Lecture Eighty-Sixth

Jeremiah 23:7-8

7. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

7. Propterea ecce dies veniunt, (venient,) dicit Jehova, quibus non dicetur (ad verbum, et non dicetur, -- non dicent) amplius, Vivit Jehova, qui eduxit filios Israel e terra Egypti;

8. But, the Lord liveth, which brought up, and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.

8. Quin potius, Vivit Jehova, qui eduxit et adduxit (ascendere fecit et introduxit, ad verbum) semen domus Israel e terra Aquilonis, et ex omnibus terris, ad quas expuleram eos illue; et habitabunt super terram suam. 1


The Prophet, after having spoken of the Redeemer who was to be sent, now sets forth in high terms that great favor of God, and says that it would be so remarkable and glorious, that the former redemption would be nothing to the greatness and excellency of this. When the children of Israel were brought up out of Egypt, God, we know, testified his power by many miracles, in order that this favor towards his people might appear the more illustrious; and rightly did the Prophets exhort and encourage the faithful to entertain good hope by calling to their minds what was then done. But our Prophet enhances the second redemption by this comparison, that hereafter the kindness of God, with which he favored his people when he delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, would not be remembered, but that something more remarkable would be done, so that all would talk of it, and that all would proclaim the immense benefit, which God would confer on them in delivering them from their exile in Babylon.2

He then says that the days would come in which it would not be said, Live does Jehovah, who brought his people from Egypt, but who brought his people from the land of the North.3 Yet he does not mean that the memory of God's favor towards the Israelites, when he brought them from Egypt, was to be abolished; but he reasons here from the less to the greater, as though he had said that it was an evidence of God's favor that could not be sufficiently praised, when he delivered his people from the land of Egypt, that if it were taken by itself, it was worthy of being for ever remembered; but that when compared with the second deliverance it would appear almost as nothing. The meaning is, that the second redemption would be so much more remarkable than the first, that it would obscure the remembrance of it, though it would not obliterate it.

And this passage deserves to be especially noticed, for we hence learn how much we ought to value that redemption which we have obtained through the only-begotten Son of God. And hence, also, it follows that we are more bound to God than the Fathers under the Law, as he has dealt far more bountifully with us, and has put forth his power more fully and effectually in our behalf. We further learn, that the Prophet does not in this prophecy include a few years only, but the whole kingdom of Christ and its whole progress. He indeed speaks of the return of the people to their own country, and this ought to be allowed, though Christians have been too rigid in this respect; for passing by the whole intermediate time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, they have too violently turned the prophecies to spiritual redemption. There is no doubt but that the Prophet makes a beginning with the free return of the people from captivity; but, as I have said, Christ's redemption is not to be separated from this, otherwise the accomplishment of the promise would not appear to us, for a small portion only returned to their own land. We also know that they were harassed with many and continual troubles, so that their condition was always miserable, for nothing is worse than a state of disquietude. We know further, that they were spoiled, and that often, and were also reduced to a state of bondage. We know how cruelly they were treated at one time by the Egyptians, and at another by the kings of Syria. Then more was promised by Jeremiah than what God has really performed, except we include in this prophecy the kingdom of Christ. But as God so restored his Church by the hand of Cyrus, that it might be a kind of prelude to a future and perfect redemption, it is no wonder that the prophets, whenever they spoke of the people's return and of the end of their exile, should look forward to Christ and to his spiritual kingdom.

We now, then, see the design of the Prophet, when he says that the days would come in which their first redemption would not be spoken of by the people, as a remarkable or as the chief evidence of God's favor and power, as their second redemption would far exceed it.

As to the formula or manner of speaking, Live does Jehovah, we know that the ancients used such words in making a solemn oath, and whenever they sought to animate themselves with hope under adversities. Whenever, then, they found themselves so pressed down that they had no other escape from evil than through God's favor, they usually said that the God who had formerly been the Redeemer of his people still lived, and that there was no diminution of his power, so that he could ten times, or a hundred times, or a thousand times, if necessary, bring help to his Church and to every member of it.

He says, from all the lands to which I shall have driven them, and he says this for two reasons, which we shall presently state. The change of person does not obscure the meaning: Live, he says, does Jehovah, who brought out and led his people from the land of the north, and from all the lands to which I had driven them; but there is no ambiguity in the sense.

As to the subject itself, it seems that God in the first place intended to remind the Jews of their sins, as this knowledge was to be the way to repentance, or a preparation for it. For except they were convinced that they were chastised for their sins by God's hand, they would either have thought that their exile was by chance, or have given way to murmuring complaints as they often did. But God here declares that he was the author of their exile, in order that the Jews might know that God justly punished them for their many and grievous sins. But God, in the second place, shews that it was in his power, whenever he pleased, to restore those whom he had afflicted. It was the same as to raise from death those whom he had slain, according to what is said elsewhere,

"God is he who kills, and who brings to life."
(1 Samuel 2:6.)

Many indeed can destroy, but they cannot heal the wound which they may have made. But with regard to God, he is both a righteous Judge and a merciful Savior. As, then, death is in his power whenever he punishes men for their wickedness, so also he has life in his hand and at his bidding, whenever he intends to shew mercy. We now, then, perceive what the Prophet had in view in saying that the Jews had been driven away by God.

He afterwards adds, They shall dwell in their own land. It was necessary that the Jews should have been sustained by this support until the coming of Christ, for they saw that they would be in that inheritance which had been promised to the fathers as a pledge of eternal life and of the heavenly kingdom. It now follows, --

1 These two verses are omitted here in the Sept. and Arab., but are given at the end of the chapter. -- Ed.

2 It is a fact worthy of being observed, that what God effected in the course of his providence was more remarkable, and is represented as more astonishing, than what he did by means of many and wonderful miracles: the secret working of his providence on the minds of men is more wonderful and effects greater things than his power when put forth to reverse the course of nature. Though he performs no miracles now, yet he works in a way more wonderful than if he did. We cannot but see this if we notice the course of events with enlightened eyes. -- Ed.

3 The verse begins with Nkl, rendered "therefore," or, "on this account," by the Vulg., the Syr., and by our own version; but, "after this," by Blayney, and "moreover," by Gataker. It might be rendered "surely," or doubtless, as it is by Venema, --

Surely, behold the days are coming, saith Jehovah, When they shall no more say, Jehovah lives, etc.

It is better to render the w, "when," than "that," as in our version. The Sept. and Vulg, render it "and," which gives no meaning in either language. Calvin follows the Syr., and gives the sense, "in which." -- Ed.