Lecture Twenty-Seventh

Jeremiah 7:5-7

5. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor;

5. Certe si bonas faciendo bonas feceritis vias vestras (bonificando bonificaveritis, ad verbum, si ita vertere liceret) et studia vestra; si faciendo feceritis judicium inter virum et inter proximum ejus;

6. If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:

6. Peregrinum, pupillum et viduam non oppresseritis; et sanguinem innoxium non effuderitis in hoc loco; et post deos alienos non ambulaveritis in malum vobis (in malum vestrum;)

7. Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.

7. Tunc habitare faciam vos in hoc loco, in terra quam dedi patribus vestris, a seculo usque in seculum.


Interpreters do not agree as to the meaning of this passage. Some render Ma yk, ki am, "But rather, "or, "But." I indeed allow that it is so taken in many places; but they are mistaken who read Ma yk, ki am, as one word; for the Prophet, on the contrary, repeats what he had said, and that is, that God would not be propitious to the Jews except their life proved that they had really repented. The words are sometimes taken as one in Hebrew, and mean "but;" yet in other places they are often taken as separate words, as we found in the second chapter, "Though thou washest thyself with nitre;" and for the sake of emphasis the particle "surely, "is put before "though." But in this place the Prophet simply means, that the Jews were deceived in seeking to prescribe a law for God according to their own will, as it belongs only to him either to approve or to reject their works. And this meaning is confirmed by the latter part of the verse, for we read not there Ma yk, ki am, but Ma, am; "If by doing ye shall do judgment;" and then in the same form he adds, "If ye will not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow;" and at last he adds, "Then (a copulative I allow is here, but it is to be taken as an adverb) I will make you to dwell in this place."

The purport of the whole is, -- that sacrifices are of no importance or value before God, unless those who offer them wholly devote themselves to God with a sincere heart. The Jews sought to bind God as it were by their own laws: he shews that he was thus impiously put under restraint. He therefore lays down a condition, as though he had said, "it belongs to me to prescribe to you what is right. Away, then, with your ceremonies, by which ye think to expiate your sins; for I regard them not, and esteem them as nothing." What then is to be done? He now shews then, "If you will rightly order your life, ye shall dwell in this place."

For yesterday the Prophet exhorted the people to repent; and he employed the sentiment which he now repeats. He commanded the people to come to God with an upright and pure mind; he afterwards added another sentence, "Trust not in words of falsehood, saying, The Temple of the Lord, "etc. He now again repeats what he had said, "If ye will make your ways good." He shews now more clearly that no wrong was done to the people when God repudiated their ceremonies; for he required a pure heart, and external rites without repentance are vain and useless. This then is what the Prophet had in view: "Though God seems to treat you with great severity, he yet promises to be kind to you, if you order your lives according to his law: is this unjust? Can the condition which is proposed to you by God be liable to any calumnies, as though God treated you cruelly!" This then is the meaning of the Prophet.

If ye will make good your ways, that is, if your life be amended; and if ye will do judgment, etc. He now comes to particulars; and first he addresses the judges, whose duty it was to render to every one his right, to redress injuries, to pronounce what was just and right when any contention arose. If then, he says, ye will do justice between a man and his neighbor, that is, if your judgments be right, without favor or hatred, and if no bribes lead you from what is right and just, while pronouncing judgment on a case between a man and his brother. Then he adds, if ye will not oppress the stranger and the orphan and the widow. This also belonged to the judges: but God no doubt shews here generally, that injustice greatly prevailed among the people, as he condemns the cruelty and perfidy of the judges themselves.

As to strangers and orphans and widows, they are often mentioned; for strangers as well as orphans and widows were almost destitute of protection, and were subject to many wrongs, as though they were exposed as a prey. Hence, whenever a right government is referred to, God mentions strangers and orphans and widows; for it might hence be easily understood of what kind was the public administration of justice; for when others obtain their right, it is no matter of wonder, since they have advocates to defend their cause, and they have also the aid of friends. Thus every one who defends his own cause, obtains at least some portion of his right. But when strangers and orphans and widows are not unjustly dealt with, it is an evidence of real integrity; for we may hence conclude, that there is no respect of persons among the judges. But as this subject has been handled elsewhere, I only touch on it lightly here.

And if ye will not shed, he says, innocent blood in this place. Here the Prophet accuses the judges of a more heinous crime, and calls them murderers. They had, however, no doubt some plausible pretences for shedding the blood of the innocent. But the Prophet, speaking here in the name of God and by the dictates of his Spirit, overlooks all these as altogether vain, though the judges might have thought them sufficient excuses. By saying, in this place, he shews how foolish was their confidence in boasting of God's worship, sacrifices, and Temple, while yet they had polluted the Temple with their cruel murders.1

He then passes to the first table of the law, If ye will not walk after foreign gods to your evil. By stating a part for the whole, he condemns every kind of impiety: for what is it to walk after alien gods but to depart from the pure and legitimate worship of the true God and to corrupt it with superstitions? We see then what the Prophet means: he recalls the Jews to the duty of observing the law, that they might thereby give a veritable evidence of their repentance: "Prove, "he says, "that you have repented from the heart." He shews how they were to prove this, even by observing the law of God. And, as I have said, he refers to the first Table by stating a part for the whole. As to the second Table, he mentions some particulars which were intended to shew that they violated justice and equity, and also that cruelty and perfidiousness, frauds and rapines, prevailed greatly among them.

Then follows the latter part, Then I will make you to dwell,2 etc. God sets this clause in opposition to the false confidence of the people, as though he had said, "Ye wish me to be propitious to you; but mock me not by offering sacrifices without sincerity of heart, without a devout feeling; be consistent; and think not that I am pacified by you, when ye come to the Temple with empty display, and pollute your sacrifices with impure hands. I therefore do not allow this state of things; but if ye come on the condition of returning into favor with me, then I will make you to dwell in this place and in the land which I gave to your fathers." The last part of the verse, from age to age, ought to be connected with the verb, "I will make you to dwell, "ytnks, shekanti, "I will make you to dwell from age to age, "that is, As your fathers dwelt formerly in this land, so shall you remain quiet in the same, and there shall be to you a peaceable possession; but not in any other place. We must bear in mind the contrast which I noticed yesterday; for he indirectly denounces exile on the Jews, because they had contaminated the land by their vices, and gloried only in their sacrifices. It now follows --

1 What is to be understood by innocent blood in not only murder, nor principally; but the offering of innocent infants to Moloch, referred to in the 31st verse of this chapter.-Ed.

2 Calvin departs here from his former rendering in verse 3d. The words mean the same, "Then will I dwell with you." So the Vulgate.-Ed.