastisement. This passage deserves to be specially noticed, as we shall presently see again; for we are here taught that whenever God shews some signs of displeasure, there is nothing better for us than to prepare ourselves for patience; for we shall thus ever give place and a free passage to his mercy: but by pertinacity we gain nothing, and do nothing but kindle his wrath more and more. This then is what Jeremiah means when he declares, that they who submitted not to the king of Babylon would perish. It follows —

JEREMIAH 27:11
11. But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the Lord; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.
11. Gens autem quae adduxerit cervicem suam sub jugum regis Babyonis, et servierit ei, relinquam eam in terra sua, dicit Jehova, et colet eam et habitabit in ea.

He seems indeed to speak here indiscriminately of all nations; but the admonition belongs to the Jews alone, as we have said, and as it appears from the context. He seems however to mention the nations, that he might more sharply touch the Jews, as though he had said, “Though God’s promises are not to be extended to heathen nations, yet God will spare the Tyrians and the Moabites, if they submit quietly to the king of Babylon, and take upon them his yoke. If God will spare heathen nations, when yet he has promised them nothing, what may his chosen people expect? But if he will punish nations who err in darkness, what will become of a people who knowingly and wilfully resist God and his judgments?” For obstinacy in the Jews was mad impiety, as though they avowedly designed to carry on war with God; for they knew that Nebuchadnezzar was the executioner of God’s vengeance. When therefore they ferociously attempted to exempt themselves from his power, it was to fight with God, as though they would not submit to his scourges.
We now then perceive why Jeremiah spoke what we here read, not only of the Jews, but also generally of all nations, The nation that brings its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serves him, I will leave it in its own land. We must yet bear in mind what I have before said, that the Jews were the people especially regarded. If, then, they had given place to God’s kindness, he would have graciously spared them, and they would have perpetually enjoyed their own inheritance; but it was their obstinacy that drove them far into exile. And hence he adds, I will leave it in its land; and it shall cultivate it and dwell in it.
There is a striking allusion in the word db[, obed, for it means to serve, and also to cultivate; but there is to be understood a contrast between cultivating the land and that subjection, to which he exhorted the Jews, as though he had said,“Serve the king of Babylon, that the land may serve you; it will be the reward of your obedience, if you will submit yourselves to the power of the king of Babylon, that the land will submit, to you, and you will compel it to serve you, so that it will bring forth food for you.” We hence see that God promised that the land would serve the people, if they refused not to serve the king of Babylon.
And hence also we may gather useful instruction, — that all the elements would be serviceable to us, were we willingly to obey God, but that on the contrary, the heaven, and the earth, and all the elements will be opposed to us, if we pertinaciously resist God. But Jeremiah speaks here more expressly of the submission which men render to God, when they calmly receive his correction, and acknowledge, while he inflicts punishment, that they justly deserve it, and do not refuse to be chastised by his hand. When, therefore, men thus submit to God’s judgment, they obtain his favor, so that the earth, and heaven, and all the elements will serve them. But the more perversely men exalt themselves and raise their horns against God, the more bondage shall they feel; for their own chains bind them stronger than anything else, when they thus struggle with God and do not humble themselves under his mighty hand. The same thing the Prophet still more clearly confirms when he says, —

JEREMIAH 27:12
12. I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.
12. Ad Zedekiam ergo regem Jehudah loquutus sum secundum conctos sermones istos, dicendo, Adducite colla vestra ad jugum regis Babylonis et servite ei et populo ejus, et vivetis.

