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Lamentations 2:14

14. Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.

14. Prophetae tui viderunt tibi vanitatem et insulsitatem (vel, insipidum,) et non aperuerunt super iniquitate tua (hoc est, non revelarunt tibi; aut, manifestarunt iniquitatem tuam,) ut converterent captivitatem tuam (alii vertunt, aversionem tuam, vel, defectionem) et viderunt tibi prophetias vanitatis, et expulsiones.

 

Here the Prophet condemns the Jews for that wantonness by which they had, as it were, designedly destroyed themselves, as though they had willfully drunk sweet poison. They had been inebriated with those fallacies which we have seen, when impostors promised them a prosperous condition; for we have seen that false prophets often boldly declared that whatever Jeremiah threatened was of no account. Since, then, the Jews were inebriated with such flatteries, and disregarded God’s judgment, and freely indulged themselves in their vices, the effect was, that God’s wrath had been always and continually kindled by them. Now, then, Jeremiah reproves them for such wantonness, even because they willfully sought to be deceived, and with avidity cast themselves into snares, by seeking for themselves flatterers as teachers. Micah also reproves them for the same thing, that they sought prophets who promised them a fruitful vintage and an abundant harvest. (Micah 2:10.) The meaning of Jeremiah is the same.

He says that prophets had prophesied, or had seen vanity for them; but the verb refers to prophecies, as prophets are called seers. He then says that the prophets had seen vanity and insipidity 162162     So it means when applied to eatables, but folly or absurdity when applied to words. It comes from נפל, to fall, in the sense of decaying or degenerating. It is what is neither wise nor true. Hence it is rendered “foolishness” by the Sept.; “foolish” by the Vulg.; and “without substance” by the Targ. —
   Thy prophets, they have seen vanity and folly.

   What they had seen were both “vain,” useless, and “foolish,” absurd. — Ed.
This availed not to extenuate the fault of the people; and Jeremiah does not here flatter the people, as though they had perished through the fault of others; and yet this was a common excuse, for most, when they had been deceived, complained that they had fallen through being led astray, and also that they had not been sufficiently cautious when subtle men were laying snares for them. But the Prophet here condemns the Jews, because they had been deceived by false prophets, as it was a just reward for their vainglory and ambition. For they had very delicate ears, and free reproofs could not be endured by them; in a word, when they rejected all sound doctrine, the devil must have necessarily succeeded in the place of God, as also Paul says,

“that those were justly punished who were blinded by God so as to believe a lie, because they received not the truth.”
(2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12.)

We now perceive the design of the Prophet: he says that the Jews had indeed been deceived by the false prophets; but this had happened through their own fault, because they had not submitted to obey God, because they had rejected sound doctrine, because they had been rebellious against all his counsels. At the same time, not only their crime seems to have been thus exaggerated, but also their shame was brought before them, — because they had dared to set up these impostors against Jeremiah as well as other servants of God; for they had boasted greatly of these their false prophets whenever they sought to exult against God. How great was this presumption! When the false prophets had promised them security, they immediately triumphed in an insolent manner over Jeremiah, as though they were victorious. As, then, their wickedness and arrogance had been such against God, the Prophet justly retorts upon them, “Behold now as to your false prophets; for when they lately promised to you prosperity of every kind, I was inhumanly treated, and my calling was disdainfully repudiated by you; let now your false prophets come forward: be wise at length through your evils, and acknowledge what it is to have acted so haughtily against God and against his servants.” We now understand why the Prophet says, “They have seen for you vanity and insipidity.”

He adds, they have not opened, or revealed, &c. The preposition על, ol, is here redundant; the words are, “they have not revealed upon thine iniquity.” There is, indeed, a suitableness in the words in that language, that they had not applied their revelations to the iniquities of the people, for they would have been thus restored to the right way, and would have thus obviated the vengeance of God.

