Jeremiah 9:13-15

13. And the Lord saith, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein;

13. Et dixit Jehova, Quia dereliquerunt legem meam, quam posui coram ipsis (ad faciem ipsorum, ad verbum,) et non audierunt vocem meam, et non ambulaverunt in ea (hoc est, secundum ipsam;)

14. But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:

14. Et ambulaverunt post cogitationes (vel, post contumaciam; nam utroque modo vertunt hoc nomen, post cogitationes ergo) cordis sui, et post Baalim, quos docuerunt patres ipsorum:

15. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.

15. Propterea sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Ecce ego cibans (cibabo) populum hunc ameritudine, et potabo aquis veneni (vel, venenatis; alii vertunt, aquis fellis; nam sar utrumque significat.)


Jeremiah now confirms what I have stated, and more fully explains it, -- that though no teacher or a disciple was found in the land, yet there was sufficient power in God's word alone, and that his judgment depended not on the will or the perceptions of men. After having then complained that all were foolish, and that there were no prophets to reprove their security and indifference, he adds, Thus saith Jehovah. Here he sets God in opposition to all men, to the king and his courtiers, as well as to the common people. Who then is a wise man? as though He looked around him; and there was no man who considered. he was then in suspense; and afterwards he said, "There is no prophet to rouse them from their usual stupor." He remained still in suspense; and then he turned to God and said, "But Jehovah has spoken;" that is, "Be it, that they are like brute beasts, though they arrogate to themselves great wisdom; nevertheless God speaks, and we ought to be satisfied. We ought then to be silent, and to make no stir; though no one approves, though no one attends to God speaking, there is yet sufficient authority and power in his voice alone." We now then more fully understand the Prophet's design: He had said that all men were stupid, and that there was no prophet; and now, on the other hand, he shews that God was not silent nor asleep.

Thus saith Jehovah, Because this people have forsaken my law, etc. He shews that the cause of all evils was a departure from God's law. No one was willing to confess this, and all the prophets were silent; yet Jeremiah says here, that the cause was to be asked of God why he so grievously afflicted the people. But he takes as granted what was most true, that God was not without reason displeased with the chosen people. It hence then follows, that they were apost, ates, and had forsaken the law: God would not have otherwise so severely punished them. Though then no one perceived the cause of their evils, though no one shewed it, yet God himself ought to have been attended to, who said, that they had forsaken the law.

He then adds, Which l have set before their face. Here he takes away every pretense for ignorance; for they might have objected and said, that the doctrine of the law was obscure, and that they were deceived through want of knowledge. The Prophet anticipates this objection by saying, that the law was set before them; that is, that they were abundantly taught what was right, what pleased God; so that they now in vain and even falsely pleaded ignorance; for they went astray wilfully by closing their eyes against clear light., For this is what he means by saying that the law was set before their face: and it is what Moses often repeats,

"Behold, I have set before thee,"
(Deuteronomy 11:32, and elsewhere:)

and this he said, that the people might not seek for themselves vain excuses for ignorance, as they were wont to do.

But while we are not to overlook this circumstance, we may yet hence learn this general truth, -- that the law of God is not so obscure but that we may learn from it what is right. When, therefore, Moses is quoted, and the prophets are added as interpreters, there is no ground for us to evade, or to make the excuse, that the truth is too hidden or profound; for the law is set before our face, that, the will of God may be made known to us. Whosoever then can read and hear what God has revealed once to the world by Moses and the prophets is inexcusable; for we are taught here, and in other places, that it is a mere perverseness in all who hear the law, when they do not obey: I have set the law, he says, before their face.

And he adds, And they have not hearkened to my voice, and have not walked in it. He defines what it is not to hearken to his voice: for even hypocrites pretend to hear, and nod with their ears like asses; but as they obey not God when he speaks, it is evident that they are deaf. Hence He says that they walked not in his voice,1 that is, that they obeyed not his voice. He hence concludes that they were deaf; for their life ought to have testified that they had heard the voice of God speaking to them.

He then adds, And they have walked after the hardiness, or obstinacy, or imaginations, of their own heart.2 He opposes the imaginations, or hardness of the heart, to the voice of God, as we find in other places, where contrary things are stilted, that is, what men's minds devise, and what God shews by his word to be right; for there is no less contrariety between the rule of right living and the imaginations of men, than there is between fire and water. Let us therefore know, that our life cannot be rightly formed except we renounce our own imaginations, and simply obey the voice of God: for as soon as we yield the least to our own imaginations, we necessarily turn aside from the right way, which God has made known to us in his word. This contrast, then, between the law of God and the imaginations or the obduracy of men ought to be carefully noticed.

