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Jeremiah 51:51

51. We are confounded, because we have heard reproach: shame hath covered our faces: for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the LORD’S house.

51. Pudefacti sumus, quia audivimus opprobrium; operuit igno minia facies nostras, quia venerunt extranei in sanctuaria domus Jehovae.

 

It is thought that these words were spoken by the Prophet to the faithful, to confirm them as to their return. But I rather think that they were spoken by way of anticipation. They who think that they were spoken as a formula to the Israelites, that they might with more alacrity prepare themselves for their return, suppose a verb understood, “Say ye, we are confounded (or ashamed), because we have heard reproach;” even that sorrow would wound the minds of the faithful, to the end that they might nevertheless go through all their difficulties. But as I have said, the Prophet here repeats what the faithful might have of themselves conceived in their own minds; and he thus speaks by way of concession, as though he said, “I know that you have in readiness these words, ‘We are ashamed, we are overwhelmed with reproaches; strangers have entered into the sanctuary of God: since the temple is polluted and the city overthrown, what any more remains for us? and doubtless we see that all things supply reasons for despair.’”

As, then, the thoughts of the flesh suggested to the faithful such things as might have dejected their minds, the Prophet meets them and recites their words. He then says, as in their person, We are confounded, because we have heard reproach; that is, because we have been harassed by the reproaches of our enemies. For there is no doubt but that the Chaldeans heaped many reproaches on that miserable people; for their pride and their cruelty were such that they insulted the Jews, especially as their religion was wholly different. As, then, the ears of the people were often annoyed by reproaches, the Prophet declares here that they had some cause according to the flesh, why they could hardly dare to entertain the hope of a return.

To the same purpose is what he adds, Shame hath covered our faces, because strangers have come into the sanctuaries of Jehovah For it was the chief glory of the chosen people that they had a temple where they did not in vain call upon God; for this promise was like an invaluable treasure,

“I will dwell in the midst of you; this is my rest, here will I dwell.” (Psalm 132:13, 14)

As, then, God was pleased to choose for himself that throne and habitation in the world, it was, as I have said, the principal dignity of the people. But when the temple was overthrown, what more remained for them? it was as though religion was wholly subverted, and as though God also had left them and moved elsewhere; in short, all their hope of divine aid and of salvation was taken away from there.

We now, then, understand why the Prophet speaks thus according to the common thoughts of the people, even that they were covered with shame, because strangers had come into God’s sanctuaries; for that habitation, which God had chosen for himself, was polluted. And he says “sanctuaries,” in the plural number, because the temple had many departments, as the tabernacle had; for there was rite vestibule or the court where they killed the victims; and then there was the holy place, and there was the holy of holies, which was the inner sanctuary. It was then on this account that he said that the sanctuaries of the house of God were possessed by strangers; for it was a sad and shameful pollution when strangers took possession of God’s temple, where even the common people were not admitted; for though the whole of the people were consecrated to God, yet none but the priests entered the temple. It was therefore a dreadful profanation of the temple, when enemies entered it by force and for the sake of degrading it. What then remained for the people, except despair?

“This is your glory,” said Moses, “before all nations; for what people so noble, what nation so illustrious, as to have gods so near to it!” (Deuteronomy 4:6-8)

When, therefore, God ceased to dwell familiarly with the Jews, all their glory fell, and they were overwhelmed with shame. But after the Prophet recited these complaints, he immediately subjoins a consolation, —

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