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Jeremiah 29:30-32

30. Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,

30. Et fuit sermo Jehovae ad Jeremiam, dicendo,

31. Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie:

31. Mitte ad totam captivitatem, dicendo, Sic dicit Jehova de Semaiah Nehelamita, Propterea quod prophetavit vobis Semaiah, cum ego non miserim ipsum, et confidere vos fecit super mendacio;

32. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.

32. Ideo sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego visitans (id est, visitabo) super Semaiah Nehelamitam, et super semen ejus, non erit illi vir, qui habitet in medio populi hujus, et non videbit bonum quod ego faciam populo meo, dicit Jehova, quia aversionem (vel, defectionem) loquutus est contra Jehovam.

 

Jeremiah distinctly declares that this impostor would not escape unpunished, because he had dared falsely to pretend the name of God, and avowedly opposed Jeremiah. Here, then, the Prophet makes no long discourse, but on the contrary simply declares by the power of the Spirit what would take place. He speaks in God’s name, for he had been sent as a herald to proclaim this judgment. This, then, is the reason why he is so brief; for there was to be no dispute, though the impostor on the other hand was carrying himself very high, and hesitated not to overthrow the revealed truth of God, which had been confirmed by many witnesses.

The sum of what is stated is, that Shemaiah would not see the favor of God, and that none of his seed would remain alive. It was a curse under the Law, as it is well known, that one should have no seed left. (Deuteronomy 28:18.) Jeremiah then denounces on Shemaiah this punishment, that no one of his seed would remain alive, but that he would die childless; and then he excludes him from the enjoyment of the benefit which the Lord had determined to bestow on his people. He wished to return after two years to his own country; Jeremiah commanded the people patiently to endure their exile to the end of seventy years, which was the time of their deliverance. As, then, Shemaiah despised the lawful time, he was deprived of the favor of seeing that event.

Added then is the reason; first, because he had abused the name of God; he prophesied and I had not sent him, said the Lord; the second reason was, that he deceived the people with a vain hope; falsehood of itself is worthy of a heavy punishment; but when it was pernicious to God’s people, it became still more heinous, and therefore worthy of a twofold punishment.

Now we see that Jeremiah esteemed as nothing that he was condemned by Shemaiah; for he retained his own dignity; though the impostor attempted to subvert his authority, yet the Prophet speaks as though he was wholly unstained and not hurt nor affected by any calumny. The same magnanimity of mind is what all faithful teachers ought to possess, so as to look down, as from on high, on all deceivers, and their chatterings, and curses, and to go on in their course, however insolently the despisers of God may rise up against them, and tear and overwhelm them with reproaches. Let then all those who seek to serve God and his Church follow this example of the Prophet, so that they may not be discouraged in their minds when they find that they have to contend with dishonest men.

But Jeremiah is bidden to write to all the captives, for Shemaiah was not worthy of being reproved; but God had a regard for the public safety of the exiles, and reminded them of what would take place. It is indeed probable that this prophecy was without any fruit, until it was known by the event itself that Jeremiah had not without reason thus prophesied. Until, then, Shemaiah died, and died without any to succeed him, the people disregarded what had been predicted; but at length they were constrained to acknowledge that Jeremiah had not spoken his own thought, but had been furnished with a message from God; for God really fulfilled what he had predicted by the mouth of his Prophet.

The two reasons follow, why God resolved to punish Shemaiah: the first is, that he had seized on the prophetic office without a call; and hence we conclude, according to what has already appeared, that this office which had been instituted by God, was perverted, when any one intruded into it without a commission. Let us then know that no one ought to be deemed a legitimate teacher, except he can really shew that he has been called from above. I have in several places stated that two things belonged to a call; the inward call was the chief thing when the state of the Church was in disorder, that is, when the priests neglected the duty of teaching, and wholly departed from what their office required. When, therefore, the Church became disordered, God applied an extraordinary remedy by raising up prophets. But when the Church is rightly and regularly formed, no one can boast that he is a pastor or a minister, except he is also called by the suffrages of men. But as I have spoken on this subject more at large on the twenty-third chapter, I only slightly refer to it now.

As to the present passage in which God condemns Shemaiah for having thrust in himself without being called, what is meant is, that he brought forward his own dreams, having been furnished with no commission; for the prophetic office was then special. Then Shemaiah is here rejected as an impostor, because he had only brought forward prophecies suggested by his own brains, which yet he falsely pretended to have been from God; and it was a most atrocious crime, as it was a sacrilege to abuse, as Shemaiah did, the name of God. But the atrocity of his sin the Prophet still further sets forth, by saying that his prophecies were pernicious and fatal to the people. We hence conclude how solicitous God was for the safety of his people, in thus avenging the falsehoods which were calculated to lead them to ruin; and Jeremiah shews that Shemaiah’s teaching was ruinous, because he inebriated the people with false confidence; he made you, he says, to trust in falsehood; for he promised them a quick return, when it was God’s will, that the Jews should patiently bear their exile till the end of the seventy years.

But we may deduce from this passage a useful doctrine, — that nothing is more pestiferous in a Church than for men to be led away by a false confidence or trust. For it is the foundation of all true religion to depend on the mouth or word of God; and it is also the foundation of our salvation. As, then, the salvation of men as well as true religion is founded on faith and the obedience of faith; so also when we are drawn away to some false trust, the whole of true religion falls to the ground, and at the same time every hope of salvation vanishes. This ought to be carefully observed, so that we may learn to embrace that doctrine which teaches us to trust in no other than in the only true God, and reject all those inventions which may lead us away from him, even in the least degree, so that we may not look around us nor be carried here and there.

For this reason, as I have said, the Prophet declares that Shemaiah would die childless, and be precluded from enjoying the favor which God had resolved and even promised to bestow on his people. And all this, as I have reminded you, was said for the sake of the people; for this prophecy did no good to Shemaiah nor to his posterity; but his punishment ought to have benefited the miserable exiles so as to lead them to repentance, however late it may have been. This is the import of the passage.

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