Now, this passage ought to be carefully noticed: Jeremiah spoke of the fallacies of the false prophets, which he said were insipid: he now expresses how they had deceived the people, even because they disclosed not their iniquities. Let us then know that there is nothing more necessary than to be warned, that being conscious of our iniquities we may repent. And this was the chief benefit to be derived from the teaching of the prophets. For the other part, the foretelling of future things would have had but little effect had not the prophets preached respecting the vengeance of God, — had they not exhorted the people to repentance, — had they not bidden them by faith to embrace the mercy of God. Then Jeremiah in a manner detects the false doctrines of those who had corrupted the prophetic doctrine, by saying that they had not disclosed iniquities. Let us then learn by this mark how to distinguish between the faithful servants of God and impostors. For the Lord by his word summons us before his tribunal, and would have our iniquities discovered, that we may loathe ourselves, and thus open an entrance for mercy. But when what is brought before us only tickles our ears and feeds our curiosity, and, at the same time, buries all our iniquities, let us then know that the refined things which vastly please men are insipid and useless. Let, then, the doctrine of repentance be approved by us, the doctrine which leads us to God’s tribunal, so that being cast down in ourselves we may flee to his mercy.

He afterwards adds, that they might turn back thy captivity; some prefer, “thy defection” — and this meaning is not unsuitable; but the Prophet, I have no doubt, refers to punishment rather than to a crime. Then the captivity of the people would have been reversed had the people in time repented; for we obviate God’s wrath by repentance: “If we judge ourselves,” says Paul, “we shall not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:31.) As, then, miserable men anticipate God’s judgment when they become judges of themselves, the Prophet does not without reason say that the false prophets had not disclosed their iniquities, so that they might remain quiet in their own country, and never be driven into exile. How so? for God would have been thus pacified, that is, had the people willingly turned to him, as it is said in Isaiah,

“And be converted, and I should heal them.” (Isaiah 6:10.)

Conversion, then, is said there to lead to healing; for as fire when fuel is withdrawn is extinguished, so also when we cease to sin fuel is not supplied to God’s wrath. We now, then, perceive the meaning of the Prophet; he, in short, intimates that people had been destroyed because they sought falsehoods, while the false prophets vainly flattered them; for they would have in due time escaped so great evils, had the prophets boldly exhorted the people to repentance. 163163     The verb rendered “turn back,” means also to turn away or aside, and this is the meaning given it here by the Syr., and most suitable to the passage, —
   And they discovered not thine iniquity,
to turn aside thy captivity.

   That is, as the Syr. Expresses it, to avert it. — Ed.

He then adds, And they saw for thee prophecies of vanity and expulsions. Though the word משאת, meshat, is often taken in a bad sense for a burden, that is, a hard prophecy which shews that God’s vengeance is nigh, yet it is doubtful whether the Prophet takes it now in this sense, since he speaks of prophecies which gave hope of impunity to the people; and these were not משאות, meshaut, that is, they were not grievous and dreadful prophecies. But when all things are well considered, it will be evident that Jeremiah did not without reason adopt this word; for he afterwards adds an explanation. The word, משאה, meshae, is indeed taken sometimes as meaning any kind of prophecy, but it properly means what is comminatory. But now, what does Jeremiah say? They saw for thee burdens which thou hast escaped. For to render odious the doctrine of the holy man, they called whatever he taught, according to a proverbial saying, a burden. Thus, then, they created a prejudice against the holy man by saying that all his prophecies contained nothing but terror and trouble. Now, by way of concession, the Prophet says, “They themselves have indeed been prophets to you, and they saw, but saw at length burdens.”

While, then, the false prophets promised impunity to the people, they were flatterers, and no burden appeared, that is, no trouble; but these prophecies became at length much more grievous than all the threatenings with which Jeremiah had terrified them; and corresponding with this view is what immediately follows, expulsions. For the Prophet, I doubt not, shews here what fruit the vain flatteries by which the people had chosen to be deluded had produced: for hence it happened, that they had been expelled from their country and driven into exile. For if the reason was asked, why the people had been deprived of their own inheritance, the obvious answer would have been this, because they had chosen to be deceived, because they had hardened themselves in obstinacy by means of falsehoods and vain promises. Since, then, their exile was the fruit of false doctrine, Jeremiah says now that these impostors saw burdens of vanity, but which at length brought burdens; and then they saw, מדוחים meduchim, 164164     There seems to be a mistake in this word of a ד for an ר, two letters very similar; for the Targ., the Syr., and the Arab., must have so read the word, as they render it in the sense of what is deceptive, fallacious, or imaginary. It is in the last rendered “phantasms.” The word occurs in Jeremiah 22:14, and is applied to chambers through which air or wind passed freely. It may be rendered here winds or airy things. Such was the character of their prophecies. This is far more suitable to the passage than expulsions or rejections, as given by the Sept. and Vulg. — Ed expulsions, even those things which had been the causes of expulsion or exile.


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