Jeremiah 2:27-28

27. Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face; but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.

27. Dicentes ligno, Pater meus tu (hoc est, tu es pater meus,) et lapidi, Tu genuisti me (si legamuss per y, si autem per w, Tu genuisti nos;) quia verterunt mihi cervicem (dorsum, alii vertunt, vel, posteriora,) et non faciem: in tempore autem calamitatis suae dicent (hoc est, dicunt,) Surge et serva nos.

28. But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.

28. Et ubi sunt dii tui, quos fecisti tibi? Surgant, an servent to tempore mali tui (hoc est, afflictionis tuae, sicuti prius;) quia secundum numerum urbium tuarum fuerunt dii tui, Jehudah.


The Prophet here confirms what he had before said of the perverse wickedness of the people. He shews that he had not said without reason, that their sins were extremely gross, and could not be excused by any evasions: for they say, he adds, to the wood, Thou art my father, and to the stone, Thou hast begotten, me. By these words the Prophet shews, that idolatry was so rampant among the people, that they openly ascribed to their statues, made of wood or stone, the honor due to the only true God.

But the Prophet points out here what is especially to be detested in idolatry, and that is, the transferring of the honor, due to God, to statues, not only as to the external act by bending the knee before them, but by seeking salvation from them.

And this is what we ought particularly to notice: for the Papists at this day, though they prostrate themselves before their pictures and statues, do not yet acknowledge themselves guilty of idolatry, when such a charge is brought against them. They say that they worship the statues, not with the honor due to God, but with such honor as a servant renders to his master.1 They think that they thus exculpate themselves. But were we to grant what they allege, they yet cannot deny but that they address prayers and supplications to statues. As then they ask the very statues to save them, whatever sophistry they may adopt, it is altogether nugatory: for the prophets condemn not merely the outward gesture, the bowing down, and other ceremonious acts, as they are called, when they condemned idolaters. What then? They condemned them, because they said to statues, Thou art my Father; that is, because they ascribed the power, which belongs only to God, to statues made of wood or stone. It is indeed certain, that the Jews never sunk into so great a depth of sottishness as expressly to profess that gods of wood and stone were equal to the true God, and they never said any such thing. Yet the Prophet did not calumniate them, in ascribing what is here said to them: but as it is clearly evident from other places, the Prophet regarded their thoughts rather than their words: for the Jews professed the same thing as the Papists of the present day, when they prostrated themselves before their statues; they said that they worshipped the only true God and sought salvation from him; and yet they thought that the power of God was inherent in the statues themselves: hence they said, Thou art my father, Thou hast begotten me. The case is the same with the Papists of the present day. When any one prostrates himself before the statue of Catherine or of Christopher, he says, "Our Father." When he justifies himself in doing this, he says that it is done in honor to the one true God: and yet thou runnest blindly, now to one statue, and then to another, and muttcrest, "Our Father." There is not the least doubt but that the superstition which now prevails under the Papacy, is even more gross than that which prevailed among the Jews. But to say nothing of the Papists, because they mutter, "Our Father," before their statues, there is no doubt but that when they present their prayers to statues, they consider God's power to be in them.

We must now, then, bear in mind, that the Jews were not only condemned, because they burnt incense and offered sacrifices to idols, but because they transferred the glory of God to their statues, when they asked salvation from them. And as this was not done in express words, the Prophet here brings to light their impious thoughts; for they did not raise up their minds and thoughts to God, but turned them to their statues.

It afterwards follows, They have turned to me the neck 2 and not the face. In these words, God again confirms what he had before said, that the apostasy or defection of the people was more manifest than what could be disguised by any colorings. He then adds, Yet (the w is to be taken here adversatively) in the time of their affliction, they will say, Arise, and save us. God here complains that the Jews most strangely abused his kindness; for they came to him when any grievous calamity constrained them. "What have I to do with you?" he says, "Ye are wholly devoted to your idols, ye call them your fathers, and ascribe to them the glory of your salvation, when things go on peaceably with you; but when your idols in time of distress give you no aid, then ye return to me and say, Arise, and save us; but, since idols are your fathers, and ye expect salvation from them, I shall have nothing to do with you; be contented with your idols, and trouble me no more, for I have been forsaken by you."

And hence he adds, Where are your gods? Here God laughs to scorn the false confidence by which the Jews deceived themselves: Where are your gods, which you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, let us see whether they will help you in the time of your distress. We now understand what the Prophet means: for he shews that the people acted in a most strange manner; for they worshipped idols when they were in safety, and afterwards would have God to be bound to them; and yet they denied the true God when they fell away unto idols. He then shews that they could expect no aid from God; for they robbed him of his own power when they devised idols for themselves. But we must ever remember what he said, that false gods were counted as fathers and authors of salvation by the people.

The same thing is, no doubt, done at this day under the Papacy; for the Papists have their patrons; and when they find that their foolish superstitions can do nothing for them, they would have God to help them, and yet they leave nothing to him: after having taken away all his glory, and divided it as a spoil among dead saints, they would then have God to be their helper. But we see what God's answer to them is, "Where are your gods?" etc.

Now this truth is of use to us; and we hence learn, that we are not to wait until we are really, and in the last state of despair, compelled to acknowledge that our labors have been useless, while we hoped and prayed for help from idols; but that we ought to come directly to God himself for aid in our distress.

God proceeds farther with the sarcasm or the derision which he has employed, Where are thy gods? Let them now arise that they may help thee; that is, -- let them try their utmost whether they can aid thee. According to the number of thy cities have been thy gods, O Judah. As the people were not satisfied with one God, every city chose a patron for itself. "Since, then, innumerable gods are invoked by you, how comes it that they do not help you?" We hence see that the unbelief of the people is here sharply reproved; for they did not acquiesce in God alone, but sought to procure for themselves gods without number: there were many cities in the tribe of Judah, and there were as many patrons. The one true God would have been fully sufficient for them, and would have brought them complete deliverance whenever needed; but the one true God they despised, and every city devised a god for itself. "Since ye trust," he says, "in such a multitude, let them now arise, that they may succor you; for I, who am one, am despised by you." We now understand what the Prophet means also in this part. It afterwards follows --

1 The words employed by Calvin are the technical terms, latria and dulia, the fictions of the Papists. The first means specifically worship, and the second, service, obedience. The verb douleu>w in the New Testament is never used in the sense of worshipping or adoring, but of serving and obeying: but to bow to images or to kiss them, is an act of adoration, and not of service.-Ed.

2 The "neck" here means evidently the hinder part, for it is in contrast with " face;" and the word generally means the hinder part. Hence it is properly rendered here "back" in our version and by Blayney, and so by the Targum and the early versions, except the Syriac, which retains the hinder part of the neck. We have no single word, except it be nape, which denotes the back part of the neck. There is one in Welsh, " gwegil, " and so in Latin, " cervix, " and in Greek, ajuch<n. But the Septuagint have adopted here "nw~ta-backs."-Ed.