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The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,
I Have said that the time, when Jeremiah began to discharge his office of a Prophet in God’s Church, is not stated here without reason, and that it was when the state of the people was extremely corrupt, the whole of Religion having become vitiated, because the Book of the Law was lost: for nowhere else can be found the rule according to which God is to be worshipped; nor can right knowledge be obtained from any other source. It was then, at the time when impiety had by a long custom prevailed among the Jews, that Jeremiah suddenly came forth. There was then laid on his shoulders the heaviest burden; for many enemies must have risen to oppose him, when he attempted to bring back the people to the pure doctrine of the law, which the greater part were then treading under their feet.
He calls himself the son of Hilkiah The Rabbins think that this Hilkiah was the priest by whom the Book of Moses was found five years after: but this seems not to me probable. The conjecture also of Jerome is very frivolous, who concludes
that the Prophet was a boy when he began to prophesy, because he calls himself נער (nor,) a child, a little farther on, as though he did not use the word metaphorically.
The word does not properly mean a “child,“ as in our version, or “puer,“ as rendered by Calvin, but a youth, or rather a young man. Abraham’s trained
servants were thus called, Genesis 14:24, and his servant who dressed the calf for the angels, Genesis 18:7, and his “young men” who accompanied him to Mount Moriah, Genesis 22:5. Joshua had this name given him, when he was attending Moses at the tabernacle, Exodus 33:11. It is rendered “(νεωτερος)-a youth or a young man,“ by the Septuagint The most probable
thing is, that he was, not as Adam Clarke supposes, about 14, but a young man verging on maturity. The length of time during which he prophesied, would lead us to conclude that he was young when he was appointed to his office.
There are two remarkable resemblances between Jeremiah and Moses. They both made an excuse for declining the office to which God called them, and made a similar excuse. The other resemblance is what Lightfoot has noticed, that Moses was a teacher of the people for forty years before they entered the land of Canaan, and that Jeremiah was their teacher for forty years before they were banished from it and driven into exile. — Ed. At what age he was called to the prophetic office, we do not know; it is, however, probable that he was of mature age, for it was a work of high authority; and further, had he been a youth, doubtless such a miracle would not have been passed over in silence, that is, that he was made a prophet before the age of maturity.
With regard to his father, it is nothing strange that the Rabbins have regarded him as the high priest; for we know that they are always prone to vain boastings. Ambition possessed them, and hence they have said that Jeremiah was the son of the high priest, in order to add to the splendor of his character. But what does the Prophet himself say? He declares indeed that he was the son of Hilkiah, but does not say that this was the high priest; on the contrary he adds, that he was from the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin Now we know that this was a mean village, not far from Jerusalem; and Jeremiah says, that it was in the tribe of Benjamin. Its nearness to Jerusalem may be gathered from the words of Isaiah, who says that small Anathoth was terrified. (Isaiah 10:30) He threatened Jerusalem by saying that the enemy was near.
“What,” he says, “is your security? Ye can hear the noise of your enemies and the groans of your brethren from your very gates; for Anathoth is not far from you, being only three miles distant.”
Since then Jeremiah only says, that he came from Anathoth, why should we suppose him to be the sort of the high priest? And frivolous is what the Chaldee paraphraser adds here, that Hilkiah had possessions in the town of Anathoth, as though it was allowed the priests to possess land: God allowed them only what was necessary to feed their flocks. We may then take it as certain, and what the Prophet indeed expressly declares, that he came from the village of Anathoth. 77 The reasons alleged against Jeremiah being the son of the high priest are by no means conclusive: indeed, all the circumstances being considered, the probability is in favor of that supposition. The family of the high priest resided no doubt at Anathoth; what is said in 1 Kings 2:26, respecting Abiathar, is a proof of this. That the high priest resided at Jerusalem during the term of his office forms no objection; nor is the genealogy of the high priests as given in 1 Chronicles 6:1-17, any objection; for though in verse 13, Azariah is said to be the son of Hilkiah, yet Jeremiah might have been one of his younger sons. Most commentators agree indeed with Calvin, -Gataker, Henry, Scott, Blayney, etc.; but they adduce no satisfactory reasons, sufficient to invalidate the opinion of the Rabbins and the intimation contained in the Targum: and this opinion is what the translators of the Geneva Bible have adopted. — Ed.
He further says, that he was of the priestly order. Hence the prophetic office was more suitable to him than to many of the other prophets, such as Amos and Isaiah. God took Isaiah from the court, as he was of the royal family, and made him a prophet. Amos was in a different situation: he was taken from the shepherds, for he was a shepherd. Since God appointed such prophets over his Church, he no doubt thus intended to cast a reflection on the idleness and sloth of the priests. For, though all the priests were not prophets, yet they ought to have been taken from that order; for the priestly order was as it were the nursery of the prophets. But when gross want of knowledge and ignorance prevailed among them, God chose his prophets from the other tribes, and thus exposed and condemned the priests. They ought, indeed, to have been the messengers of the God of hosts, so as to keep the law in their lips, that the people might seek it from their mouth, according to what is said by Malachi. (Malachi 2:7) But as they were dumb dogs, God transferred the honor of the prophetic office to others; but Jeremiah, as I have already stated, was a prophet as well as a priest.
He begins in the second verse to speak of his calling.
The second verse begins with אשר which Calvin renders “nempeeven,“ and takes it in an exegetic sense: but this is not its meaning. Our version is no
doubt correct, “to whom;” though there is no preposition before it, it is yet found before the personal pronoun “to him,“ that comes afterwards. It is an idiom of the language, and the very same exists in Welsh, in which the version is literally the same with the Hebrew a relative pronoun without a preposition followed by a personal pronoun with a preposition profixed to it. It would be literally in English, “whom the word of Jehovah came to
him.” The Welsh also retains the peculiarity of the Hebrew, in having prepositions prefixed to pronouns and attached to them, though this is not the case generally with nouns,
Yr hwn y daeth gair Jehova atto.
The verb too, as in the Hebrew, precedes its nominative; “came” is before “the word of Jehovah.” It is rather singular that the Septuagint have rendered this relative by “ὡσ — as,” which shews that the Hebrew idiom was not understood by them. — Ed. It would have, indeed, been to little purpose, had he said that he came forth and brought a message; but he explains, in the second verse, that he brought nothing but what had been delivered to him by God, as though he had said, that he faithfully declared what God had commanded him. For we know that the whole authority belongs entirely to God, with regard to the doctrine of religion, and that it is not in the power of men to blend this or that, and to make the faithful subject to themselves. As God, then, is the only true teacher of the Church, whosoever demands to be heard, must prove that he is God’s minister. This is, then, what Jeremiah is now carefully doing, for he says that the word of Jehovah was given to him.
He had before said, the words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah; but any one of the people might have objected and said, “Why dost thou intrude thyself, as though any one is to be heard? for God claims this right to himself alone.” Hence Jeremiah, by way of correction, subjoins, that the words were his, but that he was not the author of them, but the minister only. He says, then, that he only executed what God had commanded, for he had been the disciple of God himself, before he undertook the office of a teacher.