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Jeremiah 41:4-5

4. And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,

4. Et factum est die postero ex quo occiderat Godoliam, ut nemo sciret,

5. That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.

5. Et venerunt viri ex Sichem, e Silo et Samaria octoginta rasi barba (vel, rasa barba,) et laceris vestibus, et scissi (vel, laniati) in cute sua; oblatio autem et thus in manibus ipsorum, ut offerrent in domo Jehovae.

 

The Prophet skews here, that after Ishmael had polluted his hands, he made no end of his barbarity. And thus wicked men become hardened; for even if they dread at first to murder innocent men, when once they begin the work, they rush on to the commission of numberless murders. This is what the Prophet now tells us had happened; for after Gedaliah was killed, he says, that eighty men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, who brought incense and offering, to present them in the Temple, and that these were led by treachery to Mizpah, there killed and cast into a pit, as we shall hereafter see.

It is not known by what cause Ishmael was induced to commit this cruel and barbarous act, for there was no war declared, nor could he have pretended any excuse for thus slaying unhappy men, who apprehended no such thing. They were of the seed of Abraham, they were worshippers of God, and then they had committed no offense, and plotted nothing against him. Why then he was seized with such rage is uncertain, except that wicked men, as we have said, never set any bounds to their crimes; for God gives theta the spirit of giddiness, so that they are carried away by blind madness. It is, indeed, probable, that they were killed, because Ishmael thought that they carne to Gedaliah, that they might live under his protection, and that he could not have gained anything by the murder of one man, except he obtained authority over the whole land. It was then suspicion alone, and that indeed slight, which led him to such a cruelty. And the atrocity of the deed was enhanced by what the Prophet says, that they came to offer to God incense and offering, מנחה, meneche: and he says also, that they had their beards shaven, and their garments torn Such an appearance ought to have roused pity even in the most inveterate enemies; for we know, that there is an innate feeling which leads us to pity wretchedness and tears, and every mournful appearance. The fury then of Ishmael, even if he had before determined to do some grievous thing to these men, ought to have been allayed by their very sight, so as not to be even angry with them. According then to every view of the case, we see that he must have been divested of every sense of equity, and that he was more cruel than any wild beast.

But it may be asked, How did these men come for the purpose mentioned, since the report respecting the destruction of the Temple must have spread everywhere? for they are not said to have come from Persia, or from countries beyond the sea; but that they came from places not afar off. They who answer that the report of the Temple being destroyed had not reached them, only seek to escape, but the answer is not credible, and it is only an evasion. The Temple was burnt in the fifth month; could that calamity be unknown in Judea? And then we know that Shiloh was not far from Jerusalem, nor was Samaria very distant. Since then the distance of these places cannot account for their ignorance, it seems not to me probable, that these came, because they thought that the Temple was still standing, nor did they bring victims, but only incense and oblation. I then think that they came, not to offer the ordinary sacrifice, but only that they might testify their piety in that place where they had before offered their sacrifices. This conjecture has nothing inconsistent in it; nor is there a doubt, but that before they left their homes, they had put on their mean and torn garments. These were signs, as we have elsewhere seen, of sorrow and mourning among the Orientals.

But here another question is raised, for the Prophet says, that they were torn or cut; and this has been deemed as referring to the skin or body: but this was forbidden by the Law. Some answer that they forgot the Law in their extreme grief, so that they undesignedly tore or lacerated their bodies. But the prohibition of the Law seems to me to have had something special in it, even that God designed by it to distinguish his people from heathens. And we may gather from sacred history, that some artifice was practiced by idolaters, when they cut their bodies; for it is said, that the priests of Baal cut their bodies according to their usual manner or practice. God then, wishing to keep his people from every corruption, forbade them to imitate the rites of the heathens. And then there is no doubt but that God designed to correct excess in grief and mourning. I therefore do not think that anything contrary to the Law was done by these men, when they came to the ruins of the Temple with torn garments and lacerated skin, for there was in them nothing affected, for so lamentable a calamity drew forth such grief, that they spared neither themselves nor their garments.

Jeremiah says, in the first of these verses, that the death of Gedaliah was concealed, so that no one knew it; yet such a deed could have been hardly buried; for many of the Jews were killed together with Gedaliah, and also the guarding soldiers, whom Nebuchadnezzar had given to Gedaliah. But the Prophet means that it was hid, because the report had not yet gone forth. He then speaks comparatively, when he says that it was known to none. We have already stated the purpose for which the eighty men came from Samaria and other places; it was not that they might offer sacrifices, as when the Temple was standing, but only lament the destruction of the Temple and of the city; and that as they had brought from home the greatest sorrow, they might, on their return, humble themselves, after having seen so grievous a punishment inflicted on the people for their sins.

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