Lecture Sixth.

Jeremiah 2:12

12. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord.

12. Obstupescite coeli super hoc, et expavescite, desolamini (vel, arescite) valde, dicit Jehova.


When the Prophet saw that he had to do with besotted men, almost void of all reason, he turned to address the heavens: and it is a way of speaking, common in the Prophets, -- that they address the heaven and the earth, which have no understanding, and leave men endued with reason and knowledge. This they were wont to do in hopeless cases, when they found no disposition to learn.

Hence now the Prophet bids the heavens to be astonished and to be terrified and to be reduced as it were unto desolation; as though he had said, "This is a wonder, which almost confounds the whole order of nature; it is the same as though we were to see heaven and earth mixed together." We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet: for by this representation he intended to shew, how detestable was the impiety of the people, since the heavens, though destitute of reason, ought justly to dread such a monstrous thing.

As to the words, some render them, "Be desolate, ye heavens," and then repeat the same: but as Mms shemem, means to be astonished, the rendering I have given suits the present passage better, "Be astonished, ye heavens, for this," and then, "be ye terrified and dried up;" for: brx chareb, signifies to become dry, and sometimes, to be reduced to a solitude or a waste.1 It afterwards follows: --

1 Blarney, following the Septuagint, renders the verbs as in the third person plural. "The heavens are astonished," etc.; but it is better to take them as being in the second person in the imperative mood, as both Aquila and Symmachus do. Similar passages are so construed, see Isaiah 1:2. There is alliteration in the two first words, as though we said in our language, "Heave, ye heavens:" and there is a gradation in the expressions-be astonished-be horrified-be wholly wasted, or consumed, or dried up,-

Astonished be ye, the heavens, for this, And be horrified, Be ye wholly wasted, saith Jehovah.

The alteration in the last verb, in accordance with the Syriac, wdrx, which means to "tremble," instead of wbrx, though proposed by Secker and approved by Horsley, is by no means necessary, and countenanced by no MSS. Nor is the emendation of Blarney, in conformity with the Septuagint, to be at all approved. These alterations are not only unnecessary, but destroy the expressive and striking character of the passage. Learned men are sometimes led too much by an innovating spirit.-Ed.