Jeremiah 2:4-5

4. Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:

4. Audite sermonem Jehovae domus Jacob, et omnes cognationes (vel, familiae) domus Israel:

5. Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

5. Sic dicit Jehova, Quid invenerunt patres vestri in me iniquitatis, quia alienati sunt a me, et ambulaverunt (vel, profecti sunt) post vanitatem, et facti sunt evanidi (vel, evanuerunt)?


Here God explains why he had referred to what we have noticed, -- that he had consecrated Israel to himself as a peculiar people, and as the first -- fruits. God often mentions his favors to us, in order to encourage our hope, that we may be fully persuaded that whatever may happen we are ever safe, because we are under his protection, since he has chosen us. But in this place, and in many other places, God recounts the obligations under which the Israelites were to him, that thence their ingratitude might become more apparent.

Hence he says, Hear ye the word of Jehovah. By this preface he seeks to gain attention; for he intimates that he was going to address them on no common subject. Hear ye, then, O house of Jacob; hear all ye families of the house of Israel; as though Jeremiah had said, "Here I come forth boldly in the name of God, for I fear not that any defense can be brought forward by you to disprove the justice of God's reproof; and I confidently wait for what ye may say, for I know you will be silent. I then loudly cry like a trumpet and with a clear voice, that I am come to condemn you; if there is anything which ye can answer, I give you full liberty to do so; but the truth will constrain you to be mute, for your guilt is extremely odious and capable of the fullest proof." Hence it was that he exhorted them to hear attentively.

Then follows the charge: What, iniquity have your fathers found in me, that having forsaken me they should walk after vanity and become vain? Here Jeremiah charges the people with two crimes, -- that they had departed from the true God, whom they had found to be a deliverer, -- and that they had become vain in their devices; or, in other words, that they were become for no reason apostates: for their sin was enhanced, because there had been no occasion given them to forsake God, and to alienate themselves from him. As then God had kindly treated them, and they themselves had shaken off the yoke, and as there was no one whom they could compare with God, they could not have said, "We have been deceived," -- how so? "For ye have, he says, followed vanity; and vanity alone was the reason why ye have departed from me."1 I wish I could proceed farther; but I have some business to which I was called even before the lecture.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou continuest at this day, both morning and evening, to invite us to thyself, and assiduously exhortest us to repent, and testifiest that thou art ready to be reconciled to us, provided we flee to thy mercy, -- O grant, that we may not close our ears and reject this thy great kindness, but that remembering thy gratuitous election, the chief of all the favors thou hast been pleased to shew us, we may strive so to devote ourselves to thee, that thy name may be glorified through our whole life: and should it be that we at any time turn aside from thee, may we quickly return to the right way, and become submissive to thy holy admonitions, that it may thus appear that we have been so chosen by thee and called as to desire to continue in the hope of that salvation, to which thou invitest us, and which is prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. -- Amen.

Lecture Fifth

WE heard yesterday God's complaint, and his expostulation with his people. He said in short, that if they came before any judge there were reasons sufficient to condemn their ingratitude, and that they were without excuse, because they had gone after vanity and were become vain; or, in other words, that they had without a cause forsaken him, and were carried away only by their own intentions. It now follows --

1 The literal rendering of this verse is as follows, -

5. Thus saith Jehovah, What have your fathers found in me? Oppression? For they have gone far from me, And have followed after vanity, And have become vain.

The word lws, oppression, injustice, or tyranny, is so placed in the sentence that it cannot be construed with "what." The word "vanity" means often an idol, and it is so considered here by the Targum, by Piscator, Grotius, Gataker, and others. It is often found in the plural, "vanities," as it is here in the Septuagint; see Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Kings 16:26; Psalm 31:6: but it is here the poetical singular. They "became vain," that is, foolish, sottish, having no more sense or reason than their idols, as idolaters are represented in Psalm 115:8. Their senselessness is set forth in the next verse. An idol is especially called "vanity," because it can do no good and avails nothing: deluded imagination alone gives it all its efficacy and power. Samuel gives a true account of idols, 1 Samuel 12:21. But as long as the devil deceives and deludes the world, idols and images will be in repute, though they are in themselves wholly useless and worthless, while yet they prove ruinous to the souls of men.-Ed.