Lecture Thirtieth

Jeremiah 7:25-26

25. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:

25. Ab eo die quo egressi sunt patres vestri e terra Egypti usque ad diem hunc misi ad vos omnes servos meos prophetas, quotidie mane surgendo et mittendo:

26. Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.

26. Et non audierunt me, et non inclinaverunt aurem suam; et (pro sed) obdurarunt cervicem suam, perverse egerunt prae patribus suis.


God complains of the perverse wickedness of the people, -- that he had lost all his labor in endeavoring to lead them to repentance, not only in one age, but that the children succeeded their fathers in their corruptions, and that thus the imitation had become perpetual. This might indeed appear as an extenuation of their fault; they might have pleaded as the Papists at this day do; who have no pretext more specious, than when they bring against us the Fathers and antiquity. But God shews in this place and elsewhere that the children are not excused by the examples of their fathers; but on the contrary, that it is an aggravation of the crime, when men thus harden themselves, and think that a continued indulgence in vices avails them for a precedent; for God does not thus permit himself to be deprived of his own right. This passage then deserves particular notice; for God not only condemned those who were then living and whom Jeremiah addressed, but also connected with them the dead, in order to prove their greater obstinacy, as impiety had been as it were handed down from one age to another.

From the day, he says, in which your fathers came forth from the land of Egypt unto this day, have I sent to you, etc. We know how intractable the people had been from the beginning; for they did all they could to reject Moses, the minister of a favor so remarkable and invaluable. And after their deliverance, they were continually either clamoring against God, or openly contending with Moses and Aaron, or running into gross idolatry, or giving loose reins to their lusts; in short, there was no end to their course of sinning: and yet Moses daily endeavored to restore them to obedience. It was this great contumacy that God now refers to; and he says, that the Israelites did not then begin to be disobedient, but that they had ever been of such a disposition as not to bear to be corrected, as he will tell us hereafter. It was not necessary here to adduce examples to shew that the people had been indomitable; for this was evident from sacred history. It was enough to remind them, that the hardness and obstinacy of the fathers had descended to their children, so that they might know that they were twofold and treblefold guilty before God, for they had imitated the perverseness which God had before severely punished; nor was it unknown to them how God had brought judgments on their fathers. It was therefore to provoke God most wantonly, when they overlooked and disregarded such dreadful vengeances as he had executed on their progenitors. We shall hereafter see similar declarations; nay, this way of speaking occurs everywhere in the prophets, that is, that their race had been from the beginning perverse and rebellious, and that they had also in all ages despised the favor of God and obstinately resisted the prophets.

But God reminds them here, that from the day they came forth from the land of Egypt he had never ceased to speak to them even to the time of Jeremiah: this his perseverance greatly aggravated the sin of the people. Had God spoken only once, it would have been sufficient for their condemnation: but inasmuch as he had borne with their perverse conduct, and never ceased from day to day kindly to call them to himself and to promise them pardon and to offer salvation to them -- inasmuch then as God had thus persevered, the more fully discovered was the irreclaimable impiety of the people. We indeed know how dreadful a punishment must await those who dare thus to abuse the forbearance of God and openly to scorn his word, when he invites them a hundred or a thousand times to repentance.

He afterwards adds, that he had sent all his servants,1 etc. In the same sense is to be taken the universal particle, lk, cal, "all." Had God sent only one prophet, there would have remained no excuse for the Israelites; but as he had continually sent one after another, to train them up like an army, how great was their madness to despise so large a number? We indeed know that there were never wanting prophets among the people, as Moses had promised in the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy. As then God had dealt bountifully with the people, so that prophets had never ceased but continually succeeded one another, hence surely the baseness of their impious obstinacy became more evident; for they had not despised God only for one day, nor disregarded one prophet, or two or three, but resisted all the prophets, though they had been sent in great number. I sent, he says, all my servants.

Then he adds, daily. This is mentioned for the same purpose, even to shew that God had never been wearied, and that they had resisted as it were designedly his goodness, while he was incessant in kindly exhorting them to repentance. He says, by rising early and sending. As we have said elsewhere, the verb Mks, shecam, properly means to rise early. God here commends the authority of prophetic instruction by ascribing to himself what is done by men. With him, indeed, as we all know, there is no change; hence the expression, to rise up, as applied to him, is not strictly true; but what he commanded his servants to do, he transfers, as we have said, to himself, in order that he might more sharply reprove the ingratitude of the people; as though he had said, that he had been most carefully attentive to secure their salvation, but that they had been torpid and wholly indifferent.

We may hence learn a useful doctrine, -- that God rises to invite us, and also to receive us, whenever his word is proclaimed among us, by which he testifies to us his paternal love. God then not only employs men to lead us to himself, but comes forth in a manner himself to meet us, and rises early as one solicitous for our salvation. This commendation of divine truth may be of great benefit to the faithful, and induce them to recumb confidently and with tranquil minds on God's promises; for they are the same as though God himself had spoken them to us. But here is also reproved the impiety of those who slumber and sleep, while God thus watches in order to promote their salvation, and who lend not an ear, when he rises early to come to them in order to draw them to himself.

He afterwards subjoins, And they hearkened not. There is here a change of person; for he said in the last verse, "your fathers," "I sent to you;" but now he says, They hearkened not, nor inclined their ear. It is indeed true, that the reference is to the fathers; but in the next verse God includes the people who were then living. There is then no doubt but that it was an evidence of indignation, that he changed the person, and that he was wearied in addressing them, for he saw that he spoke in vain to a stupid people: and this will appear evident from the next verse. They hearkened not, he says, nor inclined their ear. The words we have already explained: the Jews are here precluded from having any excuse on the ground of error or ignorance; for they had refused to be taught, they would not attend, but on the contrary made deaf their cars. And he says also, that they hardened their neck; by which their perverseness is still more fully expressed: they designedly as it were despised God, and carried on war even with his favor and kindness. And he concludes by saying, that they had done worse than their fathers. He had said, "your fathers;" but now, "their fathers." We hence see that the sentence is changed, for God knew that he could produce no effect on them, as we find by what follows --

1 The former part of this verse would better connect with the former verse, than with this sentence. There is the copulative w, "and," before the verb "sent." The sending of the prophets is mentioned in addition to the first command given to them. The passage may be thus rendered,-

And they went backward and not forward,

25. From the day in which your fathers came forth From the land of Egypt, to this day: And I sent to you all my servants the prophets, Every day rising early and sending;

26. Yet they hearkened not to me, Nor inclined their ear, But hardened their neck; They have been more wicked than their fathers.

Such is the connection in all the ancient versions and in the Targum. The verb, rendered "they have been more wicked, "or "done worse, "is omitted by the Septuagint and the Syriac; but retained by the Vulgate and the Targum, and is found wanting in no MS.-Ed.