30. A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;
30. Stupor (vel, res stupenda) et foeditas in terra (vel, res pudenda; res, unde nomen deductum est, significat proprie cogitare vel reputare; sed videtur per antiphrasin Deus hoc loco, ut aliis quibusdam, notare rem prodigiosam, quae non cadit sub sensum humanum, quasi diceret hoc non posse concipi neque apprehendi hominis mente; scio hoc posse videri novum, sed tamen subest optima ratio, ut mihi videtur. Postea addit.)
31. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
31. Prophetae prophetant in mendacio, et sacerdotes dominantur per manum ipsorum (vel, accipiunt in manus suas,) et populus meus voluit ita (hoc est, ita vult et appetit:) et quid facietis in novissimo ejus?
The Prophet, being not satisfied with the reproof which we have observed, speaks still more strongly against the wickedness of the people. He then says, that so deplorable was their state as to make all to feel amazed. A stupendous thing, he says, has happened, which exceeds all human conception, and cannot be comprehended. By the two words he uses, he intimates that the impiety of the people could not be expressed in words or could not be conceived by the mind; for it was a monstrous thing. This is the meaning. 1
Let us now see what was this monstrous thing which the Prophet here refers to, and which he abhorred. The prophets, he says, prophesy falsely. It was no doubt enough to make all astonished, when these impostors assumed the name of prophets at Jerusalem, where God had chosen his habitation and his sanctuary: how great and how base a profanation was it of God's name? There were indeed at that time impostors everywhere, who boasted that they were God's prophets, who in many places passed as oracles the delusions of Satan; but to see the ministers of the devil in the very sanctuary of God, (which was then the only one in the world,) even in the very city where he had, as it has been said, his habitation and dwelling, was a monstrous thing, which ought to have made all men astonished. It is indeed a detestable thing under the Papacy, when monks and similar unprincipled men ascend the pulpit, and there most shamefully pretend that they are the true prophets of God, and faithful teachers; but still it would be doubly monstrous, were any among us to corrupt pure doctrine with their errors and infect the people with their superstitions. It was not then without reason that Jeremiah introduced his subject by saying, that it was an astonishing thing and hardly to be conceived, when prophets prophesied falsely.
He then adds, Priests receive into their hands; so some render the words: but there may be a twofold meaning. Sampson is said in Judges 14:9, to have received into his hands honey from the lion, and the same verb is found there: but as it means also to rule, to govern, the exposition most suitable to this place is, -- that the priests ruled by the means of the false prophets. At the same time, if any one takes the other view, -- that the priests received into their hands, that is, that they gathered and accumulated gifts from all quarters, the meaning would not be unsuitable. 2
However this may be, the Prophet evidently shews that there was a mutual collusion between the false prophets and the priests. The false prophets, he says, deceive the people by their flatteries, and what do the priests? It was their duty to oppose them: they receive, he says, into their hands; that is, they are satisfied, for they see that these fallacies bring gain to them, and therefore they easily assent to what is taught by the false prophets. The same thing is to be seen at this day under the Papacy: the monks flatter the people and prop up the whole system of Popery; and hence these unprincipled men call themselves the chariots of the Pope; for the Pope is carried as it were on four wheels -- the four mendicant orders. And this they boast, when they wish to shew what adepts they are in lying. The Pope then is carried by the four wheels of the mendicants. We see how he has honored and daily honors these mendicants with privileges, and why? Because they prop up his tyranny. Such was at that time the state of the people; the priests took their prey, and the false prophets snatched also a part of it, like these hungry dogs at this day; who yet do not act so oppressively as the Pope: they lick as it were his seat, like dogs; while he and his mitered bishops devour the fattest spoils. The meaning then, that they received into their hands, is not unsuitable.
But when we consider the main drift of the passage, it is more in harmony with it to say, that the priests ruled by their means; for without the false prophets they could not have retained their influence over the people; they must have been repudiated by them all. Since then they ruled by their means, there was a mutual collusion between them.
He then adds, And my people have wished it to be so. The common people, no doubt, exculpated themselves, as they do at this day, who hold forth this excuse as their shield, "O, we are not learned, we have never been in school, and what can we do but to follow our bishops?" Thus, then, at this day, the lower orders, the multitude, seek to cast off every blame from themselves. But the Prophet says here, that the people loved to have things so. And, doubtless, we shall find that to be ever true which is said in Deuteronomy 13:3, that when false prophets come, it is for the purpose of trying God's people, whether they from the heart love God. It is then his object to try our religion, whenever he gives loose reins to impostors and false prophets: for every one who truly loves God will be preserved by his Spirit from being led away by such deceivers. When, therefore, ignorant men are deluded, it is certain that they are justly punished for their neglect and contempt of God, because they have not been sufficiently attentive to his service; yea, because they have wished for impostors, according to what has been also often said by the monks, "The world wishes to be deceived, let it be deceived in the name of the devil." These impostors have become so shameless, as to boast that they are the ministers of Satan to deceive men. However, that common saying has been found true; for the world is never deceived except with its own consent, and willingly; for those who are the most ignorant close their eyes against clear light, and shun God as much as they can, and seek to hide themselves in darkness, according to what Christ says,
"Whosoever committeth sin hateth the light." (John 3:20)
The Prophet adds in the last place, And what will ye do at last, or at the end of it? Some omit the pronoun h, he; and others apply it to the false prophets and the priests; but the Prophet, I have no doubt, refers to Jerusalem, What will ye do at the end of it? For we know that as Jerusalem had been founded by God's hand, and while it had him as its protector and guardian, it was safe; but this was a false confidence, when they despised God and gloried in their wickedness. What, then, he says, will ye do at the end of it? as though he had said, "You deceive yourselves, if you think that this city will be perpetual; for its overthrow is nigh at hand: what then will ye do, when the city itself shall bc destroyed, except that you shall be all destroyed together with it?" 3
Amazement and horribleness has been done in the land.
That is, what occasioned both had been done, or what ought to have filled all with the feeling of amazement and horror. -- Ed.
And the priests have descended upon their hands.
An idiomatic expression, which seems to mean, that the priests assisted the prophets, according to what is expressed by the Targum. "Hand" signify labor, efforts; the priests joined their efforts to those of the prophets. To "concur with them" is too feeble: the line may be rendered, --
And the priests have aided them.
But what will ye do at the end of it?
That is, when this dreadful thing shall come to an end, when the prophets, encouraged by the priests and approved by the people, shall be found liars, what then shall you do? The Septuagint render the last words by "meta< tau~ta -- after these things," referring evidently to the particulars just mentioned, the acts of the prophets, priests, and people: but the same thing is meant. Then in the next chapter he reminds them of the approaching destruction, which the false prophets denied. -- Ed.