This verse proves with sufficient clearness that what we have hitherto explained was spoken especially to the chosen people; for Jeremiah tells us here, that he spoke to the King Zedekiah, and in the sixteenth verse he adds that he spoke to the priests and to the people. He was not then sent as a teacher to the Moabites, the Tyrians, and other foreign nations; but God had prescribed to him his limits, within which he was to keep. He therefore says, that he spoke to the king.
We hence learn what he had before said, that he was set over kingdoms and nations; for the doctrine taught by the prophets is higher than all earthly elevations. Jeremiah was, indeed, one of the people, and did not exempt himself from the authority of the king, nor did he pretend that he was released from the laws, because he possessed that high dignity by which he was superior to kings, as the Papal clergy do, who vauntingly boast of their immunity, which is nothing else but a license to live in wickedness. The Prophet then kept himself in his own rank like others; and yet when he had to exercise his spiritual jurisdiction in God’s name, he spared not the king nor his counsellors; for he knew that his doctrine was above all kings; the prophetic office, then, is eminent above all the elevations of kings.
And skilfully no less than wisely did the Prophet exercise his office by first assailing the king, as he had been sent to him. At the same time he addressed him in the plural number, Bring ye your neck, he says; and he did so, because the greater part of the people depended on the will of their king. Then he adds, Serve ye his people. It was, indeed, a thing very unpleasant to be heard, when the Prophet commanded the Jews to submit, not only to the king of Babylon, but also to all his subjects; it was an indignity that must have greatly exasperated them. But he added this designedly, because he saw that he had to do with men refractory and untamable. As, then, they were not pliant, he dealt the more sharply with them, as though he wished to break down their foolish pride. It was not therefore a superfluous expression, when he bade the Jews to obey all the Chaldeans; for they had been so blinded by perverse haughtiness, that for a long time they had resisted God and his prophets, and continued untamable.
There is afterwards added a promise, and ye shall live, fE182 which confirms the truth to which I have referred, — that it is the best remedy for alleviating evils, to acknowledge that we are justly smitten, and to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; for thus it happens, that evils are turned into medicines, and thus become salutary to us. Whatever punishment is inflicted on us for our sins, as it is a sign of God’s wrath, so in a manner it places death before our eyes. Punishment, then, in itself can do nothing but fill us with dread, nay, overwhelm us with despair; and I speak of punishment even the slightest; for we suffer nothing which does not remind us of our sin and guilt, as though God summoned us to his tribunal. How dreadful surely it must be to sustain this, and to fall into the hands of the living God? Hence, when God touches us as it were with his little finger, we cannot but fall down through fear. But this comfort is given to us, that punishment, though in itself grievous and as it were fatal, becomes profitable to us, when we allow God to be our judge, and are prepared to endure whatever seems good to him.
This is what the Prophet means, when he promises that the Jews would live, if they submitted to the king of Babylon; not that they could merit life by their obedience; but the only way by which we can obtain God’s favor and be reconciled to him, is willingly to condemn ourselves; for we anticipate extreme judgment, as Paul says, when we condemn ourselves; and then we shall not be condemned by God. (<461131>1 Corinthians 11:31.) For how is it, that God is so angry with the wicked, except that they wish to be forgiven while in their sins? But this is to pull him down from his throne, for he is not the judge of the world, if the ungodly escape unpunished and laugh at all his threatenings. So also on the other hand, when in true humility we suffer ourselves to be chastised by God, he becomes immediately reconciled to us. This, then, is the life mentioned here. fE183 It follows, —

JEREMIAH 27:13
13. Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?
13. Quare peribitis tu et ppopulus tuus gladio, fame et peste, quemadmodum loquutus est Jehjova super gentem quae non servierit regi Babylonis?

Here is a threatening added; for all means were used not only to invite the Jews, but also to stimulate them to repent. The Prophet offered them pardon, if they quietly submitted to be chastised by God. It was to be their life, he said, when the Lord punished them according to his will. As they could not be sufficiently moved by this kindness, he now adds, “See ye to it, for except ye receive the life offered to you, you must inevitably perish. Therefore thou, Zedekiah, wilt precipitate thyself with all thy people into eternal destruction, if ye continue to be perverse and obstinate against God.”
We hence see that nothing was left undone by the Prophet to bend the Jews to obedience and to lead them to repentance. By speaking of the sword, famine, and pestilence, he intimates that there would be no end, until they were consumed by God’s vengeance, except they suffered themselves, as we have said, to be thus chastised by his paternal kindness, for this would be salutary to them.
PRAYER
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not often and continually to provoke thy wrath against us, we may of our own accord anticipate thy judgment, and not harden ourselves in our sins, having been especially warned by thy word, but in due time repent, and so submit ourselves to thee, that whatever thou mayest appoint for us, we may not doubt but thou wilt be propitious to us; and while fleeing to thy mercy, may we not refuse the punishment thou deemest expedient to bring us to the right way, until having at length put off all our corruptions, we shall enjoy that eternal inheritance, which is laid up for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
LECTURE ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTH
We said yesterday, that as the Prophet saw that there was great insensibility in the Jews, so that they disregarded all God’s promises, he added terror to the hope of mercy. Hence he said, “Ye shall perish, thou and thy people.” He was, no doubt, constrained by necessity to speak in this severe way; for the kind exhortation which he had used availed nothing; and yet God shewed at the same time by his threatening how much he loved the people; for he had a sympathy for them, and as it is said elsewhere, he willed not the death of the sinner, but sought to induce those who were not wholly irreclaimable to repent that they might live. The same thing we now from these words of the Prophet; for God assumes the character of a man ready to give help, and sympathizes with the miseries of a people whom he saw rushing headlong into destruction. It now follows, —

JEREMIAH 27:14
14. Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.
14. Et ne audiatis verba prophetarum, qui dicunt vobis (qui loquutur vobiscum, dicendo,) Non servietis regi Babylonis; quia mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis.

