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Idolatry Has Brought Ruin on Israel


Hear the word that the L ord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2Thus says the L ord:

Do not learn the way of the nations,

or be dismayed at the signs of the heavens;

for the nations are dismayed at them.


For the customs of the peoples are false:

a tree from the forest is cut down,

and worked with an ax by the hands of an artisan;


people deck it with silver and gold;

they fasten it with hammer and nails

so that it cannot move.


Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,

and they cannot speak;

they have to be carried,

for they cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them,

for they cannot do evil,

nor is it in them to do good.



There is none like you, O L ord;

you are great, and your name is great in might.


Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?

For that is your due;

among all the wise ones of the nations

and in all their kingdoms

there is no one like you.


They are both stupid and foolish;

the instruction given by idols

is no better than wood!


Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,

and gold from Uphaz.

They are the work of the artisan and of the hands of the goldsmith;

their clothing is blue and purple;

they are all the product of skilled workers.


But the L ord is the true God;

he is the living God and the everlasting King.

At his wrath the earth quakes,

and the nations cannot endure his indignation.


11 Thus shall you say to them: The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.



It is he who made the earth by his power,

who established the world by his wisdom,

and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.


When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,

and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.

He makes lightnings for the rain,

and he brings out the wind from his storehouses.


Everyone is stupid and without knowledge;

goldsmiths are all put to shame by their idols;

for their images are false,

and there is no breath in them.


They are worthless, a work of delusion;

at the time of their punishment they shall perish.


Not like these is the L ord, the portion of Jacob,

for he is the one who formed all things,

and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;

the L ord of hosts is his name.


The Coming Exile


Gather up your bundle from the ground,

O you who live under siege!


For thus says the L ord:

I am going to sling out the inhabitants of the land

at this time,

and I will bring distress on them,

so that they shall feel it.



Woe is me because of my hurt!

My wound is severe.

But I said, “Truly this is my punishment,

and I must bear it.”


My tent is destroyed,

and all my cords are broken;

my children have gone from me,

and they are no more;

there is no one to spread my tent again,

and to set up my curtains.


For the shepherds are stupid,

and do not inquire of the L ord;

therefore they have not prospered,

and all their flock is scattered.



Hear, a noise! Listen, it is coming—

a great commotion from the land of the north

to make the cities of Judah a desolation,

a lair of jackals.



I know, O L ord, that the way of human beings is not in their control,

that mortals as they walk cannot direct their steps.


Correct me, O L ord, but in just measure;

not in your anger, or you will bring me to nothing.



Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not know you,

and on the peoples that do not call on your name;

for they have devoured Jacob;

they have devoured him and consumed him,

and have laid waste his habitation.


The Prophet here exults and triumphs in the name of his God, as though he had overcome and put to flight the erroneous notions of the heathens: for he had spoken, as it appears, contemptuously of their gross errors, and shewed that the wise men of the world were extremely sottish, who were so charmed with wood and stone. He now highly extols the glory of God, and says, But Jehovah is God; that is, let the nations worship their gods, let them recite fables as to their power, and falsely ascribe to them many miracles; but Jehovah, he says, is God When all things are faithfully examined, it will appear evident that He is the only true God, and all the gods of the heathens will of themselves vanish into nothing. This then is the meaning of the Prophet, as though he had said, God himself is sumcient to put to flight all the errors of the heathens, when his majesty appears; for so great is its brightness that it will reduce to nothing whatever the world admires.

