Jeremiah 3:14

14. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

14. Revertimini filii rebelles, dieit Jehova, quoniam ego maritus vester (vel, dominatus sum in vobis, ut alii vertunt; alii, taedio affectus sum in vobis; dicemus postea de hoc verbo,) et assumam vos, unum e civitate, et duos e familia (vel, cognatione, vel, tribu,) et addueam vos in Sion.


Jeremiah repeats the same thing in other words; but God by so many words shews clearer how ready he would be to grant pardon, provided the Israelites really repented. It would have been enough for God to testify once, that he would be reconcilable, but seeing that they were slow and hard to believe, he proceeds in the same strain. It is a wonderful forbearance and kindness that God, finding his favor neglected, and as it were rejected through the sloth of men, should yet persevere, and invite them again and again. What man would thus patiently bear the loathing of his favor and kindness? But we see that God does not immediately reject the tardy and the slothful, but adds new stimulants that he might at length move them, though this may seem more than necessary. How great is our torpidity? Were not God daily to urge us, how little attention would any of us give to his admonitions? It is, therefore, no wonder that he, pardoning our tardiness, should again and again invite us to repentance; which we find is done continually in the Church.

This, then, is the reason why the Prophet now repeats the same thing, Return, now, ye rebellious children; for he had said before, "Return, thou rebellious Israel." He then adds, For I am a husband to you. Some regard leb bol, in the sense of being wearied, when found as here, Mkb ytleb bolti bekem, "I have been wearied by you:" but this meaning does not comport with this passage.1 More correctly, then, have others rendered the words, "I am lord to you: "but this lord is not to be taken indefinitely as in Latin, for it properly means a husband, who is a lord to his wife. God, then, no doubt, continues the same comparison, that of a marriage, which has already been often mentioned; for he charges the Israelites with adultery, because they had departed from him. Hence it is that he says, I am your husband. He had previously said, "Though a person, when he repudiates his wife, and she be married to another, will never again be reconciled to her; yet I am ready to forgive your perfidy and wantonness: only observe chastity hereafter, and I will deal kindly with you." Similar is this passage, "I am your husband," though I have repudiated you. He had, indeed, said, that he had given them a bill of divorce, and thus testified, as by a public document, that there was no longer any connection between him and that people, for exile was a kind of divorce; but he says now, "I am your husband; for though I have been grievously offended with you, because you have broken your pledged faith, I yet remain in the same mind, so as to be ready to be your husband."

We now, then, perceive the real meaning of the Prophet: despair might have laid hold on the Israelites so as to dread that access to which the Prophet had invited them; but that no terror might hinder them to repent, God here declares that he would become their husband, and that he had not forgotten that relationship with which he had once favored them. The sum of what he says is, "I have once embraced you with the love of a husband; ye have, indeed, become alienated from me, but return, and I am ready to forgive and to receive you, as though ye had always been faithful to me."

Again will I take you, he says; and then he adds, one from a city, two from a family. Deserving of especial notice is this passage; for God shews that they were not to wait for one another, and also, that though the whole body of the people rotted in their sins, yet a few would return to him, and that he would be reconciled to them. This was a point most necessary to be taught; for God's covenant was in common with the whole seed of Abraham; they might then have concluded that the covenant was extinct, except he gathered together the whole people; for he had not chosen one or two or a hundred or a thousand, but all the seed of Abraham. Since then the promise, without exception, was common, to all, any one might thus reason, "What connection have I with God, except as one born of the race of Abraham? but I am not alone, for we are all the children of Abraham: yet I see that none turn to God, so I must perish with the rest of the people." Now, that this thought should not hinder the godly, he says, "I will take one from a city, two from a family;"2 that is, "If one only come to me from a city he shall find an open door; if two only from a tribe come to me, I shall receive them." We now apprehend the design of the Prophet.

Interpreters, indeed, explain one from a city as meaning, that though the multitude should perish, yet God would not deny forgiveness to three or four; but they teach not what is especially worthy of notice, that two or three are mentioned, because this thought, as it has been said, might have perplexed them, that is, that they had been all in common chosen as a holy people.

What is here taught may be useful to us in the present day. For we see many foolishly excluding themselves from the hope of salvation, and seeking no access to God, because they have a regard to one another, and the great mass hold them entangled. How is it under the Papacy, that so many pertinaciously resist God? even because they think themselves safely hid in the multitude. We also find among us that some are an hindrance to others. Let this truth be ever remembered, that when God stretches forth his arms, he is ready to receive, not only all, were they with one consent to come to him, but also two or three, even from one city, or from a whole people.

He adds, I will cause you to come to Zion. This had been once said before: God intimates that their exile would be temporary, that the Israelites would again be made partakers of his inheritance, if they returned to God in sincerity and truth. It follows --

1 Nor is there an instance of such a meaning. Literally it is, "For I have been married with (or to) thee." When this verb is followed by k, as in Jeremiah 31:32, this is its meaning; but when followed by l, as in 1 Chronicles 4:22, it means to rule, to exercise dominion. The Vulgate is, For I am thy husband." The Targum gives the meaning, "For I have chosen you." The Septuagint went astray, "For I will rule over you."-Ed.

2 The word is taken sometimes in a limited sense, and means what we understand by family: but it has here evidently a more extended meaning, and signifies a tribe, a community; for it includes more than a city. Such is its meaning in Jeremiah 8:3; and in Amos 3:l, it comprehends the whole community of Israel. It is rendered "ejk patria~v,-from a tribe," by the Septuagint, but improperly; "kindred, "by the Vulgate and the Targum. It no doubt means sometimes kindred, but not evidently in this place.-Ed.