Jeremiah 8:7

7. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.

7. Etiam ciconia in coelis cognoscit tempora sua, et turtur et hirundo (alii vertunt, picam; sed nomen hirundinis est aptius, quemadmodem statim patebit,) et grues observant tempus itineris; populus autem meus non cognoscit judicium Jehovae.


Here again Jeremiah condemns the shameful insensibility of the people, -- that they had less wisdom than birds, not endued with reason and understanding. He then says, that the Jews were more foolish than cranes, swallows, and storks. He no doubt deeply wounded the feelings of the people by so severe a reproof; but it was necessary thus sharply to reprehend the despisers of God; for it appears evident by these words, that they were become exceedingly hardened in their vices. No wonder, then, that the Prophet declares that they were more silly than cranes and swallows. Isaiah also exposes the same sort of madness, when he says that the ox knew his own master, and the ass his master's crib, but that God was not known by his people. (Isaiah 1:3.) Now Isaiah made the Jews worse than oxen and asses, because these brute animals possess something like memory, so that they keep to their own manger and crib. So now Jeremiah, speaking of storks, etc., says, --

Behold, the stork knows the time in which it ought to migrate from one country to another; and the same is observed by swallows and cranes.1 For at stated times they seek a warmer climate; that is, they leave a cold country, that they may escape the severity of winter; and they afterwards know the time in which they are to return. As, then, the birds of the air observe their seasons, how is it that my people do not consider the judgment of God? By mentioning the heavens, he no doubt alludes to the constant flying of birds, the birds having hardly any rest, for they continually rove through the air. Since, then, there is so much wisdom in birds, which yet the air wafts here and there, how comes it, that a people, who dwell quietly at home, who can leisurely meditate on God's law -- how comes it that this people understand nothing? We hence see that there is an import in the word heavens which has not been noticed. Readers may yet have their doubts; for it is nothing strange that birds in the heavens should have a clearer view, as they come nearer the sun and the element of fire: but different seems to have been the Prophet's object; which was to shew, that though birds labor as it were continually, they yet contrive to know the suitable time for going and returning. Hence, then, is exaggerated more fully the insensibility of that people, who, while sitting leisurely at home, did not consider what God did set before them.

The particle Mg, gam, even, is emphatical; Even the stork, he says. What means this, that birds, though not possessed of understanding, do yet know their time? But my people, etc. By saying "my people, "the Prophet no doubt intended more clearly to set forth their wickedness. For, as I have before said, such blindness in heathens would not have been so strange; but as they were the holy and peculiar people of God, it was far more shameful and monstrous that they knew not his judgment.

Christ uses other words in condemning the Pharisees for not attending to the time of their visitation; for he says, "Ye are wont to conclude what will be the state of the heavens in the morning; for if the sky be red in the evening, ye say, It will be fine to -- morrow; and ye know the signs of future and approaching rain: ye possess, he says, judgment sufficiently acute in external things, which conduce to the benefit of the present life; yet ye know not the time of your visitation, and still ye seek signs: but were ye attentive, God would shew to you in a way clear enough, and as it were by the finger, that the time of deliverance which ye pretend to expect is now nigh at hand." But the Prophet reproves the Jews in a severer strain, when he says that there was more fatuity and madness in them than in birds. They know not, he says, the judgment of Jehovah, though it had been shewn to them many times, and for a long season.

But some one might have objected and said, "No wonder if we perceive not God's judgment, for his judgments are a great deep; and since these exceed what we can comprehend, there is no reason to find fault with us." But the Prophet speaks not here of hidden judgments, which elude the comprehension of men, but of punishments, of which they had been so often warned. Since, then, they were so blind as not to see what was clear and evident, the Prophet justly says that they were more foolish than cranes, and the other birds which he mentions. It follows --

1 It is curious the variety as to the names of birds in this verse, as given in the ancient versions: Vulgate; kite-turtle-swallow-stork; Septuagint, stork-turtle-swallow-sparrows; Syriac, stork-turtle-crane-swallow; Arabic, crane-turtle-swallow-birds; and the Targum is, stork-turtle-crane-swallow. The names in our versions seem to be the most correct, and are adopted by Venema and Blayney,-stork-turtle-crane-swallow; the same with the Syriac and the Targum-- Ed.