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Jeremiah 12:4

4. How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.

4. Quousque lugebit herba omnis agri arescet prae malitia habitantium in ea? defecit bestiae (hoc est, consumptae sunt besiae) et avis (hoe est, aves, est enallage numeri tam in verbo quam in nomine;) quia dixerunt, Non videbit novissimum nostrum (vel, finem nostrum)


Jeremiah confirms the former sentence and more strongly reproves the Jews, who still continued obstinately to despise what he had said: “What do you mean, he says? for God’s judgment appears as to brute beasts and birds; and what have birds and sheep and oxen deserved? Ye know that there is no fault in miserable animals, and yet the curse of God is through them set before you; ye see that God is offended with brute animals, but the fault is doubtless in you. And will God spare you, when he has already begun, and long ago begun to inflict punishment on innocent animals? how can he hear with you to the end, who are full of so many and the most atrocious sins?” This then is a confirmation of his former doctrine.

And hence we also learn that he did not speak for his own sake, nor express his own private feelings, but that he defended the doctrine which he had announced, that the Jews might know that God was angry with them, and that they were not to expect that he would always conceal himself, though he for a time connived at them.

How long, he says, shall the land mourn? or, How long should the land mourn? for thus it ought to be rendered; and should every herb become dry? “What!” he says, “is not God’s judgment visible in herbs and flocks and beasts and birds? Since it is so, and the whole fault is in you, shall ye be spared? Will God pour forth his whole wrath on herbs, on sheep, and on cattle? and shall you be at the same time exempted from his judgment?”

And more clearly still does he express his meaning, when he says, Because they have said, He shall not see our end Here the Prophet briefly shews that the wrath of God was seen in herbs as well as in brute animals, because he was despised by the people. Since then evil proceeded from them, should it not return on their own heads? It could not surely be otherwise. But he speaks expressly of the end; for the Jews were so stupified by their prosperity, that they thought that God was no longer adverse to them: “Ha! what have we to do with God? we are already beyond the reach of danger.” As then they thus perversely rejected God, he upbraids them with the thought, that they were to give no account to God. It is not indeed probable that they openly, or with a full mouth, as they say, vomited forth such a blasphemy; but we know that Scripture often speaks in this manner, “God shall not see;” “God will not look on Jacob.” Though the ungodly did not speak so insolently, yet they no doubt thought thati they could set up many hinderances to prevent God’s hand from reaching them. Hence Jeremiah, according to the usual manner of Scripture, justly lays this to their charge, — that they thought that they were now as it were unknown to God and beyond the reach of his care, so that he would not see their end; in other words, that they had no concern with God, because they were on all sides so well fortified, that the hand of God could not reach them. 5757     Both Gataker and Venema regard the meaning of the last clause differently. Here ends the expostulation of Jeremiah; and they consider that he mentions here what his persecutors said of him, that he would not see their end, or their ruin, which he had foretold. Were כי, as in the first verse, rendered “though,” the connnection would be more natural, —
   How long shall mourn the land And the grass of every field wither? For the evil of those who dwell in it, Swept away has been the beast and the bird, Though they have said, “Hewill not see our end.”

   The third line connects better with what follows than with what precedes it; and it is so rendered in the Syriac. The word for “beast,” though in a plural form, is used elsewhere as a singular, Psalm 73:22; and so it is here, and so rendered by the Vulgate and the Targum.Ed.

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