Lecture Fourth

Jeremiah 1:18

18. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defensed city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land; against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.

18. Et ego,1 ecce posui to hodie in urbem munitionis (vel, munitam) in columnam (vel, fulturam) ferream, et in murum aeneum, super totam terram, contra Reges Jehudah, contra principes ejus, contra sacerdotes ejus, contra populum terrae ipsius.


God supplies here his servant with confidence; for courage was necessary in that state of trembling which we have observed. Jeremiah thought himself unfit to undertake a work so onerous; he had also to do and to contend with refractory men, and not a few in number; for the whole people had already, through their ungodly and wicked obstinacy, hardened themselves in the contempt of God. As, then, there was no more any care for religion, and no regard manifested by the people for heavenly truth, Jeremiah could not, diffident as he was, undertake so heavy a burden, without being supported by the hand of God. For this reason, then, God now declares that he would make him like a fortified city and an iron pillar.2 Indeed, the word prop would be more proper; for rwme omud, comes from the root dme, omed; and the Prophet understands by it, not a pillar that is raised and stands by itself, but that which sustains a building or a wall. There is no ambiguity in the meaning; for God means that his servant would be invincible, and that whatever his enemies might devise against him, they would not yet prevail, as we find it said in the next verse.

Now, though this was said formerly to Jeremiah, yet godly teachers may justly apply it to themselves, who are honestly conscious of their Divine call, and are fully persuaded that they do nothing presumptuously, but obey the bidding of God. All, then, who are thus confirmed in their legitimate call from God, can apply to themselves this promise -- that they shall be made invincible against all the ungodly.

But the particulars of this passage deserve to be noticed. It might have seemed enough that God called his servant a fortified city; but he compares him also to an iron pillar or column, and to a brazen wall. This repetition only confirms what we have explained, -- that Jeremiah would be victorious, and that though Satan might rouse many to assail him, yet the issue would be prosperous and joyful, as he would fight under the protection of God.

It is at the same time added, Over the whole land. God doubtless speaks not of the whole world, but of the land of Judah; for Jeremiah was chosen for this purpose, -- that he might bestow his labor on the chosen people. It is then said that he would be a conqueror of the whole of Judea. It then follows, against the kings of Judah. We know, indeed, that there was only one king in Judea; but God encourages his Prophet to be firm and persevering, as though he had said, that the course of his warfare would be long; and he said this, that he might not faint through weariness. The meaning then is, that the Prophet would not have to contend with one king only, but that as soon as one died, another would rise and oppose him; so that he was to know that there would be no hope of rest until that time had passed which God himself had appointed. We indeed know that those who are sincerely disposed to obey, do yet look for some definite period, when, like soldiers who have served their time, they may obtain a discharge; but God declares here to his Prophet, that when he had strenuously contended to the death of one king, his condition would be nothing better; for others would succeed, with whom he would have to fight, as the same wickedness and obstinacy would be still continued. To kings, he adds princes and priests; and, lastly, the whole people.

When a king forgets his office and rules tyrannically, it often happens that there are moderators who check his passions, when they cannot wholly restrain them: we indeed see, that the most cruel tyrants are sometimes softened by good counselors. But God here reminds his Prophet that the state of things in Judea would be so desperate, that ungodly and wicked kings would have counselors endued with the same disposition. When priests are added, it might seem still more monstrous; but the Scripture everywhere testifies, that the Levitical priests had almost all degenerated and become apostates, so that hardly one in a hundred shewed the least sign of religion. Since, then, that order had become thus corrupt, it is no wonder that Jeremiah had to declare war against the priests; and we shall hereafter see that this was done. Now the common people might have seemed to be excusable, as there was greater simplicity among them than among the higher orders; (for they who are elevated above others transgress through pride or cruelty, and often allow themselves too much liberty, relying on their own eminence; but the common people, as I have said, seemed apparently to have more modesty;) but God here declares that impiety had so greatly prevailed in Judea, that all, from the least to the greatest, were become perversely wicked. It was, therefore, necessary, as I have before stated, that the Prophet should be fully armed; for what could he have thought, had he not in time been warned, on finding afterwards such insolence, yea, such fury in high and low, as to constrain him to contend with God's chosen people no otherwise than with devils? It afterwards follows --

1 We find here nearly the same form or mode of speech as at the beginning of the previous verse, "And I, behold I have made thee," etc.: and Blayney renders it so here, though not in the preceding instance.-Ed.

2 There is the preposition l before "city," "pillar," and "wall." It is an idiom. The full meaning is, "I have made thee to be for a fortified city." The same idiom exists in Welsh, the preposition yn is used, which implies that the verb to be is understood. But it is not necessary to retain the preposition in a language in which a similar idiom does not exist. The Septuagint render the preposition by "wJv-as," and Jun. and Trem., by "velut-as," or like. And such a word would be suitable in our language, -

And I, behold I have made thee this day
Like a city that is fortified,
And like a pillar of iron,
And like a wall of brass,
With regard to the whole land,
To the kings of Judah, to its princes,
To its priests, and to the people of the land.

"To" here means in opposition to-he was to stand opposed to the kings, etc., as a fortified city, etc. "Wall" is plural in the received text; but many MSS., the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Targum, and the Vulgate, have it in the singular number, which seems most suitable.-Ed.