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Jeremiah 13:12-14

12 Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?

12. Dices etiam illis (hoc est, annuntiabis) hunc sermonem, Sic dicit Jehova, Deus Israel, Omnis lagena (alii vertunt, utrem, sed hoc loco parum interest, omnis ergo lagena) implebitur vino: et dicent tibi, An non sciendo scimus (hoc est, An nesciendo non scimus) quod omnis lagena implebitur vino?

13. Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.

13. Tunc dices illis, Sic dicit Jehova, Ecce ego implens (vel, impleo) omnes habitatores terrae hujus, et omnes reges qui sedent pro Davidae super solium ejus, et sacerdotes et prophetas, et omnes incolas Jerosolymae ebrietate.

14. And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.

14. Et collidam eos (alii vertunt, dispergam; proprie significat violenter disjicere; hic apte reddetur collidere; collidam ergo) quenque ad fratrem suum et patres et filios simul, dicit Jehova; non parcam et non ero propitius, (idem significant, sunt synonyma) et non miserabor a perdendo (hoc est, quin perdam) ipsos.


The Prophet denounces here by another similitude the vengeance of God, for he says that all would be filled with drunkenness: but he is bidden at first simply to set before them the metaphor, Every bottle, or flagon, he says, shall be filled with wine The word רבל, ubel, means a bladder; but the word bottle is more suitable here. 7575     It is not true that the word ever means a bladder, though so rendered by the Septuagint and the Targum. The Vulgate has “laguncula — a little flagon,” and Syriac dolium, — a tub.” It means a jug or jar. Blayney has “vessel.” — Ed. Bladders were wont in those countries to be filled with water and with wine, as the custom is still in the east; as we see at this day that oil is put in bladders and thus carried, so bladders are commonly used there to carry water and wine; but as it is added, I will dash them against one another, it is better to use the word bottles, or flagons.

This general statement might have appeared to be of no weight; for what instruction does this contain, “Every bottle shall be filled with wine?” It is like what one might say, — that a tankard is made to carry wine, and that bowls are made for drinking: this is well known, even to children. And then it might have been said that this was unworthy of a prophet. “Eh! what dost thou say? Thou sayest that bottles are the receptacles of wine, even as a hat is made to cover the head, or clothes to keep off the cold; but thou seemest to mock us with childish trifles.” We also find that the Prophet’s address was thus objected to, for they contemptuously and proudly answered, “What! do we not know that bottles are prepared for the purpose of preserving wine? But what dost thou mean? Thou boastest of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: how strange is this? Thou art, like an angel come down from heaven; thou pretendest the name of God, and professest to have the authority of a prophet; now, what does this mean, that bottles are filled with wine?” But it was God’s particular object thus to rouse the people, who were asleep in their delusions, and who were also by no means attentive to spiritual instruction. It was then his purpose to shew, by the most trifling, and as it were by frivolous things, that they were not possessed of so much clear-sightedness as to perceive even that which was most evident. They indeed, all knew that bottles were made for wine; but they did not understand that they were the bottles, or were like bottles. We have indeed said that they were inflated with so much arrogance that they seemed like hard rocks; and hence was their contempt of all threatenings, because they did not consider what they were. The Prophet then says that they were like bottles; though God had indeed chosen them for an excellent use, yet, forgetful of their frailty, they had marred their own excellency, so that they were no longer of any use, except that God would inebriate them with giddiness and also with calamities.

We hence see why God had commanded a general truth to be here announced which was received with indifference and contempt; it was, that an opportunity might be given to the Prophet to touch to the quick those stupid men to whom their own state was wholly unknown. It had been said that they were like mountains, because they had as their foundation the free election of God; but as they had in them no firmness and no constancy of faith, but had decayed, their glory had as it were melted away; and though they still retained an outward appearance, yet they were like brittle vessels; and so their fragility is here better expressed by the Prophet than if, in a plain sentence, he had said, “As a bottle is filled with wine, so will the Lord fill you with drunkenness.” Had he thus spoken, there would not have been so much force in the prediction; but when they answered with disdain, “This is known even to children,” they were then told what more sensibly touched them, — that they were like bottles. 7676     With regard to this comparison, Gataker says, “A type taken from what they much loved, liked, and looked after; for they loved and looked after the flagons of wine, Hosea 3:1; and those prophets best pleased them who prophesied of wine and strong drink, Micah 2:11. God therefore sendeth his prophet to them with a prophecy of wine, but of other wine than they expected.”

