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Jeremiah 31:1-2

1. At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.

1. In tempore illo, dicit Jehova, ero in Deum cunctis cognationibus Israel; et ipsi mihi in populum.

2. Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.

2. Sic dicit Jehova, Invenit gratiam in deserto populus qui evaserant a gladio, proficiscendo donec quietem daret ipsi Israeli (vel profectus est Israel, donec se ad quietem conferret)

 

I omit here any remarks on the first verse; for it was explained in connection, with the 22d verse of the last chapter (Jeremiah 30:22). The verb הלוך eluk, in the second verse, is in the infinitive mood, but it is to be taken as a preterite, and in this interpreters agree. But some apply it to God, that he is a leader to his people, until he brings them to rest; and as the verb, להרגיעו, laeregiou, to rest him, so to speak, is in Hiphil, it seems that this ought to be ascribed to God. But we may take the words more simply, “until he betakes himself to rest;” added afterwards is the word “Israel;” and thus we may render the pronoun “himself,” and not “him,” — until then he betook himself to rest 2121     The early versions and the Targum vary much as to the meaning of this and the following verse. The nearest to the Original, as a whole, is the Vulg.; the Sept. go wholly astray. Of all the expositions which have been given, that of Calvin seems the best, as it corresponds more with the Hebrew. I render the second verse thus, —
   Thus saith Jehovah, — Find favor in the wilderness Did the people, the remnants of the sword, When proceeding to his rest was Israel.

   I take הלוך as a participle, the auxiliary verb being understood, as the case often is in Hebrew. Preceded by a preposition, and followed by a pronoun, הרגיע is a verb in the infinitive mood, used as a noun. Twelve MSS., says Blayney, have הלך a past tense in Kal: if so, then the meaning would be more striking, though somewhat elliptical, —

   Proceed (or advance) to his rest did Israel.

   As though he had said, “The people, who escaped the sword of Pharaoh and the slaughters which happened to them, found favor during their passage through the wilderness, and notwithstanding all opposition, Israel advanced forward to his promised rest.” — Ed.

Let us now come to the truth which the Prophet handles: he reminds the people, no doubt, of the ancient benefits of God, in order that the miserable exiles might entertain hope, and not doubt but that God would be their deliverer, though they were drowned, as it were, in Chaldea, and overwhelmed with a deluge of evils. This is the reason why he mentions the desert, and why Jeremiah also adds, that they who were then preserved had escaped from the sword For the people, though they dwelt in a pleasant and fertile country, were in a manner in a desert, when compared with their own country. As then the Israelites had been driven far away into foreign lands, all the regions where they then inhabited are compared to a desert. A similar mode of speaking is adopted by Isaiah when he says,

“A voice crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight paths in the wilderness.” (Isaiah 40:3)

What did he understand then by desert? even the most fertile regions, Chaldea, Assyria, and other neighboring countries. But with regard to the people, he thus calls these countries, because their exile was always sorrowful and miserable. So then in this place the Prophet, in order to animate the exiles with hope, says, that though they had been sent away to unknown regions, yet distance, or anything else which might seem opposed to their liberation, could not prevent God to restore them; for he formerly liberated their fathers when they were in Egypt.; Now as the Jews might again object and say, that they were few in number, and also that they were ever exposed to the sword, as they dwelt among conquerors the most cruel, he says, that their fathers were not preserved otherwise than by a miracle; they had been snatched, as it were, from the midst of death.

We now perceive the design of the Prophet; and we may include in a few words the substance of what he says, — That there was no reason to fear, that God would not, in due time, deliver his people; for it was well known, that when he became formerly the liberator of his people, his power was rendered illustrious in various ways, nay, that it was inconceivably great, since for forty years he nourished his people in the desert, and also that their coming out was as though the dead arose from their graves, for the Egyptians might have easily killed the whole people; so that they were taken as it were from death, when they were led into the land which had been promised to Abraham. There was therefore no doubt but that God would again, in a wonderful way, deliver them, and manifest the same power in liberating them as was formerly exhibited towards their fathers.

A profitable doctrine may hence be gathered: Whenever despair presents itself to our eyes, or whenever our miseries tempt us to despair, let the benefits of God come to our minds, not only those which we ourselves have experienced, but also those which he has in all ages conferred on his Church, according to what David also says, who had this one consolation in his grief, when pressed down with extreme evils and almost overwhelmed with despair,

“I remember the days of old.” (Psalm 143:5)

So that he not only called to mind the benefits of God which he himself had experienced, but also what he had heard of from his fathers, and what he had read of in the books of Moses. In the same manner the Prophet here reminds us of God’s benefits, when we seem to be forsaken by him; for this one thought is capable of alleviating and comforting us. This is the import of the whole. It now follows —


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