Jeremiah 22:16

16. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.

16. Judicium judicavit pauperis et egeni, tunc bene; an non cognoscere me, inquit Jehova?


He more fully expresses what he had said, that Josiah lived usefully, and was honored and esteemed, for royal majesty shone forth in him. He then repeats in other words what he had said, but he did this for the sake of explanation.1

He undertook, he says, the cause, or the quarrel, of the poor and needy. There is here a part stated for the whole; for when any one deals kindly with the poor, he may yet plunder the wealth of the rich, which cannot be deemed right; but as the case most commonly is, that those who rule neglect the poor and helpless, the Prophet includes under one thing the whole duty of rulers, and says that King Josiah was upright, just, and equitable, that he not only abstained from wrongs, but also assisted the innocent whom he saw oppressed, and of his own accord interposed to prevent any to molest them. He then under one thing comprehends everything that belongs to the office of a just and upright judge. For it is the first thing for judges to abstain from all rapacity and violence; and the second thing is to extend a hand to the poor, and to bring them aid, whenever they see them exposed to the wrongs of others. He then judged the judgment, or undertook the cause, of the poor and needy; and it is added, Then well; that is, as I have explained, "This was the happiness of thy father Josiah, so that he was not despised by the people, nor had he any desire for anything more."

It then follows, Was not this to know me, saith Jehovah?2 The Prophet shews again whence proceeded the liberty which King Jehoiakim took in luxury and superfluous display, as well as in plunder, cruelty, and oppression, even because he had cast away every care and concern for religion; for where a real knowledge of God exists, men must necessarily have regard to uprightness and moderation. He then who thus acts cruelly towards his neighbors, clearly shews that every thought of religion and every care for it is rooted out of his heart. In short, the Prophet means that Jehoiakim was not only unjust towards men, but was also guilty of impiety; for except he had become a profane despiser of God, he would not have thus unjustly oppressed his neighbors.

But this passage deserves to be noticed, as it shews that piety leads men to all the duties of love. Where God then is known, kindness to man also appears. So also on the other hand we may conclude, that all regard for God is extinguished, and all fear of him is abolished, when men wilfully do wrong to one another, and when they seek to oppress or defraud one another. There is therefore no doubt but that gross impiety will be found where the offices of love are neglected. For when Jeremiah commended the piety of Josiah on this account, because he executed judgment and justice, he doubtless condemned Jehoiakim, as though he had said, that he was an abandoned and irreclaimable apostate; for had he retained a spark of religion, he would have acted more justly and humanely towards his people. It now follows, --

1 Venema considers that there is here no repetition, but takes this verse as addressed to Jehoiakim, and gives this version, --

By judging judge the afflicted and poor, Then it will be well with thee: Is not this the knowledge of me, saith Jehovah?

But the words will not admit of this rendering. The verb is in the past tense, followed by a noun derived from the same verb, a thing not unusual in Hebrew. Literally the verse is, --

He defended the defense (the cause) of the needy and poor, Then well it was with him: Was not that to know me, saith Jehovah?

The pronoun awh, is not this, but that, when used as a demonstrative pronoun. See Genesis 2:19. We may indeed render the last line thus, --

Was not that the knowledge of me, saith Jehovah? That is, Was it not the fruit or the effect of that knowledge? -- Ed.

2 The Vulg. is, "Was it not so, because he knew me, saith Jehovah?" the Syr., "He who doeth such things knoweth me, saith the Lord;" and the Targ., "Is not that the knowledge which I desire, saith the Lord?" The Vulg. is the most correct. "They are said to know God," says Grotius, "who shew by their deeds that they know what pleases Him." -- Ed.