Lecture Tenth

Jeremiah 2:36

36. Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.

36. Quid discurris tantopere ad mutandum vias tuas? Etiam ab Egypto pudefies, sicuti pudefacta es ab Assur.


The Prophet goes on with the same subject. He had said before that the people were like an unfaithful wife, who having left her husband rambles here and there to gratify her lusts. For this view he now gives the reason; for he might have appeared to treat the people too severely, had not the fact been pointed out as it were by the finger; and this he does now. He says, that they ran here and there, not in a common manner, but in a way to render evident their shameful levity, such as is seen in strumpets, who without any shame seek either adulterers or fornicators.

But I have already briefly shewn what the Prophet means: When any danger was nigh, the Jews sought aid, now in Egypt, then in Assyria. Yet they knew that this was forbidden them; not that it was in itself an evil or a bad thing to seek help from neighbors; but because it was God's will that the safety and security of that people should be dependent on him only; for he had taken them under his safeguard. As then the Jews were God's dependents, they ought to have acquiesced in his protection. When they wandered here and there, it was an evidence of unbelief; and what they attributed to the Egyptians or to Assyrians, they took away from their own God, who had promised that their safety would be the object of his care. Hence he compares these movements to wanton levity; they were like those of strumpets, who ramble in all directions. Now a strumpet must be wholly shameless, when she thus seeks the gratification of her lust: for harlots often wait for the coming of lovers; but when they ramble everywhere, they are altogether abominable. This then is what the Prophet now means, that is, that the Jews ran here and there; and thus it was, that they changed their ways.

There remains indeed often in harlots some natural love; but it is a proof of a brutish, shameless, and monstrous lust, when a woman seeks the company of any one she may see, or when a man lusts after any woman he may meet with. When there is such a shamelessness as this, it appears that no modesty remains, nor even what is natural; for as I have already said, it ought to be deemed monstrous, when a woman is inflamed with lust at the sight of any one. And yet this lewdness is what the Prophet reprobates in the Jews when he says, that they ran here and there to change their ways: so that their love never continued, but they lusted after any they met with; nay, they went here and there to allure them. This subject is spoken of oftener and more at large by Ezekiel; and we shall find this comparison used also in other parts of this book. But it is enough for me to mention briefly the design of the Prophet.1

He then adds, Ashamed shalt thou also be of the Egyptians, as ashamed thou hast been of the Assyrians. Before the time of Hezekiah, the Jews had made a treaty with the Assyrians against the Syrians and the Israelites, as it is well known; and then against the Egyptians; for soon after a war arose between them and the Egyptians, who had been their confederates, and changing their policy, they went for help to Assyria. They afterwards reconciled themselves to their ancient enemies; but this second treaty also turned out unhappily. Hence the Prophet says, that the end would be the same with what they had before experienced. God had indeed chastised their ungodly defection when they went to Assyria. He now says, that no better success would attend the help of the Egyptians than what attended the help of the Assyrians. The Jews, we know, were ever subjected to plunder, and suffered more loss from their associates than from their open enemies. It was the just reward of their impiety and defection. God then declares that he would be the avenger of this second defection, as he had been of the former. It follows --

1 The idea of gadding, or of running here and there, is not countenanced by any of the early versions. The notion of vileness or degradation is what the versions convey. The Vulgate is,-

Quinn vilis factus es nimis, iterans vias tuas! How extremely worthless art thou become, iterating thy ways!

The other versions are nearly of the same general import. Blayney's version is,-

Why wilt thou make thyself exceedingly vile, In repeating over again thy ways?

Modern critics have considered the verb to be lza, and not lz. It no doubt may be either. As shame is threatened at the end of the verse, the latter verb is the most suitable,-

Why shouldest thou become wholly degraded By repeating thy course? Even by Egypt shalt thou be put to shame, As thou hast been put to shame by Assyria.

"Course," or way, means here a proceeding, and to repeat it is to pursue a course similar to what had been previously adopted.-Ed.