He repeats the same words which we have met with before; there is therefore no need of dwelling long on them here. Yet the repetition was not superfluous; for he had a hard contest with the false prophets, who had attained great authority. As Jeremiah alone made an onset on the whole multitude, the greater part of them might have objected and said, that in matters of such perplexity there was nothing certain or clear. As therefore it was not easy to convince the Jews who were disposed to believe the false prophets, it was necessary to say the same thing often, as we shall also see hereafter. He adds, —

JEREMIAH 27:15
15. For I have not sent them, saith the Lord, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.
15. Quia non misi eos, dicit Jehova, et ipsi prophetant in nomine meo ad mendacium (id est, fallacium) ut vos ejiciam, et pereatis vos et prophetae, qui prophetant vobis.

He confirms what he had said, that they had not been sent by God. The object is to shew the Jews, that they were not to receive thoughtlessly everything presented to them under God’s name, but that they were to exercise discrimination and judgment. This is a passage worthy of special notice, for the devil has ever falsely assumed God’s name; and for all the errors and delusions which have ever prevailed in the world, he has not obtained credit otherwise than by this false pretense. And at this day we see that many are wilfully blind, because they think they are excused before God if they can pretend ignorance, and they say that they are not wickedly credulous, but they dare not make curious inquiries. As then there are many who wilfully put on nooses and also wish to be deceived, we ought to notice what the Prophet says here, that we ought to distinguish the true from false prophets; for what purpose? even that we may receive them only, and depend on their words who have been sent by the Lord.
It may be here asked, how comes this difference? It was formerly necessary for prophets to be raised in a special manner, for it was a special gift to predict future and hidden events, hence the prophetic was not an ordinary office like the sacerdotal. That promise indeed ever continued in force,
“A prophet will I raise to thee from the midst of thy brethren.” (<051818>Deuteronomy 18:18.)
But though this was a perpetual favor conferred by God on the Israelites, yet the prophets were ever called in a special manner; no one was to take this office except endued with an extraordinary gift. Though Jeremiah was a priest, yet he was not on that account a prophet; but God, as we have seen, made him a prophet. But with regard to us, the matter is different, for God does not at this day predict hidden events; but he would have us to be satisfied with his Gospel, for in it is made known to us the perfection of wisdom. As then we live in “the fullness of time,” God does not reveal prophecies so as to point out this or that thing to us in particular. We may now obtain certainty as to the truth, if we form our judgment according to the Law, and the Prophets, and the Gospel. There is indeed need of the spirit of discernment; but we shall never go astray, if we depend on the mouth of God, and follow the example of the Bereans, of whom Luke speaks in the Acts, who says, that they carefully read the Scriptures, and searched whether things were as they were taught by Paul. (<441711>Acts 17:11.) No wrong was done to Paul, when the disciples, in order to confirm their faith, inquired whether his preaching was agreeable to the Law and to the Prophets. So also now, all doctrines ought to be examined by us; and if we follow this rule, we shall never go astray.
As to the ancient people, they could not, as it was said yesterday, be deceived, for the prophets were only interpreters of the Law. With regard to future things, this or that was never predicted by the prophets, unless connected with doctrine, which was as it were the seasoning, and gave a relish to the prophecies; for when they promised what was cheering, it was founded on the eternal covenant of God; and when they threatened the people, they pointed out their sins, so that it was necessary for God to execute his vengeance when their wickedness was incurable. Ever to be borne in mind then is that which is said in Deuteronomy, that God tried his people whenever he gave loose reins to false prophets, (<051303>Deuteronomy 13:3,) for every one who sincerely and undissemblingly loves him shall be guided by his Spirit. This then is the sure trial which God makes as to his faithful people, according to what Paul also says, who refers to this testimony of Moses, that heresies arise in order that they who are the faithful and sincere servants of God, might thereby shew what they really are, (<461119>1 Corinthians 11:19; ) for they do not fluctuate at every wind of doctrine, but remain firm and constant in the pure obedience of faith. Rightly then does Jeremiah say, that they who gave hope of impunity to the people, had not been sent by the Lord; for every one had his own conscience as his judge.
He adds, They prophesy falsely in my name. We see how sedulously and prudently we ought to take heed lest the devil should fascinate us by his charms, especially when the name of God is pretended. It is then not enough for us to hear, “Thus has God spoken,” unless we are fully persuaded that those who use such a preface have been called by him, and that they also afford a sure evidence of their call, so that we may be certain that they are as it were the instruments of the Spirit. Ungodly men will find here an occasion for clamoring, because God does in a manner make a mock of the anxiety of men, for he might send angels from heaven, he might himself speak; but when he employs men, and permits false prophets to boast of this word and of that, while they wholly dissemble, he seems in this way as though he designedly bewildered miserable men. But there is nothing better for us than to acknowledge that our obedience is tried by God, when he addresses us by men; for we know that nothing is more contrary to faith than pride, as also humility is the true principle of faith and the real entrance into God’s kingdom. This then is the reason why God makes use of men.
In the meantime, when impostors creep in and boast that they are true legitimate prophets, it is indeed a grievous trial, and much to be feared; yet. God, as I have said, will ever relieve us, provided we trust not to our own judgment, and assume not to ourselves more than what is just and right, but look to him as the judge, and submit ourselves to his word; and further, if we suffer ourselves to be ruled by his Spirit, he will ever give us wisdom, which will enable us to distinguish between true and false prophets. However this may be, we clearly see that it is no new thing for Satan’s ministers to prophesy in God’s name, that is, falsely to assume his name, when in reality and truth they are vain pretenders.
He afterwards adds, that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, as well as they. Here Jeremiah reminded them, that the prophets who promised impunity could not at length escape, but that they would have to suffer punishment not only for their presumption, but also for those sins by which they, together with the whole people, had already provoked the wrath of God; for their crime was twofold: despising God, they had promised all liberty to indulge in sin; and they had also dared to come forth and to pretend God’s name, though they had not been called, nor did they bring, as we have said, any message from God. But the Prophet again repeated, that such prophets were instigated by the devil’s artifice, in order to aggravate God’s judgment; for the people, inebriated with joy, added sins to sins, as security is wont to lead men to all kinds of wickedness. There is therefore nothing more ruinous than for false teachers to flatter sinners, and so to cajole and wheedle them as to make them to think that they have nothing to do with God; for the devil rules then indeed, when men’s consciences are thus asleep in a deadly lethargy. He afterwards adds, —

