Jeremiah 2:10-11

10. For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send into Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing:

10. Nempe (vel, nam) transite ad insulas Chittim (Graeciae, hoc est, ad omnes regiones transmarinas,) et videte, et in Kedar (hoc est, in oppositam partem, nempe versus Aratbiam) mittite, et considerate diligenter, et videte, an factum sit sicut hoc (id est, an factum sit aliquid simile:)

11. Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit,

11. An mutaverit gens deos, et ipsi non sunt dii? et populus meus mutavit gloriam suam in id quod non prodest.


Here, by a comparison, he amplifies the wickedness and ingratitude of his own nation, -- that they had surpassed in levity all heathen nations; for he says that all nations so agreed in one religion, that each nation followed what it had received from its ancestors. How then was it that the God of Israel was repudiated and rejected by his own people? If there was such persistency in error, why did not truth secure credit among them who had been taught by the mouth of God himself, as though they had been even in heaven? This is the drift of the Prophet's meaning, when he says, Go into the islands of Chittim, and send into Kedar.

He mentions Greece on one side, and the East on the other, and states a part for the whole. The Hebrews, as we have seen in Daniel, called the Greeks Chittim, though they indeed thought that the term belonged properly to the Macedonians; but the Prophet no doubt included in that term not only the whole of Greece and the islands of the Mediterranean, but also the whole of Europe, so as to take in those parts, the whole of France and Spain. There is indeed some difference made in the use of the word; but when taken generally, it was understood by the Hebrews, as I have said, to include France, Spain, Germany, as well as Greece; and they called those countries islands, though distant from the sea, because they carried on no commerce with remote nations: hence they thought the countries beyond the sea to be islands; and the Prophet spoke according to what was customary.1

He then bids them to pass into the islands, southward as well as northward; and then he bids them, on the other hand, to send to explore the state of the East, Arabia as well as India, Persia, and other countries; for under the word Kedar he includes all the nations of the East; and as that people were more barbarous than others, he mentions them rather than the Persians or the Medes, or any other more celebrated nation, in order more fully to expose the disgraceful conduct of the Jews. Go then, or send, to all parts of the world, and see and diligently consider, see and see again; as though he said, that so great was the stupidity of the Jews, that they could not be awakened by a single word, or by one admonition. This then is the reason why he bids them carefully to inquire, though the thing itself was very plain and obvious. But this careful inquiry, as I have said, was enforced not on account of the obscurity of the subject, but for the purpose of reproving the sottishness of that perverse nation, which must have been conscious of its gross impiety, and yet indulged itself in its own vices.

Hence he says, Yea, pass over unto the islands; and then he adds, see whether there is a thing like this; that is, such a monstrous and execrable thing can nowhere be found. An explanation follows, No nation has changed its gods, and yet they are no gods; that is, religion among all nations continues the same, so that they do not now and then change their gods, but worship those who have been as it were handed down to them by their fathers. And yet, he says, they are no gods. If it had been only said, that no nation has changed its gods, the impiety of Israel would not have been so grievously exposed; but the Prophet takes it for granted, that all the nations were deceived and led away after fictitious gods, and yet remained constant in their delusions. Now, God does not set this forth as a virtue; he does not mean that the constancy of the nations was worthy of praise in not departing from their own superstitions; but, compared with the conduct of the chosen people, this constancy might however appear as laudable. We hence see that the whole is to be thus read connectively, -- "Though no nation worships the true God, yet religion remains unchangeable among them all; and yet ye have perfidiously forsaken me, and you have not forsaken a mere phantom, but your glory."

He sets here the favor of God in opposition to the delusions of false gods, when he says, My people have changed their own glory. For the people knew, not only through the teaching of the law, but also by sure evidences, that God was their glory; and yet they departed from him. It is then the same as though Jeremiah had said, that all the nations would condemn the Israelites at the last day, because their very persistency in error would prove the greater wickedness of the Jews, inasmuch as they were apostates from the true God, and from that God who had so clearly manifested to them his power.

Now, if one asks, whether religion has been changed by any of the nations? First, we know that this principle prevailed everywhere, -- that there was to be no innovation in the substance of religion: and Xenophon highly commends this oracle of Apollo, -- that those gods were rightly worshipped who have been received by tradition from ancestors. The devil had thus bewitched all nations, -- "No novelty can please God; but be ye content with the usual custom which has descended to you from your forefathers." This principle then was held by the Greeks and the Asiatics, and also by Europeans. It was therefore for the most part true what the Prophet says here: and we know that when a comparison is made, it is enough if the illustration is for the most part, epi< to< polu<, as Aristotle says, confirmed by custom and constant practice. We hence see that the charge of levity against the Jews was not unsuitably brought by Jeremiah, when he said, that no nation had changed its gods, but that God had been forsaken by his people whose glory he was; that is, to whom he had given abundant reasons for glorying.2


Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast made thyself known to us in so plain a manner, not only by thy law and prophets, but also by thine only -- begotten Son, that the knowledge of thy truth ought to have already struck deep roots in us, -- O grant, that we may continue firm and constant in thy holy vocation, and make continual progress in it, and ever hasten forward to the goal: and do thou so humble us under thy mighty hand, that we may know that we are paternally chastised by thee, and profit under thy discipline, until being at length purified from all our vices we shall come to enjoy that immortal life, which has been made known to us by Christ, when we shall be able fully to rejoice in thee. -- Amen.

1 Parkhurst doubts whether the word Myya, rendered islands, has ever strictly that meaning. He renders the singular, ya, a settlement, a habitation, and refers to Job 22:30; Isaiah 20:6; and says, that the plural, in Isaiah 42:15, ought to be rendered "habitable places," and not "islands," as in our version. It may be rendered here, "countries," as by Blarney.-Ed.

2 "Their glory" are by some considered to be God himself, and not the glory, that is, the honor, dignity, and greatness which he bestowed on the people, as Calvin here intimates: but the latter is more consistent with what follows, which literally is, "for nothing that profits:" for the al here, as in Jeremiah 2:8, is evidently a noun, or a pronoun. The comparison here is between what God gives and what false gods give; the comparison before was between God himself and the false gods. God gives glory, renders his people great and illustrious; but the false gods give nothing that profits, that really benefits, or does any good.-Ed.