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Lecture Sixty-Fourth

I was constrained yesterday to leave unfinished the words of the Prophet. He said that the children were worse than their fathers, and gave the reason, Because they followed the wickedness of their evil heart, and hearkened not to God He seems to have said before the same thing of the fathers: it might then be asked, Why does he say that the children had done worse than their fathers, and pronounce their sins worse? Now we have already seen that sins became worse before God, when the children strengthened themselves in wickedness by following the examples of their fathers. We must also notice, that not only the law had been set before them, but that also Prophets had been often sent to them, who added their reproofs: and this is what Jeremiah seems to have expressed at the end of the verse, by saying that they hearkened not, though daily spoken to by the Prophets. It was then their obstinacy that God so severely punished: they had imitated their wicked fathers, and then they not only had despised, but also through their obstinate wickedness had rejected all the warnings which the Prophets gave them.

Then follows a commination, I will eject you, he says, or remove you, from this land to a land which ye know not, nor your fathers, for they had followed unknown gods, and went after inventions of their own and of others. God now declares that he would be the vindicator of his own glory, by driving them to a land unknown to them and to their fathers. He immediately adds, There shall ye serve other gods day and night We must take notice of this kind of punishment, for nothing could have happened worse to the Jews than to be constrained to adopt false and corrupt forms of worship, as it was a denial of God and of true religion. As this appears at the first view hard, some mitigate it, as though the worship of strange gods would be that servitude into which they were reduced when they became subject to idolators: but this is too remote. I therefore do not doubt but that God abandoned them, because they had violated true and pure worship, and had gone after the many abominations of the heathens; and thus he shews that they were worthy to be thus dealt with, who had in every way contaminated themselves, and as it were plunged themselves into the depth of every thing abominable: and it is certainly probable that they were led by constraint into ungodly ceremonies, when the Chaldeans had the power to treat them, as they usually did, as slaves, without any measure of humanity. It is then hence a probable conjecture that they were drawn to superstitions, and that interminably; so that they were not only forced to worship false gods, but were also constrained to do so by way of sport, as they daily triumphed over them as their conquerors.

And he confirms this clause by what follows, For I will not, etc., for the relative אשר asher, is here to be taken for a causative particle, For I will not shew you favor, or mercy; that is, I will not turn the hearts of your enemies so as to be propitious or kind to you. 164164     The Targum and the versions, except the Syriac, apply this clause to their enemies, “who will not shew you favor,” or mercy; and no doubt this reads better; and the verb in that case would be יתנו but there is no MS. in its favor. The relative may be regarded in the same way as at the second verse of the first chapter, (To whom the word, etc.,) “To whom I will not shew favor.” This kind of idiom evidently exists in Hebrew. However the sense is the same as given in the ancient versions, only according to the Hebrew reading the original cause of the favor is expressly mentioned. The denial of favor proceeded from God’s providence, though it was through the instrumentality of their enemies. — Ed. By these words God shews that he would not only punish them by subjecting them to their enemies, or by suffering them to be driven into exile; but that there would be an additional punishment by rendering their enemies cruel to them; for God can either tame the ferocity of men, or, when he pleases, can rouse them to greater rage and cruelty, when it is his purpose to use them as scourges.

We now then understand the whole design of what the Prophet says, that the Jews who had refused to worship God in their own land would be led away to Chaldea, where they would be constrained, wining or unwining, to worship strange gods, and that without end or limits. It now follows —

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