Jeremiah 23:13-14

13. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err.

13. In prophetis (Et in prophetis) Samariae vidi fatuitatem (vel, insulsum, aut, insulsitatem;) prophetant in Baal, et errare faciunt (vel, decipiunt) populum meum Israel.

14. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies; they strengthen also the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.

14. Et in prophetis Jerusalem vidi pravitatem, adulterando et ambulando in fallacia; et roborant manus improborum, ut non revertantur quisque a malitia sua; erunt mihi onmes tanquam Sodoma, et habitatores ejus tanquam Gomorrha.


These two verses are to be read together; for there is no doubt but that the Prophet here compares the false prophets, who had corrupted God's worship in the kingdom of Israel, with those in Jerusalem who wished to appear more holy and more perfect. And he thus compares them that he might set forth those who sought to be deemed God's faithful ministers, as being by far the worst; for he says, that he had found fatuity in the prophets of Samaria, but depravity in the prophets of Jerusalem. They are, therefore, mistaken in my judgment who take also, hlpt, tephle, as meaning depravity; for they do not consider that he here enhances by comparison their wickedness who thought themselves the best, as they say, without exception.

As to the prophets of Samaria, they had been long ago condemned; nor was there any at Jerusalem who dared openly to defend them; for they had departed from the worship of God, and had led away the people from the only true Temple and altar. They were then held at that time in the kingdom of Judah as apostates, perfidious, and unprincipled. But the kingdom of Judah still wished to be deemed pure and blameless; and the prophets, who were there, boasted that they were uncorrupt and free from every spot. The Prophet therefore says, that fatuity had been found in the prophets of Samaria, that is, in those who had corrupted the ten tribes, and vitiated there the pure worship of God; but that there was more wickedness in the prophets of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah, because they were not only foolish, but also designedly subverted all religion, and allowed liberty in all kinds of wickedness, so that they carried as it were a banner in approbation of every species of iniquity. We hence see that the object of Jeremiah was to shew, that the prophets of the kingdom of Judah surpassed in impiety those very prophets whom they proudly condemned; for they were not only fatuitous and foolish, but had designedly as it were conspired against God, and had become open enemies not only to religion but to all laws.

As to the words, that he found fatuity1 in the prophets of Samaria, he speaks in the person of God, who is the only fit judge. And he subjoins the cause of their senselessness, because they prophesied by Baal, and made the people of Israel to go astray. Had Jeremiah spoken only of these, he would no doubt have used stronger terms in describing their sin; but as he was contrasting them with those who were worse, he was satisfied with the word fatuity; as though he had said, "Were any one to consider them by themselves, they were indeed very wicked, and deserved the most severe punishment; but if they be compared with the prophets of Judah, then they must be deemed only fatuitous and sottish." Then the copulative is to be rendered thus, "I have, indeed, seen fatuity in the prophets of Samaria;" and then differently in the following clause, "but in the prophets of Judah I have seen depravity." It is to be read adversatively in this verse, and concessively in the former. Then in the prophets of Jerusalem have I seen depravity.2

It follows, They commit adultery, and walk in deception. Expositors think that there is a change of number; but what if these words be applied to the people? as though Jeremiah had said, "When any one is an adulterer, when any one walks in deception, that is, when any one is fraudulent, they strengthen, the hands of the wicked." And, doubtless, this sense seems here to be the most correct. Then Jeremiah shews how they surpassed other prophets in impiety, even because they dissimulated when they saw on one hand adulteries prevailing, and on the other frauds, plunders, and perjuries; and not only so, but they undertook the patronizing of the wicked, and strengthened the hands of the ungodly, and added audacity to their madness. For as fear weakens the hands, so does shame; as, then, these prophets removed shame as well as fear from the wicked and ungodly, so they strengthened their hands; that is, they gave them more confidence, so that they rushed headlong into every evil more freely and with greater liberty.

That they might not return, he says, every one from his wickedness. This is added for the sake of explanation; for, as I have said, either the fear of God or shame from men might have checked their audacity; but when they were confirmed and countenanced, they broke out into all excesses, and hardened themselves in their obstinacy: That they might not return, every one from his wickedness.

In the last place he adds, They shall be to me all of them as Sodom, and its inhabitants as Gomorrah. We see that the last clause is confined to the citizens of Jerusalem. Then God says, that these prophets would be like the Sodomites, and the citizens of Jerusalem like the citizens of Gomorrah. This is not to be understood only as to crimes, but also as to punishment; as though he had said, that there was no more hope of pardon for them than for the Sodomites, for they had provoked to the utmost the wrath of God, so that he could not now spare them. It then follows, --

1 Rendered "iniquities" by the Sept.; "fatuity" by the Vulg.; "falsehood" by the Syr.; and "impiety by the Targ. Blayney has, "that which was disgusting." The word, as here, is found only in two other places, Job 1:22; Job 24:12. It means, not what is "disgusting," but what is crude, insipid, untempered, and hence figuratively, what is unreasonable, absurd, fatuitous, foolish. It is rendered "folly" in Job. The Vulg., which is followed by Calvin, gives its best meaning here -- "fatuity." To prophesy by Baal was the effect of infatuation: it was an absurd and fatuitous thing. This was the character of the thing in itself; and the evil which this fatuity produced was to lead the people astray. -- Ed.

2 Or "wickedness -- pravitatem," rendered "horrible things" by the Sept., and "folly" by the Syr. The Vulg. and the Targ. go altogether astray. The word means properly horridness, hideousness, or a horrid thing, and may be rendered enormity. The difference found in the Targ. and the Versions, as to the word and the manner of rendering the words which follow, seems to shew that the passage was not understood. I offer the following version, --

14. But among the prophets of Jerusalem Have I seen a horrid thing -- The committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; And they have strengthened the hand of the wicked, That they might not turn, each from his wickedness: They are all of them become to me like Sodom, And its inhabitants like those of Gomorrah.

The verb I render "the committing of adultery," is an infinitive without a preposition; it cannot be otherwise rendered in our language, but in Welsh it can be rendered literally, as an infinitive without a preposition, though commonly in that language, as in Hebrew, the infinitive mood has a preposition before it. The "horrid thing" was adultery, that is, idolatry, combined with "walking in falsehood," that is, with a false profession of prophesying in God's name, which is afterwards more distinctly specified. Here was the difference between the prophets: those of Samaria were idolaters, and consistently they prophesied in the name of Baal; but the prophets of Jerusalem were not only idolaters, but added to this sin the enormity of defending all they did by alleging that they were the Lord's prophets. This was the horrid thing. It is a great sin to advocate error, but to do this in the name of the Lord, or by perverting his word, is a horrid thing. The last line presents an instance of that ellipsis mentioned in a Note on the 12th verse. The word "inhabitants" is to be understood before Gomorrah. -- Ed.