38. He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion: for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger.
38. Dereliquit tanquam leo tabernaculum suum; quia redacta est terra eorum in vastitatem a facie irae oppressoris (aut, praedonis) et a facie excandescentiae irae ejus.
The Prophet in the last verse reminds us, that the Jews in vain trusted in God's protection, for he would forsake his own Temple as well as the city. It was as it were a common saying among them,
"He has said, This is my rest for ever." (Psalm 132:14.)
But hypocrites did not consider that he could still stand faithful to his promises, though he did not suffer them to go unpunished. They could not therefore connect these two things together, -- that God would be always mindful of his covenant, -- and that still he would be the judge of his Church.
This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that God would forsake as a lion his tabernacle. Some give this explanation, that he would go forth for a short time, as hungry lions are wont to do; but this is too far-fetched. I therefore have no doubt that God sets forth his power under the character of a lion; for the Jews would have been feared by all their enemies, had not God changed as it were his station. But as they had expelled him by their vices, so that he had no more an habitation among them, hence it was that they became exposed to the plunder of all nations. The import of the passage then is, that as long as God dwelt in the Temple he was like a lion, so that by his roaring alone he kept at a distance all nations and defended the children of Abraham; but that now, though he had not changed his nature, nor was there anything taken away or diminished as to his power, yet the Jews would not be safe, for he would forsake them.1
And the reason is added, which clearly confirms what has been said, For their land (he refers to the Jews) shall be desolate. But whence this desolation to Judea, except that it was deprived of God's protection? For had God defended it, he could have repelled all enemies by a nod only. But as he had departed, hence it was that they found an easy access, and that the land was thus reduced to a waste.
It is added, on account of the indignation of the oppressor. Some render the last word "dove," but not correctly. They yet have devised a refined meaning, that God is called a dove because of his kindness and meekness, though his wrath is excited, for he is forced to put on the character of another through the perverseness of men, when he sees that he can do nothing by his benevolence towards them. But this is a far-fetched speculation. The verb hny, inc, means to oppress, to take by force; and as it is most frequently taken in a bad sense, I prefer to apply it here to enemies rather than to God himself. There are many indeed who explain it of God, but I cannot embrace their view; for Jeremiah joins together two clauses, that God would forsake his Temple, as when a lion departs from his covert, and also that enemies would come and find the place naked and empty; in short, he intimates that they would be exposed to the will and plunder of their enemies, because they would be at that time destitute of God's aid. And as he had before spoken of the indignation of God's wrath, so now he ascribes the same to their enemies, and justly so, for they were to execute his judgments; what properly belongs to God is ascribed to them, because they were to be his ministers.2
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to gather us, so that we may be under thy protection and care, and to offer thyself to be our Shepherd, and even to exhibit thyself as such through thine only-begotten Son, -- O grant, that we may willingly obey thee and hearken to the voice of that Shepherd whom thou hast set over us, so that we may be preserved to the end by thy goodness and power, and never wander from thee nor be carried away by our lusts, but so continue under the shadow of thy wings, that thou mayest be ever present with us and check our enemies, so that we may remain safe under thy protection throughout life, as well as in death, through the same Christ Jesus our Lord. -- Amen.
38. Left hath he like a lion his covert; For their land hath become a desolation Through the oppressing sword, And through the burning of his wrath.
The yk might be rendered "therefore," instead of "for;" and thus the meaning would be more evident. See Jeremiah 25:30-31, where "the roaring" as of a lion, and the "sword," are both mentioned; and this confirms the view here given. In the two last lines, "the oppressing" or "devastating sword" is first referred to, -- the visible effect, and then "the burning of his wrath" -- the cause; an order often to be seen in the Prophets. -- Ed.