He then adds truth. He sets truth here in opposition to vanities. He had said that wood was the teaching of vanities; he now says, God is eternal truth; that is, he has no need of adventitious ornaments; they mask, he says, the idols of the heathens, they are clothed and adorned; but these things have nothing real in them: Jehovah is God the truth; that is, God borrows nothing from anything else, but is satisfied with himself, and his power possesses of itself sufficient authority. God then is truth, and God, he says, is life. After having said that God has real and solid glory in himself, he adds another proof, taken from what is known to men, even that God is life; for though God is in himself incomprehensible, yet he not only sets before our eyes evidences of his glow, but he also renders himself in a manner the object of feeling, as Paul says in Acts 14:17. What he means is, that though men were blind, they could yet by feeling find out God. Though the blind have no sight, yet they can find their way by feeling; they go round a hall or a room, and by feeling find the door; and when they wish to enter into a room, they find the door by the same means. But there is no need, says Paul, for us to depart from ourselves; for whosoever will examine himself will find God within; for in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28.) Were we then to object and say, that God is incomprehensible, and that we cannot ascend to the height of his glory, doubtless there is life in us, and as we have life, we have an evidence of his divinity; for who is so devoid of reason as to say that he lives through himself? Since then men live not of themselves, but obtain life as a favor from another, it follows that God dwells in them. 1111     The verse, literally rendered, is as follows: —
   “But Jehovah, God the truth he, God the life and King eternal;
At his wrath tremble will the earth, And not bear will the nations his indignation.”

   It is usual in Hebrew to put nouns for adjectives; divested of this peculiarity, and the future being taken for the present, the verse would run thus:

   “But Jehovah, the true God is he, The living God and King eternal;
At his wrath tremble does the earth, And the nations cannot bear his indignation.”

   “The true God,” and “the living God,” is the version of the Vulgate and of the Targum; but that of the Syriac and Arab., “the God of truth,” and “the God of the living,” but no doubt incorrect. — Ed.

Now, then, the Prophet, after having spoken of God’s essence, descends to what is more evident. And doubtless it is a real knowledge of God, not when we speculate in the air as philosophers do, but when we know by experience that there is one true God — how? because we exist. We exist not of ourselves, but in and through another, and that is, through the one true God. It hence follows that human life is a clear proof of one supreme God. God then is life and the King of ages For as the world has also been made, as years succeed years, and as there is in this revolution variety and yet such perfect order, who does not see in all this the glory of God? Now, then, we also perceive why the Prophet calls God the King of ages

He then adds, Through his fury tremble will the earth, and the nations will not sustain his wrath As he could not succeed with the heathens, He warns liere the Jews not to provoke the wrath of God, who will be the Judge of the whole world, and will destroy the unbelievers, however blind in darkness they may be. He then warns the Jews not to close their eyes to the glory, which had been more fully open to them. But the Gentiles might by the works of nature have known God, and were inexcusable; yet, the knowledge of him was made plain to the Jews by the law. For this reason Jeremiah says, “Even though unbelievers now boldly despise God, yet when he shall appear as the Judge of the world, the whole earth must of necessity tremble, and will not be able to bear his presence, though they now proudly reproach true religion.”

But it was not without reason that the Prophet took so much pains on this subject; for the ten tribes had been driven into exile, and the Assyrians and Chaldeans triumphed over God himself, as though he had been overcome, inasmuch as he did not defend the kingdom of Israel, which was under his care and protection; and the miserable Israelites could not but despond when they found themselves so distressed, and cruelly treated and oppressed by the most shameless tyranny; for what could they have thought, but that they had not been the objects of God’s care, and that his promises were vain, or that he possessed no sufficient power to preserve them? It is, then, for this reason that the Prophet now so highly extols the power and glory of God, that is, that their calamities might not deject them and lay prostrate the faith of those who thought that they were forsaken.

And this will be more evident from the following verse, where the Prophet uses the Chaldee language; and this is the only verse in the whole book written in Chaldee; and the Chaldee differs much from the Hebrew. We have seen before that Daniel wrote in Chaldee, when he spoke of things pertaining to the Chaldeans; but when he addressed his own people and announced prophecies, belonging especially to the Church of God, he wrote in Hebrew. Hence the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew, except in those parts which he wished to be understood by the Chaldeans; and so does the Prophet in this place.

