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Jeremiah 44:1-7

1. The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,

1. Sermo qui fuit ad Jeremiam ad omnes Judaeos qui habitabant in terra Aegypti, qui habitabant Magdali et in Taphneis et Memphi et in terra Pathros, dicendo,

2. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein;

2. Sic dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Vos vidistis omne malum quod adduxi super Jerusalem et super omnes urbes Jehudah; et ecce sunt (ipsae) vastitas hodie, et nullus in illis habitans,

3. Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.

3. Propter malitiam quam perpetrarunt ad irritandum me ut proficiscerentur ad offerendum suffitum et ad serviendum diis alienis, quos non cognoverant ipsi, neque vos, neque patres vestri.

4. Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.

4. Et misi ad vos omnes servos meos, Prophetas, mane surgens et mittens, dicendo, Agedum ne feceritis rem abominationis hujus quam odi:

5. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.

5. Et non audierunt et non inclinarunt aurem suam, ut reverterentur a malitia sua, et non offerrent suffitum diis alienis:

6. Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.

6. Et effusa est excandescentia mea et iracundia mea, et exarsit in urbibus Jehudah et in compitis Jerusalem, et fuerunt in vastitatem et in desolationem (sicuti) secundum diem hunc.

7. Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain;

7. Et nunc dicit Jehova exercituum, Deus Israel, Quare vos facitis malum hoc grande contra animas vestras ad excidendum vobis virum et mulierem et parvulum et lactantem e medio Jehudah, ut non faciatis residuas vobis reliquias.


Jeremiah had already prophesied against the Jews, who had taken refuge in Egypt, as though there would be for them in that rich and almost unassailable land a safe and quiet retreat. But he now speaks against them for another reason, and denounces on them something more grievous than before, even because they had not only gone into Egypt against God’s will, but when they came there they polluted themselves with all kinds of superstition. God, no doubt, designed, in due time, to prevent this, when he forbade them to go into Egypt; for he knew how prone they were to idolatry, and to false and adulterous modes of worship. He was therefore unwilling that they should dwell in that land, where they might learn to pervert his worship. And this had happened, as it appears from the present prophecy. As then they had cast aside every shame, and given themselves up to the superstitions of the heathens, the Prophet again testified, that God would take vengeance on them. But we shall see that he had to do with refractory men; for without shewing any respect for him, they attacked him with impetuous fury. The sum of what is said then is, that the Jews who dwelt in Egypt were unworthy of any pardon, because they had, as it were, designedly rejected the favor of God, and their obstinacy had become altogether hopeless. We shall now consider the words:

A word is said to have been given to Jeremiah to all the Jews But God spoke to Jeremiah not in the same way as to the Jews; for he committed to him the words which he commanded him to deliver to others. Then the word was directly given to Jeremiah only; but as Jeremiah was God’s interpreter to the people, the word is said to be given in common to all, which yet at first, as it has been stated, was committed to Jeremiah alone. For he did not favor the Jews with such an honor as to speak to them, but he sent the Prophet as his messenger. He said then to the Jews who dwelt in Egypt, and afterwards he mentions certain places, first Migdol, then Tahpanhes, and thirdly, Noph. The first name some have rendered Magdal. That city was not so much known at the time when Egypt flourished, but it has been mentioned by heathen writers. Of Tahpanhes we spoke yesterday. Noph has been called Memphis; and it is generally agreed that what the Hebrews called Noph was that noble and celebrated city Memphis, which, as they suppose at this day, is called Cairo, Le Caire. He lastly mentions the country of Pathros, which is supposed by some to have been near Pelusia. But on such a matter as this I bestow no great labor; for even heathen writers have regarded this as an obscure country, of no importance. Pathros is elsewhere mentioned as a city, and some think it to have been Petra of Arabia. But the Prophet no doubt refers here to the country in which Memphis and other cities were situated, in which the Jews dwelt.

But he says these things for this reason, because a question might have been raised, “As the Jews dwelt in Egypt, so large was the land, that the Prophet could not have announced the commands of God to all. This, then, was the reason why he intimates that. they were not dispersed everywhere throughout Egypt, from one end to the other, but that they were in one part only, and that they were so collected that his word might come to all. This, then, was the reason why he mentioned the places where the Jews sojourned.

