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Lecture Eighth

We explained yesterday the complaint of the Prophet, when he set before God his own covenant. For it might have appeared unreasonable that God should deal with so much severity with the Church which he had adopted. Hence the Prophet said, See, Jehovah, to whom thou hast done this. He now mentions some things calculated to produce horror, and thus to obtain pardon from God, Should women eat their own fruit? that is, their own foetus, the infants of nursings? This, as I have said, was a horrible thing: for we see that mothers often forget their own life in their concern for the safety of their infants. That a child, then, should be devoured by its mother, was a most abominable thing; and yet we know that it was done. It hence appears, that; the Israelites, when blinded by God, had fallen into this barbarity: for it happened in the siege of Samaria, as sacred history declares; and the Prophet now mentions the same thing as having taken place in his time, and he repeats the same in the fourth chapter. And Josephus also says, that when the city was besieged by Titus, the state of things was such, that mothers agreed to eat their own children, and that they cast lots who should first slay their child, and that they stole a leg or an arm from one another. Though it was so inhuman a thing, yet the Prophet seeks to turn God to mercy by adducing so great; an enormity. He then says, that it was by no means right, that mothers should eat their own children, the children of nursings, or nurturings. 172172     Educationum. Our version is nearly the Vulg. It is paraphrased by the Sept., “who suck the breasts;” and the Targ. is, “who are clad in silks.” Blayney rightly says, that טפח is the open palm of the hand; and he gives this as the literal rendering of the words, “children of palms;” that is, children of sufficient age to be carried about. His version of this line is, “Little ones dandled on the hands.” Horsley approves of this meaning.
   The previous word, פדים, has been a difficulty to most, the final mem being masculine. “Fruit,” in the sense of offspring, is applied to men as well as to women. We may take the final mem in נשים, as a pronoun, “their wives;” the same are meant as in Lamentations 2:18, “their voice,” i.e., the citizens of Jerusalem. Thus the construction will be quite grammatical.

   Should their own wives eat their offspring,
Infants dandled on the hands!
Should they be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord,
The priest and the prophet!

   It is the language of humble expostulation. — Ed.

He afterwards adds, Should the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord? This was another indignity, by which he sought to lead God to shew mercy. We indeed know that the priests and the prophets were deemed sacred; and in the Psalms, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referred to, God, in order to shew how much they were to be regarded, says,

“Touch not my Christ’s, and to my prophets do no harm.”
(Psalm 105:15.)

As, then, the priests and the prophets were especially under the protection of God, what is here said was an intolerable atrocity. But when the profanation of the Temple was added, it was still a greater prodigy. Jeremiah then complains, not only that the priests and the prophets were slain, but that they were slain in the sanctuary. It now follows, —


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