Now, the reason why he bids the Israelites to speak in the Chaldee language is, because they had been led into exile, and were mingled with the Assyrians and Chaldeans. He then required from those despised exiles an open and a bold confession, as though he had said, “Even though ye are now in the most miserable bondage, and though the Chaldeans disdainfully oppress you, as if ye were slaves, yet proclaim the glory of God and shrink not from an open confession of your religion, and say to them, in contempt of all their idols, perish must your gods from the earth and from under heaven, for they have not made heaven nor the earth.” We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. But the rest I shall defer until tomorrow.

Jeremiah speaks now again in Hebrew, for he on purpose spoke in Chaldee, to shew that the ungodly were not to be given way to, if they blasphemed and wantonly derided the holy name of God. But as it is necessary that the confession of the mouth should proceed from faith, as fruit from the root, the Prophet here reminds the Israelites that there is but one true God; for, besides him who created the earth, set in order the world, and extended the heavens, there is no other to be found. Since, then, this cannot be said except of one, it follows that all the deities which the world devises for itself, are false and mere inventions of Satan, by which he deludes mankind. And doubtless no one can courageously oppose such errors, except he who believes in the one true God. We know that there were formerly some among the philosophers who jocularly and facetiously ridiculed the delirious notions of the vulgar; but no one in earnest undertook this cause, nor could they take upon themselves the defense of God’s glory, for he was unknown to them. It is therefore necessary, as I have said, that we should be really and truly grounded in the faith before the building can be carried on; for the profession, by which we ascribe glory to God, is, as it were, the superstructure, but faith, concealed within the heart, is the foundation.

We now then understand the Prophet’s design in saying, that there is but one, who made the earth. He speaks indeed concisely; but what tie says has more force, when he does not mention God’s name, but sets before us his power, as though he had said, “There is one, there is one, who has created the earth; there is one, who has set in order the world and extended the heavens; as these things cannot be ascribed to many, it follows that men are very absurd in imagining that there are various gods.”

He says that God created the earth by his power He alludes to the solid state of the earth. The philosophers indeed hold that the earth stands naturally in the middle of creation, as it is the heaviest element; and the reason they give that the earth is suspended in mid-air, is, because the center of the world attracts what is most heavy; and these things indeed they wisely discuss. Yet we must go further: for the center of the earth is not the main part of creation; it hence follows that the earth has been suspended in the air, because it has so pleased God. When, therefore, the Prophet commends God’s power in fixing the earth, he refers to its firm state.

He then adds, There is one who hath by his wisdom set the world in order He does not indeed say that He is one, but this is what is implied. Though the term תבל, tabel, is taken for the earth, it has yet a wider meaning. The Prophet, I have no doubt, includes in it at least the sea. And we know that the Spirit has not spoken in the Law and the Prophets with rigorous exactness, but in a style suited to the common capacities of men. He says then that the world was set in order by God’s wisdom: for it is wonderful how the waters mingle with the earth, and yet retain their own habitation, and are restrained from covering the earth: in the earth also itself there is amazing variety; we see in one part mountains, in another small hills; there are meadows, forests, and fields for corn. Indeed, man’s industry contributes to this variety; but we see how God hath fitted the earth for different purposes, here then shines forth the wonderful wisdom of God. When again he speaks of the heavens, he says, that they have been expanded by God’s knowledge, He indeed employs various expressions, but he means the same thing, — that God’s singular wisdom may be seen in the earth and in the heavens.

Some connect the following verse and explain the verb נטה nuthe, differently, — that God extends the heavens when he covers them with clouds; for the verb תתו, tatu, which means the same thing, follows: but the infinite mood is often to be taken for the preterite. As then this is a strained explanation, and too far-fetched, I reject it. The Prophet, no doubt, speaks of the original formation of the heavens: for when God covers the heavens with clouds, their true form does not appear; besides, the meaning of the verb is perverted, when taken to express the obscuring of the heavens by clouds. They who will impartially examine the passage, will be ready to admit, that the Prophet speaks of the expanding of the heavens. So the Scripture everywhere sets forth God’s wisdom as displayed by this wonderfill workmanship; and the heaven is said to have been expanded over the earth, so that it covers it around. (Psalm 104:6.)

