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Jeremiah 11:16-17

16. The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.

16. Olivam viridem, pulchram fructu, forma, vocavit Jehova nomen tuum; ad vocem sermonis (alii vertunt, tumultus) magni accendit (accendere fecit) super eam, et fracti sunt rami ejus (alii vertunt transitive, et fregerunt ramos ejus)

17. For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal.

17. Nam Jehovah (copula enim hic accipitur vice causalis; quia Jehova) exercituum, quite plantavit, loquutus est (vel, pronunciavit) super to malum propter malitiam domus Israel et domus Jehudah, quam fecerunt sibi ad provocandum me, ad faciendum suffitum Baal.


The Prophet says first that the Jews had indeed been for a time like a fruitful and a fair olive; then he adds, that this beauty would not prevent God from breaking its branches and entirely eradicating it. He afterwards confirms this declaration, and says, For God who had planted it, can also root it up whenever it pleases him. This is the import of the two verses.

The Prophet no doubt derides here the vain confidence by which he knew the Jews were deceived: for they were so inebriated with their privileges that they dared to despise the very giver of them. Hence the Prophet thus addressed them, “Do ye think that so many vices will be unpunished? Ye omit nothing to kindle God’s wrath against you, — ye have polluted his Temple, ye have corrupted the whole of Divine worship, ye have despised the law; and can you think that the Lord will perpetually spare you?” But when the prophets thus assailed them, they had this answer, “What! will God leave his own Temple, concerning which he has sworn, This is my rest for ever? Is not this the Holy Land? And is not this also his heritage and his rest? And further, are we not his flock? Are we not his children? Are we not a holy people?” What then the Jews were wont arrogantly to claim, the Prophet concedes to them. “So,” he says, “ye are a green olive, a fair and tall olive, a fruitful olive; all this I grant; but cannot God kindle a fire to burn the branches and to reduce to nothing the whole tree?” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.

But the next verse must be joined, For Jehovah of hosts, who hath planted thee, etc.; as though he had said, “Your beauty and whatever that is valuable in you, is it from you? Surely, all your dignity and excellency have proceeded from the gratuitous kindness of God: know ye then that nothing comes from you, but from God and from his good pleasure. Then Jehovah, who has planted you, can, when he pleases, pull up by the roots a tree which he has himself planted.”

He says that it was a green olive, fair in fruit and form How so? Because God had favored them with much honor. This similitude is found in many other places, but yet it is various as to its meaning. It might indeed with regard to God’s dealings be applied to the whole people; but as hypocrites deserved to be spoiled and stripped of their privileges, so that which was offered to all in common, could only be really applied to the faithful, according to what David says,

“I am a fruitful olive in the house of God.” (Psalm 52:8)

He then no doubt separated himself from hypocrites, as though he had said, “Even hypocrites seek to have a place in God’s Temple, and are as it were tall trees, but they are unfruitful: I shall then be a green olive in the house of God; but they will wither.” But the Prophet, as I have said, compares the Jews to a green olive on account of their adoption and the free favor shewn to them; for God had raised them unto a high state of excellency and honor.

But after having thus spoken by way of concession, he then adds, At the sound of a great tumult, or of a great word, he will kindle his fire upon it, and broken shall be its branches Some, as I have said, render the last clause, “and they have broken its branches.” As to what is intended, there is nothing dubious; but if we take the verb in an active sense, something must be understood, that is, that enemies, who will be like fire, shall break its branches. 4646     This clause is difficult. The versions give no assistance. The word המולה, or rather המלה, is rendered “circumcision” by the Septuagint, “speech’ by the Vulgate, “decree” by the Syriac, “tumult” by our version, and clamor by Blayney. It occurs only in one other place, Ezekiel l:24; where it stands in apposition with the “voice of the Almighty,” which means there, and often elsewhere, “thunder:” and its meaning there is evidently the breaking of thunder or the thunderclap. It comes from מל, to cut, to break, to shiver. Then the noun is literally breaking, or crashing; it is the bursting noise of thunder. The other difficulty is עליה, rendered “upon it” in our version as well as in the early versions: but “it” is feminine in Hebrew, and “of it” after branches is masculine, the same gender with “olive.” None have accounted for this anomaly. Blayney has indeed made the word a participle to agree with fire, — “a fire mounting upwards;” but this can hardly be admitted. I would render the verse thus, —
   An olive, flourishing, beautiful in fruit, in form, Hath Jehovah called thy name: At the sound of a great thunderclap, — Kindled hath he a fire by it; And shivered have been its branches.

   The verb for “kindled” is in Hiphil, and “by it” is the “thunderclap,” which is feminine, and “its” is the “olive,” which is masculine. Houbigant refers this passage to thunder.

   The past tense is used for the future. He compares the nation to a flourishing tree, and then he speaks of its destruction by a fire kindled by the breaking of a thunder: the fire is the lightning. — Ed.
Then follows what I have said to be a confirmation, — that Jehovah, who had planted it, had spoken of or pronounced an evil, or a calamity against it. He thus shews that there was no reason for them to trust in their present beauty; for they had it not from themselves, but possessed it only at the will of another; for God who had planted them, could also destroy them. But on this subject more shall be said.

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