Lecture Seventy-Ninth

Jeremiah 21:6-7

6. And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.

6. Et percutiam habitatores urbis hujus, tam hominem quam bestliam; peste magna morientur.

7. And afterward, saith the Lord, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.

7. Et post sic (postea)dicit Jehova, Tradam Zedekiam, regem Jehudah, et servos ejus, et populum, et qui residui erunt in urbe hae a peste, a gladio, et a fame, in manum Nebuehadrezer, regis Babylonis, et in manum inimieorum ipsorum, et in manum quaerentium animam ipsorum; et percuitet eos ore gladii; non parcet illis, neque ignoscet, neque miserabitur.


Jeremiah goes on with the same discourse, even that God had resolved to destroy Jerusalem and the people, at least for a time. But he points out here what he intended to do, even that he would consume them by pestilence and famine, as long as they continued in the city; as though he had said, "Though these Chaldeans may not immediately take the city by means of a siege, yet its destruction shall be worse, for famine shall rage within and consume them." We now perceive the design of the Prophet.

But we must keep in mind what I reminded you of yesterday, -- that God assumes to himself what might have been ascribed to the Chaldeans, for he makes himself the author of all these calamities; I will smite, he says, the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; by a great pestilence shall they die. This was the first kind of punishment; before the enemy rushed into the city the pestilence had consumed many of the people. Now there is a circumstance mentioned which shews how dreadful would be their state, for not only men would perish, but even brute animals. It was no wonder that God's vengeance extended to horses, and oxen, and asses; for we know that all these were created for the use of man. Hence when God manifested his wrath as to these animals, His object was to fill men with greater terrors; for they thus saw oxen and asses, though innocent, involved in the same punishment with themselves. For how can we suppose that horses and asses deserved to perish by diseases, or through want of daily food? But God sets forth such a spectacle as this, that he may more effectually touch men; for they thus see that the whole world is exposed to a curse through their sins. They are indeed constrained to know how great their sinfulness is; for on this account it is that the earth becomes dry and barren, that the elements above and below perform not their offices, so that the sterility of the ground deprives animals of their food, and the infection of the air kills them. But on this subject we have spoken elsewhere.

He then adds, And afterwards, that is, when the pestilence had in a great measure consumed them; I will give, or deliver, he says, Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his servants, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzer. He intimates that though they might suffer with courage their wants, it, would be of no avail to them. It often happens that a siege is raised, when the obstinacy of the besieged is so great, that they overcome famine and thirst, and struggle against extreme want; for they who besiege them are led to think that they contend with furious wild beasts, and so depart from them. But God declares here that the event would be different as to the Jews, for after having been nearly consumed, they would still be delivered up into the power of their enemies. Thus he shows that, their endurance would be useless. It is indeed, a most deplorable thing, that when we have endured many grievous and distressing evils, the enemy should at length gain the ascendency, and possess over us the power of life and death. But God shows here that such a calamity awaited the Jews; I will deliver, he says, Zedekiah the king of Judah, etc. He doubtless intended to show how foolish their confidence was, when they thought that they were safe under the shadow of their king: "The king himself," he says, "shall not exempt himself from danger; what then will it avail you to have a king?" And the king is expressly mentioned, that the Jews might not deceive themselves with the foolish notion, that they had a sufficient safeguard in their king.

He then adds, And his servants, that is, his counsellors or courtiers; for servants were those called who were the chief men and ministers of the king, "and his ministers." There was a great deal of pride in these courtiers, and they were very hostile to the Prophets; for being blinded by their own foolish wisdom, they despised what the Prophets taught and all their warnings. For this reason the Prophet says that they would be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.

It is further said, And the people. The last copulative is to be taken exegetically, even, Myrasnhataw, veat enesharim, "even the residue;" for he refers to none but the people, but intimates what the people would be, even a small number, a remnant. Then the words are to be thus rendered, "even those who shall remain in the city." But Jerusalem, when this discourse was delivered, was in a flourishing state, and had a large number of inhabitants, he therefore shews, that after God diminished and reduced the people to a small number, there would not yet be an end to their evils, but that a worse thing would still happen to them, for their life would be put in the power of their enemies; he therefore says, even those who shall remain in the city; and he alludes to the last verse, for he had said that many would perish through want; nor does he refer only to famine, but, also to the sword and to the pestilence, for he says, even those who shall remain from the pestilence, and from the sword, and from the famine. The famine, as it is usual, produced pestilence; and then when their enemies attacked the city with their warlike instruments, many must have been killed, as they could not repulse their enemies from the walls without a conflict. Then God shows that the Jews would have to contend with want, pestilence, and the sword, until they were overcome, and the city taken by the Chaldeans.

It is afterwards added, into the hands of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their life. This repetition is not superfluous, for God intimates what is more fully and clearly expressed by Isaiah, -- that the Chaldeans would not be satisfied with plunder, that they would make no account of silver and gold, for they would burn with rage, and their object would be to shed blood. (Isaiah 13:17.) So the meaning is here, when he mentions those who would seek their life; for they would be led by deadly hatred, so that their anger and cruelty would not be appeased until they destroyed them. Thus he shows that it would be a bloody victory, for the Jews would not only be led captives, because their conquerors would not think it worth their while to drag them away as worthless slaves, but their object would be wholly to destroy them.

Hence he says, He will smite them. There is a change of number, and the reference is made to the king, and yet the whole army is included, he will smite them with the mouth of the sword, he will not spare, he will not forgive, (the words are synonymous,) and will shew no mercy.1 God thus transferred his own inexorable wrath to the Chaldeans, who were his ministers, as though he had said, "Your enemies will be implacable, they will not be turned to mercy; for I have so commanded, and I will rouse them to execute my judgment." Nor can this be deemed strange, because God had resolved in his implacable wrath to reduce the people to nothing. For we know how great was their perverseness in their sins.

Since then they had so often rejected the mercy of God, they had in a manner closed up the door of pardon. Hence it was that God resolved that the Chaldeans should thus rage against them without any feeling of humanity. It afterwards follows, --

1 The Versions and the Targum all differ as to these three verbs, and their distinct meaning is not given by any of them. The first is to spare, the second is to relent, and the third is to feel compassion or pity. The last act, sparing, is mentioned first, then the previous one relenting, and in the third place, what occasions relenting, pity, or compassion. The same verbs occur together in chapter 13:14, but in a different order, relent, spare, pity. -- Ed.