Lecture Eighth

Jeremiah 2:25

25. Withhold thy foot from being unshod, and thy throat from thirst; but thou saidst, There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.

25. Prohibe pedem tuum a discalceare (hoc est, ne discalceeris) et guttur tuum a siti (quanquam alii existimant esse nomen substantivum Pxy, et mihi placet; ita vertendum erit, Prohibe pedem tuum a discalceatione et guttur tuum a siti;) et dixisti, Acturm est; non, quia dilexi alienos, et post illos ambulabo.


The words of the Prophet, as they are concise, may appear at the first view obscure: but his meaning is simply this, -- that the insane people could by no means be reformed, however much God might try to check that excess by which they were led away after idols and superstitions. In the first clause, God relates how he had dealt with the people. All the addresses of the prophets had this as their object -- to make the people to rest contented under the protection of God. But he employs other words here, Keep thy foot, he says, from unshodding, and thy throat from thirst. For whenever there was any danger they ran, now to Egypt, then to Assyria, as we have already seen. Hence God complains of their madness, because they obeyed not his wise and salutary counsels. Had God bidden them to run here and there, either to the east or to the west, they might have raised an objection, and say, that the journey would be irksome to them; but he only commanded them to remain still and quiet. How great, then, was their madness, that they would not with quietness wait for the help of God, but weary themselves, and that with no benefit? Isaiah says nearly the same thing, but in other words; for he expostulated with them, because they underwent every kind of weariness, when they might have been protected by God, and be in no way wearied.

We now, then, comprehend the design of the Prophet: for God first shews that the people had been admonished, and that in time; but that they were so taken up with their own perverse counsels, that they could not endure the words of the prophets. It was the highest ingratitude in them, that they refused to remain quiet at home, but preferred to undergo great and severe labors without any advantage, according to what is said by Isaiah in another place,

"This is your rest, but ye would not." (Isaiah 30:15.)

There is no one who desires not rest and peace; nay, all confess that it is the chief good, which all naturally seek. The Prophet says now, that it was rejected by the people of Israel. It hence follows, that they were wholly insane, for they had lost a desire which is by nature implanted in all men. The Prophet, then, does not here simply teach, but reminds the Jews of what they had before heard from Isaiah, and also from Micah, and from all the other prophets. For God had often exhorted them to remain quiet; and the Prophet now upbraids them with ingratitude, because they gave way to their own mad folly, and rejected the singular benefit offered them by God.

Let us then know that the Prophet states here what others before him had taught, Keep back, he says, thy foot from unshodding. Some render the last word, "from nakedness," because they wore out their shoes by long journeys; but this I think must be understood of what was commonly done, for they were wont to make journeys unshod: keep then thy foot from being unshod,1 and thy throat from thirst. We know that thirst is very grievous to men: hence the Prophet here reproves the madness of the people, -- that they were so seized with the ardor of an impious passion, that they willfully exposed themselves to thirst even by long journeys. As then God required nothing from the people but to ask his counsel, their sin was doubled by their unwillingness to obey his salutary direction. A plausible excuse, as I have already said, might have been alleged, had God dealt in a hard and severe manner with the people; but as he was ready kindly and graciously to preserve them in a complete state of quietness, no kind of excuse remained for them.

It then follows, Thou hast said, There is not a hope, no. The Prophet shews here, as to the people, how perverse they were; for they obstinately rejected the kind and friendly admonitions which had been given them. They say first, There is not a hope, or, it is all over; for say iash, in Niphal, means to despair, or, to be out of hope. It may be rendered, "It is weariness;" and this would not be unsuitable, if taken in this sense, "I have thoughtlessly tormented myself more than enough, so that weariness itself induces me to rest." No. The Prophet speaks concisely in order to express more strikingly the refractory conduct of the people. By saying, "There is not a hope," it is the same as though he had said, that they spurned all exhortations; and then he adds, No. There is no verb put here; but an elliptical expression, as I have said, is more forcible to set forth the ferocity of the people.2

