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Jeremiah 4:22

22. For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.

22. Quoniam stultus populus meus, me non cognovit; filii insipientes ipsi, et non intelligentes ipsi (sunt; חמה demonstrativum pronomen ponitur vice verbi:) astuti ipsi (vel, sapientes) ad malum; sed ad benefaciendum non intelligunt.


The Prophet again teaches us, that the cause of these evils arose from the people themselves, and was to be found in them, so that they could not transfer it to anybody else. Hence he says, My people are foolish. He speaks here in the person of God; for it immediately follows, Me have they not known: this could not have been said by Jeremiah. God then complains here of the folly of his people; whom he so calls, not by way of honor, but that he might double their reproach; for nothing could have been more disgraceful than that the people, whom God had chosen as his peculiar inheritance, should be thus demented: for why had God chosen the seed of Abraham as his adopted children, but that they might be as lamps, carrying through the world the light of salvation?

“What people in the world, “says Moses, “are so noble, who have gods so near them?” He says also, “This is thy knowledge and wisdom.” (Deuteronomy 4:6, 7.)

God then shews here that it was a monstrous thing, which all should regard with abhorrence, that his people should be foolish; as though he had said, “Can it be that a people whom I have chosen for myself, and with whom I have deposited the covenant of eternal salvation, whom I have instructed by my word — that this people should so madly ruin themselves?”

The people, then, are foolish, because they have not known me. He here expresses what was the cause of the foolishness or blindness of the people, even because they did not know God; for the knowledge of him is true wisdom. Now God thus shews that the madness of the people was inexcusable. How so? because he had made himself so familiarly known to them, that the Israelites had no occasion to ask, as Moses says, Who shall ascend into heaven, or who shall descend into the deep? for the word was set before them. (Deuteronomy 30:12-14.) As, then, God had so kindly manifested himself to the Jews, he justly complains that he was not known by them.

There are then here two things to be noticed; first, the kind of madness that is here mentioned, — the people did not know God. And we hence learn that then only are we wise when we fear God, and that we are always mad and senseless when we regard him not. This is one thing. Secondly, we must know that no excuse of ignorance or mistake was allowed to that people, for God had made himself known to them. And this may be applied to us: God will justly upbraid us at the last day, that we have been foolish and mad, if we are without the knowledge of him; for we have the means, as I have said, of knowing him; and there is no excuse that we can plead for our ignorance, since God has not spoken to us in an obscure manner. God in these words accused the Jews of ingratitude, and of deliberate wickedness, because they knew him not. But since God has at this day made himself more fully known to us, it is, as I have said, a heavier condemnation to us, and our punishment will thus be doubled, if we know not God, who is so kind to us, and deals with us so graciously.

Then he adds, that they were foolish children, and not intelligent. The antithesis in Hebrew is more emphatical than in Greek and Latin; for to say, “He is foolish, and not wise, “would be in Greek and Latin frigid, as the last clause would be weaker than the former. But in Hebrew it is different; for in this way is conveyed the idea, that they were so foolish that not even the least portion of a sound mind remained in them. Even those who are foolish and senseless do yet retain some knowledge, however small it may be: hence they say, that the foolish often speak what is suitable. But the Prophet means another thing, — that the Jews were not only senseless and stupid, but that they were so destitute of all knowledge, that they were like stones or brute animals, and that they had not a particle of sound mind or of rational knowledge remaining in them. 118118     The specific meaning of the terms used in this verse is not given in our version, nor by Calvin, nor by Blayney. The following, as I apprehend, is a literal version, —
   For stupid are my people, Me they do not know; Foolish children are they, And undiscerning are they; Wise are they to do evil, But how to do good they know not.

   “Stupid,” אויל, is one grossly ignorant, so as to be without knowledge, and not capable of knowing how to do good, or what is the good to be done. The last line explains the two first. Then “foolish,” סכלים, are the perverse, or the perverted, who are foolish through a perverted mind, who are said in the next line to be undiscerning, and who, as in the line which follows, had wisdom enough to do evil. They were stupidly ignorant, and perversely foolish. They were ignorant as to good, and wise as to evil; but this their wisdom was folly. — Ed
The rest we shall defer to another time.

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