He now begins with reproof, because they were so stupid as not to remember the vengeance which God had executed on themselves and on the whole nation. They had been left alive for this end, that they might acknowledge God’s judgment, and thus return to a right mind. Here, then, the Prophet upbraids them with their insensibility, that they had profited nothing under the scourges of God. They commonly say that fools, when they are beaten, become wise. As then the Jews had not repented, after having been so grievously chastised, it was a proof of extreme perverseness; for if the remnant had a grain of a sound mind, they would have been humbled at least by the final destruction of their nation, and when the city and the temple were demolished. Since then they followed the same wicked courses, for which God had inflicted so grievous a punishment, it was evident that they were wholly irreclaimable and destitute of reason and judgment. This is the import of all the words of the Prophet which we have read.

He says first, Ye have seen what great evils I brought on you and the land. “Then ye know that you have justly suffered all the evils which have happened to you; for ye have not sinned through want of knowledge, but when I had sedulously warned you by my Prophets, ye continued ever obstinate; ye have therefore fully deserved such punishments. Now when God spared you, and wished that a small number should remain, to preserve as it were a seed, how is it that these evils which are still as it were before your eyes, are not remembered by you?” We now then understand the design of the Prophet.

But it may be well to examine every part; Ye have seen, he says, all the evil which I have brought (evil here means calamity) on Jerusalem, and on all the cities of Judah; and, behold, they are now a waste, and no one dwells there. There is here an emphatical comparison between Jerusalem and Memphis, between the cities of Judah and Heliopolis and the whole country of Pathros. If then God had not. spared the holy city which he had chosen, if he had not spared the cities of Judah which were under his protection, how foolish it was for the Jews to think that they would be safe in the cities of Egypt? By what privilege could these be secure, since the cities of Judah had been reduced to a waste? We now then perceive why the Prophet mentioned Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; it was, that he might expose the stupidity of the Jews, because they thought, themselves safe in Egypt, a land which God had ever held in abomination.

He afterwards adds, For the evil which they did to provoke me. He refers to the sins by which the Jews had provoked the wrath of God; for the people whom Jeremiah addressed had relapsed into those superstitions which had been the cause of their ruin. Had the Prophet spoken generally and said, that it was strange that the Jews had forgotten the punishment which had been inflicted by God on the whole nation, his doctrine would not have been so impressive. But when he now points out as by the finger how they had procured for themselves such calamities, he presses and urges them more forcibly to acknowledge their madness, because they thus continually provoked God, and sinned not through ignorance, but offended him by the same sins for which yet they had suffered punishment so grievous and dreadful. This is the reason why the Prophet says, For the evil which they did to provoke me, even to go, he says, to offer incense and to serve alien gods. To go here intimates the care and diligence they exercised in false worship. God had shewn to the Jews a certain way in his Law which they ought to have followed: had they then continued in the doctrine of the Law, they would have kept in the right way, and gone forward to the right end. But they are said to go, because they disregarded the Law and went here and there, as those who wander at random, and know not where they are going. There is then to be understood a contrast between going and remaining under the teaching of the Law. To go, in short, is to weary one’s self by an erratic course, when the word of God is neglected, and the way which it points out is forsaken. This is one thing.

Then he adds, to offer incense and to serve alien gods. Incense here is mentioned as a particular thing, then that which is general is added; for incense, as it is well known, was an evidence of worship. Then the Prophet under one thing condemns the idolatry of his own nation. But at length he shews that they were given to other abominations, that they had devoted themselves to the false worship of alien gods.

This passage, and those which are like it, are entitled to particular notice; for we hence learn that men depart from God and alienate themselves from the true worship of him, whenever they mingle with it something of their own, and dream of this and that according to their own will, the very thing intended, as we have said, by going as used by the Prophet. As soon, then, as men devise for themselves some new modes of worship, it is the same thing as though they turned backward or willfully wandered, for they keep not in the right and legitimate way. We also learn from the second clause that idolaters in vain adduce pretences to excuse themselves. For if they transfer to another what peculiarly belongs to God, and what he claims for himself, it is more than a sufficient proof of idolatry; and incense, as I have said, was a symbol of divine worship. As then they offered incense to their idols, they robbed the true God of his own honor, and chose new gods, and adorned them with the rights of the only true God.

In vain, then, and foolishly do the Papists at this day seek evasions when we object to them and say, that gross idolatries prevail among them: “He! it is not our intention to transfer the worship which peculiarly belongs to the only true God to saints, to images; but we apply all this to God.” Since they burn incense to saints, images, and pictures, since they offer incense even to the dead, there is surely no further need of disputing the point; and when they try to evade whatever they can bring forward, it is confuted by this one expression of the Prophet, for when he speaks of incense, he condemns the Jews for their idolatry.