It may now be asked, What was this drunkenness which the Prophet announces? It may be understood in two ways, — either that God would give them up to a reprobate mind, — or that he would make them drunk with evils and calamities; for when God deprives men of a right mind, it is to prepare them for extreme vengeance. But the Prophet seems to have something further in view — that this people would be given up to the most grievous evils, which would wholly fill them with amazement. Yet it appears from the context that the former evil is intended here; for he says, I will dash them one against another, every one against his brother, even the fathers and sons together; and thus they were all to be broken as it were in pieces. God then not only points out the calamity which was nigh the Jews, but also the manner of it; that is, that every one would draw his own brethren to ruin, as though they inflicted wounds on one another. But God says first generally, I will fill all the inhabitants of the land with drunkenness, and then he explains the effect, such as I have stated.

But he afterwards speaks of the whole people, including the kings, priests, and prophets, so that he excepts no order of men, however honorable; and this express mention of different orders was altogether necessary, for kings thought that they ought not to have been blended with the common people. The priests also regarded themselves as sacred, and a similar pride possessed the false prophets. But Jeremiah includes them all, without exception, in the same bundle, as though he had said, — “The majesty of kings shall not deliver them from God’s judgment, nor shall the priests be safe on account of their dignity, nor shall it avail the false prophets to boast of that noble and illustrious office which they discharge.” This prediction was no doubt regarded as very unjust; for we know with what high commendations God had spoken of the kingdom of David. As to the priesthood, we also know that it was a type of the priesthood of Christ, and also that the whole tribe of Levi was counted sacred to God. It could not therefore be but that Jeremiah must have greatly exasperated the minds of all by thus threatening kings as well as priests.

But we hence gather, — that there is nothing so high and so illustrious on earth, which ought not to be made to submit, when the power and glory of God, and the authority of celestial truth, are to be vindicated. Whatever then is precious and excellent in the world must come to nothing, if it derogates even in the least degree from the glory of God or from the authority of his truth: and yet kings and priests dared to oppose the word of God. No wonder then, that the Prophet should thrust them down from their elevations and compare them to bottles: he thus treads under foot that frail glory by which they sought to obscure God himself. And as the name of David was, as it were, sacred among that people, in order to shake off this vain confidence, the Prophet says, — “Though kings sit on the throne of David and be his successors and posterity, yet God will not spare them.” 7777     The clause, literally rendered, would convey this meaning, —
   And the kings who sit for David on his throne.

   “For David,” that is, as his representatives. “In David’s stead,” is the rendering of Gataker and Blayney. The word “even” before “the kings” in our version, is improper; for what follows is not a specification of what is gone before, as “the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” at the end of the verse, is in contrast with “all the inhabitants of this land,” that is, the people of the country — Ed.
And hence also it appears how foolishly the Papal clergy at this day bring forward against us their privileges and their dignity. Doubtless, whatever these unprincipled men may claim for themselves, they cannot yet make themselves equal to the Levitical priests: and yet we see that it availed them nothing, that God had set them apart for himself, because they had abused their power. There is, therefore, no reason for the Pope and his clergy, the very filth of the world, to be at this day so proud. We now perceive the design of the words, when mention is made of kings, priests, and prophets.

It must, however, be observed, that, he does not speak here of faithful prophets, but of those who wore the mask, while yet they brought nothing but chaff instead of wheat, as we shall hereafter see. He then uses the word prophets in an improper sense, for he applies it to false teachers, as we do at this day, when we speak of those savages who boast that they are bishops and prelates and governors: we indeed concede to them these titles, but it does not follow that they justly deserve to be counted bishops, though they are so called. In the same way then does Jeremiah speak here of those who were called prophets, who yet were wholly unworthy of the office.