He then more clearly explains how they had sinned, and after Baalim.3 The Prophet here adds nothing new; but by specifying one thing he shews how the Jews followed their own imaginations, by giving themselves up to profane superstitions. What indeed must happen to men, when they forsake God, and allow themselves to follow their own thoughts? what but error and superstition, yea, the abyss of all errors? In short, the Prophet in this clause intended to cut off every occasion for subterfuges; for the Jews, like hypocrites, who sophistically deal with God, might have made this evasion, and said, "Why dost thou object to us our imaginations? what are these imaginations?" Baalim, he says, "Ye have devised idols far yourselves in addition to the only true God; it is hence quite evident, that having forsaken God's word, ye have followed your own imaginations." He adds to Baalim, as their fathers have taught them: the relative rsa, asher, is to be taken for k caph, as.4 I shall speak of this clause tomorrow.


Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only testified what is right by the Law and the Prophets, in order that we may form our life in obedience to thy will, but hast also made more fully known to us by thy Gospel what is perfect righteousness, -- O grant, that being ruled by thy Spirit, we may surrender ourselves altogether to thee, and so acquiesce in thy Word alone, that we may not deviate either to the right hand or to the left, but allow thee alone to be wise, and that acknowledging our folly and vanity, we may suffer ourselves to be taught by thy Word, so that we may really prove that we are truly obedient to thee, until having at length completed the course of this life, we shall reach that heavenly rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. -- Amen.

Lecture Thirty-Seventh

We explained yesterday what the Prophet said respecting the Jews, that though no one considered the reason why God so severely afflicted them, yet they could not escape in this way, and that they in vain set up the shield of iglnorance, for God had often declared that he abominated their superstitions. Though then they were all blind, and no. prophet shewed to them the cause of their evils, yet Jeremiah said, that this alone was sufficient -- that God had spoken, and would again speak to them. He said that they were not submissive to God's authority, but walked after the hardness of their own heart, and after Baalim. He added, that they had been thus taught by their fathers. By this clause he exaggerated their sin; for they did not then begin for the first time to sin, but became obstinate in their vices.

We may learn from this passage how foolishly the Papists now glory in imitating the fathers: for they think that examples stand for laws; nay, they hesitate not to oppose. God's authority by what has been done by men. But we see that such an excuse is not only frivolous, but that thereby the crime is doubled; for more excusable is. the ignorance of one year, or of a short time, than when there is a long obstinate persistency in it, and when children, after having embraced abominations, received from their fathers, hand them down to their posterity.

He at length concludes that God would take vengeance, but speaks in a figurativle language, I will feed them with bitterness. The word hnel lone, is rendered "wormwood;" but as this is a wholesome herb, I prefer to render it "bitterness."5 It is never found in a good sense, and therefore unsuitable to the nature of wormwood, which is often mentioned by Moses: and the other prophets (Deuteronomy 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:32; Hebrews 2:15.) Hence I am inclined to adopt a general term, "bitterness." He then adds, I will give them poisonous waters to drink;6 as though God had said that he would execute a dreadful vengeance, so that it would appear in the meat and drink given them, which yet were remarkable testimonies of his paternal kindness towards them: for we cannot eat a crumb of bread nor drink a drop of water, except God's goodness, and the care which he takes for our safety, shines upon us. Hence is that awful imprecation in Psalm 69:22, 23,

"Turned let their table be into an offense."

David also complained, when describing the barbarous cruelty of his enemies, that they gave him gall to drink: and we shall hereafter see what Jeremiah says; for in speaking. of his enemies, he says that they had conspired to put him to death, and said,

"Let us set wood for his bread." (Jeremiah 11:19)

By these words then Jeremiah intended to express the dreadful vengeance of God; for he would not onty deprive the Jews of his benefits, but also turn their bread into poison, and their water into bitterness.

We now then perceive the Prophet's meaning; and at the same time we must observe the expression, the God of Israel. The foolish boasting, that they were the descendants of Abraham, and that they were a holy people, chosen by God, always deluded the Jews. In order then to check their glorying, the Prophet says, float the God who spoke to them was the God whose name they falsely professed, and that he was the God who had chosen the children of Abraham as his peculiar people. It follows --

1 "Voice" is for God's word; and so the Targum renders it: they did not walk in, or according to, his word. -- Ed.

2 See Note on Jeremiah 3:17, 18.

3 It is supposed that the Israelites made a difference between this word and God: they allowed but one God, but introduced Baalim, or inferior gods, and worshipped them. They tried to evade the charge of idolatry, by alleging that Baalim were mediators. But no excuse of this kind was admitted, as God everywhere imputed idolatry to them. Notwithstanding this example, and the distinct declaration of Scripture, that there is but one God and one Mediator, (1 Corinthians 8:5, 6; 1 Timothy 2:5,) the error, the awful error of praying to saints, etc., as mediators, has prevailed in the Christian Church! -- Ed.

4 It makes no difference as to the meaning, but the true construction of this clause is as follows, --

Which their fathers have taught them.

The verb "to teach," in Hebrew as well as in some other languages, admits of two objective cases. -- Ed.

5 But the reason why this herb is mentioned is its bitterness, -- and not its wholesome effects. It was hence chosen to designate what is afflictive and distressing. This appears from. Proverbs 5:4, "bitter as wormwood." -- Ed.

6 See note on Jeremiah 8:14.