But as I have said, he speaks afterwards generally, and says, and to serve alien gods. Then it follows, whom they knew not, neither ye nor your fathers Here the Prophet amplifies the sin of his own nation, because they had devoted their attention to unknown gods. There is here again a contrast to be understood, that is, between God, who had revealed himself by his Law, by his Prophets, by so many miracles and blessings, and the fictitious gods, who had, without thought and without judgment, been invented and contrived by the Jews. Now, it was an evidence of a base and an intolerable ingratitude, that the Jews should have forsaken the true God after he had made himself known to them. For had the Law never been given, had God suffered them, as other nations, to be entangled in their own errors, their offense would have been lighter. But God had made himself to be so familiarly known to them, that he was pleased to give them his Law, to be a certain rule of religion; he had also exercised his miraculous powers among them. As, then, the knowledge of the true God had been made so remarkably clear to them, how great and how base was their ingratitude to reject him and to depart from him, in order to run after idols! when they contrived for themselves vain gods and nothing but fictions! Had any one inquired what sort of god was Baal, or what were their Baalim, they would have said, that they had Baalim as their patrons, who obtained favor for them with the supreme God. But whence had they derived their vain notion? It was nothing but superstition founded on no reason.

This ought to be carefully observed; for at this day were any one to ask the Papists by what right they have devised for themselves so various and so many modes of worship: devotion alone they say will suffice, or a good intention. Let us then know that religion, separated from knowledge, is nothing but the sport and delusion of Satan. It is hence necessary that men should with certainty know what god they worship. And Christ thus distinguishes the true worship of God from that of vain idols,

“We know,” he says, speaking of the Jews, “whom we worship.” (John 4:22)

He then says that the Jews knew, even those who worshipped God according to what the Law prescribes, — he says that they knew whom they worshipped. He then condemns all good intentions in which the superstitious delight themselves, for they know not whom they worship. And I have said that religion ought not to be separated from knowledge; but I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, or what is by diligence acquired, but that which is delivered to us by the Law and the Prophets.

We now, then, understand why the Prophet says that the Jews devoted themselves to alien gods, whom they had not known, nor their fathers.

Now follows a circumstance by which their impiety was still further enhanced, that God had sent them Prophets who stretched forth their hands to them to draw them from their errors. For had they never been warned, their condemnation would have been just; for God had once shewn to them by his Law what was right. The teaching, then, of the Law ought to have been sufficient for all ages. But when God had never ceased to send Prophets, one after another, it was a sign of hopeless obstinacy to reject so many and so constant warnings. God then added this circumstance that it might appear that the Jews were wholly inexcusable, and worthy of a hundred and of a thousand deaths, because they had so perversely despised all the means of salvation.

But God says, that he had sent to them all his servants What is universal has its own peculiar importance; for if one or two Prophets had been sent, the Jews would have been proved guilty; for the law does not require more than two or three witnesses to condemn those who have done wrong. (Deuteronomy 17:6.) But God shews here that there had been a vast number of those, through whom, had they been believed, the Jews might have been preserved in safety. They might, then, have been proved guilty, not only by three or four witnesses, but even by a great number; for the Prophets had continually succeeded one another. And thus had been fulfilled what God had promised in the Law,

“A Prophet will I raise up from the midst of thy brethren, him shalt thou hear; and every one who will not hear that Prophet shall be cut off from his people.” (Deuteronomy 18:18, 19)

For God shews in his proclaimed Law, that this would be one of his chief blessings, ever to keep the Jews in the knowledge of their duty, by never leaving them destitute of Prophets and faithful teachers, here then he shews that he had ever really performed what he had promised by Moses; for he does not say that he had only sent a few, but, as I have said, that there had been a copious abundance; for in every age there were several Prophets, and some, when it became necessary, succeeded others. But what had been the fruit? He afterwards complains that all the Prophets had been rejected.

But to render their sin still more heinous, he says, rising up early and sending Of this kind of speaking an explanation has been elsewhere given. (Jeremiah 7:13; Jeremiah 11:7) It is a metaphorical language; for God rises not nor does he change places; but here he applies to himself what peculiarly belongs to men. For he who is attentive to business, does not wait till the sun rises, but anticipates the morning dawn. So also the Prophet says, that God had been vigilant, for he had been solicitous concerning the wellbeing of the people.

