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Jeremiah Complains to God


You will be in the right, O L ord,

when I lay charges against you;

but let me put my case to you.

Why does the way of the guilty prosper?

Why do all who are treacherous thrive?


You plant them, and they take root;

they grow and bring forth fruit;

you are near in their mouths

yet far from their hearts.


But you, O L ord, know me;

You see me and test me—my heart is with you.

Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,

and set them apart for the day of slaughter.


How long will the land mourn,

and the grass of every field wither?

For the wickedness of those who live in it

the animals and the birds are swept away,

and because people said, “He is blind to our ways.”


God Replies to Jeremiah


If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you,

how will you compete with horses?

And if in a safe land you fall down,

how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan?


For even your kinsfolk and your own family,

even they have dealt treacherously with you;

they are in full cry after you;

do not believe them,

though they speak friendly words to you.



I have forsaken my house,

I have abandoned my heritage;

I have given the beloved of my heart

into the hands of her enemies.


My heritage has become to me

like a lion in the forest;

she has lifted up her voice against me—

therefore I hate her.


Is the hyena greedy for my heritage at my command?

Are the birds of prey all around her?

Go, assemble all the wild animals;

bring them to devour her.


Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard,

they have trampled down my portion,

they have made my pleasant portion

a desolate wilderness.


They have made it a desolation;

desolate, it mourns to me.

The whole land is made desolate,

but no one lays it to heart.


Upon all the bare heights in the desert

spoilers have come;

for the sword of the L ord devours

from one end of the land to the other;

no one shall be safe.


They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns,

they have tired themselves out but profit nothing.

They shall be ashamed of their harvests

because of the fierce anger of the L ord.


14 Thus says the L ord concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage that I have given my people Israel to inherit: I am about to pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. 15And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again to their heritage and to their land, every one of them. 16And then, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, “As the L ord lives,” as they taught my people to swear by Baal, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. 17But if any nation will not listen, then I will completely uproot it and destroy it, says the L ord.


The Prophet is not here solicitous about himself, but, on the contrary, undertakes the defense of his own office, as though he had said that, he faithfully discharged the office committed to him by God. Though then the Jews, and even the citizens of Anathoth, his own people, unjustly persecuted him, yet he was not excited by private wrongs; and though he disregarded these entirely, he yet could not give up the defense of his office. He then does not speak here of his own private feelings, but only claims for himself faithfulness and sincerity before God in performing his office as a teacher; as though he had said that he executed what God had commanded him to do, and that therefore the Jews contended not with a mortal being, but with God himself.

Hence he says, But thou, Jehovah, knowest me and seest me, and triest my heart towards thee; that is, thou knowest how sincerely I serve thee, and endeavor to fulfin my vocation, and thus to obey thy command. He afterwards glories over them as a conqueror, and says, Draw them forth as sheep for the day of sacrificing, prepare them for slaughter Here no doubt the Prophet intended not only to touch, but sharply to wound the Jews, in order that they might know that they had been hitherto secure to no purpose, and to their own ruin, because God had spared them. They who consider that the Prophet was himself troubled, because he saw that God was propitious and kind to the ungodly, think that, with reference to himself, he took comfort from this, — that the judgment of God was nigh at hand; but I doubt not but that the Prophet had regard to the Jews, as I have already reminded you. When, therefore, he saw that they were torpid in their delusions, he intended to rouse their sensibilities by saying, “I see how it is, O Lord; thou dost indeed concede thyself; but what else is thy purpose but that they should be fattened for the day of slaughter?”

He says, first, Thou wilt draw them out: others read, “Thou wilt lead them forth,” and quote a passage in Judges 20:32, where נתק nutak, is taken in this sense. The word properly means to draw out with force, as when a tree is pulled up, or when any one is drawn out against his will; and this is the sense most suitable to the present passage. Thou wilt then draw them out; that is, thou wilt suddenly draw them out to slaughter. He then intimates that there was no reason for the Jews to be dormant in their prosperity, for God could in a moment act against them; and as the pain of one in labor is sudden, so also, when the wicked say, Peace and security, their ruin will come suddenly upon them. (1 Thessalonians 5:3) This then is what the Prophet now means: but he goes on in his way of teaching; for he does not address men as they were all deaf, but speaks to God himself, that his doctrine might be more effectual: Thou then wilt draw them out, and do thou prepare them; for it is a prayer: do thou then prepare them for the day of slaughter 5656     This verse, according to the tenses of the verbs, is as follows: —
   But thou, Jehovah, thou hast known me; Thou seest me, and triest my heart towards thee: Pull them out as sheep for the sacrifice, And set them apart for the day of slaughter.

   It is evident that “seest,” which is here in the future tense, is to be taken as expressing a present act. It would be so rendered in Welsh, —

   Ond ti Jehova, adwaenaist vi;
Gweli vi, a phrovi, vy nghalon tuag atat

   God had known him, he was still seeing him, and approved of his heart before him, as the Septuagint express the words. To prove here, or to “try,” means a trial by which a thing is found to be genuine. Blayney gives the meaning by a paraphrase, —

   Thou canst discern by trial my heart to be with thee.

    — Ed.

The last expression ought especially to be noticed. The Prophet indeed seems here in an excited feeling to imprecate ruin on the people; but there is no doubt but that he was here discharging the duty of his office, for he was the herald of God’s vengeance. He therefore asks God to execute what he had commanded him to denounce on the people. He had often promulgated what God had resolved to do to them, but he had moved no one: he now then asks God to fulfin what he had foretold the Jews — that they should shortly perish, because they refused to repent.

We may also learn from this passage, — that when the ungodly accumulate wealth, they are in a manner fattened. When oxen plough, and sheep are fed that they may bear wool and bring forth young, they are not fed that they may grow fat, and a moderate quantity of food will suffice them; but when any one intends to prepare sheep or oxen for the slaughter, he fattens them. So then the feeding of them is nothing else than the fattening of them; and the fattening of them is a preparation for their slaughter. I have therefore said that a very useful doctrine is included in this form of speaking; for when we see that plenty of wealth and power abound with the ungodly and the despisers of God, we see that they are in a manner thus fined with good things, that they may grow fat: — it is fattening or cramming. Let us then not bear it in that they are thus covered with their own fatness, for they are prepared for the day of slaughter. It follows —

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