He then speaks of the collision to which we have referred, — I will cause them to tear or break one another in pieces. Some render the word “scatter;” but scattering does by no means comport with the words, every one, against his brother, etc. 7878     The word seems to mean shattering or breaking in pieces, and in a secondary sense, scattering, as the effect. The early versions give the latter meaning, scattering, but, as Calvin says, inconsistently with the rest of the clause. The Targum gives in effect the first sense, “I will cause them to rush, each on his brother.” The word “dash” is the most suitable, or dash to pieces, —
   And I will dash them to pieces, each against his brother,
Both the fathers and the sons together, saith Jehovah.

   The allusion is to the bottles: they would be broken like brittle vessels, when thrown one against another. — Ed.
We hence see that the meaning is much more suitable when we render the words, I will dash them, every one against his brother, and then, even the fathers and the sons together; so that they might tear one another by a mutual conflict. And hence, as I have said, Jeremiah not only foretells the destruction of the people, but also points out the manner of it; for they would become so void of common prudence, that they would willfully destroy one another, as though they were given up to mutual slaughter. They gloried, we know, in their number, but the Prophet shews that this would be no protection to them, but, on the contrary, the cause of their ruin; for the Lord would so blind them, that they would fight with one another, and thus perish without any foreign enemy.

He then adds, I will not spare, I will not spare, 7979     The verbs are different, and so Calvin renders them in the text; but not here. There is no unanimity in the versions as to these verbs and the one which follows. The first means to be tender so as to relent; the second, to spare so as not to inflict punishment, to connive; and the third, to feel pity or compassion. They may be rendered thus, —
   I will not relent, nor will I spare;
Nor will I pity, so as not to destroy them.

   The two lines announce the same thing, only the last is stronger and more specific. Pitying or commiserating is stronger than relenting, and not destroying describes the act, while sparing is a general term. — Ed.
I will not have mercy He repeats three times that he would not be propitious to them. It would have been sufficient to declare this once, were they so teachable and attentive as really to consider the threatenings announced to them; but being so torpid as they were, it was necessary to repeat the same thing often; not as though there was anything ambiguous or obscure in the message itself, but because hardly any vehemence was sufficient to rouse hearts so obstinate. We hence see why the Prophet repeated the same thing so often. He, however, does not employ words uselessly: whenever God repeats the promises of his favor, he does not utter words heedlessly and without reason; but since he sees that there is in us so much dulness, that one promise is not sufficient, he confirms it by repetitions; so also when he sees that men, owing to their stupidity, cannot be moved nor terrified by his threatenings, he repeats them, that they may have more weight. He in short declares, that it was all over with that people, so that he does not now call the wicked and the rebellious to repentance, but speaks to them as to men past remedy. This is the meaning.

And he adds, Until I shall consume them 8080     The sentence literally is, “From consuming,” or destroying, “them.” The preposition מ, mem, here has the force of a negative. It is a sort of an elliptic phrase, which, though understood in the original, yet requires a supplement in a translation, — “I will not pity, so as to abstain from consuming them.” But a literal rendering in Welsh would be understood, —
   Ae ni resynav rhag eu difetha.

   The preposition rhag,” which ordinarily means from, signifies here from not, which is exactly the Hebrew. — Ed.
This refers to the whole body of the people. God, in the meantime, still preserved, in a wonderful manner and by hidden means, a remnant, as it has appeared elsewhere: but yet God took that vengeance, which is here denounced on the people as a body; for it was as it were a general death, when they were all driven into exile and everywhere scattered. Now as the Lord in so great a ruin never forgot his covenant, but some seed still remained safe and secure; so what is said here, I will not have mercy until I shall consume them, is not inconsistent with the promise of mercy elsewhere given, when he declares that he is long-suffering and plenteous in mercy. (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 103:8) Though God then destroyed his people in so dreadful a manner, yet he did not divest himself of his own nature, nor cast away his mercy; but he executed his judgments on the reprobate in a way so wonderful, that he yet lost nothing of his eternal mercy and remained still faithful as to his election. It follows —

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