Jeremiah 5:28

28. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.

28. Impinguati sunt (nam wnms deducitur ab oleo, perfusi sunt pinguedine, si Latine et proprie reddere velimus,) postea nitent (vel, sunt candidi, alludit ad pingues et bene saginatos, quorum cutis est nitida;) etiam excedunt (vel, quamvis excesserint) verba impii (hoc est, scelera impiorum:) causam non judicant, causam pupilli, et prosperantur; et judicium pauperum non judicant.


Here the Prophet reproves those who were high in dignity, station, and wealth, and who wished at the same time to be deemed inviolable, because they were the rulers of the people. He had spoken before generally, but now he assails the higher orders, the king's counselors, the priests, the judges, and all endowed with authority. He says, that they were swoln with fatness, that they were shining, though they had exceeded, etc. We see how he confirms what he had briefly referred to; for as they protected themselves under the pretense of being rich, that they might not be called to an account, he says, by way of concession, "I allow that ye are bright and splendid, and indeed that ye are all over gold; but whence is this splendor? whence is this specious appearance, which dazzles the eyes of the simple? Ye are bright, ye are fat, though ye have surpassed the words of the impious, that is, the ways, the doings, and the designs of the impious." He means, in short, that it was of no avail to the wicked, that by their aspect they terrified people, that they gained great respect by their riches, and made men afraid of them: the Prophet admits that they had honors, wealth, splendor, repute, dignity, and such things; but he says, at the same time, Ye have surpassed all the doings of the wicked1. And then he brings this charge against them, that they did not judge judgment.

It hence appears that the Prophet was not dealing with the common people nor with private individuals; but that he openly and avowedly reproved the king's court and the judges. "They judge not judgment, "he says; which means, that they had no care for executing justice, but suffered thefts and robberies to go unpunished: and he still enhances their guilt and says, They judge not the judgment of the fatherless. Pity towards young orphans is often found in those who are otherwise cruel; for that age, especially when deprived of all protection, touches our feelings in a peculiar manner. Since then young orphans were plundered with impunity, and found no defense from the judges, their dishonesty appeared most glaringly.

And he says, that they yet prospered. He again repeats, by way of concession, what he had before intimated, -- that it was a foolish and vain pretense, that they openly boasted of their wealth, honors, and fortunes. How is this, he says? They prosper; but yet they judge not the judgment of the poor, that is, they help not the poor, but dissemble and connive at all the wrongs done to them. We now then see that he exposes to view the wickedness of the people, so that not even the principal men should be able to hide themselves; for the Lord shews that they had wholly neglected their duties, and were even destitute of all humanity. It afterwards follows --

1 Expounders differ as to the meaning of these words. They are partly omitted by the Septuagint and Syriac. The Vulgate is, "et praeterierunt sermones meos pessime-and they have passed by my words very haughtily." The Targum is a loose version, "They have also transgressed the words of the law, they have done what is evil." Such meanings do not correspond with the context. The words literally are, "They have passed over (or, by) the words of wrong;" but as the term for "words" often means things, affairs, matters, the version may be, "matters of wrong, "or wrong things. These "matters of wrong" are afterwards specified, as will be seen in the following version,-

28. They have become fat, they have shined: Moreover, they have passed by matters of wrong; The cause they have not defended- The cause of the orphan, yet have they prospered; And the right of the meek have they not pleaded.

The word "moreover, "may be rendered "though, "as Blayney does, (see Nehemiah 6:1:) but the rest of the sentence is not so well rendered,-

Though they have gone beyond the claims of the wicked.

He conceived that the meaning is, that they granted to the wicked man more than he claimed, while they denied justice to the orphan and the poor. But what is more accordant with the words is, that he states here what he afterward specifies. It is not properly the "poor" who are meant, but the quiet, the humble: for the poor, strictly speaking, had not much to lose; hence the judges were not bribed to allow them to become a prey to dishonest men.-Ed.