JEREMIAH 27:16
16. Also I spake to the priests, and to all this people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the Lord’s house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.
16. Et ad sacerdotes et ad populum hunc loquutus sum, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova, Ne audiatis sermones prophetarum vestrorum, qui prophetant vobis, dicendo, Ecce vasa domus Jehovae reducentur e Babylone nunc cito; mendacium ipsi prophetant vobis.

Jeremiah, as we have seen, did not deal privately with the king alone, for he did not separate him from the people; but as he had directed his words chiefly to him, he therefore expresses now what might have seemed obscure, that though he had begun with the king, he yet included all the Jews. It was indeed necessary to begin with the king, for we know that earthly kings think much of their own dignity, and that the whole people are dependent on their will. Hence Hosea condemned them, because they rendered a too willing obedience to royal edicts, and worshipped God according to what it pleased the king and his counsellors to dictate. (<280511>Hosea 5:11: <330616>Micah 6:16.) As then the royal name served to dazzle the eyes of the simple, Jeremiah was bidden to address first the king himself; but he now shews that the priests and the people were included.
It was indeed like something monstrous, that the priests, whom God had designed to be the interpreters of his Law, should have become so stupid as thoughtlessly to receive, together with the common people, what they had heard from the false prophets. This surely was by no means compatible with that high encomium by which they are honored by Malachi, that the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and that from him the Law is to be sought, because he is the messenger of the God of hosts. (<390207>Malachi 2:7.) As then they were the guardians of the Law and of knowledge, as they were messengers from God himself to the people, how was it that their stupidity was so monstrous, that they did not distinguish between truth and falsehood, but were led astray, together with the most ignorant, by what the false prophets delivered!
This ought to be carefully noticed, that we may not at this day be too much disturbed, when we see the pastoral office assumed by ignorant asses, and that those who are called, and wish to be thought ministers, are so inexperienced in Scripture that they are deficient as to the first elements of religion. And we see the very thing happening at this day especially under the Papacy, as existed among the ancient people; for the Papal bishops are for the most part extremely stupid and presumptuous. There are to be found many husbandmen and artisans, who know nothing of learning, but have only heard what is obscure and indistinct, and yet they can speak better on the general principles of faith than these haughty prelates in all their splendor. How is this? even because the just reward for their sloth is rendered to them. They are verily ignorant of what should qualify them to be bishops, and yet they glory in the name! Yea, though they do not think that Episcopacy consists in anything but in revenues, and also in vain symbols, such as to be mitred, to wear an episcopal ring, and to exhibit other like trumperies, they yet suppose themselves to be a sort of half-gods. Hence it is, that God exposes them to the utmost reproach. The same was the case with the priests under the Law, as Jeremiah now shews; for they were not ashamed of their ignorance, but encouraged the people to believe the false prophets; so at this day do the bishops; they scud forth their monks and such like brawlers, who run here and there to deceive the ignorant people, and they secure a hearing to them. And what is the burden of their message? to bid men to attend to the holy Catholic Church; and what is the Catholic Church? The Synod which the Pope assembles, where the mitred bishops sit; for what purpose? That they may know what pleases these brawlers, to whom is committed the office of disputing. We hence see that all things under the Papacy are at this day in great disorder; and yet this horrible disorder differs nothing from that of old. And it is, as I have said, what ought to be particularly noticed, that our faith may not fail, when we see all things in a confusion and hardly any order remaining.