Now, though Jeremiah mentions only the word “heavens,” yet he includes the wonders which appear in them, such as that the sun performs its daily course — that it changes its track daily — that the planets have two motions — that they appear in different parts — and that the sun seems now to ascend and then to descend. In short, Jeremiah here extols all the secrets of astrology, when he says, that the heavens have been expanded by God, and expanded with singular and incomparable wisdom. Though, then, he only briefly touches on this wonderful workmanship of God, yet he would have us carefully to dwell on it in our meditations; for all errors and all fancies will soon vanish, when we duly consider the power and wisdom of God, as manifested in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and in the order observable in the world.

The Prophet then descends to the other works of God, to those which are changeable, for there is in nature a perpetual constancy as to the heavens and the earth; and there are many things subject to changes; as when God darkens the air, when he raises winds, when he pours down rain. These things happen not according to the settled order of the world of which he had spoken. We see then that the Prophet has hitherto referred to the fixed and regular government of the world, to what had been done at the creation. But now, as I have said, he sets before us things of another kind, — that God gives or sends forth, by his voice, abundance of waters from the heavens Some render המון emun, “sound;” but it is, on the contrary, to be taken for “multitude,” or abundance. Moreover, he takes “voice” for thunder: for though it often rains without thunder, yet when God thunders from heaven, there is a sudden change, which not only disturbs the air, but also fills us with dread. As then in this sudden and unexpected change the power of God more strikingly appears, the Prophet says, At his voice he gives abundance of waters

He then says, he makes elevations to ascend; for we see that vapours arise from the earth and ascend upwards. Philosophers shew how this happens: but yet the power of God cannot be excluded, when we say that anything is done according to nature. For we hence more clearly see what the Prophet means, that is, that God has so set in order the world, that when he causes vapours to ascend, he shews that he rules in the heavens and on the earth. And he adds, from the extremity of the earth: for we see that vapors rise at a distance and immediately spread over our heads. Is not this wonderful? And were we not accustomed to such a thing, it could not but fill us with admiration. The Prophet then rouses men here from their torpor, that they may learn to consider what is presented to their view. He goes on and says, creating or making lightnings for the rain, or with the rain: for ל, lamed, is taken by some, as though he had said, that lightnings are mingled with rain: and doubtless we see that these things, fire and rain, are contrary to one another; yet fire generates water, and it dwells also in the midst of a mass of waters: it rains, and yet the air is at the same time kindled with lightnings. Since then God thus mingles contrary things, and makes fire the origin and the cause of rain, is it not so wonderful that it is sufficient, to move the very stones? How great then must be the stupidity of men, when they attend not to so conspicuous a work of God, in which they may see the glory of his wisdom as well as of his power!

He then says, that God brings forth the wind from his treasures He calls hidden places the treasures of God; for whence the winds except from the caverns of the earth? Since, then, the earth, where it is hollow, generates winds, rightly does the Prophet say, that they were the bidden treasures of God. The philosophers also find out the cause why the winds arise from the earth; for the sun attracts vapors and exhalations; from vapors are formed clouds, snows, and rains, according to the fixed order of the middle region of the air. From the exhalations also are formed the thunders, lightnings, the comets also, and the winds; for the exhalations differ from the vapours only in their lightness and rarity, the vapors being thicker and heavier. Then from vapor arises rain; but the exhalation is lighter, and not so thick; hence the exhalations generate thunders as well as winds, according to the heat they contain. How, then, is it that the same exhalation now breaks forth into wind, then into lightnings? It is according to the measure of its heat; when it is dense it rises into the air; but the winds vanish and thus disturb the lower part of the world. These are the things said by philosophers; but the chief thing in philosophy is to have regard to God, who brings the winds out of his treasures, for he keeps them hidden. We wonder that the wind rises suddenly when it is quite calm; who ought not to acknowledge that winds are formed, and are sent here and there at God’s pleasure? And hence in Psalm 104:4, they are called the swift messengers of God,

“who makes spirits his messengers.”

It follows: —

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