We further learn from this mode of speaking how invaluable is the benefit which God bestows when he raises up honest and faithful teachers; for it is the same as when the head of a family rises early from his bed, calls up his children, and takes care of them. Let us, then, know that teaching, when it is communicated to us, is an evidence of God’s paternal solicitude, because he would not have us to perish, but comes down to us and sees what is needful, as though he were present with us, and as a father towards his children, he takes care of us and of our affairs. This is the meaning.

He now adds the substance of his message, Do not the thing of this abomination which I hate God intimates, in short, that it had not been through him that the Jews did not return from their errors to the right way, because he had stretched forth his hand to them, and had, as it were, sup-pliantly requested them to provide better for themselves, and not knowingly and willfully to seek their own destruction, having acted as though he were a husband, who, being anxious to preserve the fidelity of his wife, might thus say to her, “Behold, thou knowest that I cannot endure unchaste-ness; beware, then, lest thou shouldest prostitute thyself to adulterers.” So God shews here that he had testified by all his servants, that all kinds of idolatry were displeasing to him, in order that the Jews might keep themselves from idolatry.

And he adds, But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to alien gods Here God charges the Jews with irreclaimable obstinacy, for the teaching of the Law did not retain them in obedience, nor did they attend to it, though often and at different times warned and admonished by the Prophets. And their perverseness he still more clearly sets forth by the second clause, when he says that they did not incline their ear Had he said, “They have not hearkened,” it would have been quite sufficient; but when he adds, “They have not inclined their ear,” he expresses, as I have said, something worse than contempt, even that they designedly rejected the teaching of the Prophets, that they disdained to hear the Prophets or to listen to their admonitions, but became willingly deaf, nay, closed up their ears, as rebels do, who are said elsewhere to harden their heart. We now then understand the import of this verse.

Now he adds, On this account has my wrath and my fury been poured forth, and has burned through the cities of Judah, and through the streets of Jerusalem; and this day they are a waste and a desolation The word שממה, shimme, sometimes means amazement, as it has been before stated; but when it is connected with חרבה, cherebe, as here, it means desolation. As at this day; a dreadful waste was then at that time apparent, he again refers to this truth, that the Jews ought to have been so touched by that remarkable and memorable instance of God’s displeasure, as not to abandon themselves afterwards to new idolatries; they ought to have remembered so recent an example of punishment. As, then, they still persevered in their hardness, it was an evidence of extreme impiety. The Prophet says that the perverseness of the Jews had not been unpunished, for God’s wrath had been poured forth against the cities of Judah, nay, against Jerusalem itself, the sanctuary of God, so that all things had been reduced to desolation. The Jews then ought, on the one hand, seriously to have considered how inexcusable had been their impiety in having so perversely despised God; and then they ought on the other hand, to have entertained fear and dread, since they saw that God had taken such vengeance on those who had despised his teaching and violated his worship.

He then adds, Why then do ye now this great evil against your own souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, from the midst of Judah, that nothing may remain for you? here at length the passage is finished; for what we have hitherto read would have kept the reader in suspense, had not this been added. He then says, “Since the sin of your fathers ought to have been detested by you, and since God’s judgment had been dreadful, and that punishment ought at this day to fill, you with fear, how is it, that ye seek to bring on yourselves again the vengeance of God?” Why then, he says, now, etc. This now is emphatical, that is, after so many and so remarkable examples, after so many admonitions, after the most grievous punishment inflicted on the obstinate. He says, against your own souls; and by this he touched them very sharply, reminding them that what they were doing would be to their ruin, as though he had said, that God would receive no loss from their wickedness, but that they would become the authors of their own destruction, he indeed intimates, as I have already said, that their impiety would not be without its punishment; but he shews at the same time that God could, if he thought proper, look down with indifference on their impieties; for he would remain perfect even if they were the worst. For when God is robbed by men of his just and legitimate worship, there is nothing taken away from his greatness; for he ever remains the same, and is neither advanced nor diminished through the will of men. Then the Prophet shews that the Jews were acting madly for their own ruin, when he says, that they did evil against their own souls

And this he explains more fully by adding, To cut off man and woman, child and suckling, from the midst of Judah He intimates that God still manifested his mercy, while there was any remnant. They might have remained in Judea, even in their own inheritance; and the country might have been inhabited till the time of seventy years had elapsed, which God had fixed for the exile. Now the Prophet shews that they fought as it were against the goodness of God, for they sought to extinguish their own name, so that nothing should remain of that people, to whom God had still left some seed, that they might not wholly perish.

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