Now also is added a clearer explanation, — that the Jews were warned, lest they should receive the false prophecy respecting the restoration of the vessels of the Temple; for in order to render the people secure as to the future, the false prophets boasted in this manner, “The splendor of the Temple shall shortly be restored; for the vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar has taken away, shall return together with the captives, and everything decayed shall be repaired.” But Jeremiah said, that what they promised was false; “Believe them not,” he says, “when they say to you, Behold, the vessels of Jehovah’s house shall be brought back, (or restored, that is, shall return hither; ) for the king of Babylon shall either be constrained to restore what he has taken away, or he will of his own accord restore it.” And they also added, Now soon, in order that the shortness of time might be all additional chain to captivate the minds of the people; for had a long time been mentioned, the prophecy would have been less plausible and by no means acceptable to them; but they said, “Almost within a day the vessels of the Temple shall be brought back here.” And Jeremiah also, as we have already seen, and shall presently see again, did not deprive the people of every hope, but had assigned seventy years for their exile. Now these prophets, in order to dissipate this fear, said, — “Shortly shall the vessels be restored;” but he declared that they prophesied falsely to them. It follows —

JEREMIAH 27:17
17. Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?
17. Ne audiatis ipsos, servite regi Babylonis, et vivetis: ut quid erit urbs haec desolatio (hoc est, in vastitatem?)

It is not to be wondered at that Jeremiah said the same things so often, for, as we have seen, he had to contend with false prophets. When any one speaks, and there be no dispute and no adversary opposing him, he may calmly deal with the teachable and confine himself to a few words; but when contention arises, and opponents appear, who may seek to subvert what we say, then we must exercise more care, for they who are thus driven different ways, will not be satisfied with a few words. As, then, Jeremiah saw that the people were fluctuating, he found it necessary, in order to confirm them, to use many words; not that prolixity is in itself sufficient to produce conviction; yet there is no doubt but that Jeremiah spoke efficiently so as to influence at least some portion of the people. Besides, it was necessary to dwell more expressly on a subject not very plausible; the false prophets were heard with favor, and the greater part greedily devoured what was set forth by them; for the hope of impunity is always pleasing and sought after by the world.
But what did Jeremiah say? Serve ye the king of Babylon; that is, “No better condition awaits you than to pay tribute to the king of Babylon; be subject to his authority, and patiently endure whatever he may prescribe to you.” This was indeed a very hard speech; for subjection was not unaccompanied with reproach; besides, he bade them to surrender themselves to a most cruel enemy, as though they were to expose their life to him; and lastly, they were to risk the danger of being spoiled of all that they had. What Jeremiah taught then was very much disliked, as he thus exhorted the people to endure all things. This was, then, the reason why he had not declared in a few and plain words what God had committed to him; it was difficult to persuade the people to undergo the yoke of the king of Babylon, and to submit to his tyranny.
We hence see that there were two very just reasons why the Prophet insisted so much on this one subject, and confirmed what he might have briefly said without any prolixity; Hearken, ye to them, he says; serve ye the king of Babylon and ye shall live. fE184 We must again bear in mind what we said yesterday, that patiently to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand is the best remedy for mitigating punishment, and that in this way punishment is turned into medicine; so on the other hand, when we are like refractory and ferocious horses, whatever punishment God inflicts on us, is only a prelude to endless destruction. Let us then lay hold on this truth and constantly meditate on it, — that our punishment becomes vivifying to us, when we acknowledge God to be a righteous judge and suffer ourselves to be corrected by him. But I refer only briefly to this subject now, for I spoke of it more at large yesterday.
He adds, Why should this city be a desolation?