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Jeremiah 51:19

19. The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name.

19. Non sicut ipsi (vel, sicut ipsa, si ad idola referimus) portio Jacob; quia fictor omnium ipse, et virga haereditatis ejus, Jehova exercituum nomen ejus.

 

Had the Prophet only said that idols were mere impostures and mockeries, it would have been indeed something; but this part of his teaching would have been cold and uninteresting, had he not, on the other hand, proclaimed the glory of the one and only true God. We ought, indeed, to know that idols are nothing, that men are most foolishly deceived, and are wholly infatuated, when they imagine that there is in them some divinity. But the main thing is, that the true God himself is brought before us, and that we are taught to direct all our thoughts to him. This, then, is what is now done by the Prophet; for after having exposed the folly of the heathens in worshipping idols, and having shown that the whole is nothing but deception and falsehood, he now says, Not as they, the fictitious gods, is the portion of Jacob; that is, the God who had revealed himself to the chosen people is very far different from all idols.

And, doubtless, the vanity which the Prophet before mentioned cannot be adequately understood, except the true God be known. For though some of the ancient philosophers ridiculed the grossest errors of the common people, yet they had nothing fixed or certain on which they could rest, like him, who, when asked, “What was God?” requested time to consider, and who after several delays confessed that the more he inquired into the nature of God, the more absorbed were all his thoughts. And this must necessarily be the case with men until they are taught what God is, which can never be done until he himself represents himself and his glory as it were in a mirror.

This is then the reason why the Prophet, while setting the only true God in opposition to idols and all the inventions of mortals, calls him the portion of Jacob, because the law was as it were the representation of the glory of God. As then he had plainly shown himself there, as far as it was needful for the salvation of the chosen people, the Prophet, in order to invite men to the true knowledge of the true God, calls him the portion of Jacob, as though he had set the law as a mirror before their eyes. The portion of Jacob then is God, who is not like fictitious gods; how so? because he is the framer of all things. It is indeed by a few words that he makes the distinction between the only true God and the fictitious gods; but in this brief sentence he includes what I have before explained, even that God is the fountain of life, and the life of all, and then that his essence is spiritual and also infinite; for as he has created the heaven and the earth, so of necessity he sustains both by his power.

We then see that the Prophet speaks briefly but not frigidly; and from this passage we learn a useful doctrine, even that God cannot be comprehended by us except in his works. As then vain men weary themselves with speculations, which have not in them, so to speak, any practical knowledge, it is no wonder that they run headlong into many delirious things. Let us then be sober in this respect, so that we may not inquire into the essence of God more than it becomes us. When therefore we seek to comprehend what God is, or how to attain the knowledge of him, let us direct all our thoughts, and eyes, and minds to his works.

So also by this passage, when the Prophet calls God the worker or framer of all things, is exposed the vanity of all superstitions; and how? because we hence learn that the power which made not the heaven and the earth, is vain and worthless; but the only maker of heaven and earth is God, then he is God alone. Since he is the only true God, it follows that the inventions or figments of men are altogether delirious, and are therefore the artifices and impostures of the devil to deceive mankind. We hence see that the doctrine of the Prophet is exclusive, when he says that God is the maker of all things; for where the maker of all things is not found, there certainly no divinity can be.

He adds, the rod of his inheritance This seems to refer to God, but in the tenth chapter the word Israel is introduced; otherwise these five verses literally agree, but in that passage the Prophet says that Israel was the rod of God’s inheritance Here the rod means a measuring pole; for the similitude is taken from lands being measured; for the ancients used poles of certain length for measuring. Hence the Hebrews called an inheritance the rod of inheritance, because it was what had been measured and had certain limits: as when one possesses a field, he knows how many acres it contains, it having been measured. But both things may be fitly and truly said, even that Israel is the rod of God’s inheritance, and also that God himself is a rod of inheritance; for there is a mutual union. For as God favors us with this honor, to make us his inheritance, and is pleased to have us as his own, so also he offers himself to us as an inheritance. David says often, “The Lord is my portion,” and “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance,” that is, my hereditary portion. So in this place the meaning would not be unsuitable were we to apply the words to God. As, however, the word Israel is found in the former place, it may be deemed as understood here. 8686     Though the Hebrew here is exactly the same as in Jeremiah 10, except that “Israel” is omitted here, yet the Vulg., the Syr., and the Targ. give a different version; but in the Sept. it is the same. But many copies have “Israel” here, which is no doubt the correct reading. — Ed.

He says at last, Jehovah of hosts is his name There is implied a contrast here; for he does not honor God with this character, as though it was a common or ordinary name; but he claims for him his own right, and thus distinguishes him from all idols. By saying, then, that this name belongs only to the true God, even the God of Israel, he intimates that by this distinction he differs from all idols, and that men are sacrilegious when they transfer any power to idols, and expect safety from them, and flee to them. As then this name belongs only to God, it follows that in Him dwells a fullness of all power and might. Since it is so, then wholly worthless is everything that the world has ever imagined respecting the number and multitude of gods. It now follows, —


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