Jeremiah 22:23

23. O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars, how gracious shalt thou be when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!

23. Sedisti (hoc est, sedem tibi posuisti) in Libano, nidulata es in cedris, quomodo gratiosa fuisti (alii, vertunt, precata es) in veniendo tibi dolores, dolorem quasi parturientis (ad verbum, sed sensus est, quomodo gratiosa eris, ubi venerint tibi dolores, dolor quasi foeminae parturientis.)


The Prophet confirms the same thing in other words; and hence it appears how difficult it is to shake off from men their false confidence, when they give themselves up to earthly things. As soon, then, as false confidence strikes its roots into the hearts of men, they cannot be moved either by any threatenings or by any dangers; even though death itself were hanging over them, they yet remain unconcerned: and hence Isaiah upbraids them and says, That they had made a covenant with death. (Isaiah 28:15.) This was the reason why the Prophet here multiplied words and used greater vehemence; it was for the purpose of correcting that perverseness which prevailed among the Jews; for they thought themselves beyond the reach of those darts which God's hands would throw.

He therefore says, that they had set their seat on Lebanon, and made their nest among the cedars. Some interpreters understand this figuratively of the cedar houses in which they dwelt; that is, that they ornamented their houses or palaces, as we have seen, with boards of cedar. But I take the words more simply, -- That they considered Lebanon as an impregnable stronghold, and that he compares them to birds which choose the highest cedars to make their nests in. The meaning is, that the Jews were so blinded by their pride, that they thought that they had Lebanon as a safe refuge, and also that they imagined that they had nests as it were in its cedars. But there is no doubt but that the Prophet, in mentioning this one particular, meant to include all those false and vain confidences with which the Jews were inebriated. But he speaks by way of concession, as though he had said, that the Jews were not terrified by God's threatenings, because they cast their eyes on Lebanon and on its lofty cedars.

But how gracious, he says, wilt thou be; that is, what grace wilt thou find, when sorrows shall come upon thee, the pain as of one in travail.1The Prophet expresses here what often occurs in Scripture, that when the ungodly say, "Peace and safety," sudden ruin comes on them. (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) He then does not allow that the Jews gained anything by thinking that they would have a quiet station on Lebanon, and by having their nests in the cedars, for God would bring on them sudden pains like those of women, who, while laughing and full of mirth, are in a moment seized with the pangs of childbearing. Jeremiah now says, that a similar thing would happen to the Jews. I touch but lightly on this point, while yet it is worthy of long and careful meditation. Let us then know, that nothing is more intolerable to God than when we promise to ourselves a quiet rest while he proclaims war against us, and while we, as it were designedly, daily provoke him. It follows --

1 The former part of this passage is differently rendered by all the early versions: the Sept., "thou wilt groan;" the Vulg., "how thou hast groaned;" the Syr., "how much wilt thou groan." The reading adopted was tnhn, from hhn, instead of tnxn, for the y is not found in many copies, nor in the Keri, nor in connection with the two participles at the beginning of the verse. The Targ. has "what wilt thou do." Most of modern expounders take the text as we have it, and there are no different readings. Then the whole verse would read as follows, --

23. Inhabitress of Lebanon! nestler in the cedars! How graceful (or favored) shalt thou be, When come on thee shall throes, A pain like that of childbearing!

The gender is feminine, and either Jerusalem or the house or family of David is meant. The word for "throes" means girding pains or pangs. The verse is the language of irony. The people were so hardened, that nothing else would have touched them. -- Ed.