Jeremiah 5:22

22. Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?

22. An me non timebitis, dicit Jehova? an a facie mea non contremiscetis? Qui posui arenam terminum mari, statutum seculi aeternum, et non praeteribit illud (vel, terminum illud; quidam enim ad proximum referunt, alii ad prius,) et movebunt se et non praevalebunt, et tumultuabuntur (vel, resonabunt) fluctus ejus (istud wylg extendunt ad duo verba,) et non transgredientur ipsum (non transilient, est idem verbum quod paulo ante usurpavit.)


God shews here why he had said that the people were foolish and without understanding. It was indeed a monstrous stupidity, not to fear at the presence of God, since even inanimate elements obey his bidding: and he takes the sea especially as an example; for there is nothing more terrific than a tempestuous sea. It appears as if it would overwhelm the whole world, when its waves swell with so much violence. No one can in this case do otherwise than tremble. But the sea itself, which makes the stoutest to tremble, quietly obeys God; for however furious may be its tossings, they are yet under restraint. Now, if any inquires how this is, it must be confessed to be a miracle which cannot be accounted for; for the sea, we know, as other elements, is spherical. As the earth is round, so also is the element of water, as well as the air and fire. Since then the form of this element is spherical, we must know that it is not lower than the earth: but it being lighter than the earth shews that it stands above it. How then comes it that the sea does not overflow the whole earth? for it is a liquid, and cannot stand in one place, except retained by some secret power of God. It hence follows, that the sea is confined to its own place, because of God's appointment, according to what is said by Moses,

"Let the dry land," said God, "appear," (Genesis 1:9:)

for he intimates that the earth was covered with water, and no part of it appeared, until God formed the sea. Now the word of God, though it is not heard by us, nor resounds in the air, is yet heard by the sea; for the sea is confined within its own limits. Were the sea tranquil, it would still be a wonderful work of God, as he has given the earth to be the habitation of men: but when it is moved, as I have said, by a tempest, and heaven and earth seem to blend together, there is no one, being nigh such a sight, who does not feel dread. Hence then the power of God, and his dread might, appear more evident when he calms the turbulent sea.

We now see the scope of the Prophet's words: He shews that the Jews were monsters, and unworthy not only to be counted men, but even to be classed with brute animals; for there was more sense and understanding in the tempestuous and raging sea than in men, who seemed endued with reason and understanding. This is the design of the comparison.

But as it was a heavy complaint, the Prophet asks a question, Will ye not fear me? As though God had said, "What do you mean? How is it that I am not feared by you? The sea obeys me, and its fury is checked by my secret bidding; for I have once for all commanded the sea to remain within its own limits, and though it may be violently agitated by storms and tempests, it does not yet exceed my orders. Will not you men, endowed with reason, fear me? will you not tremble at my presence?" And he says, that he had set the sand to be the boundary of the sea: and this is much more expressive than if he had said that he had set boundaries to the sea; for the sand is movable and driven by a small breath of wind, and the sand is also penetrable. Were there rocks along all the shores of the sea, it would not be so wonderful. Had God then restrained the violence of the sea by firm and strong mounds, the keeping of it within its limits might be ascribed to nature; but what firmness is there in sand? for a little water thrown on it will soon penetrate through it. How then is it, that the sea, when tossed by violent storms, does not remove the sand, which is so easily shifted? We hence see that this word is not in vain introduced. And there is a similar passage in Job 38:11, where God, speaking of his infinite power, says among other things,

"Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further:"

for doubtless no storm arises, except when it pleases God. He might indeed keep the sea in the same quiet state; but he does not do so: on the contrary, he gives it as it were loose reins, but he says, "Hitherto shall it come." When therefore high mountains seem to threaten all mortals, and the earth seems nigh an overthrow, then suddenly the impetuous waves are repressed and become calm.

And he adds, A perpetual ordinance. It is indeed true that the sea sometimes overflows its limits; for many cities, we know, have been swallowed up by a flood; but still it is rightly said, that it is a perpetual ordinance or decree, that God confines the sea within its own limits. For whenever the sea overflows a small portion of land, we hence learn what it might do without that restraint, mentioned here by Jeremiah and in the book of Job. We hence learn, that there is nothing to hinder the sea from overflowing the whole earth, but the command of God which it obeys. In the mean time the perpetuity of which the Prophet speaks remains generally the same: for though many storms arise every year, yet the fury of the sea is still quieted, but not otherwise than by the command of God. True then is this -- that the sea has prescribed limits, over which its waves are not permitted to pass. And hence he says, Move themselves and not prevail shall its waves; and again, Resound, or tumultuate shall they, and shall not pass over.1

We now apprehend the design of this verse: God complains, that there was so much madness and stupidity in the people, that they did not obey him as much as the sea, even the stormy sea. He then condemns here the Jews, as though they were monsters; for nothing can be more contrary to nature than for the tempestuous sea to have more understanding than man, created in God's image and endued with reason. He then adds --

1 The reference seems to be to the decree or ordinance, and not to the boundary: therefore "transgress" is the most suitable word. I would render the verse thus,-

22. Should you not fear me? saith Jehovah; Ought you not at my presence to tremble? Who have set the sand a boundary to the sea.- An ordinance perpetual, and it transgresses it not; Though toss themselves and prevail not, and roar do its waves, Yet it does not transgress it.

The future tense in Hebrew may be often rendered subjunctively or potentially, and especially in questions. The non-transgressor is the sea-the non-transgressor of the decree, notwithstanding the tumult of its waves. "An ordinance perpetual" is rendered "pro>stagma aijw>nion-an everlasting command, by the Septuagint,-" praeceptum sempiternum-a sempiternal precept, "by the Vulgate and the Targum,-and "lege perpetua-by a perpetual law, "by the Syriac. A perpetual ordinance is the version of Blayney.-Ed.