Isaiah expostulated with them in another way, and blamed them, because they did not say, "There is not a hope." (Isaiah 57:10.) Thus Isaiah and Jeremiah seem to be inconsistent; for our Prophet here reproves the people for saying, "There is not a hope;" and Isaiah, for not having said so. But when the Jews expressly answered, according to this passage, "There is not a hope," they meant that the prophets spent their labor in vain, as they were determined to follow their own course to the last. Hence by this expression, "There is not a hope," is set forth the extreme perverseness of the people; and he shews that no hope of repentance remained, since they said openly and without any evasion that it was all over. But Isaiah reproved the people for not saying, that there was not a hope, because they did not acknowledge after long experience that they were proved guilty of folly: for after having often run to Egypt and then to Assyria, and the Lord having really taught them how ill-advised they had been, they ought to have learnt from their very disappointments, that the Lord had frustrated their expectations in order to lead them to repentance. Justly then does Isaiah say, that the people were extremely besotted, because they ever went on in their blind obstinacy, and never perceived that God did set many obstacles in their way, in order to compel them to go back and to cast aside all their vain hopes, by which they deceived themselves. We hence see that there is a complete agreement between the two prophets, though their mode of speaking is different.

Jeremiah then introduces the people here as saying expressly, and thus avowing their own perverseness, There is not a hope; as though they said, "Ye prophets do not cease to stun our ears, but vain and useless is your labor; for we have once for all made up our minds, and we can never be brought to revoke our resolution." But what does Isaiah say? He reproves the madness of the people, that having been so often deceived by the Egyptians as well as by the Assyrians, they did not understand that they ought by such trials and experiments to have been brought back to the right way, but continued obstinately to follow their own wicked counsels. As to the passage before, we perceive what the Prophet means, -- that God had kindly exhorted the Jews to rest quiet and dependent on his aid; but that they were not only stiff-necked, but also insolently rejected the kindness offered to them.

It then follows, For I have loved strangers, and after them will I go. Here he exaggerates the sin of the people, for they gave themselves up to strangers; and he retains the similitude which we have already observed. For as God had taken the people under his own protection, so the obligation was mutual: both parties were connected together as by a sacred bond, as the case is between a husband and his wife; as he pledges his faith to her, so she by the law of marriage is bound to him. Jeremiah here retains this similitude, and says that the people were like the basest strumpet, for they would not hear the voice of their husband, though he was willing and anxious to be reconciled to them. Now, a wife must be wholly irreclaimable when she spurns her own husband, who is ready to receive her into favor, and to forgive her all the wickedness she may have done. The Prophet then shews, that there was in the people so great and so hopeless an impiety, that they closed their ears against God who kindly exhorted them to repent; and worse still, they shamelessly boasted that they were resolved to worship idols and their own fictions, and to reject the only true God. It follows --

1 That the word means to be barefooted, or without shoes, is clear from Isaiah 20:2-4, and also from 2 Samuel 15:30: and it is nowhere else found except here. It being here a noun, it signifies literally barefootedness. They are here exhorted not to travel for aid to foreign lands, so as to wear out their shoes and thus become barefooted. This was said in contempt, in order to pour ridicule on their folly in seeking foreign aid.-Ed.

2 It has been disputed whether the negative "no," refers to the advice given at the beginning of the verse, or to the immediately preceding word. The latter is the most natural. The word sawn is a participle, as in Job 6:26. The verse may be thus rendered,-

25. Keep thy foot from being bare And thy throat from thirst; But thou hast said, " Hopeless! No; For I have loved strangers, And after them will I go."

The first part implies that they were pursuing a useless course. The insolent answer was, "Is it hopeless? By no means." The Septuagint omit the negative, and have only "ajndriou~mai-I will act manfully;" and this version has been followed by the Syriac and Arabic. The Vulgate has, "desperavi, nequaquam faciam-I have despaired, I will by no means do so." The most literal rendering is given above, and affords the best and the most suitable meaning.

To confess that it was a hopeless thing to attempt to reform them, is not so appropriate, as to deny it to be hopeless to have recourse to foreign alliances: which seems to be the import of the passage. This is the view which Gataker seemed most inclined to take; and he mentions this rendering, "Should I despair? No." To the same purpose is the version of Jun. and Trem. But Grotius, Henry, and Adam Clarke, agree with the explanation of Calvin.-Ed.