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Jeremiah 1:11-12

11. Moreover, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

11. Et (hoc est, postea) factus est sermo Jehovae ad me (datus est mihi, fuit, ad verbum,) dicendo, Quid tu vides, Jeremia? Et dixi, Baculum vigilis (aut, amigdali) ego video.

12. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

12. Et dixit Jehova ad me, Bene fecisti ad videndam (hoc est, recte vidisti,) quia vigilo (aut, festino, vigilans ego, ad verbum) super sermonem meum ut ipsum faciam (hoc est, ut compleam.)

 

God confirms in this passage what he had previously said of the power of his word. These two verses, then, are to be taken as explanatory, for no new subject is introduced; but the former part is confirmed — that the Prophets spoke not in vain, or to no purpose, because they were invested with celestial power to plant and to build, and, on the other hand, to pull down and to root up, according to what we have quoted from Paul, who says that true teachers are armed with such power. (2 Corinthians 10:5, 6) We have in readiness, he says, vengeance against all the unbelieving, however proud they may be: and though their height may terrify the whole world, yet we have a sword in our hands which will stay them; for God’s word has sufficient power to destroy the rebellious.

God then proceeds with the same subject when he says, What seest thou, Jeremiah? He had set before him a staff or a rod of almond, as some render the word: and שקר, shaked, means an almond; but as it comes from a verb which means to watch or to hasten, we cannot fitly render it here, almond. I do not, however, deny that the Hebrew word has this meaning. But it is written here with Kamets; the participle which afterwards follows has Holem: we hence see what affinity there is between the two words. The word שקר, shaked, an almond, is derived from the verb, שקר, shakad, to watch; and it has been thought that this tree is so called, because it brings forth fruit earlier than other trees; for almonds, as it is well known, flower even in winter, and in the coldest seasons. Now, were we to say in Latin, I see a rod or a staff of almond; and were the answer given, Thou hast rightly seen, for I watch, the allusion in the words would not appear, the sentence would lose its beauty, and there would indeed be no meaning. It is hence necessary to give another version, except we wish to pervert the passage, and to involve the Prophet’s meaning in darkness. It should be, “I see the rod, “or the staff, “of a watcher.” Let us grant that the almond is intended; yet the tree may be called watchful, according to what etymology requires, and also the sense of the passage, as all must see. 1414     The word is rendered “a rod of almond” by the Septuagint, the Arabic version, and Theodotion; and also by Piscator, Drusius, Grotius, and Blayney; and “the rod of the watcher” by Sym., Aq., and the Vulgate The latter is no doubt more suitable in a translation. Some conclude, from what is related in Numbers 17, that the head of each tribe carried a wand or a staff made of the almond tree as a token of watchfulness: if so, the probability is, that this wand was presented to the view of the Prophet. It being a well-known emblem of watchfulness, and called perhaps the watchful rod or staff, it was most suitable to the purposes here designed. The verb שקד does not mean to hasten, but to watch, or to be awake. Then the version of the passage would be the following: -
   11. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, “What seest thou, Jeremiah?” and I said, “The rod of a watcher is what I see.”

   12. Then Jehovah said to me, “Thou seest rightly, for I am watching over my word to do it.”

   — Ed.

God then caused his servant to see the staff of a watcher. For what purpose? The answer is given: Thou hast rightly seen the staff of a watcher, because I watch over my word to execute (or, fulfill) it Interpreters seem to have unwisely confined this to the punishments afterwards mentioned: they think that what is intimated is, that the threatenings which the Prophet announced would not be without effect, because God was prepared to inflict whatever he would denounce. But this, as I think, is too restricted a view; for God, I have no doubt, extols here his own word, and speaks of its accomplishment; as though he had said, that he spoke not by his servants, that what they said might vanish into air, or fall to the ground, but that power would accompany it, according to what is said in Isaiah,

“Not return shall my word to me empty, but shall prosper in all things,” (Isaiah 55:11)

that is, “I will cause the prophetic doctrine to take effect, that the whole world may know that I have not spoken in vain, and that my word is not an empty sound, but that it has real power, which in due time will appear.”

Hence I have said that these verses ought to be connected with the last, in which God said, that he sent his Prophet to root up and to plant, to demolish and to build. He then gives a proof of this in other words, and says that he would watch over his word, that he might execute whatever he had announced by his servants; as though he had said, “I indeed allot their parts (so to speak) to the prophets; but as they speak from my mouth, I am present with them to fulfill whatever I command them.” In short, God intimates that the might and the power of his hand would be connected with the word, of which the prophets were ministers among men. Thus it is a general declaration which refers not only to punishments, but also to promises. Rightly, then, hast thou seen, he says; for I am watching.

God does not here resign his own office to Jeremiah, though he employs him as his teacher; for he shews that the power to accomplish what the Prophet would declare remained with him. God indeed does not here ascribe to Jeremiah anything as his own, or apart from himself, but sets forth only the power of his word; as though he had said, “Provided thou be my faithful minister, I will not frustrate thy hope, nor the hope of those who shall obey thee; for I will fulfill whatever thou and they may justly hope for: nor shall they escape unpunished who shall resist thee; for I will in due time bring on them the punishment they deserve.”

He therefore uses the word to watch, or to hasten, in order to shew that he stood ready to give effect to his word at the appointed time. The effect does not indeed always appear to us: it is on this account said by Habakkuk, that if prophecy delays, we are to wait;

“for it will not be,” he says,
“beyond its time; but coming it will come.” (Habakkuk. 2:3)

God then bids us with quiet minds to wait for the accomplishment of his word; but he afterwards adds, in order to modify what he had said, “coming it will come;” that is, “I will accomplish and really perform whatever my prophets have spoken by my command.” So there shall be no delay, for the suitable time depends on God’s will, and not on the judgment of men. It then follows, — but as the clock strikes, I cannot proceed farther today.


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